June 2011

Platt: ‘Millions upon millions’ need Jesus

June 16 2011 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — Pastors are responsible to lead their churches to engage the world’s unreached people groups with the gospel, David Platt said in the convention sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting June 15.

Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., noted that people groups by the thousands worldwide are unreached for Christ. “This is not a problem for the International Mission Board to address,” Platt said. “This is a problem for every local church in this convention to address.”

Platt emphasized that he was not advocating the neglect of local ministries and missions but added that “at the same time, global mission is tragically neglected.”

He pointed to an example from northern Yemen, which has a population of about 8 million people but only about 20-30 Christians.

“That is a problem,” Platt said. “Masses of people groups. Millions upon millions upon millions of people who do not have access to the gospel.”

Preaching from Matthew 24:14, Platt said Christians are often confused about their message, their mission and their motive. Christians’ message, Platt said, is that God is King and that He rules over all.

“Our God is sovereign over all nature,” Platt said. “The wind blows at His bidding. The sun radiates with heat from His hands. Every single night, our God brings out the stars one by one and He calls them each by name.”

In addition to being sovereign over nature, Platt said God is sovereign over nations and holds the rulers of the world in His hands. The good news, he continued, is not just that God is King but that the King has come in the person of Jesus Christ — and all who believe in Him and trust in His name will be both children of God and heirs of God’s Kingdom forever. But the church, Platt said, is guilty of minimizing and maligning that good news.

“We have reduced Jesus the King to a poor, puny savior who is just begging for people to accept him into their heart or invite him into their life, phrases that are never used in the Word of God,” he said. “We have reduced the gospel of the Kingdom to a shrink-wrapped presentation that if we can get people to say and pray the right things back to us, we will pronounce them fit for heaven and free to live their life on earth however they desire.

Photo by Bill Bangham

David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, gives the convention sermon “calling every pastor” to lead churches to reach unreached people groups with the gospel. About 6,750 people groups around the world are unreached, he said June 15 during the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Ariz.

“Not true,” he continued. “Our King is not a savior who is begging for anyone’s casual approval. Our King is a sovereign who deserves everyone’s eternal praise.”

Platt took aim at author/pastor Rob Bell and others who have questioned the reality of hell, warning Southern Baptists to “be very cautious when anyone says, ‘Did God really say this? Would God really do that?’

“This is the question that ushered sin into the world in Genesis 3,” Platt said. “Our ways are subject to His judgment, and He has appointed a day when every man and woman will die and face judgment.”

The message of good news, that God offers eternal life to those who trust in Christ regardless of their station in life, works anywhere in the world, Platt said, and Christians’ mission is to proclaim that news throughout the whole world, to all of the 11,627 people groups that the IMB has identified, more than half of which remain classified as “unreached.”

“When we say ‘unreached,’ we’re not just talking about lostness. We’re talking about access,” Platt said. “Unreached means that you don’t even have access to hear the gospel. There’s no church, no Christian, no Bible available around you.”

If Christians and churches are not intentionally going after those unreached groups with the gospel, Platt said they are disobeying the Great Commission — because God’s command was not a general one to make disciples among as many people as possible, but to make disciples among every single people group.

The motivation for Christians to pursue such a mission, Platt said, is their desire that God be praised and to complete the task He has given them.

“What drives passion for unreached peoples is not guilt. It’s glory,” Platt said. “Glory for a King, for a King who deserves the praise of every people group on the planet.”

Platt said that pursuing that goal will come with a cost, because Satan is opposed to God’s people reaching the world with the gospel. Some people will hate Christians for their message, and some may even kill them. But Platt reminded Southern Baptists that the reward is worth the sacrifice and challenged them to be bold and intentional in their efforts.

“Let’s do it all with our eyes fixed on the sky, where one day the Son of Man is going to come in clouds of glory and power, and His angels are going to gather the elect from the four winds, from every tribe, tongue, people and nation,” Platt said. “We will see His face, and we will see our King, and we will reign with Him forever and ever and ever and ever.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ellsworth is director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.)  
6/16/2011 9:28:00 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

So. Baptists approve historic ethnic measure

June 16 2011 by Joni B. Hannigan, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — Sensitive to the need for greater diversity in leadership and increased participation of ethnics, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) voted overwhelmingly June 14 to ask for greater accountability regarding their involvement in SBC life.

During a news conference after the vote, Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., said: “I want ethnic pastors and leaders to also have the opportunity to express their love for Southern Baptists in Christ. We have to work together.”

It was Kim who asked messengers at the 2009 SBC annual meeting to study how ethnic churches and leaders could better partner with others to serve the SBC. After a two-year workgroup study of the motion, the SBC Executive Committee approved a 10-part recommendation for the Phoenix meeting, citing the “need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnical and racial identities within Southern Baptist life.”

For the first time in history, the convention will ask its entities to provide “a descriptive report of participation of ethnic churches and church leaders in the life and ministry of the respective SBC entity;” the SBC president to “give special attention to appointing individuals who represent the diversity within the Convention” to committees under his purview; and a subcommittee of the EC to provide a report each year in February with an update on how each of the recommendations has been addressed.

Members of the Executive Committee’s communications workgroup joined Kim for a news conference after the vote. They were Darrell Orman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuart, Fla.; Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md.; and workgroup chairman Scott Kilgore, senior pastor of Crossland Community Church in Bowling Green, Ky.

For decades, Southern Baptists have passed resolutions and motions on the inclusion of minorities and ethnics — and elected a few to various positions at the state and national level, Orman said. The action at the annual meeting, however, took things a step further.

