December 2015

Baptist dishwasher’s $21.5M victory honors Sabbath

January 23 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A hotel dishwasher awarded $21.5 million in her court battle to honor the Sabbath is a faithful member of Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church in Miami, pastor Keny Felix told Baptist Press (BP) Jan. 18.
 

Screen capture from NBC
Marie Jean-Pierre, a hotel dishwasher awarded $21.5 million in her court battle to honor the Sabbath, is a faithful member of Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church in Miami.

Marie Jean-Pierre, fired from the Conrad Hotel in 2016 after she refused to work on Sundays, has attended the Haitian church nearly 20 years, Felix said. Various news reports have erroneously identified Jean-Pierre, 60, as Catholic.
 
The Southern Baptist pastor describes Jean-Pierre as a “devout believer” who “embraces her faith in all aspects of her daily life.”
 
Felix welcomed the jury’s Jan. 14 verdict in the Federal District Court of Miami recognizing Jean-Pierre’s civil right to honor the Sabbath.
 
“What’s encouraging in this is a woman who showed a lot of courage to make that choice” to stand firm in her right to attend church on Sundays, Felix said. “It kind of reminds me of Daniel, in Daniel 6, where Daniel is such a diligent worker that he is chosen to be one of the three overseers in the country.... And of course, [his enemies] couldn’t find anything against him, so they tried to get him on his religious beliefs.”
 
The jury ruled that the Conrad Hotel managed by Park Hotels and Resorts Inc. of Tysons, Va., formerly known as Hilton Worldwide, violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it failed to accommodate Jean-Pierre’s Sunday worship, The Washington Post reported. The hotel fired Jean-Pierre in March 2016 and plans to appeal the verdict.
 
“Here you have a person who truly felt convicted to do their best at work and respond to all the needs that the employer was asking them to respond to,” Felix said, “except that they were asking for the employer to make accommodations for them to participate in worship, particularly on Sundays.
 
“The nature of the case was that for many years the hotel chain had done so, but then when they experienced a change in management,” Felix said, “a different approach was taken.”
 
The jury awarded Jean-Pierre $36,000 in back wages, $500,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish, and $21 million in punitive damages. But any amount she receives will be substantially less, as federal law limits punitive damage awards to $300,000.
 
Marc Brumer, Jean-Pierre’s attorney, told The Washington Post the case was never about money.
 
“It’s just a great day for religious freedoms and protection of workers,” the newspaper quoted Brumer as saying. “For them, it wasn’t really money. It was trying to right the wrong.”
 
Felix described Jean-Pierre’s church participation in court documents he shared with BP.
 
“Ms. Jean-Pierre is a beloved and well-respected member of Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church,” Felix told the court. “She is a devout Christian engaged in the ministry of the church.”
 
Jean-Pierre regularly attends Sunday worship, is active in Sunday School, the choir, the women’s ministry, the prayer/intercessory ministry, mission outreach to Haiti and other activities. Whatever amount she receives from the court, Jean-Pierre has said, she will use to help orphans in Haiti.
 
“Particularly Haiti is strong on her heart,” Felix said of Jean-Pierre, a Haitian native.
 
Jean-Pierre’s participation in church life was a foundation to her participation in the marketplace, her pastor said.
 
“Being part of a church body, living out your faith, should make you a better worker, a more pleasant worker, on-task worker and more loving worker. And in her case, that’s what she displayed at work,” Felix said. “She faithfully completed her duties, from my understanding, but when it came to requesting time to actually engage in the life of the church, particularly being able to worship on Sundays, this is where the hotel failed to make appropriate accommodations.”
 
Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church is among 100 majority Haitian congregations of the Miami Baptist Association and part of the Florida Baptist Convention.

1/23/2019 11:07:49 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Apologetics conference speakers underscore ‘truth in love’

January 23 2019 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

Apologetics experts from across the nation took the stage at Defend ‘19, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s (NOBTS) weeklong apologetics conference, Jan. 7-11.
 

NOBTS Photo
Faculty member Robert Stewart of New Orleans Seminary moderates the week-long Defend apologetics conference at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Christians have always needed to be able to state what they believe clearly and to defend their faith when asked to give a reason for the hope that they have in Christ,” said Robert Stewart, Defend director. “But today in our postmodern, post-Christian, post-truth culture it is especially important that we be winsome ambassadors for Christ who share the truth in love in the power of God’s Spirit.”
 
