December 2014

Graham on ‘Most Admired List’ for 58th time

December 31 2014 by Kristy Etheridge, BGEA

For a record 58th time, Billy Graham has been named as one of the ten most admired men in the world.
 
Gallup released its annual list on Monday after surveying 805 people throughout the United States and asking, “What [woman/man] that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most?”
 
Sharing a spot with former President George W. Bush, Mr. Graham tied for fourth place on this year’s list of most admired men.

 
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IMB photo by Will Stuart

The 96-year-old evangelist has been among the top 10 every year since 1963 (except 1976, when the survey didn’t happen). He also appeared on the list every year from 1955-1961.
 

Most Admired Men and Women

This year, President Barack Obama once again took the top spot on the list of most admired men. The sitting president has held the No. 1 position for 58 of the last 68 years.
 
Pope Francis took the No. 2 spot, followed by former President Bill Clinton.
 
Author, political commentator and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson holds the No. 5 position on the men’s list.
 
Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Malala Yousafzai, Condoleeza Rice and Michelle Obama topped the list of most admired women. Also in the top 10: Sarah Palin and Angelina Jolie.
 

Unbroken Connection

Jolie recently directed the WWII movie Unbroken. Based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand, it portrays the early life of Olympic runner and American bombardier Louis Zamperini. The movie, which opened on Christmas Day, does not depict Zamperini’s life after WWII, when he struggled with depression, alcohol abuse and ongoing nightmares about the war.
 
In 1949, Zamperini reluctantly attended the historic Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles, where he made a decision to accept Christ. Zamperini went on to do extraordinary things in the name of Jesus. To capture the rest of the story not told in the movie, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) produced a new half-hour documentary, which was narrated by Zamperini before he passed away on July 2, 2014.
 
Around Billy Graham’s birthday on Nov. 7, the BGEA also released a video called Heaven. The video has a new message from Mr. Graham, coupled with powerful, true stories from people who have faced the reality of death, and what happens next.

12/31/2014 3:22:33 PM by Kristy Etheridge, BGEA | with 0 comments



Sexuality, religious liberty draw ERLC’s focus in 2014

December 31 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Addressing human sexuality and defending freedom of conscience gained high profiles in the work of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) in 2014.
 
The gospel and human sexuality constituted the subject of both the ERLC’s first national conference and inaugural leadership summit during the last year, with speakers addressing such topics as sexual ethics, marriage and same-sex attraction. The entity also busily advocated for domestic and international religious freedom for all in the public square and in court.
 
Russell Moore, the ERLC’s president, told leadership summit participants in April the way to address Americans “is not by more culture-war posturing but by a Christ-shaped counter-revolution that takes seriously what the Bible speaks about sexuality, about marriage, about human dignity and focuses that upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
 
The ERLC’s ministry in 2014 came in its first full year under the leadership of Moore, who became president in June 2013.
 
Here are 10 key news subjects involving the ERLC in 2014:
 
‘Marriage crisis predated gay marriage, conf. speakers say’
 
A capacity crowd of about 1,300 people attended “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage,” the ERLC’s first national conference Oct. 27-29 in Nashville. Conference speakers and panelists addressed not only how to rebuild marriages and to counter the redefinition of marriage but how to love those who endorse same-sex unions and to help those with homosexual attractions.
 
Evangelicals cannot repeat the “same old mistakes” in which they “slowly adapted to a sexual revolution that is now ravaging our churches and our culture,” Moore said. If evangelical Christians make the same mistakes now, he said, “we won’t just lose a marriage culture; we will lose the gospel itself.”
 
‘Supreme Court finds in favor of Hobby Lobby; Baptists rejoice’
 
The U.S. Supreme Court provided a victory in June for the religious liberty rights of Hobby Lobby and other family owned, for-profit businesses that conscientiously object to the abortion/contraception mandate in the federal government’s 2010 health-care law. The rule required employers to provide for their workers drugs and devices that can potentially cause abortions. The ERLC and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary signed onto friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Hobby Lobby. The 5-4 opinion, however, did not address the conscientious objections of some religious non-profit organizations. The challenge by GuideStone Financial Resources of the mandate is pending at the federal appeals court level.
 
‘Moore at Vatican: Gospel vital in marriage’
 
In November, Moore spoke at an international, inter-religious conference on marriage sponsored by the Vatican, telling attendees they should defend man-woman marriage for the common good, but Christians also must champion it for the sake of the gospel. Christians not only should advocate for the biblical, traditional meaning of marriage for the benefit of human society but because of the church’s conviction “that what is disrupted when we move beyond the creation design of marriage and family is not only human flourishing, although it is that, but also the picture of the very mystery that defines the existence of the universe itself – the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
 
‘Sex-saturated culture addressed at summit’
 
Speakers at the ERLC’s first leadership summit in April encouraged pastors and other evangelicals to speak biblically and live purely to minister faithfully in a hyper-sexualized culture. “The Gospel and Human Sexuality” drew more than 200 registrants to Nashville, where primarily Southern Baptist leaders addressed such issues as marital sexuality, pastoral care for sexual immorality, pornography, same-sex marriage, sex trafficking, and discussing sex with children and young people.
 
‘Black, white Southern Baptists react to grand jury decision’
 
The deaths of African-American men Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police – and the failure of grand juries to bring indictments – elicited expressions of concern and grief from black and white Southern Baptist leaders. “[A] government that can choke a man to death on video for selling cigarettes is not a government living up to a biblical definition of justice or any recognizable definition of justice,” Moore said. The incidents prompted the ERLC to change the topic of its next leadership summit in March 2015 from developing a pro-life ethic to racial reconciliation.
 
