January 2014

Evolution: Plenty of people believe, but at what cost?

January 6 2014 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe in human evolution and one-third reject the idea, according to a Pew Research Center study highlighting a battle of worldviews with implications for multiple facets of life.
Sixty percent of those surveyed said “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while 33 percent said “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time,” Pew reported Dec. 30.
About half of those who reported a belief in human evolution said it’s “due to natural processes such as natural selection” while 24 percent said “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.”
Pew’s study contrasts with a Gallup poll from 2012 that found 46 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. In that poll, about a third of Americans said they believe humans evolved but with God’s guidance, while 15 percent said God had no part in the process.
Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture told Baptist Press the Pew data could be analyzed to mean 57 percent of Americans hold a view compatible with Intelligent Design, that the universe is the product of intelligence rather than blind chance.
“If you define evolution as mere ‘change over time,’ then sure, most Americans (about 60 percent) believe humans have ‘evolved,’” Luskin said.  “But if you further define evolution as ‘unguided natural selection,’ then apparently only about a third of Americans agree with that type of evolution.
“If we interpret the poll correctly, well over half of Americans – at least 57 percent – take a view that fits within Intelligent Design and don’t support Darwinism,” Luskin said.
Ken Ham, president and founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum, which are grounded in the belief that God created the world in seven literal days and that the earth and universe are thousands – not billions – of years old, told Baptist Press the way Pew phrased the questions determined how people answered and even he would have said living things have not existed in their present form since the beginning of time.
“I believe there have been a lot of changes in animals because there has been a lot of speciation within a kind,” Ham said. But overall, he is encouraged that the study indicates that a strong number of people have not been persuaded by the human evolution theories.
“In a culture where generations of kids are being taken through a public education system where there’s been legislation to protect them from even hearing about creation and to teach them evolution as fact – that we still have a third of the population who would stand basically very similar to where we stand, I think that shows there’s been a significant influence in this culture to teach people about,” Ham said.
The cultural impact of creation ministries such as Answers in Genesis, Ham said, can be seen in such statistics as more than 1 million people per month visiting the AiG website, 2 million people who have visited the Creation Museum near Cincinnati, and multiple millions who have encountered literature supporting creation.
The Pew study, though, does reflect that evolution is pushed overwhelmingly in the education system, Ham said, and a significant number of people believe God used evolution to create the world.
“I think part of that reflects on the church,” Ham said, noting, “The research we’ve done also shows the majority of our seminary professors, Christian academics, would allow for evolution and/or  millions of years, and that has influenced a lot of people.”
To change Americans’ views on creation and evolution going forward, Ham cited two needs: to educate children and to reach the church. Secularists, he said, have learned that the key is to capture the minds of children by teaching evolution in schools, and creationists need to be similarly involved.
Toward that end, this year the Creation Museum is offering free admission to children 12 and younger, and Answers in Genesis is producing apologetics curricula to address the origin of the earth and man.
Also, the Creation Museum is hosting a debate Feb. 4 between Ham and Bill Nye The Science Guy,” the former host of a popular science television show for youths. In an online video last year, Nye said teaching creationism was bad for children, and the video was viewed nearly 6 million times on YouTube, the Associated Press reported.
Ham continued, “We need to be reaching the church because I believe the state of the nation reflects the state of the church. Because we know that so many Christian leaders don’t take a stand on Genesis as they should and are being influenced to believe in evolution – millions of years and so on – we have a big emphasis in this ministry to reach Christian leaders, to reach churches.
“We’re finding more and more the average person in church wants to believe God’s Word but hasn’t been instructed how to and doesn’t know how to defend their faith, and they really love our ministry and then put pressure on their pastors and other Christian leaders and colleges concerning these issues,” Ham said. “There’s a problem from the leadership down and we need to address it.”

