December 2018

Open on Sunday? Churchgoers share views on Sabbath

December 5 2018 by Aaron Earls, Lifeway Christian Resources

According to Genesis, God created everything in six days before resting on the seventh. But around a quarter of churchgoers say they don’t follow His example, according to a study released Dec. 4.

Seventy-seven percent of churchgoers say they take an intentional day of rest and most do so on Sunday, according to a new study of Protestants who attend church once a month or more from LifeWay Research. The survey was conducted Aug. 22-30, 2017.
Seven in 10 churchgoers take their Sabbath on Sunday. Few take it on Saturday (5 percent), Friday (1 percent) or Monday (1 percent). For 23 percent, they don’t take a day of rest.
“Americans are a privileged society for people to often enjoy two days off a week. For many, this may make observing a Sabbath day something many churchgoers don’t give much thought to,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
“Today, however, we see blue laws being repealed and most businesses open seven days a week. U.S. Postal Service trucks are now out delivering packages on Sunday,” McConnell said. “Taking a Sabbath may be something people have to become even more intentional about.”
Females (26 percent) are more likely than males to say they don’t take a Sabbath rest (18 percent).

Assemblies of God/Pentecostals (32 percent) and Lutherans (31 percent) are more likely than Baptists (18 percent) to say they don’t take a day of rest.
A 2015 LifeWay Research survey found 85 percent of pastors at evangelical and historically black churches say they unplug from their ministerial duties at least one day a week.
More than half of Protestant churchgoers (56 percent) say taking a day of Sabbath rest each week is a biblical command that still applies today. A quarter disagree, and 19 percent aren’t sure.
“Almost half of church attendees aren’t sure if one of the Ten Commandments still applies today,” McConnell said. “Perhaps the most important biblical teaching on the Sabbath came when Jesus said, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’ Clearly God didn’t need the rest when he modeled it, but humans need to recharge regularly.”

Churchgoers in the South (58 percent) are more likely to see the biblical command of a Sabbath rest as applicable today than their counterparts in the Northeast (46 percent).
Baptist and non-denominational churchgoers (60 percent each) are more likely to say Sabbath is still applicable than those at Assemblies of God/Pentecostal congregations (45 percent).
Those in churches with attendance of 1,000 or more (67 percent) are more likely than those in churches with 100 to 249 in attendance (56 percent) and those in congregations with less than 50 (54 percent) to say it’s a biblical command for today.
Going to church is the primary way most churchgoers say they observe a Sabbath. Nearly 8 in 10 (79 percent) of those who observe a Sabbath say attending a religious service is part of their Sabbath-keeping. Two-thirds (65 percent) say they do so by spending time with family.
Fewer say avoiding paid work (33 percent), taking a nap (30 percent) or avoiding labor or chores of any kind (25 percent) are part of how they observe a Sabbath day.
A small number say they avoid shopping (11 percent), refrain from attending paid events or entertainment (6 percent) or refrain from media of some kind, like TV, radio or social media (3 percent).
“There is more variety in how people observe the Sabbath than when they observe it,” McConnell said. “But there are far fewer people avoiding things on the Sabbath, like paid work and chores, than those who say they keep the Sabbath by doing things, like attending church and spending time with friends.”
Differences in ethnicity and education lead to significant differences in attitudes toward the Sabbath.
White churchgoers are among those more likely to say the Sabbath still applies (59 percent), that they rest on Sunday as opposed to other days (75 percent) and that they observe the Sabbath by attending a religious service (84 percent), spending time with family (73 percent), avoiding paid work (36 percent) and taking a nap (35 percent).
Churchgoers with a high school degree or less are among those less likely to say the Sabbath still applies (52 percent), that they rest on Sunday as opposed to other days (66 percent) and that they observe the Sabbath by avoiding paid work (29 percent) and spending time with family (57 percent).
They are also more likely to say they don’t take a Sabbath rest (25 percent) than those with some college education (18 percent).


LifeWay Research conducted the study of 1,010 American Protestant churchgoers Aug. 22-30, 2017. The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population.
For this survey, a nationally representative sample of U.S. Protestant and non-denominational adults (18 and older) which attends religious services once a month or more often was selected from the KnowledgePanel. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel. For those who agree to participate, but do not already have internet access, Ipsos (formerly GfK) provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection.
Sample stratification and base weights were used for gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, metro/non-metro, home ownership, education and income to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data. Study specific weights included for gender by age, race/ethnicity, region and education to reflect GSS 2016 data. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.