“The real power of this report is actually that it is now inculcated into the machinery of the Southern Baptist Convention, a (new) level of accountability,” Orman said.

The recommendation does not establish a practice of affirmative action, Orman said. Instead, it gives something tangible to those who say, “We have been patient.”

Now people can say there is “machinery in effect,” along with accountability and a “metric” for measurement, Orman said.

Photo by Bill Bangham

The ethnic study workgroup, members of the SBC Executive Committee, answer questions during a press conference June 14 after the close of the first day of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Ariz. At far left is Paul Kim, a Korean multiethnic church planter and pastor in Boston who, at the 2009 SBC annual meeting, introduced a motion regarding ethnic involvement in the convention, which led to the formation of the workgroup. Members are, left to right: Darrell Orman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuart, Fla.; Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md., and Scott Kilgore, senior associate pastor of Crossland Community Church in Bowling Green, Ky.

The move is more than symbolic, Orman said, calling it “one of the signals” Southern Baptists can send to “ethnic brothers and sisters across the nation” that they take seriously a commitment to broaden ethnic involvement.

Kim said the 16-million-member convention historically has had many ethnic fellowships that convene throughout the year — some assembling in the same city as the SBC annual meeting. He believes Southern Baptists would be stronger if they would work more closely with all groups in the denomination.

“I love Southern Baptists,” Kim said, noting how the churches of the convention work together to support missions through the Cooperative Program and the emphasis on the Great Commission. However, even when ethnics speak English, “we don’t invite them,” to be a part of the greater work of continuing to build the Kingdom, he said.

“How can this be done if we just focus on one ethnic (group) doing what they have done all these hundred years,” Kim said. “We need to work together.”

Kim urged ethnic Southern Baptists to get more involved in the convention in its “history-making moment,” saying, “This is the time.”

Asked about the election of Fred Luter Jr., senior pastor of Franklin Ave. Baptist Church in New Orleans — an African American — as first vice president of the convention, Anderson said the reaction has been positive.

Luter, according to some sources, is the first African American to be elected as first vice president in the SBC. In 1974, Charles N. King, pastor of Corinthian Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., was elected as second vice president at the annual meeting in Philadelphia. He lost in a run-off in 1972, the first time a black had been nominated for a top post. In 1994, Gary Frost, then pastor of Rising Star Baptist Church in Youngstown, Ohio, was elected second vice president. In 1995, Luter was elected to that same post. Several other ethnic leaders have since been elected as first or second vice president.

Luter’s election “is a reflection of the very motion that was passed and accepted today,” Anderson said. “Dr. Luter is loved by so many people in our denomination and it is just a time that has come.

“It reflects what people desire to see more of in our convention,” Anderson said.

Asked if America would take the convention more “seriously” if it elected an ethnic as president, Orman pointed out that the immediate past president, Johnny Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., is a member of the Lumbee tribe of Native Americans.

Anderson said he believes ethnic Southern Baptists were “cautious” at first about the recommendation, but came to see the move as a “God thing” and are anxious to work together in an effort he sees as “deliberately inclusive.”

Moved almost to tears, Orman said he remembers when, as a young college basketball player, his church in Memphis, Tenn., forbade him from bringing African American members of the team to church.

“It broke my heart,” Orman said. “That drove into my heart a real desire for me as an individual to see the implementation of this, and with it a strong desire and prophetic desire to see more involvement but not as a quota, but as a qualified people.”

Kim said the move signals a new time in the era and history of Southern Baptists.

“We need to move forward for the Kingdom of God,” Kim said. “Let’s continue to pray. It’s God’s work, not denominational work.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hannigan is managing editor of Florida Baptist Witness.)  
6/16/2011 9:21:00 AM by Joni B. Hannigan, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ezell: new day for church planting

June 16 2011 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — Missionaries and chaplains, a U.S. Army general, a barber, two tornado victims and a redeemed young man mirrored the work of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) during its report to messengers June 14 at the 2011 SBC annual meeting.

“Knowing there are 318 million people in North America who need to know Jesus Christ stirs our passion as trustees,” NAMB trustee chairman Tim Dowdy, senior pastor of Eagles Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., told the messengers. “Last year, God led us to the right man, Kevin Ezell. We’re starting down the right road. I can’t wait to see what God does with us, together impacting the world for Jesus Christ.”

Ezell told messengers the months since his election have been very challenging.

“I have learned a lot in the nine months since I accepted this role, and I appreciate your patience and prayers,” Ezell said. “I hope to clearly communicate our direction in the midst of a very complex transition.... I am striving to bring a sense of strategic focus and efficiency to our North American missions.”

After thanking Southern Baptists for their support of the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, Ezell noted: “Biblical stewardship calls us to the highest level of accountability with these funds. I am doing everything in my power to spend each dime wisely. We must put more missionaries and more new churches in North America’s least-reached areas.”

Ezell then outlined how NAMB’s mission board’s staff has been reduced by 38 percent through retirement and separation incentives, saving the mission board $6 million a year. He said the budget has been cut another $8 million, including slashing the travel budget by half.

“These savings will go to place more churches and more church planting missionaries where they are needed most in North America,” Ezell said. “I believe you cannot judge the effectiveness of an organization by the size of its staff, but NAMB is not taking one step backwards. We intend to do more with less infrastructure.”

Send North America
The new “big picture strategy” for church planting, called Send North America, will enable Baptists to penetrate lostness through a regional mobilization strategy, Ezell said. “Already, 80 percent of NAMB’s resources are invested through the state conventions to go to underserved areas — even before Send North America. But this strategy will send even more in that direction.”