Plenary speakers included Frank Turek, coauthor of I Don’t have Enough Faith to be an Atheist and Chris Brooks, pastor and radio host of “Equipped with Chris Brooks.”
 
Turek, president of CrossExamined.org, told the 350 attendees that the truth of the Christian faith centers on four questions: Does truth exist? Does God exist? Are miracles possible? Is the New Testament true? If the answer is “yes” to each question, then the Christian faith must be true, he stated.
 
Regarding the existence of truth, Turek said, “If there is no truth, then Christianity can’t be true. Of course, if there is no truth, atheism can’t be true, either.”
 
Going further, Turek noted that people more often reject God for emotional reasons than for lack of evidence.
 
“Most people are not looking for the truth, they’re running from it,” he said. “But the only way to find happiness is straight through truth. Jesus is truth.”
 
Turek set forth cosmological, teleological (fine-tuning) and moral arguments to show that God exists, adding that only the good and perfect God of the Bible can be the basis for the human sense of morality.
 
Regarding miracles, Turek used the analogy of the seal produced by a king’s signatory ring to say that miracles show the biblical message is authentic, noting “miracles confirm the message.”
 
“Not believing in a miracle because you haven’t seen one is a bad reason,” Turek said. Citing as examples justice, love and the immaterial laws of logic, he added, “There are a lot of things you believe in that you haven’t seen.”
 
In his second plenary session, Turek pointed to evidence supporting the New Testament, including early sources, eyewitness details, stories considered embarrassing that indicated the stories are true, and the presence of undesigned coincidences between the Gospels that undergird and confirm the Gospel accounts.
 
Chris Brooks, senior pastor of Evangel Ministries in Detroit and author of Urban Apologetics, in his plenary session addressed the need for Christians to speak to secular culture and bridge the “cultural divide.”
 
“This is a skill Christians need to consider seriously and strive to master if we’re going to be effective,” Brooks said.
 
Emphasizing the need for believers to be “salt and light” in culture, Brooks presented a four-part plan of action for approaching those of different worldviews.
 
Brooks said believers must listen to others to learn what they believe; understand that others believe they are right when they act; look for points of agreement while understanding that agreement is not condoning; and then find the best path forward to communicate.
 
“We need to be Christians, not anti-atheists. We need to be Christians, not anti-secularists,” he said.
 
To extend grace and speak truth to the culture, Brooks said God will use people “who will think critically and live compassionately.”
 
Plenary speakers included NOBTS visiting professor and leading resurrection scholar Gary Habermas; Abdu Murray, a former Muslim serving with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries; Lisa Fields, founder and president of the Jude 3 Project; James Walker, Watchman Fellowship president; Robert Bowman Jr., coauthor of Faith Has Its Reasons; David Calhoun of Gonzaga University; Richard Howe, Southern Evangelical Seminary; Neil Shenvi, quantum chemist; and Mark Rathel, Baptist College of Florida.
 
Breakout sessions were led by plenary speakers and three dozen professors, ministers and scholars. Attendees included collegians from schools nationwide as well as church groups and youth.
 
In honor of the initiation of the Will Jackson Defend the Faith Scholarship Fund, a plaque was presented to the Jackson family during the opening evening session. William Jackson III, a NOBTS master of arts in Christian apologetics graduate (May 2018), died Nov. 14, 2018, at the age of 29.
 
Noting the reason for founding a scholarship in Jackson’s memory, Stewart said Jackson was “the model of what we want all our apologetics graduates to be: a leader in his church who lovingly shared his faith and backed his talk up with reasons and evidence.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of public relations for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

1/23/2019 11:07:39 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments



New BCH outreach center to aid families dedicated

January 22 2019 by Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications

The vision to establish a dynamic new ministry to aid families throughout the state came into focus with the Jan. 15 dedication of the Bob and Carolyn Tucker Greater Vision Outreach Center.
 

BCH photo
Carolyn Tucker, right, talks about being involved in the work of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, led by Michael Blackwell, president.