12/5/2018 10:45:54 AM by Aaron Earls, Lifeway Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Hispanic church’s ‘miracle’ partnership

December 5 2018 by IMB staff

Daniel Tuchez remembers the day he got the call. The International Mission Board’s (IMB) director of Hispanic mobilization called and said, “I need you to pray about this city in Southeast Asia, because it is going to be opening up, and maybe there are opportunities,’” recalled Tuchez, who serves as pastor of Iglesia Bautista El Shaddai in Jackson, Tenn.

IMB photo
Daniel Tuchez is known to be "very good at mobilizing other pastors and giving them a vision," according to IMB mission mobilizers, who have partnered with Tuchez.

It was a big deal. But the call itself wasn’t a surprise. In the years before, Tuchez had accompanied IMB’s Jason Carlisle on many trips.

“The very big blessing is that Jason is not just challenging us to go to Latin America,” said Tuchez, who is originally from Guatemala. “He wants us to be cross-cultural people who reach people in the last frontier.”
So Carlisle encouraged Tuchez and offered him training through the IMB, and Tuchez started going on trips to the other side of the globe, partnering with IMB workers in different parts of Southeast Asia. Then Tuchez started encouraging other Hispanic pastors to go, too – he’s taken pastors from several states with him over the years. “He has a real calling and a burden for Asia,” Carlisle said. “He’s very good at mobilizing other pastors and giving them a vision.”

Therefore, four years ago when IMB worker Edwin Feather* set out to plant churches in every part of a large city in Southeast Asia, Tuchez was there. His team wasn’t just the first Hispanic missions team to come partner with the IMB worker there – it was the first team, period. And in the years since, they have seen God do amazing things. Six pastors travel to the city each December and host a Christmas party for the children and perform outreach in the different neighborhoods.

One of the Hispanic churches adopted an orphanage, offering to provide food for the children and support for the two young Bible institute graduates who cared for them. But there was a catch – the church wanted the orphanage to be used for church planting.


IMB photo
The spiritual need is great in Southeast Asia, and Daniel Tuchez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista El Shaddai in Jackson, Tenn., says God is calling out Hispanic pastors to take the gospel there.

So far, it has produced three churches. And in this tough-to-reach city, more than 200 have professed faith in areas of the city where the gospel hadn’t appeared to prosper.

“God is moving Hispanics to America so that they can know Him, then He is mobilizing them to go on mission to the world,” Tuchez said. “He is using our church to reach Tennessee and plant churches here, but he is also using us to reach Asia. God is wonderful, and we are thankful for what He has done. It really is a miracle.”
Carlisle said Tuchez’s passion and investment have been a major boost for Feather’s work in Southeast Asia. “Daniel has been running with it,” Carlisle said. “He caught the vision, and that’s making a difference.”

Pray for

– IMB workers and churches to continue to form partnerships to take the hope of Christ to unreached people all over the world.
– God to continue to call up Hispanic churches to engage the world with the gospel.
*Name changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 2-9 with the theme “Every Church. Every Nation.” The theme undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $160 million.)

12/5/2018 10:45:42 AM by IMB staff | with 0 comments

W.C. Fields, SBC public relations pioneer, dies at 96

December 5 2018 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

W.C. Fields, a forerunner in denominational journalism as vice president for public relations for the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee from 1959-1987, died Dec. 3 in Nashville at age 96.

BP file photo
W.C. Fields, vice president for public relations with the SBC Executive Committee, conducts a news conference for newly elected SBC president Adrian Rogers in 1979 in Houston.

As an Executive Committee vice president, Fields was the SBC’s press representative and director of Baptist Press, the convention’s news service. He also was editor of the Executive Committee’s former Baptist Program magazine from 1959-1972.
He was first listed in Who’s Who in America in 1976. Gratis, he wrote an article on Southern Baptists for Saturday Evening Post in 1983 that sold more than 1 million reprints.
In 1979, Fields was among SBC denominational leaders who found themselves in the national media when Memphis-area pastor Adrian Rogers was elected as SBC president in Houston, marking the first of successive presidencies by Southern Baptist conservatives who held to the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, Fields served as president of the Religious Public Relations Council, Associated Church Press and the Baptist Public Relations Association (now Baptist Communicators Association – BCA). The BCA named its annual awards competition for Fields in 1986.
Prior to joining the Executive Committee, Fields served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Yazoo City, Miss., from 1951-1956, including a term as president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board and editor of The Baptist Record newspaper of the Mississippi convention from 1956-1959.