‘Housing allowance survives at appeals court’
 
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago overturned in November a federal judge’s decision striking down the 60-year-old ministerial housing allowance. The appeals court ruled an atheist organization lacked the legal right to challenge the portion of a 1954 law that permits clergy to exclude for federal income tax purposes a portion or all of their gross income as a housing allowance. The ERLC, GuideStone and International Mission Board had signed onto briefs defending the allowance.
 
‘Houston sermon subpoenas unite Baptists’
 
Baptists on both sides of a divide from the days of the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention – including the ERLC and Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty – united in October to call for Houston Mayor Annise Parker to concede the city was wrong to subpoena sermons and other communications by pastors who oppose a new homosexual-transgender ordinance.
 
Parker later announced the withdrawal of the subpoenas.
 
‘ERLC honors heroic Christians at SBC’
 
In June’s SBC meeting at Baltimore, the ERLC presented the John Leland Religious Liberty Award to Steve and Jackie Green of Hobby Lobby for their family’s refusal to abide by the federal government’s abortion/contraception mandate. It also gave the Richard Land Distinguished Service Award to Naghmeh Abedini on behalf of her husband, Saeed, an American citizen imprisoned since 2012 by Iran’s oppressive regime for his Christian service in that country.
 
‘Prayers at town meetings okay, justices rule’
 
The Supreme Court ruled in May prayers at a town’s legislative meetings are constitutional. The 5-4 decision reversed a federal appeals court, which ruled the prayer policy of the Greece, N.Y., Town Board violated the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion. The ERLC filed a brief in support of the town’s policy.
 
‘ERLC network to equip Christians for culture’
 
The ERLC announced new initiatives in 2014 to equip pastors and other Christians, including its Leadership Network, a “Questions & Ethics” podcast, a “Canon & Culture” blog and podcast, and the Research Institute think tank.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

12/31/2014 10:31:08 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Seminary graduate compiles Bible reading plan

December 31 2014 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS Communications

As the new year approaches, many Christians are thinking about their next attempt at reading through the Bible. The Bible reading plans to choose from are numerous, but some people find certain plans difficult to continue once they reach the dense texts of Leviticus and Numbers.
 
Chris Dendy, a December D.Min. graduate in applied theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTC), has a suggestion to help believers stick with their Bible reading commitments.
 
As part of the ministry project required for his degree, Dendy designed a reading plan to go alongside James M. Hamilton Jr.’s book, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. Hamilton, professor of biblical theology, also serves as Dendy’s adviser.
 
“The goal of the plan is to graciously push believers to grow in their understanding of the scriptures and to give them a plan that will stretch them,” Dendy said.

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When Hamilton released the work on biblical theology in 2010, he wrote that he hoped his book would be a “guided tour” for believers toward reading the Bible better, even urging readers to read the two books together.
 
“This book is best read with an open Bible,” he wrote. “So I encourage you to read this book alongside the Bible, and if you have time for only one and not the other, read the Bible.”
 
In a Dec. 3 post to his blog, “For His Renown,” Hamilton unveiled the “God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment Bible Reading Plan.”
 
Daily readings are composed of several pages from Hamilton’s book which correspond with the two to three chapters from the listed biblical text, allowing readers to work through both books during a calendar year.
 
Hamilton says he hopes the plan will help readers identify a central theme to biblical revelation that will orient their daily reading and make their exposure to the Bible more fruitful.
 
A major theme in Hamilton’s book, a “thematic center” can help each believer appreciate the artistry and complexity of Scripture’s storyline while grasping the primary message of the whole counsel of God, he said.
“The thematic center shows us that every single biblical author agreed on God’s own ultimate purpose: to maximize our experience of what is best for us – his glory,” he said.
 
Dendy, who also serves as minister of discipleship and college ministry at Rich Pond Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky, said it is the first reading plan he knows of that is paired with a substantial and accessible theology book, and he hopes the plan will stretch people in the local church to understand the Bible better.
 
“The scriptures are where God reveals himself, not in God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment,” Dendy said.
 
“The readings in [Hamilton’s book] serve as a tour to God’s revelation of himself.”
Dendy suggests believers starting the plan also cultivate a healthy outlook on the role of solitude and community in their spiritual lives. Personal Bible reading helps the believer focus on the details of the text, while discussing the text in community “sharpens our thoughts and fuels our affections,” he said.
 
With many Christians eager to piece together individual parts of the Bible through biblical theology and typology, Hamilton said the best way to observe intertextual connections across the canon is simply to read the Bible tirelessly.
 
“Know the Bible thoroughly, so that when you step back to take a broad angle look at it, the details are stored there in your memory bank to be retrieved and examined,” he said. “Read the Bible a lot. Study it. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Rinse and repeat.”
 
Hamilton recommends that readers do the plan first thing in the morning, before doing anything else.

The plan is rendered in both a digital format and a print format. The printable version can be folded into a booklet and includes a page for notes. Lindsey Jacobs, an artist from Dendy’s church, designed both formats.

12/31/2014 10:25:03 AM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Mohler responds: The Bible ‘still matters’

December 31 2014 by RuthAnne Irvin, SBTS Communications

A Newsweek cover story calling into question the veracity and relevance of the Bible nevertheless “shows the Bible still matters,” R. Albert Mohler Jr. said today on "FOX & Friends" on the Fox News Channel.
 
Mohler also responded to the Newsweek article, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin” by Kurt Eichenwald in a Dec. 29 blog post, saying that Eichenwald’s article “is a hit-piece that lacks any journalistic balance or credibility.”

