June 2011

WMU recognizes outstanding missions leaders

June 23 2011 by Anna Cox, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Two Woman’s Missionary Union leaders were recognized for outstanding service June 13 during the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting in Phoenix.

Judith Edwards of Rio Rancho, N.M., received the Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development, which was presented by Woman’s Missionary Union in partnership with the WMU Foundation. Laura Morris of Louisville, Ky., received the Dr. Martha Myers GA Alumna of Distinction Award, which is given annually to recognize a GA (Girls’ Auxiliary) alumna who influences the lives of others for Christ and serves as a positive role model for girls.

Edwards was praised for her ability to help women discover their latent leadership abilities.

“Judy has an amazing ability to foster leadership in the women of New Mexico,” said Connie Dixon, executive director of New Mexico WMU, who nominated Edwards for the award. “She sees the best in women and knows how to help them realize their potential.”

Edwards and her late husband, Dalton, served for more than 25 years as North American missionaries to Native American people. In addition, she served as both president and executive director of New Mexico Woman’s Missionary Union, staff editor at national WMU, and most recently as missions mobilization team leader for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, until her retirement in 2007.

Edwards said she first heard God’s call to missions as a preschooler in Sunbeams (a missions organization for young children), and throughout her years in school, she grew in awareness that “this was what God wanted me to do.”

Edwards, a member of First Baptist Church in Rio Rancho, N.M., continues to follow God’s call to missions and encourage women with the recent release of her 10th book, writing Sunday school lessons for LifeWay, and participating in mission trips.

Established in 1999, the O’Brien Award is presented annually to a Baptist woman who demonstrates the ability to foster leadership in women. It is named in honor of Dellanna West O’Brien, who served as executive director/treasurer of national Woman’s Missionary Union from 1989 to 1999. The award is accompanied with a grant to help the recipient continue her development and ministry to others.

Morris was lauded for her loving ministry to girls and investment in their futures.

A member of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Louisville, Morris developed a passion for missions early through her own GA training, according A. Jeanne Bryant, a fellow church member who has known Morris for nearly 40 years.

“Laura was about 8 years old when her family came to Bethlehem Baptist Church, and she immediately became active in GAs,” Bryant said. “She was interested in learning about and participating in mission work for our Lord, and she took part in our mission studies, day camps, and missions projects. I think Laura’s life and personal interest in helping people to know God’s love reflects this early missions involvement through GAs.”

Joy Bolton, executive director of Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union, who nominated Morris for this award, said: “Laura is a great role model for the girls in her church, many of which come from homes that aren’t too stable. In her, these girls see a confident, loving, committed leader who loves them and invests in their lives.”

In addition to serving as GA leader and WMU director in her church, Morris is also an associational WMU leader, Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union Executive Board member, and member of a Women on Mission group.

Morris holds a master’s degree in education and teaches special needs children in grades 1–5. She and her husband, Barry, along with their two teenage daughters, are committed to missions as a family, often taking family vacation time for mission trips.

Established in 2004, the Myers Award is named in honor of Martha Myers, a medical missionary who was killed in 2002 in Yemen after serving there for 24 years.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Anna Cox is a senior at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., where she is studying journalism and mass communications. She is working at WMU as an intern this summer.)
6/23/2011 5:02:00 AM by Anna Cox, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Off to a racing start: WMU receives RA transfer

June 23 2011 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – In a hand-off complete with a race car pit stop, transition of Royal Ambassadors to its 103-year-old parent organization is now under way.

Woman’s Missionary Union Executive Director/Treasure Wanda Lee accepted the “hand-off” of Royal Ambassadors and Challengers from North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell in the June 13 morning session of WMU’s annual meeting and missions celebration.

“We are excited,” Lee said. “We are in a new arena of partnership for missions education. We love RAs. They were born from our hearts and we gave them willingly to the Brotherhood Commission in 1954. We now gladly receive them back. Thank you.”

RA, begun by WMU in 1908, is the Southern Baptist missions organization for boys in grades 1 - 6. Challengers engages young men in grades 7 - 12 in missions education.

Ezell said he believes this is the right move at the right time.

“We have the assignment for missions education from the Southern Baptist Convention, but we have always worked in partnership with the WMU. You are experts in missions education and this makes great sense to me. Who does it better than WMU?”

Unveiling a large RA race car cutout to laughter and applause, Ezell presented Lee with the “small gift,” along with a framed logo with each of the missions education organizations, symbolic of the transfer of the organizations’ copyrights to WMU. The frame came in a box marked one of 1,908.

“We have a lot of files to transfer to you; the semi will be rolling into Birmingham soon,” Ezell joked. “We may not have exactly 1,908 boxes, but we wanted to recognize your commitment to the organization you founded in 1908.”

Acteen Panelist Taylor Townsend, a member of First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., and Challengers SBC Page David Ray, a member of Bethel Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., assisted M. Steve Heartsill in unveiling the car on the platform.

Heartsill, a 10-year veteran at WMU and former pastor, will assume the managing editor’s role for RA and Challengers resources July 1.

