January 2016

N.C. Baptists celebrate missions giving

January 29 2016 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

North Carolina Baptist churches gave more than $29 million to missions through the Cooperative Program (CP) in 2015, which reflected an increase of nearly 1 percent over gifts received in 2014.
 
CP giving for 2015 totaled $29,068,605.85, which was .83 percent higher or approximately $239,000 more than was given in 2014. (See BR story here.)
 
Giving totals exceeded the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) 2015 operating budget of $29 million by more than $68,000. That marked the first time since 2006 that the BSC met or exceeded its CP budget.
 
 “We not only met the budget, we exceeded the budget, which makes it all the sweeter,” said BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. in presenting the 2015 financial report during the convention’s Board of Directors meeting held Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 25-26 at Caraway Camp and Conference Center near Asheboro.

 
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Brian Kinlaw, newly elected president of the Board of Directors

Because the BSC exceeded its 2015 operating budget, several ministries received additional funding based on the “challenge budget” adopted by the budget committee. Each year, the committee recommends an alternate budget to the board that specifies how funds will be allocated if the annual CP budget is exceeded.
 
Based on this year’s challenge budget, the $68,605.85 excess was distributed as such: one-third to the CP of the Southern Baptist Convention, one-third to the BSC church planting team and one-third divided between Fruitland Baptist Bible College, the Biblical Recorder and the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.
 
When CP totals are added to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and N.C. Missions Offering, North Carolina Baptists gave more than $50 million to missions causes in 2015.
 
“The generosity of North Carolina Baptists in 2015 is well noted and celebrated in their support of the Cooperative Program and the North Carolina Missions Offering,” Hollifield said.
 
During the meeting, the Executive Committee of the Board of the Directors (EC) unanimously approved the creation of a new reserve account totaling $500,000 that will be used to engage international missionaries returning from the field for strategic efforts to impact lostness through disciple-making. (See BR story here.)
 
The new account will be funded from current BSC undesignated reserve funds. It will be used to create contract positions for recently retired missionaries from the International Mission Board that are relocating to North Carolina.
 
In other business, the board approved a motion from the Business Services Special Committee to accept an “option to purchase” contract for the former Baptist campus ministry facility at Appalachian State University in Boone. The offer was made by the Baptist Campus Ministry of the High Country in the amount of $500,000. Proceeds from the sale would be placed into a special account for use in advancing collegiate partnerships ministry.
 
The board also elected new officers and at-large members to the EC.
 
Brian Kinlaw, lead pastor of South View Baptist Church in Hope Mills, was elected board president. Kinlaw served as the vice president of the board in 2015.
 
Marc Francis, lead pastor of Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Durham, was elected vice president.
 
Ginger Brown, executive assistant for administration and convention relations at BSC, was re-elected as the board secretary.
 
Board members also elected four at-large members to the executive committee. They are Ken Jones, pastor of Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church in Lincolnton; Michael Owens, pastor of Gate City Baptist Church in Jamestown; Debbie Smith of Dudley Shoals Baptist Church in Granite Falls; and David Spray, senior pastor of Pisgah Forest Baptist Church in Pisgah Forest.
 
BSC President Timmy Blair Sr., pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier, also appointed six individuals to the convention’s Committee on Nominations. They are Charles Brust of Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Lumberton; Ken Hucks of Sardis Baptist Church in Indian Trail; David Jones of Baptist Home Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro; Jonas Perez of Faith Baptist Church in Faith; Joseph Phan of Vietnamese Baptist Church in Greensboro; and Beth Wooten of Beulaville Baptist Church in Beulaville. Blair also announced that Noah Crowe, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Robbinsville, will serve as the committee chairman. All new committee members will serve a three-year term.
 
At the meeting, board members also met with their respective committees for the first time, and each committee elected a chairperson for 2016. Committee chairs not only oversee the work of their respective committees, but they also serve on the convention’s Executive Committee.
 
Committee chairs 2016 are Gordon Benton of First Baptist Church Weaverville (Christian Higher Education); Kelly Bullard of Temple Baptist Church in Fayetteville (Church Planting & Missions Partnerships); LeRoy Burke of Zion Hill Baptist Church in Lumberton (Business Services); David Duarte of Daystar en Español Church in Greensboro (Communications); Bob Garbett of New Hope Baptist Church in Beulaville (Christian Life & Public Affairs); John Mark Harrison of Apex Baptist Church (Evangelism & Discipleship); and Boyce Porter of Geneva Baptist Church in Camden (Christian Social Services).
 
The next Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for May 17-18 at Caraway.

1/29/2016 3:35:16 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Cruz, Clinton & Undecided poll higher among pastors

January 29 2016 by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Research

Ted Cruz is the leading presidential candidate among Protestant pastors who lean Republican, with Hillary Clinton leading among Democratic pastors, according to a telephone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors by LifeWay Research. Donald Trump, meanwhile, is near the back of the pack.
 
However, “Undecided” is the most popular choice of America’s pastors according to the survey, released Jan. 28. The survey found nearly half of those planning to vote (48 percent) don’t know whom they would vote for if the presidential election were held today.
 
“One of the most surprising findings of our survey was the poor showing of Donald Trump,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “When it comes to Mr. Trump, there seems to be a huge gap between the pulpit and the pew.”