 
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R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, appears Dec. 30 on "FOX & Friends" to discuss a Newsweek cover story on the Bible with hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Scott Brown.

Eichenwald argues that Christians have a poor understanding of the Bible, which leads them to be “God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers – fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s word.”
 
Mohler appeared on “FOX & Friends” to discuss his response to the Newsweek article.
 
“Christianity doesn’t have anything to fear from an honest look at the facts of the truth claims of Christianity,” he said during the interview. “And when you have someone in the media give a balanced view and talk about the great truths of the faith in an honest and balanced and journalistic way, that’s fair game. But that’s not what we’re dealing with here. From the opening shot, this is an open attack upon Christianity.”
 
Concerning Eichenwald’s claims about translations of the Bible, Mohler told hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Scott Brown, “We have very accurate translations available to us now based upon very credible texts. That’s not really the problem.”
 
In Mohler’s blog post, he writes that Eichenwald fails to understand Christians and the Bible. And the article accomplishes what it meant to attack: to prove the continuing relevance of Scripture, he said.
 
“One of the most interesting things about this is that it shows that the Bible still matters,” Mohler said in the interview. “It matters so much that someone would choose this type of venue to attack it in such an open way and those who are Christians know why: it is indeed the Word of God.”
 
The interview is available here.

12/31/2014 10:14:09 AM by RuthAnne Irvin, SBTS Communications | with 0 comments



2014 Year In Review: People

December 30 2014 by Biblical Recorder staff

The recent edition of the Biblical Recorder briefly surveyed numerous highlights of the 2014 year. The stories, chosen by the BR staff, in this section highlight notable personalities in Southern Baptist life.
 

People

1. Daniel Akin honored for 10 years
During the spring Board of Visitors and Board of Trustees meetings, 10 years of Daniel Akin’s vision and leadership was celebrated. Under his supervision, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) has grown from 2,400 to more than 3,100 students. This is the fifth year of record enrollment. In 2014, the seminary exceeded the $50 million comprehensive campaign goal with $50,221,165 in gifts, faith commitments and planned gifts. SEBTS also announced in December 2013 its accreditation from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). The school is the only Southern Baptist seminary to receive ECFA accreditation.
 
2. Jerry McGee, Jerry Wallace and J.D. Grant retire
Jerry E. McGee, Wingate University’s 13th president, announced Apr. 22 his plans to retire in May 2015. McGee is N.C.’s longest-serving university president. At the time of his retirement, he will have served at Wingate for 23 years.
 
Campbell University president Jerry M. Wallace, who has led Campbell to unprecedented growth and transformed the university into a destination for leading health education and other key programs over the past 11 years, announced Apr. 23 that he will step down as president on June 30, 2015. After a one-year sabbatical, he will transition to the honorary role and title of university chancellor.
 
James Dillard (J.D.) Grant was honored in a celebration of his retirement from Fruitland Baptist Bible College on May 27. Grant’s association with the school began in 1970 when he came to the campus as a student. He retires after serving as a professor, vice-president of academic affairs and most recently as vice-president of development.
 
3. Ronnie Floyd elected SBC president
In a year when the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) focused on “Restoration & Revival Through Prayer,” Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd was elected as the SBC president. Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas for 27 years, topped fellow nominees Maryland pastor Dennis Manpoong Kim and Kentucky pastor Jared Moore to win the SBC post June 10 in Baltimore with 51.62 percent of the votes.
 
4. W.A. Criswell Chair at SEBTS
The W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching was installed at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s spring convocation in January. The convocation featured a video recording of Criswell’s sermon “Whether We Live or Die?” He delivered the message at the Southern Baptist Convention pastors’ conference in Dallas, Texas, June 10, 1985.
 
Jim Shaddix, professor of preaching and a teaching pastor at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., was installed in the new chair.
 
5. Billy Graham’s ‘Heaven’ Film
On Nov. 7, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association debuted “Heaven” on Graham’s 96th birthday. It is a film that includes a never-before-seen message from Graham. It captures an aging, yet still passionate evangelist who worked with a camera crew at his home in Montreat. In 2013 on his 95th birthday, “The Cross,” a 30-minute My Hope America short film, was released with a gospel message from Graham.
 
6. Chad Barefoot re-elected to Senate
Chad Barefoot was elected into the N.C. Senate as its youngest member in 2012. He ran unopposed in the 2014 Republican primary and defeated Sarah Crawford in the general election in November. He represents Wake and Franklin counties in the 18th Senate District. He graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a master of arts in Christian ethics. He also earned a bachelor of science degree with a concentration in public management from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.
 
7. SEBTS honors Sam and Rachel James
Former International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries Sam and Rachel James were awarded the Southeastern Presidential Award Nov. 6. The Presidential Award is the highest honor given from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). Sam James is a three-time graduate of SEBTS. He and his wife served with IMB for over 50 years prior to their retirement earlier this year. He is the author of Servant on the Edge of History: Risking All for the Gospel in War-Ravaged Vietnam.
 
8. Tom Elliff retires
Former International Mission Board (IMB) president Tom Elliff asked the mission agency’s trustees to search for his successor in late February. He was 67 when he accepted the post in 2011. Former pastor of The Church at Brook Hills and author of Radical, David Platt, was elected president of the IMB Aug. 27.
 