Donors, dignitaries, staff and community friends gathered at Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina’s (BCH) Mills Home campus in Thomasville to celebrate the official opening of the 10,000 square-foot center.
 
“This is the fulfillment of a dream, of a vision that some of us had and simply wouldn’t let go of,” BCH president Michael C. Blackwell said at the dedication program.
 
“For those of you who have truly been gripped by a vision that you feel came from God, you know you have no choice but to do what God is asking you to do.”
 
The dedication program consisted of a catered luncheon in the center’s warehouse.
 
The area was adorned with elaborate tables and beautiful place settings. Around them, guests could see areas reserved for donated clothing, school supplies, furniture, food and other supplies that can meet the immediate needs of community families.
 
“God plainly asks us to follow a vision of outreach in the community,” Blackwell explained, “and when we feel God has opened a door, we are very quick to go through that door.”
 
The door opened wide in 2016 when Bob and Carolyn Tucker of Concord pledged $1.5 million for the establishment of the new ministry. The center is named in their honor.
 
Carolyn’s smile beamed brightly as she stood at Blackwell’s side and spoke to the capacity crowd. “Bob and I are pleased to be a part of the giving towards such a great organization as the Baptist Children’s Homes.”
 
The Tuckers are longtime friends of BCH and members of North Kannapolis Baptist Church.
 
They are the founders of Shoe Show, Inc., which has retail locations in 47 states. Bob and Carolyn’s son, Bobby, is a member of BCH’s Board of Trustees.
 
“The real journey began when we heard of the real work and the lives that are changed. We were moved by the spirit, and we are just carrying on a great tradition,” Carolyn continued.
“When you give to an organization like this, you see it, it is not just on a piece of paper.
“We are all so glad to be a part of this work.”
 
The “work” is the expansion of BCH’s array of services to children and families. The goal of the Greater Vision Outreach Ministry is to provide assistance to working families who struggle financially and can benefit from one-on-one mentoring on a path to self-sufficiency.
 
The center assists them by providing direct services, referrals to community resources, and education opportunities that help them on their journey. The ministry also serves the community by being a clearinghouse, channeling large donations to non-profit partners for distributions.
 
“This is a holistic approach that provides help, hope and healing for the economically depressed, spiritually discouraged and economically distressed,” Blackwell said to the crowd.
 
To express his gratitude, Blackwell presented Carolyn with a framed copy of the Greater Vision article that appeared as a center spread in the January/February 2019 edition of Charity & Children, BCH’s long-running news publication.
 
Many donors and volunteers came together to be a part of the new ministry including the Harris family who owns Furnitureland South in High Point. They provided the furnishings for the center as well as Stokes Cottage.
 
The renovated children’s cottage was also unveiled and dedicated as a part of the celebratory day. North Carolina Baptist volunteers were vital to preparing the cottage to be a safe, family-style home to hurting children.
 
Even though the Greater Vision Outreach Center has just been officially dedicated, Greater Vision Outreach Center manager Sara Becker, her staff, volunteers and community partners have been meeting the various needs of families and individuals for months.
 
To date, Greater Vision has provided 48,314 meals and distributed 14,471 items of clothing and 10 pieces of furniture to children and families, both in the Triad and across the state.
 
“What sets Greater Vision apart is our commitment to help families move to greater financial independence – where they rely less on assistance,” Becker said.
 
With the new center fully operational, Blackwell is looking forward with expectation as the vision for BCH’s newest ministry widens.
 
“The creation of the Bob and Carolyn Tucker Greater Vision Outreach Center is historic for Baptist Children’s Homes,” Blackwell said.
 
“It is an opportunity to take our organizational vision of ‘sharing hope … changing lives’ to the next level – a greater level.”

1/22/2019 10:49:35 AM by Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications | with 0 comments



NCBM receives $40,000 donation

January 22 2019 by From press release

Show N Tell Ministries presented a check for $40,000 to the N.C. Baptists on Mission (NCBM) Jan. 11 after organizing a Broadway benefit concert in Raleigh in the wake of Hurricane Florence. Broadway Sings for Florence was held in October at Meymandi Concert Hall at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
 

One hundred percent of ticket admissions and all donations at the event were given to N.C. Baptists on Mission.
 