The GPS — God’s Plan for Sharing — initiative will continue to be one of the entity’s top priorities under NAMB’s new vice president for evangelism, Larry Wynn, Ezell said.

Ezell promised that, under his watch, future financial stewardship at NAMB will demand “accuracy, transparency, effectiveness and efficiency — not smoke and mirrors.” He then clarified and put into perspective some oft-quoted NAMB statistics — for instance, that Southern Baptists planted 769 new churches in 2010, not the 1,400 to 1,500 a year usually reported in the past.

“When the old NAMB counted church plants, they didn’t ask for church names or addresses or planter names. The new NAMB is asking and only counting 00c0hurches for which those details can be obtained,” Ezell said. “The old NAMB had no system for consistently tracking new church plants across the 42 state conventions. We are working with the states on such a system.

“Also, the old NAMB had no definition of a church plant agreed upon by all of our state convention partners,” Ezell added. “The new NAMB is working on that with state partners, to write a definition we all can adhere to.”

Photo by John Swain

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, told messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, “We must put more missionaries on the field. We must take better care of our missionaries,” during the report June 14 at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Ariz.

Ezell generated laughs and applause when he said, “If Wal-Mart can track how much toilet paper it sells every hour, we should be able to track how many churches are planted each year.”

The mission entity president also spoke to the question of how many missionaries NAMB has.

“It’s been said that NAMB has more than 5,100 missionaries serving in North America,” Ezell said. He said 3,480 of NAMB’s missionaries are jointly funded with the states; 1,839 are spouses, some with ministry assignments and some not; 1,616 are Mission Service Corps missionaries who receive no funding from NAMB; and 38 are national missionaries, who are paid 100 percent by NAMB. In addition, NAMB has 3,400 chaplains — 1,350 of them military chaplains — and 955 summer student missionaries on its rolls.

Disaster relief
In the wake of this spring’s rash of tornadoes, floods and wildfires around the United States, disaster relief continues to be a vital ministry in partnership with the states, Ezell said. So far in 2011, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has responded to 40 separate incidents, including deadly tornadoes in Alabama and Joplin, Mo.

Ezell then introduced two of the 85,000 trained disaster relief volunteers in the SBC, “blue hat” Gary Hunley and his wife and Twyla of Joplin, who themselves lost their home in the Missouri city where 141 people were killed on May 22.

“I’ve got a whole new feeling now for disaster victims,” Hunley said. “The tragedy, the loss they have, the confusion they feel and for the overwhelmingness of the whole thing. I can now say I’ve experienced it, and He (Christ) helped me walk through it.”

For the first time in several years, NAMB used the annual meeting to introduce and commission 20 new missionaries, chaplains and their spouses who will serve in 11 different locations throughout North America.

Unreached Canada
Jeff Christopherson, NAMB’s vice president for Canada, and Jason McGibbon, a church planting missionary in Toronto, and told messengers how unreached Canada is.

“Canada is one of the most unreached areas in North America, with only one church for every 121,000 people,” the Canadian-born Christopherson said. “You drive through Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, and you see a sea of houses but not one evangelical church. That’s just not right.”

Messengers also saw and heard the remarkable story of another NAMB church planting missionary, Shaun Pillay, a native of Durban, South Africa, who — with his new wife — sold most of their earthly possessions and moved to Norwich, Conn.

“I was amazed to find out there’s only 2 percent evangelical Christians in Norwich, which broke my heart,” Pillay said. In Norwich, he’s planted Cornerstone International Church and led 67 people to faith in Christ so far. He said the church will baptize another 16 next month.

“I’m a testimony standing here today that Southern Baptists know how to care, how to love, how to pray and how to give,” said Pillay, who introduced Derrick Shelby, a Christian barber in Norwich, and Matthew Mowrey, a 24-year-old ex-drug and alcohol addict Shelby recently won to Christ during a haircut in his barber shop — one of the “proclamation points” Pillay has established in Norwich. The messengers gave the trio a long standing ovation.

Also receiving an extended ovation was Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver, who appeared at the convention for the final time as chief of chaplains for the U.S. Army. In 2007, Carver was the first Southern Baptist to be named the Army’s chief of chaplains in 50 years. After a distinguished military career, Carver and wife Sunny will retire later this summer to Charlotte.

“It’s been my honor to wear the nation’s cloth for 38 years, supporting 2,900 chaplains of all faiths to 300,000 soldiers serving in 80 different countries, including during wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the Horn of Africa, defending us so we can serve God freely,” the two-star general said. “When you send a Southern Baptist chaplain to the field, you can be assured we are bringing God to soldiers and soldiers to God.”

Ezell ended the presentation by challenging individuals and churches to participate in the entity’s Send North America Strategy. For more information, visit namb.net and click the “Mobilize Me” button.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.)
6/16/2011 9:14:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gay leaders meet with SBC president

June 16 2011 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — A coalition of homosexual leaders and their allies met for more than 30 minutes Tuesday with Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Bryant Wright, with the leaders demanding an apology from the SBC and Wright refusing to budge, saying that scripture is clear on the issue.

The remarkable meeting — cordial the entire time — took place between the morning and afternoon sessions of the SBC in Wright’s annual meeting office at the Phoenix Convention Center.