9. Mark Driscoll steps down
Mark Driscoll, the megachurch pastor of Mars Hill Church accused of plagiarism, bullying and an unhealthy ego, resigned from his Seattle church Oct. 14. Driscoll announced his plan to step aside for at least six weeks in August while his church investigated the charges against him.
Driscoll’s resignation came shortly after the church concluded its investigation. Driscoll found a niche within a largely secular Northwest culture. Though he has been controversial for statements on women and sexuality, several tipping points likely led up to Driscoll’s resignation. As part of the transition plan, all of the 15 Mars Hill’s properties will either be sold or the loans on the individual properties will be assumed by the new independent congregations. Each of Mars Hill’s campuses will decide whether to become an independent self-governed church, merge with an existing church or disband in early 2015.
 
10. SEBTS honors George Harvey
During the Board of Visitors and Board of Trustees (BOT) meetings in October at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), George Harvey was honored for 25 years of service to the seminary. Harvey, who is general counsel and director of planned giving, joined SEBTS in June 1989. After a unanimous vote of the trustees, Todd Linn, chairman of the BOT, and Akin presented a resolution to Harvey. The resolution honored and celebrated a man who left a highly respected career in law to come to a failing seminary, and trusting the Lord and His purpose for the institution.
 

In Memoriam

Truett Cathy
S. Truett Cathy, 93, founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain famous for closing on Sundays, died Sept. 8. In 1967, Cathy charted new ground, opening his first Chick-fil-A venue in a mall, followed in 1986 by the first free-standing Chick-fil-A. His son, Dan Cathy, became president of Chick-fil-A in 2001, and chairman and chief executive officer in 2013 while Truett Cathy continued in the role of chairman emeritus until his death. Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist who taught Sunday school to 13-year-old boys for more than 50 years and a member of First Baptist Church, Jonesboro, Ga.
 
Freddie Gage
Freddie Gage, 81, a Southern Baptist evangelist for more than 60 years whose fervency for souls extended to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Conservative Resurgence, died Sept. 12 in a Houston hospital after an extended illness. Gage, a teen gang leader who came to Christ after hearing the gospel in 1951, was among the initial inductees to the Evangelists Hall of Faith in 2008.
 
Braxton Caner
Braxton Caner, 15-year-old son of Ergun and Jill Caner, took his own life on July 29. Ergun Caner is president of Brewton-Parker College, a Baptist-affiliated college in Mount Vernon, Ga. Members of his football team, Southern Baptist leaders and friends of the family, joined the Caners and other family members for an emotional 2-hour memorial service for the teen Aug. 2 at New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas.
 
David Landrith
David Landrith, who led Long Hollow Baptist Church to be the first Tennessee church to baptize 1,000 people in a year, died of cancer Nov. 18. Landrith, 51, battled a rare form of cancer, colorectal melanoma, diagnosed in March 2013. He had been pastor of the Hendersonville church in the Nashville area since 1997.
 
T.W. Hunt
Thomas W. (“T.W.”) Hunt, widely recognized in Christian circles as an authority on prayer, died Dec. 11 at the age of 85. Hunt was the author of such books as The Mind of Christ and Disciple’s Prayer Life and a former professor of music and missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
 
Prominent N.C. Baptists who died in 2014 include Joe R. Babb, 84, who served on the Biblical Recorder Board of Directors and was the chairman of that board in 2006. He passed away April 25. Robert C. Stewart, 77, died Jan. 20 after a battle with cancer. In 1978, he became the state Sunday School director at the Baptist State Convention (BSC), and was later named church programs director and senior consultant for the convention until his retirement in 2003. Gene Lee Watterson, 84, was pastor of First Baptist Church in Shelby, N.C. for 26 years. He was president of the Council of Christian Higher Education and served as first vice president and president of the BSC.
 

Related Stories:

2014 Year in Review: Culture
2014 Year in Review: SBC and BSC
Top 14 stories of 2014

12/30/2014 11:45:55 AM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 0 comments



2014 Year In Review: Culture

December 30 2014 by Biblical Recorder staff

The recent edition of the Biblical Recorder briefly surveyed numerous highlights of the 2014 year. The stories, chosen by the BR staff, in this section highlight notable cultural issues across the state, nation and globe.
 

Cultural Issues

1. Winter Olympics
Despite concerns about terrorist threats, approximately 400 Southern Baptist volunteers traveled to Sochi, Russia to provide a gospel presence during the 2014 Winter Olympics. Along with several church groups from different states, the International Mission Board was heavily involved with a program they developed called “Engage Sochi” – an evangelistic ministry before, during and after the Olympics. Volunteers used traditional Olympic ministry methods such as trading “evangelism pins” to engage people throughout the city and in Olympic venues. The goal was not to see how many pins they could distribute, but to spend time talking with people, forming relationships and proclaiming the gospel.
 
2. Housing Allowance
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled Nov. 13 that an atheist organization lacked the legal right to challenge the portion of a 1954 law that permits clergy to exclude for federal income tax purposes a portion of their gross income as a housing allowance. A three-judge panel did not rule on the allowance’s constitutionality but unanimously rejected a Wisconsin federal judge’s invalidation of the provision from November 2013. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and International Mission Board signed a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Becket Fund in support of the allowance. GuideStone joined in a brief with other denominational benefit boards as part of the Church Alliance.
 
3. Ham/Nye Debate
Bill Nye, former host of “Bill Nye, The Science Guy,” and Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, debated Feb. 4 at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Hundreds of thousands of people watched the debate online which sought to answer the question: “Is creation a viable model of origins?” The attendance demonstrated a vibrant interest in the origins of the universe.
 