How an origins view impacts life

Whether a person embraces evolution or creation has implications for all of life, Ham said, because an atheistic evolutionist rejects God as the absolute authority and determiner of right and wrong, good and bad. Morality then is relative.
“In the Book of Judges it says when they had no king, no absolute authority to tell them what to do, they all did what was right in their own eyes,” Ham said.
Secularists try to portray creationists as blaming gay marriage, abortion and other social ills on the teaching of evolution, Ham said, but “we don’t blame those things on evolution.”
Sin is the cause of those problems, Ham said, but there is a connection with the teaching of evolution. If generations of students are taught that life is the result of natural processes, he said, then the value of life is reduced, leading to weakened views on abortion, suicide and even euthanasia.
“Marriage? Why should marriage be a man and a woman? That comes from the Bible,” Ham said. “Why should it even be two? That comes from the Bible. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to do whatever they want to do? We even see that. There have been articles recently about what they call polyamory where men and women get together and have whatever relationships they want. Why not polygamy?”
But if a person believes the creation account in the Bible and believes the Bible is the absolute authority, then God determines right and wrong, Ham said. Jesus, when asked about marriage, squarely referred to Genesis 1 and 2.
“It will also mean that when sperm fertilizes an egg that’s when human life begins and abortion would be killing a human being,” Ham said. “To go and deliberately kill a baby by abortion would be murder. So there are incredible implications and consequences for what you believe in regard to the creation/evolution issue.”
One of the most important implications of people’s views on evolution versus creation, Ham said, surrounds the issue of death. When tragedies happen and people wonder how a loving God could exist amid death and suffering, their origins beliefs are relevant.
“If you take God’s Word as written in Genesis, death is a result of sin.... It’s not God’s fault, it’s our fault,” Ham said.

A basic battle of worldviews

The Pew study is another argument for the need for Christians to take a strong stand on the absolute authority of the Word of God, Ham said.
“Really what’s going on in our culture is a battle of worldviews. It’s two worldviews really. It’s a worldview built on God’s Word versus a worldview built on man’s word,” Ham said. “It’s really a battle between two authorities. Who is the authority? It goes back to Genesis 3 in the Bible: ‘Did God really say?’
“The first attack was on the Word of God, and it has always been a battle between who is the authority. Is it God’s Word or is it man who determines truth?” Ham said. “That’s the battle we’re seeing before us: God’s Word/man’s word.
“The Bible says men love darkness rather than light and there’s a broad way and a narrow way, so I’m not shocked to see that it’s a minority that would take a similar stand that we do,” Ham said.
Mark Coppenger, professor of apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said while religious liberalism has “embraced Darwinism from the start and has ridden it down into spiritual feebleness,” he’s pleased that the Pew study shows many have refused to abandon a biblical worldview.
“It’s gratifying to see so many people refusing to toss aside the prima facie Genesis account for a theory whose absurdity becomes more evident with each passing year,” Coppenger told Baptist Press.
“Perhaps the evolution skeptics ... doubt that the math will work out, even if you grant the Darwinists the gazillions of years they claim,” Coppenger said. “Maybe they’re leery of a story that gives so much aid and comfort to atheists. Maybe they’ve read the strong work of Philip Johnson and Michael Behe or picked up on the AiG museum or Grand Canyon tour.
“Maybe they’ve figured that science, by its very nature, is incompetent to pontificate on utterly non-repeatable, far-distant occurrences, such as the origin of earth and man,” Coppenger said. “Perhaps they find assurances that science and religion don’t conflict when they read of miracles in the Bible. It could be any number of things.”
Rob Phillips, an apologetics leader for the Missouri Baptist Convention, said the beliefs expressed in the Pew study have implications for daily life because if evolution is true, life ultimately is meaningless.
“Your life might have some temporal significance with respect to how you impact other people’s lives or alter the course of history, but death remains our common destiny,” Phillips told Baptist Press. 
“If creation is true, however, life is not only meaningful but everlasting. We are created in the image of God, for a relationship with God, and with the divine purpose of knowing our Creator and living with Him beyond the grave,” Phillips said. “Death is no longer our destiny but a defeated enemy.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. With reporting by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston. To read the Pew Research Center study, visit www.pewresearch.org. For more information on the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, visit www.answersingenesis.org.)
1/6/2014 11:24:08 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

BP’s most-read stories of 2013

January 3 2014 by Baptist Press staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In a year filled with headlines about healthcare, national debt, same-sex marriage and a slew of international challenges, a story about a hip-hop artist was the most-read article of 2013 on Baptist Press’ website.
Google Analytics, which tracks web traffic, also showed a story posted in March about Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and his Christian faith, and another article on the controversy that followed Exodus International’s decision to close its doors after decades of helping people overcome homosexual behavior, made the Top 10.
The following Top 10 list for 2013 includes a brief description with each headline.

