December 2015

Christian response to refugees & Muslims discussed

December 14 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Christians are missing out on chances to share Christ amid the fearful, hostile discourse on refugees and Muslims currently prevalent, a Southern Baptist religious freedom advocate said at a Capitol Hill discussion.
 
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said Dec. 9, “[T]here are many opportunities for people to visibly show the love of Christ that are being evaporated due to fear.”
 
As a Christian who completely disagrees with Islam, “my response to my Muslim neighbors cannot be one of fear and loathing,” Moore told an audience of nearly 100 people in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center. “My response to my nonviolent, law-abiding Muslim neighbor needs to be a loving witness to the grace and faith that comes in Jesus Christ, not in a message that communicates: ‘Because you’re not yet in Christ, you are therefore my enemy to be kept away.’”
 
Moore’s comments came during Capitol Conversations, a periodic, Washington, D.C., panel discussion sponsored by the ERLC. The Dec. 9 conversation – “The Syrian Refugee Crisis: A Christian Response” – followed two held in the previous five months, one on same-sex marriage and religious liberty and the other on Planned Parenthood and the sanctity of human life.

 
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Photo by Jason Thacker
ERLC President Russell Moore (second from right) comments on the Syrian refugee crisis while fellow panelists (from left) Afshin Ziafat, Jenny Yang, Knox Thames and moderator Matthew Hawkins listen during a panel discussion in Washington, D.C.

The latest panel discussion came only two days after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed a temporary ban on the entry of Muslims into the United States. Evangelist Franklin Graham seconded Trump’s idea in a Dec. 9 Facebook post, reiterating a recommendation he made in July.
 
During the ERLC’s Capitol Conversations, a former Muslim who is now a Southern Baptist pastor said Christians harm their witness in this country when they call for such actions.
 
Christians – whose message is “that life is short and we’re to live for the eternal” – applaud missionaries who risk their lives to take the gospel overseas, but “when the mission field is coming to us, then all of a sudden we’re saying, ‘No. Get out. We want protection,’” Afshin Ziafat said.
 
A Christian’s goal “should not be to by all means extend my life but ... by all means to spend my life being an ambassador for Christ and seeing the gospel go out,” said Ziafat, lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas.
 
Amid the refugee crisis from war-torn Syria and in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., Christians “cannot be the people who are so fearful of evil that we lose human compassion” and we cannot be “driven by fear in ways that cause us to try to avoid any possibility of risk,” Moore said. Also, he said, Christians cannot “sentimentalize ourselves into people who do not understand evil and the capacity of evil in the world.”
 
Moore acknowledged some of the public discussions are prudential ones about how government should vet refugees to maintain security while doing so with compassion. Some conversations, however, “are much darker and come from a very different place,” he said.
 
The recent conversation about banning Muslims “is something that ought to cause the hair on the back of the neck of every Christian and every American to stand, because this is not only an assault on human dignity and human conscience; it’s also an assault on basic religious freedoms ...,” he said. “[I]f we don’t stand up for those who are unpopular at the moment, we certainly will see those very same impulses being turned against others in the fullness of time.”
 
The global refugee problem is greatest in the Middle Eastern country of Syria, where more than 7.6 million people are internally displaced in the face of a civil war of nearly five years and an invasion by the Islamic State terrorist group. More than 4 million Syrians are registered refugees in other countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Many of these are Muslims, but some are Christians or other minority religious adherents.
 
The Obama administration has announced it will increase the annual refugee resettlement ceiling from 70,000 in recent years to 85,000 in 2016.
 
In the 12-step resettlement process, 18 months to two years, is the time required before the U.S. government places a refugee with an agency, said Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy for World Relief, an evangelical organization that is one of nine refugee resettlement entities working with the State Department.
 
While the United States resettles more refugees than any other country, less than one-half of one percent of the world’s refugees are resettled in America, Yang told the audience. Most of the Syrian and Iraqi refugees World Relief has resettled in this country are women and children. Only two percent of the refugees arriving from that region are military-aged men, she said.
 
World Relief, which introduces each refugee family to a local church, wants “to empower churches to welcome these refugees into their communities,” Yang said. “In many of our offices, it’s actually been Southern Baptist churches that have been the most open and welcoming to the refugees” received by her agency, she said.
 
The rhetoric currently being used regarding Muslims has “real ramifications” on refugees, Yang told the audience. Many of those settled in this country in recent months by World Relief refuse to leave their houses because they fear they will be returned to Syria, she explained.
 
