February 2014

Clint Pressley is nominee for VP slot in Baltimore

February 28 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Clint Pressley, senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., will be nominated for the office of first vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) when Baptists meet in Baltimore, Md., June 10-11. Ted Traylor, senior pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla. announced that he will nominate Pressley.
 
“Clint is a gracious role model in many areas,” Traylor said. “He is a pastor/preacher that expounds the scripture week by week to his people. He leads his church to be generous in Great Commission giving and going, and he leads Hickory Grove in numerous compassion ministries in the Charlotte area.”
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Clint Pressley

 
Pressley currently serves as vice-president of the SBC Pastor’s Conference and is a former vice-chairman of the trustees for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
 
He is a graduate of Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, La. Pressley is currently completing the doctor of ministry program at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. He has also served churches in Alabama and Mississippi.
 
Traylor said, “It has been my joy to get to know Clint and Connie Pressley in the past several years. I am convinced he will serve Southern Baptists in a Christ-honoring fashion. It will be my joy and honor to nominate him in June.”
 
Hickory Grove is one of the largest churches in North Carolina with more than 17,000 members. They have five worship services weekly on two campuses plus two Hispanic services. The church operates a Christian school with more than 940 students on the main campus.
 
Twenty-one of their members are now serving overseas through the International Mission Board (IMB), and they have sent out four North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionaries. The church is a partner with Toronto, Canada, through SEND North America, and they have partnerships with church plants in Providence, R.I., and Pittsburg, Pa.
 
“I love the Southern Baptist Convention,” Pressley said. “I’m thankful for the work of NAMB and IMB, and I want to keep supporting the convention. I want to see more younger guys getting excited about the work of our convention and how we do missions – whether it’s in North America or around the world. I think we do it as good as anyone.”
 
Traylor’s announcement comes a week after Albert Mohler announced his intention to nominate Ronnie Floyd of Springdale, Ark. as the next president of the SBC.
2/28/2014 2:40:50 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



David Dockery announced as TIU’s 15th president

February 28 2014 by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor

Trinity International University (TIU) announced Feb. 28 David Dockery as the institution’s 15th president. Former president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn. for 18 years, Dockery was unanimously selected by TIU’s Board of Regents.
 
Robert Kleinschmidt, chairman of the TIU Board of Regents, said, “Dr. Dockery brings a great wealth of experience and knowledge about higher education from his years at Union University.
 
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David Dockery

“I know he will be a great leader for Trinity and look forward to the tasks ahead.”
 
Located in Deerfield, Ill., TIU is a private, Christian university comprised of four schools: Trinity College, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Trinity Graduate School and Trinity Law School.
 
TIU also three academic centers: the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding, the Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity and the Jonathan Edwards Center at TEDS.
 
It has regional centers in South Chicago, Florida and California.
 
Dockery said, “What a joy it will be to seek to reflect the influence and leadership of 20th century evangelical giants like Kenneth Kantzer and Carl Henry, who invested so much at Trinity.
 
“Their emphasis on serious and rigorous academics shaped and informed by the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the full truthfulness of Holy Scripture, international missions, cultural renewal and engagement, transdenominational and transcontinental evangelical cooperation and service to the global church will…continue to characterize all aspects of Trinity’s life and work.”
 
Prior to his position at Union – a Tennessee Baptist-related institution – Dockery served as the chief academic officer at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where he also was professor of theology and New Testament.
 
A native of Birmingham, Ala., Dockery and his wife, Lanese, have been married for 38 years. They have three married sons and six grandchildren.
 
Dockery will begin serving as acting president on June 1. He will officially assume TIU presidency when affirmed by the conference of the Evangelical Free Church of America.
                           
2/28/2014 12:25:38 PM by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Elliff: God is leading my departure from IMB

February 28 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

AUSTIN, Texas – International Mission Board (IMB) president Tom Elliff asked the mission agency’s trustees to begin searching for his successor because the Lord told him during prayer that it was the best way to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership, Elliff said in a teleconference with several state Baptist papers.
 
“[God’s] telling me that this is the time to leave,” he said Wednesday (Feb. 26), “and that if I will obey Him and ask the Board of Trustees to appoint a search team ... that is the surest way to ensure a smooth transition.
 
“Not every entity has gone through that kind of a process, and sometimes things go along with fits and starts. But we’ve got so many personnel on the field, they don’t need that. They need a sure vision. They need sure communication. They don’t need to feel at any moment that there’s a lack of leadership.”
 
Elliff has no timeline for his departure, but in speaking to the board at its Feb. 25-26 meeting in Austin, Texas, he asked that the search begin immediately. The last search, he said during the teleconference, took about a year and a half.
 
“There’s not any reason for us to be without strong leadership all the way through,” he said. “My intention is to serve, as I said, to run through the finish line, until such a successor is found. This seems to be the right way to do it.
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IMB photo by Chris Carter
IMB President Tom Elliff chats with people attending the IMB trustee meeting in Austin, Texas, Feb. 25-26. Elliff tasked trustees with beginning a search for his replacement. He assured Baptist media members Feb. 26 that God has told him “this is the time to leave.”