BP most read stories


Photo courtesy Baptist Press

  1. Lecrae speaks of hip-hop’s relevance.” In July, Baptist Press posted a story about an interview involving Lecrae Moore, hip-hop artist, ministry leader, producer and actor, that was led by Eric Geiger, LifeWay’s vice president of church resources. During the discussion, presented on The Exchange webcast of LifeWay, LeCrae described hip hop as “the new pop music,” and the artists as “modern-day philosophers.” LeCrae lives in Atlanta with his wife and their three children. He has released three studio albums and two remix albums as the leader of the rap group 116 Clique. He has received a Grammy Award and two Dove Awards. He also won 2010 Best Hip-hop Music Video from the GMC Music Video Awards. He also has appeared as an artist at Passion conferences led by Louie Giglio.
  2. THE GIGLIO IMBROGLIO – The public inauguration of a new Moral McCarthyism.” Baptist Press reposted a column in January that was written by R. Albert Mohler Jr., and originally posted on his website, about Louie Giglio withdrawing from giving the benediction during President Obama’s second inaugural ceremony. Giglio withdrew after statements that he made regarding homosexuality being a sin nearly 20 years ago surfaced in the mainstream media. Among his comments, Giglio said the “only way out of a homosexual lifestyle ... is through the healing power of Jesus.” In his article, Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the situation “revealing.” He noted during the Joseph McCarthy hearings in 1954 witnesses were asked, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” Mohler wrote, “We now see the new Moral McCarthyism in its undisguised and unvarnished reality.... There is nowhere to hide.”
  3. Max Lucado transcends Church of Christ beliefs.” Baptist Press ran a story in May that featured an interview with Max Lucado, author of more than 50 books and pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio. During the interview, Lucado addressed his church’s heritage and decision to change its name from Oak Hills Church of Christ to simply Oak Hills Church. He explained his views on baptism and what he learned about salvation as a missionary in Brazil.
  4. Duck Dynasty’s’ commander talks faith.” Months before Phil Robertson’s biblical views on homosexuality stirred up a media circus, Baptist Press posted a story about the family patriarch’s faith in March. Robertson discussed his book “Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander.” He also shared how he went from a “sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle” in his late 20s to become a follower of Christ and eventually a television star.
  5. Syria Christians face ‘ethno-religious cleansing.’” In June, Baptist Press ran a story on Syrian Christians being caught in the conflict between President Bashar-Assad’s forces and rebel fighters. The United Nations reported more than 93,000 people had died and 1.6 million Syrians had fled the country. More Christians have fled Syria than any other religious or ethnic group, according to a report by Open Doors International, an organization that supports the persecuted church.
  6. Andy Stanley’s stance on homosexuality questioned.” In May, Baptist Press posted a story on megachurch pastor Andy Stanley and the controversy around an April 15 sermon illustration he gave that involved a husband who left his wife to pursue a homosexual relationship. Stanley labeled the man’s new relationship as adultery, but he stopped short of calling homosexuality sin. The story became a hot topic in the blogosphere weeks later after Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. wrote about Stanley’s sermon being problematic because it seemed to suggest adultery is sin but that homosexuality is biblically acceptable.
  7. Calvinism committee issues report, urges SBC to ‘stand together’ for Great Commission.” A 19-member advisory committee on Calvinism issued its report in May to Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page. The report acknowledged tension and disagreement within the denomination on the issue of Calvinism while urging Southern Baptists to “grant one another liberty” and “stand together” for the Great Commission. The advisory team – not an official committee of the convention – was assembled by Page in August 2012 to advise him on developing “a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism.”
  8. Henry Blackaby to undergo heart surgery.” Southern Baptist Bible teacher Henry Blackaby underwent successful heart bypass surgery in September after suffering a heart attack while driving in Atlanta and became confused. He traveled for 29 hours before police found him Sept. 20 in Tifton, Ga., about 150 miles southeast of his home. Blackaby was on his way to pick up his wife Marilynn from an appointment when he suffered the heart attack, according to the statement posted on the Blackaby Ministries International website.
  9. Attorney: Church bylaws should define marriage.” In February, with the U.S. Supreme Court set to take up gay marriage that summer, an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom encouraged churches that host wedding ceremonies or other events for traditional couples to examine their bylaws and shield themselves from the impact of possible litigation. In June, the Supreme Court went on to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, and allowed to stand a federal judge’s invalidation of a California amendment that limited marriage to heterosexual couples. While the rulings stopped short of legalizing gay marriage nationwide, same-sex marriage is now legal in a third of the country.
  10. Exodus Int’l closes after Chambers’ apology.” In June, Exodus International, a decades-old ministry that has helped people overcome homosexual behavior, announced it was closing down. This announcement came the same day its president, Alan Chambers, issued a public apology to people who have been hurt by the organization. Chambers alluded to the development of a new ministry to “reduce fear.” Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the folding of Exodus International “doesn’t mean the folding of an evangelical sexual ethic, though it does mean a move away from a therapeutic model of sexual sanctification.” Moore added, “Evangelical Christianity increasingly addresses sexual issues more in line with the older Christian tradition of sin and temptation and triumph than with the language of therapy. We can’t have a utopian view of overcoming temptation of any sort.”
Other widely reported events in 2013 revolved around the issue of mental health. In April, well-known SBC pastor and author Rick Warren lost his son Matthew to suicide. Then in June, SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page released a book titled “Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide” about his own daughter’s death in 2009. The two events sparked a national conversation among Christians regarding the best ways to minister to those struggling with mental illness and their loved ones. In June, SBC messengers adopted a resolution calling on Southern Baptists to fight the “stigmatization and prejudice” of those with mental health concerns and to “love and minister to” them.
1/3/2014 3:29:48 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

