December 2017

Pope critiques Lord’s Prayer translation

December 12 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Pope Francis’ comment that “lead us not into temptation” is a poor translation of a famous line from the Lord’s Prayer has generated discussion of Bible translation and the differences between Protestant and Catholic beliefs about scripture.
 
Theologians R. Albert Mohler Jr. of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and Benjamin Merkle of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) both said the pope made a good theological point in denying God tempts humans to sin. But Mohler called it “almost breathtaking” that Francis would suggest revising a time-honored Bible translation to reflect his explanation.
 
Merkle said the traditional translation “lead us not into temptation” is “a fair rendering of the Greek text” but noted that a less literal translation – though one along slightly different lines than the pope suggested – may help readers understand the verse’s meaning more accurately.
 
The pope’s comments aired Dec. 6 as part of a nine-episode commentary on the Lord’s Prayer by TV2000, a television station owned by the Italian conference of Roman Catholic bishops. Asked about new wording of the Lord’s Prayer adopted for corporate recitation by Catholics in France, the pope said the common rendering of Mathew 6:13 “lead us not into temptation” is “not a good translation,” according to media reports.
 
A better translation, Francis said, might be “do not let us fall into temptation.”
 
God does not lead humans “into temptation,” Francis said in Italian, according to The Washington Post. “It’s I, the one who falls, not Him pushing me toward temptation, so as to then see how I fall. No, well, a Father won’t do that. A Father will immediately help you pick yourself up. Satan’s the one leading you into temptation. That’s Satan’s task.”
 
The National Catholic Register noted Francis was not calling for any official change in the Roman Catholic liturgy.
 
Still, Mohler, president of SBTS, said the pope’s commentary on Matthew 6:13 both inaccurately portrays the nature of scripture and “misconstrues ... the task of translation.”
 
Because every word of the Bible is divinely inspired, Mohler said Dec. 11 in his podcast “The Briefing,” humans do not “have the right” to “decide what Jesus actually meant” in scripture “and then to conform the text to our expectations.”
 
Mohler told The New York Times he was “shocked and appalled” at Francis’ suggestion about revising the Lord’s Prayer.
 
“This is the Lord’s Prayer,” Mohler told The Times. “It is not, and has never been, the pope’s prayer, and we have the very words of Jesus in the New Testament. It is those very words that the pope proposes to change. It is not only deeply problematic, it’s almost breathtaking.”
 
When it comes to Bible translation, Mohler noted in The Briefing, different scholars may render the same Greek verse in slightly different ways. But Francis wrongly substituted “explanation” of Matthew 6:13 for translation, Mohler said.
 
Explaining the biblical text, Mohler said, is different than either formal equivalence Bible translations (which translate the original text word for word) or dynamic equivalence translations (which translate the original text thought for thought).
 
The Greek verb eisphero (“lead”) in the first part of Matthew 6:13 “clearly involves God as an actor and not just as a preventer of action,” Mohler, a longtime student of Catholic theology, said. The word commonly translated “temptation” (peirasmos) “actually means either temptation or testing” and references the type of activity Job experienced in the Old Testament and that Jesus experienced in the wilderness – both under God’s sovereign permission, Mohler said.
 
Similarly, John Broadus, one of Mohler’s predecessors as SBTS president, wrote in an 1886 commentary that Matthew 6:13 references “God’s so ordering things in his providence as to bring us into trying circumstances, which would put our principles and characters to the test. This providential action does not compel us to do wrong, for such conditions become to us the occasion of sin only when our own evil desires are the impelling cause.”
 
Francis’ Lord’s Prayer comments were not the first time this pope has set forth controversial doctrinal views. In October, he appeared to contradict the Catholic Church’s official teaching when he suggested capital punishment is always immoral. On a previous occasion, he seemed to suggest the Catholic Church should revise its prohibition of granting communion to divorced and remarried people. He also has asked, “Who am I to judge” individuals who identify as homosexual?
 
Merkle, professor of New Testament and Greek at SEBTS, told Baptist Press “although it is possible that the pope’s interpretation” of Matthew 6:13 “is inaccurate, his interpretation is not new and is affirmed by many leading evangelical scholars.”
 
“The Bible is clear that God does test His people for their good (see, e.g., Gen 22:1; Deut 8:2; Matt 4:1),” Merkle said in written comments. “Yet, it is contrary to His nature to tempt believers to sin. Consequently, the literal translation of this verse may not be the best, especially if many are prone to misunderstand it.
 