 
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2016 presidential candidates from left, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Among other findings:

  • Half (54 percent) of Protestant pastors indicate they are Republicans. One in four are independent (23 percent) while one in seven (14 percent) are Democrats.

  • Among pastors who are Republicans, nearly 3 in 10 say they favor Cruz (29 percent), followed by Ben Carson at 10 percent; Marco Rubio, 8 percent; and Trump, 5 percent. Thirty-nine percent are undecided.

  • Among pastors who are Democrats, a third favor Clinton (38 percent), one in four favors Bernie Sanders (23 percent) and 31 percent are undecided.

  • Among pastors who are independents, nearly 3 of 5 (57 percent) are undecided. Leading among independents are Cruz and Rubio (8 percent each), Carson and Sanders (6 percent each), Clinton (5 percent) and Trump (4 percent).

  • Older pastors (those over 64) are more likely to be undecided (54 percent) than those 18 to 44 (44 percent). They also are more likely to favor Trump (8 percent). Cruz does well with pastors 45 to 54 (21 percent).

  • Cruz does better with white pastors (19 percent) than with those of other ethnicities (5 percent). Clinton does the opposite: 5 percent of white pastors favor her versus 18 percent of pastors of other ethnicities.

  • Overall, evangelical pastors prefer Cruz (18 percent), Carson (8 percent) and Rubio (8 percent). Mainline pastors choose Cruz (13 percent), Clinton (10 percent), Sanders (8 percent) and Carson (7 percent).

  • Baptist pastors (43 percent) are less likely to be undecided than Lutheran (60 percent) and Pentecostal (61 percent) pastors.

Previous surveys have found pastors in general are wary about being publicly identified with political candidates. A 2012 LifeWay Research study found nearly nine out of 10 Protestant pastors (87 percent) disapprove of endorsements from the pulpit.
 
Due to IRS regulations, pastors and leaders of other nonprofit groups refrain from taking active roles in campaigns, at least in their official capacity. And pastors often have church members who disagree about whom to vote for.
 
This new poll shows pastors have a distinct view of the current election cycle – one that’s different from people in the pews, Stetzer said.
 
“One of the few religious groups that national polls track are evangelical Christians, and it is hard not to notice a surprising gap between them and their pastors,” Stetzer said.
 
“Based on most other polls, rank-and-file evangelicals and church attendees are most likely supporting Trump,” he said. “Yet pastors are undecided or more likely to support Cruz. The absence of support for Trump is similar to unscientific surveys of evangelical leaders from the National Association of Evangelicals and WORLD Magazine that have consistently pointed to Rubio.
 
“Simply put, it’s a bizarre election season,” Stetzer said.
 
Methodology: The phone survey of Protestant pastors was conducted Jan. 8-22, 2016. The calling list was a random sample stratified by church size drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect the church.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

1/29/2016 12:33:44 PM by Bob Smietana, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments



Growing Hispanic population signals greater pro-life support

January 29 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

The idea that growing minority populations in the U.S. will lead to a decrease in traditional Judeo-Christian values is misguided, according to Samuel Rodriguez, president/CEO of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Speaking at the inaugural Evangelicals for Life Conference Jan. 21-22 in Washington, D.C., he said, “Latinos are staunchly pro-life. We are a pro-life community.”
 
The title of the TED-style presentation was “Pro Vida: Why Hispanic Evangelicals are Distinctly Pro-Life.”

 
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Samuel Rodriguez, president/CEO of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Recent demographic studies show that America is on its way to becoming a majority non-white population. The Pew Research Center projects ethnic minorities will outnumber White populations as early as 2055. The growing number of Hispanic Americans will be one of the primary factors in that demographic shift, increasing by 28 percent over the next four decades.
 
Rodriguez said 54 percent of Hispanic millennials – “the emerging generation” – believed abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, according to a 2015 Pew study. More than 25 percent of Hispanics considered abortion to be the critical issue that determines how they vote. “It was the largest percentage of all ethnicities, including white evangelicals,” he said.
 
“I want to see the Hispanic-American community emerge as the proverbial firewall [against abortion],” said Rodriguez. “And I want this community to be the most pro-life community on the planet in the name of Jesus Christ. That is my passion.”
 
There are five reasons why he believes Hispanic evangelicals care about pro-life values:

  • Hispanic evangelicals believe all people, even unborn children, are made in the image of God – the imago Dei.

  • Hispanic evangelicals understand the pro-life issue as primarily spiritual, not political.

  • Given that nearly all Hispanics are either Catholic or evangelical, even the most liberal sectors of Latino culture are generally pro-life.

  • Hispanics see abortion as a civil rights issue, since abortion clinics most often target Hispanic and African-American communities. It is minority populations that are most threatened by the abortion industry.

  • There is a “biblical imperative” ingrained in the gospel that is both “vertical and horizontal.” It’s the “nexus of the cross” that leads us to love both God and pursue justice for others.

Rodriguez acknowledged that liberal politicians sometimes appeal to Hispanics because of their views on U.S. immigration. He pleaded with fellow Hispanics to avoid the mistake of disconnecting pro-life values that inform immigration policies from pro-life values that inform abortion activism.
 
