June 2009

Crossover draws 3,000 volunteers for 95 projects

June 23 2009 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Good News raced across Louisville like a thoroughbred at Churchill Downs June 20 when 3,000 Southern Baptist volunteers braved 95-degree temperatures for Crossover ‘09, an evangelistic effort prior to each year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting.

BP photo by Matt Miller

Veronica Acano, 3, watches in amazement at the size of a bubble at a game booth at the Hispanic Festival held June 20 at Iroquois Park in Louisville, Ky. More than 1,000 community members attended the party, which was a part of a series of evangelical outreaches across the city called Crossover ’09.

Two festivals and 28 block parties topped a list of 95 events, including door-to-door community visits by 1,800 volunteers from 109 local SBC churches along with 1,200 volunteers from out of town. The yearly Crossover evangelism event yielded more than 1,000 professions of faith, SBC officials said.

Charles Barnes, coordinator for Crossover Louisville, said more Louisville-area Baptists were involved in the effort than for any other event with the exception of a Billy Graham crusade eight years earlier. Crossover was jointly sponsored SBC’s North American Mission Board, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Long Run Baptist Association, Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“I think the people in the local association and the surrounding area have really been energized for the Lord and the work of the Kingdom,” Barnes said.

“Lostness is huge in Louisville,” Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Bill Mackey said, noting that only about 8.5 percent of the population is churched on any Sunday. “We wanted to do our best to take advantage of Crossover and to make Louisville one of the most prayed-over cities in America.”

SBC President Johnny Hunt and North American Mission Board President Geoff Hammond joined Feed The Children’s president and founder, Larry Jones, to kick off the first of three “food drops” in the greater Louisville area.

Cars lined up outside distribution sites at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Shively Baptist Church and the Baptist Fellowship Center where volunteers loaded food and personal items into vehicles for 1,200 pre-qualified needy families — and shared the gospel with those who wanted to hear.

“Today, because of this food drop, people are going to come to Jesus — people whose names we do not know,” Hammond said. “On behalf of the North American Mission Board we are delighted to be in a partnership with Feed The Children, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the Long Run Association and Bethlehem Baptist to meet these folks’ human and spiritual needs.”

BP photo

Amber Wimmer, 6, and her brother, Michael, 5, of Arcade Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., are entertained by Chagy the Clown during a block party event held June 20 during Crossover ’09.

Hunt told the crowd: “We’re never more like Jesus than when we’re giving. The Bible says actions speak louder than words. It’s time for people to see what Baptists are doing.”

Jones, from Feed the Children, reminded people there might be a Johnny Hunt or Billy Graham in one of the cars driving up.

“Jesus said that ‘when you do it unto the least of these, my brothers, you have done it unto me,’” Jones said.

As the three food drops were getting under way, volunteers at 28 other Baptist churches throughout Louisville were preparing for block parties on their campuses or in nearby parks. Thousands of hamburgers and hotdogs were thrown on charcoal grills, inflatable bouncing attractions set up, snow cone and popcorn machines revved up and soft drinks and bottled water iced down.

At a block party at Rock Lane Baptist Church, gospel bluegrass music, a ventriloquist, sloppy Joe sandwiches and cotton candy provided a backdrop for an outreach partnering with three other Baptist churches — Lees Lane, Ormsby Heights and Parkwood — in their shared neighborhood.

Reflecting on the labor involved in planning the event, Lees Lane pastor Tom Claus said, “If we do all this and only bring one to Christ, it would all still be worth it.”

St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church near downtown Louisville drew a multicultural crowd of some 1,000 thanks to the presence of a City of Louisville fire truck, a helicopter simulator, clowns, face-painters, balloon artists, a clothes closet, puppet show — and a tent full of barbecue, baked beans and potato salad.

“This is nothing new for us,” said Lincoln Bingham, pastor of St. Paul’s, a predominantly African American congregation, for 18 years. “We do this every summer, even without Crossover. We want to be celebratory and make the statement about the abundant life — all this in Louisville’s highest crime area.”

At six-church event in Jeffersontown’s Veteran’s Park — a largely middle-class suburb of 30,000 east of Louisville — 150 volunteers got together after one of the pastors asked, “How big do we want to make this?”

“We hoped 1,000 people would show up,” said Don James, pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church, which joined with Poplar Level, Highland Park, Lakeside, Forest Park Community and Jeffersontown Baptist churches to offer children’s games, three-on-three basketball and live music, including a Christian hip-hop artist.

“This is a tough community to penetrate with the gospel,” said Jeff Pennington, Highland Park’s pastor. “With a middle-class (that is) heavily Catholic, there are thousands of unchurched in Jeffersontown. It’s hard to reach them. We hope we can break through with this event and start some relationships.”

To coincide with the block parties around Louisville, an international fair and a Hispanic festival took place in the Iroquois area of south Louisville.

BP photo by Jon Blair

Vandana Aghamkar of Walnut St. Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., welcomes participants in the Ghazal-e-Roshni at an International Festival held in the gymnasium of Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville. The event for the Indian community was one of a series of evangelistic outreaches to international communities held across the city prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 23-24.

The international fair provided about 1,500 Koreans, Chinese, Burundi, Nigerians, Haitians, Somalis, Bosnians, Vietnamese and Ethiopians a diverse display of food, music and dance, a Chinese string chamber music group and a team of 20 Taekwando experts.

About 100 volunteers, led by Bill Mazey, set up in the parking lot of a local shopping center representing such sponsoring churches as Bethel Evangelical Church (Ethiopian); Bethel Baptist Church (Haitian); Haitian Tabernacle; Louisville Chinese Christian Church; True Light Korean Baptist Church; Sangmyoung Sam Korean Baptist Church; Kentucky Central Mission Baptist Church (Korean); Eglesia Bautista Senda de Luz (Hispanic); and ECWA (West African); and ECWA 2 (Burundi).