Lee noted Heartsill’s commitment to WMU and its resources.

“Leadership is critical in this transition and we are happy to announce Dr. Heartsill’s acceptance of this role. He will lead a team of men at WMU to plan, design and create resources for RAs and Challengers,” Lee said.

The car, used in pit stop events where RAs are timed on changing tires and “fueling up” with water, is representative of the evangelistic outreach activities that have been a large part of RAs and Challengers.

Lee recognized NAMB staff and missionaries in the audience as well as missionary parents and children.

“You scared me for a minute with that box,” Lee said to laughter. “We have always enjoyed a great partnership with NAMB. We look forward to working with their team in this transition and to continuing to strengthen our partnership.”

Ezell thanked the audience for their support and prayer for missionaries and thanked Lee for her help and pointers as he began his days at NAMB.

“Today is a special day for NAMB as we continue to bring focus to the entity and expand our partnerships,” Ezell said. “With your support we want to put more missionaries on the field. We want to take better care of our missionaries who are on the field. I have visited with many of our missionaries who are sacrificing to commit more resources to missions. We want to have a higher quality of care for them.”

(EDITOR’S NTOE – Joe Conway is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
6/23/2011 3:56:00 AM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Go where lost people are,’ Iorg challenges WMU

June 23 2011 by Alan James, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Wearing an umpire uniform, Jeff Iorg said he wanted to show off his “missionary clothes” during the concluding session of the 2011 National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting June 13.

Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., shared how umpiring baseball on the side for 20 years and also serving as a chaplain for the San Francisco Giants has allowed him to break free of “the Christian subculture” and share Christ with people who need to hear about Jesus.

“If you’re going to make a difference in the culture you must go where lost people are, and where lost people are in control,” said Iorg, who has served as a chaplain for the Giants for seven years.

Otherwise, Iorg said, “My daughter calls it ‘living in the bubble,’ and I have been resolutely determined that it would never happen to me.”

Iorg set forth that challenge in his new book, “Live Like a Missionary: Giving your life for what matters most.” In a WMU gathering where International and North American Mission Board missionaries and others shared stories about victories and struggles in their ministries to a lost world, Iorg challenged the crowd to push beyond their ministry leadership positions and regular church duties to share Jesus with others.

Christian leaders too often become cocooned and isolated from those who don’t follow Jesus, said Iorg. It’s a temptation against which Iorg admits he’s struggled.

“The trajectory of my life has surprised me because at each step along the way I have become more closely identified with the Christian community,” he said, “and less and less identified with the people of the community that I so desperately want to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Iorg said baseball has yielded lasting friendships and opportunities to share his faith with others for the past two decades.

Christians have to be willing to resist the temptation to always start and be in control of a ministry, he said.

“There’s a good place for Christian ministries, but what I’m talking about ... is stepping out of the Christian subculture, stepping out of what we control and moving instead into venues in the community and engaging in those,” he said.

It’s in those positions that a Christian “will have to earn our position by our service,” Iorg said, “and then earn the right to speak about the name of Jesus Christ.

“And I’ll transform culture by what I accomplish in this process.”

Other speakers echoed Iorg’s words.

Living in a city where there are 40,000 to 60,000 Afghans, Jason Williams*, a missionary with the North American Mission Board, said he has found opportunities in California to reach Afghans by going into their community and engaging them.

Williams has led outreach efforts among Afghans – one of which later opened up ministry opportunities among families and children in Central Asia.

Last year, through support from NAMB and the Cooperative Program, Williams helped distribute school supplies to children in Central Asia and also found opportunities to share the “JESUS” film.

Citing Matthew 9:35, Williams challenged the audience to follow Christ’s example of servanthood and to “see the crowds and to have compassion on them.”

“Jesus saw these crowds ... like sheep without a shepherd, helpless and harassed,” he said.

“Let’s notice them, have compassion on them, and then we’ll join together and pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field,” Williams said.

The WMU crowd also heard from Jeremy and Kimberly*, who have served with the International Mission Board among the people of North Africa and the Middle East for 13 years.

The couple, at one time, worked among 100,000 Sudanese refugees in camps just along the outskirts of the city where they were living. There, they helped lead human needs ministries while looking for opportunities to share their faith.

“People there face many difficulties,” Jeremy said. “They moved there because of war, because of famine, because of all sorts of things.

“Our desire was really to just place ourselves in that community to begin helping people and be a loving people and allowing God to provide us opportunities to share the Gospel and to share Christ’s love with them.”

Their ministry among these refugees, however, proved difficult for the couple, Jeremy’s his wife Kimberly said. She admitted she didn’t want to go when she was first approached about the idea of moving their ministry to work among the refugees.

“It was quite a struggle,” she said, adding she is “prissy” and “a true Louisiana girl” who does not like to sweat. “I did not want to go, and I fought it. This was not in my plan.

“I completely shut down ... quit reading my Bible, quit listening to praise and worship music, quit talking to my husband about it.”

