July 2019

Q&A: Floyd discusses new role, missions and message for N.C. Baptists

July 31 2019 by Biblical Recorder & BSC Communications

Ronnie Floyd, recently selected to lead the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, is slated to speak at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting in November. He provided statements in response to questions from the Biblical Recorder and BSC communications staff about his new role, his passion for missions, the importance of the Cooperative Program and what he plans to share with N.C. Baptists later this year. The following is a lightly edited transcript.
 


Photo by Matt Miller
Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee at the SBC Annual Meeting.

Q: You were named president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) Executive Committee in early April. What have the first few months on the job been like?

A: Since my election on April 2, and full-time status occurring on May 20, I have been in a learning and listening mode. With the 2019 SBC annual meeting facing us in June, and the crisis related to sexual abuse needing a unified resolve in our response, much of my time was consumed with bringing people together to deal with this in the most responsible manner. As well, much of my time was getting to know our team here at the Executive Committee.
 
Q: Some Southern Baptists may not be familiar with the work of the Executive Committee. What does your new role entail?
 
A: The Executive Committee is the executive, fiscal and fiduciary arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. We are charged with acting for the convention when the convention is not in its annual session, which is only two days a year. Additionally, we provide a news source for our churches called Baptist Press, plus serve in the public relations of interpreting Southern Baptists and our beliefs to our people as well as to the outside world.
 
Our team is also tasked to plan, prepare and execute the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. We are right now working years ahead, as well as promoting and preparing for the 2020 annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Stewardship education and the work of the Southern Baptist Foundation is also entrusted to the Executive Committee for oversight.
 
Furthermore and most important to us, is championing the vision of reaching the world for Christ through promoting the Cooperative Program. Working with all of our partners, it is our heart to assist and inspire churches to cooperate with one another through giving resources and people to this grand task of presenting the gospel to every person in the world and making disciples of all the nations.
 
The Executive Committee is comprised of 86 members from each state or defined region in our nation; therefore, it is the most representative body that gathers outside of our Southern Baptist annual meeting
 
Q: What are some of the most pressing issues facing the SBC?
 
A: I believe that reaching, baptizing and discipling people across America is our greatest need so we can advance the gospel around the entire world. Southern Baptist churches must recapture the priority of evangelism through our churches. Living and breathing gospel urgency in all we do in our churches will change the heart and vision of our churches.
 
In order to reach the world for Christ, we need pastors and preachers of the gospel to begin calling out the called on a weekly basis. We need more church planters now and more new pastors ready to lead our existing churches here in the United States.
 
Additionally, we need more missionaries in the pipeline now ready to serve through international missions. Therefore, we need to call out the called of God who are sitting in our churches, inspiring them to invest their lives to seeing people come to Jesus Christ as Lord. This is why I am calling upon our just under 52,000 churches and congregations to begin to prioritize, elevate and accelerate their giving through the Cooperative Program.
 
Increasing financial support through the Cooperate Program is key in this grand missions and ministries gospel advance. So what does it mean to prioritize, elevate and accelerate giving? Prioritize means to talk now with your church about how they can emphasize Cooperative Program giving in a greater way this year and in years to come.
 
Elevate means to highlight giving now and develop a strategy to do it annually. Accelerate means to start giving now, rather than later. People are lost without Jesus. We must advance the gospel now to people across America and the world. We cooperate together because we know we can do more together to fulfill the Great Commission.  
 
Q: You have often emphasized prayer and evangelism in your ministry. What are your thoughts on the “Who’s Your One?” initiative?
 
A: I think the Who’s Your One? initiative is a simple, clear, and shared strategy that any Christian and church can do. Regardless of the size of the church, any church can do this. Who’s Your One? could be an annual emphasis and even ongoing emphasis in our churches. Of course, Who’s Your One? should be coupled with a commitment to pray for lost people in an ongoing way.
 
Q: We’re grateful that you will be a part of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting this November. You are slated to preach during a special service that will highlight “Who’s Your One?” and personal evangelism. Can you give us a preview of what you will share and what you hope attendees will take away from the service?
 
A: I want to encourage all North Carolina Baptists to join me for the annual meeting in November. Each church in North Carolina should be represented and most could join us for the Tuesday evening session during this convention. I believe you will leave with a new and fresh vision of seeing each person in North Carolina come to Christ as Lord, as well as be inspired to work together alongside one another in this great gospel advance across North Carolina, America, and the world.

7/31/2019 1:44:15 PM by Biblical Recorder & BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Where do Americans find their identity?