 
“He [God] didn’t say resign and I’m definitely not going to retire, but I do believe that the board needs to be looking for the successor and the minute they find that man or when, I need to join the ranks of all the other people who are holding up his hand and praying for him.”
 
Elliff was 67 when he accepted the post in 2011, and marked his 70th birthday this February. He is hesitant to give advice to a successor, but said prayer should remain a priority for anyone who accepts the position.
 
“Every person follows the leadership of God and they don’t need someone standing over their shoulder saying, ‘If you’re not doing it my way, you’re doing it the wrong way,’” Elliff said. “If I had one little bit of counsel ... I would say ... live in prayer. I don’t know how you could do it any other way. I don’t know how one person could move the organization forward if he’s not hearing from God, and if God’s not hearing from him.”
 
Elliff said he’s concerned that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), with a membership of 16 million, only has 4,816 missionaries deployed worldwide.
 
“People say we’re the largest evangelical missionary organization of its type in the nation, maybe in the world. People say, ‘Doesn’t it make you proud?’ Elliff said. “Actually it makes me ashamed.”
 
Less than 3/100 of 1 percent of the Southern Baptist population is on the mission field, Elliff said.
 
“One challenge is going to be finding out where Southern Baptists’ heart is in reaching the lost,” he said. “I think Southern Baptists are facing an opportunity to determine just where their heart is in terms of missions. With the Cooperative Program having declined for almost 30 years, although it leveled out the last couple of years, and with our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering being [at a plateau], although this year we’re praying for $175 million, we only send people whom we support. We have right now about 4,816 people on the field, along with their 4,000 children, that’s about 9,000 people.”
 
The SBC faces opportunities that directly impact the International Mission Board, Elliff said. He said the SBC needs to determine its identity, define its communication goals, study its missiology, determine whether its passion lines up with Christ’s, make sure members are participating in SBC stewardship, and ensure that Southern Baptists are accountable to one another.
 
“We have an entire generation of pastors and church people who in some fashion have not had a hand in creating who Southern Baptists are,” he said.
 
He cited progress in several mission initiatives, including Embrace, where churches commit to work among unengaged, unreached people groups; Ready Reserve, which allows former field personnel to volunteer for overseas missions; Marketplace Advance, a mechanism for the corporate world to use its resources in advancing the Great Commission; Global Connect, which allows churches to fully fund their own missionaries with guidance from IMB leadership, and the School of Prayer for All Nations, which mobilizes churches in prayer.
 
IMB trustee board chairman David Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., appointed a 15-member committee to find Elliff’s replacement.
 
Search committee members include: Uth, chairman; first vice-chair John Edie, retired, member of Second Baptist Church, Springfield, Mo.; Jay Collins, civil engineer, member of First Baptist Church Haughton, La.; Jay Gross, pastor, West Conroe Baptist Church, Conroe, Texas; Scott Harris, minister of missions, Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, Tenn.; Rick Lewis, pastor, Ken Caryl Baptist Church, Littleton, Colo.; Jaye Martin, ministry director, Houston’s First Baptist Church, Houston, Texas; Vickie Mascagni, a registered dietitian and member of Morrison Heights Baptist Church, Clinton, Miss.;
 
John Meador, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas; Matt Pearson, pastor of First Baptist Church, El Dorado, Ark.; Doyle Pryor, senior pastor, Bethel Baptist Church, Norman, Okla.; Cindy Snead, a clinical laboratory scientist and member of North Phoenix Baptist Church, Phoenix, Ariz.; Matt Taylor, senior pastor, First Baptist Church Lebanon, Mo.; Kristen White, director of global mobilization for California Baptist University and a member of Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church, Riverside, Calif., and Jay Wolf, pastor, First Baptist Church, Montgomery, Ala.
 
The search committee is receiving names for consideration at searchteam@imb.org. The next IMB trustee meeting is May 13-14 in Spartanburg, S.C.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/ editor.)

Related Story:

IMB leader launches search for successor
2/28/2014 10:34:36 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Missions school trains believers in Amazon

February 28 2014 by Emily Pearson, IMB/Baptist Press

IQUITOS, Peru – Just three days after his wife died, 72-year-old Edison Romero climbed into a cramped wooden boat for a journey down the Amazon. He could have stayed home to mourn. Instead he took a 12-hour trip from his village to Iquitos, Peru, to attend missions training.
 
“I just couldn’t miss it,” he said of the training.
 
Romero attends Escuela de Misiones Transculturales (School of Cross-Cultural Missions) near Iquitos in the Amazon Basin. It’s one of three missions training centers begun in Peru by Perú a las Naciones (Peru to the Nations), a Peruvian Baptist organization.
 
Every two months, Romero and about 30 other participants and their family members – ranging from toddlers to elderly adults – convene outside Bethany Evangelical Baptist Church in Iquitos. There they pile into two crude metal buses with their luggage and half a dozen live chickens for a jarring, hour-long ride over a muddy road full of potholes.
 