BP file photo
W.C. Fields led public relations for the Southern Baptist Convention for 28 years, including a Saturday Evening Post article that sold more than 1 million reprints.

Tim Yarbrough, editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News and president of the Association of State Baptist Publications, described Fields as “a pioneer and preeminent statesman of Southern Baptist communications, whose life and ministry touched countless news and public relations professionals.”
Mike Ebert, executive director of public relations for the North American Mission Board and president of the BCA, said Fields “accumulated a list of accomplishments and honors for his contributions inside and outside of Southern Baptist life. But beyond that, he was dedicated to taking younger communications professionals under his wing and allowing them to grow, gain experience and learn from him. That is something that will live on, and it’s something for which he is much admired.”
A native of Saline, La., Fields (born Wilmer Clemont Fields) made a profession of faith at age 8 at Old Saline Baptist Church and a commitment to Christian vocational service at age 15, soon preaching his first sermon. At age 18, he was ordained to the ministry at First Baptist Church in Gibsland, La., and was called to his first pastorate at Woodworth Baptist Church in Woodworth, La.
He was a graduate of Louisiana College in Pineville, subsequently earning a master’s degree in theology and a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., serving in leadership roles in local churches during the course of his studies.
Fields was an author, editor or contributor for 30 books, including Religious Public Relations Handbook, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary and The 70’s, Opportunities for Your Church. As a churchman, he and his wife Libby served in the college Sunday School department at First Baptist Church in Nashville for 20 years.
Upon Fields’ 15th year as the SBC’s chief public relations officer, then-SBC President Jaroy Webber issued a commendation of Fields, noting, “His professional competence and his devotion to Baptist ideals have made him an effective interpreter of Southern Baptist life both to the secular press and to the Baptist press.
“Dr. Fields has stood for openness and accuracy of information and thus has gained the confidence of all those who represent the media,” Weber wrote. “The organization of the Press Room at the Southern Baptist Convention has been applauded as a model for large conventions and has been acclaimed as one of the most effective in the nation.”
The SBC newsroom continues each year to provide coverage of SBC sessions and ancillary meetings, a photo service and media workspace with streaming from the convention floor.
“The secret of good press relations anywhere is HELPFULNESS,” Fields wrote in a chapter in the 1982 Religious Public Relations Handbook of the Religious Public Relations Council. “Make it as easy and pleasant as possible for reporters to do their work. In so doing you help both causes, their journalism performance and your congregation.”
The news media “are indeed interested in your church or synagogue when you are making news,” Fields wrote. “That is their business: telling their special audiences what is new and unusual, passing along developments of special interest.”
But, he noted, “News must be new! That means that a lot of old, familiar, fine, traditional, repetitive actions and developments around the church or synagogue are not usually newsworthy, even though they may be important to the congregation.” And, he cautioned, “Too much publicity can be, at times, poor public relations.”
Fields was preceded in death by his wife Libby in 2002. He is survived by his second wife, Lawanna, a son Randall and two daughters, Christy and Rebecca; eight grandchildren and two step-grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
The funeral will be at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, at Woodmont Baptist Church in Nashville.

12/5/2018 10:45:27 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

National CP 2.47% under YTD budget projection

December 5 2018 by Baptist Press Staff

Contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee in November were 2.47 percent below the projected budget for the first two months of the current fiscal year. And they were 4.47 percent above the amount received during the same period last year according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee Interim President and Executive Vice President D. August Boto.