It wasn’t until she agreed to a Bible study that led off with a story about Abraham that her perspective began to change.

“On the first day was, ‘the Lord had said to Abraham leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the place that I will show you,’” she said.

She remembers tossing the Bible across the table before going back to Scripture and reading the part where Abraham agreed to follow God into the unknown.

The couple eventually moved with their children to live among Sudanese refugees in North Africa. Kimberly befriended a Sudanese woman who helped her through a difficult transition.

When the couple had finished their assignment among the Sudanese refugees, Kimberly remembers the sadness she felt.

“I wept about leaving (the refugees),” she said. “And I loved that. Whatever your fear is, the blessings come after the obedience, and they will come.”

*Names changed or full names withheld for security reasons.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alan James is a senior writer for the International Mission Board.)
6/23/2011 3:52:00 AM by Alan James, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Kay Warren recounts lessons in suffering

June 23 2011 by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – When suffering came into her life, Kay Warren’s natural response was to view it as an enemy she needed to fight and push away. “I want it gone and I want it gone now,” she told the Pastors’ Wives Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Pastors’ Conference June 13.

Warren began searching the Scriptures 18 months ago for every mention of darkness when she felt overwhelmed by two bouts with cancer, five surgeries, the deaths of close family members and serious health challenges of three other relatives. The wife of Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, Warren said she was comforted by God’s promise in Isaiah 45:3 of treasures that were “hidden in secret places, so that you may know I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”

Kay Warren of Saddleback Church gives the keynote address at the 2011 Pastors’ Wives Conference June 13 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Ariz. The conference was held simultaneously with the 2011 Pastor’s Conference prior to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 14-15.

Instead of trying to run from God or battle the darkness, Warren said she learned to surrender to God and look for the treasures worth embracing in times of suffering.

“This is earth, not heaven. Brokenness is the norm on planet earth, not wholeness. And brokenness and darkness come into all our lives,” Warren told the ministers’ wives. For those who have yet to experience suffering, she urged them to prepare for the darkness by planting deep roots.

“God knows our purpose and He will make sure in our dark times that we have what we need so that we can fulfill our purpose in exactly the same way that He did that for Cyrus,” Warren said, referring to the account in Isaiah of God using a Gentile king to deliver Israel.

After receiving her first diagnosis of cancer, Warren appealed to God to produce gold from the fiery trial of suffering, referring to the promise of Job 23:10. She said that prayer was answered in many ways, including a greater empathy for other people who suffer and a desire to live with a greater sense of urgency so that no day is wasted.

“We all want the benefit of a life of faith without ever having to demonstrate faith,” Warren said. “I had to have faith in those moments of suffering with cancer to believe that God would do what He said.”

Warren reminded the ministers’ wives they can call on the God of the universe who knows them by name. “In those places where you feel like you are backed up against the corner and feel like God might as well nail the coffin shut,” she prayed that the attendees would “believe this verse was not just written for the prophecy of a king named Cyrus thousands of years ago, but this verse has your name on it.”

“God longs to show you the treasures hidden in the darkness as you embrace it and you seek what is only found in the dark times,” Warren said.

Heather Moore of Christ Fellowship in Tampa, Fla., shared her testimony of God’s provision after she and her husband moved to the inner city where he rebirthed a dying church. “God alone is my provider and as we reorder our budget He is taking care of our needs and, as we reorder our lifestyle, I’m learning God can be trusted.”

In the midst of that challenge, more than 160 people have professed faith in Christ in the past six months, Moore said. “I have decided I will move down in ministry every day of my life as long as I get to be a part of seeing God change people’s lives.”

Recalling the story Jesus told of the widow’s sacrifice from Mark 12, Moore said, “Jesus redefines faith not by how much we give, but by how much we have left over after we have given.” Instead of being a story about money, she said, “It’s about so much more. It was her faith and trust in God that allowed her to give everything she had.”

By taking bigger steps of faith, Moore said, “It has renewed our own walk and we’re on an adventure with God like I’ve never been on before.”

Moore and Warren joined Lynette Ezell of Alpharetta, Ga., and Meredith Floyd of Cross Church in Fayetteville, Ark., fielding questions from ministers’ wives during a panel led by Susie Hawkins of Dallas. Barbara O’Chester of Wake Forest, closed the session with a time of guided prayer for the wives.

Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, www.texanonline.com, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
6/23/2011 3:21:00 AM by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Susie Hawkins receives ministers’ wives award

June 23 2011 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Susie Hawkins was honored with the 2011 Willie Turner Dawson Award during the Ministers’ Wives Conference at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

Hawkins is the wife of O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources and a former pastor’s wife in Oklahoma, Florida and Texas.

In presenting the award June 14 in Phoenix, Donna Gaines praised Hawkins’ service on the Baptist Faith and Message Committee “that presented us with our 2000 statement of faith.”

“Ministers’ wives who know Hawkins say she is a woman of great vision, passion and action,” said Gaines, wife of Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn. Gaines added that the “Great Commission Christian” leaves God’s aroma everywhere she goes.

