July 2014

Churches should make mental health part of ministry

July 16 2014 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Welcoming broken people should be the role of the church.
 
“There is a day when the brokenness of this world which stains everything is gone … that’s the working transformative power of the gospel,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “My first place that I go is the scriptures because they are sufficient to counsel.”
 
Several Southern Baptist leaders joined Stetzer June 11 to discuss mental illness. The panel included Frank Page, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee, and Brad Hambrick, (Bradhambrick.com) counseling pastor from The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham.

The breakfast meeting was sponsored by the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Ryan West, NAMB’s national coordinator for LoveLoud, led the group through questions regarding mental illness. The event was during the SBC annual meeting in Baltimore, Md.
 
Stetzer said all people are hurting and broken. Often the first responders – police and pastors – feel inadequately prepared to face mental illness.

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BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Ryan West, left, LoveLoud coordinator for the North American Mission Board, leads Brad Hambrick, center, counseling pastor from The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, and Frank Page, president of the  Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, through questions June 11 relating to mental illness.

 

“As evangelicals we may be uniquely unprepared because we don’t know how mental illness fits within the spectrum of spiritual struggle,” he said.
 
Stetzer said people like Page who share his daughter’s struggle with mental illness and suicide have helped open up the conversation in churches.
 
Another example is Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., being open about his son’s suicide.
 
“It is unfortunate that it requires tragedy sometimes to get our attention,” Hambrick said.
 
Page co-wrote Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide with Lawrence Kimbrough after losing his daughter. He shared that his mother also struggled with deep depression and tried to commit suicide. “I do believe God is bringing good out of bad,” Page said. “We want the church to be at the forefront of helping people deal with these issues rather than always lagging behind.”
 
Page praised the efforts to make the discussion public.
 
People make a mistake when they think mental illness can be traced to one cause, said Hambrick.
Instead he encouraged churches to ask, “What types of things cause mental illness and how as a church can we become better at equipping people to identify where their struggle may come from?”
 
One of the things churches should be able to do is help people think through their mental illness.
 
Hambrick said churches need to be asking questions. Can the problem be traced to post-traumatic stress or postpartum depression? Is there an environmental factor?
 
Page emphasized using compassion with people suffering from any form of mental illness.
Mental illness exists on a spectrum, Hambrick said. People need to ask if it’s impairing their ability to function on a day-to-day basis? Does it keep a person from going to work or relating to friends?
In the midst of the suffering Page said he and his family have chosen to say, “we believe what we’ve always said. We know it’s true. God’s grace is sufficient. He does heal. He doesn’t remove all pain.”
Page said he refers to Romans 12 to renew his mind.
 
“Scripture is so wonderful at teaching us thought-control,” he said. “There is an enemy that constantly is wanting us not to apply those Christian thought control principles. Our God doesn’t leave us abandoned.”
 
Hambrick said it is helpful for people to understand who they are: sinner, sufferer and saint.
 
“We are all three,” he said. “I think we have to apply the gospel to those areas.”
 
Churches have improved on applying the gospel to a person’s sense of identity but an area that is still weak is applying the gospel in the area of suffering.
 
“Is [this] impacting me as a sin struggle?” Hambrick asked. “How do I bring the gospel to bear in each of those areas? We need to be able to engage in a conversation that shows discernment.”
Page encouraged pastors to stay with people who are struggling with mental illness, even if they refer them to a counseling ministry.
 
“Our patience level [and sensitivity level have] got to take a new turn,” he said. “A church must be a place where transformation does occur, biblical and spiritual tools are constantly applied to every area of our lives and the church should be the place where people are accepted, are loved unconditionally.”
 
Page described Melissa as “98 pounds of pure fire” and explained that she was sometimes hard to get along with but she was loved by the local church.
 
“There is a stigma associated with mental illness in particular in the church,” Stetzer said. “I was encouraged to see … the stories of a Melissa are more common than we know.”
 
He considers the church the “safest and best place for a move toward wholeness.”
 
High-profile people with struggles have raised awareness but it is much harder for the seminary student or a small church pastor because “the doors are closed for you,” Stetzer said. “We don’t allow people to struggle as part of the community. We have to break the stigma so people don’t suffer alone.”
 
One of the problems with a counseling ministry is it “tends to be a space hog,” he said.
 
Fear of lawsuits and volunteer burnout keeps many churches from getting involved. Church leaders need to familiarize themselves with issues of liability as well as confidentiality.
 
Hambrick said churches are prime locations for helping people.
 
“Where do adults gather that on a weekly basis at least where they are encouraged, they think about life, they get together in community?” Hambrick asked. “Is anyone else doing that? If functioning well, the local church should be the wonder and envy of the local mental health community … where the only requirement for membership is to acknowledge your brokenness.”
 
Earlier this year Page named a 23-member mental health advisory committee which includes four North Carolina leaders – Hambrick, Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Doug Carver, executive director for chaplaincy at the North American Mission Board, and Sam Williams, an elder at North Wake Church in Wake Forest and professor of counseling at Southeastern.
 
Messengers to the 2013 SBC annual meeting approved a resolution on “Mental Health Concerns and the Heart of God,” affirming the “immeasurable value to God” of those with mental health concerns, committing to “affirm, support and share God’s love and redemption with those with mental health concerns” and opposing “all stigmatization and prejudice against those who are suffering from mental health concerns.”
 
Visit CCEF.org for more information and resources on ministering to those with mental and physical disabilities. A full audio of the SBC/Baltimore panel duscussion click here.