SEBTS graduate Chad Barefoot: youngest senator in NC

January 3 2014 by Ali Dixon, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Chad Barefoot is currently serving his first term in the N.C. Senate as its youngest member. He represents Wake and Franklin counties in the 18th Senate District, including the neighborhood where his parents grew up.
Barefoot is a recent graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, N.C. with a Master of Arts in Christian Ethics. Prior to attending SEBTS, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in public management from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.

Chad Barefoot

Mentors, past job experiences and family values have prepared Barefoot for his current role in politics. He has worked as a policy advisor to the North Carolina House Majority Leader and serves on numerous boards and committees that relate to education, health and the family.
Barefoot’s parents work for the Baptist Children’s Home of North Carolina. He grew up in a Baptist church and continues his father’s legacy of service by speaking to Triangle churches about its annual Thanksgiving offering for children and families in need.
“How amazing is it that Baptists in this state, collectively, have taken care of the needs of young children for over 125 years. What started out as an orphanage now looks to rebuild broken families,” he said. “Baptists provide physical and emotional shelters for children but also tell them about Jesus. The focus is to find them an eternal home.”
Initially, Barefoot had ambitions of attending law school, but decided to pursue a different educational path of preparation. “After prayerful consideration I realized that what the state [of North Carolina] needed was leaders who were well-grounded in understanding the difference between right and wrong,” Barefoot said.
“I had a few friends in the SEBTS ethics program and our conversations helped me pursue that path,” he said. “Looking back, my experience at SEBTS served as a much more important preparation for political life than going to law school. I came to SEBTS believing in Christ but unsure and confused about the answers to many important ethical issues. I knew that I needed to be more than someone who just knew what the laws were.”
At Southeastern, Barefoot had the opportunity to study under all three ethics professors. “David Jones, Dan Heimbach and Mark Liederbach each brought different perspectives and styles of teaching into the classroom,” Barefoot said. “I really appreciated all three of them. My favorite class was law, religion and morality with Dr. Heimbach because it touched on the three academic areas that I am most interested in at once.
“SEBTS provided a place for me to pursue my academic interests and helped me to develop and mature in my personal character and worldview. This training allowed me to cultivate a deeper biblical, theological and historical understanding of good and evil and how it is applied in the world today,” he said. “However, I did not have a particular view forced upon me. Southeastern challenged me to think more critically than any other school in my life.”
Barefoot expressed his gratitude for his time of preparation at SEBTS and to the Southeastern family for their continued support and encouragement. “It really helps to have people praying for us,” he said. “Staying connected to the family of faith helps prepare you for the challenges you will face.”
One of Barefoot’s greatest role models is Paul “Skip” Stam, a N.C. House of Representative from Wake County. Barefoot worked for Stam before becoming a Senator. “He is the smartest person I know,” Barefoot said. Through this relationship, Barefoot was introduced to his wife while they were both legislative interns.
Barefoot extended an invitation to Southeastern students to reach out to him. “My door is always open to SEBTS students,” Barefoot said. “One piece of advice I have is to prayerfully consider how the Lord wants to use you and be open to the fact that He may take you to unusual places. I would feel more comfortable as a youth group leader or a missionary in Africa than as a Senator.
“The Lord has blessed us with a country where we govern ourselves,” Barefoot said. “Christ’s eternal work on the cross is the perfect example of justice and mercy, so why should we not be involved in a nation that is desperate for both?”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ali Dixon is Southeastern’s News and Information Specialist.)
1/3/2014 3:23:32 PM by Ali Dixon, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary | with 1 comments