Knox Thames, the State Department’s special adviser for religious minorities in the Middle East and South/Central Asia, said the rhetoric in America “does play in other places” in the world. He cited a recent meeting with Pakistani Christians, who told him terrorists in their country view Christians as “basically Americans.”
 
“And so if they want to hit America, they go blow up a church,” Thames said. “And if we’re pouring fuel into this fire of extremist talk, ... the bad guys will go and hit Christian churches, and I’ve seen it time and time again. This stuff doesn’t stay here.”
 
In the current climate, Muslims are “expecting you to ostracize them,” pastor Ziafat said. “So when you reach out to love them, ... it will blow them away.”
 
He “wouldn’t go so far as to say Islam is a religion of peace,” because Islam includes teachings on “a physical kind of jihad,” Ziafat said. He cautioned American Christians, however, “the chances are very unlikely” the Muslim neighbor across the street is a jihadist. Their Muslim neighbors “are probably confused and perplexed by what’s happening,” he told attendees.
 
In a first-person written commentary, Joseph Rose, who has ministered to Syrian refugees as a Christian worker in the Middle East, urged the church to welcome those fleeing their violent land.
 
“We must not waste this opportunity to reach out to a suffering people and to share with them the Good News of Jesus Christ,” Rose said. “Let us not allow fear to cripple us or to repress the Great Commission mandate we have been given to make Jesus followers of all peoples.”
 
In his Facebook post, Graham said Muslim immigration to America “should be stopped until we can properly vet them or until the war with Islam is over.” He said politicians “are not listening to the truth – my prayer is that God will open their eyes. This affects our security and the future of our nation.”
 
Trump’s support for closing the borders to Muslims prompted a strong response from Moore, who wrote in a Dec. 7 blog post, “Anyone who cares an iota about religious liberty should denounce this reckless, demagogic rhetoric.”
 
Two Southern Baptists competing with Trump for the Republican presidential nomination expressed their disagreement with him.
 
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said he would not support a ban on Muslims. “I think we need to focus on radical Islamic terrorism, on the specific threat,” he said in a Dec. 10 interview with the Heritage Foundation.
 
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said in a statement reported by ABC News, “A ban on Muslims is impossible to enforce because Islamic terrorists will tell whatever lie they can to enter this country to kill more Americans. And it’s simply unconstitutional to ban people on the basis of religion.”
 
Their responses illustrate the conclusion of a 2011 resolution that acknowledged disagreement among Southern Baptists and other Christians on how to establish a “just and humane” policy on immigration. However, the resolution also noted widespread agreement that Southern Baptists need to demonstrate biblical reconciliation “both in the verbal witness of our gospel and in the visible makeup of our congregations.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

12/14/2015 2:31:26 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Advent rediscovered by Southern Baptists

December 14 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Late preaching professor Calvin Miller once quipped to Christianity Today that many Southern Baptist churches “probably could hardly spell Advent” in the early 1990s.
 
Not so anymore.
 
LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has published Advent devotional books and includes tips for observing Advent in at least two holiday magazines this year. North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder newsjournal commends Advent to its readers, offering them a list of Advent resources. And Southern Baptist congregations across America light Advent candles weekly – many of them purchased from LifeWay.
 
So why the shift?
 
Church historian Stan Norman said Baptists have begun to see the usefulness of traditions once viewed as too liturgical or high church. Advent wreaths, calendars and readings “seem to provide a bit of structure in a tradition that has maybe gone too far without structure,” Norman, provost of Oklahoma Baptist University, told Baptist Press.

 
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The focus on Christ inherent in Advent celebrations is needed “in a cultural context in which we are battered on every side to be diverted away from that,” Norman said.
 
Advent, derived from a Latin word meaning “coming,” refers to a four-week period of preparation in Western churches leading up to Christmas. For most believers who observe it, Advent is a time of reflecting on Jesus’ first coming and preparing for His second coming.

 

Advent origins

Advent became a recognized Christian festival in the sixth century, some 400 years after followers of Jesus began to celebrate Christmas, said Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Michael Haykin. He noted some evidence of fasting by believers in preparation for Christmas during the fourth century.
 
An Advent sermon preached by Pope Gregory the Great around A.D. 600 may be evidence Advent had gained official recognition by then. The festival was a staple of the Christian calendar by the High Middle Ages (1000-1300), Haykin, a professor of church history and biblical spirituality, told BP.
 