7/16/2014 10:52:42 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments



NFL analyst Heath Evans commits each day to God

July 16 2014 by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A

The Seattle Seahawks drafted Heath Evans in the third round of the 2001 National Football League (NFL) Draft. He previously played football at Auburn University, was a fullback for 10 years with the Miami Dolphins and then the New England Patriots. But it was with the New Orleans Saints where he won Super Bowl XLIV in Miami over the Indianapolis Colts. Today Evans is an NFL analyst for Fox and the NFL Network.
 
I caught up with him in New York and we talked about life after football, a new career covering the NFL and how this Super Bowl champion continues his successful life as a strong Christian example today.
 
Q: As a former football player and Super Bowl champion, tell us about the opportunities you get to share your faith.

 
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Heath Evans

A: As a player, it was different. When you see the same reporters everyday for eight months out of the year, you form relationships with them and they begin writing articles based on how they see you. I’ve always believed that your actions speak way louder than your words. We live in a culture today where we are quick to thank God but sometimes our actions and our lives don’t live up to everything God says we are to look like. For me, it has always been about saying the right things by His power and the Holy Spirit’s source of strength.
 
Q: Why is it important for youth or anyone today to learn to set goals in life?
 
A: I used to have my goals written all over my bedroom walls and plastered on my lockers. They are constant reminders of where you’re going and what you’re doing. It’s so easy to forget your goals. I’ve always told my kids, “People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan!” Set a plan of action and keep it before you, so you’re constantly reminded of what your purposes and goals are in life.
 
Q: As Christians and as athletes we hear about using our platform for God effectively, how well do you feel you have accomplished that goal?
 
A: I think post-retirement the Lord really allowed me to walk through some things, so that I have a much greater understanding of His providence and sovereignty. One of my favorite verses is John 5:44: “How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” When I sit down each day to write in my journal, I tell Him that this day is His and for Him to use me as He sees fit – such as having a conversation with someone in the green room at Fox or the NFL Network.
 
Q: That’s really interesting what you’re saying. It’s much more simple when we turn it all over to God, isn’t it?
 
A: God says that our hearts are evil so the best thing we can offer Him is dirty and filthy rags. When you begin looking at the humility of Christianity the only time that God can use us is when we realize that we have nothing to offer. We are to take the limelight we’ve been given to give God glory. He has called us to be faithful. When He gives us opportunities to open up our mouths about His love and what He’s done, then His Spirit will reign true and bring the right words to heart and mind. He’ll use us to bring people’s hearts to His kingdom.
 
(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. He is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Visit his website: soldouttv.com; Facebook: Roman Gabriel III Fan Page; connect on Twitter: romangabriel3rd. Contact at (910) 431-6483 or email: soldoutrg3@gmail.com.)

7/16/2014 10:25:26 AM by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A | with 0 comments



Storytelling missionary dies from cancer

July 16 2014 by Paige Ryder, IMB/Baptist Press

International Mission Board (IMB) missionary Jeff Powers died July 10 after fighting a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 50. The witness Powers shared – one that led many to know Christ – will continue through the oral Bible storying ministry he led in Zambia.

Powers and his wife Staci were on the field for 16 years in Botswana and Zambia as church planters. In the latter part of their time in Zambia they worked to bring the Bible to life through storytelling to both literate and oral learners. This became their full-time ministry and a part of Powers’ legacy in Africa.


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IMB Photo by Nicole Clark
IMB missionary Jeff Powers shares advice with Zambian church leaders during a meeting in 2012.

The couple’s determination and efforts to bridge comprehension and life application gave many people in Zambia the opportunity to overcome cultural hindrances to learning about Christ. Non-reading people not only heard the gospel but also learned they could share the gospel through Bible storying.

Oral learners receive information from life experiences, and Powers helped them fill that need. Those who knew him best noted he studied, shared and lived a life that glorified and honored God to the end.

Powers became ill while in Africa. He boarded a plane back to the United States shortly after several tumors were discovered. A couple of months before Powers’ death, Staci shared in an update that her husband quoted Philippians 1:21, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

Powers served his country as a naval officer in the U.S. Navy and served His Lord as a teacher of God’s Word. Among his many hobbies, Powers enjoyed hunting and fishing. He was working on his doctor of ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Seminary and had earned his master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Powers died in Collierville, Tenn. He is survived by his wife, Staci Simpson Powers; his mother, Shirley; his brothers, Scott and Dennis Powers; and 15 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father, Theodore Powers.

Visitation was held at Collierville Funeral Home July 14. Services were at Collierville First Baptist Church July 15.

Powers requested that memorial donations be made to the International Mission Board, SBC, Office of Finance, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230-0767, designated to the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zambia in his name.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paige Ryder writes for IMB.)

7/16/2014 10:12:27 AM by Paige Ryder, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Pastors: Gov. McCrory must defend marriage law

July 15 2014 by K. Allan Blume, Biblical Recorder

The North Carolina Pastors’ Network (NCPN) held a press conference on the south lawn of the state Capitol building in Raleigh July 15 to take the offensive on the legal challenges against the state’s marriage amendment.
 
Kenneth Carrico, executive director of the organization recognized four pastors who spoke about God’s design for marriage and the legal protection of marriage. Carrico presented a petition “to call on North Carolina Governor Patrick McCrory to specifically defend our marriage amendment should the fourth circuit court rule against traditional marriage in N.C.”
 
Bate Garman, pastor of Life Church in Morganton read a statement on behalf of NCPN president, David Kistler, who was unable to attend. He said, “We the NCPN believe marriage is God’s institution. We also believe the scriptures to be totally clear that marriage is between one man and one woman.
 
