February 2016

‘Awaken America’ registration opens for SBC St. Louis

February 25 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Registration for the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) “Awaken America: Reach the World” annual meeting, June 14-15 in St. Louis, has opened.
 
Online registration for messengers and local hotels can be accessed at SBCAnnualMeeting.net.

 
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Through online messenger registration at the SBCAnnualMeeting.net tab, each messenger will receive an eight-digit registration code to present at the annual meeting’s Express Registration lane in St. Louis, preferably as a printout for the church’s credential. The code will be entered into a computer at the SBC registration area and a nametag will be printed. The appropriate church-authorized representative must complete all online registrations.
 
The SBC constitution and bylaws were amended last year to broaden messenger representation.
 
Each cooperating church that contributes to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year now automatically qualifies for two messengers; previous rules allowed for one messenger.
 
Additionally, the convention will recognize 10 additional messengers from a cooperating church under one of the following options:

  • One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the convention’s Executive Committee for convention causes, and/or to any convention entity.

  • One additional messenger for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the normative combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.

Registration information for St. Louis for SBC preschool children and programs for children ages 6-12 and students in grades 7-12 also is available through the website. Visit bpnews.net/bpnews?id=46364 for Baptist Press story today with details.
 
SBC President Ronnie Floyd, in his weekly column Feb. 22, announced that Stephen Rummage, senior pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., will chair the Committee on Resolutions, and Willy Rice, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., will chair the Committee on Committees, one of the key committees involved in the nomination of trustees for SBC entities and committees. Other members of the two committees will be announced this spring.
 
Floyd, in a column last year, pointed to “7 reasons to come to St. Louis on June 14-15, 2016”:

  1. We need to be with our family, our Southern Baptist family.

  2. We need to be inspired to believe again that God can awaken America spiritually and the world can be reached for Christ.

  3. We need to hear the Word of God proclaimed, pray and worship together by the thousands, and have our spiritual lives set on fire again.

  4. We need to hear the wonderful testimonies and reports about what God is doing across America and the world through our work together.

  5. We need to hear how our churches’ financial investment in the Cooperative Program and mission offerings is being used to share the Gospel.

  6. We need to be encouraged to know that when we are together and working together there is hope in America and this world.

  7. We need to join together by the thousands as we pray for our nation at this critical time, calling out to God to revive His church and awaken America so we can reach the world for Christ.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/25/2016 12:03:34 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Longtime SBTS preaching professor dies at 93

February 25 2016 by Annie Corser and Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

James William Cox, a renowned homiletics professor who taught at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) for more than four decades, died Feb. 21 in Louisville, Ky., at 93.
 
Born in Kingston, Tenn., on Jan. 18, 1923, Cox trained generations of pastors and wrote several notable books on preaching. He joined the faculty in 1959 as professor of Christian preaching and in 1981 became the first occupant of the Victor and Louise Lester Chair of Christian Preaching. He retired in 1993 and served as a senior professor until his death.

 
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James W. Cox

“Dr. James Cox was one of the greatest scholars of preaching of the past century. His knowledge of homiletics and the history of preaching was unsurpassed,” said SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. “He was also a Christian gentleman who was always ready with a kind word and a faculty member who warmly encouraged his colleagues. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his faithful wife of so many years, Patricia, and the Cox family.”
 
Cox earned both his M.Div. (1947) and his Ph.D. (1953) at SBTS. He graduated with his bachelor’s from Carson-Newman College (1944). During his tenure at Southern, Cox was a visiting lecturer at Princeton Theological Seminary, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary (now called Virginia Theological Seminary). He was also a regular interim pastor and had numerous pulpit supply pastorates during his time as a seminary professor.
 
Before teaching at SBTS, Cox was the founding pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., and served as pastor at Nance’s Grove Baptist Church in New Market, Tenn., and Central Baptist Church in Johnson City, Tenn. He wrote several books, including Surprised by God and A Guide to Biblical Preaching, and contributed to several others. Cox edited numerous academic papers and served intermittently as a member of the editorial board at the Review & Expositor. He had numerous stints in academic study throughout his tenure, including Harvard University, the University of Zurich and Princeton Theological Seminary.
 
At his death, Cox was a member of Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, where he was a longtime Sunday School teacher.
 
During a Feb. 23 chapel service, Matthew J. Hall, vice president for academic services, described Cox as a “hero and giant of the Southern Seminary family” and asked for prayers for his family.
 
“There has been no other member of this faculty who has had more of a shaping influence on American preaching in the whole tenure of this institution, and I would include in that even John Broadus,” Hall said.
 
Cox is survived by his wife of 64 years, Patricia Parrent Cox; two sons, David and Kenneth; and four grandchildren.
 
Cox’s life will be celebrated Saturday, Feb. 27, 2 p.m. at Broadway Baptist Church, 4000 Brownsboro Road, with burial to follow at one of the seminary’s plots in Cave Hill Cemetery, an honor given to retired professors. Visitation will be Friday, Feb. 26, 4-7 p.m. at Pearson Funeral Home, 149 Breckenridge Lane.
 
Expressions of sympathy may be made to Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville or to Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Annie Corser and Andrew J.W. Smith write for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

2/25/2016 11:58:04 AM by Annie Corser and Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments



EC WRAP-UP: Small-state representation considered

February 25 2016 by David Roach & Art Toalston, Baptist Press

After nearly an hour of discussion, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee’s (EC) officers withdrew a recommendation to propose granting representation on three key SBC committees to Baptists in pioneer regions. EC leadership promised, however, to make an alternate proposal with the same goal but addressing logistical concerns raised by EC members.
 
In other business during the EC’s Feb. 22-23 meeting Nashville, the committee recommended a change in the method for asking questions of entity leaders during SBC annual meetings; approved a one-time transfer of funds from the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to the International Mission Board (IMB) to assist IMB personnel leaving the board during its “organizational reset”; and withdrew the convention’s fellowship from a South Carolina church whose pastor performed a same-sex wedding ceremony with the deacons’ approval.
 
The initial recommendation on “representation from new states and territories” would have asked the SBC’s legal counsel to present a recommendation to the EC’s Bylaws Workgroup for consideration in June on providing “representation on the Executive Committee, the Committee on Nominations, and the Committee on Committees for the following states or defined territories: The Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Montana, and Puerto Rico-U.S. Virgin Islands.”
 