The mother of two married daughters and grandmother of six, Hawkins lives in Dallas and has been actively involved in women’s ministry as a frequent conference and retreat speaker, Bible study teacher and missions volunteer.

Photo by Bill Bangham.

Susie Hawkins accepts the Willie Turner Dawson Award as her husband, O.S. Hawkins, president of Guidestone Financial Resources, looks on during the ministers’ wives luncheon June 14 on the first day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center, Ariz. The award is presented annually to a pastor’s wife who demonstrates a distinct contribution beyond the local church at the ministers’ wives luncheon.

She also has contributed to several periodicals and was one of the authors of the “Women’s Evangelical Library Old Testament Commentary” and the author of “From One Ministry Wife to Another – Honest Conversation on Connections in Ministry.”

Hawkins is a past president of the Ministers’ Wives Conference and serves on its executive committee and on the board of the pastors’ wives session of the SBC Pastors’ Conference.

Hawkins, who formerly served as the director of women’s ministry at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, holds a master of arts degree in Christian leadership and a master of arts degree in theology from Criswell College in Dallas.

She accepted the award on behalf of all retired pastors’ wives who serve through GuideStone’s Widow’s Might program, a ministry of widowed women across the country who pray daily for the ministry of Southern Baptists around the world.

Honoring those who worked faithfully alongside their husbands for decades with little recognition, Hawkins said, “These are women who never get to come to the Southern Baptist Convention and to wonderful luncheons like this.”

Each year, the Dawson Award recognizes a minister’s wife for making a distinct denominational contribution beyond the local church and for her Christian character and service to others.

It was established in 1963 when the ministers’ wives group posthumously honored Willie Turner Dawson, wife of J.M. Dawson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. Willie Turner Dawson was a teacher and lecturer who in 1930 successfully challenged the Southern Baptist Convention to give more to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is a national correspondent for BaptistLIFE, www.baptistlife.com, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.)
6/23/2011 3:13:00 AM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Baptist associations: ‘a biblical model’

June 23 2011 by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – The future of the Baptist association is on solid footing, a Southern Baptist leader said, because the organization of churches within regional groups is based on a biblical model.

“The future of the association is bright,” Ken Hemphill said. “I believe it’s a biblical model,” therefore “survival is solved.”

“The question is, will it thrive or survive?”

Hemphill asked at the June 12 plenary session of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Director of Missions at North Phoenix Baptist Church, prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 14-15. Hemphill, who has served as the Empowering Kingdom Growth strategist for the SBC Executive Committee, addressed about 80 directors of missions at meeting, with an overall attendance of about 135.

Citing 1 Corinthians 16 and 2 Corinthians 8, Hemphill said the Apostle Paul first organized a regional association of churches when he encouraged the seven churches of Revelation to collect money for the Jerusalem church.

With this, Hemphill said, Paul “knit together” the church and the association. “Outside the local church, the association is the only clear pattern found in the New Testament.”

Hemphill said the local church is “God’s divine plan for the advancement of His work on earth,” which can best be done through churches organized in regional associations.

“No church is big enough to complete this task, but all the churches together can,” Hemphill said.

Also addressing the conference were:

Ed Stetzer
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, urged the associational leaders to “provoke” churches to learn the cultural context of their communities.

Knowing the community leads to opportunities to pray for it, Stetzer said, which lead to reaching and loving it. However, he said, “You cannot love a community unless you know a community.”

Stetzer encouraged the director of missions to become experts of the community for their congregations. “Raise the level of commitment of your churches to know their communities” by knowing the community’s demographic makeup and pockets of affinities as well as the size, age, affluence, worship styles and evangelistic methods of other churches, he said.

Churches should engage their neighborhood through ministries and involvement, Stetzer said, adding that the future of the association will best be demonstrated by churches “taking the focus from ‘us’ to the community around them.”

O.S. Hawkins
Acknowledging the days of uncertainty within the SBC, “wondering how it’s going to shake out,” O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, told director of missions to adopt a “different spirit” by looking at the glass as “half full” instead of “half empty.”

He reminded the DOMs of the 10 spies who returned from the Promised Land discouraged, saying because of that attitude, the 10 are now anonymous. But Joshua and Caleb demonstrated a “different spirit” and a determination to see the Promised Land’s potential.

Living “life half empty,” always results in playing defense, Hawkins said, and destined the children of Israel to spend the next 38 years without any direction.

“You play offense when you see the glass half full,” Hawkins said.

Telling DOMs they can have “the greatest impact you’ve ever had in history if you fear the Lord and serve him with certainty,” Hawkins urged them to “finish the race with a different spirit.”

Kevin Ezell
The annual meeting provided the associational leaders their first opportunity to hear from and ask questions of the recently elected presidents of the SBC’s two mission boards.

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, said a strengthened emphasis on church planting is designed to give the board an identity and is the “best way to revitalize” the SBC.

Affirming their role, he told the DOMs there was “not a better way to start churches than the association and churches working together.”

Ezell said in addition to the number of church plants, NAMB will focus on the quality and five-year survivability of the churches.

