July 2017

Disciple-making addressed by Ezell, Platt, Geiger

July 19 2017 by Michael Smith, NAMB

Disciple-making in Southern Baptist churches was assessed by Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entity leaders Kevin Ezell, David Platt and Eric Geiger during a forum at the 2017 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.

Photo by Matt Jones
A panel discusses how to make disciples in the Southern Baptist Convention at the Replicate Ministries Booth at the SBC annual meeting June 13 in Phoenix. The panel included, left to right: Robby Gallaty, founder of Replicate Ministries; Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board; David Platt, president of the International Mission Board; and Eric Geiger, vice president of the Church Resources Division at LifeWay Christian Resources.

Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., president/founder of Replicate Ministries and chairman of a task force created last year to encourage disciple-making by Southern Baptists, led the discussion at the Replicate Ministries booth in the SBC exhibit hall June 13.
Ezell, Platt and Geiger agreed that one problem is a lack of understanding among Southern Baptists about what disciple-making truly is – that evangelism and discipleship go hand in hand.
“We have a challenge in the SBC with the terminology that we use,” said Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board.
“When we say disciple-making, some people don’t understand that they need to be evangelists as well, and they don’t see reproduction when it comes to disciple-making,” Ezell said. “We have a communication issue in the SBC where they don’t see it as one whole.”
Platt, president of the International Mission Board, lamented “a tendency to do evangelism that’s devoid of teaching people to obey everything that Christ has commanded and really helping them grow into the image of Christ. I definitely think we would admit that there’s a lot done in the name of disciple-making that actually is devoid of evangelism.”
Geiger, LifeWay Christian Resources vice president for its resources division and a member of the discipleship task force, said disciple-making must be “the totality of what we do as a people of God. That’s the mission that Christ has given us.
“When someone says discipleship to me,” Geiger said, “I always [ask], ‘What do you mean by discipleship and what kind of disciple do you want to make?’”
Platt said if a Christian becomes too dependent on particular disciple-making programs and gets into a context on the other side of the world where those programs don’t exist, he or she won’t know what to do.
“We’ve got to be able to do this personally in our lives,” Platt said, noting such questions as “How do you personally lead someone to Jesus, see them baptized and teach them to obey Christ?”
Ezell shared key baptism statistics in the SBC: 80 percent of churches baptized nine or fewer people in 2016, 50 percent baptized two or fewer and 25 percent baptized no one.
“We don’t have a baptism issue as much as we have an obedience issue,” Ezell said. “We just don’t have people intentionally having gospel conversations as often as they should or intentionally discipling people as they should.”
Pastors need to lead the way for their congregation when it comes to discipleship, Ezell said.
“In order to get anything done in a convention like this it comes down to the pastors,” he said. “So it’s about the pastor having a heart for discipleship and understanding what disciple-making is. We’ve got to do something to stir a passion in the heart of pastors to lead their people to be discipled.”
Geiger said the biggest predictor in any study LifeWay has done about how people grow in their faith is spending time in the Word of God. “Reading the Bible is the one spiritual discipline that impacts every other spiritual discipline,” he said.
Gallaty, in closing the session on “Making Disciples in the SBC,” asked each participant to give one piece of advice to pastors about how to be more intentional about making disciples.
Ezell encouraged pastors not to forget that discipleship starts at home. “It’s important that you disciple your family.”
Platt said he would exhort any pastor to guard intimacy with the Lord.
Geiger said that before he wants to make disciples, he wants to enjoy being a disciple.
“I need to be a disciple continually, continue to repent and come back to Him and enjoy His grace, which fuels me to make disciples,” Geiger said. “I don’t want to get caught in the mission without the meaning of being with Him.”
Replicate Ministries hosted four other panel discussions on disciple-making at its booth during the SBC annual meeting. Gallaty, Johnny Hunt, Kevin Smith, Adam Dooley and Mark Marshall relayed updates regarding the disciple-making task force. Kandi Gallaty, Donna Gaines, Kathy Litton and others discussed “Women’s Discipleship.” Gallaty, J.D. Greear, Vance Pittman and Jimmy Scroggins focused on “Making Disciples in a Church Plant.” Gus Hernandez and others discussed “Disciple-making in Collegiate Ministry.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Smith writes for the North American Mission Board.)

7/19/2017 10:06:00 AM by Michael Smith, NAMB | with 1 comments

Will Christians return to Mosul post-Islamic State?