“Perhaps that is why some modern English Versions have offered alternative readings. The New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) translates the phrase: ‘Keep us from falling into sin when we are tempted.’ Similarly, the New Living Translation (NLT) renders it: ‘And don’t let us yield to temptation,’” Merkle said, referencing two dynamic equivalence translations.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

12/12/2017 9:18:48 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘52 Sundays’ promotes prayer for missionaries

December 12 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

In his well-known books on prayer, American author E.M. Bounds wrote, “The success of all real missionary effort is dependent on prayer. The life and spirit of missions are the life and spirit of prayer.”


Thanks to a free resource called “52 Sundays,” churches have a tool to assist them in praying for missionary endeavors all around the world.
 
“If a church is serious about missions and serious about prayer, ‘52 Sundays’ is a prefect resource because it unites them both,” said Mike Creswell, senior consultant for the Cooperative Program development with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. “It provides an easy method for a church to have a congregational prayer time for missions.”
 
“52 Sundays” is designed so that churches can pray for and learn about specific missionaries and their ministries. The resource includes PowerPoint slides, ready-to-print bulletin inserts, prayer prompts and devotionals that spotlight 52 different missionaries, one for every Sunday of the year. The resource materials may be downloaded for free at ncbaptist.org/52sundays.
 
One way a church could utilize the resources is by having a missionary spotlight before the offering, Creswell said.
 
For example, while the PowerPoint slide with the missionary’s picture and place of service is being projected on a screen, the pastor or church leader could call the congregation’s attention to the accompanying bulletin insert, share details from the missionary’s brief biographical sketch that’s included, and then pray over them.
 
“It’s really that simple,” Creswell said. “A strength of ‘52 Sundays’ is that it’s visual and it’s brief. It’s simple, but it’s profound because it can unite the church in prayer and unite the church in missions support.”
 
“52 Sundays” may also be used as an educational and promotional tool for the Cooperative Program, which is the unified giving plan that Southern Baptists use to support missions and ministry efforts on state, national and international levels.
 
All of the missionaries and ministries featured in “52 Sundays” are supported through the combined financial gifts from local churches to missions through the Cooperative Program. The resource also highlights those missionaries who are supported through the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) two annual special offerings – the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
 
“You can really help bring your church along in prayer, missions awareness and missions education,” Creswell said. “It’s not only a resource to facilitate prayer, but it has an educational component, as well.
 
“This puts faces with the names of missionaries and offers more of a personal connection with them. Each church can say that these are our missionaries because we are supporting them.”
 
“52 Sundays” can also be adapted for use by Sunday School classes, home groups, prayer teams or individuals, Creswell said.
 
Since first being developed in 2006, the use of “52 Sundays” has grown and in 2015 was adopted by the SBC’s Stewardship Development Association, a national organization made up of denominational stewardship leaders from across the United States. The resource is also supported and promoted by the SBC’s Executive Committee, as well a number of Baptist state conventions.
 
“We send missionaries all over the world and to some of the most dangerous places in the world,” Creswell said. “If we’re going to send them, we should also be praying for them. ‘52 Sundays’ is a tool that helps us do that.”

12/12/2017 9:18:34 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Iraq declares end of war with ISIS

December 12 2017 by Lynde Langdon, WORLD News Service

Iraq officially declared victory in its war on Islamic State (ISIS) on Dec. 9 after more than three years of fighting.
 
ISIS overran nearly a third of Iraqi territory including Mosul, the country’s second largest city, in the summer of 2014. In November, Iraqi forces retook Rawah, the last Iraqi town held by ISIS, before continuing to push the extremists out of the country’s western deserts.
 
A U.S.-led coalition has backed the Iraqi military throughout the campaign. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Iraqi forces were in full control of the country’s border with Syria on Saturday.
 
His spokesman said the development marked the end of the military fight against ISIS, though the terror group is still capable of carrying out insurgent attacks.
 
Of Iraq’s estimated 39 million people about 250,000 are Christian, according to religious freedom watchdog Open Doors USA. As recently as the 1990s, Christians in Iraq numbered 1.5 million, according to Open Doors.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lynde Langdon writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 
Related article:
ISIS surrenders in droves at stronghold in Iraq

12/12/2017 9:14:47 AM by Lynde Langdon, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Marshville church, college athletes become ‘family’

December 11 2017 by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer

When Amy Duke made an announcement to Philadelphia Baptist Church (PBC) in Marshville, N.C., about an opportunity for families to sponsor a Wingate University volleyball player, she thought she might hear from a handful of interested church members.
 
Twenty minutes after service ended, all 18 athletes were matched up with families.

Contributed photo
Dunja Sobot, an international student from Serbia, spends Thanksgiving with Kristi and Roger Cox, a sponsor family from Philadelphia Baptist Church in Marshville.