Photo by Kent Harville

Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), center front, meets with members of a coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups including GetEQUAL and Truth Wins Out, who hand delivered a petition to Wright asking the SBC for an apology for its biblical beliefs regarding the lifestyle of LGBT people. Coalition members at the table include, left to right: Anthony Spearman; Brent Childers, executive director of Faith in America; Wayne Besen, Truth Wins Out’s executive director; Mitchell Gold, founder of Faith in America; and Jack McKinney, a former pastor and counselor. The meeting took place June 15 at the Phoenix Convention Center between sessions of the SBC annual meeting.

The nine-person coalition included representatives of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, Faith in America and Truth Wins Out. They protested outside the convention hall and requested to deliver petitions to Wright, who decided to turn the event into a dialogue. Several members of the media also attended.

“We’re a coalition of groups asking the SBC to acknowledge and apologize for the damage that the convention has done to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” Jack McKinney, a heterosexual married man told Wright at the beginning of the meeting.

McKinney is a spokesperson for Faith in America and a former Southern Baptist minister. McKinney and the other leaders repeatedly made parallels between racism and a stance against homosexuality. Sixteen years ago to the day, McKinney said, Southern Baptists passed a resolution apologizing for past racism.

“We feel like the convention is making the same mistake in the way it has demonized (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people,” said McKinney, who handed Wright a packet of 10,000 signatures. “We come today to ask for an apology for that and for a pledge that those kinds of teachings would come to an end.”

Wright, sitting at a roundtable with McKinney and four of the other leaders, rejected the parallels.

“Obviously, we don’t feel that there can be an apology for teaching sexual purity,” Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., said. “As followers of Christ, our only authority for practicing our faith is scripture, is the Word of God. ... As followers of Christ it would be very difficult for us to betray our faith by ignoring what God says about sexual purity.”

The Bible condemns both homosexual sex and heterosexual sex that is outside the bonds of marriage, Wright said.

“When I teach from the pulpit about adultery, I don’t hate adulterers,” Wright said. “Just as we have people attending our local church that are engaging in homosexual activity, we have people attending our church who are engaging in adultery. I don’t hate those people when I speak about adultery. I am just, hopefully, loving them enough to speak the truth about what God desires for the best for that person.”

Similarly, when Wright preaches about the Bible’s prohibition on premarital sex, that doesn’t “mean we hate teenagers,” he said.

Mitchell Gold, Faith in America’s founder, then spoke.

“I remember during the 1960s similar words justifying a position against integration and justifying a whole attitude toward black people. Part of what we are saying to you is, you really made a big mistake before and you apologized for it, you recognized it,” Gold said. “There’s an enormous amount of harm” done to teens by the SBC’s stance, Gold said, handing Wright a book written by Gold, Crisis, that details stories of people who grew up homosexual.

Although some of the leaders said ex-gay ministries were harmful, Wright disagreed, saying “there really have been” people who have left homosexuality through the various ministries.

“The standard of scripture for heterosexual single adults” and for homosexual single adults is “no different,” Wright said. Both groups are, he said, to abstain from sex.

Wayne Besen, a leading homosexual activist and a former Human Rights Campaign spokesperson, interjected, “You’re asking for people to surrender their humanity.” Wright drew the conversation back to his Christian faith.

“Jesus Christ came to die for all of our sins, whether it’s heterosexual sin or whether it’s homosexual sin. ... For a society to come along at this stage in history and all of a sudden say that one of the ... areas that Christ has no power” over is “homosexual behavior is really elevating the importance of that behavior above the power of Christ.

“Looking at sexual purity from scripture, we’re not going to be able to come to common ground. I hope you all would respect that we’re just seeking to follow Jesus.”

Wright began drawing the meeting to a close with a personal plea.

“Christ loves you Wayne, He loves you Mitchell, He loves Robin (Lunn of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists), He loves me in spite of my incredible amount of sin,” Wright said. “... But He does not desire for us to continue to engage in sinful behavior that He very clearly says is not good.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
6/16/2011 9:07:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Resolution affirms biblical doctrine of hell

June 16 2011 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — Messengers approved a resolution affirming the Bible’s teaching on hell during the June 15 morning session of the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Phoenix.

The resolution on hell, which urges faithful proclamation of the gospel to those who face eternal suffering, was one of six passed by unanimous or nearly unanimous votes upon recommendation of the Resolutions Committee.

A resolution on immigration received messenger action in the afternoon session (separate story coming).

The resolution on hell came as part of an ongoing response to the publication earlier this year of Michigan pastor Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. Bell’s controversial book “called into question the church’s historic teaching on the doctrine of eternal punishment of the unregenerate,” as the resolution described it.

In adopting the resolution, messengers affirmed “our belief in the biblical teaching on eternal, conscious punishment of the unregenerate in Hell.” The resolution also urged Southern Baptists “to proclaim faithfully the depth and gravity of sin against a holy God, the reality of Hell, and the salvation of sinners by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.”

The other resolutions approved in the morning session:
  • reaffirmed the convention’s belief that all people — as made in the image of God — have religious freedom, meaning they possess the liberty “to convert to another religion or to no religion, to seek to persuade others of the claims of one’s religion, and to worship without harassment or impediment from the state.” It also called for prayer for persecuted Christians throughout the world.
  • urged President Obama to reverse course by ordering the Department of Justice to defend fully the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court. The resolution also renewed the convention’s call for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. DOMA is a 1996 law that defines marriage federally as exclusively between a man and a woman and protects states from having to recognize “same-sex marriages” performed in states where such unions are legal.
  • called for corporate repentance and prayer, urging Southern Baptists to seek “a life of genuine repentance, Kingdom-focused prayer times for sweeping revival and spiritual awakening, and consistent prayer for specific lost people, missions, and ministry.”
  • encouraged civility in the public discussion of controversial issues and denounced “the speech or activities of any individual or group that brings shame upon the name of Christ and His gospel.” It urged Southern Baptists “to speak biblically and authoritatively with conviction, kindness, and gentleness.”
  • thanked God and those He used in planning and conducting the SBC annual meeting.
Ten resolutions were submitted for this year’s meeting. The committee declined to act on some but addressed others in the final resolutions recommended to the messengers.

