February 2018

Billy Graham’s impact praised by Baptist leaders

February 22 2018 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Few men could spark the outpouring of respect and gratitude as Billy Graham upon his death Feb. 21 at age 99.

Baptist Press file photo
Billy Graham holds a press conference during the 1968 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Houston. Graham addressed the final session of the convention June 7. Graham’s abiding influence is evident among Baptist leaders.

Among Southern Baptists – among whom Graham counted himself – a range of leaders underscored the broad scope of the famed evangelist’s influence.
Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church: “Billy Graham is with Jesus. He has seen and talked with our beloved Savior. May the awareness of his death result in many people hearing the gospel and being converted to Jesus Christ!
“He is the nearest thing to a true prophet that Christians have had in the past century. He was a man of integrity, simplicity, love and evangelistic fervency. He preached to more people than anyone else in the history of Christianity. He was a legendary man of God, and every born again Christian will miss him. He was converted to Christ in 1934 at an evangelistic crusade in Charlotte, N.C., led by evangelist Mordecai Ham. He soon felt the call to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the world has never been the same.”
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee: “Along with countless others, I mourn today for the passing of Billy Graham. As I came to Christ as a young man out of a non-Christian home, he became a mentor to me from afar. I admired his preaching, his life and his integrity. I told him so years ago when I got to meet with him. Heaven is a richer place today.
“For three-quarters of a century, he has been a faithful ambassador for Christ, seeking to reconcile men and women to God through faith in Jesus Christ,” Page said. “He has borne witness for Christ without distinction, sharing the gospel with the world’s most powerful leaders and with the oppressed, urging the wealthiest and the most impoverished alike to find their hope in Christ alone.”
Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC): “I am overcome with emotion when I think of Billy Graham and his influence on all of Christianity. He was a giant for God, a one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-generation prophet of God’s truth and grace. He called everyone, young and old and even boys and girls, to get up from their chairs and give their lives to Christ. And they poured out by the thousands. ... I pray we may never forget his legacy and his unrelenting passion for Jesus, and may we follow his footsteps in calling people to repentance in Christ.”
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board: “Only eternity is expansive enough to measure the impact Billy Graham had on our world. I will be forever grateful for the way he kept believers focused on the priority of proclaiming Jesus. I am thankful and grateful for the impact he made on my life and that of millions of others.”
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: “The eyes of a North Carolina farm boy sparkled as never before this morning when Billy Graham entered heaven. After nearly 100 years spent largely in an effort to ‘rescue the perishing and care for the dying,’ the world’s evangelist was called home to a prophet’s reward.
“Never accused of the hoarding of wealth or of sexual misconduct, his careful practices of conduct place him in a category of a man whose life was a proclamation of Christ as well as His message. His faithfulness to the proclamation of God’s plan of redemption – undergirded by his initiatives on racial justice and his concern for the lost – set the standard for all who would attempt to preach the riches of the gospel. His allegiance to sacred scripture was legendary. Never did he allow doubt to shake his confidence in God’s Word.”

Baptist Press file photo
Billy Graham, who died Feb. 21, addresses the 1995 sesquicentennial meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, one of several SBC annual meetings he addressed starting in 1951.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: “An epic era of evangelical history has come to an end. Billy Graham was not only a titanic figure in evangelicalism, but in world history and perhaps represents the last of a kind. He dominated 20th-century American evangelicalism and remained a major figure on the world stage throughout most of the 20th century in a way that we can envision no evangelical leader in our times. He was a man of deep conviction whose passionate heartbeat was for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and founding dean of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SBTS) Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism: “He [Graham] will forever be revered as one of the greatest evangelists the Christian faith has ever known. In a day and time when Mr. Graham could have easily commanded the attention of millions for his own gain, he chose to live a private, humble life. Throughout his life, it was obvious he wanted the focus to be not on himself but on one thing: the cross of Jesus Christ.”
Russell Moore, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission: “We are fortunate to have lived in the era of Billy Graham. He was perhaps the greatest Southern Baptist in history, turning the world upside down with the gospel. He was never ashamed to confront a brave new world with the old-time gospel. Combining the power of a ‘the Bible says’ authority with the compassion of a ‘Just as I Am’ invitation, he projected the mission of Christ Jesus, full of grace and truth. Behind Dr. Graham’s stately North Carolina accent, millions of people heard another voice, a northern Galilean voice calling ‘Come, follow Me.’ As we grieve the loss of Billy Graham, let’s thank God that in this man’s life we were able to see the gospel that is, still and forever, the power of God unto salvation.”
Adam Greenway, dean of SBTS’s Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism: “The passing of Billy Graham marks the end of an era in American Christianity. He was incredibly passionate for evangelism and he influenced every level of American life. He was also passionate about theological education and the training of the next generation of evangelists and evangelistic pastors. That’s personified by his support for the creation of the Billy Graham School at [SBTS] – the only graduate school ever allowed to carry his name. I think his greatest legacy would not only be those whom he personally impacted through his evangelistic ministry, but the scores of pastors and evangelists who have been trained to preach the same gospel that he so faithfully proclaimed.”
Jerry A. Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters: “The world has lost a great man, but those in heaven are surely rejoicing in the homecoming of this good and faithful servant. Only God knows how many are there with him because of his ministry and how many more there will be. It seems trite to say he was a giant among men, but no one could doubt the truth of this statement. For more than eight decades, Billy Graham faithfully obeyed Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature as our Lord commanded. Billy Graham loved the Lord with all of his heart and demonstrated this through his ministry. He was a trailblazer in the use of radio, television, film and other communications platforms to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. ... Billy Graham was and will remain a shining example for us all.”
Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and former president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission: “I grew up in a home with a Christian father because of Billy Graham. Dr. Graham came to Houston’s Rice Stadium for a crusade in the early 1950s. Some of the men from the local Baptist church in our neighborhood invited my father to go with them to hear Billy Graham. It was there that my father accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior and became a faithful deacon and Christian father for the rest of his life. Similar stories have been repeated literally hundreds of thousands of times across the globe. I am eternally grateful that God sent Billy Graham to us and that he answered God’s call and became the greatest messenger for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ since the Apostles.”
Jerry Drace, a former president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists and president of the Jerry Drace Evangelistic Association: “[Graham’s] standards of integrity, honesty and genuine concern for all people of all backgrounds will forever be a model for every vocational evangelist. His single message of telling others that, ‘God loves you’ and his constant reminder that, ‘The Bible says’ was the foundation of his God-anointed ministry. One one occasion I was scheduled to speak to the annual meeting of religious officials in Shenzhen, China. Rev. Graham shared with me the message which he delivered to that same group a few years before. That evening when I spoke, I brought them greetings from Rev. Billy Graham and they applauded. I knew then that everything was going to be fine. His impact will continue to live on in the lives of the thousands of evangelists throughout the world who were blessed to have come under his influence.”
From Twitter:

  • Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary: “With news of the passing of evangelist Billy Graham, I am rejoicing over his magnificent life of faithful, powerful, fruitful [g]ospel preaching & careful, intentional, consistent [g]ospel living!”
  • Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: “I’m saddened to learn of Dr. @BillyGraham’s passing. Yet rejoice that he is now in the arms of King Jesus, and for the legacy of evangelism he leaves.”
  • Bryant Wright, pastor of the Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Baptist Church and a former SBC president: “Isn’t it a fitting tribute to Billy Graham’s life that on every major news outlet that the [g]ospel of Jesus Christ is being shared over and over. Oh Lord, may Jesus and the [g]ospel be the focus as we live each day and when any of us are called to heaven one day!”
  • Jack Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church and a former SBC president: “Billy Graham never wavered and preached Jesus faithfully without apology. The cross and resurrection and the public call to decision was the focus of every sermon.”

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

2/22/2018 8:09:16 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Executive Comm considers DC convention, mission board merger

February 22 2018 by Baptist Press staff

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) has given the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC) 90 days to “secure” the “the removal of any churches from its fellowship that have demonstrated a faith or practice affirming, approving or endorsing homosexual behavior,” according to a recommendation adopted by the EC Feb. 20.
If such churches remain in friendly cooperation with the DCBC after that period, the DCBC will lose its authorization “to receive and disburse Cooperative Program and other SBC contributions,” the EC stated during its Feb. 19-20 meetings in Nashville.

Photo by Morris Abernathy
Stephen Rummage, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, presided over the EC’s Feb. 19-20 meeting in Nashville.

The EC also declined to recommend a study of merging the SBC’s two mission boards and adopted resolutions honoring retiring Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) executive director Anthony Jordan and EC vice chairman Shane Hall, who died Feb. 16.

D.C. Baptist Convention

The SBC’s relationship with the DCBC arose for discussion in light of a Washington church’s Jan. 2017 decision to call a legally-married lesbian couple as co-pastors. Efforts by EC leaders to help the DCBC deal with that church – Calvary Baptist Church – in a biblical manner proved “unfruitful” over the past year, the EC stated.
Calvary voted in 2012 to cease cooperation with the SBC.
Acting on behalf of the SBC, the EC gave the D.C. convention until May 20 to disfellowship Calvary, secure the congregation’s voluntary withdrawal from DCBC fellowship or help lead the church to repentance. If none of those scenarios materializes, the DCBC will lose immediately its authorization to receive and disburse Cooperative Program (CP) funds.
According to the latest records available, seven of the 149 churches in cooperation with the DCBC give to SBC causes. Some of that giving comes through the DCBC, and some funds are forwarded directly to the EC by churches.
EC chairman Stephen Rummage told Baptist Press (BP) the committee’s action “was a decision that there’s no doubt we needed to make, but it’s a decision we made with great sadness.”
Initially, the EC’s Bylaws Workgroup and Administrative Committee were presented with a recommendation to ask messengers at this summer’s SBC annual meeting in Dallas to end the convention’s CP relationship with the DCBC. The Bylaws Workgroup approved the recommendation without opposition. However, the Administrative Committee, after extensive discussion, defeated the recommendation with no dissenting votes and forwarded to the full EC the substitute proposal that eventually was adopted.
Joseph Lyles, pastor of Fort Foote Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md., which cooperates with the DCBC, was present at the workgroup and committee meetings. He confirmed to BP that he asked the EC for 90 additional days to secure Calvary’s repentance or removal from fellowship.
The EC, Lyles said, “was kind and considerate to try to bring about redemptive restoration. We’re trying to extend the olive branch, and I think it was received. So I was encouraged.”
Lyles, a former president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC, asked Southern Baptists to pray for a “peaceful resolution,” adding he will speak with DCBC executive director Robert Cochran, the DCBC Board of Directors and “possibly” Calvary.
EC President Frank S. Page expressed prayer and hope “the DCBC will do that which is right in the eyes of the Lord.”
While the EC doesn’t “know what will happen,” Page said, “we were asked by one of their leading pastors to give them more time to deal with this, and we have decided to do so in prayerful hopefulness.”
Cochran released to BP a statement which he said also was delivered to the Administrative Committee. According to the statement, the apostle John “warned” and “encouraged” the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, but he “never cut ties to any of these seven congregations, despite their shortcomings.”
Cochran added, “Calvary’s actions do not reflect on the D.C. Baptist Convention or any other convention in any way.”