When the road ends, the travelers – loaded down with young children and luggage – hike barefooted through swampy mud. At the bank of the Nanay River, which flows into the Amazon, they cram into a narrow wooden boat. There’s barely breathing room; the jungle air is stifling.
 
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IMB photo
Peruvians from around the jungle region of Peru travel hours and days to participate in a missions training session with IMB missionaries. The goal is to equip Peruvians to take the gospel to their countrymen and around the globe.

After a 45-minute trip downriver to the jungle camp, they haul their belongings down a dirt path to wooden cabins. The cabins, covered with dried banana leaves and mosquito netting, will be home for three days. There’s no electricity or hot water. And since there’s no refrigeration, the live chickens will provide fresh meat each day.
 
But no one complains.
 

Cross-cultural missions

The leaders of the group are Tommy and Beth Larner, IMB missionaries in Peru. Tommy Larner works with Perú a las Naciones and helped start the school in 2010. At the school’s training camp, he and his wife lead a team that teaches Bible storying, evangelism techniques, church planting methods and other missions principles.
 
Training national believers in missions is crucial to reaching Peru with the gospel, he said.
 
“We can’t [reach the world] by ourselves,” Larner said. “There’s just too much to be done. We could go to an unreached people group. But if I can send a bunch more Peruvians and invest my life in them, I can be more effective sending than I can going.”
 
“Cross-cultural missions” often implies taking the gospel to other countries. But this school teaches believers in the Amazon how to effectively share Christ in the many jungle villages throughout Peru.
 
“These [believers] live in cross-cultural missions,” the International Mission Board missionary added. “Their passion is to go deeper and farther into the jungle where the gospel has not been preached.”
 
Carlos Peñaherrera, pastor of Bethany Evangelical Baptist, shares that passion. He met Larner at a missions conference in another Peruvian city and helped him begin the school. Peñaherrera now travels to Amazon villages already reached with the gospel, promoting the school and challenging believers to live out the Great Commission. He also participates in the school’s training sessions.
 
“There is a lot of need in our own villages, in our own country and particularly in the Amazon,” Peñaherrera said. “There are places that haven’t been touched by the gospel yet. Some are small. Some are large. There are many cultures, languages, ethnicities. Some may be similar but they’re still different peoples.”
 

Going where gospel hasn’t

On the boat from Iquitos to the school’s training camp, passengers are crowded and uncomfortable, but Sergio Soria naps sitting with one hand clinging to the edge of the boat’s thatched roof, snoring softly. He’s had lots of practice.
 
Like many of his fellow students, Soria lives in a jungle community. The boat ride from his village to Iquitos takes 12 to 18 hours, depending on the condition of the Amazon. And that’s before the group trip from Iquitos to the training camp. Still he makes the journey every two months to get the training he believes will help him fulfill God’s purpose for his life.
 
“I’ve been [to] villages along the river and seen the needs of the people,” Soria said. “And God just put in my heart the desire to work as a missionary. I want to use what I’ve learned at this school to better understand the people so I can go into places where the gospel has never been taken.”
 
The boat ride to Iquitos costs Soria about $30. That’s hard to come by for Soria, an artisan who sells inexpensive crafts at a local market, and fellow student Rafael Ijuma, who repairs and sells used shoes to support his family. Every three weeks, Ijuma leaves his family to go share the gospel in communities up and down the Amazon.
 
But sharing Christ is worth the struggle, Ijuma said.
 
“I have seen the need of the people,” he said. “I put myself in their place, and I see them as I was before Christ. The need that I had before, they have now. And all my effort is so that they can understand what I was before and what I am now.
 
“But money is a real issue,” he added. “I want to work full time as a missionary, but it’s a question of finances. So I pray that God will provide a way for me to give more time to missions.”
 
Both Soria and Ijuma have identified new places where they want to take the gospel, but they need their own boats to get there. They are praying for God to provide.
 
“Pray that they will use their training to be better witnesses for Christ in Peru,” Larner said. “Pray also that God will provide them the transportation and finances needed to spread the gospel throughout the Amazon jungle.”
 
*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Emily Pearson recently concluded a two-year journeyman term with the International Mission Board covering the Americas from her base in Lima, Peru.)
2/28/2014 10:13:48 AM by Emily Pearson, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Boko Haram attacks create aid crisis

February 28 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

ADAMAWA STATE, Nigeria – Repeated Boko Haram attacks targeting Christians in northeastern Nigeria have created a humanitarian aid crisis in neighboring cities where tens of thousands have fled for safety, Nigerian relations expert Adeniyi Ojutiku told Baptist Press.
 
In the latest violence, Boko Haram gunman are blamed for three separate attacks Wednesday (Feb. 26) that killed at least 37 people in northeast Nigeria, including an attack on a Christian theological college, Nigeria based Vanguard News reported.
 
The attacks occurred just days after Boko Haram invaded a secondary boarding school in Yobe State, killing 43 students, ages 13 – 17, and staff. Earlier news reports quoted Police Commissioner Sanusi Rufai as saying no female students were harmed at the boarding school. But according to updated Vanguard News reports that Ojutiku confirmed as credible, 16 female students were abducted.
 