The chairman of the Resolution Committee was Paul Jimenez, pastor of Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C.

In addition to Jimenez, the other members of the committee were: Linda Clark, member, Graceland Baptist Church, New Albany, Ind.; Stephen Farish, senior pastor, Crossroads Church, Grayslake, Ill.; Mark Howell, senior pastor, Houston Northwest Church, Houston; Tim McCoy, senior pastor, Ingleside Baptist Church, Macon, Ga.; Russell Moore, dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and teaching pastor for Highview Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky.; Michael Pigg, senior pastor, Philadelphia Baptist Church, Lithonia, Ga.; Jimmy Scroggins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Fla.; Jamie Work, pastor, Candies Creek Baptist Church, Charleston, Tenn., and Carol Yarber, member, First Baptist Church, Malakoff, Texas.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)  
6/16/2011 9:05:00 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Teen girls invited to Blume by WMU

June 16 2011 by Julie Walters, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — WMU extended an invitation to Blume. The invitation to the missions gathering for teen girls was extended at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 14 in Phoenix.

Photo by Van Payne

Wanda S. Lee, center, executive director and treasurer of the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) gives the WMU report with Acteen panelists behind her during the June 14 morning session of the Southern Baptist Convention. Two teens from North Carolina — Kianni Curry, far right, and Cassie Taylor, third from left — are from University Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte.

Blume, formerly known as the National Acteens Convention, is sponsored every four or five years by Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU).

Wanda S. Lee, national WMU’s executive director, and WMU President Debby Akerman, were joined by five of WMU’s six National Acteen Panelists in issuing the invitation to Blume’s July 12-16 sessions in Orlando, Fla.

On stage were Kianni Curry and Cassie Taylor of University Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte; Julia Jones of Westview Baptist Church in Shiloh, Ill.; Ashten Metcalf of Lihue Baptist Church in Lihue, Hawaii; and Andrea Niles of Fifth Street Baptist Church in Key West, Fla.

Akerman asked each Acteen panelist to summarize her experience at Blume in 2007 in Kansas City in one word. Their responses were: “impactful,” “extraordinary,” “exhilarating,” “inspiring” and “fulfilling.”

National Acteen Panelists, Akerman said, are “an elite group of young women who have demonstrated a strong commitment to Jesus and to missions through their involvement in Acteens, their church, their community and their education.

“They represent the finest among today’s young women.”

The National Acteen Panelists will help lead during Blume in Orlando. Acteens is the Southern Baptist missions organization for girls in grades 7-12 sponsored by WMU, but Blume is not limited to those involved in Acteens; it is open to all teen girls.

“Thousands of girls will gather from across the nation for worship, Bible study, missions learning and hands-on missions involvement,” Lee said. “We hope you will bring your girls and join us.”

Registration is still open and information is available at www.blumeforgirls.com.

Lee also reported that WMU’s national officers were unanimously re-elected during the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting in Phoenix June 13: Akerman of Myrtle Beach, S.C., to a second term as national president and Rosalie Hunt of Guntersville, Ala., to a third term as national recording secretary.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Walters is the corporate communications team leader for WMU.)
6/16/2011 6:43:00 AM by Julie Walters, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Messengers offer 17 motions at SBC

June 16 2011 by Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — Messengers offered 17 motions June 14 during the opening day of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. All but one of the motions, however, were referred to SBC entities or ruled out of order during the subsequent business sessions of the convention. The remaining motion was referred by messengers for a vote at the 2012 annual meeting in New Orleans.

Referred motions
A motion by Keith Rogers from Santan Baptist Church on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Chandler, Ariz., called for the Committee on the Order of Business to reinstitute at least one evening session, preferably on Tuesday evening, for the annual meeting. According to Rogers, “many of our lay leaders, including some from the church that I pastor, and bivocational pastors who could only attend an evening session, were not offered that opportunity this year.”

Rogers, in the same motion, said a missionary appointment service should be a part of that evening session. The Committee on the Order of Business moved that the motion be referred for consideration in connection with the 2012 SBC annual meeting. Messengers approved the motion to refer.

