July 2013

Southwestern trustees elect new vice president, deans

July 25 2013 by Keith Collier, SWBTS

FORT WORTH, Texas – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees elected Steven W. Smith as vice president for student services and communications, Leo Day as dean of the School of Church Music and Michael Wilkinson as dean of the College at Southwestern during a special-called session of the trustee board’s executive committee, July 24. Smith, Day and Wilkinson will take on their new responsibilities effective Aug. 1.

“This is an important moment for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” said seminary president Paige Patterson.

“The men elected today step into some large shoes, but they do so like the champions they are. They are men ‘after God's own heart,’ who love and serve Him faithfully.”

Steven Smith, vice president for student services and communications

Smith has served as dean of the College at Southwestern and professor of communication since 2009, and he fills the position vacated by Thomas White, who was named president of Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, in June. Prior to Smith’s appointment as dean of the college, he served as assistant professor of preaching and associate dean for the professional doctoral program at Southwestern.


“Steven Smith's success in everything to which he has placed his hand is the first reason why I suggested him,” Patterson said.

“He is a genuine man of God, holds degrees in communication, is a fabulous preacher and brings to the task an almost unlimited variety of abilities.”

Smith earned his Ph.D. in communication from Regent University in 2003 and holds a master of divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a bachelor of science in communication from Liberty University. In addition to his experience as a professor, Smith served as senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., from 1995–2003. He is the author of Dying to Preach: Embracing the Cross in the Pulpit (2009) and has contributed articles for academic journals as well as blogs.

Leo Day, dean of the School of Church Music

Day has served as minister of music at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., since 2005. As the dean of the School of Church Music, he replaces Stephen Johnson, who left Southwestern to become dean of Azusa Pacific University’s new College of Music and the Arts in June.


“Leo Day is one of the few men in America who functions with a full grasp of both the church and the academic worlds,” Patterson said.

“A beautiful tenor voice, a love for teaching, and years of incredible success as a minister of music in a mega-church have prepared him perfectly for the assignment as dean for our School of Church Music.”

Along with his ministry at Olive Baptist Church, Day has served as an adjunct voice professor for the University of West Florida in Pensacola since 2008. Prior to coming on staff at the church, Day served as associate professor of voice at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary from 1999–2005 and instructor of voice at William Carey College from 1990–1999.

“Dr. Leo Day is an accomplished vocalist, an experienced academic, and a gifted and successful director of church music ministry,” said Craig Blaising, provost and executive vice president at Southwestern.

“He has all the qualities that will lead Southwestern’s School of Church Music to prepare a new generation to lead churches in musical worship with excellence and passion for Christ.”

Day earned a Ph.D. in vocal performance from Louisiana State University (2000), a master of music in vocal performance from Eastman School of Music (1990), and a bachelor’s of music in vocal performance from William Carey College (1988). He performs frequently across the United States and has performed professionally with the Hawaii Opera Theatre of Honolulu. Day has recorded two solo albums: “He Loves Me” (2003) and “Solace for the Soul” (2005).

Michael Wilkinson, dean of the College at Southwestern

With Smith transitioning to his role as vice president, trustees elected Michael Wilkinson to serve as the third dean of the College of Southwestern, which launched in 2005. Wilkinson has served as assistant professor of Bible in the college since 2012.


“Mike Wilkinson served for years in Central Baptist Church in College Station, a church alive with students,” Patterson said. “His love for students, his growing recognition as a theologian and Anabaptist scholar, and his devotion to the life of the family make him ideal as a paradigm for students.”

Wilkinson earned his master of divinity (1990) and Ph.D. (2011) from Southwestern and his bachelor of arts in mathematics from the University of Texas at Arlington. Prior to joining the faculty at Southwestern, he served as an associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Rockwall, Texas, from 2007–2012 and at Central Baptist Church, near Texas A&M University, from 1993–2007.

“Although Dr. Wilkinson was elected to a full-time position in the college only a year ago, he has taught adjunctively for several years with distinction while completing his Ph.D.,“ Blaising said. “In addition, he brings years of service in local church ministry that gives him both a pastoral concern and a team building perspective that will serve him well in leading the College at Southwestern.”

During his more than 22 years in ministry, Wilkinson has served primarily as a college and single adults pastor as well as missions pastor. He is a contributing author to the forthcoming B&H Academic publication, The Anabaptists and Contemporary Baptists, scheduled for release in September 2013.

Other trustee action

In addition to these elections, trustees named Evan Lenow as the Bobby L. and Janis Eklund Chair of Stewardship. Lenow serves as assistant professor of ethics, associate director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement and chair of the ethics department at Southwestern.

“Stewardship connects to so many aspects of Christian ministry that it can be viewed from different areas in the seminary curriculum: theology, biblical studies, pastoral ministries, etc.,” Blaising said.

“Dr. Lenow brings his particular expertise in Christian ethics to the teaching of stewardship, which especially calls attention to stewardship as an aspect of Christian living. Dr. Lenow has served with distinction as director of the Riley Center and as associate director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement. I look forward to his leadership in this key area of Christian stewardship at Southwestern.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)

7/25/2013 3:09:47 PM by Keith Collier, SWBTS | with 0 comments

Moore, Crosby tie immigration to gospel

July 25 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Widespread agreement on immigration reform exists among Americans in spite of differences on how to achieve it, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) gave a hopeful assessment to reporters July 24 as evangelical Christians gathered to pray and persuade members of the House of Representatives to reform a flawed system that has resulted in an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living illegally in the United States.

The future of immigration reform remains uncertain in the House, where Republican leaders have said they will work on their own legislation and not take up a bill approved by the Senate in late June. Some conservative Republicans have sharply criticized the Senate measure, especially its approach to border security.