“How can you be supporting a candidate who is in favor of immigration,” he said, “but likewise they’re in favor of seeing the destruction of our little daughters and sons in the womb? That’s just intellectually incoherent. We must be above all pro-life and everything else will follow. … whatever we’re advocating for, it shouldn’t trump life. We must begin with life!”

1/29/2016 12:18:42 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



Trump candidacy: Jeffress, Falwell, Moore weigh in

January 29 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

With attention focused on Donald Trump surrounding his withdrawal from a Jan. 28 Republican presidential debate, Southern Baptists remain divided regarding his candidacy.
 
Trump drew praise recently from Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress during a joint appearance in Iowa and an endorsement from Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. Meanwhile, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore continued to urge Christians not to vote for Trump with an essay in an issue of the conservative publication National Review dedicated to opposing the New York businessman’s candidacy.
 
Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, introduced Trump at a rally in Sioux Center, Iowa, Jan. 23, stating according to The Dallas Morning News, “Although as a pastor I cannot officially endorse a candidate, I want you to know I would not be here this morning if I were not absolutely convinced that Donald Trump would make a great president of the United States.”
 
Jeffress, who has introduced Trump during at least two rallies, continued, “Most Americans know we are in a mess, and as they look at Donald Trump, they believe he is the one leader who can reverse the downward death spiral of this nation we love so dearly.”

 
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BP Photo
Donald Trump

Jeffress previously said he believes a Trump presidency would give evangelicals “a friend in the White House.”
 
Falwell, a Southern Baptist, endorsed Trump Jan. 26, stating in a printed release, “I am proud to offer my endorsement of Donald J. Trump for President of the United States. He is a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again.”
 
When Trump delivered a speech Jan. 18 at Liberty, Falwell introduced him by stating he “lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the Great Commandment.”
 
Falwell explained in a Jan. 27 Facebook post, “It was not my intent to compare Trump to Jesus Christ in my introduction at Liberty.” He added, “I respect the opinions of those who believe that it is now more important to elect a career politician who shares their constitutional views or someone who shares their faith instead of a business professional but I cannot agree.”
 
Moore, who has been critical of Trump’s candidacy since at least September, tweeted in response to Trump’s Liberty appearance, “This would be hilarious if it weren’t so counter to the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ. #TrumpatLiberty.”
 

‘Issues that Southern Baptists have long championed’

Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote in a Jan. 21 National Review symposium that the protection of life, the sanctity of marriage and the preservation of religious freedom all “would be in jeopardy under a Trump presidency.”
 
Moore’s essay appeared in the Feb. 15 print issue of National Review, whose cover carries the headline “Against Trump.”
 
Moore said he contributed to the National Review issue in order to “speak to the issues that Southern Baptists have long championed.”
 
“Our denomination has insisted that ‘moral character matters to God and should matter to all citizens, especially God’s people, when choosing public leaders,’” Moore said, referencing a 1998 Southern Baptist Convention resolution “on moral character of public officials.” “We have long and rightly stood for issues of human dignity, family stability and religious liberty, and we have long opposed gambling, divorce and abortion.
 
“Our strong stances on these issues have led many to ask about Mr. Trump’s views, as they seem at odds with what Southern Baptists have expressed down through the decades,” Moore said. “Recently, National Review asked me to contribute a few comments on this question. I didn’t know what the headline would be (and can’t think of any time I’ve written for anything where I have known that in advance), but I was happy to contribute in order to speak to the issues that Southern Baptists have long championed, including moral character, opposition to the gambling industry, opposition to the sexual exploitation of women and religious liberty for all.”
 
Moore argued in National Review that while Trump claims to be pro-life, his “supposed pro-life conversion is rooted in Nietzschean, social-Darwinist terms.” Moore then referenced Trump’s statement that he “knew a child who was to be aborted who grew up to be a ‘superstar.’”
 
“Beyond that,” Moore continued, “Trump’s vitriolic – and often racist and sexist – language about immigrants, women, the disabled and others ought to concern anyone who believes that all persons, not just the ‘winners’ of the moment, are created in God’s image.”
 
Regarding marriage and the family, Moore argued “one cannot help but look at the personal life of the billionaire,” which has included multiple divorces and public admissions of sexual relations outside marriage. “After all that,” Moore wrote, Trump says “he has no need to seek forgiveness.”
 
Moore added Trump’s investment in the gambling industry “destroys families” and “exploits personal vice.”
 
Regarding religious liberty, “Trump’s willingness to ban Muslims, even temporarily, from entering the country simply because of their religious affiliation would make [Thomas] Jefferson spin in his grave,” Moore wrote, apparently referencing Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslim immigration to America in an effort to prevent Islamic terrorism.
 
Moore concluded, “Trump can win only in the sort of celebrity-focused mobocracy” in which “sound moral judgments are displaced by a narcissistic pursuit of power combined with promises of ‘winning’ for the masses. Social and religious conservatives have always seen this tendency as decadent and deviant. For them to view it any other way now would be for them to lose their soul.”
 
The National Review issue also featured essays critical of Trump by social conservatives R.R. Reno, editor of the journal First Things; Erick Erickson, editor of The Resurgent and a talk-radio host; and Cal Thomas, a nationally syndicated columnist.
 