“There were more families wanting to participate than there were girls,” Duke said.
Duke coordinated the partnership between PBC and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Wingate, directed by Shannon Powell. Powell initially contacted PBC Pastor Caroll Anthony, searching for churches to sponsor each athletic team, said Duke.
 
“Caroll had been looking for a way to get onto campus to minister,” she said. “Caroll mentioned possibly doing something with Wingate, and before I even knew what it was, I said I wanted to do it!”
 
Duke’s daughter received a full scholarship to attend Wingate, and she too was looking for a way to give back to the school.
 
Sponsor families attended every home volleyball game, with some traveling to watch away games. They cheered the players on and stayed after games to talk to them. They took students to dinner, invited them into their homes, prayed for them and built relationships with them.
 
“‘Adopting’ the volleyball team at Wingate has been one of the best things we have done in a while,” said Anthony.
 

A home away from home

Kristi Cox, a PBC member, credited Anthony for creating a mission-minded church culture.
 
“Every door in the [church] building has a sign that says ‘mission field,’” Cox said. She recalled the first international trip PBC took to Honduras during Anthony’s first year as pastor. Cox went with her husband, Roger, and their two children who were in middle school at the time.
 
“It set the stage and opened our eyes to different people and cultures. We looked for opportunities like this – not only internationally, but opportunities to see from different perspectives.”
 
When Kristi and Roger learned the one international student on the team, Dunja Sobot, was from Serbia, they immediately chose to sponsor her. In February, the Cox family befriended another young woman from Serbia. Slavica Bambur was a certified nursing assistant who cared for Roger’s father as he battled complications from multiple myeloma.
 
“We loved her. She had great bedside manner. … We vowed to keep in touch even after my father-in-law went home to be with the Lord,” Cox said. “When we saw Dunja’s name on the team roster, also from Serbia, we felt certain God had a plan.”

Contributed photo
Clay Bowers, 7, said he always wanted an older sister when his parents, Phillip and Carla, chose to sponsor Wingate University volleyball player Treslyn Ortiz. The Bowers now call Ortiz “a lifetime family member.”


Cox introduced Sobot to Bambur, and the two discovered they had plenty in common and even grew up in towns about one hour apart in Serbia.
 
Sobot recently spent Thanksgiving with the Cox family.  “We have continued to enjoy and learn from our time spent with Dunja. We hope to give her a little taste of ‘home away from home,’” Cox said. “No one can replace a parent, but we feel like we can stand in, encourage her and support her.”
 
Cox also had the chance to get to know other players on the team from seeing them during games. “The whole church feels invested in the team,” she said.
 
Phillip and Carla Bowers have two sons, Clay, 7, and Drew, 3. Clay expressed the most excitement when they decided to sponsor Treslyn Ortiz, a student from Texas. “He said, ‘I always wanted a sister!’” Carla told the Biblical Recorder in an email.
 
“We thought we’d become a blessing to her, but it was the other way around. She has been a big inspiration to all of us, especially Clay,” she said.
 
“At first I just figured we would talk a little and pray for them, but this has turned out to be so much more,” Phillip added. “These girls have taught us so much about respect, teamwork and love. … Clay can’t wait for the next game or the next time he will get to see or talk to Treslyn. We thought this would be a one-year thing, but after the first meeting, we knew we had met a wonderful person and a lifetime family member, and now we have extended family in Texas.”
 
Duke, the program coordinator, agreed. She realized the relationships built between families and students would last longer than one volleyball season.
 
“These girls can be in our lives forever now if they choose to be.” She recently sent a text message to the player she sponsors, telling her she was praying for the team’s safety and health.
 
“She sends me back, ‘Thank you, Mama Duke. Thank you for being my second mama.’”
 

12/11/2017 2:58:13 PM by Liz Tablazon, BR Staff Writer | with 0 comments



Bangkok Baptists embrace international cooperation, ministry

December 11 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Southern Baptists know how to send missionaries to other nations, but some are learning how to send messengers from other nations.
 
Two representatives from Calvary Baptist Church in Bangkok, Thailand, travelled to the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention’s (HPBC) 2017 annual meeting in Honolulu, where the assembly voted to adopt the congregation as an affiliated church and seat their delegates.

BR photo by Seth Brown
Calvary Baptist Church was founded nearly 60 years ago in the heart of Bangkok to reach English speaking internationals.


Martin Chappell and his wife, Carrie, joined messengers from other countries, such as South Korea and Japan, in a small but growing network of international congregations participating in the Cooperative Program (CP) through the HPBC.
 