Mazey, a recent seminary graduate and former pastor, offered a quick explanation why the volunteers work so hard to reach out in so many different ways — and languages — to reach this segment of Louisville’s population.

“Because people need Jesus,” Mazey said, blinking back tears. “He didn’t save us so we can be just healthy, wealthy and wise. He saved us to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We as Christians get comfortable and forget we’re here to reach people, whatever color, with the gospel.”

A mile away, Hispanic pastor Yurian Cabrera directed Crossover’s Hispanic festival at Iroquois Amphitheatre and Park, jointly sponsored by Iglesia Bautista Senda de Luz; Iglesia Bautista Victoria; Iglesia Bautista New Cut Road; Iglesia Bautista Cooper Chapel; Iglesia Bautista Getsemani; Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispanic Shelbyville; Iglesia Bautista Jefferstown; and Iglesia Bautista Fe y Esperanza.

“We prepared for 1,000,” said Cabrera, as the praise team from his church, Iglesia Bautista Senda de Luz, filled the amphitheatre with Christian music in Spanish and the audience clapped and sang along. “We will have to do this again. It’s a great thing to do to bring people to Jesus, along with the food, the music and everything,” Cabrera said.

On Sunday, June 14, volunteers with the Intentional Community Evangelism (ICE) team gathered for a worship and prayer service at Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville. The group then hit Louisville streets beginning Monday morning, sharing Christ in parks, neighborhoods and throughout downtown streets. More than 100 volunteers participated in the effort, including 60 students from an organization named “Error! Contact not defined.” located in Louisville.

Supporting ICE team efforts was a mission team of 150 members from Hunter Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. The group spent the week conducting Vacation Bible Schools, backyard Bible clubs and other outreach efforts. By Saturday morning, ICE team members already had seen more than 500 decisions for Christ stemming from their outreach.

At Louisville’s Jackson Woods Apartments, a naked concrete slab welcomed 42 volunteers with the Kentucky Builders on Monday, June 15. By Friday, team leader Sanford Hill and his team from Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia and Florida had built the first phase of a learning center for school children who live at Jackson Woods.

Constructed during a heat wave in Louisville that suddenly shot temperatures toward 100 degrees, the Kentucky Builders’ initial, though unfinished, phase includes walls, the roof, wiring and plumbing.

“A lot of these kids who live at Jackson Woods are latchkey kids,” said Hill, also a pastor. “The average income at Jackson Woods is $5,000 a year. The center will have a paid adult supervisor and volunteers to help the kids with their homework.

“We talk about the love of God, but it’s one thing to talk about it and another thing to show it,” Hill said. “We do this simply because we love the Lord.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting

6/23/2009 2:25:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gratitude voiced to Woman’s Missionary Union

June 23 2009 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Larry Martin remembers the bad roads and the hearts of a group of Southern Baptist women who helped change — and essentially save — his life.

Growing up in rural Kentucky, Martin remembers the WMU women who drove 40 miles each day for two weeks to take him to Vacation Bible School. During those two weeks, Martin gave his life to Christ.

BP photo

Kaye Miller, national president of Woman’s Missionary Union, talks about Christ’s call for His followers to love others during the main address of the WMU Celebration and Annual Meeting June 21 in Louisville, Ky.

Martin, now a consultant with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, shared his story during the June 21 opening session of this year’s WMU annual meeting at St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.

More than 800 WMU women attended the Sunday night session, which focused on lives changed in Kentucky and Appalachia. This year’s theme is “Change a life. Change the world.”

“Joyce and I both have this lifelong debt of gratitude to WMU,” Martin said. “And during the 19 years that we were serving in North American missions away from Kentucky, we always counted on the prayers of (WMU). Those prayers were what carried us during all of that time.”

Martin was one example of how touching one life for Christ can impact others — and even the world. In the fall of 2010, Martin, who has a passion for horses, will be working with an outreach ministry during the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. The event is expected to bring in more than a million people from around the world to the state.

Bill Mackey, executive director of the Kentucky convention, thanked WMU for its partnership with the state in reaching international students for Christ.

Of about 250,000 college students in Kentucky, about 8,000 of them are international students, Mackey said. Through some of Kentucky Baptists’ church plants, many are coming to Christ.

Each year about 1,700 of the collegians go on short-term mission projects — during which many of them surrender their lives to missions both internationally and nationally, Mackey also noted.

“WMU is our partner ... and we thank God for that,” he said. “We’re grateful for all (WMU does) in prayer support of missions and support financially.

“Missions is alive and well in Kentucky, and we thank God for that,” Mackey said.

Ministry to Appalachia

For the past 10 years, WMU has partnered with 11 state conventions and the North American Mission Board to impact the physical and spiritual needs of Appalachia, which covers parts of Kentucky in stretching along the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi.

“We cannot do what we do without the WMU,” said NAMB missionary Bill Barker, director of Appalachian Regional Ministry. “You’ve made a difference in lives all across Appalachia.”

Recalling how WMU has sent school supplies as well as hygiene packets and other needed items into Appalachia, Barker said, “As fast as we could haul them out, you hauled them in.”

Spiritual needs were met as well. Barker recalled how one woman accepted Christ after expressing thanks for receiving simple things that most people take for granted.

“You made an impact in her life,” he said. “She was open to hear the gospel. You made an eternal difference in her life.”

“One life can change the world,” said Kaye Miller, president of WMU, told the crowd. Opportunities to impact lives are everywhere, she said Miller.

“What about where you live?” Miller asked. “In your backyard? In your Jerusalem? How are you changing lives through love in your neighborhood?”

Miller shared how she was able to share her faith while pulling weeds in her yard with her neighbor — a Muslim woman.