4. Paige Patterson allows Muslim at SWBTS
Paige Patterson, a notable Southern Baptist figure and leader of the Conservative Resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention, faced heavy criticism from some Baptists who accused him of violating the standards of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in Fort Worth, Texas. In September, SWBTS trustees affirmed Patterson after investigating his decision to admit Ghassan Nagagreh into the school’s Ph.D. program. They said, “Any violations of the seminary bylaws were done in a good-faith enthusiasm to pursue the seminary’s purpose, as set forth in its articles of incorporation.”
 
5. Hobby Lobby wins court case
In a narrow 5-4 landmark decision written by Justice Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood Specialties and other religious-based companies. At stake in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. was whether the United States government can compel individuals and the businesses they own to pay for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.
 
6. Immigration border crisis
The surge of unaccompanied, illegal children from Central and South America prompted many churches and faith-based groups to join the government in working to care for the children. More than 50,000 children were apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol between October 2013 and May 2014. Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and Russell Moore, the SBC’s lead ethicist, joined others in tours July 22 of two centers established to address the crisis. Floyd and Moore have called not only for a compassionate response to the plight of the unaccompanied children in this country but for repair of what is generally acknowledged is a broken immigration system.
 
7. Ebola
By December 2014 the Ebola death toll had risen above 7,000 from more than 18,400 cases identified in three African countries. Many Southern Baptists responded by joining the battle against the disease. These volunteers are represented by organizations such as the International Mission Board, Samaritan’s Purse and Baptist Global Response among others. Kent Brantly, a medical doctor with Samaritan’s Purse who contracted Ebola while running a treatment center in Liberia, was one of several medical workers featured on a TIME Magazine cover as part of the magazine’s recognition of ‘Ebola Fighters’ as the 2014 Person of the Year.
 
8. Houston equal rights ordinance
The word “subpoenas” grabbed national attention after it became known that five Houston ministers were subpoenaed for sermons and other private correspondence regarding their opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. On Oct. 29, Houston mayor Annise Parker announced the subpoenas were withdrawn. Baptists leaders and foes of the ordinance were concerned the law would violate religious freedoms. In response, some pastors organized “I Stand Sunday” to support the five pastors subpoenaed.
 
9. Ferguson, Missouri
The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9 garnered national attention after the teenager’s death incited both peaceful protests as well as several nights of upheaval in this St. Louis-area town. After a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer, many Southern Baptists responded with a renewed effort toward racial reconciliation.
 
10. ERLC national conference
On Oct. 27, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission convened a national conference in Nashville, Tenn. with the goal of bolstering marriage within the church as well as protect marriage outside it. The event – “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage” – considered how Christians can minister in a post-marriage culture.
 
11. Front Street tragedy: one year later
On Oct. 2, 2013, six members of Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville were killed in a three-vehicle accident outside Knoxville, Tenn. Two others were killed and another 12 were injured. “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” became the theme for the anniversary service Oct. 6 at Western Avenue Baptist Church in Statesville. The songs were intentionally chosen to speak of God’s faithfulness and His sustaining power in the midst of tragedy. It was a time dedicated to remember, to heal and to worship.
 
12. Same-sex marriage in N.C.
In May 2012, North Carolinians voted on the constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman; it passed 61-39 percent. Of North Carolina’s 100 counties, the amendment passed in 93. On Oct. 6, 2014, United States Supreme Court justices denied review of decisions by three federal appeals courts’ overturning state laws that prohibited same-sex marriage. This denial meant that any state’s lower-court’s rulings are lawfully binding. A few days after the Supreme Court’s denial, U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn in Asheville, overturned the N.C. constitutional amendment passed in 2012. Cogburn’s refusal meant the state’s lower-court’s rulings are thereby lawful. By mid-October, Wake County issued approximately 90 licenses to same-sex couples.
 

Related Stories:

2014 Year in Review: People
2014 Year in Review: SBC and BSC
Top 14 stories of 2014

12/30/2014 11:39:28 AM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 0 comments



2014 Year In Review: SBC and BSC

December 30 2014 by Biblical Recorder staff

The recent edition of the Biblical Recorder briefly surveyed numerous highlights of the 2014 year. The stories, chosen by the BR staff, in this section highlight notable events in both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
 

Southern Baptist Convention

1. NAMB chaplains
Chaplaincy is one of six areas of focus for the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) evangelism group. Chaplains are able to minister in hard places around the world. In 2014 NAMB focused on providing support and appreciation for chaplains, educating churches on chaplain ministry, and developing a strategy to help pastors and leaders incorporate chaplains into ministry plans. They also developed a long-term strategy for church planting at nearly every U.S. military base in the world.
 
2. Mental health council named
Executive Committee president Frank S. Page named a 23-member volunteer advisory body of local church leaders and professionals in the mental health field to advise him on possible ways to better communicate with churches about mental health ministry needs, while also resourcing them. Four from North Carolina were named to the group: Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Doug Carver, a member of First Baptist Church in Matthews and executive director for chaplaincy at the North American Mission Board; Brad Hambrick, pastor of counseling at The Summit Church in Durham; and Sam Williams, professor of counseling at Southeastern Seminary.
 
3. ‘Third Way’ church
The Executive Committee (EC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) withdrew fellowship from New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., when pastor Danny Cortez advocated a “third way” perspective on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. The EC’s action marked the first time the committee has withdrawn fellowship from a church on behalf of the convention. The SBC, the California Southern Baptist Convention and the Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association each disagreed with the claim that unity requires granting church membership to persons who affirm homosexual behavior.
 