“We’re delighted to receive the donation,” said Richard Brunson, right, NCBM executive director. “These funds will be used for our on-going operations in North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Florence. The needs will be great for years.”
 
Broadway veteran Craig Schulman led a group of five Broadway performers in the show. The cast had plenty of star power with Schulman (the star performer in Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Jekyll & Hyde); Tamra Hayden (Les Miserables, Phantom), Gary Mauer (Phantom, Showboat); Lawrence Clayton (The Civil War, The Color Purple) and Lana Gordon (The Color Purple, Chicago).
 
The North Carolina Symphony volunteered its services and the City of Raleigh provided the venue rent free.
 
“It was a great collaboration,” said Tim Stevens, left, the president of Show N Tell.

1/22/2019 10:49:24 AM by From press release | with 0 comments



Camp Cale receives $25,000 Bryan Award

January 22 2019 by Rye Foundation

The Rye Foundation has announced the winner of its Ray Bryan Award, and the recipient is Camp Cale in Hertford.
 

Rye Foundation photo
Matt Thomas, left, director of Camp Cale, and Warren Steen, president of the Rye Foundation, discussed the vital role of Christian camps in training and encouraging children and youth. 

Warren Steen, the president of the foundation, said the award recognizes a faith-based organization that is making a positive and lasting impact on children and youth.
 
He reported that the award is given annually, and the winner receives $25,000 to enhance and expand its programming.
 
“We are surprised, excited, and humbled by this wonderful news,” said Matt Thomas, the director of the 90-acre camp.
 
According to Thomas, the camp will use the funds to launch a leadership initiative to identify “leaders of tomorrow” in area high schools. Participants are expected to come from a five-county region that includes Nags Head, Manteo, and Hertford. They will receive extensive training to recognize and utilize their God-given talents, and many are expected to return to the camp as counselors.
 
Based in Winston-Salem, the Rye Foundation makes charitable investments in the areas of religion, youth and education. The foundation has earmarked a total of $100,000 to honor the life and legacy of Bryan, a Goldsboro businessman and philanthropist who died in 2016 at the age of 84.
 
“Ray Bryan really cared about children,” said Steen, “and he believed that God has a special plan for every child. The award that bears his name will ultimately help thousands of boys and girls across our state.”
 
The Rye Foundation has contributed over $255,000 to Baptist causes, including scholarships for the Baptist All-State Youth Choir and support for capital projects at Camp Caraway, Camp Mundo Vista and the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell. 

1/22/2019 10:49:07 AM by Rye Foundation | with 0 comments



Gardner-Webb names interim president

January 22 2019 by GWU Communications

The Gardner-Webb University (GWU) Board of Trustees has named an interim president, who will begin Feb. 1 when President Frank Bonner retires. Ben Leslie, GWU provost and executive vice president, will lead the university until the new president assumes the role.
 

“With nearly 13 years of administrative experience as provost and executive vice president of the university, the board is pleased to entrust Dr. Leslie with this responsibility and confident that his leadership will help ensure a stable and smooth transition,” noted Jennifer Marion Mills, chair of the GWU Board of Trustees.
 
Interviews of presidential candidates have been completed, and an announcement on the new leader is expected soon.
 
Leslie came to Gardner-Webb in 2006 from Sioux Falls Seminary in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he was academic vice president and dean, and professor of systematic theology and Christian ethics. He earned a bachelor of arts from Samford University (Birmingham, Ala.), a master of divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, Ky.), a master of theology from Baptist Theological Seminary (Rueschlikon, Switzerland), and a doctor of theology from the University of Zurich, Switzerland.
 
Since 2009, he has served as Gardner-Webb’s accreditation liaison for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). He provided institutional oversight of the school’s most recent reaffirmation of accreditation (2017) and has frequently served as a committee member for SACSCOC off-site and on-site reviews. Under Leslie’s leadership Gardner-Webb has been consistently recognized nationally for outstanding achievement through academics and community/service-related efforts.
 
He is a member of First Baptist Church in Shelby, N.C., where he teaches Sunday School. An ordained minister and Christian scholar, Leslie has been a featured speaker in churches, conferences, and events and has authored numerous journal articles, essays and publications.