 As of Nov. 30, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget totaled $31,535,913.44, or $1,350,377.79, above the $30,185,535.65 received through the first two months of the 2017–2018 fiscal year. The fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. The November total is $797,419.89 below the $32,333,333.33 monthly allocation budget projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America.
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving, begun in 1925, through which a local church can contribute to the ministries of its state convention and the missions and ministries of the SBC through a unified giving plan to support both sets of ministries. Monies include receipts from individuals, churches and state conventions for distribution according to the 2018-2019 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
Meanwhile, year-to-date designated giving of $6,478,984.81 was 9.49 percent, or $679,093.36, below gifts of $7,158,078.17 received in the first two months of last year’s fiscal year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief, Disaster Relief and other special gifts.
CP allocation receipts for SBC work for the month of November totaled $17,081,276.08. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $3,136,526.20.
State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions to Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to SBC national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.
The convention-adopted budget for 2018-2019 is $194 million and is disbursed as follows: 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board, 22.79 percent to North American missions through the North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education through the six SBC seminaries and the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The SBC Executive Committee distributes all CP and designated gifts it receives on a weekly basis to the SBC ministry entities.
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the timing of when the cooperating state Baptist conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the number of Sundays in a given month, and the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted.
CP allocation budget gifts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at

12/5/2018 10:45:13 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments

Will Starbucks block Wi-Fi porn in 2019?

December 4 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Internet safety advocate Enough Is Enough (EIE) continues to call for Starbucks to keep its November pledge to block Wi-Fi pornography from its 29,000 U.S. coffee shops by 2019.
“We will continue to engage the media to keep the pressure on Starbucks until they finally implement filtering in their U.S.-based stores,” EIE President and CEO Donna Rice Hughes said Dec. 3. “It’s time for America’s children and families to enjoy the same peace of mind in a safe Wi-Fi environment that Starbucks offers its loyal customer base in other nations.”
Hughes proclaimed a “David vs. Goliath” victory against Starbucks, but bases her caution on communications dating to 2016 when the coffee giant first promised to address the issue.
“We are in the process of evaluating a global protocol to address this in all of our company-owned stores,” Starbucks said in July, 2016, “and are in active discussions with organizations on implementing the right, broad-based solution that would remove any illegal and other egregious content.”
Starbucks blocked porn from its free in-store Wi-Fi service in the United Kingdom six years ago, Hughes said. But with Starbucks lagging in the U.S., EIE launched a new online petition Nov. 26 urging Starbucks to correct the problem at its U.S. locations. The petition had gained at least 27,117 signatures today.
Days after EIE launched its petition, Starbucks made its latest pledge in Nov. 28 comments to
“To ensure the Third Place remains safe and welcoming to all, we have identified a solution to prevent this content from being viewed within our stores and we will begin introducing it to our U.S. locations in 2019,” quoted a Starbucks representative. Starbucks has not said which tools will be used to block Wi-Fi porn.
EIE launched its first petition against Starbucks, as well as McDonalds, in 2016. McDonalds “responded immediately,” EIE said, and blocked porn from its free Wi-Fi service.
Open Wi-Fi is increasingly used in child sex trafficking and sexual solicitation of children, EIE said, based on federal findings.
“We’re not asking for something that they haven’t done elsewhere,” EIE said in November. “This isn’t about censorship; this is about corporate responsibility.”
EIE markets itself as a “national bi-partisan non-profit organization who has led the fight to make the Internet safer for children and families since 1994.” EIE’s petition is available at

12/4/2018 8:30:13 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Garnetta Smith appointed women’s support coordinator

December 4 2018 by SBTS Communications

In light of challenges facing campuses about the place of women in those communities, R. Albert Mohler Jr. has appointed Garnetta Smith to the new position of women’s support coordinator for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

SBTS photo
Garnetta Smith

In comments about Smith’s appointment, Mohler said it further buttresses policies already in place to protect women by providing a woman in a place of authority to whom they have direct access. In his analysis of best practices, Mohler said, it became clear that Southern Seminary needed a woman in this role who had immediate access to the top levels of seminary leadership.
“This appointment makes certain that female students and staff have someone to whom they can express any concerns – without fear of having to discuss matters inappropriately with a male administrator or member of the faculty,” Mohler said. “It just makes sense that we would provide this kind of support for all the women on this campus.
“This position is entirely in keeping with our theological convictions, and is evidence of the fact that we believe a Christian institution is held to an even higher standard of care for our students and every member of this community,” Mohler noted. 
Smith, who has been working at the seminary more than 10 years, will be the official liaison at Southern Seminary and Boyce College for all women on campus – including faculty members, staff and students – who need to bring complaints or request assistance. In sensitive cases, she will have direct access to the president. 
“I’m honored to be asked to take on this responsibility,” Smith said. “The need is great, and as Dr. Mohler said in his Nov. 26 letter to the Southern Seminary community, the role will provide a safe place for women on campus to come and share their concerns.
“Studying in seminary doesn’t recuse anyone from sinful attitudes and sinful actions, but in a context that is primarily male, it can be intimidating for some women to speak up,” she said. “Incidents in some church contexts and in our own convention show us that the need is there, and Dr. Mohler and Southern Seminary are taking significant steps toward ensuring those incidents do not happen here.” 
In September, Kentucky governor Matt Bevin appointed Smith to the state’s newly formed commission on human rights. She will serve a two-year term.
She’s also currently serving on the mission board of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) as well as the KBC’s committee on the annual meeting. Smith has also served on the Southern Baptist Convention’s committee on committees (2015).
Before assuming her current role as director of the Center for Student Success at Southern Seminary and Boyce College, she was the associate dean for women at the seminary. She also oversaw disability services for the schools and served as an academic counselor. She serves as director of ministry to women at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville. 
She is a two-time graduate of Southern Seminary, holding two master’s degrees in biblical counseling and practical theology. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University Southeast.