Study of IMB-NAMB merger declined

The EC declined, with no dissenting votes, to create a committee to study the feasibility of combining the SBC’s two mission boards, opting instead to encourage the boards’ expressed desire to continue cooperating with one another.
The feasibility of merging the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB) has been repeatedly studied, the EC said, and a merger was found to be unfruitful. Instead, both boards were twice restructured after studies ending in 1994 and 2010, resulting in a combined reduction of 700 staff members since the latest restructuring, the EC said.
NAMB and IMB enjoy a productive cooperative relationship, the presidents of both entities told BP.
“I am grateful to report that the working relationship between IMB and NAMB today is strong, and we want that partnership to only increase in the days ahead,” IMB President David Platt said. “At the same time, we believe that significant differences exist between IMB and NAMB in such a way that neither organization believes it is wise to merge together.”
NAMB President Kevin Ezell expressed a similar sentiment.
“We are blessed with a great partnership with IMB and we will continue to look for ways that our two entities can work together and minimize redundancy,” Ezell told BP. “With all of the downsizing both NAMB and IMB have had in recent years, we believe continued cooperation, rather than merger, will be much more beneficial to Southern Baptists.”

Anthony Jordan honored

The EC recognized Jordan as the longest serving executive director in the BGCO’s 112-year history. During his 22-year tenure, the number of Southern Baptist churches in the state increased at least 13 percent, more than 322,000 individuals were baptized and the BGCO forwarded more than $200 million in CP receipts to the SBC, the EC said in its resolution.
Jordan’s Southern Baptist service has included pastorates in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Missouri, and several association and state convention leadership posts. He chaired the 1998 SBC Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee, which recommended the adoption of Article XVIII on the family, and is heavily decorated as a denominational servant and seminarian, according to the resolution. Soul winning, missions giving and support for the unborn have been among his advocacies.
Jordan has announced his April 15 retirement from the BGCO. The EC expressed gratitude for the work of Jordan and his wife Polla and pledged to remember them in prayer.

Shane Hall remembered

In a separate resolution, the EC expressed sincere gratitude for Hall’s life and ministry, which included seven pastorates over a span of 27 years in Oklahoma and Louisiana, culminating with his leadership of First Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.
The two-term member and vice chairman of the EC was a gifted leader and personal soul winner who served notably in many areas of Southern Baptist life, including leadership posts with the BGCO and several SBC committees, the resolution stated. He also was a featured speaker at the 2017 Pastors’ Conference preceding the SBC’s annual meeting in Phoenix.
Hall lived out his expressed desire, the EC said in its resolution, “to personally lead a life that reflects Galatians 2:20” and “to lead people to know Jesus through faith in His death and resurrection, to grow in Christ-likeness, and to show, through word and deed, their hope found in Him.”
Hall’s near four-year battle with stomach cancer evidenced “unswerving faith,” “contagious courage” and a resolve to rest in the Holy Spirit’s comfort, the resolution noted.
EC members expressed condolences to Hall’s widow Misty and daughters Maci and Mallory, and pledged to pray for the family’s comfort, provision and hope.
In other action, the EC:
– recommended SBC calendars and calendar amendments through 2022-2023.
The EC voted to recommend to the 2018 SBC annual meeting in Dallas the addition of National Day of Prayer the first Thursday in May to the SBC Calendar of Activities. A motion to change the name of Orphan Sunday to Orphans and Widows Sunday was also approved for recommendation to 2018 messengers in Dallas. The changes would be added to all future calendars and all previously approved future calendars, according to the EC’s recommendation.
The EC rejected a proposal from the 2017 SBC annual meeting to designate an annual Sunday on the SBC calendar to honor persecuted Christians. Rather, the EC will recommend to the 2018 SBC annual meeting that the convention continue to elevate the plight of persecuted Christians in published media, the public square and in prayer.
– adopted guidelines for the EC liaison to the SBC Committee on Resolutions.
– adopted a two-page resolution on corporate bank accounts and authorized signatures.
– requested that the SBC Pastors’ Conference reimburse the EC $100,000 for use of convention facilities in advance of the June 12-13 2018 SBC annual meeting in Dallas.
– approved a 2018-2019 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $194,000,000 for recommendation to the SBC.
The proposed budget maintains current allocations to the convention’s ministries, including 50.41 percent of receipts to the IMB and 22.79 percent to NAMB, for a total of 73.20 percent for world missions ministries.
The convention’s six seminaries will receive 22.16 percent. The seminary enrollment formula for funding will yield: Gateway Seminary, 2.02 percent; Midwestern Seminary, 3.23 percent; New Orleans Seminary, 3.63 percent; Southeastern Seminary, 3.90 percent; Southern Seminary, 5.26 percent; Southwestern Seminary, 3.88 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 designates 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The SBC Operating Budget, the only CP-funded facilitating ministry, encompassing SBC annual meeting costs and the work of the Executive Committee, would receive 2.99 percent of the budget.
Under the formula for distributing any overage in the CP Allocation Budget, 53.4 percent would be allocated to the IMB and 0 percent to the Executive Committee and SBC Operating Budget, with the balance distributed to the other entities according to the CP Allocation Budget.
– recommended a 2018-2019 Executive Committee and SBC Operating Budget of $7,913,638.
– elected Bill Lovell and Tom Boyd to three-year terms as Southern Baptist Foundation trustees. Lovell, from Nashville, is retired from Lovell Investments. Boyd, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., is with Decker Wealth Management and is retired from Bank of America, where he served as a senior vice president.
– authorized a 2.1 percent increase in the Executive Committee salary structure for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
Additionally, the EC was notified that Page will contract with C. Barry McCarty to serve as chief parliamentarian for this year’s annual meeting in Dallas.
The next EC meeting will be held June 11 in Dallas.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press chief national correspondent David Roach, general assignment writer/editor Diana Chandler and senior editor Art Toalston.)