Change came with the Protestant Reformation, when there was “a trimming of the calendar by all of the Protestants” in an effort to bring church activities in line with the instructions of scripture, Haykin said.
 
Anglicans and Lutherans maintained Advent. Puritans – British and American Christians who sought to purify the Church of England in the 1500s and 1600s – believed churches should eliminate all worship practices without clear biblical warrant, and they included Advent in that category. In fact, they eliminated all Christian celebrations except the Lord’s Day.
 
Early Baptists, with many of their roots in Puritanism, “would have shared that sort of attitude,” Haykin said.
 
Not until the late 1700s did Baptists’ aversion to Christmas start to shift, with English pastor John Ryland, for example, preaching a Christmas sermon. By the mid-1800s, Baptists began to celebrate Christmas more broadly, Haykin and Norman said.
 
Basil Manly Jr., one of Southern Seminary’s founding professors, wrote in an 1867 letter that “a custom has sprung up, since the [Civil] War began, of having a Christmas tree.” London pastor Charles Spurgeon said in an 1891 sermon that while “perhaps it is not right to have the birthday [of Christ] celebrated,” he would “say nothing, today, against festivities on that great birthday of Christ.”
 
Yet even as Christmas celebrations expanded among Baptists, Norman said, Advent remained unpopular, seen as a vestige of high church traditions, including Roman Catholicism. “Not until probably the middle of the 20th century did we see an openness to actual Advent being incorporated,” he said.
 
Among the early expressions of Advent’s blossoming was a 1965 Advent devotional book by R.L. Middleton published by the Baptist Sunday School Board, LifeWay’s precursor organization – though the book did not use the term Advent. That same year, the SBC Executive Committee defended the celebration of Christmas generally in its publication The Baptist Program.

 

The flowering of Advent

Today’s proliferation of Advent observance may be part of a “pushback” against the contemporary worship movement, Norman said, as believers seek increased “solemnity” and “sobriety.” Haykin said Advent helps contemporary believers set themselves apart from a world that is more “hostile to the Christian faith” than the world of Puritans and early Baptists.
 
Allan Blume was one Baptist pastor to incorporate Advent into his Christmas celebration for the reason articulated by Haykin. In 35 years of pastoral ministry, Blume found Advent was “a time to keep the focus on Jesus daily in the middle of a season that keeps drawing our attention to material items.”
 
Now editor of the Biblical Recorder, Blume wrote in an editorial, “I had heard of Advent but always brushed it aside as something only liturgical churches did. I learned it is a very popular tradition in Germany, the homeland of my family name.
 
“I began a multi-year investigation into the history of the Advent tradition,” Blume wrote. “... The more I studied, the more I wondered why evangelicals were missing out on all of the rich meaning and pure joy of Advent celebrations.”
 
For more than three decades now, Blume has celebrated Advent with daily devotionals and candle lighting in his family and weekly lighting of candles in churches he has pastored. In addition to enriching the Christmas celebration, Advent observance has created teaching moments and prompted Blume to pray about and consider more deeply his annual gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
 
Pastor Rhett Wilson of The Spring Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Laurens, S.C., recounted a similar experience.
 
“The Advent season can be a great time for families to celebrate Jesus Christ afresh,” Wilson wrote in LifeWay’s HomeLife. “Parents are wise to create opportunities for children to focus on Jesus amid all the holiday rush.”
 
Norman is another Advent observer – both in his family and at churches he has served as interim pastor. Southern Baptists, he believes, are hungry for the Christ-centeredness and structure of Advent.
 
Based on response to Norman’s introduction of Advent in various congregations, he said, “you would have thought I’d invented sliced bread.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

12/14/2015 2:26:47 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Microenterprise fund to extend Mike Barnett’s passion

December 14 2015 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Global Response

In life, Mike Barnett had a deep passion for helping people in need. As a professor at Columbia (S.C.) International University, he drew on his experience as a businessman to help impoverished families start businesses that would lead them into better lives. He was among the founders of Baptist Global Response (BGR), a Southern Baptist relief and development organization.

 
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Mike Barnett

When Barnett died unexpectedly Aug. 10 at age 62, family and friends wanted to see his 25 years of commitment continue to Christian humanitarian mission and marketplace missions with the International Mission Board. BGR has launched a memorial campaign for microenterprise projects to help impoverished families gain skills to run a small business that can improve their lives and give them an awareness of God’s love and a hope for the future.
 