Eleven motions were automatically referred because they dealt with the internal operations or ministries of SBC entities. Several were referred to LifeWay Christian Resources. Those included:
  • A motion from Tim Overton of Halteman Village Baptist Church in Muncie, Ind., requesting that LifeWay Christian Resources be asked to consider creating materials to equip fathers to lead families in regular home devotionals.
  • A motion from Craig Thomas from Whitwell (Tenn.) First Baptist Church asking LifeWay Christian Resources to reinstate disclaimers when they sell The Shack because the book undermines or opposes articles two and four of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Those articles pertain to the Trinity and salvation. In 2009, LifeWay posted in stores a discernment notice for readers of The Shack, primarily because of the fictional book’s depictions of different modes of God’s existence namely the representation of God as a woman. The notice about the book later was removed.
  • A motion from Channing Kilgore of South Whitwell Baptist Church in Whitwell, Tenn., to recommend LifeWay Christian Resources publish the criteria the entity uses in the selection and sale of “biblically-related materials.”
  • A motion from George Kelly of Memorial Baptist Church in Killeen, Texas, calling for the SBC to address the ministry and teaching needs of senior adults, “the fastest growing segment of our society.”
  • A motion from Stephen Haffly of Grace Baptist Church in Wake Forest, requesting messengers to encourage publishers, including LifeWay Christian Resources, to make electronic editions of academic works available for electronic devices such as Kindle, Nook and iPad. Haffly noted this would benefit students by making the literature more easily accessible and reduce production costs.
  • A motion from Young McCann of Journey Christian Fellowship in San Luis Obispo, Calif., requesting the SBC to study issues related to human sexuality — namely pornography and homosexuality — in the culture and in churches and provide guidelines for church members, church leaders and convention leaders to promote gospel-centered sexuality to educate, train and restore God’s people to bring maximum glory to God. McCann’s motion also was referred to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
  • A motion from Mickey Porter of Mountain View Baptist Church in Layton, Utah, to move the primary responsibility for ministry to university and college students from LifeWay Christian Resources to the North American Mission Board was referred to both entities.
  • A second motion from George Kelly, asking the North American Mission Board to develop a strategy and resources to assist small and struggling churches “to come alive by providing funds to call full-time pastors,” also was referred to the North American Mission Board.
Referred to the SBC Executive Committee were:
  • A motion from James Goforth of New Life Baptist Church in Florissant, Mo., that the Executive Committee investigate and develop a plan and system for online participation and voting of messengers across the country who cannot participate in the annual meeting in person. Goforth said this would broaden the involvement of small churches, bivocational and ethnic pastors, and international churches of the SBC.
  • A motion from Wiley Drake, pastor of Buena Park (Calif.) Baptist Church, to recommend to the local arrangements committee that the prayer room remain open 24 hours a day during the remainder of the convention and future conventions.
Ruled out of order
Three motions were ruled out of order by the Committee on the Order of Business because they were in the nature of resolutions, calling for the convention to express an opinion without taking substantive action. The time for submitting resolutions also had passed.
Ruled out of order for this reason were:
  • A motion in support of Israel offered by Adam Sanders, pastor of Denton Baptist Church in Cosby, Tenn.
  • A motion from Wiley Drake to direct the newly elected president of the convention to send a letter of “thanksgiving and praise to God” for Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his leadership in calling America to a day of prayer and fasting Aug. 6.
  • A motion, also from Wiley Drake, to direct the newly elected president of the convention to send a letter to President Barack Obama “requesting, that as a professing Christian, he as president call the United States of America to a special day of solemn assembly and prayer for our nation,” as Perry had done.
Wiley Drake also made a motion directing the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission to investigate and report back to the convention the use of Social Security money under Title 4D (Child Support) and Title 4E (Child Protective Services), originally intended “for the welfare of children and now which has become child abuse, according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Federal Appeals.” This motion was ruled out of order because the work of an SBC entity is directed only by its board of trustees.

According to SBC bylaws, “Any motion which seeks to have the Convention exercise authority of an entity’s board is not in order. Messengers may offer motions which request, but not direct, that an entity take an action.” Drake later returned to the microphone and offered the same motion, but striking the word “direct” and replacing it with the word “request.” That motion was referred to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Kent Cochran, messenger from Calvary Baptist Church in Republic, Mo., called for the SBC to create a special “Unity Committee” to review, evaluate and make recommendations about the perception and realities of the impact and implementation of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s recommendations during the past year by SBC entities, state conventions and related organizations and networks. Cochran, in the same motion, called for the proposed committee, comprised of 21 presidential appointees, to make their findings public for all Southern Baptists no later than 12 months after the committee provides its findings to the SBC.

That motion, however, was ruled out of order because a motion is not in order when it requests a new committee to fulfill the assignments of a standing committee. The 2010 convention assigned portions of the GCR report to the SBC Executive Committee.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Tomlin is a writer based in Fort Worth, Texas.)  
6/16/2011 6:37:00 AM by Gregory Tomlin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ariz. fires spark ministry

June 16 2011 by David Roach, Baptist Press

SNOWFLAKE, Ariz. — As the largest fire in Arizona history rages in the eastern part of the state, Southern Baptists have responded with compassion in Jesus’ name.

The Wallow Fire has burned more than 730 square miles, destroyed 31 homes and cost around $25 million to fight, MSNBC reported. It has also forced the evacuation of multiple towns, prompting churches, associations and the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention to launch ministry efforts for victims.

The Arizona Southern Baptist Convention deployed a shower unit to Lakeside June 8 and had kitchen crews on standby, Larry Hyde, Arizona disaster relief state coordinator, told Baptist Press (BP).

The shower unit was stationed at a shelter to support the approximately 130 evacuees staying there, Hyde said.

“Our shower trailer units ... provide the shower services that a lot of the shelter areas lack,” Hyde said. “This gives us excellent opportunities to put our disaster relief, our Southern Baptist people in personal contact with the disaster victims and gives us many good opportunities to be able to minister and share Jesus with the displaced people.”

One beneficiary of the shower unit was Franz Tomlinson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Alpine. Tomlinson and his wife Yvonne were forced to evacuate Alpine June 2. He told BP that the church building was not in danger and that only one or two structures in Alpine had burned. But the fire did put the congregation’s VBS, scheduled to begin July 11, in jeopardy, Tomlinson said.

The fire also inspired Tomlinson to consider becoming involved in disaster relief because of how grateful he was for the shower unit, where he also did laundry.

“We have not been involved in (disaster relief) before, but I am hoping to lead our church to get involved in it when we get back to Alpine,” Tomlinson said.