2/22/2018 8:00:53 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Study shows far-reaching impact of Billy Graham

February 22 2018 by LifeWay Research staff

About 80 years after he began his ministry, Billy Graham continued to impact the faith of millions with nearly half of all Protestant churchgoers saying they have watched one of his sermons on television.

“Billy Graham was one of the greatest evangelists the Christian faith has ever known,” said LifeWay Christian Resources President and CEO Thom S. Rainer. “Throughout his life, it was obvious he wanted the focus to be not on himself but on one thing: the cross of Jesus Christ.”
A recent LifeWay Research survey found Graham’s wide-ranging ministry influenced churchgoers through a variety of means.
Two-thirds of Protestant churchgoers had some contact with Graham’s ministry, according to LifeWay Research:

– 48 percent watched a Billy Graham sermon on television.
– 18 percent listened to one of his sermons on the radio.
– 15 percent read one of his books.
– 14 percent read a Billy Graham newspaper column.
– 11 percent attended a Billy Graham crusade.
– 8 percent watched a Billy Graham sermon online.
“While Billy Graham became famous through stadium-filled crusades,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, “he actually shared the good news of Jesus Christ with more people through TV, radio and print.”
Only 4 percent of churchgoers said they “have no idea who Billy Graham is.”
In a 2010 survey of Protestant pastors, LifeWay Research found Graham to be far and away the most influential living pastor at that time.
“Billy Graham was a gifted communicator in sharing the gospel,” McConnell said. “His greatest legacy may be the number of Christians he mobilized to join him in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.”
Rainer, founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said Graham’s legacy is secure because of the focus of his ministry.
“I am saddened to hear the news of the passing of Billy Graham,” Rainer said. “The message of the gospel was at the heart of his ministry. He understood the brevity of life. And he knew, when all is said and done, our relationship with Jesus Christ is all that really matters.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.)

2/22/2018 7:50:11 AM by LifeWay Research staff | with 0 comments

BGCT: CBF decision driven by ‘biblical truth’

February 22 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The Baptist General Convention of Texas’ (BGCT) decision to stop forwarding churches’ contributions to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) reflects a commitment to the biblical view of marriage, say the convention’s president and executive director.

BGCT photo
BGCT Executive Board chairman Dennis Young presides over a Feb. 20 meeting at which the board voted to stop forwarding funds from churches to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

“I am very grateful for the consistent, steady way in which the BGCT has held to God’s Word,” BGCT President Danny Reeves said according to a news release from the convention. “We lovingly say to all people the truth that marriage is to be between one man and one woman.”
The BGCT Executive Board adopted a recommendation Feb. 20 to “remove CBF as a giving option from the BGCT gift remittance form and to encourage churches to send their CBF gifts directly to the CBF national office,” according to Texas’ Baptist Standard news journal.
The move came less than two weeks after the CBF Governing Board voted to replace its former prohibition of hiring homosexual and transgender employees with a policy that opened some positions to “Christians who identify as LGBT.”
Initially, the BGCT responded Feb. 12 with a statement reaffirming the convention’s belief “the Bible teaches that any sexual relationship outside the bounds of a marriage between a man and woman is sin.”
The BGCT Executive Board’s subsequent decision to stop forwarding gifts to the CBF received only one negative vote and was not accompanied by any discussion during the board’s general session, the Standard reported.
BGCT executive director David Hardage said following the vote, “Texas Baptists have consistently held to biblical truth on marriage and human sexuality while at the same time loving and caring for everyone,” according to the BGCT release.
Previously, the BGCT enabled each church to designate the percentage of its gifts that would be used for BGCT missions and ministries and the percentage for one of three worldwide partners: the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), BGCT Worldwide or the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The BGCT recommends that congregations designate 79 percent of their cooperative gifts for BGCT ministries and 21 percent for a worldwide partner, but the 79-21 split is not mandatory.
The CBF now will be removed from among the convention’s worldwide partners.
The CBF was founded in 1991 as a fellowship of churches that objected to the ideology and methods of the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence.
In 2017, 349 churches in cooperation with the BGCT gave approximately $1.1 million to the CBF through Texas Baptist channels – $776,981 as a cooperative giving option and $315,862 to CBF Global Missions, the Standard reported.
CBF executive coordinator Suzii Paynter, former director of the BGCT Christian Life Commission, said the Executive Board’s decision “is deeply disappointing for how it changes the cooperative method by which Texas Baptist churches support CBF,” according to a CBF news release.
At least two other SBC partner conventions forward churches’ contributions to CBF: the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) and the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC). The BGAV’s Executive Board is scheduled to meet Feb. 26.
According to a Feb. 20 action of the SBC Executive Committee, the SBC will “no longer recognize the DCBC as a Baptist body authorized to receive and disburse Cooperative Program and other SBC contributions” if the DC convention does not “secure” by May 20 “the removal of any churches from its fellowship that have demonstrated a faith or practice affirming, approving or endorsing homosexual behavior.”
The BGCT is one of two state conventions in Texas that partner with the SBC. The other Texas convention, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, does not forward gifts from churches to the CBF.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

2/22/2018 7:45:27 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastor, sports ministry share God’s love to Olympians

February 22 2018 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

Pastor. Chaplain. Olympic dog sitter.
That’s Ryan Schneider, pastor of Saranac Lake Baptist Church in upstate New York near Lake Placid. Lake Placid is home to the Olympic Training Center where elite athletes come to train as they pursue their Olympic dreams.