“We were treated like family right from the start,” Chappell told the Biblical Recorder (BR).
 
International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries founded Calvary nearly 60 years ago to reach English speakers in the heart of Thailand’s capital. Chappell, the church’s senior pastor since 2002, said the congregation continues to pursue that goal, and they want to deepen fellowship and cooperation with churches in Asia and North America.
 
The Chappells worked as IMB missionaries for 16 years, before retiring in 2015 as part of a voluntary resignation program intended to reduce personnel costs and counteract budget shortfalls. Chappell stayed on as Calvary’s senior pastor after leaving the IMB.
 
For the first time, the Chappells said, they had no formal connection to the IMB or Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
 
“I was very concerned,” said Carrie. “All I’ve ever known was the IMB. I grew up in a mission-minded church. ... I just never conceived of the idea of being a missionary apart from the IMB. For me, they just went together. That was hard.”
 
Chappell said fellow messengers and convention staff gave them a “warm reception” at the HPBC annual meeting and reassured them Calvary was “included as a true member of the HPBC.”
 
Chris Martin, HPBC executive director-treasurer, said the convention has been “blessed” by their fellowship and is “very excited” to welcome them into the cooperative body of churches.
 
Calvary continues to maintain direct and long-lasting partnerships with local churches in the U.S., such as Corinth Baptist Church in Elizabeth City.
 
Chappell has met and developed relationships with HPBC leaders and affiliates by attending meetings of the Asia Baptist Network, a regional association connected to the HPBC.
 
Calvary is also affiliated with the Thailand Baptist Convention, which Chappell described as their “primary identity.”
 
The congregation gives regularly to the IMB’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and has budgeted CP gifts for 2018.

Facebook photo
Martin Chappell, right, Calvary’s senior pastor, leads a baptism service.


The HPBC allocates 80 percent of undesignated CP gifts to its missions and ministries, and 20 percent is forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee for distribution among SBC entities, according to a budget restructuring plan approved at the 2017 annual meeting.
 
Calvary’s CP giving will be allocated “just like any Southern Baptist church,” said Martin.
 
Chappell told BR staff he has expressed interest to Southern Baptist leaders about increased involvement at the national level, but options are limited because the SBC restricts cooperation to churches in the United States and its territories.
 
Chappell hopes Calvary’s experience as a multi-cultural congregation in a diverse city can benefit churches in the U.S. that are encountering more ethnic and cultural diversity.

Global migration numbers have risen in recent decades to more than 250 million. The U.S. takes in more migrants than any other nation, while the population share of foreign-born people (14 percent) is considerably lower than countries such as Canada (22 percent), according to Pew Research.
 
“Our world is changing,” Chappell said in an interview earlier this year. “It is a mobile world, and we need to learn to get beyond prejudices and barriers and embrace all cultures. They are not just out there anymore, they are here, wherever here is.”
 
Chappell described Calvary’s international ministry – its largest and most diverse – as the “core of the church,” but emphasized they are deeply invested in ministries to Thai, Karen, Burmese, Tamil and other people groups.
 
Carrie, who oversees Calvary’s outreach to Pakistani refugees, said diversity is “healthy” and “good” for local churches, and warned of ethnic and cultural uniformity.
 
“There’s a danger when everybody in the church looks alike, and thinks alike, and was raised alike,” she said.
 
The Chappells have been encouraged by Southern Baptist efforts to reach international people groups living in the United States, such as the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s “Peoples Next Door NC” initiative and other ministries.
 
Carrie expressed sympathy for church-goers who are apprehensive about the rising number of foreign-born people in America, comparing the experience to going overseas for the first time.
 
“For a lot of people that’s scary,” she said, “But it’s a good thing. I think it can only be good for the church in the States.”
 

12/11/2017 2:57:58 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Theologians unite for Reformation panel

December 11 2017 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

What do Catholic, Reformed and Baptist theologians have in common?
 
That question may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, but theologians from those three traditions gathered Nov. 6 to talk about the Reformation and ideas such as priesthood of believers and religious liberty.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Stephen B. Eccher, right, assistant professor of church history and Reformation studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, expounds on the Reformation during a panel Nov. 6 in Greensboro. He was joined by Reformed theologian John H. Armstrong and David Williams, left, who represented the Catholic viewpoint. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina made the audio available here.


The event, which was sponsored by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Historical Committee, spurred discussions about separation of church and state as well as a couple of main tenets created during the Reformation: scripture and faith.
 
“Many of us live in universities and, God knows teaching is important, but the theological vocation is a service to God and His church, and it’s never more alive than when it’s expressing that service at events like this,” said David Williams, dean of faculty at Belmont College (N.C.). “This is where theology lives.”
 