Other contributors included radio host Glenn Beck, Media Research Center president Brent Bozell, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and radio host Michael Medved.
 
National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote in a Politico op-ed that the essayists’ “basic argument about Trump is simple and unassailable: He is a populist, not a conservative.”
 
Trump responded to the National Review issue by saying the publication is “a dying paper,” The New York Times reported Jan. 22. The Republican National Committee responded by disinviting the National Review from co-sponsoring a Feb. 25 Republican presidential debate, according to The Times.
 

Leading among evangelical voters

A Jan. 26 NBC News/Survey Monkey weekly online tracking poll shows more than a third (37 percent) of likely evangelical voters support Trump.
 
That represents a 17-point lead over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
 
Craig Mitchell, associate professor of philosophy, politics and economics at Criswell College, said that while Trump has “character issues,” some evangelicals believe a Trump presidency would advance religious liberty, contribute to economic prosperity and strengthen America’s national defense.
 
“I do believe that [Trump] is sincere when he says that he believes Christianity is under attack,” said Mitchell, who has not endorsed Trump. “And I do believe him when he says he intends to do what he can to prevent government from attacking Christians the way it has under this current administration.”
 
Mitchell, who is African American, said Trump has not “used racist language at all” but has spoken frankly about illegal immigration and Islamic terrorism, subjects that cannot be addressed without speaking of race and nationality.
 
“I think that he’s being really fair and objective,” Mitchell said of Trump’s statements on Islamic terrorism, adding he is concerned some believers may want “to encourage people to vote for pastor rather than president.”
 
In other 2016 presidential campaign news, Republican candidate Marco Rubio announced Jan. 19 that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. would be part of the Florida senator’s pro-life advisory board along with author and speaker Ravi Zacharias, former Evangelical Theological Society president Francis Beckwith and others.
 
In December, Moore coauthored a Washington Post op-ed with Rubio calling readers to “remember slaughtered Christians in the Middle East.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/29/2016 12:03:59 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Religious liberty setbacks addressed by ERLC

January 29 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Last year marked a setback for religious liberty in the United States, and 2016 promises more challenges for the cherished freedom, according to the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy entity.
 
Much of the blow in 2015 to what is often referred to as America’s “first freedom” came through advances by same-sex marriage and non-discrimination policies for sexual orientation and gender identity. The struggle between religious liberty and sexual liberty appears destined to continue this year and beyond.
 
Religious freedom’s status as “the next frontier of the culture war” is “nothing less than tragic to our constitutional order,” said Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “Only a few years removed from being a revered topic of consensus, religious liberty is now frequently scare quoted and dismissed by media figures as a ‘license to discriminate.’“
 
As a result, Walker wrote in a Dec. 28 post for the ERLC’s Canon and Culture blog channel, 2015 “will long be remembered as a momentous time of change for religious liberty in American history. And unless the course is reversed, religious liberty will continue its descent.”

 
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The events of 2015, ERLC President Russell Moore said, offered a reminder of the crucial nature of religious liberty and the significance of seeking to protect it.
 
“It is mandatory that conscience freedom be protected from both government overstep and the pressures of cultural conformity,” Moore said in written comments.
 
“Christians in particular must model the championing of religious liberty by rejecting the angry pandering of some politicians and advocating on behalf of all, especially the vulnerable and uprooted,” he said. “Only by championing religious liberty for all can evangelicals embody our theology of what it means to be made in the image of God.”
 
Among the challenges to religious liberty in 2016, Walker wrote, will be:

  • A Supreme Court decision on the objection by religious, nonprofit organizations to the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate;

  • The election of a new president, whose judicial appointments will “dictate the future of religious liberty jurisprudence for generations to come;”

  • The effort to force Congress to consider “problematic causes” such as the Equality Act, which would establish “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes under civil rights law.

The Equality Act, which was introduced in 2015, is “the most sweeping, anti-religious liberty measure” he has seen proposed by lawmakers, Walker said. “Were this bill ever to pass, it would end public debate and designate the beliefs of any individual with a moral and/or religious objection to the federal statute, regarding an entirely new sexual ethic, as discriminatory.”
 
While there were some encouraging developments for religious liberty last year, too many were disconcerting, Walker said in his analysis of the top news events regarding religious freedom.
 
The U.S. Supreme Court’s nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage was “no doubt the biggest religious liberty event of the year,” Walker wrote. The high court’s majority displayed an “unscrupulous regard for religious liberty,” and the minority strongly criticized the majority’s treatment of defenders of traditional marriage, he said.
 
The decision’s effect “on culture and religious liberty cannot be overstated,” and its “full scope” remains uncertain because the country is still in the “immediate aftermath” of the opinion, Walker wrote.
 
Other distressing developments last year regarding religious freedom, Walker wrote, included:

  • Increasing charges of discrimination against religious colleges and universities that receive federal funds while considering applicants’ religious values;

  • The U.S. Department of Education’s threat to pull federal funds from an Illinois school district for refusing to allow a transgender male student to use the girls’ locker room;

  • Hillary Clinton’s “impassioned pro-gay rights speech” to the Human Rights Campaign in which she endorsed the Equality Act and promised she, if elected president, would eliminate funding for agencies that support adoption only by heterosexual households;

  • Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposals to end Muslim immigration and close mosques;

  • Compromise legislation approved in Utah to protect both gay rights and religious liberty – a measure Moore and Walker concluded “offered too many concessions that disadvantage religious liberty without guaranteeing sufficient protections in return.”

