June 2013

Chinese Baptists set church planting goal

June 25 2013 by Beth Byrd, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – During the Chinese Baptist Fellowship in Houston, Chinese Southern Baptists discussed ways to create disciples and reach their church planting goal of 600 churches by 2020. This goal encompasses Chinese Baptist churches in the United States and Canada.

“It sounds like impossible, but ... it’s not that difficult by the grace of the Lord,” said Abraham Chiu, president of the Chinese Baptist Fellowship, to about 80 attendees June 10 at the Chinese Baptist Church in Houston. “With your support, we can achieve this mission.”

Photo by Thomas Graham
Abraham Chiu, president of the Chinese Baptist Fellowship and pastor of Crosspoint Chinese Community Church in San Jose, Calif., greets pastors at a gathering of the CCF June 10 at Chinese Baptist Church in Houston.

Galahad Cheung, executive director of the fellowship, said if Baptists in each of the 50 states in the U.S. and each of the 10 provinces in Canada established one church each year, the fellowship’s goal for 600 new churches in 10 years would be reached.

Cheung added that 32 Chinese churches have been planted since the initiative launched in 2010.

“It’s very exciting to see God’s work among us,” Chiu said.

But pastors also want church members to be well-equipped disciples of Christ, resulting in a trend of leadership ministries that Chiu said is catching on at many churches – Chinese Baptists included.

Chiu said the church he leads in San Jose, Calif., uses a one-on-one discipleship training program to help church members grow in their faith. The program mirrors the guidance that the apostle Paul gave his young co-worker Timothy.

Chiu said the goal is for members to become more mission oriented.

“You have many people coming to church, but not everyone wants to be a leader,” Chiu said. “Not everyone can be a leader of a small group ... but everyone can disciple one.”

Chiu will be hosting a leadership seminar at the Send North America Conference July 29-30 in Dallas on how to discover, develop and deploy church members as strong leaders.

“Every church has some sort of discipleship training but not every church puts it as priority,” Chiu said. “I think it is something we need to do.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Beth Byrd is a staff writer for Baptist Press. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/25/2013 3:29:56 PM by Beth Byrd, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Christians in Tunisia pray for return to spiritual roots

June 25 2013 by William Bagsby, International Mission Board

TUNISIA – Carthage, Tunisia, was once one of the most influential cities for Christianity, and where the canon of the New Testament was accepted. But various wars and conquests eventually pushed Christianity aside in Tunisia and throughout northern Africa and the Middle East.
The people pushed leader Ben Ali out of the country in January 2011, bringing a revived hope and excitement for the country. Two years later, civil unrest continues and hopes are increasingly dimming.
Ryan Bergman*, a Christian worker in Tunisia, said, “People want to leave because they do not see hope here and have unrealistic ideas of what life would look like in the outside world.”
Unemployment has yet to improve in Tunisia, and as inflation continues to rise, Tunisian’s newfound freedom provides less contentment than desired.

IMB photo
Local artists erected this monument in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, in memory of Mohamed Bouazizi. The self-immolation of Bouazizi, a local fruit seller, in protest of corruption set off demands for change in Tunisia and sparked subsequent revolutions there and beyond.

Henry Wolfe*, another Christian worker in Tunisia, said, “The problems in Tunisia are that the best and brightest do everything they can to leave and go somewhere else, most planning never to return.”
As despondency continues to spread in Tunisia, opportunities have presented themselves to spread a different message of freedom and hope. The story that was once accepted as divinely inspired in Carthage has reawakened in the uncertainty of the Arab Spring.
In Tunisia, Ryan Bergman said, he and his wife have been able to share more openly with neighbors.
“This is a great time to be in Tunisia,” he said. “It is still easy to meet new people and some of them want to talk about topics of importance — how to find a job, how to have a better marriage, how to know God in a personal way.”
Wolfe, elsewhere in Tunisia, said, “There are not very many believers here. I may be the only person who has the ability to share the good news with them.”
The struggle for new believers is that they live in isolation, he said.
“Believers need a lot of encouragement and aren’t getting that,” Wolfe said. “I’m praying that the religious fervor that once was would sweep over Tunisia.”
*Names changed for security reasons.
6/25/2013 3:25:40 PM by William Bagsby, International Mission Board | with 1 comments