Williams was joined on the panel by Reformed theologian John H. Armstrong, who is from the Chicago area, and Stephen B. Eccher, assistant professor of church history and Reformation studies
at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
 
Armstrong serves as president of Act3 Network, a ministry for “empowering leaders and churches for unity in Christ’s mission” and adjunct professor of evangelism and leadership at Wheaton College Graduate School.
 
Dale Robertson, pastor of North Main Baptist Church in Salisbury and member of the historical committee, served as the panel’s moderator.
 
Robertson gave a brief history of Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses to a church in Wittenburg, Germany, inviting debate about some practices in the church including the selling of forgiveness.
Williams said it remains “important to recognize we have one Lord, one faith, one set of sacred scripture.”
 
The differences rest in the how. Williams used Thomas Aquinas and Jerome to defend the Catholic view of scripture. “Nothing else is like inspired scripture,” he said.
 
For Catholics, justification and sanctification are seamless, Williams said.
 
“Reformers made a distinction between the two that has been vital to the development of the Reformed, Lutheran and even the Baptist faith,” Armstrong said.
 
At the heart of all Christian practice is love, he said, “not how clearly we can articulate our doctrine. The worst thing you can do is perpetuate the idea that what we believe is reading scripture on your own alone and coming up with whatever you see as a pretext for a new doctrine.
 
“At the same time tradition interacts with scripture.”
 
The idea of sola scripture (scripture alone) continues to divide Baptists today, Eccher argued.
 
“A lot of Baptists believe that sola scriptura just means that we just have the scripture,” he said, stressing that the church needs to recognize history and tradition. For a while Baptists would not hold to any creed or confession but the Bible, but Eccher said that view has been changing for some time among Baptists.
 
“Luther says faith is not just believing in the reality of the gospel, believing the historic facts of the gospel, but that faith requires a stepping out,” he said. “It requires a movement on our part. It is not just an intellectual ascent and belief that then is actually practiced. … There is a real danger in our Baptist churches of forgetting the very nature of the process of salvation, that yes, we can be saved, but we are also in the process of being saved until Christ returns.”
 
Eccher said the term “saved” is “very Baptistic” language.
 
“I want to be very careful that we don’t become goal oriented in what we’re doing with evangelism … forgetting that there’s a person on the other side,” he said. “Jesus said to make disciples.”
 
On the issue of denominations, the theologians agreed they each serve their purpose, but stressed the idea of working together on important issues.
 
Eccher said the priesthood of believers idea remains one of the most misunderstood of the doctrines that emerged out of the Reformation.
 
Just as every single ingredient is important for making a cake, every single person is important in the Kingdom, Eccher argued.
 
“[Pastors], you need to remind your people that they are theologians, and you need to remind your people that they need to rightly interpret and understand the scriptures,” Eccher said, “but you do that in a communal environment.”
 
He stressed that the term should not be “priesthood of the believer” because “when you start making foundational decisions on what you believe on your own,” it puts you in dangerous territory.
 
Williams said Catholics don’t use the term priesthood of all believers but instead focus on a “universal call of holiness.”
 

Baptism

Armstrong said the Reformed faith baptizes children as a promise to God. Adults follow that baptism by teaching them in their faith tradition. In the Reformed church, they would accept the baptism of someone seeking to join their congregation.
 
Being part of a tradition that does baptize infants, Armstrong said the communal effort of the church should be involved in the service, pledging to rear this child in the traditions of the church.
 
Williams said scripture does not indicate whether baptism should be as an infant or not.
 
“We never find a time in the early church where people talk about infant baptism as new,” he said.
 
Eccher referred to the Anabaptist, Swiss group, breaking off from the Reformers. These believers, spurred on by Ulrich Zwingli addressed issues like tithing, images, separation of church and state and believer’s baptism.
 
They had seen flaws in “a nonregenerate, territorial church,” Eccher said.
 
Baptists veer toward baptizing young children, which Eccher said could be problematic. “Priesthood comes with responsibility,” Eccher said, such as congregational polity.
 
“That 5-year-old that just got baptized also has the responsibility to care for the spiritual needs of the church, to care for orthodoxy, to, by the way, vote on that $4 million dollar budget.”
 
Eccher affirmed the need for believer’s baptism because of the need for “word pictures of the gospel.”
 
Those Anabaptists’ efforts to fight against baptizing infants led to extreme persecution by both the early Reformers and Catholics. Robertson credits this defiance of the state enforcing theology with the move to America by those seeking religious freedom and the inclusion of separation of church and state in the United States’ early documents.
 