“We believe in evangelism and church planting,” Ezell said, adding, “We are not taking one step back from evangelism.”

Ezell admitted that since he was employed nearly a year ago, he had struggled with sorting out the “complex” nature of the board’s work and relating to 42 unique state conventions and 42 state executives, unable yet to focus fully on 1,100 associations.

But he promised the DOMs, “We are for you. We will never be all we can be at NAMB without you. If you think for one moment we are overlooking the association, we are not.

“Give us the benefit of the doubt,” he implored, “Round up rather than round down.”

Answering questions, several DOM’s expressed a frustration in not knowing the board’s expectations of their work, especially those receiving NAMB funding.

“We’re having a tough time understanding what we are supposed to do,” said Duane Davis, a DOM from the East Central Illinois Baptist Association.

Again, Ezell asked for patience. “We have to get to some truth. It is hard. It is very difficult. We’ve got to do something to get us moving in the same direction.”

Tom Eliff
Tom Eliff, the new president of the International Mission Board, asked the DOMs to assist in a new IMB initiative “Embrace” which will encourage local churches to adopt one of 3,800 unengaged people groups in the world.

While an “unreached” people is defined as being less than 2 percent evangelical, Eliff said an “unengaged” people group is “totally pagan. Not one entity, including the IMB, has a strategy to reach them.”

Churches will be asked to “get a burden” for one of these people groups and make a commitment that will last a lifetime. Ultimately, he said, the IMB hopes someone in the church will be called as a missionary to that group.

Eliff said the association can serve as a “red hot training center for people and churches who want to engage these people groups.”

Margaret Slusher
Margaret Slusher, president of Lead Plus and former associational staff member, shared insights on conflict resolution and remediation, encouraging the directors of missions to have “ears and eyes to listen.”

The most successful type of conflict intervention is transformational, Slusher said, “not about winning, but about God winning and getting down on our knees and seeking God.”

Transformation is about change of heart, she said, which results in issues fading away.

Despite God’s call for the believer to be a peacemaker, she said a fourth of churches, when surveyed, reported conflict in the past five years, with hundreds of pastors being forced to leave their churches.

“Until we learn to deal with conflict through transformation, we will never be able to penetrate the darkness,” Slusher said.

SBCADOM officers elected for 2012 are: president, Johnny Rumbough, Lexington Baptist Association, S.C.; first vice president, Rick Robbins, Northern Kentucky Baptist Association; second vice president, John Brittain, Arundel Baptist Association, Md.; recording secretary, George Berger, Lebanon Baptist Association, Miss.; “DOME Light” editor, Glen Hickey, retired, Ark.; retired associational staff committee, Jim McCaughan, retired, St. Louis Metro Baptist Association; “DOM Viewpoint” editor, Ben Chandler, St. Clair Baptist Association, Miss.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)
6/23/2011 3:04:00 AM by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

COSBE lifts evangelism, laments funding cuts

June 23 2011 by Norm Miller, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – The need for renewed evangelism, concerns about Calvinism and comments regarding North American Mission Board budget cuts were voiced during the annual evangelists-sponsored worship service prior to the SBC annual meeting.

The Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists’ gathering June 12, with the theme “Ageless Urgency,” featured three preachers: Eric Fuller, Harold Hunter and Brian Fossett.

“If there was ever a time that evangelism needed to be at the forefront, now is that time,” COSBE president’s, Braxton Hunter, told the assembly. “There is little concern for evangelism in our convention.”

Fuller, an evangelist based in Fort Worth, Texas, preached a sermon titled “Not on Our Watch” from Ezekiel 3:16-19.

Photo by Matt Miller.

Eric Fuller, an evangelist based in Fort Worth, Texas, preaches during the opening session of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Phoenix Sunday, June 12. The conference was held prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 14-15 in Phoenix, Ariz.

Fuller equated the role of a contemporary evangelist with the role of the prophet Ezekiel and the watchman in Old Testament culture, saying: “Failure to warn people of God’s judgment results in death,” and that pastors and evangelists “will be held accountable. Their blood will be on our hands if we fail to tell them.”

Pastors and evangelists “must remember that we are not defined by the numbers of souls that are saved in our ministry, but by our character, integrity and obedience to God ...,” Fuller said.

Calvinism is “a big problem today in our country, and among Christians,” Fuller said.

“If you are a Calvinist in this place this morning, stop trying to convert Christians to Calvinism and begin sharing the Gospel with lost people so that the Lord can convert them to Christianity,” Fuller said. “If you are a non-Calvinist this morning, stop talking about sharing the Gospel and get out there and actually do it.

Brian Fossett, a former COSBE president and member of Liberty Baptist Church in Dalton, Ga., preached from Ephesians 4:11, encouraging attendees to get back to “the three T’s” of evangelism – “tracts, training and testimonies” – that he said would “revolutionize our churches.”