Among encouraging developments last year, Walker wrote, were:

  • Unanimous Supreme Court decisions – Reed v. Town of Gilbert and Holt v. Hobbs – that protected the free speech rights of a church and the religious free exercise of a prisoner, respectively.

  • The defeat by Houston voters of an ordinance approved by the City Council that would have expanded non-discrimination protections to encompass sexual orientation and gender identity.

As “the most media-frenzied event,” Walker cited the jailing of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis for refusing to abide by a judge’s order to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. At the time, Moore and Walker urged both sides in the dispute to seek a satisfactory compromise. New Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has since issued an executive order in an attempt to achieve a solution.
 
Walker’s article may be read at canonandculture.com/religious-liberty-in-2015-a-year-in-review/.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

1/29/2016 11:51:58 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Pastoral counseling modeled in SBTS sessions

January 29 2016 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

Two leading biblical counselors role-played a typical counseling session, teaching a room of pastors and students by example during The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Winter Alumni Academy Jan. 7-8.
 
Jeremy Pierre, associate professor of biblical counseling and dean of students, and Deepak Reju, pastor of biblical counseling and family ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., led 10 sessions drawing from their 2015 co-authored book, The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need.

 
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SBTS photo
Two leading biblical counselors, Deepak Reju (right) and Jeremy Pierre, role-played a typical counseling session, teaching a room of pastors and students by example.

With Pierre playing the role of a blue-collar church member struggling with occasional panic attacks and Reju counseling him, the two put their writing to action.
 
A form which Pierre sends to prospective counselees and reviews before the initial meeting was distributed to each attendee, which Pierre had filled out as a man named “John Stubb.” Reju did not discuss Pierre’s character before the sessions and only consulted the form, so he knew no more than the audience did when the simulation started.
 
“What I’m going to attempt to do in my role is just give you representative examples of things that we see in counseling, things you’re going to run into,” Pierre said before the session. Reju then modeled with Pierre’s character the three basic tasks of counseling: listening to the problem; considering responses of the heart; and speaking the truth in love using scripture.
 
Face-to-face counseling, Reju said during the two-day event, is the place where ministers of God’s Word apply biblical wisdom and encouragement during church members’ most pressing troubles.
 
“In the midst of the mess, we can’t lose sight of the privilege of caring for God’s flock,” said Reju, who also authored On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church and Preparing for Fatherhood.
 
Pastoral counseling must listen attentively to the problem at hand and address the truths of the gospel to it, Reju said. The good counselor does not merely offer “cheap advice” but instead demonstrates how the gospel preached every Sunday morning affects a struggling person’s life, he said.
 
“Consider all the typical self-reliant lies that people tell themselves: ‘I can fix this on my own’ or ‘Maybe this Gospel stuff is helpful at church but it won’t make a real difference in my life,’” Reju said. “Your job [as a pastor] is to throw a grenade right in the middle of that thinking, to not let people live by those lies.”
 
Pierre said pastors should first listen attentively to the presenting problem, then consider how the human heart responds to various factors that are involved.
 
Pierre described four aspects of believers’ heart response: the circumstances they face; the people who surround and influence them; how they feel about themselves; and how they relate to God. Pastors must think through each of the categories when counseling their people, diagnosing problems and revealing them gently and graciously, Pierre said.
 
“As pastors, you need to be heart specialists,” he said.
 
Pierre concluded the sessions with two case studies, during which he walked attendees through how to counsel church members dealing with pornography and marital conflict, respectively.
 
The academy also featured a panel and Q&A with Pierre and Reju, along with Robert Cheong, pastor of global care at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Ky., and Brian Croft, senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville and senior fellow of the Mathena Center for Church Revitalization.
 
Alumni Academy provides free ongoing instruction for alumni and prospective students of Southern Seminary. To learn more about the program, visit events.sbts.edu.

1/29/2016 11:36:09 AM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments



N.C. Baptists set aside $500K to employ retiring IMB missionaries

January 28 2016 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

The Executive Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) approved a recommendation Jan. 26 to set up a $500,000 reserve fund to utilize International Mission Board (IMB) retirees returning to North Carolina. Executive Director-Treasurer Milton Hollifield Jr. said, “This reserve will provide additional funding for strategic efforts to impact lostness through disciple-making … as we seek to capitalize on the expertise of IMB missionaries who are returning to the United States.”
 
IMB leaders announced a plan in August 2015 to reduce personnel expenses in an effort to balance the entity’s budget. The agency had been liquidating global properties to make up for its substantial budget shortfalls in recent years. The so-called organizational reset included a voluntary retirement incentive for personnel that met certain tenure and age requirements. The deadline for employees to decide whether or not to accept the incentive was Dec. 11, 2015.
 