High court intervenes on HHS mandate

January 3 2014 by Baptist Press staff

WASHINGTON – A U.S. Supreme Court justice granted an order of Roman Catholic nuns a last-minute reprieve from the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate, providing foes of the requirement another in an overwhelming series of wins.
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction Dec. 31 to the Little Sisters of the Poor in Denver and other Catholic organizations. The injunction prevents the federal government from enforcing the controversial mandate for the time being. Sotomayor, who handles emergency applications from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, gave the Obama administration until Jan. 3 to respond to her order.
The injunction, issued the day before the mandate was to go into effect for the Catholic organizations, brought to 19 the number of injunctions granted to nonprofit groups that have challenged the mandate in court, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. An injunction has been denied in only one suit brought by a nonprofit.
Sotomayor’s order followed by only four days a victory in a Houston federal court for two Baptist universities. East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University won a Dec. 27 injunction against the mandate. A week earlier, GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention won an injunction against the regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The abortion/contraception mandate, which is a rule helping to implement the 2010 health care reform law, requires coverage of such drugs as Plan B and other “morning-after” pills that possess a post-fertilization mechanism that can cause an abortion by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. The rule also covers “ella,” which – in a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486 – can act even after implantation to end the life of the child.
Although churches and closely related ministries are exempt from the mandate, many Christian universities, children’s homes and other ministries were not exempted and instead were in danger of being forced to provide abortion-causing drugs and devices through a poorly conceived “accommodation” or incur crippling penalties.
Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund, applauded Sotomayor’s decision.
“The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people – it doesn’t need to force nuns to participate,” Rienzi said in a written statement.
“Virtually every other party who asked for protection from the mandate has been given it,” he said. “It makes no sense for the Little Sisters to be singled out for fines and punishment before they can even finish their suit.”
The Becket Fund represents the Little Sisters, as well as East Texas Baptist and Houston Baptist universities.
Another Becket Fund lawyer, Eric Rassbach, said of the injunction for the Baptist schools, “The government doesn’t have the right to decide what religious beliefs are legitimate and which ones aren’t. In its careful opinion, the court recognized that the government was trying to move across that forbidden line and said, ‘No further.’”
In its opinion, the federal judge in Houston specifically rejected the government’s argument that it can evaluate the universities’ beliefs: “The religious organization plaintiffs have shown a sincerely held religious belief that the court cannot second-guess.”
Rassbach, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund, also said, “The government has enforced the health care reform law very unevenly, handing out exemptions to those it sees as its allies. Perhaps the worst part of the government’s approach is that it seems to have decided that religious institutions are the only ones not to get an exemption.”
Two HHS mandate cases involving for-profit plaintiffs – Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties – are set to be argued before the Supreme Court this term, possibly in March.
For-profit and nonprofit corporations have filed a total of 91 lawsuits against the mandate, according to the Becket Fund.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode and Erin Roach, assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
1/3/2014 3:18:39 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Send North America’s impact in 2013