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BR photo K. Allan Blume
Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte, addresses the press conference attendees at the state Capitol building Tuesday, July 15.

“We reject the continuing arrogant decisions of the federal courts that assume the right to supersede the constitutional rights of states by negating said state laws and amendments that limit marriage to one man and one woman,” he said. “Additionally, we have the right to expect that our state attorney Roy Cooper should defend our amendment since he is sworn his oath of office to do so. However, Mr. Cooper is on record stating that he is opposed to our state’s marriage protection amendment and appears completely unwilling to defend it.”
 
The fourth circuit court is expected to render a decision on Virginia’s marriage amendment soon. Since North Carolina falls under the fourth circuit’s jurisdiction, there is concern that N.C.’s laws may fall with the ruling.
 
Garman said, “We hereby make the following demand. ‘We the N.C. Pastors Network do solemnly and unreservedly call on Governor Patrick McCrory to use his authority as governor of the state of North Carolina to defend our state’s marriage amendment which was passed by an overwhelming majority of N.C.’s citizens on May 8, 2012.”
 
The second speaker at the press conference, Patrick Wooden, senior pastor of Upper Room Church of God in Christ, Raleigh, said, “The people of this state have spoken. The people spoke loud and clear. ... We said we do not want marriage in the state of North Carolina redefined.
 
“As an African-American minister, as a part of this community, as a native North Carolinian, and a proud American, I want to say to the governor, ‘We need you, even in the African-American community to fight that marriage not be redefined.’”
 
Wooden wants the governor to know that 73 percent of African-American children are born into homes where there are no dads. “We have a disaster going on,” he said. “We do not need to add to the mix a redefining of marriage, where young black boys and young black girls would now be brought up in homes where there are two moms or two dads, only to add to the confusion.”
 
He called on McCrory to “vigorously defended” the state’s marriage amendment. He calls the two-parent marriage “a great deterrent to poverty.” Wooden said if the current marriage laws are upheld, there will not be a great need for government handouts.
 
Mark Harris, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte, said, “It is with great concern and great passion that I join other pastors in standing here today believing that N.C.’s governor Pat McCrory should stand ready and willing to pull out all stops to defend the marriage amendment written into our state constitution in 2012.
 
“We look to Governor McCrory for his leadership and for his courage in fulfilling his oath to protect and defend the constitution of our great state,” he said.
 
Harris recalled the 10 years of “liberal leadership” in the state legislature that rejected a public referendum on marriage. New leadership led to a September 2011 vote in the General Assembly that called for the citizens to vote on the issue.
 
In May 2012 the people voted in what was considered to be an extremely high turnout for a primary.
 
“North Carolinians of all races and all political persuasions voted not with merely a simple majority, but with an overwhelming 61 percent in favor of marriage in this state being defined in our constitution as one man and one woman,” Harris said. “The people of North Carolina have spoken loud and clear.”
 
Harris summarized a concern expressed by all speakers. “Today all of us face the threat of judicial over-reach. ... Our whole system of government now seems to hang in the balance.”
 
While some say trends lean away from traditional marriage, the pastors do not agree. “There is not a trend of change in the minds of people,” Harris said. “We must recall that 32 states where people actually were given the chance to vote, they overwhelmingly decided traditional marriage as the law of their state. The only trend ... is not a trend of the people, rather it has become a trend of the courts. In fact, some have pointed out that this attitude of judicial supremacy is perhaps the greatest heresy of our times.”
 
Harris rebuked Cooper, the state’s attorney general, who opposes the marriage amendment and says he will not defend the law. Constitutional attorneys are ready to fight this battle, but they need to hear from the governor, he said.
 
“It is crucial for Governor McCrory as the head of the executive branch and our General Assembly for that matter, ... to not capitulate to this judicial heresy,” he said. 
 
Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina issued a closing plea to the governor.

He said, “May 8, 2012 was a great day for marriage, a great day for North Carolina and a great day for America. The campaign to protect marriage in this state ... had traveled a long, long journey to victory.”
 
He identified many challenges to the marriage amendment. Creech listed two presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, who publicly opposed the N.C. amendment. Former governor, Bev Purdue, celebrities and others voiced their opposition. He labeled media reporting “anything but fair” with most media outlets stating opposition to the marriage amendment. The NAACP also opposed it.
 
Creech said over $10,000 in pro-marriage campaign signs were stolen or vandalized. Some church marquees were vandalized. The opposition raised funds by a 2-to-1 margin and spent twice the amount on TV ads including “false and egregiously misleading ads based on fear and not on the facts.”
 
In spite of the “incredible mountain of opposition,” the people of N.C. “declared that marriage is foundational to our culture, that it is an institution of such profound significance that its fate should not be left to the uninformed notions of activist judges or legislators. Marriage and how we define it should be left to ‘we the people.’”
 
Creech said, “It is a sad, sad day when a government which was meant to be of the people, by the people and for the people has become a government of the courts, by the courts and for the courts.”
 
He contends the judges are giving a new definition of marriage as a genderless institution. The courts are acting “above the people, above the constitution and above almighty God, Himself [who is] the final authority,” he said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – K. Allan Blume is the editor at the Biblical Recorder.)
7/15/2014 5:03:53 PM by K. Allan Blume, Biblical Recorder | with 2 comments



Annual Church Profile gives churches, SBC ‘report cards’

July 15 2014 by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press

Pastors and churches should feel “very confident” in the trends Annual Church Profile numbers indicate, Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research, said.
 