November meeting to focus on living for God’s glory

June 24 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Last year, as North Carolina Baptists across the state prayed for God to pour out His Spirit and bring spiritual revival among His people, they also committed to return to God in personal holiness. Churches renewed their commitment to prayer, hosting prayer gatherings and participating in 60 days of prayer leading up to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) annual meeting in November.
With a theme of “Awaken,” the 2012 annual meeting marked the beginning of a spiritual awakening among N.C. Baptists.
This year churches are encouraged to continue praying for revival, as many are beginning to awaken to God’s purposes but do not yet fully grasp the urgency of the times in which we live. Each day is one day closer to the Lord’s return, and billions of people have yet to trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.
As churches and individuals experience spiritual awakening the next step is to go forth into the Lord’s harvest fields, evangelizing and making disciples. The goal of awakening and personal holiness does not end with personal sanctification – the goal is Kingdom impact.
N.C. Baptists must awaken and then rise up, or arise, to advance the gospel and make disciples. Believers in Jesus Christ are called to be doers of the Word and to be people who reflect God’s glory through every aspect of their lives.
“No longer should the world have more of an influence on the church than the church is having on the world,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer. “We must commit ourselves to seeking God and to living holy lives that glorify God and give witness about Him to those who do not know Him as their personal Lord and Savior.”
This year’s annual meeting theme is “Arise,” based on Isaiah 60:1-3. N.C. Baptists will be challenged to move from awakening to action; to live as lights that shine and penetrate a spiritually dark world with the truth of the Savior’s love and mercy.
“The people of God are challenged to ‘arise, shine,’ because the Light-Giver has come and given them His glory to shine,” said Timmy Blair, BSC second vice president and pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier. “We must get out of our church building and begin penetrating the lostness that is in every city, town and rural community.”

Jason Whitfield is pastor of Magnolia Baptist Church in Stedman and a member of the Committee on Convention Meetings, which works with convention staff throughout the year to plan the annual meeting program. Whitfield said the committee is praying that this year’s annual meeting builds on last year and motivates N.C. Baptists to action.
The committee desires to see Christians arise and be active for Christ wherever they are, not shying away from sharing Christ in a culture that often does not believe or follow the truths of scripture.
“Arise is an action step after awakening. The next step is to be more proactive and actually do something about where we are spiritually within our state,” Whitfield said. “We need to not just sit back and see what is going on, but make an effort to do something about it.” 
Jairo Contreras, pastor of the Hispanic Ministry of Sunset Avenue Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, is also a member of the Committee on Convention Meetings. Contreras believes that focusing on the theme “Arise” will help build on last year’s experiences because Christians cannot fully engage in spiritual awakening until they arise. 
“We want to let people know that awakening is not enough for the task at hand. We need to arise and start moving,” he said.
Arising is not just a one-time event, but requires daily sacrifice, commitment and intentionality to pushing back spiritual darkness.
“If we really arise and go out and shine the light, we will make a difference,” Contreras said. “We need to be strong, stand up and shine the light of Christ.”
The annual meeting will be held Nov. 11-12 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. This year’s Convention sermon speaker is Southern Baptist Convention president Fred Luter. More details about worship, breakout sessions, exhibits, special music and guest speakers will be available in the coming months. Reservations are already underway for the Sheraton Four Seasons, the headquarters hotel. Reserve your room now by visiting ncannualmeeting.org.
6/24/2013 4:05:04 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Summit brings together Moldovan camps, leaders