“This thing is happening by the hour. It’s no longer weeks apart. It’s crazy,” Ojutiku said. “The Lord is our help.”
 
Ojutiku, a Southern Baptist based in Raleigh, N.C., co-founded the grassroots, Christian group Lift Up Now to improve the living conditions of Nigerians in his homeland.
 
Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan’s appointment of new military leaders in December 2013, and his declaration of a state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states last May, have not stopped the violence.
 
“The nature of more recent attacks of Boko Haram and similar Islamist terror organizations in Nigeria, shows that these people are deriving an insatiable, sadistic excitement and thrill from gashing and spilling human blood in an unprecedented manner of bold effrontery and bizarreness,” Ojutiku said.
 
“Boko Haram operatives cannot be pacified! To attack and massacre the most vulnerable of society in their assumed haven of safety, pursuing a most noble course, at the most unguarded moment is another low to which this group has now sunk.”
 
More than 500 have been killed in Borno state alone in the last two months, according to BBC News.
 
News reports vary on the number of refugees displaced, but on Jan. 24, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees reported 6,000 people had fled fighting in Nigeria to neighboring Cameroon and Niger within the previous 10 days. Many reports estimate tens of thousands have been displaced since May, 2013.
 
“A lot of people, even though they are alive, they have been maimed, hands cut off, legs cut off,” Ojutiku said. “Those types of people need medical help. Medical teams need to be organized to provide support and care. Local hospitals are completely overwhelmed, understaffed and in short supply of emergency materials.”
 
The refugees have no personal belongings, Ojutiku said, and need temporary shelter, food, water, clothing and other basic necessities in the short term, but will likely need long-term help in rebuilding their lives.
 
“The most important thing is for them to be gainfully employed,” he said. “That helps them to be able to take care of themselves, so they don’t have to be depending on humanitarian aid. There needs to be some kind of effort to help them rebuild their lost structures, churches, homes, schools and to have them continue their daily existence.”
 
The big cities where the refugees have fled offer more safety than in the rural areas in the northeast, Ojutiku said.
 
“There is danger everywhere, but the levels are different,” he said. “Where they are now, the big cities, there seems to be military presence, police presence.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/ editor.)
2/28/2014 9:43:37 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



GuideStone releases 2014 tax guide

February 27 2014 by Jennifer Carter, Baptist Press

DALLAS – The 2014 edition of GuideStone’s annual Tax Return Preparation and Federal Reporting Guide is now available.
 
The guide provides both active and retired minsters step-by-step help in understanding the latest tax laws, along with sample tax forms to assist them in preparing their 2013 federal tax returns.
 
This year’s edition contains a special supplement addressing key points of the recent housing allowance ruling. Also, church treasurers and other church leaders can refer to the guide’s special section about important federal requirements for churches.
 
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The guide was written once again by Richard Hammar, a noted CPA, attorney and widely published author who specializes in legal and tax issues for ministers. Additionally, the material is edited by GuideStone’s compliance staff to address the tax issues that affect the greatest number of Southern Baptist pastors.
 
“This year, it’s particularly important for ministers to have access to this useful resource,” GuideStone president O.S. Hawkins said. “From late changes to tax law to challenges to the housing allowance, ministerial tax issues grow more complicated each year.”
 
Hawkins considers it a “joy and a privilege for GuideStone to stand alongside the ministers we represent and provide solid counsel from a trusted source.”
 
“Each year so many pastors tell us how thankful they are for this guide and how much it helps them navigate the unique ministerial tax laws,” Hawkins said. “We are blessed to be able to help them with the important task of ensuring that their income tax returns are correct.”
 
The tax guide can be obtained in PDF format at www.GuideStone.org/TaxGuide. GuideStone participants can order a free printed copy by calling 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433) between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. CST Monday through Friday. 
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jennifer Carter is manager of brand editorial at GuideStone Financial Resources.)
2/27/2014 12:56:46 PM by Jennifer Carter, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mohler: Religious liberty threat growing

February 27 2014 by James A. Smith Sr., Southern Seminary/Baptist Press

PROVO, Utah – Speaking for the second time in less than 100 days at Brigham Young University, Southern Baptist leader R. Albert Mohler Jr. told students and faculty at the school, “We may go to jail sooner even than we thought,” recalling his concern about the threat to religious liberty raised in an earlier appearance at the Mormon-owned school.
 
“I am not here because I believe we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together,” said Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, during his first visit Oct. 21 to the Latter-day Saints’ premier educational institution, named for Mormonism’s second president.
 
Delivering the Feb. 25 Forum Lecture about human dignity, human rights and human flourishing at the Marriott Arena on the BYU campus, Mohler revisited the concerns of his October speech in which he called on Mormons and evangelicals to work together in defense of religious freedom, while recognizing serious theological differences between the faiths. Mohler addressed 2,731 faculty and students at the BYU forum, according to Deseret News.
 