“When we get together with other statisticians, Southern Baptist participation in the Annual Church Profile (ACP) is the envy of other denominations,” McConnell told SBC LIFE. “Even denominations that have a top-down authority over their churches cannot get the level of cooperation that we, with autonomous churches, get in the Southern Baptist Convention.”
 
The ACP is an annual statistical report churches voluntarily submit to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The reported numbers provide an annual snapshot of the impact Southern Baptists are making through their local churches in penetrating their communities with the gospel.
 
In 2013, the last year on record, Southern Baptists reported a record number 46,125 churches, with an additional 4,789 church-type missions, for a total of nearly 51,000 congregations. 
 
“Every SBC congregation has an ID number that is used by the denomination at the local, state and national level so we can all work from a single identifier for a congregation,” McConnell said.
 

History of the ACP

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Early on, associations gathered information from their cooperating churches to measure effectiveness in their local areas of ministry. Efforts began to be made to gather the associational reports at the state and national levels of convention life; but the information gathered by the various associations was not always comparable.
 
“Pretty early in the process, the effort was made to begin to have a common set of questions,” McConnell said. “One of the challenges is to make sure that as many associations and state conventions as possible are asking exactly the same set of questions with the same definitions each year.
 
“We try to make sure that it is not a long list of questions,” McConnell said. “Currently, it is just 14 questions that are asked nationally.”
 

Value to the church

The ACP gives pastors an annual “report card” to give themselves “a clearer picture of where they are,” Frank S. Page, long-time pastor and current president of the SBC Executive Committee, said. “Pastors are well-known for guessing and wondering and, yes, sometimes exaggerating. The ACP gives real, clear information” that helps the local pastor to “make changes in programming, staffing and budgeting that better reflects where they want to go.
 
“For example, I remember one year, we saw a deep need in our singles ministry and we were able to move financing and staffing and programming to help fill that niche, meet that need,” Page said.
 
Another year, “I was able to say, ‘Look, we’re baptizing our children. We’re not doing a very good job of reaching the population,’” he said.
 
The ACP would “help me in evaluating the various programs and ministries in the church.”
McConnell agreed. The ACP provides churches, associations, state conventions and the SBC “a health scorecard,” he said.
 
“Things tracked in the ACP should be part of the picture that church leaders consider when they are looking at the health of their church,” McConnell said. “They represent disciples, and the church exists to make and teach disciples.”
 
The ACP also provides the church “an invaluable record” that helps a new pastor and staff get up to speed quickly about the church’s priorities, key moments in the church’s history, as well as some challenges the church might be facing, he said.
 
In addition, the ACP establishes “annual accountability” and gives independent credibility to financial institutions when the church may need to borrow money for construction, McConnell said. “The bank would much rather see a printout of a time-series report from the ACP than numbers the church might type into a blank spreadsheet and bring into the bank.”
 
Just the act of submitting the ACP demonstrates cooperation with a broader group, Page said. “It helps churches understand who they are as a family of Baptists. It’s helpful in the local area to say, ‘Do you know this about Baptists, do you know this is happening?’ It gives a lot of validity and affirmation of a local ministry to say we are part of a broader group and here are some statistics about that group,” he said.
 

Value to the convention

Page brings a unique perspective on the value of the ACP, having served as a pastor, SBC president, vice president for evangelization at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and president of the SBC Executive Committee.
 
“As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the ACP helped me in making appointments to various committees,” he said. “I said at the beginning of my tenure as president there were several criteria I would use for appointments. One was, were they soul-winners? Well, the ACP helped me know. ... Are you a Cooperative Program (CP) champion? Well, if they were, I saw it. If they weren’t, I saw it,” he said.
 
As NAMB’s vice president for evangelization, ACP data helped in developing God’s Plan for Sharing, “a 10-year multi-faceted, flexible ministry of evangelism,” Page said. “It showed us areas of great evangelistic need across the country. We used a lot of mapping information that was based on the ACP to see where we were, where our strengths were and where our weaknesses were,” he said.

“Now in my role as president of the Executive Committee, we live and die by good information,” Page said. “It is extremely important as we deal with our entities that we have good information as we look toward the future, to see the trends, to know the average CP gift from the churches. It shows us where our strategies need to be.
 
“I love this quote I recently read: ‘If you see a fish go belly up in a lake, you try to find out what’s wrong with the fish. If you see a thousand fish go belly up in a lake, you better take a look at the lake.’ When you get good ACP information, you look at the lake,” he said.
 

Annual challenges

The ACP requests two types of information, McConnell said. “Some items on the ACP indicate long-term relationships with a church, like membership. We consider that relationship exists until either the church or the individual says the relationship has been broken. So if the church skips reporting in a given year, we will carry forward total membership numbers from the previous year in our totals for the convention,” he said.
 
“Other questions, though, represent one-time events. Baptisms are things that only happen once. We do not carry forward information from one year to the next because we do not know if a similar number occurred in the next year or if it was higher or lower,” he said.
So the greatest challenge the ACP faces is keeping the response rate as high as possible each year, McConnell said. “A lot of the value individual churches get from doing the ACP really comes from them doing it every year. ... Each year, when we see some churches not reporting, the vast majority of them do report the following year.”
 
ACP response rates remain very high, McConnell said, and Southern Baptists can be confident of the trends they show and the summaries they represent. “The large response every year frankly makes response rates to any other survey that you see in the newspaper put to shame. This is a very good indicator of what is going on in the convention,” McConnell said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE.)
 