Moore described the consensus as remarkable “not only among people who agree with us on immigration reform.”

“Most of us in this country agree the system is broken,” he said. “Most of us in this country agree we have to have some way of addressing the 11 or so million people who are living in invisibility right now.

“I also think that many of the people who would be reluctant right now are reluctant because of genuine concerns that we share. They want to make sure that the process is done right, so it doesn’t have to be done again in the future. We think that can be done,” Moore told reporters.

“They want to make sure there’s accountability for people who have come here illegally, that they are held accountable to the full responsibilities of citizenship. We share that concern, and we think there’s a way forward there,” he said. “And they also want to be sure that we have borders that are secure and a rule of law that is upheld. We share that concern as well, and we also think there’s a way forward there.”

Moore described the differences over immigration reform as “not a clash of world views as much as it is a question of prudentially how do we get forward with some common goals that the country seems to be coalescing around” currently.

The Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), a coalition of evangelical leaders that supports broad immigration reform and includes Moore, sponsored the news conference, a worship service and visits to congressional members by more than 300 evangelicals. The EIT also sponsored a similar day of activities on Capitol Hill in April.

At the news conference, speakers pointed to growing evangelical support for immigration reform, citing the more than 180 leaders who have signed EIT’s principles for reform and the more than 10,000 “grass-roots signatories” to the document.

The evangelical leaders reaffirmed they have not endorsed the Senate-approved bill or any other legislation, just the EIT principles. They also said they have not supported any particular policy process.

Evangelicals reiterated to reporters they do not support amnesty.

“We’re talking about accountability,” Wendell Griffen said at the news conference. Griffen is pastor of New Millennium Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark. “If you pay a fine, pay taxes, pass a background check, study English and pledge allegiance to our country, that’s accountability. That’s not amnesty.”

Moore and fellow Southern Baptist David Crosby both pointed to the gospel as the reason for their support of immigration reform.

“As evangelical Christians, we are defined by the gospel of Jesus Christ, a gospel that is in scripture, a gospel of both justice and mercy, of righteousness and compassion,” Moore told reporters. “And we’re here today not as a political pressure group or a political action committee. We’re here as a group of believers in Jesus Christ who want to let our elected officials know that we are praying for them, we’re praying for wisdom, we’re praying for discernment, and we’re praying for justice and for compassion in a system that is broken.”


David Crosby, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, talks about the need for immigration reform at a July 24 news conference on Capitol Hill.

Crosby, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, told Baptist Press after the news conference, “I am here because I am compelled by the gospel to be here. I’m not compelled politically.... But I’m here compelled by the gospel because I think this fits perfectly in the story of Jesus when He illustrated essential faith in God by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. There’s a guy beat up. Some folks want to walk on the other side of the road. I mean, if I’m going to follow Jesus, I just can’t do that.”

First Baptist Church in New Orleans has multiple compassion ministries, several that serve undocumented workers and their children in the process, Crosby said.

“In my experience, undocumented workers are the most victimized and most at-risk people in my community,” he said at the news conference. “They are robbed, raped and assaulted with impunity by criminals who know they will not go to the police. We’ve got to stop that.... [M]aybe they’re here through their own fault, but how we treat them while they’re here is on us.”

He told reporters it is “time for our legislators to stand up and say, as hard as it is, ‘Let’s fix this. Let’s do the right thing – for the sake of their humanity and of ours.’”

In 2011, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Ariz., approved a resolution on immigration reform that called for the advancement of the gospel of Jesus while pursuing justice and compassion. The measure urged the government to make a priority of border security and holding businesses accountable in their hiring. It also requested public officials establish, after securing the borders, “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.” It specified the resolution was not to be interpreted as supporting amnesty.

EIT has called for a solution that:

  • “Respects the God-given dignity of every person;

  • “Protects the unity of the immediate family;

  • “Respects the rule of law;

  • “Guarantees secure national borders;

  • “Ensures fairness to taxpayers;

  • “Establishes a path toward legal status and citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington Bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

7/25/2013 2:51:59 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Christians in Iran jailed for ‘propaganda’

July 25 2013 by Baptist Press

TEHRAN – Eight Iranian Christians were charged with “action against the national security” and “propaganda against the system” recently after being arrested in a raid of an evening prayer service, evidence of ongoing persecution of Christians in Iran.

The news comes as Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini marked 300 days in a brutal Tehran prison July 23. Supporters say he is being held solely on the basis of his faith, enduring intense physical and psychological abuse.

Earlier in July, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reported that persecution of Christians in Muslim nations is on the rise, particularly in Iran.

“In the Islamic Republic of Iran alone there are countless Christians imprisoned, facing charges or convictions for one crime, apostasy (essentially becoming a Christian in a radical Islamic nation),” ACLJ reported.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said July 18 that the eight members of the Church of Iran were sentenced in Shiraz, more than 500 miles south of Tehran, after being arrested last fall.

“Mohammad Roghangir was sentenced to six years, Massoud Rezaie to five years, Mehdi Ameruni and Bijan Farokhpour Haghighi to three years, Shahin Lahooti and Suroush Saraie to two and half years each. Eskandar Rezaie and Roxana Forughi were both sentenced to one year in prison,” CSW reported.

“It is both disappointing and deplorable that the Iranian regime persists in detaining religious minorities on political charges as has occurred, once again, in this case,” CSW’s Mervyn Thomas said.

“These Christians in no way constitute a threat to the state. We call for their unconditional release and urge the government to end the practice of characterizing legitimate religious activities as national security crimes and to uphold the right of all religious minorities to freedom of religion and belief,” Thomas said.

CSW press officer Kiri Kankhwende told Morning Star News that little has changed in terms of religious freedom for non-Muslims in Iran since the election in June of the country’s supposedly more moderate president, Hassan Rouhani.