July 19 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) does not create an opportunity for most displaced Christians to return home, an Assyrian Christian in the United States advocating for the victims told Baptist Press (BP).

Screen capture from PBS

Rather, many displaced Christians see better prospects in establishing their lives in the Nineveh Plains northeast of Mosul, said Juliana Taimoorazy, founder of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council. Based in Glenview, Ill., the council advocates for persecuted Iraqi and Middle Eastern Christians in their homelands and in the U.S.
“The majority of Christians are not seeking to return to Mosul specifically. This is because they were betrayed by their own neighbors,” Taimoorazy told BP. “When [IS] invaded, they asked the neighbors to point out where the Christians are, which is why they marked their homes with the Arabic letter ’N’ for Nazarite, much like the Nazis marked the Jews.
“How can a Christian return to where they were betrayed and trust their neighbor again? This is why they won’t return to Mosul.”
Taimoorazy said sources have reported as few as 10 Christian families were among residents who were unable to escape Mosul and remained under Islamic State rule when it established a so-called caliphate there in 2014. A caliphate refers to a territory under the leadership of a caliph, or an Islamic steward, who is believed to be a religious successor to Muhammad and a leader of the entire Muslim community.
“Most have either been tortured or their family members have been killed,” Taimoorazy said. “A few have superficially converted to Islam by reciting the shahada [Muslim profession of faith] to remain alive, although in their hearts they remain Christian.”
IS displaced about 170,000 Christians inside Iraq, Taimoorazy estimates. Half of those were able to migrate to slums and refugee camps in cities such as Amman, Jordan, and in small villages in Turkey and surrounding areas of Beirut.
Still others were tortured or killed, said Taimoorazy, who herself was harassed daily during her childhood in Iran under the Islamic regime, she said, and was smuggled to the U.S. as a teenager.
“We don’t have accurate statistics as of now, but we do know there are several hundred Christian women who were sold into sex slavery from the Nineveh Plains and Mosul,” she said. “Many have been crucified on their doorsteps. Hundreds of women were raped in front of their husbands and later forced to witness the execution of their husbands.”
The Minority Rights Group International, a London-based organization advocating for Iraqi Christians and similarly situated minorities in more than 60 countries, released a study in June conducted in cooperation with the Institute for International Law and Human Rights, No Peace Without Justice and the Unrepresented Nations and People Organization, all non-governmental organizations.
As many as 600,000 to 1.2 million members of Iraqi’s minority communities of Christians and others have been displaced, according to the report, “Crossroads: The future of Iraq’s minorities after ISIS.” The retaking of Mosul that began in October 2016 displaced an additional 441,720, the report said, based on numbers from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In total, more than 3 million people have been internally displaced in Iraq since June 2014.
Of Iraq’s Christian community that numbered 1.4 million people in 2003, no more than 300,000 remained as recently as March, the report estimates. The research conducted in February and March showed 100-200 people were still leaving the region each day.
The Minority Rights Group International has uncovered evidence of mass atrocities, including mass graves containing hundreds of bodies. Minorities including Christians will continue to suffer amid competing land claims and the proliferation of different armed militias, the group said in its report, available at minorityrights.org.
Taimoorazy is advocating in the U.S. and in Europe for the inclusion of the Nineveh Plains as a province in the Federation of Iraq.
In October 2016, her Iraqi Christian Relief Council initiated Operation Return to Nineveh, with plans to continue the campaign indefinitely, she said. The group is working to rebuild and furnish homes and churches, rebuild the water infrastructure and provide electricity. Taimoorazy’s council is online at victimsofisis.org.
“Yes, we have defeated [IS] in Iraq, but [IS] will have won if the Christian community in the West does not rise up to help their brothers and sisters in the East,” she told BP. “It’s up to us to act. If not us, then who?”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/19/2017 9:45:57 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Reformers’ wisdom applied to transgender debate

July 19 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Amid contemporary discussion of transgenderism, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation has helped resurface historic wisdom on gender and sexuality.