June 24 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

During the Soviet Union day camps were not usually viewed positively, as these “Pioneer” camps sought to indoctrinate children with Soviet Union beliefs and systems.
Now, years after the Union’s fall, an interest in camps – especially summer camps – is on the rise as a way to provide a fun, meaningful experience for children and youth. In particular, churches throughout the Eastern European country of Moldova are seeking to step up their camping outreach.
“Camps are a major tool they can use. The Baptist Union sees this as a very effective way to reach children and youth with the gospel,” said Jimmy Huffman, director of Caraway Conference Center and Camp near Asheboro, N.C.
In May Huffman organized a team of five to lead a three-day summit for camping leaders in Moldova. About 95 percent of the 100 participants were volunteers, many of whom were church leaders or young adults who coordinate their church’s camping ministry.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. (BSC) began a partnership two years ago with the Baptist Union of Moldova. The BSC Office of Great Commission Partnerships coordinates the partnership with Moldova, which is the poorest county in Eastern Europe and has an evangelical population of less than two percent. More than 1,000 villages in Moldova are still without an evangelical presence.
The Office of Great Commission Partnerships funded the camping summit and the participants’ cost to attend.
“I am very grateful to Jimmy and his staff for leading this training,” said Michael Sowers, who leads the Office of Great Commission Partnerships. “The Caraway staff wants to be a partner with and equip churches as they seek to fulfill the Great Commission. I believe the impact of this training will be the gospel impacting many villages where Jesus is not yet known.”

Contributed photo
Participants in a three-day camping summit learned various games and activities to help build relationships and teach biblical truths.

Last year Huffman joined 10 BSC staff members on a mission trip to Moldova, and while there met with Baptist Union president John Miron who shared his desire for the Moldovan Christian camping community to become more effective in ministry.
A few months later in 2012, Huffman returned to Moldova and met with 20 leaders and visited six camps.
“Every person I met asked for practical training,” Huffman said. “They understood the theory of camp, and the potential for reaching children and youth, but they needed hands-on training,”
This year, Huffman and the team trained leaders in how to structure a camp experience using games, team building, crafts, age-appropriate Bible studies, object lessons and environmental education, all for the purpose of teaching biblical truths. They also taught them how to plan and prepare for camp with basic camp administration principles.
“It was a wonderful experience and tremendous blessing for us to teach what we do every day to energetic, eager and committed Moldovan Christians,” Huffman said.
Huffman knew that while many principles were transferable, the training needed to look different in Moldova than in N.C. Many camps in Moldova are held in villages, without a specific building or camp facility.
“It needed to be Moldovan,” he said. “If we taught them everything the American way, they couldn’t have done it because of resources. We wanted to help equip them. All the training in the world wouldn’t matter if it weren’t relevant. The team worked really hard to make this ‘Moldovan training’ because resources and materials are in short supply.”
During the camping summit, the team focused on low cost or no cost activities, and used materials readily available in Moldova. The summit marked the first gathering for the Baptist camping community in Moldova. “They learned from each other, which was a really positive outcome,” Huffman said.
Jeff Kohns, Caraway associate director, said many people shared with him that the ideas they learned during the summit were ideas they heard for the first time; everything was new to them.
“The people were so receptive to what we were doing. We prayed that what we prepared would be what they needed, and it was,” he said.  
The team taught the leaders how to create a camp experience that encourages relationship building and friendships.
“You want the youth to let their guard down and open up. If they see their leaders being more open, they will return that,” Huffman said.
Huffman has served at Caraway 14 years, and seven years as director. He worked at Caraway in college and never thought he would have the opportunity to work at a camp full time. “I love the hospitality of camp,” he said. “It’s not church. But it’s a place where you can hear God’s voice.”
Huffman and the Caraway staff are available to assist N.C. Baptist churches interested in partnering with churches in Moldova and using camps as a means of outreach. For more information, call (336) 629-2374 or email jhuffman@caraway.org.
6/24/2013 3:58:11 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Entity heads address messenger questions

June 24 2013 by Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Messengers had opportunities to ask questions of the presidents of Southern Baptist entities during those entities’ annual reports to the convention in Houston.

Following are accounts of questions posed by messengers on the convention floor and responses by entity presidents. Not all entity presidents were asked questions.