The woman and her family eventually moved back to their home country. Miller said she doesn’t know if the woman made a decision for Christ. Nevertheless, she said, “I’m so grateful for that opportunity and to share seeds.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hendricks is a writer for the International Mission Board.)

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting

6/23/2009 2:23:00 AM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Even at 500, Calvin isn’t slowing down

June 23 2009 by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

Like most 24-year-old men, Stephen Jones is keenly interested in sin. But while many of his peers enjoy their youthful indiscretions, Jones takes a more, shall we say, Puritanical stand.

June 12-15 Jones and 4,000 other young Christians packed into a convention center in Palm Springs, Calif., to hear preachers tell them that they are totally depraved, incapable of doing the right thing without a mighty hand from God, and — most importantly — have absolutely no control over their eternal fate.

The mind behind that message is John Calvin, the 16th-century Reformer often better known for condemning sinners and heretics than for igniting evangelical zeal. But as Presbyterian and other Reformed churches prepare for the 500th birthday of their spiritual godfather on July 10, increasingly, it is young American evangelicals who are taking up his theological torch.

“His theology is the hottest, most explosive thing being discussed right now,” said Justin Taylor, 32, a self-described Calvinist, and an editorial director at Crossway, a Christian publisher in the evangelical heartland of Wheaton, Ill. “What he taught is extraordinarily
influential right now.”

John Calvin

Young evangelicals are scooping up books by neo-Calvinist authors, packing churches and conventions led by Calvinist preachers and studying at staunchly Calvinist seminaries. They’re blogging their way through Calvin’s behemoth “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” setting up Facebook fan clubs and opening Twitter feeds.

Many proudly bare their fidelity to Calvinism’s “five points” of predestination as if they were stars on a general’s chest. Earlier this year, Time magazine served notice that “The New Calvinism” is one of “10 ideas that are changing the world right now.”

In other words, Calvinism has moved out of the Puritan meetinghouse and into the megachurch.

Though he is often portrayed as a dour, prickly Puritan, Calvin was a sensitive pastor with a thankless task, said Karin Maag, a professor of history at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“He had the complicated and painstaking job of creating a new church,” Maag said. “It’s easy to get people together on what they don’t like, but to make the Reformation take hold in people’s lives and people’s hearts was rather more difficult.”

So, while Martin Luther fired up the masses, Calvin, essentially, gave them new rules. Maag said the people of Geneva were not exactly appreciative: they named their dogs after Calvin and sang rude songs outside his window. As a Protestant leader in a Catholic territory, Calvin lived under the constant threat of siege, Maag said.

American neo-Calvinists say they are similarly besieged by the forces of secularism. And while the ministers and churches of their youth kept them entertained, they didn’t offer the kind of intellectual firepower many find in Calvinism.

“Most of them grew up in some kind of church but they were not taught much doctrinal formation; they played youth-group games,” said Collin Hansen, author of the 2008 book “Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists.” “When they went to college, the games didn’t seem worth it.”

Calvinism, Hansen and others say, provides a time-tested doctrinal anchor to keep young evangelicals from being swept away by the mainstream. Some of the largest neo-Calvinist churches — Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, and Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington — stand in the country’s most secular cities.

“Calvin’s is a sovereign God who answers all questions,” Jones said, “by causing us to lose ourselves and truly deny ourselves.”

But Calvin can also be a profoundly divisive figure. The Calvinist belief that Jesus died only for an elect few and that humans can do nothing to earn their eternal reward has split Christians for centuries, said Peter J. Thuesen, a professor and author of a forthcoming book called “Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine.”

“That idea has upset so many different religious groups, the backlash against it gave rise to some of the denominational diversity in the United States,” as churches split from each other over predestination debates, said Thuesen.

In fact, Baptists are still fighting over Calvin. About 30 percent of young Southern Baptists consider themselves Calvinists, according to a survey by the denomination’s research arm.

Pastor Tom Ascol, executive director of the pro-Calvin Founders Ministries, said that’s a good thing.

“I think it’s undeniable that the rising generation of evangelicals, not just in the Southern Baptist Convention but all over, are awakening to a fresh vision of God’s sovereign majesty over every square inch of earth.”

But former Southern Baptist Convention President Jerry Vines said Calvinism inhibits evangelism and missionary work, which is the lifeblood of the SBC, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. If Jesus died only for the elect, then what’s the point of trying to reach others, said Vines, who co-organized a conference dedicated to debunking Calvinism last year.

“I do believe it is possible to be a five-point Calvinist and be evangelistic and missionary-minded,” Vines said. “But their evangelism and missionary work is in spite of their Calvinism, and not because of it. That’s going to make some of them mad, but I do believe it.”

6/23/2009 2:17:00 AM by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service | with 1 comments

SBC EC recommends cutting ties with Broadway

June 23 2009 by Marv Knox, Baptist Standard

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee has recommended the SBC discontinue its relationship with Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas, because of its toleration of homosexual members.

The recommendation to sever ties with the Fort Worth congregation was approved without discussion or dissent by the full Executive Committee June 22, on the eve of the SBC annual meeting in Louisville.

The recommendation to remove Broadway did not specifically mention homosexuality. But that issue has been the backdrop of controversy at the church since late 2007, when a dispute arose regarding whether to include pictures of homosexual couples in the church’s membership directory.

The issue of the church’s affiliation with the convention surfaced about a year ago, at the 2008 SBC annual meeting. William Sanderson of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, N.C., asked the convention to declare the church “not to be in friendly cooperation” with the SBC. Following standard practice, messengers to the 2008 meeting referred the motion to the Executive Committee for follow up.

The Executive Committee eventually voted to recommend “that the cooperative relationship between the convention and the church cease, and that the church’s messengers not be seated, until such time as the church unambiguously demonstrates its friendly cooperation with the convention under (constitution) Article III.”