The recommendation also proposed “limit[ing] to four the maximum number of members which any cooperating state or defined territory shall be entitled to have on the Executive Committee” and “request[ing] Baptist Press to report the foregoing information to Southern Baptists so that any comments in response to the proposal [could] be included in the background materials for the Executive Committee’s consideration on June 13.”
 
Currently, EC representation for any state or territory is capped at five members, with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas having maximum representation. According to SBC Bylaws 18 and 30, having 15,000 members in cooperating Southern Baptist churches qualifies a state or territory for initial representation on the EC, the Committee on Committees and the Committee on Nominations. When a state or territory reaches 250,000 church members, it qualifies to have a second EC member. Each additional 250,000 church members qualifies a state or territory for an additional EC member up to the maximum.

 
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Photo by Morris Abernathy
The SBC Executive Committee gathered Feb. 22-23 for their meeting in Nashville.

The recommendation would have granted one EC member to each pioneer state and territory listed while maintaining at present levels the representation of states and territories with 1-4 EC members.
 
The recommendation was affirmed by EC officers, the Bylaws Workgroup and the Administrative Committee. However, when the matter came before the full EC, members raised questions such as:

  • Why does the proposal reduce EC representation from states whose Baptists support the Cooperative Program with some of the largest financial gifts?

  • Why does the proposal specify a set number of EC members from each state and territory rather than establish a formula to determine representation?

  • To what extent is the reduction of EC representation from certain states driven by a need to limit the EC’s spending?

After 40 minutes of discussion, SBC President Ronnie Floyd, who serves as an ex officio EC member, asked, “Could we simply say the will of the body would be that it is our intent to study seriously, without involving the negative of taking away [EC members], ... a way, if possible, to give representation to every state convention, period?”
 
EC President Frank S. Page said he believes “the big issue” is granting EC and other committee representation to Baptists in every state and territory. He asked that all recommendations and amendments be withdrawn so that officers and staff “might ... come back with a cleaner way to say, ‘We want to add five’” EC members from the states and territories mentioned in the recommendation. He said EC staff can, if instructed to do so, re-appropriate funds to allow five new members without reducing any state’s current representation.
 
The committee opted to follow Page’s advice.

 

Entity questions at SBC annual meetings

In a separate action, the EC recommended amending SBC Bylaw 26 regarding questions to SBC entity leaders from the floor during the annual meeting, which will be presented to messengers during the SBC’s June 14-15 sessions in St. Louis.
 
Intended to provide consistency in the time allotted for messengers to ask questions, the proposed amendment would stipulate that segments for questions “provide no less than four (4) minutes times the number of entities included for discussion during that time.” The total time in any segment, however, “need not be evenly apportioned” among the entities included in that segment.
 
The bylaw amendment was drafted, as stated in EC resource materials, “In the interest of promoting greater transparency, amenability to the constituency, and a broader understanding of the work of the Convention’s entities.” A chart included in the background material noted that the average length of time allotted for questions to each SBC entity over the past 20 years has been about four minutes per entity, spaced across multiple sessions of the annual meeting. The new proposal will allow for consolidating question and answer segments to specific times on the agenda.

 

NAMB funds transfer

The EC approved a one-time transfer from NAMB to the IMB of up to $4 million, with three conditions which must be approved by NAMB’s trustees:

  • The transfer must be drawn from the reserve portion of NAMB’s unrestricted assets.

  • The transfer must not “negatively impact the performance of NAMB’s ministry assignments.

  • The transfer must be “designated to the IMB for the specific purpose of assisting transitioning IMB missionaries who have accepted the IMB’s Voluntary Retirement Incentive (VRI) or its Hand Raising Opportunity (HRO).”

NAMB President Kevin Ezell told Baptist Press NAMB’s “main motivation [for the gift] is that we’re family.”
 
“We’ve walked down this path before,” Ezell said. NAMB “let 817 people go in a transition. I know how hard that is along with trying to balance a budget. We look at the IMB as a sister entity. We are a family. When families hurt, you make sacrifices for family.”

 

S.C. church disfellowshipped

The EC’s decision to withdraw fellowship from Augusta Heights Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., acting on behalf of the SBC ad interim, was based on “public information provided by the church which amounts to clear evidence of the church’s affirmation and approval of homosexual behavior,” according to the recommendation.
 
Article III of the SBC Constitution stipulates that “churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior would be deemed not to be in cooperation with the Convention.”
 
Background material provided to EC members stated Augusta Heights pastor Greg Dover “sought and acquired approval” from the church’s deacons to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony and did so Oct. 10, 2015. Dover told EC staff in a letter the congregation “does not have a marriage policy, or any official position or doctrinal statement on issues of homosexuality or same-sex marriage.” The church, Dover said, “does not wish to end our relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention.”
 
Augusta Heights, which also has been disfellowshipped from the South Carolina Baptist Convention and the Greenville Baptist Association, was invited to send representatives to the EC meeting but did not do so.
 
In other items on its agenda, the Executive Committee:

  • approved a 2016-17 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $189,000,000 for recommendation to the SBC during the June 14-15 annual meeting in St. Louis.

The proposed budget maintains current allocations to the convention’s ministries, including 50.41 percent of receipts to IMB and 22.79 percent to NAMB, for a total of 73.20 percent allocated for mission ministries nationally and internationally.
 
The convention’s six seminaries will receive 22.16 percent. The seminary enrollment formula for funding will be: Golden Gate Seminary, 2.15 percent; Midwestern Seminary, 2.65 percent; New Orleans Seminary, 3.82 percent; Southeastern Seminary, 4.17 percent; Southern Seminary, 5.06 percent; Southwestern Seminary, 4.07 percent; and .24 percent to the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, a ministry overseen by the seminary presidents. (Cumulative numbers may not match the sum of individual seminary percentages due to rounding.)
 
The budget proposal maintains a 1.65 percent allocation to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
 
The SBC Operating Budget, the only CP-funded facilitating ministry, encompassing the SBC annual meeting costs and the work of the Executive Committee, would receive 2.99 percent of the budget.

  • approved a resolution of appreciation for David Waltz, who will retire March 31 after 23 years as executive director-treasurer of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey, rebranded under his leadership as the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey 15 years ago. The resolution of appreciation also noted Waltz’s 37 years of ministry among Baptists in Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.