While predating by centuries the modern phenomenon of transgenderism, Martin Luther and John Calvin were among Reformers to denounce those who attempted to blur the distinction between men and women – an error dating back to the ancient world.
Union University ethicist C. Ben Mitchell told Baptist Press (BP) Luther’s 1522 sermon “The Estate of Marriage” “reads like it could have been preached last Sunday. Would that it was!”
Some aspects of Luther’s sermon likely would not be embraced by 21st-century believers – like his view government should execute adulterers and his counsel that women should be married at age 15-18 and men by 20. Still, many of his foundational principles were timeless.
“Although it might be considered anachronistic to apply Luther’s 16th-century sermon to today’s discussions of transgenderism, the implications are straightforward and clear,” Mitchell, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union, said in written comments. “Luther believed that homosexuality was a perversion of the Creator’s purpose for His embodied human creatures. This would apply no less to transgenderism than to homosexuality.”
Based on Genesis 1:27, Luther argued gender was binary and a gift from God.
“From this passage we may be assured that God divided mankind into two classes, namely male and female, or a he and a she,” Luther said. “This was so pleasing to Him that He Himself called it a good creation.
“Therefore, each one of us must have the kind of body God has created for us. I cannot make myself a woman, nor can you make yourself a man; we do not have that power. But we are exactly as He created us. ... Moreover, He wills to have His excellent handiwork honored as His divine creation and not despised,” Luther said.
Like gender, sexual relations between a husband and wife are “a divine ordinance which it is not our prerogative to hinder or ignore,” Luther said.
“Just as God does not command anyone to be a man or a woman but creates them the way they have to be, so he does not command them to multiply but creates them so that they have to multiply,” Luther said.
Luther acknowledged some people are physically unable to have children and that some are called by God to singleness and accompanying celibacy, but he claimed the inclination toward marriage between one man and one woman “is a matter of nature and not of choice.”
Calvin, in a sermon on 1 Timothy 2:9-11, lamented those who “turn[ed] the order of nature upside down” by downplaying the distinction between men and women.
“Women are nowadays more out of order than ever they were,” Calvin said. “Especially if a person goes to these great courts hardly shall he be able to find any difference between men and women. Indeed men for their part do also abuse themselves in this behalf. For they clothe themselves in women’s apparel and women in men’s, so that there is a horrible confusion among them, as if the world had conspired to turn the order of nature upside down.”
Calvin and Luther both encouraged believers to use their bodies according to God’s design and to trust that doing so pleased the Lord.
Calvin had little patience with “fine dames who want to be exempt from” motherhood for selfish reasons but commended “faithful women who do their duty when they are mothers, knowing what God has made them subject to, and take it patiently.”
Luther told mothers that nursing children, rocking them, bathing them and following a husband’s leadership “are truly golden and noble works.” To women facing childbirth, he counseled, “Remember that you are a woman, and that this work of God in you is pleasing to Him.”
Luther also commended fathers who live out their God-ordained gender roles by providing for their families and helping to care for the children. Such fathers should pray, said Luther, “O God, because I am certain that Thou has created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I know for a certainty that [the work of being a husband and father] meets with Thy perfect pleasure.”
Mitchell noted that “Luther’s vivid and earthy theology of the body is truly remarkable.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. This year, Baptist Press is publishing a series of stories leading up to the 500th anniversary of when Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, Oct. 31, 1517.)

7/19/2017 9:39:43 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Landscaping, maintenance show one man’s joy, servanthood

July 19 2017 by Hannah Hanzel, Baptist Messenger

As a 16-year-old, Larry Goodman never found himself thinking of God, let alone attending church. But one certain Sunday was different. One of Goodman’s high school friends invited him to come to church with him.

Photo by Hannah Hanzel
Larry Goodman, working in landscaping and maintenance at the Baptist Village of Oklahoma City, aims to make its seniors happy “like Christ has made me happy.”

It was that Sunday that Goodman felt the Lord’s presence during the sermon. Down the aisle with his buddy in tow, he gave his life to the Lord.
“It was the best day of my life,” Goodman said. “From then on, I just wanted to get involved with what the Lord was doing, whatever it was.”
Of all the different avenues to serve, he always found that gardening came the most naturally.
Goodman especially loved flowers – any kind. When he wasn’t working in other people’s yards, he was pruning his own garden. Over time, it became a given that he would go into some kind of landscaping and maintenance work as his profession.
Even after studying horticulture, Goodman never dreamed he would find himself living in and working at the Baptist Village of Oklahoma City, especially in his current capacity at the senior residential ministry. Every weekday morning, he gets up, throws on his work clothes, hops on the maintenance golf cart and works until noon. His primary responsibilities consist mostly of landscape care and maintenance.
After noon rolls around, Goodman clocks out, but rather than walk back to his on-campus apartment home, he continues working maintenance on a regular basis. Asked how he is able to work and then volunteer all day, he simply stated, “You can’t do this unless you just enjoy it. Everything I do here, I enjoy.”
Along with gardening and maintenance, Goodman specializes in assisting residents with their cable and phone systems. Through his service, he’s able to display Christ to them one-on-one. He lives out Baptist Village Communities’ (BVC) goal of “Serving God, Serving You, Serving Together” at its nine locations across the state.