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R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Since the October address, “so much has changed,” Mohler said, noting federal courts have ruled against Utah’s prohibitions against polygamy and gay marriage and the president of the LDS church has been “summoned to appear in a secular court in London.”
 
Like the October address, Mohler frankly outlined theological differences between evangelicals and Mormons, while also calling for collaboration for the sake of religious freedom in America.
 
“This is why our conversation is really important, and why we need to stand together on so many urgent concerns,” he said. “Most importantly, we are now called to defend religious liberty for each other, so that when they come for you, we are there, and when they come for us, you are there. We are learning anew what the affirmation of religious liberty will demand of us in this dangerous age.”
 
Mohler noted he was invited and came to the BYU lecture as president of a Southern Baptist seminary and evangelical Christian “committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the trinitarian beliefs of the historic Christian faith. I come as one who does not share your theology and who has long been involved in urgent discussions about the distinctions between the faith of the Latter Day Saints and the faith of the historic Christian church.”
 
Mormons and evangelicals “need to talk. We can and must take the risk of responsible, respectful and honest conversation,” Mohler said, noting the conversation should be “with candor and urgency, for the times demand it.”
 
Although “these are dangerous times,” Mohler said they are also “days of hope. In these times, it is vital that we bear witness with each other of matters that matter so much to our nation, our culture and civilization itself. But, as we bear witness with each other about these things of such importance, we also bear witness to each other about what is even more important – eternally important.”
 
Mohler expressed deep concern about the rapid change in values held by Americans.
 
“The most fundamental values of civilization itself are threatened, and we are witnesses to one of the most comprehensive and fast-paced moral revolutions ever experienced by humanity,” he said. “The velocity and breadth of this revolution are breathtaking, and the consequences are yet incalculable.”
 
American society is “dismantling the very structures that have allowed for the enjoyment and preservation of human liberty and respect for life. We are engaged in a head-long effort to replace the convictions that gave birth to democracy and ordered liberty with a new set of convictions that will lead to the emergence of a very different culture, society and civilization,” Mohler asserted.
 
The basis for this “meltdown” in values, Mohler said, is summarized in Russian writer and dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s assertion, “Men have forgotten God.”
 
“A society that subverts its own moral immunities sows the seeds of its own destruction,” Mohler said, adding the secular worldview “actually undermines the very values that the prophets of the secular age claim to cherish and preserve – human dignity, human rights and human flourishing.”
 
Mohler traced the state of American culture that has been undermined by the rise of secularism, decrying the devaluing of human life, the loss of human rights and undermining of the family and marriage upon which human flourishing is based.
 
Citing Jesus’ admonishment to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:2, Mohler said, “Without hesitation, we do our best to strengthen the things that allow and provide for human flourishing, that bear witness to human dignity and that undergird human rights.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – James A. Smith is executive editor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
2/27/2014 12:44:22 PM by James A. Smith Sr., Southern Seminary/Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Ukraine believers hopeful as Baptist becomes president

February 27 2014 by Nicole Lee, IMB/Baptist Press

KIEV, Ukraine – A Baptist preacher has been elected as Ukraine’s interim president, prompting calls for Christians to pray for the beleaguered nation and its new leader.
 
New interim president Oleksandr Turchynov was the right-hand man of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister imprisoned by Viktor Yanukovych when Yanukovych became president in 2010. The former prime minister was released immediately following Yanukovych’s removal from office Feb. 23, an ousting that came on the heels of a three-month-long protest movement in Kiev, the nation’s capital.
 
Parliament voted Turchynov interim president until early elections take place in May.
 
“We need to pray for him,” said Nik Ripken,* an expert on the persecuted church and 25-year veteran with the International Mission Board.
 
Baptists in Ukraine have a reputation, a moral base, that dates back to their witness to the government during the days of the Soviet Union, said Ripken, who visited with many of Ukraine’s Baptist leaders in 1998 to hear and record the stories of their faith and persecution in that era.
 
“Now they [Baptists] are reaping the rewards of that witness and moral fiber,” he said. “We must pray that they do not lose in power what they held so dear in opposition.”
 
Tim Johnson,* an IMB worker in Kiev, said Turchynov is generally well liked by the public and has a reputation for being honest and trustworthy.
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Photo by [URL= http://www.flickr.com/photos/lomteff]Olek Serge Lomtev[/URL].
Interim president Oleksandr Turchynov, a Baptist preacher, interacts with supporters in Kiev, Ukraine.

 
Turchynov has been in touch with the leaders of Ukraine’s union of Baptist churches, and they are supportive of his appointment and committed to pray for him, Johnson said.
 
“My Ukrainian friends have expressed pride that a Baptist can hold such a role in a majority Orthodox country,” Johnson said.
 
In a Christianity Today article, Valery Antonyuk, vice president of the All Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Churches, Baptist, said in a statement, “But on behalf of the Church we must say more, we must speak the whole truth; we must say that which is still hard to accept and fulfill; that, which is a precondition for a better future. Therefore the Church calls the Ukrainian nation to more than just feelings of human justice – to Christian forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation. We pray to God for repentance for the guilty.
 