Related story:

Annual Church Profile – more than the annual report card

7/15/2014 11:09:43 AM by Roger S. Oldham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Future of Christian publishing industry remains uncertain

July 15 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Two recent Christian books arguing that not all homosexual acts are sinful have left industry observers wondering whether evangelical publishers – especially those owned by secular corporations – will produce more material outside the bounds of traditional orthodoxy.

“Publishing houses are going to have to wrestle with what their starting point is,” Selma Wilson, vice president of the B&H Publishing Group at LifeWay Christian Resources, told Baptist Press. “If your starting point is to make money or your starting point is to be a New York Times bestseller, you’re going to do different things” than publishers focused on faithfulness to Christ.

In April the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group’s sister imprint Convergent Books released Matthew VinesGod and the Gay Christian, a book arguing that the Bible permits monogamous same-sex relationships. In October Howard Books is scheduled to release Christian singer Jennifer Knapp’s book Facing the Music, a memoir recounting, among other things, her coming out as a lesbian.

WaterBrook Multnomah and Howard are among the Christian publishing houses owned by secular companies, with WaterBrook Multnomah falling under the Penguin Random House umbrella and Howard under Simon and Schuster. Both the Thomas Nelson Publishing Group and Zondervan are owned by HarperCollins Publishers.

Among the independent Christian publishers are B&H, Moody Publishers, Tyndale House Publishers, Harvest House Publishers and the Baker Publishing Group.


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BP photo by Shawn Hendricks
Christian books representing non-traditional theological positions likely will increase in the years to come, publishing industry observers say.

In response to God and the Gay Christian, the National Religious Broadcasters – an association for Christian broadcasters and communicators – confronted WaterBrook Multnomah, resulting in the publisher’s resignation from NRB membership. NRB President Jerry Johnson said it made little difference that the book was published under the Convergent label because “this issue comes down to NRB members producing unbiblical material, regardless of the label under which they do it.”


A ‘marketplace of ideas’

Mark Kuyper, president of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, told BP that ECPA will not take action against WaterBrook Multnomah because the Convergent imprint is not an ECPA member and therefore not subject to the organization’s guidelines. He added that he considers arguments for homosexuality a matter of varying biblical interpretation rather than a departure from orthodoxy that should provoke ECPA action.

Kuyper said Christian books representing non-traditional theological positions likely will increase as the culture explores those positions.

ECPA is a trade organization for groups that publish various types of Christian content. All member organizations agree to only publish materials that align with the ECPA statement of faith, which expresses belief in the inspiration of scripture, the Trinity and the bodily resurrection of Christ among other doctrines.

“The publishing community is responding to what’s going on in the culture,” Kuyper said in an interview. “As we address some of these topics that we had not been pressed to address before, you are probably going to see authors and publishers bring those ideas to light. How the Christian community will respond [to new topics raised in the culture] will vary greatly.”

One goal of Christian publishing is to create a “marketplace of ideas,” Kuyper said, and Christian publishers do not expect every book to be profitable – though publishers must make a profit to stay in business. The decision to publish books that depart from the ethical or theological mainstream, he said, generally stems from the publisher’s desire to advance conversation more than the demands of the market.

“When you’re talking about a book that is focused on homosexuality and Christianity, it’s not the same as a Duck Dynasty book,” Kuyper said. “There’s a much broader audience for the Duck Dynasty book than for that kind of a book.” Controversial books “are primarily driven by wanting to be a part of the conversation.”

David Shepherd, a literary agent, formerly vice president of a Christian publishing house, told BP that departing from orthodoxy is not yet a broad trend among Christian publishers. In the future, however, Christian publishers owned by secular corporations may be more likely to publish questionable material than houses that are closely held by evangelical owners.

“As the church more and more reflects the culture ... I think some Christian publishers will begin to also reflect that,” Shepherd said. “The most recent indication of that perhaps is the WaterBrook book. But I don’t know that there will be a huge wave of Christian publishers doing that kind of thing.”
 

Demand for orthodoxy

Widespread publication of unorthodox material would represent a departure from the heritage of Christian publishing, Shepherd said. Although there have always been some authors “on the edge of orthodoxy,” Christian publishers generally “are aware of who their audience is and have editorial guidelines that will more often than not keep them in the orthodox fold,” he said.

Theologically liberal authors have tended to publish with academic houses that have reputations for airing progressive views or with religious publishers without evangelical faith statements, Shepherd said.

That trend appears to be holding, by and large. For instance, Methodist megachurch pastor Adam Hamilton’s recent book Making Sense of the Bible – which argues that mass killings reported in the Old Testament are inconsistent with God’s character and suggests that biblical condemnations of homosexuality do not apply to monogamous same-sex relationships – was published by HarperOne rather than one of HarperCollins’ Christian imprints. Emerging church leader Rob Bell also has published recent books with HarperOne.

Still, Christian publishers want to produce material that Christian bookstores will buy, Shepherd said. The demand for biblically faithful materials is likely to keep much Christian book publishing within the bounds of orthodoxy, he said.

“Generally speaking I think publishers are going to be sensitive to delivering products to bookstores that bookstores will trust to put on their shelves for their readers,” Shepherd said.

Wilson said Christian authors, like consumers, likely will partner with companies that align with their values. There is no trend yet of conservative authors leaving publishers who produce unorthodox books, she said.
 

Defying the market

Wilson said publishers like B&H, whose editorial guidelines demand that all books reflect evangelical theology, will be faithful to Christ regardless of what book buyers want.