That recommendation will be considered by SBC messengers in Louisville Tuesday, June 23. Broadway Baptist Church did not send any elected messengers to the 2009 SBC annual meeting.

Kathy Madeja, chair of Broadway’s board of deacons, expressed disappointment with the negative proposal the messengers will receive shortly after the annual meeting begins.
“We regret the recommendation of the Executive Committee,” Madeja said in an e-mail June 22, shortly after the committee’s vote.

“We do not believe Broadway Baptist Church has taken any action which would justify its being deemed not in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention.  We trust the messengers, representing the local churches at the convention, will take appropriate action to preserve the 125 year affiliation of Broadway Baptist Church with the SBC.”

Article III of the SBC’s constitution notes that “churches not in cooperation with the convention are churches which act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.”
In materials provided to the Executive Committee early this year, a Broadway staff member denied violating the convention’s constitution.

“Broadway never has taken any church action to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior,” Jorene Taylor Swift, minister of congregational care at the church, wrote to August Boto, the Executive Committee’s general counsel.

Swift called the assertion that Broadway has violated the SBC constitution “an unsupported and untrue allegation.”

“Broadway Baptist Church considers itself to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention and has every intention of remaining so,” Swift wrote.

In fact, the church decided to publish its membership directory “with candid photographs of our members participating in many ministries and activities of Broadway,” she said.

“One of the factors in choosing this style of directory was our belief that it does not make a statement to anyone to indicate that Broadway has in any way affirmed, approved or endorsed homosexual behavior.”

Swift’s letter acknowledged the church’s membership reflects “a variety of views” on homosexuality.

“Like a number of other Southern Baptist churches, our congregation is trying to understand how to minister to those who are engaged in a homosexual lifestyle,” she added. “Our church has not adopted the position that the Bible condones this behavior.”

A letter to Boto from Broadway’s board of deacons, dated May 21, 2009, addressed what it called “innuendo and gossip” regarding the church’s position on homosexuality.

“We have not denied that we, like most other churches, have a few gay members,” the deacons’ letter said. “We do not inquire about sexual orientation when people present themselves for membership. We do require their profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord followed by believer’s baptism.”

The deacons’ letter reiterated Swift’s statement that the church has not acted to “affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.”

“Broadway Baptist Church desires to maintain its longstanding and historic affiliation with the SBC,” the letter said. “We believe our continued association with the Southern Baptist Convention will benefit both Broadway and the convention and further the kingdom of God.

“It is our sincere hope the Executive Committee will recommend Broadway Baptist Church be deemed in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The outcome of the Broadway vote could have significant impact on several of the church’s members.

Swift’s letter noted four faculty members at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth are members of the church. If the church is removed from the convention, those faculty would be required to join congregations in good standing with the national convention or resign their teaching posts.

Madeja declined to identify those faculty members, citing the private and painful nature of the situation.

The Fort Worth church has been pastorless for most of the past year, since the previous pastor, Brett Younger, joined the faculty of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta.

Brent Beasley, who will begin his tenure as Broadway’s pastor next month, was moving from Memphis, Tenn., to Fort Worth the week of June 22 and was unavailable for comment.

6/23/2009 1:07:00 AM by Marv Knox, Baptist Standard | with 0 comments

'Love-driven unity' stressed at Pastors' Conference

June 22 2009 by By Jennifer Rash, Grace Thornton & Brittany Howerton, The Alabama Baptist

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Themes of love, forgiveness and unity surfaced throughout the Monday morning session of the Southern Baptist Pastors Conference as speakers developed the theme of “What If? One Love.”

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, outlined three principles Christians have to live by in order to create “a love-driven unity to unite us in common mission with a common purpose for the glory of God” — walk worthy, display right attitudes and live God’s unity.

Preaching from Ephesians 4, Stetzer said God has already made us “one, we just have to live that out.”

While believers’ high calling from Christ allows “us to walk worthy … Southern Baptists will not be able to do so until we walk in gospel unity with fellow Southern Baptists,” Stetzer said. And “without the right attitude, unity is never possible,” he added, noting the fruits of the Spirit such as humility, gentleness and patience.

Humbly stand before God, speak to one another gently and be patient with those with differing ideas, he said. “The nations need our witness and not our conflict.”

“I’ve read the end of the book. It doesn’t mention Southern Baptists. … But it mentions God’s people, and it mentions men and women from every tongue, tribe and nation,” Stetzer said. “I want us as a family of churches to be a part of that great ingathering from every tongue, tribe and nation and God might say to us, ‘You loved each other.’”

Anyone who won’t forgive can’t rightly claim to be a man or woman of faith, added Tom Elliff, former Southern Baptist Convention president.

“Faith is acting on the basis of the revealed will of God,” he said. “If you will not forgive, you are denying the truth that God is sufficient for you.”

Christians have to make a “singular deliberate decision of the will in which you consider someone to no longer be indebted to you,” Elliff said. “The devil will constantly tempt you to retry that person in the courtroom of your emotions.”

When that temptation comes, believers have to resist because they have a mandate to forgive in Ephesians 4:32. But they have a model for forgiveness in their own salvation, he said. Having the memory of when grace intervened on their behalf, “because of what’s happened in you, you then can put this aside,” Elliff said.

Taking the phrase of Philippians 2:2 “maintaining the same love,” Mike Landry said believers are playing with fire if they try to share the gospel without a heart for the people.

When the Great Commission becomes a “task to check off on a spiritual checklist” instead of a relational mission, Christians are in danger of caring more about numbers than changed hearts, said Landry, pastor of Sarasota (Fla.) Baptist Church.