Submitted photo
Ryan Schneider, a Southern Baptist pastor near Lake Placid, N.Y., and representatives from the sports ministry Athletes in Action have found ways to encourage Christian athletes and share the Gospel during their time in South Korea. Schneider, left, is pictured here with U.S. bobsledder Nic Taylor in PyeongChang.

In addition to his role as the church’s pastor, Schneider ministers in a variety of ways to the athletes in Lake Placid. Because of his role there, he’s working as a chaplain at the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. His family is keeping U.S. skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender’s dog while she competes in the Olympics.
“Team USA has graciously given me passes for most of the days that I’m here, to go in and mingle with the athletes,” Schneider said. “And then they have a daily worship service for the athletes just outside of their cafeteria. So I’m partnering with that and teaching a Bible study with them when I have opportunity.”
Schneider isn’t alone in his Olympic chaplain duties. Carl Dambman and Tim Pitcher of Athletes in Action (AIA), the sports ministry of Cru, are also on-site at the Winter Olympics helping to serve athletes in whatever ways they can and encourage the Christian athletes who are competing.
“The nations gather, and it’s a place where you can share the love of God across borders because sport is an international language without borders,” Dambman said.
Schneider, his wife Molly and their children have been in the Lake Placid area for several years, first at Lake Placid Baptist Church, then since 2013 at nearby Saranac Lake Baptist Church. Both churches are Southern Baptist congregations.
He teaches a weekly Bible study at the Olympic Training Center, where he has gotten to know a number of Olympic athletes well. His church, and some other churches that partner with them, help to provide housing for the athletes staying in Lake Placid on either a short-term or long-term basis. Though housing is available at the training center, many athletes prefer living with families.
In South Korea, Schneider is able to meet up with several of the Olympians he knows from Lake Placid. He understands the challenges they face and their unique needs as athletes. For example, athletes are ingrained with a performance-based mentality in practically every aspect of their lives. They are watched by a coach and by others around them. They are watched at the starting house (for sliding athletes) and when they get off the track.
Everything they do, Schneider said, is based on their performance or lack thereof. Then he gets to teach them that the gospel is the exact opposite of that – that they can’t get to heaven on their own, and they can’t live a Christ-centered life without a desperate reliance upon the gospel.
He remembers one athlete a few years ago who the Bible study group had prayed for regularly – for four weeks in a row. Then one night, she showed up at Bible study and asked Schneider a question.
“I know where I’m at, and I know where God is at,” she said. “And I don’t know how to bridge that gap.”
“I mean, it was like throwing a pastor a softball pitch,” Schneider said. “There’s always that drawing work of the Holy Spirit that we see in people’s lives that’s evidence. And so, it’s figuring out when to speak and when to not speak into that.”
Pitcher and Dambman spent much of their time in South Korea visiting with Olympians at the athletes’ village, where most of the athletes stay during the Olympics. They met Kenyan skier Sabrina Simader, the only athlete from her country at the Olympics, and found out that she needed a lot of help with her living arrangements since she was living in an apartment away from the village.
The AIA representatives helped Simader get pots and pans, groceries, an extra bed and other items to make her stay in South Korea more comfortable.
“We have become part of team Kenya,” Pitcher said.
Dambman, a former Olympic wrestler, and Pitcher typically hang out in the dining hall at the village and engage with the athletes and coaches as they come through. AIA has a sports Bible in Russian, English, Korean and Chinese, so they distribute those to anyone who wants one.
“Carl is like the mayor of the village here,” Pitcher said. “Everyone knows him, and him speaking Russian and German and a couple other languages, he is always engaging in conversations in the dining hall with people who are amazed that he knows the language or he knows people that they know.”
Dambman and Pitcher also help lead chapel services at the village. Sometimes athletes will come to chapel because it’s a good luck charm, Pitcher said, and something they think they should do right before they compete.
“So hopefully we are going to give them a Bible, give them resources to further explore, and as the conversation goes, potentially they will hear the gospel as well.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is a sports correspondent for Baptist Press and associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. He is covering the Winter Olympics in South Korea for Baptist Press, previously having covered four Olympics – 2008 in Beijing, 2010 in Vancouver, 2012 in London and 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.)

2/22/2018 7:29:15 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

World renowned evangelist Billy Graham dies

February 21 2018 by BR Staff

(Updated Feb. 22, 11 a.m.)

Longtime evangelist Billy Graham died early this morning (Feb. 21) of natural causes, according to a spokesman representing the Graham family. He was 99 years old. As a Southern Baptist and North Carolina native, Graham was well-known for spreading the gospel to millions of people around the world through itinerant preaching and evangelistic crusades.

BGEA photo
William "Billy" F. Graham

"My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ," said Graham, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) website.