The Baptist Resource Network ministry model, with its strategy for strengthening existing churches and starting new churches, has yielded diversity to where “more than one-half (52 percent) of the convention’s cooperating congregations are predominantly minority populations,” the resolution for Waltz stated.
 
Additionally, nearly 80 percent of the network’s 400 churches have been giving regularly through the Cooperative Program during the past decade in support of missions and ministry in the Penn/Jersey convention and by Southern Baptists nationally and globally. The churches also have recorded 60,000-plus baptisms in the past 15 years.
 
Page noted the resolution’s clause on Waltz’s pastorate at First Southern Baptist Church in Williamsport, Pa., from 1978-1990, when the church grew to 315 members from less than 100, Vacation Bible School at times equaled or exceeded the church’s Sunday worship attendance; more than 320 people were baptized; and an average of 12.4 percent-plus of undesignated offerings was shared with the Cooperative Program.
 
“This is a man who not only led that great convention,” Page said, “but a man who did it before he told others how to do it.”

  • recognized two Executive Committee staff members who are retiring at the end of January: Donald R. Magee, associate vice president for convention finance, who has been on staff for 18 years, and Martha Clark, financial systems associate for 12 years. Page noted that Magee and Clark have had key roles in maintaining the Executive Committee’s financial integrity.

  • elected Darren Elrod and Robyn Hari to three-year terms as Southern Baptist Foundation trustees. Elrod is senior vice president of finance and operations at Provident Label Group – Sony Music Entertainment. Hari, a member of the Executive Committee, works with Diversified Trust in Nashville.

  • approved a new online publication, “Family Journey,” a digital publication proposed by LifeWay Christian Resources as a daily devotional guide for parents to use with their children.

  • approved a $90,000 reimbursement request to the SBC Pastors’ Conference for use of the America’s Center in St. Louis for its meeting hall and other facilities, June 12-13, preceding the SBC annual meeting, as part of an annual reimbursement for costs in using the host facility.

  • authorized a 0.7 percent increase in the Executive Committee salary structure for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

  • received as information that C. Barry McCarty will be retained as the chief parliamentarian for this year’s annual meeting in St. Louis.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. Art Toalston is BP’s senior editor.)

2/25/2016 11:51:54 AM by David Roach & Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Early church view on Jesus as God’s Son debated

February 25 2016 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

A noted evangelical-turned-agnostic and a well-known agnostic-turned-evangelical were the featured speakers at the 12th annual Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Bart D. Ehrman, author of numerous best-selling books including How Jesus Became God, Jesus, Interrupted and Misquoting Jesus, engaged in dialogue with Michael F. Bird, a lecturer in theology at Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia, and the editor of How God Became Jesus and author of the award-winning The Gospel of the Lord.
 
The Greer-Heard forum is a venue in which respected scholars of differing opinions debate critical issues in religion, science, philosophy or culture. It’s designed to help students and ministers learn to think critically and to be prepared to engage secular society.

 
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Photo by Travis Milner
Noted agnostic author and professor Bart Ehrman speaks about early Christian views regarding the divinity of Jesus during the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. During his counterpoint argument, Evangelical scholar Michael Bird disputed Ehrman's claims that "adoptionist" view of Jesus' divinity is presented in the Gospel of Mark.

The forum’s theme, “When Did Jesus Become God?” posed the question of when and how the early church came to believe that Jesus was the divine Son of God. The title was a play on words of Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God and the book Bird edited, How God Became Jesus that were released on the same day two years ago by publishing houses under the same parent company.
 
Ehrman, a self-described “agnostic with atheistic leanings,” is a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor of religion who has published extensively in the fields of New Testament and early Christianity. He drew from the Gospel of Mark and other passages to make a case that no one – not Jesus’ disciples, family members, or the Jewish rulers – believed Jesus was the Son of God during his lifetime. The resurrection changed everything, Ehrman said.
 
“The earliest Christological views, in other words, the earliest views of who Christ was, are views that at the resurrection God made Jesus a divine being,” Ehrman said Feb. 12-13. “It was at the resurrection that Jesus became the Son of God.”
 
Calling this view “adoptionist Christology,” Ehrman said that believers over the next two centuries debated what it meant to call Jesus the Son of God and gradually pushed “the moment of exaltation backwards” from the resurrection to His baptism, to His birth, and then to viewing Jesus as the pre-existent, eternal Son of God.
 
Bird responded by acknowledging that early Christians did engage in debate and struggled “to find the grammar, the language and the framework to express who Jesus is,” but disputed that early Christianity was adoptionistic.
 
Bird also disputed Ehrman’s claim that no one knew Jesus was God’s Son, adding, “The demons knew.”
 
Pointing to Jesus’ baptism to say that the voice from heaven was a revelation of Jesus as God’s Son rather than a sign of adoption, Bird noted that Mark’s lack of details about Jesus’ early years runs counter to the thought in antiquity that adoption by a deity could be earned.

 
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Photo by Travis Milner
Evangelical scholar Michael Bird argues against the assertion that the Gospel of Mark presents an "adoptionist" view of Jesus' divinity during the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Later in the evening, Bird affirmed his belief in the divinity of Jesus, saying "I believe in the utter 'worship-ability' of Jesus."

Further, Bird said, if a voice identifying Jesus as God’s Son indicates adoption, then “Jesus was adopted three times,” referencing Jesus’ baptism, transfiguration, and the declaration by the Roman centurion at the cross that Jesus was God’s Son.
 
Regarding early groups and adoptionistic ideas, only one strain of one group – the Theodotians – were authentically adoptionist, Bird said.
 
“What that means is, the first and earliest Christology was not adoptionistic,” Bird said.
 
Bird pointed also to adoptionism’s failure theologically. Jesus’ being “adopted” at some point and becoming divine falls short of what scripture teaches about grace and works and is “incongruent with the witness of the New Testament as a whole,” Bird said.
 
“Adoptionism inevitably, inevitably, includes the belief that one can be self-justified before God and is at odds with the gospel of grace as the early church knew it,” Bird said.
 
In the question and answer session that followed, Ehrman was asked directly if he believed in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior for his sins. Ehrman said, “No, I don’t believe any of that.”
 
Ehrman said he became an agnostic 20 years ago for reasons unrelated to his studies as a textual critic.
 