1/22/2019 10:48:55 AM by GWU Communications | with 0 comments



MLK taught as ‘Christian hero’ at SBC seminaries

January 21 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

When a white supremacist gunned down nine black worshipers at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, S.C., mission catalyst Bob Lawler knew he had to say something to the Baptist association he led in northern California.
 

So Lawler gathered the association’s 48 ethnically diverse churches for a joint worship service. When he stood to preach, Lawler harkened to the words of Martin Luther King Jr.
 
“In the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” Lawler recalled telling the Redwood Empire Baptist Association, “not only did [King] say, ‘I have a dream. I have a dream.’ He also said, ‘with this faith’” repeatedly, “reminding us that it’s not just a humanitarian effort” to effect racial reconciliation. “It’s an effort based on the gospel.”
 
Lawler drew that King insight, he said, from his studies at Gateway Seminary.
 
It’s a feature of ministry training all six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries are seeking to replicate: teaching King as a model for all students’ ministries, not just as a key figure in African American history.
 
Before earning a master of divinity at Gateway (then Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary) in 1991, “I understood him to be kind of a black hero for the black community,” said Lawler, who is white. “The time at seminary ... helped me to understand” that “he was a Christian hero for humanity.”
 
Today, SBC seminaries are seeking to determine whether the treatment of King in their curricula is sufficiently robust to continue inspiring ministry like Lawler’s.
 

Studied and ‘celebrated’

 
Leroy Gainey, J.M. Frost Professor of Educational Leadership at Gateway, said every Christian minister needs to know about King.
 
“At least during my lifetime, there is no greater Christian or Baptist leader that I can see than Martin Luther King,” Gainey said, noting King also had sins and flaws, some potentially serious. “We tend to emphasize his civil rights movement, but he was an awesome preacher, an awesome Christian educator, an awesome pastor.”
 
During Gainey’s 32 years at Gateway, he said, King has been studied as an example in required courses on leadership, preaching and Bible teaching.
 
“There were several instances where [students] had their first contact with an African American professor and their first contact with an African American leader in Dr. King,” said Gainey, the second African American to join any SBC seminary faculty.
 
Other SBC seminaries told Baptist Press how they too include King in their core classes:
 

  • At Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, King “is celebrated” and “his life and contribution is taught, at the master’s level, in our church history and Baptist history classes,” provost Jason Duesing said in an email. “In Baptist history, for example, I classify him as one of seven ‘chief theologians’ in the Baptist tradition, particularly for his contribution as representative of the African American Baptist tradition (1845-1968) and advocacy for civil rights. As such, he is the feature of a lecture on this topic and students read selections from his writings and are encouraged to do further research and reading.”

  • At New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, a required master’s-level course on Baptist heritage studies King “in more depth” as one of Baptists’ “notable pastors,” Church history and Baptist studies professor Lloyd Harsch said via email. King also is covered in an undergraduate class on SBC life, the seminary reported.

  • At Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, King is incorporated into courses on church history, ethics, pastoral ministry and public theology, the seminary said, with an emphasis on King “as fundamentally a Baptist preacher.”

  • At The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where King spoke in 1961, he “is covered in a number of classes ranging from church history to Christian ethics,” the seminary said.

  • At Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, King is covered in, among other courses, a class on the Bible and race and another on the Bible and moral issues, the seminary said. King’s famous speeches and writings, as well as his practice of civil disobedience, draw focused study.

‘An example’

 
Walter Strickland, Southeastern’s associate vice president for diversity, said seminary students must come to understand King primarily as a pastor who “was going to deacons meetings and preaching and doing hospital visits all throughout the civil rights movement.” Amid his pastoral ministry, King brought “biblical authority” to bear on a range of subjects.
 
Some mischaracterize King’s theological perspective based on papers he wrote in college during a phase of questioning “his father’s faith,” Strickland said. But King “returned to the authority of Scripture” and a belief the Bible “is the Word of God.”
 
Southeastern seeks to help ministry students model King’s reliance on Scripture when they address issues in the culture and in their personal lives, said Strickland, a two-time Southeastern graduate. Studying King has helped Strickland in both regards.
 