To keep from falling into that trap, believers should “get to know God as more than a systematic theology piece,” he said. “As you get to know Him and how He works, you get acquainted with the activities of God … and that begins to transform your heart.”

Christians should also value people and not just see them as a means by which the church can grow, he said. “We’ve got to get to the point where we see people as important. … If that happened, if we ramped up our missions efforts by maintaining that same love, we would see far more people come to know Jesus.”

Francis Chan, pastor of Cornerstone Church, Simi Valley, Calif., also emphasized the importance of loving each other.

“You can be a successful pastor without loving people,” he said. But the New Testament book of Acts describes a love for one another and healing among people and 1 John 4:11 says that if God loves us, “we ought to love one another.”

“Here’s what supposed to happen if one walks into a gathering of believers — they see so much love among us that they actually see God there,” Chan said, noting this includes putting up with and forgiving each other. “People could actually see and experience God through your love.”

6/22/2009 8:15:00 AM by By Jennifer Rash, Grace Thornton & Brittany Howerton, The Alabama Baptist | with 1 comments

Pastors: Loveless gospel attracts no one

June 22 2009 by Norman Jameson, Biblical Recorder

Until Baptists demonstrate love for each other, the gospel of love they preach will not attract others according to speakers at the opening session June 21 of the annual Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference.

Considering the theme “What if?” Mac Brunson, J.D. Greear and Charles Colson imagined a convention of Baptists winsome enough to attract others who currently do not see a loving community worthy of their own life investment.

Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., told the story of a dog food company that had the best marketing and sales staff but sales were down because dogs didn’t like the product. He asked fellow pastors gathered at their annual pre-SBC preaching fest why they are not reaching people.

“They don’t like us,” he said. “And if you’ll walk out of this room and into the hallway and listen to the conversation, you’ll discover we don’t like each other very much either.”

Brunson, preaching from 1 Peter 1 and 3, said five attitudes should characterize Christian’s dealings with each other: harmonization, identification, intention, compassion and submission.

He said Baptists have a tendency to “square off” over divisions and seek first to discover differences about each other, rather than areas of agreement.

“Why can’t you find something you can agree on?” he asked. He expressed dismay at some of the discussion over the “Great Commission Resurgence” proposed by SBC President Johnny Hunt and said, “My stars, can’t we agree on the Great Commission?”

He encouraged pastors to identify with a hurting brother, not just express sympathy. “I’m your brother,” he said. “I’m going to get in there and do for you what needs to be done when there’s a hurt.”

He said Christians who do not return evil for evil, nor insult for insult present a positive witness before a watching world.

He mentioned a book by two women who built the world’s largest advertising agency called, “The Power of Nice” and suggested Baptists try that tactic.

“If they don’t like us they won’t listen to us,” he said.

BP photo by Van Payne

J.D. Greear, lead pastor of Summit Church in Durham, N.C., was a featured speaker June 21 at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. The conference was held prior to the 152nd session of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 23-24 at the same location.

Greear, pastor of the Summit Church in Durham, which has grown from 400 to 3,000 during his pastorate, was transparent in confessing his own shortcomings, including the “lust for the successes of other churches.”

Asking why people are not being won to Christ in large numbers as they once were, he said, “What has changed about us? God is the same.”

He preached from Matthew 23 to explain the difference in people who are “fervent in religion” to those who are fervent for Christ.

“Over time religion tends to displace the gospel among God’s people,” he said. “Like a virus, it grows up out of the sinful hearts of men and chokes out the gospel.”

Like the Pharisees, we see negative traits in others, but not in ourselves, Greear said.

He said “religion makes us horribly ineffective at evangelism” because we tend to win others to church, rather than to Christ.

 Jesus said they were willing to go around the world for one convert, and implied they could not find a convert closer to home. “We need to ask, ‘Is what happened to the Pharisees and Jews happen(ing) someway to us?’” Greear said.

He listed six timeless ways to know if religion has misplaced the gospel. He said: Religious people are obsessed with recognition; they substitute religious ritual for a love for God and over love of others; they elevate secondary traditions above knowing God; they are more aware of others’ sins than of their own; and “they think we’re always talking about somebody else.”

Implying throughout that Southern Baptists need seriously to consider if they are just religious people instead of people who hunger for the touch of God, Greear said, “Religion emphasizes conformity to a standard, not passion for God.”

He said Baptists villanize and exclude other brothers and sisters because they don’t agree in some minor details. “How can you not be ashamed?” he asked. “You are straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.”

Saying it was likely that people attending the annual SBC meeting his week will villanize others is a “tragedy.” He said, “We’re so consumed by these secondary things we couldn’t see a movement of God if it went right past our face.”

“The center of Christianity is not what we are to go and do for God but what God has done for us,” Greear said.

He said people don’t hear the gospel because they are “turned off by the condescending and self-deluding way we talk” about the sins of others. “Gospel people speak with humility,” he said.

He urged Baptists to “repent of the self-righteousness that thinks there is something about us that makes us better than others.”

“God has brought us back from the deadness of liberalism,” he said. “God has brought us too far to trade the deadness of liberalism for the deadness of traditionalism.”

BP photo by Van Payne

Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship based in Lansdowne, Va., speaks during the June 21 evening session of the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention Pastor’s Conference.

Charles Colson, a frequent speaker at the Pastors’ Conference, which was the first forum where he gave his Christian conversion testimony three decades ago, said America’s current “economic meltdown” can be traced to moral failure of politicians.

America faces a “perfect storm” that he considers more dangerous for America than the problems in the midst of the Great Depression in 1932.

He attributes it to the loss of “protestant work ethic” in favor of an expectation that “this world is to meet every one of my materialistic needs.”

He said when he tells people this materialistic world view has put the United States in a “position that is perilous,” nine of 10 people realize world view makes a difference.