“The reason I left Christianity altogether is unrelated to my scholarship,” Ehrman said. “I simply could no longer believe that there was a God who was active in a world where there was just so much pain, misery and suffering.”
 
Bird followed up with his testimony of being raised in a non-Christian home that was unsympathetic to Christianity and said his conversion changed his life. When people ask why he is a Christian, Bird said he likes to respond by telling why he remains a Christian: “I believe in the utter ‘worship-ability’ of Jesus.”
 

Engaging an unbelieving world

More than 600 attended the event that included presentations the following day by Simon Gathercole, Cambridge University; Larry W. Hurtado, University of Edinburgh; Dale Martin, Yale University; and Jennifer Wright Knust, Boston School of Theology.
 
“At NOBTS we believe conversational apologetics is an essential component of a strategy to share the gospel with an unbelieving world,” said NOBTS president Chuck Kelley. “We believe providing an opportunity to engage unbelievers is a part of the educational process. We don’t just read the books. We listen to the arguments and respond.”
 
Kelley said the forum allows students to engage speakers directly in Q&A sessions or over lunch as well as providing interaction with non-believers throughout the conference.
 
“Because the event is open to the public at large, the chapel is always full of all sorts of people with all sorts of opinions,” Kelley said. “Seminary students may find themselves sitting next to atheists, agnostics or skeptics.”
 
The forum is made possible through the gifts of William Heard, a Louisiana Baptist layperson, and his wife Carolyn Greer Heard. Carolyn Greer Heard passed away Feb. 14, the day after the conference.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

2/25/2016 11:43:08 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments



‘Hope in God,’ Floyd tells Southern Baptists

February 25 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptists must recognize God as our strength and lead evangelicals into the future with His Light and the truth of His Word, Ronnie Floyd said at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee’s Feb. 22–23 meeting in Nashville.
 
“Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, ... in this dark hour in America, when we wrestle within ourselves to not become downcast or discouraged with all that is happening in our nation,” Floyd said, “we must respond in obedience to what the Lord is telling us in Psalm 43. We need the power and the guidance of the Holy Spirit so we will be anchored to the Truth of God and to the Lord Jesus Himself alone.”
 
In his last presidential address at a winter SBC Executive Committee meeting, he delivered a sermon anchored in Psalm 43 and Habakkuk 3:16-19, exhorting Southern Baptists to lead evangelicals to a future steeped in obedience to God’s Word.
 
At Floyd’s invitation, a large contingent of Southern Baptist state convention executives and presidents, SBC entity leaders and pastors will attend special meetings Feb. 23–24 to discuss SBC doctrine, fellowship, the Cooperative Program of financially supporting Southern Baptist work, a “crisis” in evangelism, and the spiritual, cultural and the political health of the U.S.

 
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Photo by Morris Abernathy
“Be anchored to the Truth” of God’s Word and Christ alone, SBC president Ronnie Floyd urges during the SBC Executive Committee’s Feb. 22-23 meeting in Nashville.

“The churches of the Southern Baptist Convention need to rise up in this dark, dark hour in America,” he said, “and we need to proclaim this Word to the church, and to the lost of America: Put your hope in God. God is our Savior. God is our God.”
 
Southern Baptists must be leaders in evangelism, worldwide outreach, partnerships secured by the gospel and fellowship and cooperative economic giving, Floyd said.
 
He called Southern Baptists to remember the doctrinal stand on biblical inerrancy taken at the 1979 SBC Annual Meeting in Houston.
 
“Therefore now, 37 years later, we have six seminaries that are robust in their belief in the Bible and the gospel, committed to their mission, equipping an estimated 20,000 men and women for gospel ministry throughout the world. And in that dark day 37 years ago, when biblical and theological maze was happening, leaders led by the power of the Holy Spirit, according to the Word of God..., cried out, ‘Send your light, send your Word. And God did it.
 
He referenced the late SBC president Adrian Rogers and the sacrifice many leaders made to turn the SBC toward biblical truth.
 
“These leaders did not pay this high price to bring home hundreds of missionaries from the International Mission Board,” Floyd said, “to see evangelism become forgotten in our churches, to see the selfishness that distorts our stewardship of life and the gospel, or to see us consume one another with skepticism, criticism and cynicism, that creates a culture of schisms and divisions, rather than a culture that thrives on gospel advanced through partnership and cooperation.
 
“Furthermore this price was not paid for Southern Baptists to become like some exclusive club that is so narrow we cannot cooperate with other evangelicals and even beyond,” he said. “I want to remind you that our own Baptist Faith and Message 2000 calls us to cooperation....”
 
He urged Southern Baptists to unite by focusing on the positive and refusing to be led by negativism.
 
“We need hundreds of Southern Baptist statesmen to rise up courageously as leaders and lead so big, and so high, they will not settle for anything in this convention that does not help us build a Christ-centered culture that leads to our fellowship in gospel partnership,” Floyd said. “We need the kind of leaders who will rise up and value one another, and respect one another, and relate to one another and communicate effectively, not just with your little tribe out here, but with all generations and with all ethnicities, not just a bunch of people that ... look like you.”
 
The price was not paid 37 years ago so that Southern Baptists could “ever neglect widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor,” he said. “Nor was this price paid to see us give leadership that succumbs to the culture in which we live in today. And certainly this price was not paid for us to see our annual Southern Baptist gatherings become so small we’re unable to mobilize thousands upon thousands of pastors and laypeople to our missions annually.”
 
Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, estimated 85-90 leaders will attend the special meetings he called for tonight and Wednesday morning. “I appeal to you Southern Baptists, please pray for us.”
 
Many leaders were in attendance during his message, as were members of a group of 67 students from Southern Baptist seminaries and Baptist colleges assembled as the Young Leader Network and accompanied by 11 adult chaperones.
 
Floyd urged Southern Baptists to attend and promote the 2016 annual meeting, themed “Awaken America: Reach the World; Agree, Unite, Pray” and announced key outreaches scheduled in St. Louis. His National Call to Prayer June 14 will seek God for spiritual leadership, revived churches, the next great spiritual awakening and the future of America.
 
Floyd will continue his campaign for racial reconciliation, holding a National Conversation on Racial Unity June 14, with key participation by Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention USA, and Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C.
 