“It is now common practice to subject religious minorities to political charges, as any alternative belief system is deemed a threat to the theocratic state,” Kankhwende said.

The eight Christians earlier were given enormous bail terms meant to cause severe financial hardships as punishment, CSW said. The bail amounts ranged between $80,000 and $200,000.

Morning Star News also reported on Mostafa Bordbar, 27, a convert to Christianity from Islam who is held in Evin prison and could face 10 years there if convicted on charges of participating in an “illegal gathering and participating in a house church.”

Bordbar’s case is being handled by Judge Pir-Abbas, who is known as the “hanging judge” for assigning long prison sentences and death penalties. Pir-Abbas sentenced Abedini, Morning Star News said.

As recounted by ACLJ, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard entered the home of Abedini’s parents in Tehran – he lived at the time with his wife and two children in the United States and was visiting Iran – and arrested him for his earlier involvement in a house church movement. He has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

After months of denying Abedini medical treatment, including two occasions of taking him to a hospital without granting an examination, Iranian authorities reportedly allowed Abedini to receive treatment July 20, ACLJ said. A physician determined that he suffered from an internal injury in his stomach caused by beatings from prison guards.

ACLJ said Iranian authorities “have heard the international outcry for medical attention” after more than 600,000 people signed a petition on Abedini’s behalf and his case received attention at the United Nations.

“Thank you to all of the individuals who have prayed, written letters, signed petitions, called government officials, run benefit races, tweeted and shared Saeed’s story,” his wife Naghmeh Abedini said. “Thank you to all of the government officials from around the world who have stood for my husband. Iran has listened to your pleas.

“While I am encouraged that Saeed is finally getting medical care, the fight is not yet over,” Naghmeh Abedini said, according to ACLJ. “It has been a difficult 300 days – 300 days of torment simply because Saeed loves Jesus Christ. I am hopeful Iran will do the just and honorable thing and release Saeed.”

Jordan Sekulow, ACLJ’s executive director, said he was pleased that Abedini finally received medical care.

“It is our hope that the Iranian regime will take additional steps to correct their wrongdoings by giving his case a fair and impartial review in the court of appeals, where his case is currently pending,” Sekulow said.

“A fair and impartial review must result in a decision that continuing to hold Pastor Saeed is a grave violation of Iran’s constitution and its international obligations,” Sekulow said.

ACLJ’s international affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), has filed a report in an international legal proceeding detailing Iran’s radical Islamic legal framework and the plight of specific Christians facing intense persecution.

“How does Iran circumvent its own constitution and treaty obligations?” ECLJ wrote. “First, it claims that converts to Christianity aren’t really Christians deserving of any protections under the law.”

Also, Iran makes judicial determinations according to Sharia law.

“Iranian judges, like that of many radical Islamic nations operating under Sharia law, use the opinions and proclamations of radical clerics in determining that someone is an apostate and must be punished under Islamic law, and in an alarming number of cases even executed,” ECLJ wrote.

In an effort to stamp out the spread of Christianity, ECLJ said the government monitors churches and their members to “catch” converts.

“For example, in Iran, one must put their religion on any job application. Thus, Christian converts, who almost certainly have Muslim names, must choose either to risk exposure or are forced to lie on a job application regarding the truth of their faith,” ECLJ explained. “And when they are found out, they are often arrested or detained as a result.”

ECLJ provided these updates on specific Iranian Christians – in addition to Abedini – who have been imprisoned for their faith:
  • Farshid Fathi, a pastor who was arrested in late 2010 and is accused of converting from Islam and practicing the Christian faith. He was sentenced to six years in prison, and much of his time has been spent in solitary confinement.
  • Benham Irani, a pastor who was arrested for leading a house church in 2008. An apostasy charge against him was suspended and then reinstated in 2011, and he was sentenced to five years in prison. Like Abedini, ECLJ said, Irani has suffered severe injuries and has been denied medical treatment.
  • Ali Golchin, arrested for distributing Bibles in the Persian language. After spending 87 days in solitary confinement in Evin prison, he eventually was acquitted and fled the country.
“It is unquestionable that persecution of Christians is on the rise, not only in Iran, but in other nations that have similarly adopted radical Islamic Sharia law,” ACLJ said. “With all the upheaval in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, it is critical that we all remember these brave individuals.

“As we freely practice our faith we should encourage our own leaders to truly stand up for religious liberty worldwide.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
7/25/2013 2:49:26 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Think: Worship’ conf. points to the gospel

July 25 2013 by RuthAnne Irvin, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Worship is fundamentally about the gospel, speakers said at the inaugural “Think: Worship” conference at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“The gospel is a story that is all about worship and, because of that, worship in the church should be about the gospel,” said Mike Cosper, pastor of worship and arts at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Ky., and author of Faith Mapping: A Gospel Atlas for Your Spiritual Journey.

The conference, featuring Cosper and other speakers, worship ministers and music scholars, examined the theology of worship and the gospel in music, encouraging attendees to lead their churches to worship biblically.

Christian recording artist Michael Card, who has recorded more than 30 albums and authored or coauthored several books, spoke about lament and worship.

Card used anecdotes to illustrate the thesis of his message: “Lament is not about getting stuff off your chest, but worshipping God well,” he said.

Worship begins in the wilderness, Card said. “We’re not the people who are together, but we’re the people who know what pain is for,” he said, calling for churches to make a place for people who are suffering.

SBTS photo by Emil Handke
Christian recording artist Michael Card was among 23 speakers at Southern Seminary’s “Think: Worship” conference.  

“We desperately need people in our congregation who are suffering so we can learn from them – not fix them,” Card said.

Cosper challenged attendees to examine their hearts about the self-centeredness prevalent in worship preferences.