July 31 2019 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

In “Overcomer,” a new film from Alex and Stephen Kendrick opening Aug. 23, a young girl struggles to understand where her identity is grounded. Most Americans say they find their identity in relationships and achievements, according to a new study.
 

Photo by overcomermovie.com

LifeWay Research asked 1,010 Americans about their sense of identity and what matters most about themselves. The study was conducted Sept. 21-23, 2018. These are important questions to ask, said Alex Kendrick, director of “Overcomer.”
 
“There is an ongoing debate in our culture about who or what gets to determine our identity,” he said. “We believe the Creator gets to define His creation. When we find our personal identity in Christ, then that is the truest and most stable foundation we could have.”
 
Few Americans, however, say religion in general or faith in Christ specifically is at the forefront of their identity.
 
When asked the open-ended question, “When you think about who you are, what are the first three things that come to mind?” 8 percent say Christian. Fewer say religious/spiritual (2 percent), child of God (2 percent) or blessed (1 percent).
 
More Americans mention being a parent (25 percent), intelligent (12 percent), their job (11 percent), compassionate (11 percent), husband (10 percent), kind (10 percent), trustworthy (10 percent), wife (8 percent), friend (8 percent), hardworking (8 percent) and honest (8 percent).
 

Most characteristics volunteered were positive or merely factual, but some Americans chose potentially negative traits as one of the first things that came to mind about themselves like lonely (4 percent), anxious (2 percent), overweight (1 percent), angry (1 percent), bored (1 percent) or poor (less than 1 percent).
 
“There is no single lens or identifier Americans use to think of themselves,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Ironically, that means the personal identity people have or seek may not be what others see in them.”
 
When given a list of potential facets that could be “very important” to their identity, most respondents point to their role in their family (73 percent) and the good they do (57 percent). Around half say what they have achieved (51 percent) and their role as friend (49 percent) is vital to their identity.
 
Fewer choose their interests or hobbies (44 percent), what they have endured (39 percent), their religious faith (37 percent), their talents (35 percent), their job (32 percent) or their education (29 percent).
 
Even fewer point to their country of birth (26 percent), political views (18 percent), looks (17 percent), ethnic group (16 percent), sexuality (12 percent) or favorite sports team (7 percent) as a very important part of their identity.
 
When asked to choose the most important part of their identity, Americans are most likely to say their familial role (44 percent) is top among those characteristics that are very important.
 

Around 1 in 6 (18 percent) say their religious faith is the most important part of their identity. For 10 percent of Americans, the good they do is most vital. Fewer than 1 in 10 chose any of the other options.
 
“Family roles are vital and priceless,” said Stephen Kendrick, producer of “Overcomer,” “but not perfect or unshakable. Any time we base our identity on changing factors, we are setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.”
 
His brother Alex agreed. “Unfortunately, family relationships can change. Divorce is too common. Children can become estranged. Crisis sometimes separates even the closest family connections. In other words, that cannot be your foundation,” he said.
 
“Family relationships work best when based on God’s love and design,” he noted. “When God is the priority and foundation, families are in a better position to flourish.”
 
The LifeWay Research survey also found Americans evenly split on the relationship between identity and behavior.
 
When asked which statement best described their opinion, 42 percent say what I do determines who I am and 42 percent say who I am determines what I do. Around 1 in 7 (15 percent) aren’t sure.
 
“These two equally common perspectives on life have very different assumptions,” McConnell said. “Working to achieve a reputation presupposes you have less value unless you do. Seeking to genuinely live who you are assumes you had value from the start.”
 
According to Stephen Kendrick, people shouldn’t base their identity on what they do. “It’s so important that we know we are made in God’s image and loved by Him regardless if we are performing or not, working or resting, out in the field or sick in a hospital bed,” he said.
 
“Our titles or circumstances don’t determine the core of our identity. God loves us just as much whether we are out in the game or resting on the bench. If we think we only have value when we are performing, then we will struggle with our meaning or place in this world when our productivity falls short in any way.”
 

Methodology

 
LifeWay Research conducted the study Sept. 21-23, 2018 using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel. For those who select to participate, but do not already have internet access, Ipsos (formerly GfK) provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection.
 
Sample stratification and base weights were used for gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, metro/non-metro, home ownership, education and income to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data. Study specific weights included for gender by age, race/ethnicity, region and education to reflect GSS 2016 data. The completed sample is 1,010 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

7/31/2019 11:25:27 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



All ages reached at LifeWay black church conference

July 31 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

William “Duce” Branch rapped about eschatology at the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference, incorporating rhyme, rhythm and bounce.
 

Photo by Diana Chandler
William “Duce” Branch had the audience’s attention as he rapped about eschatology at the 2019 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C.