“However at the same time we ask victims to forgive those who are already repentant as well as those who are still lost,” he said in the statement. “In order to unite the nation, in order to reconcile its various parts, its various social, cultural, and political groups, laws and justice are not enough. Without repentance, grace, forgiveness and reconciliation, the country will remain divided and in conflict. This is the precondition for a deep spiritual transformation of Ukraine.”
 
In the midst of changes on the political front, Ukrainian believers continue to share Christ faithfully in Independence Square. The evangelical prayer tent remains busy and continues to provide a venue to comfort the brokenhearted and give hope to the grieving in the name of Jesus.
 
Since Feb. 23, Ukrainians have flooded the city center to honor the protesters who died in the conflict and to mourn corporately the loss of life and the destruction. News sources vary on the number of deaths, but most agree that more than 80 people died and thousands were wounded.
 
Johnson – along with Brady Sample,* another IMB worker – was in Independence Square recently to visit the prayer tent. They marveled at the way Ukrainian believers were faithfully ministering despite their exhaustion.
 
“The people who have given of themselves, especially the people who have served, are tired and weary,” Sample said. “But they have hope – hope for a better future, a better life.”
 
Volunteers were set up all over the square giving out food and offering medical help. In the prayer tent, believers also gave Scripture portions, Christian literature and comfort.
 
“Best of all, people were speaking with those who stopped – gracious words of welcome and listening ears. I was touched when a young man offered me a gospel portion,” Johnson said. “I explained that I was there to make a donation and wanted to thank him and others for their ministry. Their little box for offerings was full and so was my joy in seeing my Ukrainian brothers and sisters serving in such a meaningful way.”
 
The prayer tent has been a fixture on Independence Square throughout the protests.
 
Vera Moroz,* a Ukrainian friend of Johnson’s, called the Christian volunteers heroes.
 
“I am not sure we will ever know in this lifetime, but I do believe that one day in heaven we will meet many who came to Jesus because of the believers on [Independence Square],” Moroz said. “These are heroes who were willing to give up everything to be Jesus to their countrymen and to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in the struggle against tyranny, oppression and injustice. The nation will forever be in debt to them – the church in Ukraine even more so. They are truly heroes of the faith.”
 
Although the violence has passed, there is a sense of sorrow and mourning throughout the city. Johnson said he was overcome with grief as he walked around the conflict zone.
 
“People slowly walked and took time to pause in front of memorials, which lined the streets. Some bowed their heads. Others crossed themselves and prayed. Many placed flowers. There was no thrill of victory on the people’s faces, only sadness,” Johnson said. “God is at work and people’s hearts are open. I too am sorrowful, but also hopeful.”
 
Below is the full text of a statement released by Valery Antonyuk, vice president of the All Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Churches, Baptist.
 

A Message of Reconciliation

During this time of fateful change in the life of the Ukrainian nation, the Church and each Christian individually cannot remain spectators on the sidelines of the battles and losses. The Church serves society and mourns together with it. We went through difficult days together with the nation – we served through prayer, evangelism, volunteers, medical help, clothing, and food. Today a time has come for a ministry of active reconciliation, which will help maintain unity in our country and nation.
 
We supported the nation’s demand to put an end to the tyranny of the authorities and repressions by the police. Now it is important to restore justice and due process of law in the country, to form a government that has the people’s trust, and provide fair presidential elections. We believe that those guilty of crimes against the people will be justly judged, and that peaceful citizens will be protected.
 
But on behalf of the Church we must say more, we must speak the whole truth; we must say that which is still hard to accept and fulfill; that, which is a precondition for a better future.
 
Therefore the Church calls the Ukrainian nation to more than just feelings of human justice – to Christian forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation. We pray to God for repentance for the guilty. However at the same time we ask victims to forgive those who are already repentant as well as those who are still lost. In order to unite the nation, in order to reconcile its various parts, its various social, cultural, and political groups, laws and justice are not enough. Without repentance, grace, forgiveness and reconciliation, the country will remain divided and in conflict. This is the precondition for a deep spiritual transformation of Ukraine.
 
The Bible says that there is, “a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecc. 3:7-8). In accordance with these wise words, we declare today to be a time to mend, and not a time to tear the nation apart; a time to seek peace, and not a time to fan the flames of war; a time to learn to love yesterday’s enemies, and not a time to continue to hate rivals and those who have hurt us.
 
We call on the Evangelical churches of Ukraine to serve to bring peace between people and healing to the wounds of war. We do not call black white and do not justify crimes or even mistakes. But we, as Christians, forgive, because we have been forgiven by God. He reconciled us to Himself, and gave us a message of reconciliation. This grace-giving Word to our whole nation should be heard from Lvov to Donetsk, from Kiev to Simferopol.
 
We also call upon the international Christian community asking for prayer and intercession for the Ukrainian nation and for help with peacemaking. We mourn for the victims, and thank God for His grace toward Ukraine, and pray for peace and spiritual revival in our nation.
 