Pleasing individuals in the congregation “leads to a church that’s built around spectacle rather than a biblical set of priorities about who the church is and what the people do when they meet together,” Cosper said.

Matt Boswell, pastor of ministries and worship at Providence Church in Frisco, Texas, speaking on “The Center of Christian Worship” from 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, said the cadence of the Christian life is grace that leads to worship.

“We’re not singers of songs; we’re heralds of Good News. We need to be reminded of the centrality of the gospel,” Boswell said.

“Gifting may give a man a platform,” he noted, “but character is what gives him a voice. God’s grace forms worship leaders.”

Donald S. Whitney, senior associate dean of Southern Seminary’s school of theology, spoke about private and public worship, noting that worship in scripture is primarily congregational.

“Every glimpse given to us in scripture of worship in heaven, with two exceptions, reveals congregational worship,” said Whitney, who also is associate professor of biblical spirituality at Southern. “God is glorified more in congregational worship than in private worship.”

Whitney also spoke of personal worship, encouraging attendees to meditate on scripture.

“Reading alone was never intended to be the primary means of absorbing the scripture,” Whitney said. “Reading is the starting place, but meditation is the absorption of scripture.”

At the conference, musician and scholar Harold Best received the Carl “Chip” Stam Award for Leadership in the Worshipping Church. Stam taught at Southern Seminary for 11 years before developing non-Hodgkins lymphoma, from which he died in 2011.

“Almost everything we are doing in the division of biblical worship here at Southern is a result of Chip’s influence and passion for Jesus Christ,” said Joe Crider, head of the seminary’s division of biblical worship. “He mentored literally thousands of worship leaders.”

Best is an emeritus dean and professor of music at Wheaton College in Illinois and a former president of the National Association of Schools of Music. Best now serves as ministry associate at Community Presbyterian Church in Post Falls, Idaho.

After receiving the award, Best read from a letter he had penned about music and art in the church. Music and worship have their best moments, he wrote, “when the people of God have joined heartily in the worship of God.”

Great art, meanwhile, “is not out of place in the public worship gathering,” Best said. “To do this would be to ban mystery.”

Adam Greenway, new dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry – the parent school of the division of biblical worship – said the Think: Worship conference emphasized Southern’s commitment to train local church ministers in sound theology.

“Hosting the Think: Worship conference is part of our ongoing strategy to provide training and encouragement for local church leaders to help recapture a passion for biblical worship,” Greenway said. “We want churches to know that we are serious about the entire Great Commission, including training leaders who are capable of leading the people of God not only in worship, but to worship.”

The June 17-19 conference featured 23 speakers and two bands – Southern Seminary’s Norton Hall Band and Sojourn Community Church Music. Breakout session topics ranged from songwriting to technology to worship presentation and planning to vocal help. Audio and video from Think: Worship is available at sbts.edu/resources.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – RuthAnne Irvin writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
7/25/2013 2:44:59 PM by RuthAnne Irvin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Metro N.Y. Baptists embrace self-funding with ‘global reach’

July 24 2013 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

NEW YORK – In a spirit of commitment and partnership, the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA) has voted to transition to full self-funding for its entire staff, beginning first with the executive director in 2014.

“There were two primary reasons for the change,” said George Russ, the association’s current executive director and a North American Mission Board church planting catalyst.

“First, this is healthy for the association, a sign of mature growth,” Russ said of the association’s action at its mid-year meeting. “Second, the direction of NAMB’s Send North America strategy is to fund new churches.”

The current funding model that depends on NAMB support is common for many associations in places where Southern Baptists are few in number. Russ affirmed that the metro New York change is in no way adverse.


George Russ

“The decision of MNYBA to fund its director and staff is not negative and was not made in protest or anger,” Russ said. “We will continue to invite NAMB to partner with us in church planting. We need 20,000 new churches yesterday if we were to have the same ratio of churches to people that exists in other parts of the country.”

Russ and MNYBA board chairman Bob Cope conferred with NAMB President Kevin Ezell prior to the action by the association, which encompasses 200 churches. Russ said he wanted to make sure Ezell understood the motivation for the proposed move before the May 4 vote.

“We felt it was important for Kevin to know what we were doing and why,” Russ said. “He was very happy when we explained what we were doing and very supportive.”

Ezell echoed Russ’ comments.

“Our goal has been to put as much money as possible into new churches and then let those churches support their associations and other organizational structures,” Ezell said. “I commend New York Baptists for embracing this model.”

MNYBA has an annual budget of about $370,000. Much of the staff is primarily volunteer and self-funded. The 200 churches in the 51-year-old association will have to consider increasing their support to enable the new model, Russ said.

“It is a bit of an educational process,” Russ said. “Some of our churches did not support the association financially last year. I am meeting with churches to help them understand the new level of commitment this move will take.”

Russ confirmed the need to continue focusing on church planting. He has assisted in the launch of three churches in the association this year and is working with two other potential plants. He said church planting will continue to be a critical part of his role after he transitions from the NAMB post on Jan. 1, which will end 30 years of work as a NAMB missionary.

“Our churches are about 75 percent non-Anglo,” Russ said. “We have a huge international population here. There are some 800,000 Muslims living within the association. There are 2 million Jews, and large numbers of Sikhs and Hindus. We need international outreach strategies.

“But we are also challenging our churches to have a global reach. We are partnering to establish ministries to confront human trafficking. We are partnering with believers in Shanghai and Dakar for evangelism, training and church planting. We have to help our churches think globally.”

To learn more about the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association, visit www.mnyba.org. To learn about partnering with church planting efforts in New York through NAMB’s Send North America initiative, visit namb.net/mobilize-me.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)

7/24/2013 2:10:50 PM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Better church planter support is NAMB’s goal

July 24 2013 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Church planter support is becoming a priority at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) as Southern Baptists seek to greatly increase the number of churches planted in North America over the next 10 years.