12/4/2018 8:12:16 PM by SBTS Communications | with 0 comments

Bush 41 remembered as ‘at home’ with Southern Baptists

December 4 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

President George H.W. Bush, who died Nov. 30 at age 94, is being remembered by Southern Baptists who knew him as a “warm,” “cordial” man who “felt right at home with people who loved God and His Word.”

SBHLA photo
For me, prayer has always been important, but quite personal, President George H.W. Bush told the SBC in a 1991 address.

Bush held the U.S. presidency from 1989-93 following eight years as vice president. He is the last president to address the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in person. An Episcopalian, Bush professed faith in Christ and met with SBC leaders both during his 1988 presidential campaign and during his time in the Oval Office.
“At my invitation in 1991,” then-SBC President Morris Chapman told Baptist Press (BP) Dec. 3, “President Bush spoke to an overflow crowd of convention messengers at the annual meeting in Atlanta. It was very apparent that he felt right at home with people who loved God and His Word, and he was welcomed with numerous standing ovations.”
Bush’s commitments to “school choice,” “defense of the unborn” and “attendance at public worship” during his presidency, Chapman said in written comments, “were not a matter of political expediency.” They were “consistent hallmarks of a man of principle, faith and dignity.”
Chapman, who served as SBC Executive Committee president from 1992-2010, added, “I had several occasions over the years, whether as president of the Southern Baptist Convention or its Executive Committee, to observe him in public and private settings. He was truly a man of great character.”

‘How it might have seemed to God’

Bush’s 17-minute address to the SBC in 1991 touched on religious liberty, the sanctity of life and the need to strengthen families among other topics. But Bush became visibly emotional, fighting back tears, only when he began to speak of prayer, describing how he sought God during the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91.
“For me, prayer has always been important, but quite personal,” Bush said. “You know us Episcopalians. And like a lot of people, I worried a little bit about shedding tears in public for the emotion of it. But as [my wife] Barbara and I prayed at Camp David before the air war began, we were thinking about those young men and women overseas. And I had the tears start down the cheeks, and our minister smiled at me. And I no longer worried how it looked to others ... We realized that in prayer what mattered is how it might have seemed to God.”

Photo courtesy of Richard Land
Richard Land, second from left, then-executive director of the SBC’s Christian Life Commission, attends a December 1991 bill signing with President George H.W. Bush at the White House.