Poor farmers in western Honduras, for example, are seeing the benefits of microenterprise projects in their families. Obando Velásquez, an agricultural extensionist with the Chorti Agricultural Development Center in Cabañas, Honduras, is teaching others how to colonize honeybees. The bees not only produce honey that can be sold, but they also pollinate plants, which helps increase crop yield – important benefits for subsistence farmers dealing with deforestation and drought.
 
“Mike’s involvement in the formation of Baptist Global Response nine years ago demonstrated his passion for helping people in need,” said Larry Cox, chairman of BGR’s board of directors and longtime Barnett colleague. “Mike was a businessman before the Lord called him and his wife Cindy into overseas missions ministry. This campaign will continue his legacy by helping entrepreneurs in impoverished corners of the world start their own businesses to support their families.
 
“Mike had a passion for sharing and showing the love of Jesus with people in need in places where His love is not known,” Cox added. “He loved the idea of providing microenterprise loans to help people start their own businesses and raise their families and communities out of poverty.”
 
For information about the Mike Barnett Business Initiative Memorial Fund, go to gobgr.org/Barnett or call (866) 974-5623. Contributions designated to the fund can be mailed to Baptist Global Response, 402 BNA Drive Suite 411, Nashville, TN 37217.

12/14/2015 2:17:23 PM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Global Response | with 0 comments



Preach despite tribulation, Mohler tells graduates

December 14 2015 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

God sends ministers into a troubled world with the confidence of the gospel, said President R. Albert Mohler Jr. in his Dec. 11 winter commencement address to 230 master’s and doctoral graduates of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Graduates of the seminary will face many trials, but God calls them to evangelize all people in hope as servants of Jesus Christ, Mohler said.
 
“We send out this company of gospel ministers into a world filled with horrifying headlines and intractable problems,” he said. “It is also a world that our Lord Christ describes as white unto harvest. He told us to pray for workers for the harvest, and here they are.”

 
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SBTS photo
230 men and women received their master's or doctoral diplomas during the Dec. 11 commencement.

Using Luke 2:22-35 as his text, Mohler pointed to the temple dedication of the young Jesus, whom Simeon said was “appointed for the rising and falling of many in Israel.” Despite threats like the Islamic State presenting obstacles against the gospel of Christ, the Lord Himself sits on the throne and rules over empires from the Roman Empire to the Soviet Union, Mohler said.
 
“The Lord who is calling out ministers of His gospel and servants of His church is the Lord who will rule the nations and judge them, who reigns and judges even now,” Mohler said. “He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat.”
 
The seminary carries the great responsibility of training ministers to preach the gospel faithfully and tirelessly, Mohler said, and the graduates and their ministries “will be indelibly marked” by their time spent at Southern. Ministry will require great faithfulness and patience, but the graduates’ willingness to go demonstrates the power of God’s calling.
 
“This graduating class is larger than the enrollment of most seminaries,” Mohler said. “Within what will seem like the blink of an eye, they will be deployed in fields of ministry, even to the ends of the earth. We are witnesses today to one of the rarest of sights, and one of the greatest encouragements to the Christian church. God is calling ministers and missionaries of the gospel of Christ and they are responding, and they are obeying.”
 
Also at graduation, Mohler presented the Josephine S. and James L. Baggott Outstanding Graduate Award to Garrett J. Milner, a master of divinity graduate from Houston. The award was established in 1980 to recognize the outstanding graduate of each graduating class.
 
Mohler’s address will be available in audio and video at sbts.edu/resources. A manuscript of the address, “For the Fall and Rising of Many in Israel,” is available at albertmohler.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andrew J.W. Smith writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

12/14/2015 2:07:41 PM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments



Doctrine of justification still matters, Schreiner says

December 14 2015 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

It’s been nearly 500 years since the start of the Protestant Reformation and the doctrine of justification is just as important as ever, writes Thomas R. Schreiner in Faith Alone. Treasured doctrines of the Reformers like justification and imputation are still worth defending, despite criticism from Catholics and evangelicals alike.
 
Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and associate dean of the School of Theology, contributed Faith Alone as the first in Zondervan’s “Five Solas” series to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation in 2017.

 
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In recent years, scholars have raised numerous arguments against key Protestant theologies: Douglas Campbell’s critique of “justification theory,” Roman Catholic Frank Beckwith’s synergistic understanding of salvation and the New Perspective’s criticism of the doctrine of imputation. These doctrines not only remain thoroughly biblical, Schreiner said, but pastorally vital.
 