*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nicole Lee is an International Mission Board writer based in Europe.)
2/27/2014 12:29:16 PM by Nicole Lee, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



IMB leader launches search for successor

February 26 2014 by Baptist Press

AUSTIN, Texas – International Mission Board (IMB) president Tom Elliff asked Feb. 26 the chairman of the mission agency's board of trustees to appoint a search committee for his successor. 

Elliff made the request during his report at IMB's Feb. 25-26 trustee meeting in Austin, Texas, and said he will remain president until a new leader is in place.
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BP Photo
Tom Elliff was elected IMB president on March 16, 2011 after a lifetime of service as a missionary, denominational leader and pastor.


A 15-member committee was named for the search.

"Based on what (my wife Jeannie and I) believe to be the Lord's clear leading, today I am asking our chairman to appoint a search team to seek my successor," he said in an open letter to International Mission Board personnel, trustees and the Southern Baptist community.

Elliff did not set a departure date, but asked the search team to immediately begin and complete their work as soon as possible.

"I pledge my eager and devoted service as your president until my successor is chosen and in office," he said. "But I am urging the search team to act with utmost expediency ... not with careless haste or abandon, but with all prayerful and tireless deliberation.

"We must work and pray together, just as we have these past years, to make this transition as seamless and effective as possible. The cause of our Savior and the welfare of our personnel deserve nothing less than our best."

Elliff was elected IMB president on March 16, 2011 after a lifetime of service as a missionary, denominational leader and pastor.

He and Jeannie served as missionaries to Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. He led the Southern Baptist Convention as president from 1996-1997 and served as pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., from 1985 to 2005. Elliff was IMB's senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations from 2005 to 2009.

"It has been a humbling privilege to serve as your eleventh IMB president in our storied 168-year history," he wrote. "You may rest assured that we will run through the finish line of this course the Lord has set before us with whole-hearted resolve and our eyes focused on Christ."

The full text of his letter follows.

Dear IMB Personnel, both overseas and stateside, members of IMB's Board of Trustees, and members of our Southern Baptist family,

Please permit me a few moments to reminisce.

Three years ago you invited Jeannie and me into what is proving to be one of the most humbling and challenging assignments of our lifetime. The privilege of serving the Lord and Southern Baptists by serving our missionary family is at once exciting and sobering. We have often found ourselves on our knees in prayer, seeking God's vision, power and guidance for these days. And He has never failed!

No IMB president could be blessed with a finer staff and leadership team, both in Richmond and around the world. No president could be encouraged and prayerfully undergirded by a more supportive Board of Trustees. You could look the world over and never find better qualified, skilled, passionate-hearted and sacrificial missionaries than those we are privileged to serve. And it is sheer joy to walk and work among the incredible family of believers called Southern Baptists.

Years ago, Jeannie and I developed what has become a purpose statement for our family. Our guiding purpose is to serve as living illustrations of the faithfulness of God to any person who will take Him at His word. You see, we believe that the plans of God are revealed to the man or woman of God, by the Spirit of God and through the Word of God. Once God's will becomes clear, our responsibility is to step out in faithful obedience.

Now, that simple truth by which we strive to live brings me to another matter.

Based on what we believe to be the Lord's clear leading, today I am asking our chairman to appoint a Search Team to seek my successor. I pledge my eager and devoted service as your president until my successor is chosen and in office. But I am urging the Search Team to act with utmost expediency ... not with careless haste or abandon, but with all prayerful and tireless deliberation. We must work and pray together, just as we have these past years, to make this transition as seamless and effective as possible. The cause of our Savior and the welfare of our personnel deserve nothing less than our best!

In some ways, as I look at the many initiatives we have put in place by working together over these years, both the pace and ease of implementation has been almost breathtaking. This can only be accounted for by the grace of God, the foresight and harmonious spirit of our trustee board, coupled with the diligence and spiritual maturity of our personnel, both in Richmond and across the globe.

We are, indeed, "chasers after darkness," looking for the black holes of sin in our world and thrusting into that darkness the Light of the glorious gospel of Christ. With such urgent need, I am content to believe that God is already at work, preparing both the heart and mind of our next president to lead IMB into its most effective years of service ever.

It has been a humbling privilege to serve as your eleventh IMB president in our storied 168-year history. Now, Jeannie and I joyfully anticipate the privilege of joining ranks with those who, like you, will prayerfully support our next president, faithfully holding up his hands in this great battle for the souls of the unsaved billions scattered across the globe.

You may rest assured that we will run through the finish line of this course the Lord has set before us with whole-hearted resolve and our eyes focused on Christ. We have the command of the Lord, and we hear the cry of the lost. Along with you, we must go together … to the ends of the earth!

For the Vision!
Tom Elliff

2 Tim 1:12
Our vision is a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled from a report by International Mission Board staff.) 
 