Missionaries who accepted the voluntary retirement incentive and are relocating to North Carolina will be considered for positions as contract workers for the BSC if they desire to continue in vocational ministry among international people groups. Potential jobs will focus on strategic efforts facilitated by the five BSC ministry teams: church planting, strategic focus, Great Commission partnerships, church revitalization and disciple-making.
 
“I can tell you with all honesty that it gives me great, great, great joy,” said Hollifield. “I give thanks to God that North Carolina Baptists rallied behind our mission board and rallied behind these returning missionaries at a most critical time.”

 
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BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton Hollifield Jr. said, "I give thanks to God that North Carolina Baptists rallied behind our mission board and rallied behind these returning missionaries at a most critical time."

The money will be transferred out of undesignated reserves to a new reserve account managed by the executive director-treasurer. Requests for contract workers will come from BSC’s executive leaders.
 
"This generous gift from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina will go a long way toward meaningfully redeploying retired IMB missionaries as they transition to a new season of ministry in which they are engaging lostness throughout North Carolina," said IMB president David Platt. "I praise God for the generosity of North Carolina Baptists and for their support of the IMB during these days. I am confident that God will use these designated funds to fuel disciple making and church planting throughout North Carolina to the glory of His name for years to come."

Hollifield noted the BSC has been reducing staff in recent years in order to increase Cooperative Program support for international missions. Any new workers from the IMB pool of missionaries will become contract employees paid from the new reserve fund. However, if there are staff vacancies available, “We are very willing and eager to consider some of these returning missionaries [for current vacancies],” he added. 
 
Hollifield said there are many international “unengaged and unreached people groups” in North Carolina. IMB missionaries have the skills and experience to reach internationals in the state with the gospel, creating the potential for some to return to their global homelands as followers of Jesus Christ.
 
“Some of these missionaries know the language,” Hollifield said. “They know the culture; they know how to reach these people and will be a great benefit to us. … We need their help in reaching the 154 nations of the world that are represented right here in North Carolina.” 
 
If they have skill sets that can help us in these particular areas, he said they will be considered for contract ministry jobs.
 
According to Caleb Bridges*, BSC people group engagement catalyst, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated in 2014 that 755,741 people or 7.6 percent of the state’s total population is foreign born. In Durham, Mecklenburg, Orange, Wake and Duplin counties those estimates increase dramatically, up to 13.9 percent. The report says 1,083,892 North Carolinians speak a language other than English in the home.
 
North Carolina has been one of the fastest-growing states through in-migration in recent years. In-migration is a term researchers use to indicate an immigrant moved from another state after moving from their home country. From 2000 to 2013 the immigrant population grew 69.1 percent. “That is astronomical growth,” Bridges said. The trend is expected to increase in the next 10 years. A majority of the immigrants are not refugees but instead have moved for better vocational opportunities.
 
Two other Baptist state conventions recently reserved additional funds in response to IMB’s financial woes. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention set aside $1 million to facilitate returning missionaries as church planters or church revitalizers for the convention’s Reach Houston initiative.
 
The South Carolina Baptist Convention pledged to send a $1 million year-end gift directly to IMB in December 2015.
 
In an Oct. 7 meeting, the North American Mission Board trustees approved a $4 million budget reduction so those funds can assist IMB missionaries.
 
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary recently announced it plans to waive tuition and fees for the first two years of any doctoral degree or the first 12 hours of a master of theology degree for returning IMB missionaries who opted for the voluntary retirement incentive.
 
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary offered 10 housing units rent free to returning IMB missionaries, and they took up a special offering at their annual Global Missions Week last November.
 
Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, Tenn., offered 30 housing units to returning missionaries for free for one year.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – K. Allan Blume is editor of the Biblical Recorder. Seth Brown contributed to this story.)
 
* Names changed

1/28/2016 12:01:22 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



SBCV: ‘golden opportunity’ for refugee evangelism

January 28 2016 by Brandon Pickett, SBCV

A border crossing between Greece and Macedonia has presented what some Southern Baptists in Virginia believe is among the best opportunities in years to reach Muslims with the gospel.
 
In the past four months, more than a quarter million people, most of them Muslim, have passed north into Macedonia through a border crossing at the Greek village of Idomeni. Many are refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan leaving family, homes and occupations to search for a life without war, turmoil and the threat of death. At a local refugee camp, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) volunteer teams have sought to administer a humanitarian touch and find ways to share the saving message of Jesus.
 
“When you’re here in person, seeing the very real humanitarian need,” said SBCV executive director Brian Autry, “it is an opportunity for us to certainly share the love of Christ and to share the proverbial cold cup of water in obedience to the Lord Jesus.
 
“One of the most important things we can do is pray for these people,” Autry noted, “but the most immediate need is financial resources that we can put in the hands of missionaries and volunteers on the scene.”

 
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Photo by Brandon Pickett
In the past four months, more than a quarter million people, most of them Muslim, have passed north into Macedonia through a border crossing at the Greek village of Idomeni. It’s a development some Southern Baptists in Virginia see as one of the best opportunities in years to reach Muslims with the gospel.

Hadi is a refugee from Afghanistan who graduated from college and then saw nine of his friends killed by the Taliban. “I think for about 13 years was war in Afghanistan – about 13 years,” he said. “Now, I am 25 years old. I haven’t seen yet peace. What is peace?”
 