He warned that the current perilous times provide “unprecedented opportunities for government to expand,” and that limitations on what pastors can say from the pulpit without threat of losing tax exemption or being arrested are “coming folks.”

“Are you ready for this?” he asked. “Are you ready to say no to Caesar when Caesar says you can’t preach what the Bible says we must preach?”

He referred to “hate speech” legislation that he interprets to mean a preacher could not call homosexual behavior sin, and potential loss of the ability for medical personnel to decline to do abortions.

“As government power expands, inevitably it restricts human freedom,” said Colson, once in President Richard Nixon’s inner circle.

He found positives in recent reports that say 10 percent fewer Americans self-identify as Christians. The same research found an increase to 34 percent in those who self-identify as born again evangelicals, he said.

“One-third of Americans declare Christ is King, yet the culture deteriorates,” he said.

“What would happen if we really started to disciple that one-third of Americans so they had a Christian world view and were sold out to Christ?” he asked. “You’d see a revolution in this country.”

“The most critical thing churches can do is disciple members to know what they believe and why they believe it,” he said.

He referred to the difficult times our nation faces, and asked, “What better time to do the best of things, to show people winsomely what we believe?”

6/22/2009 3:59:00 AM by Norman Jameson, Biblical Recorder | with 0 comments

NAMB names its Great Commission task force

June 22 2009 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

UPDATE: ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Twenty-five Southern Baptists from a broad cross-section of the denomination, including two from North Carolina, will comprise the new North American Great Commission Task Force set to meet for the first time June 23 prior to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Louisville, Ky.

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., Baptist State Convention executive director-treasurer, and Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, have agreed to serve on the task force, which anticipates action coming out of the annual SBC meeting in Louisville where Presdient Johnny Hunt is expected to name a "Great Commission Resurgence" study committee.

Commissioned by North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Geoff Hammond, the task force is designed to dovetail with the Great Commission Resurgence declaration issued by Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt, who will be kept apprised of the group’s progress. To date, more than 3,700 Baptists have signed Hunt’s call for a return to the Great Commission.

“The North American Mission Board joins with our SBC president in this focus and takes this call seriously,” Hammond said. “NAMB is called and is in the unique position to mobilize this convention in a Great Commission resurgence.”

BP photo by John Swain

Geoff Hammond, president of the North American Mission Board, has appointed 24 Southern Baptists to the North American Great Commission Task Force.

The task force will meet for the first time in an open-to-the-public “meet and greet” session from 5-6 p.m. Tuesday in Room B110 in the Kentucky Exposition Center’s south wing. Hunt and Hammond are slated to attend.

Hammond has appointed one of his senior associates at NAMB, Steve Reid in Alpharetta, Ga., and Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research in Nashville, to convene and co-facilitate the task force. The initial “working” meeting of the task force will take place in late July in Atlanta, according to Reid.

Following six scheduled meetings during 2009-10 — both face-to-face and via the Internet — the task force has been charged by Hammond with drafting a final report of its findings which Hammond will unveil at the 2010 annual SBC meeting in Orlando, Fla.

“The essence of the task force will be to look at SBC activities and actions from both a biblical and missiological standpoint,” Reid said. “Everybody will be coming together to take a fresh look at how Southern Baptists should look at the Great Commission in times such as these.

“North America has changed,” Reid said. “Everyone knows that intellectually. But in terms of how we do church and approach communities and peoples, I’m not sure that fact has hit home. Southern Baptists in the United States understand and associate the Great Commission with overseas missions. However, North America itself is now a mission field, and this task force will re-focus on the homeland of North America as the mission field it is,” Reid said.

Reid said one of the things Hammond — now in his third year as NAMB president — has emphasized is North America as a mission field and the urgency with which it must be reached for Christ.

“I am grateful Dr. Hammond has asked me to co-facilitate the North American Great Commission Task Force, along with Ed Stetzer,” Reid said. “Dr. Hammond’s commitment to the Great Commission is evidenced by his desire to see a task force of this nature come together to work on activities and actions that will help Southern Baptists impact North America for Christ.”

Reid said the task force represents people across Southern Baptist life and leadership. “We were very intentional in putting this diverse group of folks together.”

Task force co-facilitator Ed Stetzer said, “Southern Baptists stand at an historic crossroads and need to make decisions on whether we will continue in decline or move forward with a renewed focus and passion on the Great Commission.

“I am thrilled with Dr. Hammond and Steve Reid in co-facilitating this task force so that we can assist NAMB in fulfilling its mission in its sphere of influence to assist churches and our convention in engaging in the Great Commission,” Stetzer said.

Larry Wynn, pastor of 12,000-member Atlanta-area Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula and one of the members of the new task force, said, “The establishment of the North American Great Commission Task Force is very encouraging to me. It is an honor to serve with the other members of this team.

“The Great Commission is what Southern Baptists are about. It is very important that we take seriously Christ’s command to take the gospel to the world. I believe as we pray together, dream together and take bold steps together, this team can be used of God to help all of us be more effective in fulfilling the Great Commission in the future,” Wynn said.