Personally, reading King’s response to the threats of white supremacists has helped Strickland with his own “bouts with worry,” he said. King’s frequent allusions to Scripture in speeches have helped Strickland as he speaks on race in secular settings, including university campuses.
 
“I’m having opportunities to speak in largely non-Christian environments,” Strickland said. King “is very helpful for me as an example of how to harken back to the best of the Christian tradition while engaging a contemporary issue.” He “gives me some boldness.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jan. 21 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.)

1/21/2019 5:18:52 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



ERLC boosts advocacy through training

January 21 2019 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is known for its advocacy work among the nation’s lawmakers on behalf of Southern Baptists, but its efforts do not stop there. ERLC staff members also advocate alongside Southern Baptists by equipping them to understand public policy and petition legislators independently.
 

ERLC photo by Karen McCutcheon
Panelists address breakout session attendees at the 2019 Evangelicals for Life conference on the topic “How to engage your elected official.” Pictured left to right: Michael Wear, former White House staffer and founder of Public Square Strategies; D.J. Jordan, director of The Pinkston Group and current candidate for a seat in Virginia's House of Delegates; Kevin Theriot, senior counsel and vice president of the Center for Life with Alliance Defending Freedom; and Daryl Crouch, pastor of Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn. Chelsea Sobolik, ERLC policy director, moderated the panel discussion.

Attendees of the 2019 Evangelicals for Life (EFL) conference, held Jan. 16-18 at McLean Bible Church near Washington, D.C., had an opportunity to participate in two breakout sessions that discussed how to engage and what to expect in meetings with government leaders. Team members from the ERLC’s Washington, D.C. office also coordinated meetings for each participant with his or her state’s congressional staff.
 
Chelsea Sobolik, policy director for the ERLC, told the Biblical Recorder that many Christians are intimidated at the thought of meeting with elected officials, but she wants to empower Southern Baptists to engage their representatives on important issues. 
 
Brittany Salmon, a doctoral student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and member of The Well Church in Abilene, Texas, said the breakout sessions “gave us the tools” to build relationships and partner with government officials.
 
“It’s one thing to say that we’re pro-life,” Salmon continued, “it’s another thing to be equipped to go and advocate for these issues.”
 
While describing the EFL advocacy training, Sobolik referred to the adage about giving someone a fish versus teaching them to fish. 
 
“Governments are supposed to be for the people,” she said. “Legislators work for their constituents – at least they should. While they will listen to [ERLC staff], because we have relationships on [Capitol] Hill, they will definitely listen to their constituents.”
 
Sobolik previously worked on a congressional staff for three years, an experience she said helps her understand how other staffers think.
 
She emphasized to EFL participants that “a posture of service” was both appropriate for Christians and an effective way to advocate.
 
Another ERLC policy director, Steven Harris, briefed participants on the theological framework for the ERLC’s advocacy efforts.
 
“We are under no illusion here that anything we do replaces the work of the local church,” he said. “The local church is God’s ‘Plan A’.”
 
Harris also pushed back against the idea that Christians should stay out of politics. 
 
“While Caesar’s image is on the coin, it’s God’s image that is on Caesar,” he said, referring to Matthew 22:15-22, a well-known passage in which some believe Jesus speaks against political involvement.
 
“It is appropriate and right for the Christian in a democratic republic to make sure the witness of righteousness is appropriately realized and spoken in these arenas that are deciding how we are going to govern ourselves,” said Harris.
 
Lauren Konkol, ERLC team coordinator, and Jeff Pickering, associate policy communications director, outlined practical considerations for meeting with congressional staff, such as appropriate attire, punctuality, flexibility and how to initiate advocacy conversations.
 
“When we enter a congressional office – bearing the name of Christ, our church, our community – we want to do that in a way that is respectful,” Konkol said. “We, as the ERLC, advocate on behalf of Southern Baptists. We bear that responsibility with great pride.”
 
Joseph Thigpen, discipleship pastor at City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., attended meetings Jan. 19 with staff from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office.
 
“It was clear to me that the ERLC’s D.C. team has taken the work of advocacy for Southern Baptists seriously,” said Thigpen. “We were able to see firsthand the fruit of their relationships in our nation’s Capitol. They have built key relationships which allow Southern Baptists to be a respected voice on life issues.”