Graham has reportedly preached the gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history – nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories – through various meetings, including Mission World and Global Mission. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film, and webcasts.

'A titanic figure'

Milton Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said, "Although it is natural to be saddened when hearing that evangelist Billy Graham has died, I also rejoice that he is now in the presence of the Lord he loved and served throughout his life.

"Numerous times Mr. Graham stated that he was anxious to go to heaven. God raised up Billy Graham for a specific time and purpose in history and empowered him to proclaim God's Word all over the world. Billy Graham believed that his primary purpose in life was to help people come to a personal relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am thankful that he was always true and faithful to this calling of God upon his life and ministry."

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), said, "An epic era of evangelical history has come to an end.

"Billy Graham was not only a titanic figure in evangelicalism, but in world history and perhaps represents the last of a kind. He dominated 20th century American evangelicalism and remained a major figure on the world stage throughout most of the 20th century in a way that we can envision no evangelical leader in our times."

SBTS established "The Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry" in 1993 at Mohler's inauguration, at which Graham spoke. It is the only graduate school the famed evangelist granted permission to use his name.

Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, said he is "deeply saddened" to hear of Graham's death.

"He was a friend, a colleague, and mentor to me," said Rainer, "and I will miss him dearly."

A legacy of faithfulness

Born Nov. 7, 1918, four days before World War I ended, Graham was raised on a dairy farm in Charlotte, N.C.

In the fall of 1934, at age 15, Graham became a Christian through the ministry of Mordecai Ham, a traveling evangelist, who visited Charlotte for a series of revival meetings.

Ordained in 1939 by a church in the Southern Baptist Convention, Graham was educated at the Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College in Florida). In 1943 he graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois and married fellow student Ruth McCue Bell, daughter of a missionary surgeon, who spent the first 17 years of her life in China.

After graduating from college, Graham pastored in Illinois at The Village Church of Western Springs (now Western Springs Baptist Church), while becoming the first full-time evangelist for Youth for Christ, an organization founded for ministry to youth and servicemen during World War II. 

He preached throughout the United States and in Europe in the immediate post war era, emerging as a rising young evangelist.

The Los Angeles Crusade in 1949 launched Mr. Graham into international prominence. Scheduled for three weeks, the meetings were extended to more than eight weeks, with overflow crowds filling a tent erected downtown each night.

Graham founded the BGEA in 1950, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., until relocating to Charlotte, N.C., in 2003. 

He has written 31 books, many of which have become best sellers. His autobiography Just As I Am, published in 1997, achieved a "triple crown," appearing simultaneously on the three top best-seller lists in one week.

Graham's counsel has been sought by several presidents, and his appeal in both the secular and religious arenas is evidenced by the wide range of groups that have honored him, including numerous honorary doctorates from many institutions in the U.S. and abroad.

Graham was preceded in death by his wife of nearly 64 years, Ruth Bell Graham, in June of 2007. Together they had three daughters, two sons, 19 grandchildren and numerous great grandchildren. At his death, Graham lived in their home in the mountains of North Carolina.

Memorial services

Graham's body will be transported from Morris Funeral Home in Asheville, N.C., to the BGEA headquarters in Charlotte on Feb. 24. An arrival ceremony will take place around 3 p.m. at the Billy Graham Library.

His body will lie in repose in a closed casket Feb. 26-27 from 8 a.m. till 10 p.m. at the Graham family's home place, where it will be available for public viewing.

He will then be transported to the United States Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., to lie in honor Feb. 28-March 1 for members of the public and Capitol Hill community to pay their respects, according to House Speaker Paul Ryan's press office. Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will participate in a bicameral service in Graham's honor.

A private funeral service will be held March 2 in a tent in the parking lot of the Billy Graham Library. Graham's son, Franklin, will deliver a message for the ceremony, accompanied by remarks from other family members. A tent was chosen as the venue for the event in honor of the renowned Los Angeles "Canvas Cathedral" revival in 1949. 

A private interment service will follow the funeral, conducted by Donald Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., and David Bruce, Graham's executive assistant.

Graham has been a member of First Baptist Spartanburg since 2008 and was regularly visited by Wilton.

The Billy Graham Library will be closed through March 5.

2/21/2018 8:32:35 AM by BR Staff | with 0 comments

Page: Churches & stewardship key to SBC honoring God

February 21 2018 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

God wants “everything we do to bring Him glory,” Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee (EC), noted.
The church must be a focal point where God’s glory is evident, Page stated during the opening session of the EC’s Feb. 19-20 meeting in Nashville.

Photo by Morris Abernathy
The church must be a focal point where God’s glory is evident, Frank S. Page, president of the Executive Committee, stated during the opening session of the EC’s Feb. 19-20 meeting in Nashville.

Page read two verses from the apostle Paul in scripture, Ephesians 3:20-21, to open his message:
Now to him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (NKJV).
Page said the passage speaks of “an immeasurably generous God” but, he pointed out, “Interestingly, he [Paul] says that glory will be found in the church.
“Isn’t it always good to know that the great things that really happen, happen in the local church,” Page said. “That’s why we say we are a top-down convention – and the top is the local church.”