“We need thousands more church planters,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “We know it’s God’s role to call them. But we also know we must do a better job taking care of them once they’ve responded to the call.”

One of Ezell’s first actions after coming to NAMB in 2010 was to establish a church planter support network directed by Micah Millican, who helps establish support teams for planters in cities throughout North America.

Local church planters, church planting catalysts and NAMB city coordinators lead the city-specific support teams. NAMB encourages three events a year per city designed to deepen relationships between planters and their families and build a sense of brotherhood between planters in a city. Local planters decide what those events will be.

“Cities are not won in isolation,” Millican said. “Cities are won in community. Church planters need to be able to lock arms with other planters to effectively push back lostness in a city. They desperately need one another.”

One of the three events NAMB funds each year is specifically designed for church planter wives, and another one involves the whole family. A recent event in Boston included a family trip to the aquarium for planters and their families.

To help support and encourage church planting families, NAMB regularly sends books to all planters who have joined the network, including publications focused on leadership development, marriage and spouse enrichment and other ministry issues. Funds have been provided for date nights and to meet special financial needs in times of crisis.

Photo by John Swain
Church planter Jose Abella, center, addresses North American Mission Board trustees during a city vision tour held in conjunction with a board meeting in Miami last year. Abella is part of the Send North America Support Network and appreciates the “incredible amount of support, prayer and encouragement available as we connect with other planters and NAMB.”  

Church planter Jose Abella has benefited directly from NAMB’s increased support efforts. Abella, who serves in Miami, said church planting can be a lonely ministry. With so much of a planter’s energy focused on reaching new people with the gospel, his family often has limited opportunities for relationships with fellow Christians.

That’s why the relationships his family has developed with other church planting families through the North American Mission Board’s Send North America Support Network over the past two years have been so crucial.

“That’s part of what it means to be Southern Baptist,” Abella said. “You’re not on your own. There is an incredible amount of support, prayer and encouragement available as we connect with other planters and NAMB.”

Miami is one of 32 Send North America cities where NAMB is developing local networks of church planters by establishing city-specific support teams driven by its national Send North America Support Network.

The city-specific support teams are part of a national effort by NAMB to develop a network among Southern Baptist church planters. The national network is open to all lead church planters regardless of ministry context who affirm the Baptist Faith & Message and have planted within the past five years.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. Church planters can visit namb.net/cpprofile for more information and to join the Send North America Support Network. They can contact Micah Millican at mmillican@namb.net for more information.)
7/24/2013 2:05:15 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

GuideStone announces 3 new funds

July 24 2013 by Shelly Moon, Baptist Press

DALLAS – GuideStone Funds has announced the addition of three new funds to its lineup: the Real Assets Fund, Flexible Income Fund and Global Natural Resources Equity Fund.

“Once again, GuideStone is expanding our fund selection in order to enhance the choices available to our participants,” said John R. Jones, chief operating officer of GuideStone Financial Resources and president of GuideStone Funds.

“Since we launched GuideStone Funds in 2001, we have sought to provide the investment opportunities that we believe best serve our participants,” Jones said. “We believe these new funds will help us in continuing that tradition.”

The new funds are:

Real Assets Fund
The Real Assets Fund, which is available for direct investment, is intended to serve GuideStone participants by offering an investment that seeks long-term capital appreciation and income consistent with protection from inflation. The Real Assets Fund consists of five underlying mutual funds: four GuideStone Funds (Flexible Income Fund, Global Natural Resources Equity Fund, Inflation Protected Bond Fund and Real Estate Securities Fund) and the Credit Suisse Commodity Return Strategy Fund, which is not a series of GuideStone Funds and is advised by an unaffiliated adviser.

Participants who want to determine if the Real Assets Fund is an appropriate part of their retirement portfolio can access GuideStone’s free financial advice tool, GPS: Guided Planning Services, by logging into their accounts at www.MyGuideStone.org or by setting up an appointment by calling 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433).

Flexible Income Fund
The Flexible Income Fund is not available for direct investment, but it is made available within GuideStone’s Real Assets Fund, as well as the MyDestination 2005, 2015 and 2025 Funds. It also is included within the Conservative Allocation Fund, Conservative Allocation Fund I, Balanced Allocation Fund and the Balanced Allocation Fund I. The Flexible Income Fund is intended to serve GuideStone participants by offering an investment that seeks a high level of current income.

Global Natural Resources Equity Fund
The Global Natural Resources Equity Fund, also not available for direct investment, is made available within GuideStone’s Real Assets Fund, as well as the MyDestination Funds and is included within the Conservative Allocation Fund, Conservative Allocation Fund I, Balanced Allocation Fund, Balanced Allocation Fund I, Growth Allocation Fund and the Growth Allocation Fund I. The Global Natural Resources Equity Fund is intended to serve GuideStone investors by offering an investment that seeks long-term capital appreciation.