Photo by Hannah Hanzel
Larry Goodman’s primary responsibilities at the Baptist Village of Oklahoma City are landscaping and maintenance, but once in a while he’s called on to help residents operate their cellphones.

“Larry seems to know the pulse of the village,” said Chris Finley, BVC director of chaplain services and its chaplain in Oklahoma City. “He seems to know everyone. In other words, if a resident is in need at the village, Larry most likely already knows about the need and has probably already attended to that need.”
When interacting with residents, Goodman often finds himself extending invitations to the on-campus church services and praying for them.
Mike Murphy, pastor of the church at the village, said of Goodman, “Every pastor needs a ‘Larry’ in their church because Larry never asks if he can help; he just anticipates the need and then takes care of it.”
During the summer, Goodman’s trusty 14-year-old sidekick Austin Knutson joins him on his tasks. Knutson’s mother serves as a nurse for Baptist Village’ on-campus licensed home health agency, Entrusted Hearts. A year ago, she came to know Goodman and asked if her son could join him in volunteer maintenance during the summer.
Since then, Goodman has led Knutson to the Lord and witnessed him getting baptized in the pool on campus. “He’s become like another grandson to me,” Goodman said.
Knutson is one of many people who come to the Baptist Village of Oklahoma City and is impacted by Goodman. Be it as a summer volunteer, a resident or a volunteer with the village’s Friends Team, Goodman always seems to make an impression. His infectious laughter and contagious smile brings joy to those he meets. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty either in the garden soil or in the hardships of his friends in the community. Many at the village would agree that Goodman is simply a good man bringing the good message of the gospel.
Goodman, with a grin, said one of his favorite things “getting people to smile and be happy. People may arrive happy or sad, and it’s easy to tell which is which. I just love to make them happy like Christ has made me happy.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Hannah Hanzel writes for the Baptist Messenger, baptistmessenger.com, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.)

7/19/2017 9:32:48 AM by Hannah Hanzel, Baptist Messenger | with 1 comments

Exec. Committee recommends $31M budget for 2018

July 18 2017 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

The Executive Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) unanimously approved a motion to recommend to the Board of Directors a $31 million Cooperative Program (CP) budget for 2018 during a July 13 conference call.
The proposal, which came from the convention’s Budget Committee, reflects an increase of $625,000, or about two percent, over the 2017 budget. It also calls for 0.5 percent increase in the state convention’s allocation to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) ministry efforts, moving from 40.5 percent to 41 percent. If approved, this would mark the 12th consecutive year that the allocation to SBC ministries has increased.
The budget will be presented to the full BSC Board of Directors for discussion and a vote at the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting Sept. 26-27 at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro. If approved, the budget will then be presented to messengers for discussion and a final vote during the BSC annual meeting Nov. 6-7 in Greensboro.
In a separate measure, the committee also approved recommending a $2.1 million goal for next year’s North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO), and leaving the allocation amounts for the offering unchanged. The NCMO supports the ministries of N.C. Baptists on Mission, also known as Baptist Men, church planting, mission camps, associational projects and mission mobilization projects. The NCMO measure will also go before the Board of Directors and messengers at the Annual Meeting for discussion and a vote.
Citing increased Cooperative Program giving from N.C. Baptist churches, John Butler, BSC executive leader for business services, said he and the convention’s Budget Committee felt comfortable proposing an overall budget increase for 2018, most of which would go toward supporting SBC ministries in North America and around the world.
If approved, more than $408,000 of the proposed $625,000 budget increase would go toward supporting SBC missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program, Butler said, bringing the total amount sent to the SBC in 2018 to more than $12.7 million if the budget is met.
The proposed budget also calls for increased allocations to N.C. Baptist institutions and agencies, as well as a two percent salary increase for state convention staff.
BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. expressed his support for the budget proposal and thanked N.C. Baptists for their generosity. Hollifield also said he was thankful for another proposed increase in SBC missions support through the Cooperative Program.
If the proposed budget is adopted, N.C. Baptists will have increased SBC support by nine percent over the last 12 years, moving from 32 percent in 2007 to the current proposal of 41 percent. Hollifield said he hopes that trend can continue as leaders seek to strike a balance between supporting SBC causes and ministries in North Carolina.
“We’ve been trying to take a very healthy look at the whole picture, and I think God has blessed what we’re doing,” Hollifield said. “We’re trying to continue to move in that direction.”
Beverly Volz, BSC director of accounting services, reported to the committee that as of June 30, CP receipts for 2017, as well as receipts for the Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon and NCMO offerings, were all up based upon the same time period from 2016.
“I’m grateful for the growth that we’ve had and that we are experiencing, and I’m thankful for the support that our churches are giving to the budget this year,” Hollifield said.