Mission & vision

The church, Page said, can bring glory to God by focusing “on the mission to which God has called us,” one that is “very clear” – the “Great Commission mission that is given to us that is not yet complete.”
“[W]e must pull together to see that accomplished,” Page said, adding that when it is “centrally focused,” there won’t be time for “division where there shouldn’t be division.”
“The cause is greater than our differences,” he said.
Likewise, the church can bring glory to God by holding to “the vision to which He has called us,” Page said. “I wake up every day and say, ‘God, what can we do as an Executive Committee, as a convention that would enable every man, woman, boy and girl on the face of this earth to get to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus?’
“... [T]hat’s what we’re here for. It’s not about budgets, it’s not about bylaws,” Page said, reiterating, “It’s about seeing every man, woman, boy and girl have a chance to hear the gospel.”
Stewardship, Page stated, is a key means of fulfilling the mission and vision.
“If we do not get the issue of stewardship correct, the work to which God is calling us will be short-circuited,” Page said. “The issue of stewardship cannot be overestimated.”

Individuals & churches

Personal stewardship is “where it must start. In fact, we have much ground to regain,” Page said. “In 2003, 70 percent of all households gave to charity. In 2015, that had decreased to 65 percent.”
Page said the Executive Committee has been working with state Baptist conventions “to get great resources to our churches so that we might encourage people to raise up the level of Christian stewardship.”
During the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix, Page reported last year on an all-new “It’s a New Day for Financial Freedom” free six-week study for small groups and individuals at the EC’s talkCP website under the Stewardship tab. Also at the talkCP website is information about Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and a discount available to churches.
Many churches are well aware of the decline in philanthropic giving and “often have to sacrifice to do that which they do,” Page said.
“We fully realize they are under great pressure in the 21st century to fund a number of initiatives,” including “their stewardship in collaborative ministry by giving through the Cooperative Program” to support Southern Baptists’ state, national and international missions and ministry.
Page projected that the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program Allocation Budget will rise to $194 million during the coming fiscal year. “We’re thankful to the Lord for that,” he said, yet, “Even with that success we still have issues. Average Cooperative Program giving has declined not too many years ago from 11.3 percent down to 5.16 percent of giving on the part of the average Southern Baptist church.
“[L]ess than 2,000 churches in our convention give 50 percent of all Cooperative Program receipts,” Page said. “Almost 7,000 churches give 80 percent of Cooperative Program. We have a long way to go.”
The need for churches “to be sacrificial in their stewardship” is a regular point of emphasis, Page said. “We talk about it with every ethnic group, every age group, every subset of persons within our convention. We’ve developed advisory councils. We seek to deepen the understanding of this wonderful collaborative ministry.”

SBC & its entities

Within the SBC’s entities, Page said, continuous attention must be given “to be diligent, efficient and effective in the stewardship of the dollars God has given us though individuals, churches and state conventions.” Entity leaders, he said, are “constantly encouraging one another to do the most we can with what we have.”
The Executive Committee, for example, has twice reduced its percentage of the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget along with its percentage of any budget overage, Page recounted.
Page reported that the Executive Committee has begun working with Jonathan Gray of the Georgia Baptist Foundation as the EC’s national stewardship catalyst. Gray is the Georgia foundation’s president and CEO and a former executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation.
“We’re excited about the future,” Page said. “Over the past 90-plus years since the Cooperative Program started, a little over $6.9 billion has been given to missions and ministries on the national level. That includes $3.4 billion to the International Mission Board, over $1.6 billion to the North American Mission Board and over $1.5 billion to theological education.
“We’re thankful for all that God has done,” Page said. “Why? We want to bring glory to Him.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press.)

2/21/2018 8:20:04 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Parents lose custody of transgender teen

February 21 2018 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD Digital

An Ohio couple on Feb. 16 lost permanent custody of their teenage daughter because they didn’t want her to undergo sex-change treatment.
Cincinnati-area Juvenile Court Judge Sylvia Hendon removed the girl from her parents’ custody and turned her over to her maternal grandparents, who support the 17-year-old’s desire to identify as a boy. The teen moved in with her grandparents early last year.
The names of the girl and her parents and grandparents are sealed by court order.
The girl was first hospitalized in 2016 and diagnosed with gender dysphoria, depression and an anxiety disorder. The gender clinic at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center recommended hormone therapy treatment, but the parents refused, saying they did not think it was in their child’s best interest and instead wanted to pursue Christian counseling to “get to the underlying causes” of their daughter’s desire to become a boy, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
In November 2016, the girl contacted a crisis chat service and reported suicidal thoughts because of her parents’ opposition to a gender change. Hamilton County Job and Family Services took temporary custody of the girl, placing her with her grandparents.
During the closing arguments in Hamilton County Juvenile Court at the end of January, the medical team from the hospital’s gender clinic said removing the girl from the custody of her parents was “a possible life-or-death situation” due to the severity of her depression, according to CNN. The team said the girl has been improving since living with her grandparents due to therapy, and that hormone treatment was the only option to decrease the risk of suicide.
“What we want to do in the coming months around May is plan for a high school graduation,” said Jeffrey Cutcher, the grandparents’ attorney. “We don’t want to be planning for a funeral.”
The county prosecutor and attorneys for the girl and the grandparents contended that anything other than full openness to hormone therapy and gender transition would deny the girl appropriate medical care. A pediatrician featured in CNN’s coverage of the case compared it to parents refusing to give their asthmatic child an inhaler.
But that is unscientific, according to Michelle Cretella, the president of the American College of Pediatricians.
“A child suffering from gender dysphoria has a fixed belief contrary to physical reality. This is a delusion,” Cretella told The Christian Post, noting there is no long-term evidence to show that encouraging a child’s gender transition prevents suicide, and “it is more likely that whatever has caused the child’s depression and suicidal thoughts is also triggering the gender dysphoria.”
Cretella added, “Since there are no long-term studies regarding the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones in young children and teens, this entire enterprise is, by definition, an experiment upon a minor – and a dangerous one at that, given the lifelong, permanent side effects.”
A report released last year pointed to the significant, long-term physical and psychological risks associated with hormone treatment in minors, including the inability to transition back, permanent sterilization, heart disease and cancer.
Before the Feb. 16 decision, Cretella said a ruling in favor of the “ideologically driven gender clinic” would be a tremendous hit to “the ability of all parents to protect their children of any age from all aspects of this social and medical experiment.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD Digital, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

2/21/2018 8:15:55 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD Digital | with 0 comments

Florida church finding a way forward after school shooting

February 21 2018 by Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Convention

As church families gathered around the nation on Feb. 18, many congregations prayed for those affected by the mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., last week.