“I place value on other groups. I’m not sure why we do not want everyone to win in our family,” Floyd said. “As president I have been very committed to doing all I can to help build a healthy culture of love and fellowship and gospel partnership. I have placed people in the same room together so they would stop talking about each other and start talking to each other.”
 
After Floyd’s address, K. Marshall Williams, president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC and pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., offered the closing prayer, included here in part.
 
“We pray Lord that You wash our hearts clean. That you create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us. God we need revival; we need you. Lord help us to manifest, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, fruits of repentance, that Lord we might, with radical obedience, and implicit and an inexplicable unity, usher in revival in the church, that will lead to a spiritual awakening in our land.
 
“... We pray Lord that you bind us together that we might recognize that we’re not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and Satan’s ranks of emissaries of wickedness. We have to fight the battle where the battle is. So God we passionately pray tonight, that You move in our hearts individually, and collectively, that we might come together and rise up and be the people of God in these last and evil days.
 
“Thank you Lord for what you’re going to do.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

2/25/2016 11:33:15 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Nearly 1,000 missionaries leave IMB

February 24 2016 by BP Staff

The International Mission Board (IMB) announced today (Feb. 24) that 983 missionaries and 149 stateside staff have transitioned outside the mission entity during the past six months as a result of its voluntary retirement and resignation programs.
 
IMB President David Platt told trustees the organization now expects to operate a balanced budget for 2017 due to its 2015-16 organizational “reset” processes and the generosity of Southern Baptists who have given sacrificially.
 
“IMB is now in a much healthier financial position,” Platt said during IMB’s Feb. 22-24 meeting near Richmond, Va. “Due to increased giving from Southern Baptist churches, Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering giving are trending upward.”

 
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David Platt

The number of missionaries on the field is now around 3,800, according to IMB figures. The last time the number of missionaries was below 4,000, according to SBC Annual reports, was in 1993 at 3,954.
 
“While this news is disappointing to all of us,” said Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, “we know we have prayed for God’s leadership; therefore, we will trust God in this season and with our future as Southern Baptists.”
 
“This reset is not regress or retreat,” Floyd said. “Southern Baptist churches must see this as a fresh calling to reaching the world for Christ. Now is the time to go forward with a clear vision and an aggressive strategy to make disciples of all the nations for Christ.”
 
Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said, “My heart is broken to hear of the large number of missionaries and staff who are leaving the IMB. My prayers are with them as they transition.
 
“However most of all,” Page noted, “My prayers are focused on the fact of the massive lostness in our world. May God bless Dr. Platt as he leads us in a new strategy to see a new day of intentional evangelism around our world. God help us all!”
 
See the complete IMB news release below.
 
*****
 

Thanks to Southern Baptists, IMB in ‘much healthier financial position’

By Julie McGowan
 
RICHMOND, Va. – The International Mission Board expects to operate a balanced budget for 2017 due to its 2015-16 organizational reset processes and the generosity of Southern Baptists who have given sacrificially, IMB President David Platt told the organization’s board of trustees during its Feb. 22-24 meeting in Richmond, Va.
 
“IMB is now in a much healthier financial position,” Platt said. “Due to increased giving from Southern Baptist churches, Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering giving are trending upward.”
 

Reset processes

Over recent years, IMB has consistently spent more money than it has received – a combined $210 million more since 2010. Though IMB has covered the shortfalls through reserves and global property sales, in August 2015 Platt announced a critical need to balance the organization’s budget. Because 80 percent of IMB’s budget is devoted to personnel salary, benefits and support expenses, leaders determined a need to reduce the total number of personnel by approximately 600-800 people to get to a healthy financial place in the present for sustained growth and engagement in the future.
 
At that time, Platt outlined a two-phase process for reducing the number of IMB personnel. Phase One involved a Voluntary Retirement Incentive (VRI) available to eligible retirement-age personnel, and Phase Two included a Hand Raising Opportunity (HRO) available to everyone in the IMB.
 
Platt reported that the VRI and HRO have resulted in 983 missionaries and 149 stateside staff transitioning outside the IMB over the past six months. He reported 702 missionaries and 109 stateside staff took the voluntary retirement incentive, and 281 missionaries and 40 stateside staff took the hand raising opportunity. He noted it is possible the number of missionaries who have taken the HRO may decrease, since missionaries can rescind their decisions through April.
 
“Even though a more involuntary process would yield more precise and predictable results, IMB chose a voluntary process that would leave as much decision-making as possible in the hands of IMB personnel,” Platt said. “Knowing that such a voluntary process would yield more imprecise and unpredictable results, we believed that we should trust God with this process and every individual within the IMB.
 
“This process remained entirely voluntary for all IMB missionaries,” he said. “No IMB missionary has been required to leave the field during this time. IMB missionaries have been encouraged to make a transition off of the field only if they sense the Lord leading them to do so.”
 
The same voluntary nature of this process has applied to stateside staff with the exception of 30 personnel in IMB’s Richmond communications office whose positions were eliminated in IMB’s new mobilization structure.
 

Exponential opportunities

In addition to reducing the total number of personnel over the last six months, IMB has made significant changes to its infrastructures and systems in order to work with greater excellence, effectiveness and efficiency, Platt reported, all with prayerful dependency upon the Holy Spirit.
 

The future IMB strategy revolves around:

  • Enabling limitless men and women to participate in global mission through a multiplicity of pathways and opportunities. This involves continuing to support full-time, fully supported personnel around the world and surrounding these personnel with students, professionals and retirees who are leveraging their studies, vocations and relocations for the spread of the Gospel.

  • Serving and mobilizing local churches as the primary agent God has promised to bless for the spread of the Gospel in the world.

  • Training and equipping Christians and church leaders, pastors and missionaries to make disciples and multiply churches across cultures.

  • Engaging and reaching unreached peoples and places through missionary teams who are maximizing opportunities for evangelism, discipleship, church formation and leadership training from the most populated cities to the most extreme places in the world.

  • Supporting and strengthening an ever-multiplying mission force through practical services that include everything from logistical help to health care to tax assistance.

“The stage is now set financially, organizationally and spiritually for IMB to work with Southern Baptist churches to create exponentially more opportunities for disciple making and church planting among unreached peoples around the world,” Platt said. “IMB is committed to a future marked by faithful stewardship, operational excellence, wise evaluation, ongoing innovation and joyful devotion to making disciples and multiplying churches among the unreached.”
 