“Pastorally, it’s of huge comfort to people,” Schreiner said during an interview about the book, released Sept. 15. “Because when we stand before Christ, if we need a perfect righteousness – and I think we do – then it’s only going to come from the righteousness of Christ that’s credited to us, counted to us.”
 
Despite attempts from both Catholics and evangelicals to find common ground, Schreiner said as long as Catholic teaching about the doctrine of justification remains unchanged, the Reformation must continue. As long as Catholic doctrine affirms the Council of Trent, during which the Catholic Church condemned key teaching of the Reformation, reconciliation remains impossible.
 
When the ecumenical statement “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” released in 1999, Catholic scholar Richard John Neuhaus countered evangelical criticism of the document by writing justification wasn’t important enough to cause schism. Schreiner said that begs the question, since Protestants from the beginning have claimed justification is critically important. Other attempts at unity are no more successful in Schreiner’s eyes.
 
“It’s fine to be ecumenical if you don’t compromise the truth,” Schreiner said. “I’d be more than pleased if the Roman Catholics today were to say that the Protestant view of justification is right, but they don’t say that. The catechism of the Catholic Church is the same understanding of justification, as far as I can see, as you see at the Council of Trent. If there’s going to be any compromise, it’s going to come from the Protestant side, and that’s the worry.”
 
Although Catholics will appeal to the book of James to prove false Protestantism’s justification doctrine, Schreiner argues James is criticizing a faith of “intellectual assent.” There’s a difference between a “claiming faith” and genuine faith, Schreiner said, which is verified by attendant good works. Only a faith proven by works is true faith.
 
“True faith alone saves, since our works can’t contribute and God demands perfection,” Schreiner said. “Faith has a richness and depth to it that leads to actions.”
 
Schreiner has an expansive corpus including commentaries on Romans and Galatians, a biblical theology, a New Testament theology, and numerous books on Paul and the Law. This work presented a different challenge, Schreiner said.
 
“I did a lot of history in this book,” he said. “That’s not my area. So there’s a recognition when you write a book like this that you can’t defend everything and you’re dependent upon other, more in-depth, scholarly resources. That’s fine, but it’s a different kind of project.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andrew J.W. Smith writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

12/14/2015 1:59:34 PM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments



Moore’s critique of Trump draws media focus

December 11 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore has renewed his criticism of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, drawing a wave of media attention for denouncing the businessman’s proposal to temporarily prevent all Muslims from entering the U.S.
 
“Anyone who cares an iota about religious liberty” should denounce Trump’s “reckless, demagogic rhetoric,” Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote in a Dec. 7 blog post that had been shared 17,000 times on Facebook by the morning of Dec. 9. In addition, the post was republished by The Washington Post and The Christian Post.
 

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Image captured from CNN video

Media outlets across the country reported on Moore’s comments, and he appeared on CNN Dec. 8 to discuss Trump.
 
A Dec. 7 press release from Trump’s campaign said the candidate is “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” The release cited a Center for Security Policy poll that surveyed 600 Muslims in the U.S. this summer, according to the group’s website, and found 25 percent believed “violence against Americans here in the United States can be justified as part of the global jihad.”
 
Moore wrote that government has “a limited authority” and “cannot exalt itself as a lord over the conscience.”
 
“The government should close the borders to anyone suspected of even a passing involvement with any radical cell or terrorist network,” Moore wrote. “But the government should not penalize law-abiding people, especially those who are American citizens, for holding their religious convictions.”
 
Baptists long have regarded religious liberty as a Bible-based principle, Moore wrote, noting that Revolutionary-era Baptist preacher John Leland – for whom the ERLC’s Washington office is named – specifically defended the religious liberty of Muslims.
 
“Make no mistake,” Moore wrote. “A government that can shut down mosques simply because they are mosques can shut down Bible studies because they are Bible studies. A government that can close the borders to all Muslims simply on the basis of their religious belief can do the same thing for evangelical Christians.”
 
On CNN, Moore said Trump’s proposal sounds more like “a science fiction movie released for Christmastime” than rhetoric from “the presidential race for the office held by leaders such as Washington and Lincoln.”
 
Moore continued, “The freedom of religion is not a government grant. Donald Trump did not give it to us, and he can’t take it away. God gave us freedom of religion and conscience.”
 