7/18/2017 11:15:32 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Verse-by-verse nurture marks Andy Davis’ preaching

July 18 2017 by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS

To preach verse-by-verse through Isaiah – from 2008 until February of this year – Andy Davis memorized all of the book’s 1,292 verses.

Photo by Emil Handke
Andy Davis: “My way of fighting secularization is verse-by-verse exposition.”

It’s a discipline he developed while working as a mechanical engineer in 1986, several years after becoming a Christian. To this day, fellow students from his doctoral studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recall seeing Davis walk the streets near the campus as he committed entire books of the Bible to memory.
When Davis finished his doctor of philosophy degree in church history in 1998, he accepted the call as pastor of the historic First Baptist Church (FBC) in Durham, scripture memory and meditation sustained him as he withstood a faction of deacons and committee chairs opposed to a 2001 change in the church’s bylaws to reflect biblical roles of gender and authority.
Davis continues to lead the congregation in the same way, with verse-by-verse expository preaching rooted in scripture memory and meditation.
As Davis walks down the hallway to his church office, he passes a portrait of Martin Luther at the 1521 church assembly Diet of Worms, surrounded by Catholic officials as the reformer declares his allegiance to scripture and refuses to recant his “heretical” views. Inside Davis’ office hangs the classic portrait of George Whitefield preaching in the open air in London amid the utter mayhem of hecklers. Having studied John Calvin for his doctoral dissertation, Davis says learning from history’s theologians, martyrs and missionaries “gives you courage to face the challenges” of pastoral ministry.
While the congregational turmoil that marked his first three years at FBC Durham has disappeared, Davis recognizes the rapidly growing tides of secularism outside the doors of the church’s 90-year-old sanctuary. Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are all within 25 miles. Known as the Research Triangle, the Raleigh-Durham area boasts one of the nation’s highest number of advanced degrees per capita and a heavily liberal presence in an otherwise conservative state.

Photo by Emil Handke
Andy Davis leads First Baptist Church in Durham, N.C., with verse-by-verse preaching, scripture memorization and meditation, an approach he maintained in the face of congregational turmoil nearly 20 years ago.

Educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., with 10 years of experience in the workforce before earning his doctorate at Southern, Davis possesses a professional and academic background uniquely suited for ministering among highly educated people. His sermons are carefully reasoned presentations of truth – biblical exposition crafted with the care one would expect of a mechanical engineer.
“My way of fighting secularization is verse-by-verse exposition,” Davis said in an interview with Southern Seminary Magazine. “People start to see the magnificence of the Word of God, and I love the complexity of the interconnectedness of the Bible.”
No one influenced Davis’ hermeneutics more than Calvin. Studying Calvin’s commentaries and his Institutes of the Christian Religion provided him with a model both for verse-by-verse exposition and presenting the big picture of redemptive history.
“What Calvin did better than anyone in history is he had a big hermeneutical circle – to go from an overarching, ever-growing, developed system of theology that comes from believing all 66 books of the Bible are perfect and true and they must be harmonizable into a systematic theology,” Davis said.
Verse-by-verse preaching also makes challenging topics unavoidable when they arise through the course of a book, Davis noted. When he preached on biblical marriage from Hebrews 13 at the end of a two-year sermon series on the book, a local woman who visited that Sunday organized a protest outside the church the following week.
“If you faithfully preach the Word, and you don’t shrink back from those controversial, pointed topics, you’re going to have a hard time,” Davis said. “I think it’s going to get worse in our culture. I think Christianity is going to become more and more controversial, and Satan is going to try to marginalize. Christians are going to have to learn to be winsomely countercultural and stand up and make hard arguments.”
As he approaches his 20th year as pastor of FBC Durham, Davis isn’t complacent. His new book Revitalize shares the story of the church’s renewal and offers guidance on how other pastors can revive their churches. He has now memorized more than 40 books of the Bible and relies on God’s Word internalized as he battles the intellectual, emotional and spiritual trials of seasoned ministry.
Meditating on large portions of memorized scripture also aids him in preparing multiple sermons and lessons each week, since he teaches courses at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. It’s the simplest way of reducing preparation time, he said, as the memorized scripture often has “marinated” years in advance of preaching and teaching through the text.
He also cherishes his family’s role in shaping his ministry. His wife of 29 years, Christi, has been “a river of blessing” to his ministry, and as three of his five children have reached adulthood, he hopes his love for the local church abides in them as well.
“I want my kids to see the wisdom of God in local church, the covenant commitment we have, and the fact that there are no perfect churches,” Davis said. “People are going to let you down, they’re going to hurt you, they’re going to say unkind things, but you’re going to let them down too. You can’t be on your own. If you’re on your own, you’re going to drift away, and you’ll die spiritually. So the rest of your life, you need to be involved in the local church.”
His youngest children help him build a theological vocabulary for his congregation. In his Feb. 12 sermon on Isaiah 65:17-25, Davis used terms like “amillennialism” and “eschatology” but only after he made sure his children understood. While he preaches in a highly educated community, he recognizes some people in the congregation will have limited theological depth, so he strives for clarity in each sermon. While he aims “to preach meat as meat,” he provides “an oasis of milk in the middle of every sermon,” presenting the essential message of salvation in Christ.
In 2014, Davis authored An Infinite Journey, a manual for the Christian faith. He says advancing the gospel and growing in sanctification require “an infinite power source” and extend to the end of a Christian’s life. One of the primary ways Christ accomplishes these journeys in individual lives is through expository preaching.
“Faith comes by hearing God’s Word and I believe faith gets sustained by God’s Word,” Davis said. “I am sustaining the salvation of the people that are coming here. That’s what Paul is saying in 1 Timothy 4:13-16: ‘Devote yourself to preaching and teaching … for in so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.’ Save them? He didn’t say justify them. Salvation is bigger than justification; there’s an ongoing work of salvation. Keep feeding them the Word, keep their faith strong; you’re going to need your faith until the day you die. When Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep,’ that’s the number one thing I think of every Sunday morning as I’m walking up the steps: feed their faith.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Craig Sanders holds a master of divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and formerly served as the seminary’s director of news and information. This article originally appeared in Southern Seminary Magazine.)

7/18/2017 11:08:29 AM by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS | with 0 comments

Fight against trafficking gains broad House support

July 18 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A deeply divided U.S. House of Representatives has found at least one issue it can agree on across the board – combating human trafficking.

Clerk.house.gov photo

The House has approved more than a dozen anti-trafficking bills in recent weeks, with only three votes total against the proposals. Leading a trio of three measures passed July 12 was the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Act, comprehensive legislation authorizing more than $500 million for four years to combat sex and labor trafficking.
The Senate must approve the bills before they can be signed by President Trump.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) hailed passage of the measures and their bipartisan support.
“We are grateful for the nearly unanimous, bipartisan support” that the anti-trafficking bills received in the House, said Travis Wussow, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and general counsel. “Finding unity on eradicating human trafficking is worth celebrating.”
Wussow commended the sponsors and cosponsors of the three bills passed July 12.
“We applaud these legislators and many cosponsors for their leadership in this critical fight,” Wussow told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “These bills provide a multi-front effort to finally bring an end to human trafficking. Now the task moves to the Senate, where we will work for quick, bipartisan passage as well."
Trump described House passage of the three pieces of legislation as “important steps forward” for “ending the horrific practice of human trafficking.” He said in a written statement, “I am hopeful that the Senate will take up and pass these three bills as soon as possible, and I look forward to my continued work with the Congress on this important issue.”
Human trafficking is a global affliction that affects 20 to 45 million victims, according to estimates from different organizations. More than 70 percent are women or girls, according to a 2016 United Nations report. The leading types of slavery are sexual exploitation and forced labor. Traffickers earn a total profit of about $150 billion annually worldwide, the International Labor Organization reported in 2014.
The United States is not immune to the problem. An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the country each year, according to a State Department report on the subject in 2004. That did not include victims who are trafficked within the United States.
The bill named after Douglass, the former slave who became a leading abolitionist, includes the following authorizations for the next four years:

  • $180 million to the State Department to, among other uses, train law enforcement in the U.S. and overseas to combat trafficking.
  • $161 million to the Justice Department to prosecute and convict traffickers and to support state and local law enforcement in the battle against trafficking.
  • $94 million to the Department of Health and Human Service to provide American and foreign victims in this country with housing and other services.
  • $50 million to the president to help other countries eliminate trafficking and aid foreign victims.
  • $44 million to the Department of Homeland Security to investigate and extinguish international trafficking rings and to investigate Americans who abuse victims overseas.