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

John Killian of Maytown Baptist Church in Alabama expressed concern that the National Immigration Forum, which provides financial support for the Evangelical Immigration Table, is reportedly funded in part by liberal activist George Soros. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) is part of a national ad campaign featuring the Evangelical Immigration Table.

“Will Cooperative Program funds be used to support legislation legalizing illegal immigrants and will the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission participate in any political project funded directly or indirectly by George Soros?” Killian asked. 

In response, Richard Land said the ERLC under his leadership and he expected under Russell D. Moore’s leadership will heed the resolution on immigration reform adopted overwhelmingly by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix in 2011. 

“Resolutions are instructive,” Land said, noting the resolution expresses support for immigration policies that provide a restrictive pathway to citizenship for those in the U.S. with undocumented status. 

“It is not amnesty,” Land said, suggesting amnesty is what President Jimmy Carter provided for those who fled to Canada to avoid the military draft during the Vietnam War. 

Lee Bright of Roebuck Baptist Church, asked Moore if the ERLC will “actively support” the immigration bill being considered in the U.S. Senate. 

“We are going to support principles; we are not going to support specific pieces of legislation,” Moore said. 

“We support a just and compassionate approach to dealing with the millions of people in American society right now who are invisible, seeking a better future for their families. We also want to maintain the rule of law and the security of our borders,” Moore said.

GuideStone Financial Resources

GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins received two questions following his report to messengers.

A North Carolina messenger complimented GuideStone on its property and casualty program and alliance with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, saying their church received more coverage at a lower premium.

He also asked about medical insurance premiums for 2014, and Hawkins said insurance premiums would be made available in coming weeks. 

“There are so many unknowns about health care reform right now,” Hawkins said. “That’s the real tragedy here.”

Churches should talk to their property and casualty provider to determine whether they have adequate coverage, Hawkins said. Many churches coming out of recent natural disasters have learned their coverage is not adequate to rebuild.

Another messenger asked Hawkins about GuideStone’s social screening policy on its investment products. 

The question referred to recent comments from the CEO of Starbucks Coffee in support of same-sex marriage as well as to a WORLD magazine article that called on people to divest in Starbucks stock.

“If we begin to go down this road, that is, divesting of a company and boycotting it because of statements or preferences made by their leaders, there would hardly be a company in the Fortune 500 group with which to invest,” Hawkins said. “If the questioner was consistent, he would also stop using Microsoft in his computer and cease use of his cell phone for those companies’ leaders have made similar statements.”

GuideStone is in sympathy with those who have concerns related to investing in certain companies, Hawkins said. 

GuideStone’s longstanding investment policy states, “Investments are prohibited in any company that is publicly recognized, as determined by GuideStone Financial Resources, as being in the liquor, tobacco, gambling, pornography or abortion industries, or any company whose products, services or activities are publicly recognized as being incompatible with the moral and ethical posture of GuideStone Financial Resources,” Hawkins said.

In administering the policy, GuideStone has placed more than 400 companies on a restricted list in which the entity does not invest. “We are continually monitoring and evaluating companies in regular monthly meetings,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins emphasized that the funds invested by GuideStone include no Cooperative Program dollars but represent the individual accounts of more than 200,000 participants.

“We are stewards of their money,” Hawkins said. “Periodic surveys and continued participation indicate the overwhelming majority of our participants – 98 percent – are in agreement with our investment policies.”

Expanding on the sources of those private accounts, Hawkins said most funds are administered in retirement accounts, like 403(b) or 401(k) accounts.

“Generally speaking, private, individual investors invest their monies in whatever way they determine necessary and appropriate,” Hawkins said. “However, GuideStone functions in a different environment with respect to retirement fund assets. GuideStone is held to a different standard as to how it invests participants’ dollars. As fiduciaries, we are subject to legal standards applied to fiduciaries, including ‘the prudent man rule.’ 