1/21/2019 5:18:35 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Can NFL kickers be leaders?

January 21 2019 by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A

Matt Stover played 13 seasons as a professional football place kicker for the New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. In 2009, he was the third most accurate kicker in the history of the National Football League (NFL), even bringing home a Super Bowl championship when he played for the Ravens. In 2011, Stover was inducted into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor.
 

Contributed photo
Matt Stover was a kicker in the NFL for 19 seasons, most notably with the Baltimore Ravens. Stover was inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor in 2011 and is a two-time Super Bowl champion.

The mission of his organization, The Matt Stover Foundation, is to provide financial support to under-funded educational, religious and other charitable organizations. He is also co-founder of the Players Philanthropy Fund, an organization that enables athletes and others to create charitable funds for the causes they are passionate about.
 
Stover agreed to an interview with Biblical Recorder correspondent Roman Gabriel III about faith and leadership. What follows is edited for clarity and length.
 
Q: You were not only a great kicker and Super Bowl champion, but also a team leader. Is that rare for place kickers?
 
A: Roman, when you look back at my career over 20 years, one of the things I tried to do as a leader was know my teammates’ stories. I tried to know where they came from, so I could empathize. I could minister to them in different ways. These guys have struggles like everyone else, and you can be a beacon of hope for them in the locker room.
 
Q: Has that changed for you after football?
 
A: It’s what I do every day with the Players Philanthropy Fund. I’m helping and assisting them with their foundations if they don’t have one. They can come inside the Players Philanthropy Fund and operate as if they have one. There are hundreds of great athletes out there doing great work. It’s like that all the way across the league. To learn their stories and hear about their faith, family and football is very encouraging.
 
Q: Was your faith always strong over your entire career?
 
A: No. At the beginning of my career, my faith was very superficial. It wasn’t deep nor intimate. When I was kicking for the Browns, I was really caught up in the NFL career and needed to change my priorities. I decided to put God first. I was married, so my marriage and my faith came first over football. When I understood where the priorities should be, it gave me freedom.
 
I don’t think a lot of people understand that the freedom to fail is so empowering. It gives you the ability to perform at a level you would never think of. As an athlete, if your identity is tied up in your career only, and things don’t go well, you’re going to get paralyzed and you’re not going to perform. That’s where my faith and my family – my priorities – became such a big issue.
 

Contributed photo
Matt Stover meets Roman Gabriel III during media days at a recent Super Bowl.

Q: Who were the men that were instrumental as mentors for you during your football career?
 
A: Brian Hansen, who spent 18 years with the Cleveland Browns as a punter. I met him when he was 10 years into the league (32 years old). He had a family, and he gave me a beacon, a light to see what it was supposed to be. What a faithful guy he was, as a husband and father. And then I understood where my faith needed to go.
 
Q: Who showed you the way spiritually inside the football world?
 
A: I was very challenged at the beginning of my career by our team chaplain. He really showed me how to share my faith and connect with players. He modeled that in his life.
 
When I was with the Ravens, it was Joe Ehrmann. He showed me exactly how to do it. He was a mentor of mine for four years. He went on to be a great mentor,
 
to write several books to assist high school and college football coaches to be faithful in their training of players.
 
The best thing I could do at the time was walk around the locker-room and be exactly who I am, not trying to be somebody I wasn’t. In return, my teammates paid attention to how I lived my life.
 
Q: Can you think of an example where that played out?
 
A: Yes, my first time on Monday Night Football, I missed all three of my field goal attempts. We lost the game. I took it, then went back to work, and only missed one more field goal the whole year.
 
My teammates look back on that and say, “Wow, you showed me a lot about your faith” – the way I handled myself in a positive manner. Those are the stories you remember. Handle yourself in the right way, earn the right to speak and know the other players’ stories so you can speak truth into their situation. From there, you’ve got an opportunity to be influential for the rest of their lives.
 
Find out more about the Players Philanthropy Fund at PPF.org and the Matt Stover Foundation at MattStoverFoundation.org.
 
(EDITORS’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel III is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Visit the Faith Family Sports website: fspn.net. Hear his Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at afr.net. Visit his website: soldout-tv.com; Facebook: Roman Gabriel III; connect on Twitter: @romangabriel3rd. Contact at (910) 431-6483 or email: soldoutrg3@gmail.com.)