Bush also spoke to Southern Baptists about the collapse of the Soviet Union, which culminated six months later when the U.S.S.R. officially dissolved. In the Soviet Union, Bush said, “places of worship long stood silent and subdued, forced underground by the iron fist of the state. But now, churches and synagogues and the mosques buzz with life, reclaimed by the people, joyfully emerging to proclaim their faith anew.”
Jerry Rankin, International Mission Board (IMB) president from 1993-2010, told BP he feels an “awesome sense of the providence of God” when considering Bush’s role in the Soviet Union’s collapse and the gospel’s subsequent advance in the region.
The former Soviet bloc was part of an “emerging world that valued freedom and democracy, in which the suppressed people and the injustices and the oppressions had just reached a point that something would happen to bring about ... change,” Rankin said. The U.S.S.R. “was ready to boil over and open up. God just used [Presidents] Reagan and Bush and American diplomacy as pressures to bring that about.”
When the Soviet Union fell amid Bush’s presidency, Rankin said, “an open door to missionary presence” emerged in Eastern Europe, and the region’s churches “unleashed their potential,” carrying out “a massive harvest and proclamation of the gospel.”
During Bush’s presidency, the SBC adopted a 1991 resolution praising the way he led the Persian Gulf War. Individual Southern Baptists also commended his defense of unborn life.
According to the National Right to Life Committee, Bush “urged the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,” vetoed 10 bills “that contained pro-abortion provisions” and prohibited abortions on U.S. military bases “except to save the mother’s life.”
At times, Southern Baptists also disagreed with Bush. In 1990, BP reported some Southern Baptists objected to Bush’s invitation of homosexual activists to a White House ceremony. In 1991, the SBC adopted a resolution expressing opposition to a $25,000 grant by the Centers for Disease Control to fund the National Lesbian and Gay Health Conference. Another 1991 resolution criticized Bush for not opposing government funding of “pornographic” and “sacrilegious ‘art’” through the National Endowment for the Arts.
Overall, however, Bush appeared to enjoy a good relationship with Southern Baptists.
During his 1988 presidential campaign, Bush met with about three dozen evangelical leaders, including Chapman, then-immediate past SBC President Adrian Rogers and then-SBC President Jerry Vines, BP reported. During his time as president, he met with Vines in the Oval Office.
“I was honored to meet with President Bush in the Oval Office,” Vines told BP via email. “He was welcoming, warm and cordial. The privilege to pray with and for him was very special to me.”
Richard Land, who became executive director of the SBC’s Christian Life Commission in 1988, said he considered the possibility of becoming a member of Bush’s administration. During that year’s presidential campaign, George W. Bush went to visit Land at Criswell College, where Land was vice president.
George W. Bush told Land “if his father won, he hoped I would consider coming to Washington and helping them” in an administration job, Land told BP. Land responded he was interviewing in two weeks to lead the CLC.
“Frankly,” Land recalled saying, “I don’t think they’re going to pick me. It’s very unlikely they’re going to pick me. And if they did, I would have to take it as providential” and accept the position.
Land was indeed called to the CLC, but he went on to meet with George H.W. Bush on several occasions while Bush was president.
“I always found him to be very courtly, very well-mannered, an almost patrician presence,” Land said. “When you think of a president, you kind of like to think of a guy like George Bush.”

‘We’re going to heaven’

Evangelist Billy Graham may have been the Southern Baptist with whom Bush was most comfortable discussing faith. Bush and Graham vacationed together and attended church together on occasion, and Bush sought Graham’s spiritual counsel for his children, according to the 2008 book by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House.
Bush advisor Craig Fuller said there were seasons of Bush’s life in which it seemed “Billy Graham was the one person he was communicating with, and talking to, about his faith,” according to The Preacher and the Presidents.
Bush assessed his own faith in his 1988 book Man of Integrity, addressing whether he had been born again.
“If by ‘born again’ one is asking, ‘Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?’” Bush wrote, “then I could answer a clear-cut ‘Yes.’ No hesitancy, no awkwardness. But if one is asking, ‘Has there been one single moment, above any others, in which your life has been instantly changed?’ then I can’t say that this has happened, since there have been many moments.”
On Bush’s final day of life on this earth, he asked his friend James Baker, Bush’s former secretary of state, “Where are we going today?” USA Today reported. When Baker replied, “We’re going to heaven,” Bush said, “Good. That’s where I want to go.”

12/4/2018 8:03:21 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

IMB couple ‘loses’ themselves for lost

December 4 2018 by IMB Staff

Larry Pepper thought he had been open to God’s leading. He had been praying through the missions book Operation World. And he had been thinking more and more about his impact on eternity as he sat in church every Sunday. But one day the words came clear as a bell right where he sat in Houston, Texas – “You’ve committed everything to Me except your job.”

IMB photo
Larry Pepper, center, was a NASA flight surgeon before God put him on a different trajectory – working with the International Mission Board at hospitals in Africa. 

Larry knew the thought had come from God. He took a deep breath, and he told God to put him and his family wherever He wanted them to be.
“I was beginning to see the world through God’s eyes in terms of lostness,” he said. “For me, that meant seeing if I could use my medical skills in a way that had more kingdom impact.”
Larry’s current work was his dream job. He was a flight surgeon for NASA, providing medical care for pilots and crewmembers. But it soon became evident that God was drawing him to walk away and move his family to serve with the International Mission Board (IMB) in Africa. To step out in obedience, he had to stomach some major sacrifices – for one, he was selected as a finalist candidate for astronaut duty in space. That was hard to leave.
His wife Sally had some reservations too.