More information about these funds follows this article, while fact sheets and prospectus details for the funds can be accessed at www.GuideStoneFunds.org.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shelly Moon is marketing development writer for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

Further details about the new funds:
  • The Real Assets Fund may be suitable for investors who have a medium- to long-term investment horizon, possess a moderate tolerance for risk and seek to participate in the return potential of real return related securities. The fund is subject to the periodic adjustment of interest and/or principal payments on inflation-indexed bonds due to changes in inflation. The fund’s value will fluctuate due to factors affecting the real estate market, including, among others, overbuilding, change in rental fees, limited diversification and change in laws. Natural resource equities may be significantly affected by events relating to international political and economic developments, energy conservation, the success of exploration projects, commodity prices and tax and other government regulations. Floating rate loans generally are subject to restrictions on transfer, and an underlying fund in which the fund invests may be unable to sell loans at a time when it may otherwise be desirable to do so or may be able to sell them only at prices that are less than their fair market value. The fund is subject to risks that high yield securities (“junk bonds”) may default and are more volatile than securities rated investment grade. Exposure to the commodities markets and/or a particular sector of the commodities markets may subject the fund to greater volatility than investments in traditional securities.
  • The Flexible Income Fund may be suitable for investors who have a medium- to long-term investment horizon, possess a moderate tolerance for risk and are seeking income which may be more sensitive to interest rates than traditional bonds. High yield securities (“junk bonds”) involve greater risks of default and are more volatile than securities rated investment grade. There is a risk that the issuer of a fixed-income investment owned by the fund may fail to pay interest or even principal due in a timely manner or at all. If the fund acquires a participation interest in a senior secured or unsecured floating rate loan (“Senior Loan”), the fund may not be able to control the exercise of any remedies that the lender would have under the loan and likely would not have any rights against the borrower directly. Senior Loans made to finance highly leveraged corporate acquisitions may be especially vulnerable to adverse changes in economic or market conditions. The fund is subject to collateral risk in that the value of collateral securing a Senior Loan may decline after investment and that the collateral may not be sufficient to cover the amount owed. The fund might not be able to sell a security promptly and at an acceptable price, which could have the effect of decreasing the overall level of the fund’s liquidity.
  • The Global Natural Resources Equity Fund may be suitable for investors who have a medium- to long-term investment horizon, possess a high tolerance for risk and seek to participate in the return potential of natural resources-related equity securities. An investment in medium-, small- and micro-cap companies may involve greater risk and be more volatile and less liquid than an investment in a larger company. Investment in companies in natural resources industries may be significantly affected by (often rapid) changes in supply of, or demand for, various natural resources. Concentrating investments in the natural resources sector increases the risk of loss because the securities of many or all of the companies in the sector may decline in value due to developments adversely affecting the sector, including market, economic, political or regulatory developments. Prices of precious metals and of precious metal-related securities have historically been very volatile due to various economic, financial, social and political factors and may adversely affect the financial condition of companies involved with precious metals.
7/24/2013 1:58:47 PM by Shelly Moon, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hispanic diversity needn’t hinder gospel opportunities

July 24 2013 by Keith Collier, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – In response to a study released by the Pew Research Hispanic Center, three Southern Baptist Hispanic leaders see a growing need for churches to consider the diversity among Hispanic populations as they reach out to those in their communities.

The study examines the diverse countries of origin found among the nearly 52 million Hispanics living in the United States. Taking figures from 2011, the study notes more than 20 Spanish-speaking nations are represented by the U.S. Latino population and focuses on the 14 largest Hispanic-origin groups.

According to the research, “nearly two-thirds (64.6 percent) of U.S. Hispanics, or 33.5 million, traced their family origins to Mexico.” The next-largest group, Puerto Ricans, made up 9.5 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population. Following these were Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans, Colombians, Spaniards, Hondurans, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Argentineans.

Daniel Sanchez, professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, said the explosive growth of the Hispanic population provides churches with great opportunities for ministry and evangelism because “Hispanics also are responding more to the gospel than ever before.”

In response to the Pew study, released June 19, Sanchez said country of origin can influence gospel receptivity among Hispanics.

“If you take some of the Central American countries, like Guatemala, almost one-third of the population of Guatemala is evangelical now,” Sanchez said, adding that Puerto Rico also is almost one-third evangelical.


iStock image
A key challenge – and opportunity – in reaching Hispanics, Baptist leaders note, is a readiness to convey the gospel to first-, second- and third-generation families. 

“So when they come to the States, they already have an evangelical orientation, and some of them are being instrumental in forming congregations,” Sanchez said. “One can expect a higher degree of receptivity and that they’ve had more contact with evangelicals even if they are not evangelicals themselves.

“Interestingly enough, then, percentage-wise, some of these countries are ahead of Mexico in terms of percentage of evangelicals.... More people coming from Mexico will have a Roman Catholic orientation ... [and] may not have had any contact with evangelicals previously,” Sanchez said. “So, it takes longer to establish a relationship with them. But, there are enough commonalities there. Evangelism, then, may just require more time for some from these groups.”

Fermín Whittaker, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention and a Panama native, agreed with Sanchez, saying exposure to the gospel within the country of origin can affect gospel receptivity.

Noting cultural and linguistic differences, Whittaker said, “We stay away from local dialects when preaching in our churches and make it something so all can understand the Word of God. That’s the way I preach when I preach in Spanish. I don’t take any jokes from Panama or any illustrations that may not be appropriate to the audience I’m speaking with.”

Elías Bracamonte, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Topeka, Kan., and president of the SBC’s National Hispanic Baptist Fellowship, said in addition to diversity in religious background, Spanish-speaking countries also have economic and educational differences. Thus, Hispanic immigrants “need not only to assimilate and adapt to the U.S. but also to each other.”

For example, the Pew Research study said 51 percent of Venezuelans have a college degree compared to 7 percent of Guatemalans and Salvadorans. Argentineans have the highest annual median household income at $55,000 while Hondurans rank lowest at $31,000.

While these differences likely will influence strategies for reaching Hispanics in a community, Bracamonte encourages churches “to be humble and have good relationships and build trust because there’s an open door, and this is our opportunity to have an impact and be a blessing to others with the spirit of Christ.”

An even larger factor in ministry to Latinos, Sanchez, Whittaker and Bracamonte noted, may be the diversity between first-, second- and third-generation Hispanics.

“We also talk about the different generations: the immigrant generation, the children of the immigrants that would typically be bilingual, and then the grandchildren of the immigrants that are mainly English speakers,” Sanchez said.