To date, the 25 Southern Baptists who have agreed to serve on the North American Great Commission Task Force are:

Hollifield and Reid; D.D. Alexander, pastor of Holy Tabernacle of God, Los Angeles; D. Ray Davis, International Mission Board, Richmond, Va.; Steve Davis, executive director, State Convention of Baptists in Indiana; Bob Dean, director of missions, Dallas, Texas; Mark Edlund, executive director, Colorado Baptist General Convention; Thomas Hammond, North American Mission Board, Alpharetta, Ga.; David Hankins, executive director, Louisiana Baptist Convention; Joe Hernandez, North American Mission Board, Alpharetta, Ga.; Van Kicklighter, North American Mission Board, Alpharetta, Ga.; Chuck Lawless, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.; Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans; Kaye Miller, president of Woman’s Missionary Union, Birmingham, Ala.; Michael Pigg, president of the National African American Fellowship and pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.; Terry Robertson, executive director, Baptist Convention of New York; Charles Roesel, First Baptist Church, Leesburg, Fla.; Danny Sanchez, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas; Van Sanders, North American Mission Board, Alpharetta, Ga.; Gus Suarez, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo.; Phil Taylor, director of missions, Cleveland, Tenn.; David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla.; Ken Weathersby, North American Mission Board, Alpharetta, Ga.; Don Wilton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C.; and Wynn.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)

6/22/2009 3:55:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Mo. Baptist layman takes on ‘emergent church’

June 22 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

WINFIELD, Mo. — Thirty years after the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) began ridding itself of theological moderates and liberals, a prominent Missouri Baptist layman is warning that the nation’s largest non-Catholic faith group now faces a different kind of liberalism from within.
Roger Moran, research director of the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association, is printing pamphlets to distribute at the upcoming SBC annual meeting warning messengers about what he views as dangers in a church-planting movement known as the “emerging” or “emergent” church.
Moran says the movement, which aims to create churches that are culturally relevant to what proponents call a “postmodern” society, is making inroads in Southern Baptist life, particularly in seminaries and the SBC’s publishing arm, LifeWay Christian Resources.
Moran’s 47-page document lays out in detail how controversy over the trend wreaked havoc among Baptist leadership in his own state and warns that unless it is addressed, similar strife may lie ahead for the SBC.
“In the name of missions, ministry and evangelism, the SBC is now in danger of embracing a new liberalism — ‘cultural liberalism’ that claims to be theologically conservative,’” the pamphlet warns.
Unlike in the “battle for the Bible” that united conservatives against the predominantly moderate-to-progressive SBC bureaucracy of the 1980s, Moran says, the emergent-church crowd affirms the inerrancy of Scripture. As such, he says, many conservative Southern Baptists view it as nothing more than an innovative way to win people to Christ.

But Moran says in attempting to re-invent the image of evangelical Christianity, the emergent church often compromises beliefs such as the SBC’s traditional opposition to use of beverage alcohol.
Moran claims the emergent church is making particular inroads at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, which has invited Mark Driscoll to speak on campus several times. Driscoll, a controversial figure in the emerging-church movement whose penchant for off-color language earned him the nickname the “cussing preacher,” is pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

One of Driscoll’s visits, Moran says, was during a “Preview Days” emphasis intended to attract new students to the campus.

Moran says Ed Stetzer, formerly a church-planting expert at the SBC North American Mission Board and now director of LifeWay Research, defends Driscoll. He notes that Stetzer is also a former board member of Acts 29, a network of pastors dedicated to planting new churches and reinvigorating old ones that Moran says introduced the emergent-church controversy in Missouri.
He points out that in December 2005, upon recommendation of then-Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Director David Clippard, the MBC Executive Board approved a $200,000 loan for a new church plant in St. Louis called The Journey.
Only afterward did members learn about unconventional outreach efforts by the group, including a monthly discussion about theology held at a local beer pub. The event was promoted on the church website with the line, ”grab a brew, give your view.”

Both Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary, and Stetzer declined to comment for this story.

Moran says he sees little value in evangelism that professes conservative theology but doesn’t match the talk with what he views as a proper Christian lifestyle.

“Our problem is not in our lack of conservative theological rhetoric, nor in our lack of efforts in evangelism, but in our increasing willingness to neglect what Christ said is the most important of all, the first and greatest commandment,” Moran said. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”

Moran says his organization has not issued such a “Viewpoint” document since the days of Project 1000, a Missouri campaign against perceived theological and social liberalism within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the then-moderate leadership of the Missouri Baptist Convention. CBF is a moderate group that formed in reaction to the SBC controversy of the 1980s.
Speaking to the SBC Executive Committee in February 2007, Moran described the emergent church as “one of the most dangerous and deceptive movements to infiltrate the ranks of Southern Baptist life.”

“Not since the stealth tactics of the CBF have we seen a movement operate so successfully below the radar of rank-and-file Southern Baptists,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

6/22/2009 3:46:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

India poverty astounds Mars Hill alums

June 22 2009 by Teresa Buckner, Mars Hill College

If you want to see Max Burgin’s heart, ask him about the people of India.

He will tell you about abject poverty, want and hopelessness. He will tell you about children who wander the slums of Bangalore in search of food and shelter, and families in Bangarapet who are too poor to care for their own.  He will tell you about a culture where children are sometimes literally thrown away by the very people who should love them most.

And then, with eyes alight and hands gesturing at points of emphasis, he will tell you about his friends George, Nithianand and Prem, who run orphanages and farm ministries in this country of marvelous and terrible contrasts.  And he’ll tell you about the providence of God, which he believes has led him and his wife, Mickie, to involvement in three ministries which seek to better lives for some of India’s poorest people.

“I think God has a plan for people’s lives,” Max said.

“I don’t mean down to the tiniest degree, but there’s an overall plan. You’re not here by accident.”

Max Burgin is an alumnus and trustee of Mars Hill College who retired as a chaplain after a much-decorated 30-year career in the military, during which he attained the rank of colonel.

For the past 17 years, he has been pastor of Lattimore Baptist Church in Cleveland County.

For a life of service to the men and women of the military, to their church family and to the people of India, Burgin was named as the 2008 Alumnus of the Year at Mars Hill College.

Supporting India ministries
Burgin and his wife, Mickie, have also become strong supporters of three growing ministries in Bangalore and Bangarapet, India, including shelter and education for homeless children, a decent living for hard-working farmers, and a place of worship for a fledgling Christian congregation.

Max took a four-month leave to work in Bangalore in 2000 as a clinical pastoral educator under the auspices of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.