IMB photo
International Mission Board worker Sally Pepper, left, visits with new mothers in the maternity ward of Kigoma Baptist Hospital in Tanzania. Through meeting the needs of these women, Sally has seen many get back on their feet and find faith in Jesus.

“For me, the hardest part was just wrestling with the fears that kept creeping back in – mostly the fear of homeschooling my kids in Africa,” she said. “But in a moment, God changed those fears, and I had a complete peace that Africa was where we were supposed to be.”
That peace followed her as she, Larry, and their three children moved to Uganda for 12 years, then Lesotho for two, and then Tanzania for eight more.
Through the years, they have spent countless hours at the bedsides of the hurting, leading them to the pages of the Bible and bringing them to lasting hope in Christ. They have discipled university students. They have helped brand new mothers get on their feet and find faith. They have started AIDS clinics and planted churches. They have seen people find life, and they have buried the ones whom death has overcome.

IMB photo
Larry Pepper, left, talks with a villager in a remote part of Tanzania about health needs there. For him, offering medical help and sharing the hope of the gospel go hand in hand.

And through it all, they have seen God move in amazing ways, Larry said. The sense of the Father’s loving sovereignty has never left them, from the early 1990s in Texas all the way to today.
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to use weak, sinful human beings in kingdom work, but that’s what God does in our lives,” Larry noted. “We have seen His faithfulness throughout all of these years as we’ve worked here. It has been humbling and incredible to watch.”

Pray for

– Larry and Sally to maintain endurance in their medical ministry and have open doors to disciple the people they meet.
– God to call out more workers to leave the United States and serve among the unreached overseas. Pray for them to be sensitive to his leading and obedient to the call.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 2-9 with the theme “Every Church. Every Nation.” The theme undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $160 million.)

12/4/2018 3:14:49 PM by IMB Staff | with 0 comments

South Carolina church honors memory of enslaved members

December 3 2018 by Baptist Courier Staff

A South Carolina congregation has taken a step to officially honor the memory of past members of the church who were enslaved prior to 1865.

Submitted Photo
Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston, and Leonard Griffin, pastor of Morris Street Baptist Church in Charleston, embrace after unveiling a marker to honor the memory of enslaved members of First Baptist Church.

On Nov. 11, First Baptist Church of Charleston dedicated a marker that says: “In memory of the thousands of enslaved members of the First Baptist Church of Charleston whose names we do not know, but are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 7:9.”
The bronze tablet was unanimously approved by the congregation as a way of acknowledging the contributions of the many enslaved members who served in the church but had been largely ignored by history, said pastor Marshall Blalock.
“We can’t change the past, but we can honor those who were unjustly forgotten and work to bring the hope of a world where every person is recognized as uniquely made in God’s image, worthy of respect, and pursued in friendship,” Blalock said. “Only the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ makes that possible, and this memorial honors people who through the power of the gospel overcame the indignities and suffering of slavery and now rest in the peace of Christ himself.”
The plaque was placed in a prominent location next to the exterior door of the historic sanctuary where, prior to 1865, slaves would enter to ascend the stairs for worship. The marker is among the first of its kind in one of the historic Charleston churches where slaves were members, Blalock said.
The marker was unveiled in a dedication service attended by leaders from throughout the city of Charleston and the state of South Carolina. Donald Greene, president of the Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina, gave the invocation. “My ancestors prayed to God in the balcony of this sanctuary, and tonight their prayers have been answered,” Greene said.
Leonard Griffin, pastor of Morris Street Baptist Church, Charleston, joined Blalock in unveiling the plaque. Morris Street Baptist Church was formed in 1865 by freed slaves who had been members of First Baptist Church.
“As pastor of the mother church of Negro Baptists in downtown Charleston, I know that I am, and we are, beneficiaries of the slaves and ex-slaves who worshiped in the balcony and in the back of this church,” Griffin said.
Five months after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, 73 ex-slaves “courageously” organized Morris Street Baptist Church, Griffin said. “I am humbled and honored by the invitation to participate in this magnanimous moment of memorializing those believers on whose shoulders we stand today,” he said.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg spoke and led in worship, playing “Amazing Grace” on the piano.
The dedication was followed by a presentation by Walter Strickland, assistant professor of systematic and contextual theology and vice president for diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Strickland brought to light the forgotten history of black Christians in American life for the past 400 years, much of it forged in the crucible of slavery.
“The prayers of the saints for generations ushered us into the moment we shared [in unveiling the plaque],” Strickland said. “God’s story of redemption was animated by dignifying forgotten members of First Baptist Church of Charleston and the ever-reconciling relationship with Morris Street Baptist Church.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the The Baptist Courier, news journal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)