“Today feels beautiful. I wanted you to know, about a rescuer who can stop the funeral. He’s beautiful.... Controls this life, and the next. He can take a life falling apart, tighten it up like a hex key.”
 
Branch, an assistant professor of preaching and Bible at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, calls himself “the Ambassador” and admits to being a preacher using rap as a disguise. He ministered to adults of all ages during the Tuesday evening worship at the conference held July 22-26 at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Ridgecrest, N.C.
 
“In other words,” Branch said, “eschatology ... is to motivate present faithfulness and hope when we think about the end. Eschatologically we say this is just a preview, but I’m glad there’s more to come.”
 
Rapping was among many techniques including expository and topical preaching, biblical exposition, educational seminars, cerebral and recreational games, Centrifuge, arts and crafts, and other events that ministered to adults, youth and children. “To All Generations: Faithfulness, forgiveness, favor, forever,” was the theme of the event with daily activities beginning at 6:15 a.m. and ending as late as 11 p.m.
 
The mix of technique and form effectively shared the gospel with all ages, conference convener Mark Croston told Baptist Press July 30.
 
“The conference this year was awesome,” said Croston, national director of black church partnerships with LifeWay Christian Resources. “None of my preaching professors could rap like ‘the Ambassador,’ William ‘Duce’ Branch.
 

Photo by Diana Chandler
In a game of Mafia, a group of young adults at the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference try to identify members of the Mafia to save an entire town from calamity.

“Our millennial outreach is growing,” Croston said. Young adults “had a fantastic time with some of our new program additions: game night, Karaoke & Crucial Conversations and Christian Yoga.”
 
Nearing its 30th year, the conference consistently draws about 1,000 attendees. This year Croston counted 945 attendees including 644 adults, 218 Centrifuge enrollees and 83 children. Attendees came from 26 states, Croston said.
 
“Black Church Leadership and Family Conference is a one-stop shop,” Croston said. “It is one of the few places churches can send their members to receive training from all our SBC entities – NAMB (the North American Mission Board), IMB (the International Mission Board), Guidestone, LifeWay, WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union) and more. With churches trying to stretch their budgets to save more money for missions, this conference is a must.”
 
Croston thanked pastors and parents for bringing youth and adults to the event.
 
“Our fuge camps are already [underway],” he said on the conference’s opening night. “This is such an exciting time and we’ve got a dynamic team that is working with them this week. And we’re thankful for your children who are also with us.”
 
Forty decisions for Christ were noted among Centrifuge attendees, Croston said at the conference’s final evening.
 

Photo by Diana Chandler
Renee Williams Hope was among many who recorded William “Duce” Branch’s performance at the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference.

The event is not only for black churches, Croston said, but is an urban and multiethnic ministry training event beneficial for ethnically mixed couples and couples who have adopted children of a different race. It also serves churches and leaders who want to learn to be more effective in urban and multi-ethnic environments, he said.
 
Churches recognized for having the most attendees were, among congregations with as many as 250 members, Wake Eden Community Baptist Church, Bronx, N.Y., with 33 conference attendees; among churches with as many as 600 members, Metropolitan Baptist Church of Suffolk, Va., with 42 in attendance; and among churches with more than 600 members, Mt. Gilead Missionary Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn., with 54 present. Senior pastors of the congregations are, respectively, Frank Williams, Robert Hobbs and Breonus Mitchell Sr.
 
Registration is open for the 2020 conference, scheduled July 20–24 at Ridgecrest. Information is available at 800-588-7222, or ridgecrestconferencecenter.org.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/31/2019 10:54:41 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Jury rules Katy Perry copied Christian rap song

July 31 2019 by Timothy Cockes, Baptist Press

A jury unanimously ruled on July 29 that Katy Perry’s 2013 hit song “Dark Horse” improperly copied from a 2009 Christian rap song from a musical artist known as “Flame,” according to media reports.
 

The case – originally filed in 2014 by rapper Marcus Gray (under the stage name ‘Flame’) and his two co-authors – involves the song titled “Joyful Noise,” which was released in 2009, according to Associated Press (AP). The song also features a verse by Christian rap artist Lecrae.
 
Flame is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s undergraduate Boyce College and also took classes at the seminary, according to a Baptist Press report. 
 
In the Los Angeles courtroom, the jurors found the six songwriters and four distributors of “Dark Horse” all liable. This includes Sarah Hudson, who co-wrote the song’s words with Perry, as well as several producers of the song from Capitol Records and rapper Juicy J who wrote his verse of the song, AP reported.
 