Zwingli “taught the future Anabaptists how to read scripture,” Eccher said. “He taught them how to love the text.”
 
Zwingli asked the question, “Why are we not doing what the scripture says?” His questions riled the religious and political leaders and stemmed a wave of persecution that resulted in many deaths.
 
Armstrong said the separation of church and state does not preclude people of faith from running for office or engaging in political activity.
 
“I think that we must, with vigilance, protect it,” he said. “Teach it, love it, protect it. The whole church needs you to do that.”
 
Armstrong recommended two resources on Reformation:

  • Theology of the Reformers by Timothy George
  • The Radical Reformation by George Huntston Williams. 
12/11/2017 2:53:28 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



McGill calls Baptists to refocus, revision, renew

December 11 2017 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Highlighting the theme of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s 2017 annual meeting, convention president Cameron McGill said, “there is an eerie similarity between what’s going on in Zechariah’s day and what’s going on in our day,” although 2,500 years separate us.
 
McGill delivered the annual president’s address to messengers in Greensboro’s Koury Convention Center, during the Nov. 6 evening session. The theme, “Return to Me” was drawn from Zechariah 1:3, “Return to me and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.

BR photo by Steve Cooke
“The only hope for a hopeless culture and the only help for a helpless people is in the name that is above every name –  the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Cameron McGill during his president’s address at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in November.


Explaining the context of the scripture passage, McGill said the Hebrew people had been in exile for 70 years. Returning to their city, they said, “This doesn’t look like the Jerusalem that we remember.” The walls of the city had crumbled; the temple lay in ruins. “There was hopelessness in the land ... and helpless among God’s people.”
 
In a similar manner, some of us may say, “The America that I remember when I was a boy or when I was a girl is far different than the America I see today,” McGill said. A photograph appeared on a screen in the convention hall showing the Peace Cross, a public monument in Bladensburg, Md.
 
Built in 1929 to honor four World War I veterans, the structure was ruled unconstitutional by the courts and scheduled for demolition soon. McGill lamented the fact that some would be so offended as to demand its removal – an attitude that was not acceptable 70 years ago.
 
Another scene of tall piles of garbage on the streets of New York City displayed behind the convention president. McGill said his church family has a partnership with a church in New York. In a recent visit to the city, he saw a large cross discarded in the trash pile. Not knowing the reason it was abandoned, he speculated about its history and shared thoughts that raced through his mind when he first spotted the cross on the trash heap.
 
“I began thinking about churches,” he said, “while they meet week in and week out, ... they sing their songs and they hold their meetings, and they have their votes, [but] they have literally abandoned the cross of Christ. They’ve become nothing more than a business conducting business, instead of realizing we’re about Kingdom business and the things of eternity.
 
“The only hope for a hopeless culture and the only help for a helpless people is in the name that is above every name – the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” he proclaimed.
 
The central focus of Zechariah 1:3 is two-fold, McGill said. It includes an invitation from the Lord, “Return to me,” and a promise from the Lord, “I will return to you.”
 
The invitation calls Christians to refocus, revision and renew.
 
“We need a fresh vision,” he said. Just as our vision for our children matures as they grow, “Our vision for our church should be constantly maturing.” He cautioned the messengers to not lose focus and to not “get spread thin” in the busy schedule of church activities.
 
The promise from the Lord, “I will return to you,” is a promise of rest, restoration and revival, said McGill.
 
“What is it going to take for God to get our attention and to remind us how much He loves us and to remind us about the great plan He has for us?”
 
At the close of the sermon, McGill invited J.D. Greear on stage, describing their friendship since McGill was in kindergarten and Greear was in the first grade at the same school.
 
Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham. He compared their ministries saying Greear pastors “one of the largest churches not only in our state, but in our country. I pastor a church in a town with no stoplight.”
 
He encouraged pastors to be faithful in the location God has placed them. “Pastors, my prayer is that when you go back [to your church], He has restored a love in your heart for your people no matter how cantankerous they can be at times. No matter if you are in a town of 2 million or 200, you would realize the preciousness of the call of God on your life.”
 
Throughout the sermon, McGill interspersed the music of the worship team from the churches he serves at Dublin First Baptist Church and The Lake Church at White Lake. The musicians’ songs included, “Be thou my vision,”  “Open the eyes of my heart” and “God of this city.”
 
Tabitha Mesina, joined the team as a soloist.
 
Mesina is from the southern Moldova village of Vadul Lui Isac where Dublin First Baptist has maintained a five-year ministry partnership.
 