4. David Platt elected IMB president
The election of David Platt on Aug. 27 as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board (IMB) brought praise and calls for prayer from Southern Baptists. He succeeds Tom Elliff who served as IMB president since March 2011. Platt, 36, is the youngest leader in the history of the 169-year-old Southern Baptist mission organization. Platt’s passion for people lost without Christ – and his calling to reach them – inspired members of IMB’s trustee search committee.
 
5. SBC pastor care line
Southern Baptist pastors now have a place to turn thanks to a new partnership between the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Focus on the Family.  On Oct. 1 they launched a care line, (844) PASTOR1, for Southern Baptist pastors, staff, chaplains and missionaries. NAMB partnered with Focus on the Family in part because the ministry has more than two decades of experience hosting a pastor crisis care line. The phone line is available weekdays between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. EST.
 

Baptist State Convention of N.C.

1. N.C. Baptists seek ‘Greater Things’ at annual meeting
The annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) was held this year on Nov. 10-11 in Greensboro. Over 1,800 attendees heard reports and took decisive action to elect officials and vote on bylaws, budgets and resolutions. Three officers were elected during the annual meeting: Timmy Blair, president; Cameron McGill, first vice president; and Joel Stephens, second vice president. Together N.C. Baptists prayed John 14:12 asking God to do “Greater Things.” In mid-October, the BSC Board of Directors approved a reduced Cooperative Program (CP) budget for 2015. This CP budget of $29 million is $1 million less than 2014, and it was approved by church messengers during the meeting. The budget increases the percentage going to the Southern Baptist Convention to 37 percent, up from 36.5 percent in 2014.
 
2. NCBM continues to clean up after April tornadoes
The April 25 tornado outbreak left great damage to the North Carolina towns of Elizabeth City and Washington. More than 35 volunteers from Baptists on Mission (formerly known as North Carolina Baptist Men) began work on April 27 in both cities to help homeowners clean up from the storm. At the annual meeting in November, John Gore reported that volunteers are finishing the work in those cities.
 
3. N.C. Baptist Collegiate Ministry restructured
North Carolina is home to more than 200 colleges and universities where 39,800 faculty are educating more than 591,000 students from every state and most countries around the world. In 2014, N.C. Baptists intensified efforts to utilize this prime opportunity to evangelize the world from their home state. Baptist Campus Ministries was restructured in 2013 to provide consultants who encourage local churches to take ownership of the college ministry opportunities on the campuses near their churches by forming collegiate partnerships.
 
Also, the convention received a proposal to purchase the Battle House on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Baptists also own properties on the campuses of Western Carolina University, Appalachian State University, N.C. State and UNC Asheville. The Asheville property is currently for sale.
 
4. Happiness Retreats Celebrate 40 years
Five Happiness Retreats were held in 2014 in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the event. More than 700 people with special needs attended the three-day retreats at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro and Truett Camp in Hayesville. Since the first Happiness retreat at Caraway in 1974, the objective has been to provide a fun camp experience while making disciples among special needs adults in North Carolina.
 

Related Stories:

2014 Year in Review: People
2014 Year in Review: Culture
Top 14 stories of 2014

12/30/2014 11:33:42 AM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 0 comments



Top 14 stories of 2014

December 30 2014 by Biblical Recorder staff

The Biblical Recorder staff compiled the data for our web traffic on BRnow.org and learned that in 2014 over 4.1 million unique visitors depended on us to provide news and information with a biblical worldview. The top 14 stories viewed by our readers are listed below.
 
14 most read online stories of 2014:
 
1. ‘Blood moon’ lunar eclipses not a sign, Baptist professors say
posted April 16 by David Roach, Baptist Press
 
2. Moldova, Dublin FBC partnership yields teenage visitor
posted Aug. 26 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor
 
3. Mark Driscoll removed from Acts 29 network
posted Aug. 11 by Religion News Service and Baptist Press
 
4. Fire survivors thankful for Baptist relief
posted Sept. 2 by Tobin Perry, North American Mission Board/Baptist Press
 
5. C.J. Mahaney & Joshua Harris leave Gospel Coalition
posted May 19 by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service
 
6. ‘Radical’ pastor David Platt elected IMB president
posted Aug. 27 by Erich Bridges, International Mission Board
 
7. N. Iraq: Grave danger as winter approaches
posted Sept. 24 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press/Baptist Global Response
 
8. Fifty-six men chose liberty
posted June 30 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor
 
9. N.C. students serve among T people in Southeast Asia
posted Sept. 9 by Paige Turner, International Mission Board
 
10. Pro-gay book, publisher face more criticism
posted May 2 by David Roach, Baptist Press
 
11. Boko Haram’s Islamic motives ‘ignored’
posted July 9 by David Roach, Baptist Press
 
12. Ergun Caner family grieves tragic death of son
posted July 30 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press
 
13. Islam expert: ISIS conflict ‘annihilating Middle East Christians’
posted July 3 by S. Craig Sanders, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary News
 
14. Jehovah’s Witness prediction spurs evangelism
posted April 16 by David Roach, Baptist Press
 

Related Stories:

2014 Year in Review: Culture
2014 Year in Review: SBC and BSC
2014 Year in Review: People

12/30/2014 10:53:46 AM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 0 comments



Volunteers spread warmth, gospel in New York

December 30 2014 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

More than 4,000 New Yorkers will be warmer this winter because they’ll be wearing coats provided by North Carolina Baptists through the annual Coats for the City project.
 
Hundreds of N.C. churches collected coats throughout 2014, which were gathered in 12 associational offices and trucked to Ebenezer Mission Church in Bayside, Queens, on Dec. 11, for pickup by 14 New York area Baptist churches that day.
 