1/21/2019 5:18:13 PM by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A | with 0 comments



Russell Moore at EFL: Dignity, gospel needed

January 21 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Human dignity and gospel mission should characterize the Christian voice at a time when people are treated like machines, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said at Evangelicals for Life (EFL) Jan. 17.
 

Photo by Karen McCutcheon
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, opened the second day of the annual Evangelicals for Life conference on Jan. 17.

Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), opened the second day of the annual conference sponsored by the ERLC. The two-day event at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., continued with a full day of addresses, panel discussions and breakout sessions on such topics as abortion, adoption, disability, racial unity, immigration, Christian persecution and criminal justice reform.
 
Many EFL attendees planned to participate in the annual March for Life Jan. 18 on the National Mall.
 
Moore told the audience, “We march for life, but we march beyond that to eternal life.”
 
Jesus demonstrated truths about the dignity of human beings and the power of the gospel in Luke 18:31-19:10, which describes His encounters with two outcasts in the region of Jericho – a blind man and the tax collector Zacchaeus, Moore said.
 
The blind man was dependent and unproductive, he said. “When usefulness is the definition of whether or not one is worth something, then we have turned human beings into machines,” Moore said. “And when one stops being useful or is never considered to be useful in the first place, those people are discarded even as we would discard an outdated technology.”
 
The blind man, however, cried out to Jesus, calling Him Son of David – “language that everyone would have understood refers to the king that God is going to send to deliver His people,” Moore said. In so doing, the blind man was “able to see what the disciples of Jesus themselves were not able to see,” he said. The disciples did not comprehend what would happen to Him in Jerusalem, though He had just told them.
 
The crowd sought to silence him “because he’s a problem, he’s a burden,” Moore said. “[T]o silence him would be to make him imperceptible.
 
“[T]hat’s exactly what takes place in our own society when it comes to the people who are so vulnerable that we don’t want to recognize that they’re there,” he told the audience. To the unborn, immigrants, refugees, elderly and children in foster care, people can say, “We want to silence you,” Moore said.
 
Jesus, however, “sees beyond that social pressure; He sees beyond the identity politics,” Moore said. “And He sees the person, and He sees this person not as a thing, not as a machine. He sees him as someone created in the image of the God who is Lord over all things.
 
“He sees him and He reflects to him the love and the mercy of the gospel and of God.”
 
With Zacchaeus, Jesus “again defies all of the social pressure around Him,” this time by inviting Himself to the home of a despised tax collector who had used his power to extort money from people, Moore said.
 
Jesus fully knew controversy would break out because He was calling tax collectors to repentance and “willing to be in relationship with people He is calling to repentance,” Moore told the audience. Jesus is showing “God is not shocked by this sin, and God does not leave you in that sin,” he said.
 
Christ is calling Christians to live in the same way, he said. “We have to speak in a way consistent with the gospel so that we’re speaking a word of justice. God is just. God does not ignore what happens to the cries of the poor and the vulnerable and marginalized and the unborn and the elderly and the stranger.”
 
Followers of Jesus must hear women who are in crisis pregnancies and say to them, “God hears you, and we’re here with you,” Moore said. Christians also are to “hear the voices of unborn children who have no functioning vocal cords, who can’t speak for themselves, to say, ‘These lives are not inconveniences. These lives are children loved by God.’”
 
In addition, Christians should respond to the voices of children in foster care, refugees suffering persecution, and the elderly in nursing homes or their own homes, he said.
 
God “hears oppression, and God will bring to judgment the oppression of the weak,” Moore told attendees. That is not the only word, however, he said. Jesus also says, “Come to Me,” in a word of invitation to both the oppressed and the oppressor, he said.
 
Jesus is saying, “Come to Me through the cross of Christ where the judgment of God has already fallen and where the love of God is seen.,” Moore said.
 
“In an age of machines,” he said, “we have to be the people who are able to speak with confidence to those who are in power, ‘There is a God, and He sees you,’ and with mercy to those who are weak and forgotten ... to say, ‘Jesus loves you.’”

1/21/2019 5:17:35 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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