12/11/2017 2:39:46 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



SBC evangelism task force discusses recommendations

December 11 2017 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS

Members of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) evangelism task force met Dec. 5 to each share recommendations that will be considered for a final report to the SBC’s 2018 annual meeting in Dallas.
 

SWBTS Photo
Members of the Southern Baptist Convention’s evangelism task force met Dec. 5 for the second of three scheduled meetings on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


The task force gathered on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) for the second of three scheduled meetings. SBC President Steve Gaines appointed the task force during the SBC annual meeting in June to focus on how Southern Baptists might be more effective in personal soul winning and evangelistic preaching.
 
Paige Patterson, president of SWBTS and chairman of the task force, referred to the latest meeting as “simply remarkable.” “Members representing various theological perspectives, multiple age groups and every geographical section of America came together with harmony seldom exhibited anywhere in the common cause of reaching men and women for Christ,” he said. “Watching these men work evoked the strongest hope I have had for the future of Southern Baptists.”
 
Having utilized their first meeting in August to study evangelism and prayerfully seek the will the God, the team used their second meeting to begin formulating recommendations that will eventually be compiled and revised into their report to the convention. See related report.
 
Following the group’s first meeting, Patterson said he hoped they would help “harness the energies of our churches for an assault on the kingdom of Satan and guide us in the witness of Southern Baptists to a fallen world.”
 
In addition to Patterson and Gaines, those in attendance at the second meeting were executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Jim Richards; pastors Jordan Easley, Nick Floyd, J.D. Greear, Doug Munton and Jimmy Scroggins; Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Robert Matz; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary professor Preston Nix; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professors Alvin Reid and Jim Shaddix; The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Adam Greenway; and SWBTS professors David Allen and Matt Queen.
 
SWBTS’s Chair of Evangelism Matt Queen noted his optimism following the meeting.
 
“We spent time in concerted prayer,” Queen said, “and I believe God, out of that time of prayer, through His Holy Spirit, directed us in such a way that we can bring a report to the convention that will be accepted and help us reclaim our heritage as an evangelistic denomination.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is associate director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Baptist Press contributed to this report.)
 
12/11/2017 8:55:29 AM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS | with 0 comments



Church imparts a heart for missions to its young

December 8 2017 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

After Myra Middlebrook’s mother died in 2010, she found some money her mom had tucked away – and she knew exactly what it was.

Photo courtesy of Mon-Aetna Baptist Church
Stephanie Russell teaches third-through-fifth-grade students at Mon-Aetna Baptist Church in South Carolina, which has long emphasized to their young members the importance of supporting missions, especially during Lottie Moon Christmas Offering season.


“I knew it was her Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for that year,” Middlebrook said. “She put money away all year for missions. She always had.”
 
For the years that her mother worked, she squirrelled away a portion of her income in a jar each month. Then after she retired, she began a quilting business and gave a 10th of the profits to the annual offering, which goes to fund the work of International Mission Board missionaries overseas.
 
“I’m a firm believer that missions is what God wants us to do, whether that’s to go ourselves or to give so others can go,” Middlebrook, 74, said. “That’s what my mother taught me years ago.”
 
So when December rolled around, Middlebrook gave the money she had found, just as her mom would have wanted.
 
“When I was growing up, the ladies of the church had several groups called circles, and every year in January just after Christmas, they would start putting up money each month for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” Middlebrook recounted. “That tradition was a big part of our church, and these days we try to keep it going.”
 
The women of Mon-Aetna Baptist Church in Union, S.C.– along with the men – save all year, putting as much money away in little jars as they can afford to live without.
 
It’s not a small thing for a church birthed in a hard-working town.
 
“It’s a mill church built between two cotton mills,” said Brenda Going. “We were all just like one big family brought together by the mill. Growing up, we could walk everywhere – to the church, the mill and the school. We weren’t afraid back then, but we weren’t rich either.”
 
But Going, 75, just like Middlebrook, grew up watching her mother separate money out for missions even when times were hard.
 
“The women back then sacrificed. They would do a little extra wash or something to make a little extra money, but they wouldn’t let anybody know about it,” Going said. “I remember my mother getting out our weekly offering for church and she would separate it out – $5 for the elevator fund, $5 for choir robes and a few dollars for whatever else was needed.”
 
And she would separate some out for Lottie, too.
 
“Lottie was a household word for us,” Going said. “Everybody would clean out their pocket money and save it up for the Christmas offering.”
 
And as a result, Mon-Aetna Baptist still consistently supports the International Mission Board’s missionary force. They usually set their goal for $20,000, and there are “very few times we haven’t met it,” Going said.