This ruling begins the penalty phase, where the jury will decide how much the defendants will have to pay as a result of copyright infringement, according to media reports.
 
“Dark Horse” was a hit single from Perry’s 2013 album “Prism” and spent multiple weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Perry received 2015 Grammy nominations both for “Prism,” (Pop Vocal Album) and for the song “Dark Horse” (Pop Duo/Group Performance).
 
Perry grew up in a conservative Christian household and both of her parents were ministers.
 
After starting out as a gospel musician, Perry eventually was signed to Capitol Records and became famous for her controversial hit song “I Kissed a Girl” in 2008.
 
Perry was not present when the verdict was read, AP reported.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press summer intern and graduate student at Liberty University.)

7/31/2019 10:48:13 AM by Timothy Cockes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Alleged sex abuse victim sues Village Church for $1M

July 30 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A Texas woman has sued The Village Church for more than $1 million, alleging she was sexually assaulted at age 11 in 2012 by Matthew Tonne, whom the church employed as a minister and counselor.
 

BP file photo

Identified in the lawsuit as “Jane Doe One,” the plaintiff accuses The Village Church of negligently breaching the church’s duty to care for her, failing to “implement reasonable policies and procedures to detect and prevent the sexual abuse of Jane Doe One by Tonne,” and failing “to adhere to the policies and procedures it had in place at the time” to prevent the alleged abuse.
 
The church had filed no court response to the lawsuit as of July 29, according to Dallas County court records. The church did not respond to Baptist Press’ (BP) request for comment by publication deadline July 29, but said in January that the church fired Tonne in June of 2018 for a matter unrelated to the case.
 
Tonne was charged in January with indecent contact with a child, was released on $25,000 bond and is awaiting trial in August, according to Dallas County District Court public documents.
 
In the lawsuit filed July 26 in Dallas County, Texas, the plaintiff alleges Tonne sexually assaulted her at the Mt. Lebanon Retreat and Conference Center, a Baptist ministry in Cedar Hill, Texas.
 
While the lawsuit does not identify the plaintiff, The New York Times in June and July identified the plaintiff’s mother as Christi Bragg.
 
BP contacted Matt Chandler, senior pastor of The Village Church, and Kent Rabalais, church executive director, for comment Monday.
 
The Southern Baptist Convention addressed the issue of sexual abuse extensively at its 2019 annual meeting June 11-12, passing constitutional and bylaw amendments, conducting panel discussions and releasing new resources to equip churches to combat abuse, submit perpetrators to criminal justice and minister to victims.
 
During and following a B21 panel discussion, one of many ancillary events held at the annual meeting, Chandler discussed the church’s handling of the case. The church did not handle the case perfectly but did “the best” the church “knew how,” Chandler said in June.
 
Church leadership “double reported” the abuse, Chandler said, by helping the family report the incident to police and communicating the report to all parents whose children attended the 2012 summer camp.
 
Chandler said in June he was in a “period of introspection.” He said of his ministry, “We are an imperfect church with imperfect people. We make mistakes; I am painfully aware of my limitations. They are numerous. But when it comes to reporting as soon as we heard, taking our cues from the detective and family, I’m not sure how we could have done it differently.”
 
In January, the church said that there were “no persons of interest in this investigation that have access to children at The Village Church. We would not let anyone who is under investigation for a crime like this be near any of our children at TVC.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/30/2019 11:36:04 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Music students to welcome Michael W. Smith Center

July 30 2019 by Timothy Cockes, Baptist Press

School of Music students at Liberty University will be introduced this fall semester to the new Michael W. Smith Center for Commercial Music.
 
Elijah Chau, a senior worship leadership major at Liberty, said he began listening to Smith’s worship music as well as interviews featuring Smith in high school and believes hands-on experience with a veteran musician like Smith will be “life-changing” for students.
 

Photo from michaelwsmith.com
Michael W. Smith

“I think learning from him (Smith) is going to be life-changing to some of the students including myself, especially to those who are into songwriting,” Chau said.
 
“Being able to come up with new songs as musicians and write music to share the gospel, but also to share your life story on how God has changed your life – it’s such a great opportunity and such an eye-opener because it gives students the opportunity to look more in-depth about what going into the music business is like.”
 
Both the new music center, which opens officially Thursday, Aug. 1, and Smith’s involvement were announced in a press release on Liberty’s website in June. The center will also be accompanied in the future by a recording label at Liberty meant to attract both established musical talent and students looking to get into the music industry.
 
The announcement was previously teased by Smith in a video shown at Liberty’s commencement in May with Smith stating, “I have some big news on taking music (at Liberty) to a whole other level, and it’s going to be awesome.”
 