On Thursday, March 3, at 11 a.m. EST, IMB will host a livestream focused on “The Future of the IMB.” Platt will cast vision for the days to come and respond to questions or comments that people can submit live via Twitter. For more information, go to IMB.org/live.
 

New missionaries

For the first time ever, IMB simulcast the service celebrating the appointment of 26 new missionaries who will serve around the world during a live stream event Tuesday (Feb. 23) with an estimated viewership of a few thousand people. During the service, the new missionaries shared brief testimonies about their desire to follow God’s call to a life on mission.
 
“Many of these are going to the most difficult places in the world,” said John Edie, IMB’s trustee chairman from Springfield, Mo. Edie noted the personnel would be shown in silhouette during the service for their security and the security of the people with whom they work. Many of the new missionaries’ names cannot be shared publicly.
 
“These missionaries beckon every single follower of Christ to surrender our lives and say to Him, ‘I will do whatever you want me to do and go wherever you want me to go for the spread of your Gospel and your glory among the nations,” Platt said. “This is not extraordinary Christianity only for select missionaries, but ordinary Christianity for every one of us.”
 

Other business

Trustees also expressed appreciation for the life and work of Raymond E. Hodgins, missionary to the Deaf Affinity from 2001-16, who died Jan. 18, 2016, while in service. “The International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, herein expresses deep appreciation for faithful service to God through this board and pledges special prayer support for the family during the days ahead,” the motion read.
 
The next IMB board of trustees meeting will be May 9-11 in Richmond, and the next missionary appointment service will be livestreamed May 10.
 
To view a video of the livestream of the plenary session, visit IMB.org/live.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie McGowan is public relations leader for IMB.)

2/24/2016 2:56:56 PM by BP Staff | with 1 comments



Charlotte council passes LGBT ordinance, expects state overruling

February 24 2016 by Emily Blake, BR staff writer

After voting down a highly controversial sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) ordinance last March, the Charlotte City Council voted again Feb. 22 to pass a similar measure that will require places of “public accommodation” to abide by a non-discrimination policy that includes “marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”
 
Opponents say the ordinance allows sexual predators to visit the bathrooms or locker rooms of their choice, endangering women and children.
 
The controversial decision ended with a 7-4 vote in favor of the ordinance. Council Members Ed Driggs, Claire Fallon, Greg Phipps and Kenny Smith opposed the legislation.
 
According to the North Carolina Values Coalition, more than 700 protesters crowded outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Complex Building for two hours leading up to the vote despite pouring rain.

 
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North Carolina Values Coalition Facebook photo

“We, in Charlotte, are united together as citizens, faith leaders, business owners, mothers and fathers, to let you know that your voice will not be the last one standing,” said Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Charlotte. “You have received nearly 250,000 emails urging you to vote ‘no’ to allowing men to enter women’s bathrooms and locker rooms. Should you choose to ignore this resounding voice of the people by passing this extreme ordinance, it is not us that will lose today … it will be the women and children of this city that you have willingly and knowingly placed in harm’s way. We will not stop until they are protected and safe once more.”
 
The #DontDoItCharlotte coalition rally, which was organized by the N.C. Values Coalition, featured community, business and faith leaders urging Mayor Roberts and the Charlotte City Council to vote no.
 
Coalition spokeswoman Kami Mueller expressed thanks to the council members who opposed the measure, saying they “took the outcry of over 250,000 emails from concerned citizens seriously,” and they “should be applauded.”
 
She continued, “The seven others who voted yes to this ordinance did so because they valued their own extreme agenda over protecting women and children in Charlotte. This is both shameful and extremely sad. Charlotte deserves better.”
 
Gov. Pat McCrory indicated in an email to The Charlotte Observer that swift action by state legislators is expected to overturn the local ordinance. The outcome of the controversial issue may also be decided by N.C. voters in the form of a referendum.
 
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said in a press release, “Every citizen of North Carolina should thank Gov. McCrory for taking a strong stand against the Charlotte City Council’s pending unconstitutional transgender bathroom and LGBT favorability ordinance. The ordinance will set up legal discrimination, allow men to enter women’s bathrooms and locker rooms as they wish, and violate the freedom of Charlotteans to live and work in accordance with their beliefs.”
 
Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Ore., are an example of how such ordinances can negatively affect Christian business owners, suppliers, employees and the general public. Allan Blume, editor of the Biblical Recorder, interviewed the couple at a recent event.
 
“It’s going to put Christians out of the marketplace,” said Aaron Klein. It’s a consequence of gender and sexuality related ordinances that they experienced first-hand. The couple declined to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding last year, sparking a legal campaign against them. On July 2, 2015, Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian ordered the Kleins to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to the lesbian couple they declined to serve.
 
“As Christians, we need to be motivated to get more involved in the political process,” said Klein, “not so much for people like me who have already been forced to pay $135,000 – but for those who will not be able to stand up under the pressure. ... We need to stand up for those who won’t be able to survive the harassment campaigns of the LGBT movement in the future.”
 
The Charlotte City Council held a five-hour long meeting in March 2015 that media reports said was one of the most contentious in years. Hundreds of concerned citizens gathered at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Building to express their support or opposition to the proposed SOGI ordinance.
 
With more than 100 people speaking at the meeting, each for two minutes, and more than 40,000 emails sent to the City Council concerning the proposal, the first push for the ordinance failed by a 6-5 vote.
 
Charlotte’s newly elected mayor, Jennifer Roberts, had promised to make the ordinance a top priority for 2016.
 
SOGI activists successfully lobbied the Greensboro City Council to pass an ordinance in January, and now again in Charlotte.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Seth Brown, content editor for the Biblical Recorder, contributed to this report.)

 
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2/24/2016 12:14:14 PM by Emily Blake, BR staff writer | with 0 comments



SBTS panel spotlights racial reconciliation

February 24 2016 by Robert Chapman, SBTS

Southern Baptists must consider racial reconciliation as important as abortion and same-sex marriage, said leaders and pastors at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) during a Feb. 17 forum.
 
"Southern Baptists got [race issues] so wrong for so long that we have to deal honestly with it, because we do not have credibility," said Matthew J. Hall, vice president for academic administration and assistant professor of church history. The forum, which was held at the seminary's campus in Louisville, Ky., followed the Southern Baptist Convention's Racial Reconciliation Sunday, Feb. 14. "Southern Baptists were not just implicated in racial injustice, we were directly feeding it. We have blood on our hands so we can't try and address other issues of injustice and kind of leap over this one."
 