The legislation’s sponsor – Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., author of the original anti-trafficking law in 2000 – described the proposal as “a whole-of-government approach, designed to strengthen, expand and create new initiatives to protect victims, prosecute traffickers and prevent this cruelty and exploitation from happening in the first place.”
The other two measures approved by the House were the Empowering Law Enforcement to Fight Sex Trafficking Demand Act, sponsored by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., and the Enhancing Detection of Human Trafficking Act, sponsored by Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich.
Hartzler’s bill would expand the Justice Department’s ability to help local law enforcement authorities to arrest men who buy sex from victims. Walberg’s proposal would support training of Labor Department employees to identify and aid trafficking victims.
House action on the three bills came barely two weeks after the State Department issued its annual Trafficking in Persons report.
The report showed only 14,897 trafficking prosecutions took place globally in 2016, with 9,071 convictions. The Justice Department, however, increased its convictions from 297 traffickers in 2015 to 439 in 2016, according to the report.
The State Department placed 23 countries on Tier 3, the lowest ranking. Tier 3 is for governments that “do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. The Tier 3 countries are China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela.
In the Southern Baptist Convention’s most recent resolution opposing human trafficking, messengers to the 2013 meeting approved a proposal that included a call for Southern Baptists to support government policies to fight trafficking.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

7/18/2017 10:53:46 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Oregon to make abortion coverage free for all

July 18 2017 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

Oregon health insurers and taxpayers will soon be paying for abortion, contraceptives and sterilization under a new law Gov. Kate Brown has vowed to sign.
The newly-passed Reproductive Health Equity Act forbids health insurance plans from imposing “a deductible, coinsurance, copayment or any other cost-sharing requirement” for abortion, STD screening, prenatal care, post-natal care and all forms of contraception.
Churches and religious nonprofits will be exempt from the law if they notify employees they don’t cover contraceptives or abortion. Their employees may turn to Oregon’s general fund, padded with more than $10 million, to cover abortion and contraceptives.
The bill also allocates $500,000 to cover abortions and contraceptives for illegal immigrants.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Brown’s office posted on Twitter after the Senate sent the bill to Brown on a 17-13 vote on July 5.
Brown said she plans to sign the bill, since being able “to control our bodies and make informed decisions about health are critical to providing all Oregonians the opportunity to achieve our full potential and live productive, thriving lives.”
Oregon Right to Life executive director Gayle Atteberry called the bill “morally reprehensible” and warned the abortion rate probably will rise – especially high-cost, late-term abortions.
Atteberry said the bill “was politically calculated to ensure Planned Parenthood has funding in a time when they are at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government.”
Oregon has no restrictions on abortion, and pro-life Rep. Mike Nearman challenged the bill on the House floor, arguing, “We don’t need to do this. This is Oregon. There [are] no legal restrictions on anyone’s right to get an abortion. None. You can get an abortion at any time for any reason. Even sex-selection.”
While many states work to pass pro-life laws, abortion advocates are ramping up retaliation efforts, said Denise Burke, Americans United for Life’s vice president of legal affairs.
“Not only is the abortion industry encouraging legislative action, it is also increasingly filing court challenges to these common sense and popularly supported [pro-life] laws,” Burke said. “Abortion advocates recognize that public opinion is turning against them and that another Supreme Court vacancy may be imminent. As a result, they are doing everything that they can to protect their radical, unapologetic and unrestricted abortion-on-demand agenda.”
Delaware recently legalized abortion through all nine months, joining at least four other states that would permit abortion even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
The Oregon bill’s sponsor, Rep. Julie Fahey, noted her goal for the bill was to follow those states’ examples, especially in anticipation of a possible Republican repeal of Obamacare.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Gobba writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD News Group based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

7/18/2017 10:27:27 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Texas evangelism leader Nathan Lorick new Colorado executive

July 18 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Colorado Baptists elected Texas evangelism leader Nathan Lorick as their new executive director in a near unanimous vote July 15 at Applewood Baptist Church in Wheat Ridge, Colo.