“Our starting point is not to give to the market what the market wants,” Wilson said in a June 3 interview. “We’re a confessional publisher. There are things we believe and believe very strongly. It’s all centered on the gospel. So for me, being an evangelical Christian publisher means that you start with Christ and you end with Christ.”

Meeting all the market’s demands “doesn’t give life to anyone,” Wilson said. “In fact, it brings death. It’s going to destroy lives and destroy families, and that’s why we’re so committed to being the best in our space – because we know what gives life.”

Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson and a popular blogger about the publishing industry, declined BP’s request for an interview. In a 2013 interview with Leadership Journal, he said Christian publishers “face challenges” in the years to come.

Publishers “are going to have to get very clear on the value they bring to authors, especially as compared to the plethora of self-publishing options available today,” Hyatt said. “Beyond that, the biggest challenge will be to find the capital to invest in growth. Overall, their business is stagnant. Their owners (mostly secular) are loathe to make additional investments in an industry segment where there is so little upside potential. Unless they can attract capital, they will have to get by with smaller royalty advances, fewer marketing dollars and less expensive staff. I expect increased consolidation in this part of the industry.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

7/15/2014 10:47:37 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Greater things’ in store for N.C. Baptists’ yearly gathering

July 15 2014 by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) is making plans for the 2014 annual meeting, to be held Nov. 10-11 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
 
The meeting will feature meaningful times of worship, inspiring messages from God’s Word and opportunities to learn how North Carolina Baptists are “Impacting Lostness Through Disciple-Making.”

 

Greater Things

This year’s annual meeting theme, based on John 14:12, is “Greater Things.” The theme encourages all North Carolina Baptist churches to embrace the truth that God, through the power of His Holy Spirit, wishes to accomplish greater things through His people.
 
“The Committee on Convention Meetings has worked diligently and prayed over this year’s theme and message,” said Brian Davis, BSC associate executive director-treasurer. “It is our prayer that this theme will challenge North Carolina Baptists to attempt greater things for the Kingdom as we strive together to impact lostness across North Carolina, the United States and around the world.”
 
Times of theme interpretation will be held throughout the annual meeting to allow messengers time to reflect on how God is calling them to be involved in helping fulfill His Great Commission.

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Speakers

Jonathan Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC) in Lynchburg, Va., will bring the convention sermon. Falwell has served at TRBC since 1995, first under the leadership of his father and founding pastor of TRBC, Jerry Falwell, then as senior pastor beginning in 2007. As senior pastor, he oversees the management of more than 250 staff members, communication with over 20,000 church members and the long-term planning for the church’s ministry and outreach.
 
Messengers will also hear messages from Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, and C.J. Bordeaux Sr., president of the BSC.
 
Bordeaux has served as senior pastor of Gorman Baptist Church in Durham since 2008.
 
North Carolina churches he served previously include West Monroe Baptist Church in Monroe, Antioch Baptist Church in Lumberton, Village Baptist Church in Fayetteville and White Lake Baptist Church in Elizabethtown. Bordeaux has also served as BSC vice president, chairman of the Committee on Committees, on the BSC Board of Directors, and the Giving Plans Study Committee. He received his undergraduate degree from Campbell University and his Master of Theology and Doctor of Ministry from Bethany Theological Seminary

 

Pastors’ Conference

The North Carolina Baptist Pastors’ Conference will be held Nov. 9-10 at the Koury Convention Center. The event is free and registration is not required.
 
The theme for the 2014 Pastors’ Conference is “The Pursuit,” based on 1 Timothy 6:11.
 
Speakers for this year’s conference include Rick Coram, founder and president of Rick Coram Ministries; Greg Heisler, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Boone, N.C.; Phil Hoskins, former pastor of Higher Ground Baptist Church, Kingsport, Tenn.; Tony Merida, founding pastor of Imago Dei Church, Raleigh, N.C.; evangelist Bob Pittman, Muscle Shoals, Ala., Robert Smith Jr., professor of Christian Preaching at Beeson Divinity School; and Don Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C.
 
The conference president is Josh Phillips, pastor of Cherry Grove Baptist Church in Cerro Gordo.
“With all of the things competing for the attention of the local pastor today, we must not forget to keep our eyes on the prize,” Phillips said. “Our world views success with much different lenses than Christ. For this reason, Paul would command Timothy to flee from those things that may hinder his ministry and pursue those things that would lead him to a deeper faith.”

 

Pray Greensboro

N.C. Baptists are invited to participate in “Pray Greensboro,” a time of prayer walking the city of Greensboro prior to the start of the 2014 annual meeting. The BSC Strategic Focus Team is sponsoring the event, which will focus on prayer walks around the highest concentrations of lostness in the Greensboro area as identified in the BSC’s strategy: “Impacting Lostness Through Disciple-Making.” More information about “Pray Greensboro” is available here.

 

Exhibit hall

The 2014 annual meeting exhibit hall will be in a new location. This year’s exhibits will be located in the Imperial Ballroom, on the first floor of the Koury Convention Center, the same level as the Convention Hall. In addition, the LifeWay bookstore and related booths will also be located on the first floor, in Guilford Ballroom “G.”
 
The exhibit hall includes nearly 100 exhibits featuring BSC ministry groups, institutions and agencies, as well as exhibits offering various resources to churches such as insurance, church building and planning, and website development.

 

N.C. Baptist app

Messengers to this year’s annual meeting will be able to view important information about the annual meeting on their mobile devices via the app. The free app will be available for download at the Apple App Store, on Google Play (Android Market) and at the Windows Phone Marketplace by August and can be found by searching for “NC Baptist.”
 