Hall participated in a "What's the Word" panel discussion on racial reconciliation hosted by the ONE student group, which says it seeks to reconcile ideas across race and gender lines through cross-centered conversations. Other participants included Felipe Castro, director of Hispanic initiatives at SBTS; Curtis Woods, associate executive director for convention relations at the Kentucky Baptist Convention; and Kaitlin Congo, member of the leadership team for the Arise City Summit. Jarvis Williams, associate professor of New Testament interpretation, moderated the discussion, which focused on the historical and biblical issues surrounding racial reconciliation.

 
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SBTS photo
Jarvis Williams (left), moderates a panel discussion on race with Kaitlin Congo, Matthew J. Hall, Felipe Castro and Curtis Woods.

"We want to talk about justice for the unborn or whatever your issue is and ignore racial justice, but we do not have that luxury," Hall said. "If you care about life in the womb, but you do not give a rip about life in the hood or anywhere else then you will not have any credibility."
 
Scripture commands Christians to pursue all forms of reconciliation, but many people do not understand the need for it because they view racism as individual acts of prejudice, panelists said. But, they noted, racism affects systems, not just individuals, and when people grasp the full extent of American racism then the need for Christian reconciliation will be obvious. Reconciliation begins with seeing the image of God in all people.
 
"The Bible mentions groups of other people and that is how we need to see race," Congo said. "Christians need to desire groups of others and unlikely people coming together, because this is at the root of the gospel.
 
"This is not just different skin colors, but also includes different genders and disabled people," she said. "What Jesus ultimately does is bring groups of unlikely people together to display the power of the gospel to transform hearts and causes us to desire relationships with Christians who do not look like us."
 
Distinctly Christian reconciliation is rooted in discipleship and believers should allow the gospel to tear down any sinful boundaries people establish, panelists said. Woods suggested that a biblical theology of friendship will overcome most barriers to reconciliation. Many white Christians do not understand the unique struggles that people of other skin colors face because they do not have close friends who are not white. Compassion for different groups of people only comes through deep friendships.
 
"Spiritual friendship is a means of grace," Woods said. "What I seek to do is enter the life of another image bearer and see that image bearer as the most important person I will ever meet. And I seek to help anyone who has been placed behind the 8 ball."
 
While seeking friendships with different groups of people, Christians cannot see them as just another need to meet, said Castro, who noted the deep desire for Hispanics not to be seen as simply a compassion ministry.
 
"This is especially important for Hispanic people," Castro said. "Often times we see poor people and want to be God for them so instead of asking them about what God is doing in their life we just ask them what do you need. So if we are talking about the gospel and walking with other people then for Hispanics it means meeting them at their level."      
 
Christians should also see reconciliation as practice for the age to come, Hall said. In the eternal kingdom people will only be divided based on their relationship with Christ, not skin color, gender, or any other physical characteristic, which is an often overlooked aspect of union with Christ.
 
"We should praise God because we are united to Christ by faith, but we are also united to Christ with a whole lot of other folks who look very different from you and transcend space, time, gender, race, or ethnicity," Hall said. "The kingdom of God will be established with people from every race, tribe and tongue so the local church should strive to eliminate these distinctions now."
 
Audio and video of the panel discussion are available at sbts.edu/resources.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Robert Chapman writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

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2/24/2016 12:09:09 PM by Robert Chapman, SBTS | with 0 comments



Cooperative Program legacy is Frank Page’s resolve

February 24 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

“There will be a day when I’m gone and there will be a day when you are gone,” Frank S. Page said.
 
“What kind of legacy will we leave behind,” Page asked, “as the Executive Committee, as students, as professors, as preachers, as lay men and women?”
 
Page reviewed the legacy Southern Baptists are building through the Cooperative Program (CP) when he addressed the opening session of the Feb. 22-23 Executive Committee meeting in Nashville.
 
“We need to be resolute in leaving behind a legacy of commitment to our Lord, a legacy of missions and evangelism, a legacy of church plants and missionary work, a legacy of touching the lives of countless men and women, boys and girls in discipleship,” Page, the Executive Committee’s president, said in reference to CP funding by Southern Baptist churches for outreach in their states, across America and throughout the world.

 
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Photo by Morris Abernathy
Frank S. Page, Executive Committee president, voices resolve for “a legacy of commitment” to Christ and to His work through Southern Baptists in his Feb. 22 address to EC members, underscoring the importance of the Cooperative Program for missions and ministry.

Support from the states

State Baptist conventions, Page noted, have become a key factor in growing CP support for advancing the gospel across North America and throughout the world.
 
State conventions will provide an estimated 40 percent of CP gifts they receive to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) causes during the coming year, up from 38.5 percent from the states last year, as a result of budget actions during their annual meetings last fall, Page reported.
 
It is “one of the largest increases we’ve seen in a long time,” he said.
 
Twenty-six states increased their CP percentages for SBC causes, for an average increase of 1.72 percent, Page said. Twelve states made no change and two decreased by an average of 0.32 percent.
 
“We are grateful to our state partners for all they have done,” Page said. “We recognize their sacrifice. We recognize that they are in the midst of a changing paradigm. And we recognize that the ministry God has called them to is valid and a part of the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
 
Among the state conventions increasing their CP percentages for SBC work are Florida by 10 percent; Michigan, 5.51 percent; Missouri, 4.02 percent; North Carolina, 3 percent; Minnesota/Wisconsin, 2.95 percent; and Georgia, 2 percent. Page said substantive budgeting changes also were made by the conventions in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, New York, Tennessee, Utah/Idaho and SBC of Virginia.
 
Strong year-end giving, meanwhile, has been reported in Georgia, New York, New England, Florida and SBC of Virginia, Page said.

 

2016 & beyond

CP support for SBC causes is projected to increase by $5 million this year due to the state conventions’ actions coupled with a “rebound of personal/church giving trends,” Page said.
 
During the last fiscal year, 100.62 percent of the funding needed for the SBC CP Allocation Budget was received from Oct. 1, 2014-Sept. 30, 2015, Page reported. The $189 million-plus in receipts was 1.39 percent above the previous fiscal year.
 