“The fiduciary is legally required to act prudently in the economic interest of those it serves,” Hawkins said. “We seek to maintain moral integrity in what we do, including not investing in more than 400 companies on our restricted list, while at the same time we are very conscientious to carry out our legal duties.”

Hawkins told messengers it is virtually impossible for anyone to function in contemporary society without carrying on relationships with businesses that profit from endeavors one might find objectionable. In these relationships, Hawkins stressed, investors inevitably provide financial support to companies or persons whose products, services or conduct might be morally repugnant to most Southern Baptists.

“For example, one should ask if it is ownership of a company or the purchasing of its product that causes it to prosper and grow,” Hawkins said. “Consider that many hotels provide access to alcoholic beverages in the lobby and in mini-bars in each room. Many provide options for adult television programming which most Southern Baptists would not choose. Yet, we as Southern Baptists patronize and spend our money at these hotels on virtually every trip we take, including the Southern Baptist Convention, state convention meetings and family vacations.

“Additionally, Southern Baptists continue to fly on airlines that serve and profit from alcohol even though alcohol use is against their personal moral convictions. We shop in grocery stores where beer, wine and tobacco are sold. We buy gasoline at convenience stores where beer is sold, and in some cases lottery tickets are available. We pay taxes and many own treasury bills with a government that is the largest contributor to Planned Parenthood.”

Hawkins said, “Someone might say, ‘I will not invest in any company on the stock exchange and instead just put my money in a savings account at the local bank.’ But the bank could loan money to a liquor store or some other objectionable business going in down the street.”

“If those who have zero tolerance with investments are consistent and follow this philosophy to the ‘nth’ degree, none of them would be flying on airlines, staying in hotels, eating in restaurants or buying groceries,” Hawkins said. “It is the patronage of the companies, more than stock ownership, that enables an enterprise to prosper.”

Hawkins emphasized that GuideStone is committed to its origin and identity as an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention. “When and if the SBC publicly boycotts a company, as it did with Disney in the early 1990s, we will consistently follow their lead,” Hawkins said.

“At the same time, we must function in a manner that is legally sound and sensitive to fiduciary and legal duties to maximize the economic return to participants while maintaining moral standards.”

“It is GuideStone’s position that by following our investment guidelines, it can make investments consistent with Christian principles and still adhere to our fiduciary obligations,” Hawkins said, citing GuideStone Funds being recognized by Lipper in as the Best Overall Small Fund Group in the U.S., ranking No. 1 out of 182 eligible companies with up to $40 billion in assets under management as of November 30, 2011. This marked the first time in Lipper’s history the award was given to a Christian-based, socially screened fund organization.

International Mission Board

After International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff presented IMB’s report, one messenger had a statement and request concerning the disposition of property overseas.

Doug Wendling, a messenger from First Baptist Church in Las Cruces, N.M., expressed concern about the disposition of IMB properties in East Asia. Wendling and his wife recently returned from a trip to Taiwan, he said, where they worked with a ministry that distributes Bibles to Chinese tourists from the mainland. While there, he heard of decisions that were being made about IMB-owned properties.

“While we are called to be good stewards, I don’t believe this decision should be made that will negatively impact this ministry over there,” Wendling said. “What I’m asking is that IMB will continue to seek God’s will and human wisdom in making decisions on the use of this property.” 

Elliff expressed appreciation for Wendling’s sentiment and explained that over the years there has been a “deliberate shift” in IMB’s strategy. Historically, he said, IMB missionaries were seen as “settlers,” moving to a location and acquiring property to settle there.

Today’s missionaries are encouraged to be more like “pioneers,” Elliff said, so that they don’t get so comfortable in one spot that they’re unwilling to move to help “turn on the lights” somewhere else.

“I don’t think the legacy we want to leave behind in other countries is property,” Elliff said. “It’s people knowing Jesus.” 

LifeWay Christian Resources

A messenger asked Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, to assure the convention that LifeWay Christian Stores would not sell resources “promoting dual covenant theology, prosperity preaching and tolerance of the sin of sodomy,” but did not identify specific materials.