The app will feature alerts, information about breakout sessions, exhibits, speakers, schedules, and much more. Users will also be able to download the Book of Reports and the Tuesday Morning Update.
 
Details about business sessions, breakout sessions, music and more will be available in the coming months. Information will continue to be added to ncannualmeeting.org as it becomes available.

7/15/2014 10:26:02 AM by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



BSC Executive Committee approves 2015 budget

July 15 2014 by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications

The Executive Committee (EC) of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) met July 10 to consider the proposed 2015 Cooperative Program (CP) budget and other committee reports. However, few of the committees are meeting during the summer months so reports were limited.
 
The proposed $29 million budget presented by the Budget Committee reflects a $1 million decrease from the $30 million 2014 Cooperative Program budget approved by messengers during last November’s annual meeting.
 
Despite the decrease from 2014, Rob Roberts, chairman of the Budget Committee, said great things remain ahead for North Carolina Baptists.
 
“We are excited about what the Lord is going to do,” Roberts said. “We continue to struggle through some challenging economic times and we are trying to be good stewards of what God has given us during this time.”
 
The budget does include an additional one-half percent increase in the percentage of CP receipts that are sent to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). This is the 10th year in a row that the Budget Committee has proposed the BSC increase this percentage by one-half percent. The proposed allocation to the SBC for 2015 is 37 percent.
 
The budget also includes a two percent cost of living increase for BSC staff. The Budget Committee felt strongly about providing this increase as salaries were frozen for the 2014 budget.
 
The EC approved the budget as presented. If the Board of Directors approves the budget during its Sept. 30-Oct. 1 meeting, it will then be presented to messengers for final approval during this year’s annual meeting Nov. 10-11 in Greensboro.
 
During the meeting, the EC approved a motion authorizing BSC staff to utilize unrealized investment gain to offset anticipated deficits during the 2015 budget year in the GuideStone Church Retirement Plan and protection benefits allocation for N.C. Baptist church staff.
 
John Butler, BSC executive leader for business services, said the BSC currently has about $3.3 million in unrealized gains in its investment portfolio. He said the projected budget shortfall for the GuideStone Church Retirement Plan and protection benefits for North Carolina Baptist church staff is near $600,000.
 
The committee also approved a proposed “Challenge Budget” for 2015. This sets aside amounts received over the $29 million budget to be equally divided with one-third going to the CP, one-third to church planting with the final third divided equally between Baptist Children’s Home of North Carolina and the Biblical Recorder.
 
The EC also approved a motion approving the allocation of $2.1 million for the 2015 North Carolina Missions Offering.
 
The goal remains unchanged from 2014. Beverly Volz, BSC director of accounting services, reported that CP receipts through June 30 totaled $13,473,029.53, which represents a deficit of 1.2 percent as compared to the same time last year.

7/15/2014 10:07:43 AM by C. Walter Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Hobby Lobby reversal sought in Congress

July 14 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Congressional Democrats have set themselves against the Supreme Court in the battle over religious liberty, and the lead Southern Baptist spokesman on the issue is urging legislative leaders not to erode the First Amendment right.

Democrats in the Senate unveiled a bill July 9 to counter the high court’s decision in support of the religious freedom of business owners in the controversial Hobby Lobby case. The Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act would bar any federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), from exempting an employer from abiding by the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate. That rule, implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to enforce the 2010 healthcare reform law, requires employers to provide for their workers drugs and devices that can potentially cause abortions.

Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called for leaders in both the Senate and House of Representatives to resist efforts to weaken RFRA, which requires the government to have a compelling interest and to use narrow means to burden a person’s religious exercise.

There should not be “a toggle switch” that the government uses to decide “who may and may not exercise religious liberty,” Moore said in a statement for Baptist Press. “And as the Supreme Court rightly affirmed, American citizens do not forfeit their First Amendment rights simply because they engage in commerce.

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The Supreme Court

“And yet, now some would jeopardize religious freedom in order to fight their culture war,” he said. “Religious liberty is too important to everyone in this country to see it end up a dead trophy on the wall of the sexual revolutionaries.”

In its June 30 opinion, the 5-4 Supreme Court majority relied on RFRA in ruling for the religious liberty rights of Hobby Lobby and other family owned, for-profit businesses that conscientiously objected to the mandate to pay for abortifacients. RFRA, a 1993 law that was approved nearly unanimously by Congress and signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton, protects the religious freedom of people by extending rights to the corporations they own, the court said.

In a letter Thursday (July 10) to congressional leaders, Moore said Southern Baptists “will vigorously oppose any legislative efforts that attempt to ... restrict the free exercise of religion.”

RFRA “defends the religious freedom of all Americans and is a critical safeguard for minority faith communities,” he wrote.

It also “is a means of accountability for governmental officials who must defend any proposed restriction of religious liberty,” Moore said. “Rather than automatically grant any complaint that may be brought forth by protected citizens, RFRA provides a method for courts to weigh religious liberty with governmental interests. Religious liberty is a gift from God, not a grant from government, and a fundamental pillar of the American experiment.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom criticized the Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act, S. 2578, as “an exceedingly dangerous power grab.”

“No new law should make an HHS bureaucrat more powerful than federal law itself,” ADF senior counsel Casey Mattox said in a written statement. “Senate Bill 2578 should be called the ‘Late-Term Abortion and Assisted Suicide Coercion Act of 2014’ because it allows any whim of HHS to trump any federal law or rule, including those that protect Americans from being forced to provide abortion or assisted suicide coverage as part of a health plan. The bill clearly states that any HHS regulation requiring something in a health plan must be followed regardless of what any other federal law says.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D.-Wash., sponsor of the bill to reverse the Hobby Lobby ruling, said her legislation “will ensure that no CEO or corporation can come between people and their guaranteed access to health care, period.”