SBCV disaster relief director Jack Noble said Idomeni is a strategic site for ministry because of its status as a hub for refugees who end up scattered across Europe.
 
“Basically every refugee heading north, whether they are going to Sweden or Germany, comes through this one checkpoint,” Noble said. “Then the month of December when I was here, there were over 2,000 people that were camping here because they had been rejected at the border because they were not Syrian, Afghani or Iraqi.”
 
As of Jan. 25, only persons from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were reportedly being allowed to cross the border to look for a new life in Europe.
 
The journey getting to the border crossing is treacherous. By the time migrants get to the refugee camp at Idomeni, many are willing to talk openly about their search for a new life and their hope for safety and security. That’s why opportunities for ministry abound.
 
One refugee who recently arrived in Greece after a dangerous boat ride across the Aegean Sea said of his trip, “In Turkey, there are a lot of traffickers, like mafia. They take your money and then send you on a boat.
 
“Help the people,” he pleaded. “The people are dying. People have no money. They have nothing. So, help the people.”
 
The SBCV plans to continue sending mission teams and resources to the border camp for the foreseeable future. It is also partnering with Liberty University and its newly created LU Send Now initiative, which sends quick-response teams across the world for urgent disaster relief and humanitarian work. Student volunteers are expected to arrive in Idomeni as soon as February.
 
“I have been following the refugee crisis for some time,” said LU Send Now coordinator Vince Valeriano, who accompanied an SBCV team on its latest trip. “I felt very strongly that the church needed to take action to help these people who are just like you and me that have been forced to leave everything because of violent oppressors.
 
“It is one thing to hear about it on the news,” said Valeriano, “but completely another being there in person with the refugees, hearing their stories and seeing their plight first hand. The refugees are begging for our help.”
 
Noble, of SBCV disaster relief, added, “The ministry opportunity is great. Volunteers are needed here on the Greece and Macedonia border. This is a 24-hour-a-day operation. Right here, you can do a 30-second touch, and if there is more time, you can make a lifetime touch by staying with them as they go through the refugee road.”
 
Valeriano believes this is a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
 
“I firmly believe this is one of the best opportunities the church has seen to reach the Muslim world,” he said. “What’s happening is unprecedented. Now, over a million people who were once extremely difficult and dangerous to reach with the gospel are coming to open-access countries. We need to seize this golden opportunity to bring the love and gospel of Jesus Christ to these people who have had little to no access to it.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Pickett is associate executive director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and editor of the convention’s missions magazine, Proclaimer at sbcv.org/proclaimer.)

1/28/2016 11:55:07 AM by Brandon Pickett, SBCV | with 0 comments



Naghmeh Abedini explains ‘legal action’ against Saeed

January 28 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Naghmeh Abedini has taken legal action against her husband Saeed Abedini to make sure their children remain in Idaho while the couple works to save their marriage, and revealed on Facebook Jan. 27 scant details of alleged spousal abuse she called “a growing cancer.”
 
Naghmeh Panahi (her maiden name) vs. Saeed Abedini was filed Jan. 26 in Ada County, Idaho, before Jill S. Jurries, magistrate judge for family law in the Fourth Judicial District of Idaho in Ada County. Described as a domestic relations case, it is identified on the Idaho State Judiciary website as case CV-DR-2016-01483, and is pending.
 
“I have taken temporary legal action to make sure our children will stay in Idaho until this situation has been resolved,” she wrote on Facebook. “In very difficult situations sometimes you have to establish boundaries while you work toward healing.”

 
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Naghmeh Abedini

She filed the case against the 35-year-old pastor as he returned to Boise Jan. 27 from the Billy Graham Conference Center at the Cove in Asheville, N.C., his first stop in the U.S. on Jan. 21 from Iran, where he had been unjustly imprisoned three-and-a-half years because of his Christian faith.
 
In Boise, the pastor spent time with his two children, Naghmeh Abedini said on Facebook, but she gave no indication of whether he was living with the family in their Boise home.
 
In a Jan. 25 Fox News broadcast of Saeed Abedini’s first public comments since his release from prison, he discussed his time in prison, but made no mention of his marriage. Baptist Press was not able to reach him for comments about the court case.
 
In the Facebook post, Naghmeh Abedini expressed regret for having shielded from the public what she has described as abuse suffered from her husband, whom she has said was addicted to pornography.
 
“I do deeply regret that I hid from the public the abuse that I have lived with for most of our marriage and I ask your forgiveness,” she wrote. “I sincerely had hoped that this horrible situation Saeed has had to go through would bring about the spiritual change needed in both of us to bring healing to our marriage. Tragically, the opposite has occurred.”
 
But details of the alleged abuse remain scant.
 
“Three months ago Saeed told me things he demanded I must do to promote him in the eyes of the public that I simply could not do any longer,” she wrote. “He threatened that if I did not the results would be the end of our marriage and the resulting pain this would bring to our children.”
 
The statements stand in contrast to Naghmeh Abedini’s previously expressed regret for having written of the abuse and pornography addiction in November 2015 emails to close friends. As recently as a Jan. 22 interview with Baptist Press, she chose not to reveal details of the abuse.
 