A team of volunteers from Fusion Church in Spring Lake, N.C., led by Pastor Barry Lawrence and his wife, Lynette, helped sort the voluminous piles of coats packed in black plastic bags. Lawrence coordinated Coats for the City across North Carolina this year.
 
The New York churches handed out the coats on Dec. 13, with help from more than 100 N.C. Baptist volunteers. Many who received a coat were clearly not dressed warmly enough for the day, when temperatures hovered in the 30s, chilled even more by a steady breeze.
 
N.C. volunteers joined with N.Y. Baptists to hand out the coats along with hot coffee, hot chocolate, hot tea, Bibles, tracts and Jesus videos.
 
Most of the 14 New York churches are new church plants still meeting in rented facilities. Planters/pastors say distributing coats is a great way to both meet physical needs and build relationships.

 
Coats12-30-14.jpg

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
In Long Island City, Queens, Angie Turnmire, left, helps a woman find a coat. Turnmire is a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Hudson. She was one of more than 100 North Carolina volunteers who went in December to New York to help with Coats for the City, a partnership between Metropolitan New York Baptist Association and the Baptist State Convention of N.C.

Coats for the City is a partnership between the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA) and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), along with a number of N.C. Baptist associations. It started three years ago as a local church project in Queens, one of New York City’s five boroughs.
 

Jackson Heights

In the richly multicultural neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens, church planter Boto Joseph, local church members and volunteers set up tables loaded with coats and welcomed long lines of local residents – one line for men and one for women and children. “It’s Christmas, and we’re celebrating the birth of Christ by giving out free coats,” he said over a loudspeaker.
 
“This looks great,” said a well-bundled Robert Steele, executive pastor of Green Street Baptist Church in High Point, who brought five volunteers to N.Y. “We’re giving coats to Hindus and Muslims, people literally from all over the world. We’re giving them coats and hot tea and more importantly, they’re being shown the love of Christ in a demonstrable way. So it’s exciting to see the smiles on faces of the people. They may not know the words we’re saying, but they see we’re doing something to help them.”
 
Last year’s coats distribution won praise from local Hindu and Muslim shopkeepers, who were impressed that Christians would work so hard to help local residents in need.
 
Green Street is one of five Triad-area churches setting up a partnership to expand New York outreach. This was the first coats project for Green Street, but First Baptist Church in Summerfield, one of the partners, sent teams to serve in previous years.
 
Wilma Morgan, a First Baptist member, helped manage the line of women waiting for coats. She led the church’s collection, labeling and packing of hundreds of coats bound for New York.
 
Turbaned Asian men took cups of hot chai, or spiced tea, from volunteers, while some volunteers stopped at times to pray with people waiting for coats. Volunteers helped mothers look through the coats to find the right fit for their children.
 
“Look,” said one Asian man holding up a coat, “it’s brand new. Still has the label on it.”
 

Long Island City

Long Island City is a section of Queens across the East River from Manhattan, where new high-rise apartments and other developments have rejuvenated a former docks area. New-City Church, a two-year-old church plant, meets in one of those high-rises.
 
But a few blocks away are two of the nation’s largest public housing areas that are home for some of the area’s poorest people. That was where New-City set up their coats distribution, partnering with Hour Children, an organization ministering to women released from prison.
 
New-City worker Christy Dyer said they gave out 400 coats in 90 minutes.
 
“One of our core values is to be an expression of grace to our community,” said Patrick Thompson, New-City pastor/planter. “The ability to come into a high-need area and provide a resource like a warm coat and a cup of coffee helps us be that grace to this neighborhood.”
 
Thompson said his church members contributed 75 coats for the day, “but there’s no way we could collect more than 400 coats to hand out. To have this kind of resource and to have the volunteers come alongside, we couldn’t do this without help from North Carolina Baptists.”
 
Dale Fisher, director of missions for Caldwell Baptist Association, made up of 74 churches in and around Lenoir, joined other volunteers in helping people find coats. Other Tar Heel volunteers included Nathaniel Poole, Anna Lee, David Lee and Abby Lee of Bat Cave Baptist Church in Bat Cave; and Angie Turnmire and Pearl Setzer of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Hudson.
 

Nueva Vida, Woodside, Queens

Nueva Vida Baptist Church is a Hispanic church meeting in a storefront building in Woodside, Queens. Members turned the entire church into a coats distribution center and handed out more than 300 coats in two hours. At least 25 children received a coat.
 
Mostly Hispanic and Asian people came seeking a coat. Pastor Walter Valencia prayed with some, including a man who suffered from seizures because of epilepsy. It was the first time the man had ever been inside a church. Walter’s wife, Veronica, talked to people and helped them find coats, joined by volunteers from Fusion Church.
 
“I am very thankful to God for North Carolina Baptists and all the coats that have come our way,” she said. “We are sharing the Word of God and food along with the coats. God bless you guys for that.”
 

Gambian Outreach, the Bronx

Brian Stephens, leader of Gambian Outreach, set up tables in Crotona Park in the Bronx, another of New York’s boroughs, and handed out hundreds of coats.
 
One church planter working with Muslims and Hindus said they gave out almost 300 coats in an hour and could have used three times that number. He said church members prayed with numerous people, and they plan to follow up with home visits to several Muslim families they met.
 
As church planters picked up their allotment of coats Dec. 11, Barry Lawrence encouraged them to tell the Fusion volunteers about their ministries. Then they prayed for them.
 
Nathan Creitz, pastor of City Life Church in Ridgewood, Queens, said his church had only launched in September 2013, ahead of the coats distribution in December. Was it effective to distribute the coats?
“Absolutely,” Creitz said. “It was a big event. We gave out 500 coats,” adding that some had visited the church because of the coats; 15 months after launch, City Life Church now has about 30 members. 