Some voters likely support Trump “because he is giving an appearance of strength and toughness over a president who seems not to know what to do,” Moore said. But Trump’s proposal to protect America by asking people, in effect, to “hand over [their] freedoms” is “a bad bargain.”
 
“What we need is to have somebody deal with the repressive regimes and structures in the Middle East, and protect the homeland from terror, and do it within the framework of the U.S. Constitution,” Moore said.
 
Amid discussion of Trump’s latest comments, Moore tweeted a link to an op-ed he wrote for The New York Times in September, arguing “evangelicals and other social conservatives” must “repudiate everything they believe” to support Trump. He noted Trump’s apparent character flaws, his support of gambling, his past support of abortion rights – though Trump now says he is pro-life – and his “slurs against Hispanic immigrants.”
 
“We should ... count the cost of following Donald Trump,” Moore wrote. “To do so would mean that we’ve decided to join the other side of the culture war, that image and celebrity and money and power and social Darwinist ‘winning’ trump the conservation of moral principles and a just society.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.)

12/11/2015 11:48:07 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Send Network offers free e-books for church planters

December 11 2015 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

The Send Network of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has released a free e-book, called “Send: Bible Studies for Releasing the Church.” The resource, available at sendnetwork.com/ebooks, stands in a line of more than 20 e-books written by church planters for church planters.

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Dustin Willis, director of events for NAMB, said, “We really just want to see people succeed in their mission. … This is just a simple way to put practical resources out there for them.”
 
The goal is for healthy churches to plant more churches, Willis continued, and that means helping everyday missionaries, church leaders and lead church planters implement their gifts and talents on mission.
 
“We want to do everything we can to resource around that idea,” he said.
 
Much of the content is theological in nature, but it is practical as well. That’s by design, said Willis.
 
The latest release is a six-week Bible study that includes follow-up questions and assessments to aid Christians as they discover how to fully engage in the mission of God. It’s intended to mobilize small-groups or church planting teams.
 
Other Send Network e-books are targeted at individual church leaders, or specific roles in the church, such as “Nuts & Bolts: Getting Started as a Church Planter” or “Partners in Planting: Help & Encouragement for Church Planting Wives.”
 
Willis emphasized the real-world benefit of the resources. “We’re not the experts,” he said. “We want to point our pastors and planters to other pastors and planters who have been there and done that.”
 
More resources are scheduled for release in the coming months, such as a peer-to-peer coaching e-book, written by Dino Senesi, director of coaching for the Send Network. Additional e-books related to military church planting and biblical counseling are slated for release as well.

12/11/2015 11:43:58 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Small Texas churches have big hearts for missions

December 11 2015 by Southern Baptist TEXAN staff

When it comes to missions giving, generous support of international missions comes in all sizes of churches.
 
First Baptist Church of Swan, near Tyler, Texas, is a small congregation with an average Annual Church Profile reported attendance of 38. For the last three years, the church set an ambitious goal of giving $10,000 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
 
“The amazing thing is that they have exceeded their goal each year,” said Wayne Livingston, SBTC field ministry strategist. “They also raised $5,000 at the same time for a missionary connected to the church.”
  “It’s because of the hearts of our people for missions,” FBC Swan Pastor Bill Minson said, explaining his congregation’s generosity. “As in so many small country churches right now, we have a lot of seniors, not so many young people. We have several people who really have hearts for missions. The whole church does, across the congregation.
 
One couple has a son and daughter-in-law that are missionaries in Zambia. Another family has a son who was a missionary in Japan for 11 years. The church’s organist took many medical mission trips to Africa as a nurse.
 
“I preach that the Lord has told us to make disciples. Since most of our church is made up of those who are inactive in going based on their age, they feel that is a way they can fulfill the Great Commission,” Minson added. “I don’t push or preach hard. I just say pray about what God would have you give, and our people are faithful.”
 
On the other end of the spectrum in size is First Baptist Church of Rockwall with 1,850 in attendance and giving the largest amount of any SBTC congregation at $559,644 last year.
 
“Our people have bought into the fact that people really are lost without Jesus and have been willing to give sacrificially to see that others come to know him,” stated Pastor Steve Swofford.
 
“In a day when the number of lost people in the world is growing larger, we dare not let the size of our missions force grow smaller,” he said, referring to the revenue shortfall that prompted the International Mission Board to encourage voluntary retirement of missionaries. “So this year we give more than ever before, not to send more missionaries, but to keep them from having to come home.”
 