CP receipts for the fiscal year to date stand at 106 percent of the CP Allocation Budget and 1.9 percent ahead of last year’s pace, Page said.
 
“Projected income depends on a variety of factors, including employment, the economy, church giving, etc. We recognize that many things can change,” Page said while noting that “the trend we’re seeing” is highly encouraging.

 

Great Commission Advance

Commenting on the 10-year Great Commission Advance now under way, Page said, “We’ve seen encouraging trends as churches of every demographic, ethnicity and age are unifying better than before.” He credited Executive Committee work in particular with ethnic liaisons and advisory councils for helping “our ethnic brothers and sisters through their churches step up to the plate stronger than ever before.”
 
A total of 4,402 churches, meanwhile, have taken the “1% CP Challenge,” Page noted, to raise their Cooperative Program giving by 1 percentage point of their yearly budgets.
 
Page lauded SBC President Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, for “encouraging churches at every level” to strengthen their CP support.
 
“He and I have been involved in [conference] calls with many pastors, hundreds of pastors, as we’ve encouraged them to up their giving to missions and ministries,” Page said.
 
“And among the larger churches, Dr. Floyd has had great success in encouraging them to go to the $1 million mark in Cooperative Program giving. And by the way, Dr. Floyd did not ask them to do anything that he has not already done himself. His church is already well past that now, last year as well as this year,” Page said.
 
The Great Commission Advance, launched by Page at last year’s SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, calls for every Southern Baptist and every church to engage in a mission project, locally or elsewhere in the nation or world, and to practice the biblical tithe of 10 percent of the income God gives believers to be given to their churches for missions and ministry.
 
Another facet of the Great Commission Advance, as described by Page in his Feb. 22 remarks to the Executive Committee, is “a new analytics software development that is going to provide far more accurate and up-to-date real-time information to help us with Cooperative Program understanding of where our churches are, or are not.” The project is being undertaken by a consortium of several state conventions, the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and Executive Committee.
 
Closing his remarks, Page said, “I couldn’t care less if people ever remember my name but I do want them to remember what we stood for and what we did for the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/24/2016 11:59:41 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Kentucky volunteers delivering water, hope in Flint

February 24 2016 by Mark Kelly, NAMB

Southern Baptists are bringing clean water and a ray of hope to residents of Flint, Mich., as that city scrambles to solve its potable water crisis.
 
Trained disaster relief volunteers from the Kentucky Baptist Convention are working in Flint seven days a week at the invitation of Michigan emergency management officials. Five three-member teams are going door to door, delivering water filters, bottled water and water test kits. They also are passing along information related to the water crisis and listening as residents tell their stories about being caught up in the dilemma.

 
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NAMB photo by John Swain
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief chaplain Tom Owen (right) leads a prayer with Flint, Mich., homeowner Mercedes Menzies and SBDR volunteer Rick Bolen. Menzies and other residents of the city have been faced with health concerns over the water supply. SBDR volunteers are in the city to distribute drinking water and water filters to residents. Owen and Bolen are both members of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Independence, Ky.

In virtually every case, they are able to pray with the families. In most cases, they have been able to give them Bibles as well.
 
The Flint crisis has drawn national attention since children began to be sickened by excessive levels of lead in the city’s water supply. The U.S. Surgeon General has visited the city, and the Michigan House of Representatives unanimously approved $30 million to help pay water bills for residents and businesses, according to news reports. Dallas Cowboys’ cornerback Brandon Carr has donated more than $100,000 to help his hometown, and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores has pledged $10 million to the cause.
 
Families in Flint welcome the Kentucky volunteers’ compassion because it brings comfort into lives filled with too much fear, said Bill Johnson, who is managing the relief project on behalf of Kentucky Baptists and the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
 
“These are some pretty rough neighborhoods,” Johnson said. “One lady was afraid to open the door for us, even though we have a card that identifies us as part of the Flint water response team. She opened the door just enough for them to put the water in. But when they asked if they could pray for her, she held hands with them through the open door.
 
“We thought we might get a lot of negativity or pushback, being a faith-based group,” noted Johnson, who is a member of Liberty Missionary Baptist Church near Ashland, Ky., “but people have embraced us.”
 
Emotions have been running high in the city since news broke that children were suffering from the collapse of the city’s water system. The relief teams’ chaplains are playing a key role in defusing tensions, said Coy Webb, director of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief.

 
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NAMB photo by John Swain
Rick Bolen, a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer, installs a water filter on the kitchen tap of a resident in Flint, Mich. Disaster Relief volunteers are in the city to assist with the water crisis facing residents. Bolen is a member of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Independence, Ky.

“These families need clean water, but they also desperately need someone to listen, counsel and pray with them,” Webb said. “Our chaplains are providing as important a ministry as the installation of water filters.”
 
The relief effort aims to help Flint’s most vulnerable people: those who can’t get out of their homes, Webb said.
  “People are signing up for help through the county by calling 211,” Webb said. “The Emergency Operations Center is passing the names and addresses to us, and we go directly to the individual homes.”
 
The county is providing box trucks to carry relief supplies, as well as issuing radios and tablet computers to facilitate communication, Webb said. Some supplies have been donated by NAMB, while the rest has come from county and state government offices.
 
During the relief effort, which may last six months, relief team members are being housed and fed by Westside Baptist Church in nearby Flushing, said Mickey Caison, executive director of disaster relief for NAMB. In addition to the door-to-door ministry, volunteers also are handing out bottled water at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Flint.
 
The opportunity to bring help and hope to families during this crisis arose directly out of previous disaster response in Michigan, Caison noted. The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network worked diligently in the aftermath of flooding in Warren, where 129,000 homes were flooded in August 2014.
 
“Here we have government asking Southern Baptists to go into homes to do a specific task, but part of that task is to talk with the homeowners,” Caison said. “It’s interesting to me that God, in His love and grace, provides the opportunity to step into this environment. God continues to honor our commitment to serve Him in this unique way, and He opens the doors for us in other places.”
 
For information on donating to the relief effort or to volunteer, visit namb.net/dr. Or, call 800-993-1342 or email SBDR_Flint@namb.net.
 
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly writes for the North American Mission Board.)
 

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2/24/2016 11:34:53 AM by Mark Kelly, NAMB | with 0 comments



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