Related Story:

Elliff: God is leading my departure from IMB
2/26/2014 3:39:35 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Page, at NOBTS, cites SBC pressure points

February 26 2014 by Frank Michael McCormack, New Orleans Seminary/Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS – Frank Page, speaking at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, cited “seismic pressures” within the Southern Baptist Convention that must be overcome for the advancement of the Great Commission.
 
Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, was on the seminary campus in early February for a trio of appearances to engage and encourage students and ministers.
 
In a segment of the online interview series “Conversations,” Page spoke about the state of the SBC and acknowledged some challenges.
 
“Last year I worked real hard with Calvinist and non-Calvinist leaders. I think some of that pressure was relieved, because godly men and women from both sides of that issue said, ‘We have got to start talking to each other and not at each other,’” Page said. “That’s very positive, but the reality is we still have pressure points.”
 
Page said other pressure points include issues like “How do we do church in the 21st century?” and “How do we support mission work in the 21st century?” But at the same time, those hard questions are encouraging, he said.
 
“It excites me particularly that we have some younger pastors who are asking the hard questions,” he said.
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Photo by Frank Michael McCormack.
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, right, speaks with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Blake Newsom during the recording session for the seminary’s online interview series “Conversations.”

 
Page said the primary point to remember is keeping God central and staying focused on the task at hand.
 
“The world is winning a lot of battles. If there was ever a time we needed each other, it’s now,” he said. “We need each other in the battle we face in our culture and in our world.”
 
Regarding the future of the Cooperative Program, the funding mechanism by which Southern Baptists collectively support ministry and missionaries around the world, Page said, “Do you believe in Acts 1:8? It’s the only way I know where you and your church can be a part of seeing Acts 1:8 accomplished fully, consistently and concurrently.”
 
Prior to the Cooperative Program, ministry leaders and missionaries had to raise their own support from individual churches. The Cooperative Program cuts that step in the process by pooling funds from individuals and churches and dispersing them to ministries and missionaries. Still, Page said there’s some room for improvement.
 
“There needs to be some adjustment in the percentages, and I will tell you that’s happening,” he said. “I will tell young ministers: If you want to see [changes] happen even more, support it from the inside and don’t criticize from the outside.”
 
Also in the interview, Page spoke about what he learned from God after the tragic loss of his daughter Melissa to suicide. Page emphasized that suffering comes in many shapes and sizes.
 
“It’s not a question of if we will suffer; it’s a question of when and how. And everyone does,” Page said. “I’ve learned that [God is] real, that He really cares. His grace really is sufficient.”
 
Page cautioned those facing the pain of losing someone to suicide not to blame each other and not to blame God. Page said he realizes that he could have done some things differently, but he added, “The truth is, I did the best I could at the time with what I knew.”
 
Page chronicled his family’s story in the book Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide. He said the book can be a powerful tool for those considering suicide, for pastors ministering to those considering suicide, and for people who have lost loved ones to suicide.
 
Conversations” is a video interview between NOBTS dean of chapel Blake Newsom and noteworthy chapel speakers who come to New Orleans Seminary. The Frank Page Conversations segment will be released March 17.
 
Speaking in Leavell Chapel at NOBTS, Page preached from Revelation 2:1-7, the letter to the church at Ephesus. Page pointed out four keys elements of Jesus’ message to the church: a call, a commendation, a condemnation and a command.
 
The call, Page said, is Jesus calling the church back to living according to His lordship. In chapter 1, Jesus describes Himself as “the one who is, who was and who is coming” and “the Alpha and the Omega.”
 
“He is the Lord of the church. He is in the midst of the church. He’s listening to the hallway conversations in the seminary and in the church. He knows your thoughts. He’s in your midst,” Page said. “He is not out yonder; He is right here.”
 
Jesus also commends the Ephesian church for what the people are doing well, Page said.
 
“‘I know your deeds; I know your hard work,’” Page said. “They were commended for their patience. They were getting it done in the midst of a pagan city. They were commended for their sensitivity to evil.”
 
Jesus then moves to His condemnation of the Ephesian church: “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”
 
Page said the text does not go into detail about what that first love is specifically. From the greater context of Scripture, though, Page said he has an idea.
 
“Scripture tells us what our first love ought to be: The Great Commission. Acts 1:8,” he said. “Many passages tell us that the first love of the early church and the first love of every church ought to be a love for lost people.”
 
With that in view, Page said today’s church, just like the Ephesian church, is failing.
 
“We have adopted a cultural lie that no one will talk to you about the Lord ...,” Page said. “I do share Christ, but I’m telling you this: People don’t like the church much anymore, but they will talk to you about Jesus.”
 
Page closed with the threefold command to the Ephesian church: remember, repent and do. “Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen,” verse 5 says. Repent by turning from the wrong and turning to the right, Page said.
 
“And do the first works,” he said. “Let’s get back to what God called us to do. That call of renewing our first love is upon us today.”
 
After chapel, Page hosted a third meeting – a Q&A session with NOBTS students and area pastors to discuss ministry in the SBC and current convention issues.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Frank Michael McCormack writes for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)
2/26/2014 1:16:33 PM by Frank Michael McCormack, New Orleans Seminary/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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