The measure has 39 cosponsors, all Democrats. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D.-N.Y., introduced a companion bill in the House. Abortion rights organizations, led by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America, endorsed the legislation, as did such groups as Americans United for Separation of Church and State and People for the American Way.

Introduction of the legislation came six days after the Supreme Court delivered another win for religious liberty to HHS mandate foes, this time to a non-profit institution.

The high court issued an order July 3 preventing enforcement of the HHS mandate against Wheaton College until the appeal process is complete. The legal challenge by Wheaton, an evangelical Christian school in suburban Chicago, is one of 100 lawsuits filed against the mandate, with 51 of those by non-profits, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The justices’ order in support of Wheaton appeared far-reaching. It said the school – and, by likely extension, other objectors – need only inform HHS it is a religious non-profit with “religious objections” to the mandate to avoid enforcement during review by the courts. The college need not fill out the form required by the government, the justices said. The court said the order should not be interpreted as a communication of its opinion on the case’s merits.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a 15-page dissent in which she described the court’s order for Wheaton as “extraordinary and reserved for the rarest of cases.” Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan joined in the dissent.

Philip Ryken, Wheaton’s president, applauded the order. “We continue to believe that a college community that affirms the sanctity of human life from conception to the grave should not be coerced by the government into facilitating the provision of abortion-inducing drugs,” he said in a written release.

Other non-profits gained relief from the mandate the same day the Supreme Court issued its Hobby Lobby opinion. Two federal appeals courts blocked enforcement of the regulation on the Eternal World Television Network and five Roman Catholic institutions in Wyoming, according to the Becket Fund.

The HHS regulation requires coverage of such drugs as Plan B and other “morning-after” pills that possess a post-fertilization mechanism that can cause an abortion by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. The rule also covers “ella,” which – in a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486 – can act even after implantation to end the life of the child.

HHS provided an exemption to its rule for churches and their auxiliaries but did not extend it to non-church-related, non-profit organizations and for-profit companies that object. The administration also offered an accommodation for non-church-related religious organizations, but critics said it was inadequate because it still forces such groups to provide access to the drugs through third parties.

GuideStone Financial Resources, the Southern Baptist Convention’s health and financial benefits entity, and two of the organizations in its health plan have challenged the mandate in court and have asked for a permanent injunction. No decision has been made on the request.

The Supreme Court’s June 30 ruling came in challenges to the mandate by Hobby Lobby and Mardel, both owned by the evangelical Green family of Oklahoma City, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, which is operated by the pro-life, Mennonite Hahn family.

Moore’s July 10 letter went to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker of the House John Boehner and others in congressional leadership.

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

7/14/2014 10:59:39 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



N. Korean ‘genocide’ warrants ‘red line’

July 14 2014 by RikkiElizabeth Stinnette, WORLD News Service/Baptist Press

Shin Dong-Hyuk spoke in a calm monotone as he recounted how North Korean prison guards dangled him over a fire when he was a teenager. Thinking the guards would reward him, Shin spoke of his mother and older brother’s plans to flee the prison camp.

But instead of granting freedom to Shin, then 14, the guards tortured him and made him watch his two family members’ public execution.

Shin, known as the only person born in a North Korean political prison to have escaped, still bears the scars of his experience.

“These messages of my suffering will never go away until the day I die,” Shin, author of Escape from Camp 14, said through a translator as one of four experts on human rights violations in North Korea testifying before a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
 

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The hearing, addressing a bill proposing additional penalties against North Korea, took note of a United Nations (UN) report on human rights abuses in the communist country. A UN commission of inquiry recommended that North Korean government crimes be sent to the International Criminal Court for investigation. The report, released in March, recorded the systematic execution of Christians and mixed-race children.

The North Korean situation is “genocide,” said South Korean human rights ambassador Lee Jong-hoon, urging the representatives to hold the rogue country responsible.

“Why can’t there be a red line for human rights,” Lee asked at the June 18 hearing, “as there is for weapons of mass destruction?”

According to a Heritage Foundation paper by Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for northeast Asia, tougher sanctions have been levied against Iran and Burma than North Korea, which has been perpetrating human rights violations for nearly 70 years.

While the hearing’s witnesses agreed the oppression in North Korea should be addressed, not all said UN involvement would provide the answer.

Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., who headed the hearing, said he believes the International Criminal Court doesn’t have a great record in addressing crimes against humanity. China has protected North Korea from international intervention, making it difficult for outsiders to make an impact in the closed nation, Smith noted.

“The world has really failed to raise the issue in a complete way,” Smith said in an interview. “It has to get to the highest levels.”

Smith recommended that South Korea create a regional court to address North Korean crimes because it could easily gather information on the regime from North Korean refugees. But South Korea has never addressed North Korea’s human rights issues, since the nation’s liberal faction believes such a move would compromise any negotiations with North Korea.

Andrew Natsios, co-chair for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and former vice president of World Vision, said it will be a long time before people in North Korea regain their rights. The best thing the world can do, he said, is to publicize the nation’s oppression.

“I think we should simply be unrelenting,” Natsios said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adapted from WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine (www.worldmag.com). Used by permission.)

7/14/2014 10:47:58 AM by RikkiElizabeth Stinnette, WORLD News Service/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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