“The coats drive is a big help for us in building good will in the community,” said Joshua Collins, who works with Bengali immigrants in Jamaica, Queens and the Bronx.
 
Collins explained that some immigrants arrive from hot climates where 50 degrees may be the coolest weather they ever see. “A New York winter is a lot different for them, and the coats are helpful,” he said.

Pastor Todd Brandt said, “We did the coats distribution last year and had a great time with it.” They also gave out coffee and donuts and had yard sales. He said 80,000 people live within a mile of his Christian Bible Church in Yonkers, and half-a-million people within five miles.
 
“These are people in desperate need of the gospel,” Brandt said, adding that he is really excited about what God is doing with the church.
 
Some 150 Coats for the City volunteers and local Baptists gathered the evening of Dec. 12, for a training session on coats distribution. Brad Wall, leader of South Asian Outreach in Queens and Brooklyn, reminded the volunteers they were there not just to talk about Jesus, but also to be Him as they loved on the people in need. “Guess what! It’s OK to smile in New York,” he told them.
 
Wall and Boto Joseph started the coats project.
 
Chuck Register expressed appreciation to all who worked on the project and said he hopes Coats for the City can be expanded to more New York churches in 2015. He was on hand Dec. 11 when the coats arrived at Ebenezer Mission Church and spent the evening moving bags of coats with other volunteers. Register, an executive leader with the BSC, directs church planting and missions partnerships.
 
“This was a huge project that involved hundreds of churches and many Baptists in North Carolina and New York,” said Kelli Creswell, MNYBA’s church planting administrator who coordinated the coats project in N.Y. “But suddenly all of it seems a small investment when you see a man wearing a light jacket just radiate joy when he pulls on a heavy, warm coat in the cold.
 
“And when you see a non-believer willing to have a Christian pray for him or hear for the first time the amazing news that God loves him, again, the effort seems small for such a wonderful result. If you gave a coat or sent volunteers or had anything at all to do with Coats for the City, I assure you it was a very good investment in God’s Kingdom,” said Creswell, a former BSC employee.
 
She encouraged North Carolina Baptists to begin making plans for next year’s project. Stores will soon put winter coats on sale, Creswell said. “Plan now to buy coats for Coats for the City 2015.”

12/30/2014 10:42:12 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 1 comments



One Story event about hearing, connecting, sharing

December 29 2014 by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor

The One Story Disciple-Making Conference “is the annual conference where we gather pastors to talk about impacting lostness through disciple-making. Disciple-making includes evangelism, and evangelism is the essence of disciple-making. We’re winning people to Christ, developing them and sending them out on mission with Christ to make more disciples,” said Brian Upshaw, team leader for disciple-making at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

This year’s conference (Feb. 23) was created to prepare believers to connect with unbelievers in a modern context. Upshaw said the people that churches are trying to reach are far away from any kind of Christian background or Christian narrative in their lives.

“So, it’s important for us to listen and observe and hear from the culture. Just as a missionary does in a foreign context, … they are taught to understand and exegete their culture.

“We have to know who we’re trying to reach with the gospel. We have to love them for who they are; listen to their stories and hear why they’re broken or hear why they don’t like the church; and hear why they’re open to Jesus but not Baptists. We don’t have to like what they say, but we have to listen,” Upshaw emphasized.

Speakers will address three main themes at the conference: Hear, Connect and Share.

Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, will speak on the theme of “Hear.” Upshaw believes Stetzer will help pastors think like a missionary in their own contexts, while also being both affirmed and encouraged to make disciples. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine and executive editor of both The Gospel Project and Facts & Trends Magazine.

Afshin Ziafat is a converted Muslim. Speaking on the theme of “Connect,” Upshaw said Ziafat “has a powerful testimony of understanding, because he came out of one culture and connected to another culture.”

Ziafat, lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas, is the founder of Afshin Ziafat Ministries. He helped launch Vertical Bible Study at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he also partners with Elam Ministries and travels into the Middle East regularly to train Iranian pastors.

Radically saved from a life of drug addiction in 2002, Robby Gallaty helped create Replicate Ministries in 2008 to educate, equip and empower Christians. He is currently the senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Teaching on the third theme, “Share,” Gallaty will present the redemptive story of God, how He pursues a people for Himself and most importantly, how He invites believers to share the one, true story with the culture around them.

“An exciting addition not on the brochure is Jon Erwin, a movie-director and producer who did ‘October Baby’ and ‘Mom’s Night Out,’” said Upshaw.

Erwin is currently working on a documentary called “The Jesus Revolution,” which is about the Jesus Movement of 1960s and 70s. Upshaw said, “Erwin’s goal for the movie is to use this documentary to share the gospel with Millennials who are of the same wiring of being spiritually curious but not really institutional.”

Erwin will discuss the reason behind “The Jesus Revolution” at the conference, while illustrating the importance of stories and how to communicate the gospel to today’s modern context.

Lori McDaniel, the Global Mission Catalyst at the International Mission Board, will be offering a track for women during the conference. Upshaw said he’s really excited about this session. “We have over a dozen different speakers. This is the first year in recent years that we have done a specific focus for women – such as pastor’s wives or women leaders in ministry,” he said.

The One Story conference will be held Feb. 23 at Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons, N.C.
The conference is offered at no charge. Lunch will be available at $7 for those who preregister. For more information about the event or equipping sessions, visit ncbaptist.org/disciplenc.

12/29/2014 1:56:14 PM by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



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