Nathan Lorick

Lorick, director of evangelism for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and a former senior pastor, replaces retiring executive director Mark Edlund, who held the Colorado post for more than 15 years.
The Colorado Baptist General Convention (CBGC) executive director search team recommended Lorick to messengers from a pool of about 20 applicants, BGCC President Mike Routt told Baptist Press (BP).
“There was a unanimous sense that God was leading the search team to him,” Routt said. “It was a variety of things, as it usually is when God is leading. His exceptional leadership in the SBTC in the area of evangelism was also a very positive aspect.”
Search team chairman Calvin Wittman, pastor of the Denver-area Applewood Baptist Church, hosted the called meeting of Colorado messengers who voted 75-1 in favor of Lorick.
“We are excited about Dr. Lorick’s election,” Wittman told BP. “We look forward to what God is going to do here in Colorado.”
Wittman noted Lorick’s experience and appreciation for the state convention’s goals.
“When we put it all together, we wanted somebody that understood the past and was connected to the future,” Wittman said. “We had some good candidates, but we really sensed that this was God’s man. We believe that God wants to do something great in Colorado.”
Colorado Southern Baptists received Lorick favorably in “meet and greets” introducing the candidate July 11-14 at churches across the state, Wittman said. Lorick was also recommended by leading Southern Baptists across the nation.
Frank S. Page, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee president, called Lorick a man of “integrity and ability.”
“He is winsome in personality, loving in character and solid in theology,” Page told the CBGC. “He will encourage in evangelism, discipleship, revitalization and church planting. … Colorado will do well under his great leadership.”
Lorick became SBTC director of evangelism in 2012 after serving the previous five years as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Malakoff, Texas. He pastored Martin’s Mill Baptist Church in Martin’s Mill, Texas, 2005-2007.
SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards called Lorick “a man of vision.”
“He is able to bridge the generations with a servant spirit,” Richards said in commending Lorick to the CBGC. “He has the passion of an evangelist, the heart of a pastor and the leadership skills of a statesman.”
Lorick wrote Dying to Grow: Reclaiming the Heart for Evangelism in the Church, initiated the 1Cross app sharing the gospel in 60-plus languages and is an International Mission Board trustee. He is a sought-after voice promoting religious liberty, the CBGC said, noting his media appearances on broadcasts including “Fox and Friends,” “Glen Beck Radio,” “American Family Radio” and “Tony Perkins Live.” He holds master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.
He and his wife, Jenna Leigh Lorick, have four children.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/18/2017 10:17:14 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Appeals court: Rowan commissioners’ prayers unconstitutional

July 17 2017 by BR Staff

Rowan County commissioners violated the United States Constitution by opening meetings with commissioner-led Christian prayers and inviting the audience to join, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 10-5 on July 14.

Screenshot from video
Rowan County commissioners stand to pray before their July 5 meeting in Salisbury.

The commissioners could decide to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Charlotte Observer reported July 15 that at least two of the five commissioners were ready to appeal.
In 2014, the Supreme Court decided in Town of Greece v. Galloway that clergy can offer prayers to open town board meetings. However, the 4th Circuit emphasized that because commissioners exclusively gave the prayers, and 97 percent of prayers in recent years were Christian in context, Rowan County’s practice “falls well outside the more inclusive, minister-oriented practice of legislative prayer described in Town of Greece.”
Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III wrote in the majority opinion, “The great promise of the Establishment Clause is that religion will not operate as an instrument of division in our nation. Consistent with this principle, there is a time-honored tradition of legislative prayer that reflects the respect of each faith for other faiths and the aspiration, common to so many creeds, of finding higher meaning and deeper purpose in these fleeting moments each of us spends upon this earth.
“Instead of drawing on this tradition, Rowan County elevated one religion above all others and aligned itself with that faith. It need not be so.”
The prayer debate started in 2012 when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) requested commissioners stop praying at meetings. In 2013, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of three non-Christian residents who said the prayers made them feel excluded.
According to WRAL, Rowan County attorneys argued that commissioners did not coerce audience members to participate and allowed them to leave the room or stay seated during prayers.
A district court ruled the county’s practice unconstitutional in 2015. In 2016, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit overturned that decision and upheld the commissioners’ right to pray. All 15 judges of the full 4th Circuit agreed to hear the case again in March, leading to the July 14 decision.

7/17/2017 1:53:00 PM by BR Staff | with 2 comments

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