Harold Hunter, president of Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Ind., and the father of Braxton Hunter, said in his message he is “burdened about the direction of our Southern Baptist Convention,” noting that Southern Baptists baptized 17,416 fewer people in 2010 than in 2009, representing the lowest number of annual baptisms in 60 years.

“Evidently this new wave of trying to be relevant to the people in the bars on Friday night is not really working,” Harold Hunter said. “Either what you do at your church and what this convention does is supernatural or it’s superficial.”

Referring to Acts 2, Hunter said Jesus’ disciples “were together in one accord.” Though Southern Baptists are gathered in Phoenix, he said, “We are together but, pardon my English, we ain’t together.”

“We’ve gotten into celebrity worship,” Hunter said. “Just look at all the names on pastors’ conferences and state evangelism events. ... They are not as well attended as they once were, because to be a major speaker on the program you must be a mega-pastor or else you’re a failure. Jeremiah would’ve never made it on the program of the Pastors’ Conference.

“We have become a convention that is known for its concert divas, pulpit prima donnas and academic elitists, and that is not the Southern Baptist Convention,” Harold Hunter said.

“I hear those of Reformed theology say, ‘Well, the founders of our great convention – all of them were basically Calvinists,’” Hunter said, adding that for every Calvinistic founder of the SBC he could name three who were not.

“Let me tell you something: It was not the giants, be they Calvinists or not, who made the Southern Baptist Convention great,” Hunter said. “It was the great host of people whose names are never mentioned: the evangelists, the missionaries, the small church pastors, the laymen, and the women, bless God.”

Noting he wanted to “clearly preach about the ethics of those who aspire to leadership in our convention,” Hunter said: “There is scarcely a week goes by that in my office I hear of some church fallen into disrepair because some man who was a Calvinist – limited atonement – and didn’t tell the pulpit committee or the deacons until he became pastor, and then it split the church. I believe you ought to be honest. If that’s what you are, then tell them that’s what you are.”

Harold Hunter also referred to an action of the North American Mission Board toward defunding the Baptism Assistance Project, a COSBE-NAMB partnership. That initiative provided COSBE-certified evangelists a modest, pre-determined honorarium with travel and lodging expenses to preach at any Southern Baptist church requesting assistance to reverse a church’s lack of baptisms.

“I want to say a word that I hope gets back to NAMB,” Hunter said, noting that he was speaking for himself and not COSBE. “You cut the funding of COSBE. These evangelists are listed in the Word of God as a gift to the church. They were laid hold upon by the hand of the Holy Spirit and are guided by the (Bible).”

Noting that Psalm 105:15 “categorically says ‘touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm,’” Harold Hunter said he wanted North American Mission Board leaders to know that “in my opinion, you sinned against God. You cannot mistreat the only position in the entire Southern Baptist Convention that exists primarily to bring people to Christ ... and you had the audacity to cut that funding in the face of a holy God. Shame on you.”

Hunter’s comments prompted two statements to Baptist Press, one by Dean Forrest, COSBE’s vice president who will serve as the organization’s president during the coming year, and the other by Mike Ebert, NAMB’s vice president for communications.

Forrest, of Pike Road, Ala., stated:

“There is one statement that you can say about Southern Baptist Evangelists: we are all passionate about sharing the gospel and seeing people come to a genuine, eternal relationship with Christ. It should come as no surprise that some of our members were upset when NAMB, under the directives of the Great Commission Resurgence, essentially de-funded all three of the long-term partnership initiatives with Southern Baptist Evangelists. Those three partnerships were the Annual Evangelist Retreat which brought over 100 evangelists to participate in Crossover, the SBC Sunday Morning Worship Service, and the Baptism Assistance Project; none of which were fully funded with CP dollars.

“According to a member of the Baptism Assistance Project committee, Keith Fordham of Fayetteville, GA, ‘Every Baptism Assistance Project that our members conducted resulted in salvations and baptisms in churches that were categorized as reporting ‘no or low baptisms.’ The partnership with NAMB had a 100 percent success rate.’ In a day when thousands of our churches are reporting zero baptisms on their Annual Church Reports, it is difficult for evangelists to understand why the program funding was cut. That being said, Southern Baptist Evangelists have a rich heritage in and with the SBC and NAMB. With or without CP funded partnerships we will continue to proclaim the gospel and be proud to be known as Southern Baptist Evangelists: partners with the SBC, NAMB, and the local church in the Great Commission harvest.”

Ebert stated: “We still have money budgeted to work with COSBE and we still cover the cost for their website. Virtually every area of work at NAMB has seen budget cuts as we re-allocate resources toward church planting. Travel budgets for Alpharetta staff have been cut by half. So COSBE has not been singled out in any way. We are just involved in a process of pushing as many dollars as we can toward missionaries and toward starting more churches in North America.”