Photo courtesy of Mon-Aetna Baptist Church
Brenda Going holds a photo of her Sunday School class during the 1950s visiting with a Southern Baptist missionary to China in Union, S.C.


It’s because as a community, the missions offering was a dinner-table topic.
 
“We had a lady down the street, Mrs. Adams, who would bring missionaries to talk to us after school,” Going said.
 
She has a picture of her and a bunch of her friends at 7 or 8 years old, standing on the other side of the school fence waiting on the missionary to arrive.
 
“Our excitement for Lottie goes back to people like Mrs. Adams and like my grandmother and mother who instilled in me how big missions were,” Going said.
 
Those after-school missionary visitors brought the world and its needs close, and they taught her with pictures the story of Lottie Moon, a missionary who sacrificed her life to reach the people of China with the hope of the gospel.
 
The pennies and nickels Going scrimped and collected brought her into the thick of the story: Missions was personal.
 
“We grew up knowing and singing about how Jesus loves the little children of the world, and we knew that when it was Christmastime, Lottie came first, above all the things we wanted,” Going said.
 
Middlebrook agreed.
 
“All of us can’t go to the mission. All of us can’t go across the sea,” she said, though she can think of a few people from the area who have gone to serve over the years.
 
“There are people who are able to go overseas and spread the gospel, and this is one way we can help – to emphasize the special offering and tell people about what the missionaries are doing.”
 
Pastor Chris Gulledge leads Mon-Aetna Baptist Church in reaching not only Union County, S.C., with the gospel but also in reaching the world, encouraging the church to increase its Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal from $20,000 to $30,000.
 
The offering, started in 1888, supports Southern Baptists’ collective international missions effort. It helps fund more than 3,600 field personnel and engage the 3,203 unreached people groups still without a gospel witness of any kind. This year’s offering goal is $160 million.
 
Middlebrook, Going and the rest of Mon-Aetna Baptist Church are ready to do their part. At offering time, they will walk one by one to the altar and deposit the contents of their jars.
 
It’s a touching moment, they said.
 
It was during that part of the service that Middlebrook put her mother’s last Lottie Moon Christmas Offering gift in the offering place seven years ago. She will keep on giving her own offering, the way her mother taught her.
 
And both she and Going hope that the next generation will carry on the legacy.
 
“The world is changing, and it’s so important that we pass down the importance of missions,” Going said. “You’re never too young to learn what it means. And you’re never too young to get involved.”
 
For more information about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering or to order or download related videos and other resources for your church, visit imb.org/lmco.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a writer in Birmingham, Ala. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE, journal of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.)

12/8/2017 8:20:00 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Protests follow Trump’s Jerusalem announcement

December 8 2017 by Onize Ohikere, WORLD News Service

U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital sparked condemnation Dec. 7 from global leaders and some Islamist groups.

Screen capture from BBC
Protests sprang up throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip Wednesday, following President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.


Trump announced the decision Dec. 6 and said the United States will relocate its embassy to the city, despite warnings from several global leaders that such a move could worsen regional tensions.
 
Israel has long claimed Jerusalem as its indivisible capital, while Palestinians argued East Jerusalem will serve as their future capital.
 
Schools and shops in the West Bank remained closed Thursday as thousands of Palestinians took to the streets to protest. Similar demonstrations took place in Gaza.
 
The Turkish government and Saudi Arabia’s royal court rebuked the declaration, calling it “unjustified and irresponsible.”
 
Russia’s foreign ministry said the recognition risked “dangerous and uncontrollable consequences.” Hamas called on Palestinians to abandon peace efforts and participate in a “day of rage” Friday. The Afghan Taliban denounced the move and called on Muslims in Islamic countries and elsewhere to back the “oppressed Palestinian nation.”
 
Trump said on Wednesday the U.S. was acknowledging “the obvious,” according to a CNN report.
 
“This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality,” said Trump, CNN said. “It is also the right thing to do.”
 
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), a Southern Baptist, said Trump’s decision “strengthens our [nation’s] relationship with Israel, while keeping the door open for continued negotiations toward a two-state solution.
 
“President Trump’s announcement brings our diplomatic policy toward Israel into alignment with our posture toward other sovereign nations around the world, which determine their own capitals,” he said in a statement released Wednesday. “The president’s decision also affirms that Israel is the United States’ strongest ally, and he is right to act accordingly.”
 
The United Nations security council will meet Friday to discuss Trump’s decision. Eight countries, including France and the United Kingdom, requested the meeting.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Onize Ohikere is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria. Used by permission. Baptist Press contributed to this report.)
 

12/8/2017 8:15:00 AM by Onize Ohikere, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



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