“I think when it’s time,” she said Jan. 22, “I think it’s a story that needs to be told by Saeed, not me. I think it had better not be anything that I focus on anymore.”
 
Abedini’s release with three other Americans was announced Jan. 16 in a prisoner swap the Obama Administration negotiated during nuclear disarmament talks. Naghmeh Abedini had advocated widely for her husband’s release, and continues to express her love for him, despite the legal action.
 
“I love my husband, but as some might understand, there are times when love must stop enabling something that has become a growing cancer,” she said. “We cannot go on the way it has been. I hope and pray our marriage can be healed. I believe in a God who freed Saeed from the worst prisons can hear our plea and bring spiritual freedom.”
 
Naghmeh Abedini expressed joy that her husband has “had a wonderful reunion with the children,” Rebekkah and Jacob.
 
“I am so happy for this long waited reunion and for the joy that I see in my children and in Saeed,” she wrote. “Nothing can make me happier than seeing those whom I love be happy and free from the pain that they had been under for the last 3.5 years.”
 
She is still committed to saving her marriage, she said on Facebook.
 
“I long more than anyone for reconciliation for our family and to be united as a family. Since Saeed’s freedom I have wanted nothing more than to run to him and welcome him home. It is something I dreamed about the last 3.5 years,” she wrote. “But unfortunately things did not work out that way and our family has to work through reconciliation.
 
“I want our reconciliation to be strictly based on God’s Word. I want us to go through counseling, which must first deal with the abuse,” she said. “Then we can deal with the changes my husband and I must both make moving forward in the process of healing our marriage.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

Related Story:

Abedini: ‘God saved me’ from death in Iran

1/28/2016 11:48:46 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Flint water crisis draws Southern Baptist response

January 28 2016 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

Charnisha Brown could describe in one word her feeling when she first realized that the water coming out of her pipes was contaminated – devastated.
 
“It was devastating to me because of the kids – especially my kids,” said Brown, a Flint, Mich., resident. “We don’t want the kids going through that. We don’t want anyone going through that. It’s not a good thing that you can’t drink your water.”
 
So when Southern Baptists provided Brown, a mother of two, with multiple cases of water, she appreciated it, saying it took stress off of her.
 
Michigan Southern Baptists distributed a truckload of bottled water last week to Flint residents whose contaminated water supply had led to the city being declared a disaster by the state and national governments. The truckload, sent from the North American Mission Board (NAMB), was the second Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) truck full of water sent to the beleaguered city in the past three months.

 
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Photo courtesy Westside Baptist Church
Volunteers from Westside Baptist Church near Flint, Mich., distribute bottled water after the city’s contaminated water supply left residents vulnerable to increased exposure to lead.

The water’s contamination had become a problem since the city decided to save money three years ago by switching its water supply from Detroit to a new water authority that would get water from Lake Huron. During the transition time the city received water from the Flint River. The contaminated water had elevated lead exposure, and the dangers from that exposure remain today. According to a recent USA Today article, there is no safe level of lead in water. Children, the article says, face the most danger when exposed to lead.
 
Working out of Westside Baptist Church, just a couple of miles outside of Flint, volunteers have given three to four cases of water to each resident they’ve helped.
 
According to Westside Baptist’s pastor Ed Emmerling, most Flint residents were only able to get one case of water per day through other sources. Many families needed more water than that because of both drinking and cooking needs.
 
Emmerling appreciated that his church got a chance to be missionaries on the ground during the water distribution.
 
“My church got to see the real tangible value of the Cooperative Program in working with churches all across the country,” Emmerling said of Southern Baptists’ channel for giving to missions and ministry. “My church could never have afforded all of that water. But together churches from all across the country pooled their money. It was an honor for us to hand out. I’m glad our church could see the value of working together. It was a tremendous object lesson.”
 
As volunteers handed out water, they also had the opportunity to pray with residents, invite them to church and tell them about Jesus.
 
“We had many opportunities to tell people that we were doing this as a way to show our love for them, because Christ loves us and He loves them, too – and we’d love to tell them more about that love,” Emmerling said.
 
Win Williams, the state disaster relief director in Michigan, says he is looking into other potential ways of helping Flint residents through water purification units from other state conventions and providing 1-gallon and 5-gallon water containers, which can be particularly helpful for cooking and cleaning needs. Both of those possibilities will require further evaluation.
 
Williams says efforts like this help show people in Michigan that Southern Baptists care about them. He noted that Michigan Baptists’ disaster relief works through local churches, like Westside Baptist, because they will remain in the community once many disaster relief volunteers leave.
 
“We want people to remember the local church, not disaster relief, when we leave,” Williams said. “We’re just a tool that God has given the church to show the community that our churches care.”
 
Mickey Caison, NAMB’s interim executive director for SBDR, echoed Williams’ hope for more SBDR responses in the state.
 
“Especially in Michigan where we’re still small and we don’t have a lot of churches, this begins to show that Southern Baptists are people who care and are willing to minister in the context of great tragedy in their lives,” Caison said.
 
Those wishing to donate to SBDR relief can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call (866) 407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
 
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief ministries.
 
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

1/28/2016 11:44:09 AM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments



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