“I certainly would not condone anything in our stores that affirms sodomy or those things you mentioned,” Rainer said. He asked the messenger to send him a list of the products of concern so that Rainer and his team could review the materials.

North American Mission Board

Messenger Robin Foster, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Russellville, Ark., asked North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell, “to clarify and define NAMB’s partnership, formal or informal, with the Acts 29 church planting network.”

“We plant Southern Baptist churches,” Ezell said. “Our church planters affirm the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and give to the Cooperative Program. We do not ask them what conferences they attend or what networks they connect with. We don’t ask them which books and magazines they read. But we partner with Southern Baptist churches to plant Southern Baptist churches. Would some of these be in the Acts 29 network? Yes. But our formal relationship is with the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson answered a question from the floor regarding the six SBC seminaries’ decision to decline reallocation of Cooperative Program funds from the seminaries to the International Mission Board. Brad Atkins of Powdersville First Baptist Church in Easley, S.C, asked the question.

Atkins, who made a motion for the reallocation at the 2012 annual meeting in New Orleans that was referred to the SBC Executive Committee and all six seminaries, asked Patterson for an explanation of their decision. 

The 2012 motion asked the seminaries to consider allowing their portion of the CP Allocation Budget to be reduced from 21.92 percent to 21 percent and requested that the EC allocate the remaining .92 percent to the IMB.

“Dr. Patterson, we have missionaries that are trained and ready to go, but unfortunately there are not enough Cooperative Program dollars for them to be sent,” Atkins said. 

Atkins then referenced his motion from the previous year and the seminaries’ joint decision to decline the reallocation before asking, “In light of Dr. Frank Page’s visionary leadership again this year in reducing the Executive Committee’s percentage of the Cooperative Program, which now goes to the IMB, would you care to share your thoughts as one of the men who was asked to research and pray over this action as to why this request was declined?”

Patterson thanked Atkins for his question and said he was happy to respond to it.

“There are several reasons why we did not choose to follow that request,” Patterson said. “The first one is that some years ago, our six seminaries were given a capital needs budget in the Southern Baptist Convention budget. 

“This amounted over a long period of time to untold millions of dollars that came to our six seminaries for capital needs,” Patterson said. “We decided that we could get along without that, and so before this initiative ever became an issue, we voted to give away that money and to give it to the International Mission Board and others who were working in the area of missions. 

“So, we already gave at the office and gave very generously and deeply more so than anyone else,” Patterson said. 

Also, Southern Baptist seminaries are committed to the world missions endeavor. Patterson told of IMB President Tom Elliff’s request for Southwestern to adopt an unreached people group as part of the IMB Embrace challenge. 

Patterson told Elliff that the seminary is not funded to do that but the seminary would accept the challenge and make financial sacrifices to do so. The seminary adopted the Antandroy people of Southern Madagascar and began sending teams over last year. In May, a Southwestern Seminary mission team witnessed more than 400 professions of faith among the Antandroy.

“I submit to you that the seminaries are hurting right now,” Patterson said. “We are victimized by the same financial liabilities that everybody has. We are doing the best that we can. We are the ones that rear up the next generation of missionaries. We train them. Every investment we make in one of these missions students is an investment in the International Mission Board and in world missions.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on reports by Dwayne Hastings of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Roy Hayhurst of GuideStone Financial Resources, Laura Fielding of the International Mission Board, Marty King of LifeWay Christian Resources, Joe Conway of the North American Mission Board and Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/24/2013 3:54:06 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Black servants to resume journal

June 24 2013 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – The Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants’ Network will resurrect its journal with online editions on the website of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), managing editor Leroy Fountain announced June 10.

Fountain, a national coordinator for church mobilization for the North American Mission Board, reported the rebirth of The Journal of African-American Southern Baptist History in remarks at the National African American Fellowship business meeting in Houston. The first online issue will appear this fall, Fountain said.

“You’ve not seen the Journal of African American Baptist history in several years. We have entered into a partnership ... with New Orleans Seminary and we have made an arrangement to post the journal as an online document,” Fountain said. “And if anyone needs the journal they will be able to go to the New Orleans Seminary website and pull that document from there.”