January 3 2014 by Adam Miller, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The deaf residents of Manchester, Conn., now have a church of their own, as do the students at the University of Hartford – and it’s right on campus. This is because God is using church planters to reach into the hard-to-reach areas of North America with the gospel.
These are just two success stories among hundreds from 2013 of God using church planters, pastors, Southern Baptist Convention chaplains, Disaster Relief volunteers and a host of other Southern Baptists whose work has helped make an impact for Christ.

NAMB file photo by John Swain 
Pastor Reggie Robbins baptizes Senika Strong at a service in Atlanta. The North American Mission Board has formed an evangelism task force to address the trend of declining baptisms among SBC churches.

Through Send North America, the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) strategy for church planting and evangelism, Southern Baptists are helping start churches and reaching communities in the United States and Canada.
Emphasizing the work of discovering, developing and deploying missionaries in 32 strategic Send North America cities, Send North America is focused on mobilizing Southern Baptist churches to start churches in communities that are without a thriving Gospel presence.
Allan Karr, Send North America campus mobilizer at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, said he has been praying Luke 10:2 for 10 years and that God is answering in some unexpected ways.
“In 2013 we trained and deployed church planters from five tribes of Burma to plant and lead five new churches in Colorado and North Carolina,” Karr said.
Aaron Harvie, campus mobilizer at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said students are being deployed as church planting interns.
“We’ve had an incredible gathering of future planters,” Harvie said. “We’ve mobilized interns to Washington D.C., New Orleans and Pittsburgh. God is on the move!”
Steve Canter, Send North America city coordinator for Send New York City, hosted dozens of interns who spent several months in the city this year assisting in church planting efforts.
“More than 30 men and women served this year in the Send North America Farm System,” Canter said. “These are the missionaries of the future.”
Other stories from throughout North America in 2013 included:
  • By the end of 2013 a total of more than 1,200 churches have been mobilized through NAMB’s “Mobilize Me” process.
  • A church plant in Montreal, where only 0.5 percent of residents profess Christ, launched with 400 people, has grown to nearly 500 and has baptized more than 100.
  • Canada increased by more than 30 church plants in 2013.
  • Eight multiplying churches have been developed in Boston in the last two years in a city where there were only two.
  • 35 Nepalese were baptized in Columbus, 118 people were baptized in Cleveland, and 96 Bhutanese refugees were baptized in Atlanta
  • An unprecedented 19 churches, six planters, four interns and two apprentices were mobilized to Portland, Ore.
  • More than 500 participants at the 2013 Send North America Conference July 29-30 in Dallas indicated they were taking next steps in church planting.
  • More than 300 college students helped with rebuild efforts in New York in communities still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.
  • More than 200 new SBC chaplains were placed. SBC chaplains led more than 22,000 people to Christ and they baptized more than 4,000 people in 2013.
“There is still much to do, but it has been encouraging this year to see the momentum start to build,” Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, said. “I think God is giving us a glimpse of what He has planned if we are willing to send the resources and people to the places where they are needed most.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller writes for the North American Mission Board.)
1/3/2014 3:07:27 PM by Adam Miller, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

ESPN hires Tebow as SEC analyst

January 2 2014 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tim Tebow is returning to football ñ not as a player, but as an analyst for ESPN.
The former University of Florida star and Heisman Trophy winner will make his debut with the network Jan. 6 during pregame coverage of the NCAA national championship game between Auburn and Florida State.