Smith will serve as the executive director of the new center. In addition, Kevin Jonas Sr., father and original band manager of the Jonas Brothers, a recently reunited pop music trio formed in 2005, will help play a role in the center’s future recording label.
 
Vernon Whaley, dean of Liberty’s School of Music, said Liberty wanted someone like Smith “that we knew had been in the industry a long time and was an example of biblical and professional integrity, and his name just kept coming back to the top.”
 
The new commercial music center, Whaley noted, will be in addition to the already existing commercial music degree program in the School of Music.
 
There are six concentrations students can choose from in the commercial music program, and Whaley noted commercial music can include “anything involving making money with music.”
 
Smith will be able to periodically help mentor and coach music students in the program, particularly in the area of songwriting, Whaley said.
 
Smith’s character and musical talent, Whaley said, were a perfect match for the new center.
 
“We certainly are excited about having Michael W. Smith to be part of this,” Whaley said. “We believe that his life experience, his reputation, his integrity and his ability to create and develop new talent will only enhance our goals and objectives that we already had in place.”
 
Liberty is no stranger to developing musical talent, as famous former Liberty students include dc Talk’s Michael Tait, Toby [Mac] McKeehan and Kevin Smith as well as Christian music artist Meredith Andrews.
 
“We want to equip our musicians to offer the full music experience,” Whaley said. “Our mission in the school of music is to train and equip musicians to be champions for Christ. No matter the major … our goal is to teach our young men and women to use the gifts that God has given them for the purpose of taking worship to the nations or to the communities that God has called them to serve in. We see all of our musicians as evangelists.” 
 
As one of 900 School of Music students at Liberty, Chau said the new center is just another example of what he sees as the school’s effort to train Christian musicians well. 
 
“I feel that after I graduate, the School of Music will continue to evolve and continue to draw in more and more students who are really willing to use their musical abilities to honor and glorify the Lord’s name,” he said.
 
Liberty University is in partnership with the SBC of Virginia.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press summer intern and graduate student at Liberty University.)

7/30/2019 11:30:21 AM by Timothy Cockes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Church gets fresh start after recent rebuild

July 30 2019 by Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message

On Feb. 7, 2017, an EF-3 tornado ripped apart the worship center and education building of the Suburban Baptist Church in New Orleans.
 

Submitted photo
Suburban Baptist pastor Jeffery Friend was surrounded by new converts who proudly displayed baptism certificates and new Bibles. Friend has baptized nine of his members this year to coincide with a spiritual rebirth the New Orleans congregation has experienced after two years of rebuilding facilities damaged by a tornado.

But in 2019, the congregation has experienced a spiritual rebirth marked by nine baptisms, coinciding with the final repairs to the facilities.
 
“For the last two years I have been inwardly focused trying to rebuild what was destroyed by the tornado,” pastor Jeffery Friend told the Baptist Message. “God sent a mighty army of volunteers from across the country to rebuild our church and I knew the least we can do was to fill our buildings again for Him.
 
“People have been inviting others to worship services and the neighborhood has been curious about what was happening as teams came in to rebuild,” he said. “Many folks have known our church’s facilities were destroyed by the tornado. They wanted to see what the progress looked like on the inside. We took advantage of their curiosity and have seen God work in great ways.”
 
Suburban Baptist Church averaged 200 people in Sunday morning worship before the tornado reduced that number to 30. However, the congregation refused to disband and used the facilities at Gentilly Baptist Church and the New Orleans Baptist Association office, both about 7 miles from Suburban Baptist Church, for services until out-of-state mission teams completed the congregation’s worship center in late July 2017.
 
The education building was finished in early July 2019.
 

Submitted photo
Pastor Jeffery Friend baptized a young man inside the Suburban Baptist Church worship center.

While Suburban Baptist worship attendance has not reached its pre-tornado level, Friend acknowledged, the congregation has regrown to nearly 120 people.

“This is a restart because nearly everyone left and few have returned,” Friend said. “What God has been doing is not leading most of the former members to come back, but more so got us ready to welcome the new folks into our fellowship.”


The congregation has embraced the importance of reaching their neighborhood with the gospel, Friend noted. The church hosts weekly discipleship groups for men, women and married couples. Some members also visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
 
“Our people are meeting throughout the community and as a teacher, it is always good to see the students doing what they were taught,” he said.
 