One association in eastern Arizona used the fire as an opportunity to establish an emergency relief fund.

“We have set up a fund to assist folks who have been evacuated,” said Jim Pratt, director of evangelism and missions at the Desert Pines Baptist Association in Snowflake.

The association received one gift of $2,000 to begin the fund and had commitments for another $1,500 to $1,800, Pratt told BP. Pastors and disaster relief workers disburse money from the fund in the form of $25 pre-paid Visa cards as they encounter needs, up to a maximum of $100 per family.

The fund has provided numerous opportunities to minister in Christ’s name, including to Mormons, Pratt said.

Assistance will be distributed to residents in the cities of Alpine, Springerville and Eager — all of which have a Southern Baptist church — and Greer, where resort ministry is conducted between June and September.

Among the most remarkable ministry efforts in the association occurred at the home of Larry Hamblen, pastor of Jesus First Church in Eager.

Though Eager was evacuated, Hamblen lives 34 miles from the church near Show Low. So when his church members left their homes in Eager, he hosted or found housing in his neighborhood for nearly 30 of them.

That included people living in his house, in tents on his lawn, in trailers on his property and at three neighbors’ houses. The evacuees ate meals together and enjoyed Christian fellowship, Hamblen said in an interview.

“Our former pastor’s wife had to evacuate,” Hamblen told BP. “She was having a hard time. Last night we sang all of her favorite and our favorite Southern gospel songs around the piano. And it was great therapy for her.”

Regarding the evacuees’ daily routine, Hamblen said, “We sit around and we talk. We have prayer meetings.”

Jesus First Church’s story was featured by both FOX News and the Associated Press, the pastor said. He added that none of his church members’ houses had been burned, despite the fire threatening at least nine.

“The fire fighters and God saved them,” Hamblen said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is a writer and pastor in Shelbyville, Ky.)  
6/16/2011 6:33:00 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Fred Luter elected as SBC 1st VP

June 15 2011 by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — Even as Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) messengers considered a set of recommendations to increase the ethnic diversity of the convention’s leadership, they faced the choice between an African American pastor from Louisiana and a Chinese-American layperson from Phoenix for first vice president of the SBC.

Fred Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, was elected first vice president over Rick Ong, a member of First Chinese Baptist Church in Phoenix. Of the 2,012 ballots cast June 14 in Phoenix, Luter received 1,558 or 77 percent of the votes while Ong received 441 or 22 percent of the votes; 13 votes were disallowed.

Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest,  nominated Luter, calling him “one of Southern Baptists’ most popular and beloved preachers. He’s in constant demand in schools, colleges, seminaries and conferences all across our nation.”

Ong was nominated by Phoenix-area pastor, Billy VanCamp of HeartCry Church in Queen Creek, who said Ong “invests, influences and inspires” others as he “invites people to Christ.”

Akin, in his nomination, reminded messengers that Luter, in 2001, was the first African-American to preach the SBC convention sermon. He also has served as an SBC second vice president.

In August 2005, Luter lost his home and church to the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina. “Because of the love for his church members,” Akin said, the pastor traveled across the nation to minister to his displaced members while living temporarily in Birmingham, Ala. The congregation “seized the moment,” Akin said, and started churches in Baton Rouge and Houston, Texas.

Photo by Kent Harville

Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La., shares how God has opened doors of ministry since Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005. His comments came June 14 during the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary report given by seminary president Chuck Kelley during the afternoon session June 14 at the SBC Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Ariz.

In spite of losing half of the New Orleans congregation — and numerous invitations to move to a new pastorate — Luter stayed with his people, Akin said, and was asked to serve on the mayor’s Bring Back New Orleans Commission.

Since Katrina, the revived Franklin Avenue congregation has grown to 7,000 members. Akin said Luter also “set the example” in Cooperative Program giving after Katrina. The congregation “stepped out on faith,” giving $44,000 through the Cooperative Program in 2007, increasing their CP giving to $205,000 in 2008, $250,000 in 2009 and $260,000 in 2010.

“He’s a champion for Christ and a wonderful servant to Southern Baptists,” Akin said. Akin recounted that Luter was born and raised in New Orleans’ historic Lower Ninth Ward and was led to Christ in 1977 at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church.

“Immediately he began to do the work of an evangelist, which has characterized his life ever since,” Akin said. Every Saturday, the young believer “would go out and share his faith on different street corners on the Lower Ninth Ward.”

After being called as pastor of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in 1986, Luter led the small struggling mission church from 65 members to 8,000 members by 2005, “making it the largest Southern Baptist church in the state of Louisiana,” Akin said, “and a church that regularly leads the state in baptisms.”

Under Luter’s leadership, the church started 15 missions, Akin said.

Luter is “widely known for his passion for preaching and teaching the Word of God,” Akin said, “especially for reaching men and developing men. In fact one of his favorite sayings is ‘If you save the man, the man will save his family.’”

In 2010 according to Southern Baptists’ Annual Church Profile, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church reported primary worship attendance of 4,000; undesignated receipts of $4,407,217; Cooperative Program contributions of $261,798; a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions gift of $35; an Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions gift of $1,323; and $479,540 in total missions expenditures. Luter and his wife Elizabeth have two children: Kimberly Ann and Fred “Chip” Luter, III.

In nominating Ong, VanCamp said Ong was 12 years old when he “received Christ as his Lord and Savior.”

“I love the way Rick Ong invests in people. He’s an investor of people, not only as people, but as a layman in his church.” First Chinese is a state leader in Cooperative Program giving, VanCamp said.