Screen capture from YouTube
Anyone involved in law enforcement in the Coral Springs/Broward County (Fla.) area was invited to the stage during the Sunday morning service at Church by the Glades Feb. 18. Pastor David Hughes, far right, said “we need to always respect you for what you do.”

Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, had asked that Southern Baptists take time during worship to pray for the families impacted by the tragedy that took the lives of 17 staff and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.
“Our prayer is for God to grant comfort, mercy, and peace to these families,” he said.
And that’s exactly what appeared to happen at Church by the Glades in Coral Springs, located about 10 minutes away from the school. The congregation has been particularly hard hit by the tragedy.
Abe Matos, who serves as student pastor there, said Sunday’s worship service was powerful. “Something powerful happens when we don’t know why something occurred but we worship anyway,” he said.
Matos estimates that hundreds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students attend Church by the Glades. Five members of his congregation were either injured or killed in the attack.
As victims’ names were released, the leadership at the church wasted no time making phone calls and hospital visits to anyone connected to their congregation. Matos said staff leaders are showing up to any public event in their immediate area connected to the shootings. They are also trying to attend every viewing, whether or not they knew the victim personally. In doing so, they hope to not only minister to a grieving family, but also other grieving students.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re Jewish or Mormon,” Matos said. “We’re showing up everywhere and anywhere in hopes of recognizing someone and ministering to them right then and there.”
Billy Young, Next Generation Ministries Catalyst for the Florida convention, said being there to love and listen is the most important thing they can do for students after a tragedy.
In the coming days, as students continue to process the shooting and the losses they’ve suffered, Matos wants students to know that Church by the Glades is a safe place for them to gather with classmates and friends to mourn and support each other. He hopes students will see it as a part of their personal healing.
“If that’s the only coping mechanism we give them – that when something bad happens, you run to God’s house – we have equipped them for a lifetime,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nicole Kalil writes for the Florida Baptist Convention.)

2/21/2018 8:10:44 AM by Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments

‘In the Lord we have protection,’ Gaines tells EC

February 21 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

God protects Christians facing contemporary turmoil and troubles just as He protected the apostle Paul in the first century, Southern Baptist Convention President (SBC) Steve Gaines said in his address to the SBC Executive Committee (EC) Feb. 19 in Nashville.

Photo by Morris Abernathy
God protects Christians facing contemporary turmoil and troubles just as He protected the apostle Paul in the first century, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines said in his address to the SBC Executive Committee Feb. 19 in Nashville.

Just months ago in November 2017, a gunman slaughtered 26 people attending worship service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on the heels of an October massacre that killed 58 concertgoers and injured 500 more at an outdoor venue in Las Vegas. Most recently, a teenage student who had been expelled from a Florida high school returned, killed 17 students and teachers, and wounded 14 others, although Gaines didn’t mention any specific tragedies.
“In light of everything that has happened and is happening in our nation and our world, you have to ask yourself does God really protect people,” Gaines said. “Well He does, but how does that work?”
Gaines’ sermon during the first plenary session of the SBC EC meeting mainly stayed in Acts 23, where God encouraged Paul and protected him from certain death at the hands of a mob of more than 40 soldiers who objected to his ministry.
“I believe that in the Lord, we have protection,” said Gaines, noting that Christians will still experience troubles and tragedy. “In no way am I saying if you’re a Christian you’ll never experience persecution. But I want to give you a word of promise from the scripture: If you’re living for Jesus Christ, if you love the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s not over on this earth until God says it’s over.”
God protects Christians from past sinful deeds, from psychological discouragement and from physical danger until an appointed time for the human body to perish, Gaines said in expounding on the text. He encouraged Southern Baptists to repent of their sins, use the power of the Holy Spirit and walk courageously in God’s presence.
God’s protection displayed in Acts 23 was so vital that Jesus Himself stood at Paul’s side, Gaines said, referencing Acts 23:11.
“It was so important Jesus came, and there are some times you need Jesus,” Gaines said. “How many of you would like the Lord to stand at your side?”
Be encouraged by God’s protection, Gaines said, and actively resist the devil.
“Now some people choke on those last three words, ‘resist the devil,’” said Gaines, noting that “resist” does not mean to ignore. “But it’s in the Bible, so would you please say it with me? ‘Resist the devil.’”
Pastors who are not being harassed by Satan can be assured that people in their congregations are suffering, Gaines said, because the devil bothers Christians.
“We’ve got an arsenal of weapons” to use in resisting Satan, Gaines said, “not to mention the whole armor of God.”
Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., has been preaching through the book of Acts, and plans to complete the series in April, he told the EC. Joining the EC at the meeting were various SBC entity leaders and spouses, state convention leaders, EC staff members and others.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

2/21/2018 8:05:17 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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