“They are showing me what I was teaching was learned and put into practice,” he said. “That’s how we are growing the Suburban family, one Christ follower at a time.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Blackwell writes for the Baptist Message, baptistmessage.com, news journal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

7/30/2019 11:23:17 AM by Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message | with 0 comments



On the border: ‘Urgent need’ to show Christ’s love

July 29 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The two adult sisters risked their lives in a months-long journey from Cameroon in Central Africa to Tijuana, Mexico. Southern Baptist pastor Marshal Ausberry was surprised to see them at the Southern U.S. border seeking asylum in America.
 

Screen capture
Marshal Ausberry, first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, traveled to the Mexican border to learn how Baptist pastors there are ministering to immigrants and migrants seeking safety in the U.S.

“It’s just not people from Central America and South America that are coming,” Ausberry, first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), told Baptist Press (BP) following his trip last week to the border. “There are people from Africa and Haiti that have migrated to Mexico in attempts to come through the border to the United States.”
 
Ausberry met the immigrants at a Baptist church in Mexico as he was on a fact-finding mission on border ministry with Todd Unzicker, an associate pastor at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. The Christian sisters fled persecution in Cameroon.
 
“That was just one story, and there are thousands of those kinds of stories,” said Ausberry, senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va. “I kind of see it as a modern-day diaspora, that God is shifting the population around for His purposes. When people are willing to endure such great hardships to come to the United States from Mexico for their personal safety, it just moves your heart.
 
“We don’t get into the politics of it, but as believers in Christ Jesus, we’re burdened to do that basic level of care,” Ausberry told BP. “We still need to show them that human dignity of food, clothing and shelter, that care ... as they go through the political process of getting asylum and access to the United States and Mexico.”
 

Photo from Twitter
Todd Unzicker, associate pastor at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., encountered two Christian sisters at the Mexican border who had fled persecution in Cameroon and are seeking asylum in the U.S.

SBC President and The Summit Church senior pastor J.D. Greear asked Ausberry, Unzicker and SBC second vice president Noe Garcia to make the trip, but Garcia was unable to make the trip and needed to remain home where he pastors North Phoenix Baptist Church.
 
July 16-18 in Tijuana, Ausberry and Unzicker met with leaders of the National Baptist Convention of Mexico, Baptist pastors, Southern Baptist pastors from California and Southern Baptist workers in Mexico to learn about ministry to those caught in the crisis on the border.
 
“As Pastor J.D. says, most of us are not called or competent to make policy decisions on the border, but we are commanded by Jesus to love our neighbors and those who are hurting,” Unzicker told BP. “And this, what is a crisis, I think could actually be an absolute win for the Kingdom.
 
“Nobody could doubt that God is moving the nations all around the globe right now, in ways that history has not seen before,” Unzicker said. “We were able to go and share the gospel with people who literally had nothing.”
 
The sisters from Cameroon were staying and serving at a church while awaiting an immigration hearing in the U.S., Ausberry said.
 

Photo from Twitter
On a fact-finding trip to the Mexican border, The Summit Church associate pastor Todd Unzicker learned that an immigrant traveled 2,000 miles in this wheelchair to reach the U.S.

“They really have the joy of Christ in them,” he said, and prefer their current situation to Cameroon. “Their love for Christ, their hopefulness, is just tremendous. It touched our hearts, and we’re thankful for the church opening their doors to give them a place to stay, a place to serve while they’re waiting to go to the hearing to continue their path to seeking asylum.”
 
Ausberry and Unzicker visited five sites where aid is being administered. Baptist churches there do much with few resources, the two said. At one church, about 30 immigrants were housed on cots stacked to the ceiling. Churches were feeding, clothing and ministering to those who had fled home with nothing.
 
“One pastor had such a burden,” Unzicker said, that he asked his leadership for permission to house immigrants in the church’s Sunday School classrooms. “His leadership team said OK you can make room for five people, so he went out and brought back 30. And so they made bunks that just went all the way up to the ceiling.
 
“It’s happening all along (the border) from Brownsville (Texas) to Tijuana,” Unzicker said. “We want to catalyze that, and see all Southern Baptist entities and churches working together for one cause.”
 
Greear will use information gathered on the trip to Mexico to formulate ideas for ministry through Southern Baptists and partners, Unzicker and Ausberry said. Greear could not make the trip, as he was in Asia in July meeting with 51 missionaries from The Summit Church serving in Thailand and Malaysia.
 

Photo by Todd Unzicker
Marshal Ausberry, left, met with Mexican Baptist pastors and leaders during a trip to Tijuana, Mexico, to learn how Southern Baptists can help immigrants and migrants at the border.

Ausberry noted there is “an urgent need here to show the love of Christ, and it’s in real terms of food, shelter, clothing, a bath, a bed, just basic needs you and I take for granted.
 