“It takes a variety of approaches to reach these different segments within the Hispanic population. Being aware of this is important in contradistinction to thinking that one style fits all.”

Second- and third-generation Hispanics generally have higher education and a higher standard of living than first-generation Hispanics, Sanchez said. Additionally, “Second- and third-generation Hispanics are even more responsive to the gospel message than the first generation. So, children’s and youth ministries are extremely important.... Half of the Hispanic population is under 27 [years of age].”

Bracamonte, a second-generation American whose parents moved to the United States from Mexico, said those from the first generation have greater difficulty integrating into American culture.

“The first generational people have to assimilate, eventually adopt their country, adapt to the culture and adjust [to life in America],” Bracamonte said.

This generational diversity, Whittaker said, can be seen clearly in the language barrier between Spanish and English. While most first-generation Hispanic-Americans are predominantly Spanish speakers, their children and grandchildren tend to be bilingual or English-only.

As a pastor in California, Whittaker used to preach only in Spanish, but he noticed young people were not coming to church. When he began preaching bilingually, the church grew significantly.

Sanchez agreed, adding, “One cultural characteristic of Hispanics is a very strong emphasis on the family. So if a church can find a way to keep the family together, not necessarily worshipping in the same service, but if they can go to church together and even worship in different languages, then they will sometimes respond better than at a church that only ministers to the Spanish-speaking or only to the English-speaking segments of the Hispanic population.”

Even with the diversity of country, generations and languages, Whittaker said, “The common bond is the gospel.”

“Those profiles are sometimes looked on as obstacles to the gospel, but once you sit down and have a cup of coffee, it goes away. We use the word familia – familia crosses the borders with everyone.”

Sanchez agreed, noting, “There still needs to be an effort on the part of those working with Hispanics to reach all of them.

“It takes an effort because there are cultural variations,” Sanchez said. “Typically, the pastors that are better able to relate to the cultures coming from different countries of origin, those churches are the ones that are reaching the largest number of them. The more we’re aware of these challenges, the more effective we’re going to be.

“Friendship evangelism needs to be utilized because if you establish friendships with them, then a greater degree of trust is developed,” Sanchez said.

Bracamonte advises churches to start with small steps: “Perhaps begin a Bible study at the church or a Sunday School class and then build from there.”

Whittaker encourages churches to develop “an openness of love for people in their community.”

“It may sound like we’re doing it, but in reality, sometimes we’re afraid because we don’t know what the response may be,” Whittaker said. “I have found that when a church is willing to evangelize their community, the Lord provides the wisdom for them to do it the right way.”

“Before you do anything, prayer has to bathe your community as you receive the compassion of Christ for everybody in your community, not only a specific language but all kinds of people,” Whittaker said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

7/24/2013 1:54:15 PM by Keith Collier, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Anti-Internet-porn campaign announced by UK’s Cameron

July 24 2013 by Baptist Press

LONDON – British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a multifaceted campaign against Internet pornography that blocks in-home access to images through search engines but allows individual residences to maintain access upon request.

By the end of 2013 in Great Britain, pornographic images and prose will automatically be filtered by Internet providers for new customers, unless they opt in to receive them, and existing customers will have the option of activating “family-friendly” filters to their accounts, Cameron announced July 22 at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children London headquarters.

“I’m not making this speech because I want to moralize or scaremonger but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come,” Cameron said. “This is, quite simply, about how we protect our children and their innocence.”

Parliament also will enact laws making illegal the possession of what Cameron described as “extreme porn,” including the simulated depiction of rape.

Tackling the problem will require work also from “parents, Internet providers and platforms, educators and charities,” Cameron said.

Great Britain’s new national curriculum includes “unprecedented requirements” to teach online safety to children, and a new national campaign will launch in 2014 to teach parents how to keep children safe online and discuss such dangers as sexting and online bullying, Cameron said.

“We will give CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) and the police all the powers they need to keep pace with the changing nature of the Internet,” Cameron said. “And today I can announce that from next year, we will also link up existing fragmented databases across all the police forces to produce a single secure database of illegal images of children which will help police in different parts of the country work together more effectively to close the net on pedophiles.

“It will also enable the industry to use the digital hash tags from the database to proactively scan for, block and take down these images wherever they occur, and that’s exactly what the industry has agreed to do,” Cameron said.

But the details of Cameron’s plan were said to surprise some Internet providers, who expected less invasive steps, The Daily Beast reported.

“Something’s obviously gone wrong,” The Daily Beast quoted Dominique Lazanski, identified as a former Yahoo and Apple employee. “It’s very strange, they’ve been working on this deal for two years and then, between the negotiating table and Number 10, something changed.” Number 10 refers to the address of Cameron’s office on Downing Street.

“It’s impossible for a politician to be blocking porn online,” Lazanski told The Daily Beast. “There seems to have been a lack of understanding at No. 10.”

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore posted on his blog Moore to the Point,” and tweeted a still-pertinent 2011 article he wrote on the role the church must play in fighting Internet pornography.

“In our time, pornography is the destroying angel of (especially male) Eros, and it’s time the church faced the horror of this truth,” Moore wrote. “This means that our churches cannot simply rely on accountability groups and blocking software to combat this scourge. We must see this as darkly spiritual and, first and foremost, reclaim a Christian vision of human sexuality.”

Groups actively fighting to protect children voiced approval of Cameron’s plans but cautioned that all steps must be fully implemented for effectiveness.

Peter Kerridge, chief executive of Premier Christian Media and Safermedia, told the interdenominational Christian Today media that the government needs to take decisive action against a “blatant and relentless assault on young and impressionable minds.”