Ferris Baptist Fellowship averages 58 people in attendance but gave $10,392 to LMCO last year. The Ferris congregation makes missions giving an emphasis, Pastor Bob Mashburn explained, crediting the church’s lack of debt for its ability to give generously.
 
“Our commitment has been that you can either pay debt service or you can pay missionaries. So we go that [missionaries] route,” Mashburn said, noting that the philosophy begins with church leadership.
 
“We’re getting ready to build another building, and we’ll build that one debt free, too, Lord willing. In the meantime we have no intention of letting go of our Lottie Moon commitment,” Mashburn affirmed. “We don’t have any rich people, by the way. No [one person] writes a check for that every year. We are all in.”
 
Commitment to missions at Ferris Baptist Fellowship is also enhanced by the active participation of church members in meaningful mission trips. The church has sponsored outreaches to China, Mexico, Thailand, Belize and Alaska, in addition to mission trips to Kansas and Tennessee in the continental United States. Next year, Ferris plans to send a group to Appalachia, Mashburn added.
 
“You’ve got to get your people involved in missions themselves,” Mashburn said. “And if you can’t go, helping others to go is vitally important.”
 
“We’re nobody special. We’re just out here in Ferris, Texas, trying to serve the Lord,” Mashburn said. “It’s humbling when a small church can give big. All we want to do is brag about what God did.”

12/11/2015 11:40:14 AM by Southern Baptist TEXAN staff | with 0 comments



Iowa Baptists note church plants, CP giving

December 11 2015 by Jon “Ole” Olsen, Baptist Convention of Iowa

New church plants and an increase of more than 11 percent in Cooperative Program (CP) giving highlighted the 20th annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Iowa (BCI) in Des Moines.
 
About 11 new church plants have either launched or are holding preview services, BCI Executive Director Tim Lubinus said, noting firm plans for additional church plants in the Des Moines area in 2016.
 
New church planters introduced included Andrew and Amy Long, Capitol City Church, Carlisle Campus; Cameron and Sarah Scott, Cityscape, Des Moines; Matt and Heather Yoder, Cornerstone Church of Boone; Mark and Twila Scott, Live Love Laugh Church, Des Moines; Noah and Lindsey Braymen, Redeemer Baptist Church, West Des Moines; Richard and Amber Crowson, Redemption Hill Church, Sioux City; Matthew and Keeva O’Mealey and Scott and Laura Carter, Vertical Church, Des Moines; and Ryan and Danielle Hill, Veritas Church of Cedar Rapids.
 
Messengers approved a 2016 budget of $1.72 million, the BCI reported. Iowa Cooperative Program giving was up 15.02 percent in 2014-2015 for the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, with receipts of $552,473.57.
 
The BCI received $508,893 from affiliated churches in the 2014 calendar year, forwarding $100,440 to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It was the last year the BCI forwarded 20 percent of CP receipts to the SBC before voting to increase the SBC allotment to 50 percent of CP receipts. With an anticipated $600,000 in CP receipts in the 2015 calendar year, the BCI plans to forward $300,000 to the SBC.
 
The BCI will forward to the SBC 50 percent of an anticipated $618,000 in 2016 CP receipts, for a total of $309,000, the BCI reported.
 
“Several Iowa churches have significantly increased their financial support to missions through the Cooperative Program,” Lubinus said. “I think it is likely that our decision last year to increase our giving to the executive committee from 20 percent to 50 percent provided us with momentum and incentive to give through the Cooperative Program.”
 
Two churches, Capitol City Church in Des Moines and Grace Church in Boone, were welcomed into affiliation with the BCI further adding to the 119 BCI churches in the state. Attendance at the Nov. 7 meeting at the Holiday Inn & Suites included 154 messengers and 52 guests representing 53 BCI churches.
 
“During this year I’ve noticed what may be a new trend. In the past some church leaders have been declaring that denominations are not really needed,” Lubinus said. “Now it seems that the idea of working together for fellowship, support, and shared ministry is making a comeback. Churches that have been independent are asking to join us for cooperative ministry.”
 
Newly elected officers are president Ken Livingston, pastor of First Grace Baptist Church, Sheffield; first vice president Robert Knight, pastor of New Birth Baptist Church, Ames; second vice president Brandon Barker, pastor of Westwind Church in Waukee, and secretary Jerome Risting, a member of Temple Baptist Church in Mason City.
 