12/3/2018 12:05:53 PM by Baptist Courier Staff | with 0 comments

Greear gives Lottie Moon challenge

December 3 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President J.D. Greear thinks Southern Baptists can exceed their $160 million goal for this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) for International Missions. So he’s offering a lighthearted incentive to encourage a challenge goal of $170 million.

Screen capture from Facebook
“Is there something you would be willing to do if we hit $170 [million]?” Todd Unzicker, left, asked SBC President J.D. Greear during a Nov. 27 Facebook Live event.

If the 2018-19 LMCO hits that mark, Greear will perform a stunt suggested by Southern Baptists on social media, he announced Nov. 27 during a Facebook Live event, which had been viewed more than 6,100 times by midday Nov. 30. A video clip of Greear’s challenge tweeted by the International Mission Board had been viewed more than 2,500 times in the same timeframe.
Thus far, suggested stunts include singing a duet with newly elected IMB President Paul Chitwood, arm wrestling Chitwood, performing a Broadway number, taking a pie in the face and sporting a mullet at the SBC annual meeting.
“I think all of these ideas should directly involve Dr. Chitwood, of course,” Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., told Baptist Press. “We could look at it like an initiation to his new role to see how serious he is about getting the job done.”
When “duet with Paul Chitwood” was the top vote getter in a Nov. 28 Twitter poll by the IMB, Chitwood tweeted he and Greear should sing a song by Milli Vanilli, the 1980s and ‘90s R&B duo who became infamous for lip-syncing.
“Rest assured,” Chitwood told BP, “the only singing Southern Baptists want to hear Paul Chitwood do is Milli Vanilli lip-sync style.”
To date, the largest LMCO ever received was $165.8 million in 2015-16. The 2017-18 total of $158.9 million was the second largest. The Lottie Moon Offering helps fund the more than 3,600 IMB missionaries serving across the globe.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we can reach a $170 million goal,” Chitwood said. “And I am thankful both for our president’s challenge to Southern Baptists as well as the fact that J.D. Greear and The Summit Church back up their talk by sacrificially supporting our missionaries through the LMCO and the Cooperative Program.”
The idea for Greear to perform a stunt or challenge arose during his Nov. 27 Facebook Live session on the Lottie Moon Offering with Todd Unzicker, an associate pastor at The Summit.
“The goal is $160 million,” Greear said. “I believe that’s a faith goal. That’s a stretch goal, but man, I’d love to just see us go farther” to “$170 [million] or higher.”
Unzicker replied, “Is there something you would be willing to do if we hit 170?” Then he invited viewers to offer suggestions on Greear’s social media channels.
Greear suggested Unzicker dress up as Lottie Moon, the 19th-century Southern Baptist missionary for whom the offering is named, if giving reaches $170 million. While Unzicker declined, his three children and wife Ashley posted a YouTube rap video Nov. 30 starring his daughter as Lottie Moon. See video below.
“If we get a really good idea,” Greear said on Facebook Live, “we’ll do it.”
Despite the jovial nature of Greear’s challenge, he told BP giving to international missions is no laughing matter.
“The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is, I believe, the best investment, with the greatest impact, that we can make toward the Great Commission,” Greear said. “As a former missionary, I benefited from it personally. Our church has enthusiastically given for over 17 years, and we are hoping this year will be our largest ever.
“The gospel only goes forward through sacrifice. More than [3,600] Southern Baptists have answered the call to preach the gospel in foreign contexts,” Greear said. “My prayer is that those of us who are called to stay will do our part in keeping them there.”
Watch the Lottie Moon challenge portion of the Facebook Live video.

Watch the Unzicker family’s Lottie Moon rap video.

12/3/2018 12:03:31 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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