COSBE also elected new officers June 12. In addition to Forrest, Phil Glisson of Memphis, Tenn., was elected vice president; Russell Johnson of Conway, S.C., worship director; Eric Ramsey of Mountainburg, Ark., technical director; Cindy Hogue of Cullman, Ala., secretary/treasurer; Sid Peterson of Bakersfield, Calif., parliamentarian; and Eric Fuller, recording secretary.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Norm Miller is a freelance writer living in Richmond, Va. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston contributed to this article.)
6/23/2011 2:54:00 AM by Norm Miller, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

B21 panel looks at GCR, missions, theology

June 23 2011 by Lauren Crane, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – The push in 2010 for a Great Commission Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention was not a push for more programs, as much as it was an ambition to recover the Gospel among Southern Baptist churches, according to several members of a panel at a Baptist21 luncheon June 14.

About 700 guests listened as Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., shared their consensus about GCR and Southern Baptist life. They joined John Piper, pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis to talk about issues of the church and the Great Commission.

BR photo by K. Allan Blume

B21 panelists — from left, Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board; Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.; Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest; John Piper, pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis — discussed the church and the Great Commission. The panel met June 14 in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz.

To guard against “unintentional drift” into heresy, Piper said believers must be vigilant to ensure that the content of their message is correct. “Content matters more than motive,” Piper said. “That’s scary – motives can send you to hell. Not messing up the content is what really matters.”

During the luncheon, the panel discussed “The Resolve of Southern Baptists in Advancing the Glory of God.” Platt, author of a popular book, “Radical,” said he fears the content of much modern preaching encourages entanglement in materialism and misses the Gospel.

“What I want to emphasize is that it is the Gospel that drives this picture (of radical obedience),” Platt said. “I want to be zealous for the souls of the people I pastor in regards to materialism. I want them to see that their possessions and pursuit of money can be dangerous and even damning. At the same time, I don’t want to produce any guilt-induced obedience or actions.”

Akin took note of the connection between theology and missions.

“Theology and missions are interrelated. If you have a theology of the Gospel right, then you’re going to be compelled to engage in missions with that glorious message,” Akin said. “Southern Baptists, for much of our history, have been so pragmatically driven that we have been on mission without the Gospel. We need to recover the Gospel in our churches.”

Ezell, as the North American Mission Board’s new president, said Southern Baptists should not be motivated by guilt but by God’s grace. “You’re not going to get them there by guilting them,” Ezell said. “You have to take small battles one at a time to win the war.”

At Bethlehem Baptist, Piper said he has tried to diligently preach the glory of God, believing this motivation will cause people to prepare to actively help fulfill the Great Commission.

“My whole goal is to help people be blown away by the greatness of God. When people get that in their hearts, they are so ready for planting, for pushing,” Piper said. “If you come with a ‘do plan,’ they get tired really quickly, especially in a church that has, for a long time, been unfed. They need a lot of feeding.”

In a video at the luncheon, Platt talked about the 3,800 “unreached, unengaged” people groups around the world. “They’re unreached because it’s difficult to reach them. It’s not going to be easy, but the reality is, we have the resources to make the Gospel known,” he said. “The question is, do we have the resolve?

“I’m still learning how to balance the urgency of this mission with patience,” Platt said. “I tend to be consumed by the urgency of the 3,800 unreached and unengaged people groups. The Lord is a good shepherd to me, and He has been patient with me, so I need to be a good shepherd and patient with my people.”

Akin, using the illustration of a large flywheel, said the SBC “stopped rolling and we didn’t notice it. If God would be so gracious and kind to us to allow us to focus on a passion for Christ, we could indeed be a part of fulfilling the Great Commission.

“God is going to do what God is going to do,” Akin continued. “He’s going to bring the nations to Himself. We could either be sitting on the sidelines or we can have the joy of being involved.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lauren Crane writes for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
6/23/2011 2:46:00 AM by Lauren Crane, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ministers’ wives focus on influential joy

June 23 2011 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Even when she contracted malaria during a mission trip to Africa, and even after learning her brother was killed instantly in a biking accident, Anne Wright was able to experience “influential joy.”

Wright, wife of SBC President Bryant Wright, spoke to a sold-out crowd of more than 800 during the Southern Baptist Ministers’ Wives Conference, underscoring the promise of Psalm 16:11, which says, in part: “You will fill me with joy in your presence.”

“As we allow God to speak to us and to permeate our attitude through time alone with Him, He gives us this joy,” Wright said at the June 14 gathering during the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix. “The overflow of the joy found in His presence spills over to our areas of influence – our homes, churches and communities – whether we realize it or not.”

Pointing to gift purses at the tables for each attendee, Wright, the conference president, said the ornamental flowers on the purses represent joy in the darkness.

“Even in the pain and grief in the darkness, there is joy,” Wright said.

Lisa Harper, former director of Focus on the Family’s national women’s ministry, delivered the main address, saying joy is rooted in gratitude.

She noted how gratitude for grace helps one’s orthopraxy, meaning “how we reflect the joy of the Gospel,” to match one’s orthodoxy, meaning “what we believe to be true about who God is and how much He loves us.”

Photo by Bill Bangham.

Author and speaker Lisa Harper, from the Women of Faith tour and director of Focus on the Family’s national women’s ministry, speaks about “Influential Joy” during the ministers’ wives luncheon June 14 on the first day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Ariz. 