Tim Tebow

Tebow's main duties will be with the new SEC Network launching in August. He also will serve as a regular contributor on SportsCenter, ESPN Radio and the ESPN's Heisman Trophy coverage, according to an ESPN news release.
"I am so excited that ESPN has given me this incredible opportunity," Tebow said in the release. "When I was 6 years old I fell in love with the game of football, and while I continue to pursue my dream of playing quarterback in the NFL, this is an amazing opportunity to be part of the unparalleled passion of college football and the SEC."
Tebow, who spent two seasons with the Denver Broncos and a year with the New York Jets, was cut from the New England Patriots during the 2013 preseason. He has said he still desires to play quarterback in the NFL, although no team has shown interest in signing him. His contract with ESPN allows him to continue pursuing options to play in the NFL.
"Tim is a SEC icon with a national fan base and broad appeal," ESPN Vice President Justin Connolly said in the news release. "He will be a significant contributor to the compelling content we will deliver with the SEC Network. Tim brings a wealth of knowledge about the game, the conference and the passion among SEC fans."
An outspoken Christian, Tebow is a member of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is editor of BP Sports (www.bpsports.net).)
1/2/2014 4:33:34 PM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Boy Scouts Christian alternative launches with 500 troops

January 2 2014 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

An organization billing itself as a Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts of America says it has close to 500 troops preparing for its Jan. 1 launch.
The new scouting group, Trail Life USA, was created by OnMyHonor.net, which opposed the BSA’s policy change last May that permitted gay Boy Scouts – but not gay adult leaders – effective on Jan. 1.
Mark Hancock, Trail Life USA’s chief operating officer, said close to 500 troops have signed up since early September, a handbook has been created and leadership guides have been published for three levels of boys in kindergarten through the 12th grade.
“We have a very excited group of churches and Christian organizations that are joining us,” said Hancock in an interview Thursday (Dec. 30). “They’re ready to go.”
He said the organization has “hundreds of volunteers all over the country” and will have a staff of six on Jan. 1 in virtual rather than brick-and-mortar offices. Hancock said many participants are evangelical Christian, but a number of Catholic troops are starting as well.
“Our focus is not really on numbers but it’s on providing a quality program for families to help the boys become men,” he said.
Those that have signed up – and paid $325 for the first year’s charter fee (it will subsequently be $185 annually) – include churches and other groups with a statement of Christian beliefs, such as a Christian home school organization or a Christian camp.
Trail Life USA’s values statement includes a section on purity that reads, in part: “We are to reserve sexual activity for the sanctity of marriage, a lifelong commitment before God between a man and a woman.”
Religious groups sponsor about 70 percent of the BSA’s 100,000 troops; after the policy change was announced, most of the major sponsors – Mormons, Catholics and United Methodists – agreed to remain with the BSA despite unease in some corners about lifting the gay ban.
Deron Smith, spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, said “it would be inappropriate for us to discuss other organizations,” but added “what we’re hearing from our councils is that only a handful of chartered organizations have decided not to renew their sponsorship of troops. We are thankful that the overwhelming majority of our units and members remain committed to the Scouting program.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adelle M. Banks is production editor and a national correspondent at RNS.)
1/2/2014 4:21:49 PM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Jan. 31 deadline for nominations

January 2 2014 by BSC Communications

North Carolina Baptists still have time to submit recommendations of people to serve on the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) Board of Directors, the boards of the convention’s agencies and institutions and convention committees.
The convention’s Committee on Nominations seeks diversity among the recommendations that will represent churches of various sizes, various professional and educational backgrounds, ethnic and racial diversity, geographical areas, different age groups, and lay persons as well as ministers.
Input from North Carolina Baptists regarding nominations of individuals to serve is essential for the ongoing missions, ministries and disciple-making endeavors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
BSC bylaws require the Committee on Nominations to recommend to the convention nominees from both small and large churches (over/under 400 members), limit churches to no more than six individuals from a single church serving on all convention boards and committees, and limit BSC Board of Director membership to one member from any church.
An individual may only serve on a single committee or a single board at one time, whereas in the past individuals could serve in more than one place at one time. Therefore, it is essential for North Carolina Baptists to recommend more individuals to serve on the Board of Directors and convention committees.
Nominations are due January 31, 2014. Visit recommend.ncbaptist.org to make a nomination.
For questions related to the recommendation process, contact Cynthia King at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5501 or cking@ncbaptist.org.
1/2/2014 4:15:07 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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