New pastors were welcomed at several existing churches in Iowa, including pastor Howard and wife Dawn Avery at Ninth Street Baptist Church in Spencer and Faith Baptist in Bedford; Jamie and wife Tasha Cheramie at Calvary Baptist Church in Glenwood; Jim and wife Charlene Fisher at First Baptist Church in Lamoni; Ben and wife Amanda McKim at Calvary Baptist Church in Clarinda, and Matt Risting at First Baptist Church in Albia.
 
North American Mission Board National Collegiate Strategist Brian Frye told messengers that others are watching what God is doing in Iowa through the BCI and the Salt Company collegiate ministry, which is expanding to campuses in Grinnell, Iowa, and Columbia, Mo. Currently, the Salt Company is impacting students at Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa, Simpson College and Southwestern Community College.
 
Guest speakers included Frank S. Page, president and CEO of SBC Executive Committee; Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Rafael Cruz, father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. The praise team from Westwind Church in Waukee provided worship music.
 
Messengers set the 21st annual meeting for Nov. 5, 2016 at the Holiday Inn and Suites Northwest in Des Moines.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jon “Ole” Olsen is Baptist Convention of Iowa’s communications coordinator.)

12/11/2015 11:36:13 AM by Jon “Ole” Olsen, Baptist Convention of Iowa | with 0 comments



Oklahoma church sees abundance of baptisms

December 11 2015 by Brian Hobbs, The Baptist Messenger

Situated in Caddo County, the town of Cement has a population of just north of 500 people, according to the most recent U.S. Census.

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On an average Sunday morning, you will find more than 100 people gathered for worshipping God at First Baptist Cement, which has seen an explosion of baptisms in 2015.
 
According to Mike Price, who assumed his role as pastor in April, God is bringing in a “harvest of souls,” with 28 baptisms since the spring alone.
 
“This is a wonderful congregation that loves people,” said Price. “We are trying to be faithful to teach and preach the Gospel to every person. People are responding in amazing ways, and it is all due to the Lord.”
 
Member and deacon Stacy Cogburn, who has been active at the church for the past 10 years, is overjoyed to see people from the community come to the Lord.
 
“This is a praying church, this is a loving church,” he said. “We are seeing a real harvest of God’s provisions, and in my life, I have experienced answered prayer.”
 
Several of Cogburn’s family are members of the church, including his mother and grown children. First Baptist has a wide age-range of members, including many children and youth. According to Price, 10 students were saved at Falls Creek alone and later baptized.
 
A ninth grader named B.J. was among the numerous students who professed faith in Christ and were baptized. A student at the local high school, he hopes to make an impact for Christ with his life.
 
On Oct. 4, the congregation held “Harvest of Souls” celebration Sunday, as an outpouring of thanks to the Lord for the recent baptisms, which have seen older children, youth, men and women follow Christ in believer’s baptism.
 
After the worship service, which featured music, an offering and preaching, the congregation gathered for a huge potluck meal, symbolizing God’s abundance, said Price.
 
Plans are in place for a mass distribution of New Testaments, as well as taking the youth to an evangelistic event. Later in the fall, Price has scheduled a revival featuring Marty Brock, which he hopes God will use to advance the harvest.
 
“We are not doing anything unusual or fancy for evangelism,” said Price. “We are just intentionally sharing the gospel with every person we can in the church and surrounding community and leaving the results to God.”
 
He continued, “Jesus chose a handful of followers to take the gospel to the whole world, and we are grateful to be part of that Great Commission today.”
 
Caddo Association Director of Missions Chuck Shilling, who served in an interim capacity prior to Price’s arrival, believes the congregation is a committed, hard-working group of believers.
 
“It was a very good experience to be with them for my wife, Charlene, and me, as we got to know several of the families well,” he said. “We are very excited about what God is doing there.”
 
About Price, Shilling said, “He is someone who loves the Lord Jesus and he loves sharing Jesus with the lost. He also loves his church. He is a wonderful pastor. He cares about his flock. And he is someone I have always been able to count on to help in the association when I ask him to do so.
 
Price and his wife, Jean, hope the baptisms continue to abound at Cement. For any good that is coming at Cement, Price attributes the glory to the Lord.
 
“To God be the glory, great things He has done,” he said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Hobbs is editor of The Baptist Messenger, baptistmessenger.com.)

12/11/2015 11:31:33 AM by Brian Hobbs, The Baptist Messenger | with 0 comments



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