Pointing to the Luke 17 story of the 10 lepers healed by Jesus, Harper noted that the Samaritan, who was physically and socially disfigured, expressed thanksgiving to Jesus for healing him.

“When was the last time that you rushed back to Jesus to say, ‘Thank You’?” Harper asked. “Our roots sink deep in the soil of gratitude.”

Harper shared an illustration about how her stepfather John dramatically became a Christian after surviving two life-threatening strokes. Two months later, he took a turn for the worst and slipped into a coma.

A popular conference speaker, Harper traveled from Sacramento, Calif., where she was ministering, to her stepfather’s home in Orlando, Fla., to pay her last respects. Upon the announcement of her arrival, John awoke from his coma, gestured for her to come close and held her in his arms.

“I love you, Lisa,” she recalled him saying.

Acknowledging God not only saved her stepfather but had given her this time of closure, Harper said she was “undone” in her gratitude.

“Only that kind of gratitude, reflected in joy, will do that in your family,” she said.

During the gathering, which featured special music by Grammy-nominated Dove Award-winning artist Kim Hill, Wright announced the assignment of Kathy Litton as national director of ministry to pastors’ wives with the North American Mission Board. Litton, wife of Ed Litton, pastor of First Baptist Church North Mobile in Saraland, Ala., will be working with NAMB’s leadership development team in the area of support and encouragement for ministers’ wives.

Wright also recognized Nancy Sullivan, wife of John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, who has raised more than $300,000 for the Ministers’ Wives Endowment Trust Fund, which enables the luncheon to be affordable for every minister’s wife.

Officers for next year’s luncheon in New Orleans, with the theme “The Hidden Person of the Heart,” based on 1 Peter 3:3-4, are Janet Wicker, wife of Hayes Wicker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla., president; Martha Bailey, wife of Waylon Bailey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington, La., vice president; Lynette Ezell, wife of NAMB President Kevin Ezell, recording secretary-treasurer; and Sherry Blankenship, wife of Dwight Blankenship, pastor of Parkway Baptist Church in St. Louis, correspondence secretary.

Next year’s featured speaker for the June 19 luncheon is Mary Kassian, an award-winning author, national speaker for “True Women” conferences and a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. She has published numerous books, Bible studies and videos, including “In My Father’s House: Finding Your Heart’s True Home,” “The Feminist Mistake,” and “Girls Gone Wise.”

Held on Tuesday during the SBC annual meeting, the luncheon is open to all wives of ministers – pastors, staff members, chaplains, missionaries and denominational workers.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is a national correspondent for BaptistLIFE, www.baptistlife.com, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Designated contributions to the SBC Ministers’ Wives Endowment may be sent to the Office of the Executive Director, Florida Baptist Convention, 1230 Hendricks Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32207. Tickets for next year’s luncheon will be available through LifeWay Christian Resources’ website, www.lifeway.com.)
6/23/2011 2:36:00 AM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

U.S. needs ‘bivocational pastor movement’

June 23 2011 by Adam Miller, Baptist Press

PHOENIX – Small churches and bivocational pastors are a Great Commission powerhouse, a North American Mission Board leader told the Bivocational Small Church Leadership Network during the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.

“Everything that we’re doing is to reposition the North American Mission Board to get behind local churches, because you are the pacesetters,” Aaron Coe, NAMB’s VP for mobilization, told several dozen small church and bivocational pastors at the BSCLN luncheon June 14.

Photo by Adam Miller.

Aaron Coe, right, vice president of mobilization at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), chats with bivocational pastor, Jeffrey Brown of Grace Point Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. Brown and Coe attended the luncheon of the Bivocational Small Church Leadership Network before the last session of the June 15 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Ariz.

“The only way we’re going to reach North America and the world is if we have a bivocational pastor movement,” Coe said.

“If you add up all the 50 largest mega-churches, add up total attendance and they all moved to New York City, you’d only be reaching 8 percent of the population there,” Coe said. “The only way it’s going to get done is through people who will rise up and step out.

“What you are doing is vital. It’s actually the backbone of what we do. We realize that and we’re passionate about that. The only way we’ll do it is if every man who meets the biblical qualification for pastor is released to pastor. The church of the future will look more and more like what you guys are doing.”

Coe, who planted The Gallery Church in New York City, said all shapes and sizes of churches will be needed to reach the nation – from small towns to urban areas.

Southern Baptist bivocational pastors often balance two careers – starting or shepherding a church while working another equally demanding fulltime job. This frees up the pastor and the church to do its ministry without as much financial constraint. Most bivocational pastors lead small to mid-sized churches.

Ray Gilder, national coordinator for the Bivocational Small Church Leadership Network, noted, “One of the goals we’ve had in our organization over the years has been to raise the level of awareness and appreciation for bivocational pastors. And it is happening.

“We are planting our lives in areas and pockets where we can’t afford to send someone but must rely on bivocational pastors to reach those communities with the Gospel.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)
6/23/2011 2:31:00 AM by Adam Miller, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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