As a person of “influence,” Ong was the Asian emphasis director for the Crossover 2011 evangelistic outreach prior to the SBC. Under his leadership, 2,600 people attended one of the block parties, “mostly kids that were Asian,” VanCamp said.

Ong served on the 2008-09 SBC Committee on Nominations and has served as an evangelism conference speaker, VanCamp said.

At First Chinese Baptist Church, Ong served as the Chinese Youth for Christ president, deacon, Sunday School teacher and director, men’s director and on the church council.

“Rick has explored God’s Word. Rick has experienced God’s power, Rick expresses God’s love,” VanCamp concluded.

Ong and his wife Roxanne have two children.

In 2010, First Chinese Baptist Church in Phoenix reported primary worship attendance of 130; undesignated receipts of $420,178; Cooperative Program contributions of $41,488; a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering gift for international Missions of $8,793; an Annie Armstrong Easter Offering gift for North American missions of $4,825; and $74,512 in total missions expenditures.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)
6/15/2011 8:04:00 AM by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Selflessness SBC’s only hope, Page says

June 15 2011 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

PHOENIX — If Southern Baptists are going to fulfill their God-given mission in a lost world, they must deal with fragmentation and self-centeredness and recommit themselves to gratitude, trust, unified ministry and honesty, messengers were told during the opening session of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting June 14.

“We have been headed in the wrong direction, in several ways,” said Frank Page, SBC Executive Committee (EC) president, during the EC’s report to the convention. “Our convention is fracturing into various groups, some theological, most methodological. Sometimes there is an honest difference of opinion, but often there is self-centeredness that frequently mirrors our own culture.

“Christ-like selflessness is our only hope.”

Photo by Van Payne

Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, gives the Executive Committee report during the morning session June 14 of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Ariz.

While many have lamented a decline in giving through the SBC’s Cooperative Program missions channel, Page cited statistics that showed total mission expenditures in Southern Baptist churches also have declined over the past 20 years. In 1989, Southern Baptist congregations allocated 16.5 percent of their total receipts to missions, but by 2009 that had declined to 12.32 percent.

“Our cooperating churches have not just shifted their Cooperative Program dollars away from the Cooperative Program to other missions...,” Page said. “What this means is that we have been keeping more of our dollars at home. While the Cooperative Program certainly has taken its hit, it is our total mission giving that is the real victim.”

As CEO of the Executive Committee, Page said he is working to rebuild trust by reducing bureaucracy. EC staff has been reduced by 19 percent and the budget has been cut 13.58 percent, Page said. The budget being presented to messengers during the annual meeting allocates 95 percent of Cooperative Program dollars to international missions, North American church planting and evangelism and seminary education, Page said.

As a show of unity and support for cooperative missions, Page called to the platform a large group of people — the 12 heads of Southern Baptist national entities, executives of Baptist state conventions and a number of ethnic fellowship presidents who had signed a document titled “Affirmation of Unity and Cooperation.”

That document includes five core pledges:
  • “We pledge to maintain a relationship of mutual trust, behaving ourselves trustworthily before one another and trusting one another as brothers and sisters indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. (Ephesians 4:20- 32; Philippians 4:8; 2 Peter 1:3-8)
  • “We pledge to attribute the highest motives to those engaged in local church ministries and those engaged in denominational service in any level of Convention life — motives that originate within hearts truly desiring to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we also serve. (1 Samuel 2:3; Matthew 7:1-5; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5)
  • “We pledge to affirm the value of cooperative ministry as the most effective and efficient means of reaching a lost world with the message of the Gospel. (Acts 9:31; 1 Corinthians 16:1-23; Psalm 68:11; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
  • “We pledge to embrace our brothers and sisters of every ethnicity, race, and language as equal partners in our collective ministries to engage all people groups with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 16:25-27; Revelation 7:9)
  • “We pledge to continue to honor and affirm proportional giving through the Cooperative Program as the most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our outreach as Southern Baptists, enabling us to work together to evangelize the lost people of our world locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, 20:20-21; Romans 10:14-17; 2 Corinthians 8:1-13; 9:1-15)”
For Southern Baptists to be an effective mission force in a lost world, however, grassroots leadership and rank-and-file church members also must renew their commitments to unity and cooperation, Page said.

“As these SBC leaders stand with me, I want you the messengers to understand these affirmations are not only for those standing with me,” Page said. “You are the foundational base of any mission enterprise. Our unified ministry is effective because you make it so — or you don’t. Through the Cooperative Program, we can accomplish more than we could ever do alone.”

Referring to the account of four men who brought a hurting friend to Jesus for healing in Mark 2, Page challenged Southern Baptists to commit themselves to working together to help a hurting people at home and abroad.

“Let’s covenant together to reverse the declines in baptisms and mission giving and Cooperative Program support for the sake of carrying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Page declared. “Let’s bring that hurting one to the One who can minister to the physical but, most of all, the spiritual needs.”

The real problem in Southern Baptist life is spiritual, not logistical, Page added.

“We spent a great deal of time and energy in the last two years dealing with issues from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force,” Page said. “I was a member of that task force. My fear from the beginning was that if we were not careful, we would spend a great deal of time with logistical issues, when the bottom-line problem before us is not logistical as much as it is spiritual.

“Our great need is a heaven-sent revival that begins in our own hearts,” Page said. “Unless and until that happens, there will be no increase in baptisms and missions support. So, in all honesty, I stand before you today and tell you that what we need is a Holy Ghost revival. God, may it be so.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly is senior writer and assistant editor for Baptist Press.)
6/15/2011 4:37:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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