“Our many allies and supporters can justifiably congratulate themselves on a campaign well-fought but, until these proposals are implemented, we shall maintain our vigil to combat the open door to pornography and depravity and its impact on the innocence of our children,” Kerridge said.

Cameron, acknowledging with appreciation the Internet’s role in public education and communication, said an unregulated service has birthed detrimental challenges.

“The first challenge is criminal: and that is the proliferation and accessibility of child abuse images on the Internet. The second challenge is cultural: the fact that many children are viewing online pornography and other damaging material at a very young age and that the nature of that pornography is so extreme,” Cameron said, “it is distorting their view of sex and relationships.”

“Children can’t go into the shops or the cinema and buy things meant for adults or have adult experiences; we rightly regulate to protect them,” he said. “But when it comes to the Internet in the balance between freedom and responsibility, we have neglected our responsibility to our children. My argument is that the Internet is not a sideline to ‘real life’ or an escape from ‘real life;’ it is real life.”

Cameron’s personal quest to clean up the Internet intensified after he met the parents of two children who were killed by pedophiles who had accessed child abuse images online, according to The Daily Beast.

“Everything I’ve spoken about today comes back to one thing: the kind of society we want to be. I want Britain to be the best place to raise a family, a place where your children are safe, where there’s a sense of right and wrong, and boundaries between them, where children are allowed to be children,” Cameron said.

“All the actions we’re taking come back to that, protecting the most vulnerable in our society, protecting innocence, protecting childhood itself. That is what is at stake. And I will do whatever it takes to keep our children safe.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Diana Chandler.)
7/24/2013 1:51:18 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Emmy winner uses media to share Christ

July 23 2013 by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A

For Jess Stainbrook, media is an excellent tool for positively impacting lives and sharing his faith with others. In 2006, Stainbrook founded 1615 The GC Media Project (www.1615.tv) with the mission to bring positive change to today’s culture through radio, television and film. Stainbrook received a “Teddy” award from Movieguide for his work as executive producer and founder of the film “Seven Days in Utopia,” a family-friendly film that features actor Robert Duvall.  
Stainbrook has worked on projects with ESPN and PBS and other networks and has won eight Emmy Awards. Each year, Stainbrook works with the Biblical Recorder’s Roman Gabriel III to cover the Super Bowl, while highlighting a Christian perspective. Stainbrook is also executive vice president of Scripture Union, a ministry that encourages and equips people through various media to access and regularly read the Bible. In this interview, Stainbrook shares about the role of media, new technology and the importance of quality entertainment.
Q: Tell our audience about why you made the transition from successful secular television to ministry and 1615.tv?
A: I think you get to the point of your life where you look at your career, [and consider] whether it’s been successful or whether it has significance. … About eight years ago God called me out of what I would call my full-time job in media and broadcast television. … My call was how do you go about impacting the world through your profession in media politics, government, sports, and influence our culture. But of course on top of that is to do it through Christ. What we’re really trying to do is be like Jesus, … to produce excellent media content … with truth. … More often than not many people find their way to God [by] reading the Bible and discover[ing] the truth. Our goal is to create great content [and] provide a good discussion for people to discover [Jesus] on their own.

Contributed photo
At Super Bowl Media Day with Sold out Team (from left): Frank Bokoski, Roman Gabriel III and Jess Stainbrook. Stainbrook uses his media influence to spread the gospel.

Q: With all the new technology available for people to follow sports and entertainment, telling a faith-based story is becoming more mainstream. Where do you see this entire process going in the next generation?
A: We are in this great time right now with this explosion of technology, where information and entertainment is available to everyone. It used to be if you were a filmmaker or production studio that you would have to have deep pockets and mountains of equipment to be able to produce the kind of product that’s needed in order to put out quality programming. Today, you could go out with your cell phone and make a documentary that [is]socially relevant anywhere, anytime.  … With a push of a button immediately anybody in the world can see it. … As filmmakers and believers, … we can go out and train people with big visual storytelling and documenting situations, and have an impact on the culture utilizing technology in this next generation. You can travel to Third World countries and see children using cell phones. [With] the available opportunity to communicate so quickly, there is coming a day very soon where we will … push a button on my phone and push the Bible out to almost anyone in the world.
Q: Why is covering the Super Bowl so important to you?
A: Sports and media are the two biggest influencers of our youth today.

Take something in the United States like the Super Bowl – a very interesting Barna survey just came out that says that athletes who speak about their faith have more impact than church leaders. So, when we are out there covering [the] Super Bowl we have the opportunity to impact more people than the guys [who] are standing in the pulpit, because the people and our youth are attracted and hearing those messages.
Q: Talk about your move to Pennsylvania and one of your new challenges as executive vice president of Scripture Union?
A: You never know how the Lord’s going to work. Everybody expected I would go right to the next feature film … after we finished up “Seven Days in Utopia.”
I joined up with Scripture Union here in Valley Forge, Penn. They’re involved [in] what’s known in Christian circles as Bible engagement, which is just a big term for getting people more involved in reading the Bible on a regular basis so God can impact their lives.
Q: How do our readers find out more about what you are doing?
A: You can get the movie “Seven Days in Utopia,” a great family movie starring Robert Duvall on DVD, on Netflix, and on Amazon and Yahoo.com.
You can find out interesting ways to access the Bible at scriptureunion.com, and [go to] jessstainbrook.com or 1615.tv to see our Sold Out Super Bowl programming and other great film and media products we are involved in doing.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman’s Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio can be heard in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at afr.net. Visit his website: soldouttv.com; Facebook page: Roman Gabriel III Fan Page; connect with him on Twitter: romangabriel3rd; email him: soldoutrg3@gmail.com: or call (910) 431-6483. For more from Gabriel, visit here.)
7/23/2013 3:44:37 PM by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A | with 0 comments

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