Contributed photo

Dr. Kelli Mayfield holds one of her small patients while the child’s mother explains his symptoms at one of the medical clinics held near Bangarapet. Mayfield, who is the Burgins’ daughter, said the number of people was overwhelming. “I felt like I was throwing a glass of water on an inferno,” she said.

Working in this city of more than 6 million people (North Carolina has 9 million) Max and Mickie became fast friends with two of Max’s students:  George Fernandes and Nithianand Thambi. Through these friends they became acquainted with village life.

“You just can’t believe how poor these people are. I just can’t describe it,” Max said.

“They make their food over a fire.  They live in houses with no stove, and dirt floors. And they could not believe that we would go in and sit down and eat or have tea with them. And that made us different.”    

In and near Bangarapet, an area with 400,000 people, Nithianand and his brother Prem, had started a cooperative farming ministry to help the local farmers improve their farming methods and cooperate to sell their products.

The Burgins, who has always farmed beef cattle in addition to his being a pastor, bought six pregnant water buffalos and gave them to poor families with the understanding that those families would, in turn give a pregnant cow to another family.

Prem and his wife Leela had rescued and adopted five children and were making plans to begin an orphanage.

George, too, had started an orphanage of necessity in Bangalore. Mickie Burgin offered “some help” which has evolved into devoting considerable time to fundraising for the ministries that have quickly grown to care for about 60 children.

In 2006, the Burgins returned to India and learned that Prem had been unable to start a church in one of the villages near Bangarapet, as he had hoped. The “village matron” had forbidden him to hold services. Max has no explanation but he was able to lead the woman to change her mind.

“She came and knelt down in front of me and said, ‘Put your hand on me and pray,’” he said. “I prayed, and then she told them, ‘You can start Sunday school.’”

One villager asked the Burgins to help build a church and offered her own land and to pay for some of the bricks. This woman makes a dollar a day making 1,000 bricks. The Burgins have hired a native man named Anand to be the pastor of the church.

Medical mission
In 2008, the Burgins returned to India as part of a medical mission trip with their daughter, Kelli Mayfield, who is a physician and an alumna of Mars Hill.

According to Mayfield, the clinics were overwhelming, both in terms of the number of people seen and in terms of the emotional toll.

“On the first day, we saw over 300 people. That night I cried, not from the work of it, but because I felt like I was throwing a glass of water on an inferno,” she said.

One handicapped child had an infection so severe that Mayfield had to ask the interpreter to tell the child’s parents she would probably die.

One family brought a young boy to Mayfield, explaining that he had fallen out of a tree and could no longer walk.

“He was paralyzed,” Mayfield said.  “And they wanted me to make him walk again.”

Since the 2008 trip, the Burgins have raised more than $93,000 in pledges mainly for land and construction costs for the orphanage in Bangalore. Funds for daily operating costs are an ongoing need.

They also have plans to help the orphanage in Bangarapet to begin a silkworm farm on the land surrounding the home.  In this way, the orphanage could make money and, hopefully, be self-sustaining.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — For more information, contact the Burgins at 167 Stroud Rd., Ellenboro, NC 28040.)

6/22/2009 3:43:00 AM by Teresa Buckner, Mars Hill College | with 0 comments

PBS puts limits on religious programming

June 22 2009 by Tiffany Stanley, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — PBS officials voted June 16 to not allow new religious programming at member stations, but allowed select PBS stations to continue broadcasting their current faith-based line-ups.

The PBS Board of Directors took the action after concerns were raised that religious programming could violate the organization’s nonsectarian status.

The board unanimously elected to grandfather in the handful of existing shows that are directly religious in nature; the ruling does not affect news shows or documentaries.

“The board has basically voted to insure that the religious programming that stations currently provide and that communities have come to rely on are able to stay on air,” said PBS spokesperson Jan McNamara.

Only six of over 350 member stations broadcast religious programming, according to McNamara. At stake for at least three of the stations were long-running Sunday Masses, broadcast mostly to the elderly.

For the last decade, the televised “Mass for Shut-Ins” has aired on Denver’s KBDI every Sunday at 6:30 a.m. The Archdiocese of Denver produces the program, which has been on-air continuously for 53 years.

“I have to say that any time, whether it’s weather or a malfunction, if Mass doesn’t air, we have voice mailboxes full of the elderly calling us,” said Jeannette DeMelo, spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

The 30-minute program serves as the only way some homebound seniors and nursing-home residents can connect with their community of faith, said DeMelo.

“Aside from it being the church’s role to provide for the vulnerable and the weak, I think society in general seeks to do that,” said DeMelo. “That’s why we’re grateful that PBS has allowed this to continue to happen because I really do think it’s a service for the broader public.”

Public broadcasting stations in New Orleans and Washington recently have shown similar Sunday Masses. KBYU out of Provo, Utah, which is affiliated with Mormon-owned Brigham Young University, shows daily Mormon programming alongside PBS favorites like “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and “Sesame Street.”

The vote may come too little, too late for one program. Washington’s WHUT already released its “Sunday TV Mass” from the line-up, according to Archdiocese of Washington spokeswoman Susan Gibbs.

Gibbs said the archdiocese, which funds the long-running televised service, has been shopping around for a new home for the show since March, after word came from WHUT that PBS would be reconsidering its religious broadcasts.

Gibbs said the archdiocese recently signed a contract with The CW-Channel 50, at a price that will cost $60,000 more per year than it did on public broadcasting.

Since 1985, PBS has committed its programming to be noncommercial, nonpolitical and nonsectarian in order to guarantee fair and balanced coverage. For the last 18 months, PBS has been conducting an overall policy review to update the organization for the new media age.

6/22/2009 3:41:00 AM by Tiffany Stanley, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

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