“I use the phrase, it’s almost like we’re making bricks without straw. They do what they can,” he said.
 
Ausberry and Unzicker described the situation as an optimum opportunity tangibly to show the love of Christ.
 
“The nations are coming to our front doorstep,” Unzicker said. “We want to certainly welcome them with arms that are full of blankets and food, and most importantly the love of Jesus.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

7/29/2019 11:40:00 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Gray named new executive director of Kentucky Baptist Convention

July 29 2019 by Brandon Porter, Kentucky Today

Todd Gray has been named the new executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC).
 
Gray, a Kentucky native, was confirmed by the Mission Board of the Kentucky Baptist Convention to the position in a special called meeting on July 25 in Louisville.
 

Photo by Robin Cornetet, Kentucky Today
Todd Gray, Kentucky Baptist Convention’s new executive director-treasurer, presents his vision for reaching Kentucky and the world for Christ at a special-called meeting of the KBC Mission Board on July 25 in Louisville.

Gray called the appointment a great honor. “While I did not aspire to the position, I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to serve.”
 
A 14-member search team had been working to fill the post since November 2018. Gray becomes the 29th person to lead the 2,400 Kentucky Baptist churches.
 
Search Committee Chair Wes Fowler described Gray as “no stranger to Kentucky Baptists.”
 
“He has served as a pastor, a regional consultant and evangelism team leader for the Kentucky Baptist Convention,” Fowler said. “He has a passion for evangelism and a work ethic that is greatly needed now.”
 
Gray, 54, served churches in Kentucky and Indiana for 20 years before joining the KBC staff in 2012 as a regional consultant for western Kentucky. Since 2016 he’s served as the team leader for the Evangelism, Church Planting and Campus Ministry team.
 
“Todd Gray is as passionate a soul winner as I’ve met. Thankfully, he has a heart for the lost not only in Kentucky but among the nations,” said Paul Chitwood, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, who led the KBC as its executive director-treasurer from 2011-2018.
 
“I couldn’t be more pleased about his appointment,” Chitwood said, “and look forward to working with him as he leads Kentucky Baptists to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.”
 
Gray presented a vision based on Psalm 32:8 to the mission board members. He said the passage has taught him, “God gives us a vision that requires His people to learn and then to act.”
 
He highlighted a desire for the KBC to be the top service provider for Kentucky Baptist churches, for the convention to continue growing as a diverse, big tent convention, to increase partnership together through cooperation, and to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.
 
Curtis Woods, associate executive director for convention relations of the KBC, believes the mission board has confirmed God’s will by calling Gray to role.
 
“He is one of the most committed leaders in SBC life,” Woods said. “He understands who and where we are as Kentucky Baptists. He has an undying love for KBC churches.”
 
Hershael York, dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and senior pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, said Gray has “already distinguished himself as a fervent evangelist, a skillful leader and a man of unflinching integrity. God’s providence has smiled brightly on Kentucky Baptists by gifting and preparing Dr. Gray to lead us at a time of so many critical challenges from our culture.”
 
Jim Donnell, associate executive director for convention operations of the KBC, described Gray as “a man of conviction who truly loves Jesus and the churches of KBC. I am very excited about the future the Lord has in store for our convention under the leadership of Dr. Todd Gray.”
 
Gray holds degrees from Murray State University and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Connie have two adult daughters.
 
Gray officially begins his role on Aug. 1.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Porter writes for Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com, the news website of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

7/29/2019 11:33:31 AM by Brandon Porter, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments



MedAdvance connects medical workers to missions

July 29 2019 by Chris Doyle, Baptist Messenger

Medical professionals and medical missionaries met together this month to discuss how to share the gospel and care for health needs around the world.
 
Attendees gathered July 18-20 for the MedAdvance conference at Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. The event is part of the International Mission Board’s (IMB) strategy to introduce medical missions opportunities to Southern Baptist healthcare professionals.
 

Photo by Brian Hobbs
Rebekah Naylor, International Mission Board global healthcare strategies consultant, speaks at the MedAdvance event.

Nearly 300 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals and students, as well as others who are interested in healthcare mission work, attended the annual MedAdvance. This is only the second time MedAdvance met outside the Richmond, Va., area, where IMB is headquartered.
 
“We are so grateful for Oklahoma Baptists inviting us,” said Rebekah Naylor, IMB global healthcare strategies consultant, who served as overseer of the event. “This year’s conference has set a high standard, as far as attendance and provisions. This is a model for how a conference at a church could effectively work.”
 
MedAdvance has been meeting for more than 10 years. The only other location that hosted the conference was Augusta, Ga., but having MedAdvance in Oklahoma City this year exceeded expectations. MedAdvance leadership reported that this year’s conference drew attendees from 22 states.
 
MedAdvance features regular conference sessions, including breakouts, main sessions and field reports. One element that makes MedAdvance unique is the emphasis of networking and allowing medical professionals to have time to connect with more than 45 active health professionals who represent the IMB and serve around the world.
 
“The most valuable part of the conference,” Naylor noted, “is the conversations that are taking place.”
 
“Several of our missionaries have come from their work and are going back next week,” she said. “The IMB brought them here. The conversations and connections that are made at MedAdvance are very important.”
 
Some of these IMB missionaries first learned about medical missions opportunities from attending previous MedAdvance events. Ray Anderson, minister of missions and evangelism at Quail Springs Baptist Church, elaborated on the uniqueness and effectiveness of MedAdvance.
 

Photo by Chris Doyle
Tom Elliff, former International Mission Board president and Oklahoma pastor, speaks during an evening session at MedAdvance.

“As far as participants, there’s not a lot on record about specific opportunities that people can take advantage of using their medical training, whether they are healthcare professionals or going to be in the future,” Anderson said. “There’s just not a lot of those opportunities established.”
 
“But here (at MedAdvance), they can tell you about opportunities that maybe security concerns are keeping them from being widely communicated,” he said. “Also, you’re connecting with people who, once they know your skill set, can find ways to use you. It opens the eyes of people in the church to ways that they can be used to do health strategies. I don’t think there is a better way to find opportunities to use medicine to advance the gospel.”
 
Anderson was chairman of the MedAdvance Planning Committee. Other committee members included Amy Cordova, women’s and ministry specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO); Bettsy Yarbrough, events coordinator at Quail Springs Baptist Church; Mike Barnett, Baptist Collegiate Ministries director at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center; Jeff Nine, who serves at Frontline Church, Oklahoma City; Mike Wall, who serves at Henderson Hills Baptist Church, Edmond; Randy Whittall, missions minister at Southern Hills Baptist Church, Oklahoma City; and Colby and Emily McLaurin, practicing physicians.
 

Elliff, Dilbeck provide sermons, Bible study at MedAdvance

 
Tom Elliff, former IMB president and Oklahoma Baptist pastor, spoke during the evening sessions of MedAdvance. He challenged attendees to listen to God and heed His calling.
 
“In these next hours, you are dealing with God,” Elliff said. “You are not just messing around with people giving a report or coming up with a strategy. You are dealing with God. That is profoundly significant.”
 
Hance Dilbeck, BGCO executive director-treasurer, led the morning Bible study, sharing from Psalm 110 and its influence on the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
 
“MedAdvance is not about the advance of medicine,” Dilbeck said. “It’s about the advance of the gospel.”
 

Prayer emphasized at MedAdvance

 
Prayer times were observed throughout the sessions at MedAdvance.
 
Led by Eleanor Witcher, IMB prayer office director, attendees spent time praying for many missionaries, as well as thanking and praising God for His blessings and attributes.
 
“Prayer is foundational to everything we do,” Witcher said. “We have heard that prayer is not part of the work. It is the work. If we do not approach our ministry overseas with a strategy of prayer then we are doing it in our own efforts, so prayer is seeking God’s face and asking for His guidance and direction in every step we take when we serve Him on the field.”

In one prayer observance, Witcher asked attendees to write an attribute or characteristic of God on a sticky note and place it on one of the boards hanging on the walls of the chapel at Quail Springs. In a later session, Witcher constructed a large cross from the boards that featured all the comments reflecting God.
 

Other notes of interest from MedAdvance

 
The spectrum of healthcare professionals attending MedAdvance was wide, spanning from medical students to long-time professionals. Approximately 100 medical students received scholarships to attend MedAdvance.
 
The conference received 92 commitment cards from attendees who are committed to pursuing medical missions. Of the 92 commitments, 54 are exploring a call to career missions or are already in process of appointment by IMB.
 
Baptist Nursing Fellowship (BNF) connected with more than 50 nurses at MedAdvance. Stating as its purpose, BNF “provides Christian professional fellowship; promotes continuing education and growth for members and nurse missionaries; and encourages nursing service evolving from a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.”
 
BNF is affiliated with the national Woman’s Missionary Union.
 
MedAdvance 2020 is scheduled to meet June 25-27 at IMB’s International Learning Center in Rockville, Va.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Doyle is managing editor of the Baptist Messenger, baptistmessenger.com, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.)

7/29/2019 11:24:10 AM by Chris Doyle, Baptist Messenger | with 0 comments



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