Describing the value of moving the journal online, Fountain said, “Number one, it gives the journal an elevated sense of presence in terms of its academic reality,” he said. “We have great writers doing the work of preserving the history of what African Americans have done in this Southern Baptist Convention. It is being archived now in such a way that we don’t have to go through the dusty box in somebody’s closet to pull out an article from years ago, make copies of it and mail it to somebody in another part of the country. You can just go to the website, download it and use it as you will.”

Photo by Van Payne
Eugene McCormick, president and strategist with the Florida Baptist Convention’s African American Church Development Team, speaks at the Black Denominational Servants Network June 10 at Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in Houston. The event was held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 11-12 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

Secondly, the arrangement with NOBTS will make the journal more attractive to the academic community, Fountain said, providing “an opportunity to have persons ... make contributions to the journal where they might not have made contributions to it in the past. Not only does that student have an opportunity to be published, but we have an opportunity to have captured those thoughts, captured those ideas from some bright academician.

“Then we have a document that is extremely beneficial to the academic community and to the country and the world at large.”

The journal archiving the history of SBC African American contributions to the Kindgom was the brainchild of the late Sid Smith, servants’ network founder. The journal has not been published since June 2009, months after Smith’s death.

The network, composed of black workers at national and state Baptist entities, held a breakfast meeting June 10 at Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church in Houston, where members discussed strategies to widen the network’s membership base and maximize the network’s effectiveness.

In his presidential address, network president Eugene McCormick encouraged members to live sacrificially as models of leadership defending God’s Word.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/24/2013 3:46:40 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Messianics urged to focus on the Kingdom

June 24 2013 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – If Southern Baptists and the Jewish nation are to become one, the church must focus on the Kingdom of God and realize Gentiles were grafted into the church, Messianic rabbi Jay Fielding told Messianic believers at their annual meeting in Houston.

The Bible shows God’s progression of building the church from the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden through a return to the Tree of Life in Revelation, Fielding said, rejecting a replacement theology.

“Instead of looking at it as God rejected Israel when they sinned and they were exiled,” Fielding said, “understand that it’s just the progressive cycle of relationship between God and humanity and that He promised [Israel] redemption.”

Fielding, founder of Beth Chaim Messianic Community Network, was among the featured speakers at the 2013 Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship Encampment Meeting, hosted by Beth Yeshua HaMashiach Messianic Jewish Synagogue on the campus of Sharpstown Baptist Church in Houston. Messianics gathered for worship, edification and a business session June 7-8 in advance of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Photo by Beth Byrd
Rabbi Jay Fielding, founder of Beth Chaim Messianic Community Network, spoke during the June 8 worship service of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship, held in conjunction with the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. The fellowship met at Beth Yeshua HaMashiach Messianic Jewish Synagogue, based on the campus of Sharpstown Baptist Church in Houston.  

“There’s been a dissolution between the roots of understanding that the church is just a progression” Fielding told Baptist Press after his message. “I’m not here to come down on folks. I came down just as much on the Messianics in there. It’s about the Kingdom and I’m suggesting that they start focusing on the Kingdom.”

Fielding said the land of Israel was given as a blessing to the Jewish people and Gentiles.

“The church needs to make changes in their understanding of their relationship to Israel and the Jewish people. We have the Holy Spirit in us and we have the power to change first,” Fielding said. “Basically, it’s understanding that through Israel God loved [the church]. Just like He didn’t reject humanity when He kicked them out of the garden, He didn’t reject Israel. But He promised a new covenant and that the new covenant we live in is that the non-Jewish people of our world who accept Him, that come into the church are grafted into the covenant promises of Israel.”

Fielding said the church could better represent Christ by understanding and embracing the various feasts God taught in Scripture.

“It’s so easy to have a teaching on the feasts to remember them. It’s not like you have to do sacrifice anymore; we don’t do that. Passover could be a festival that those that want to, do it; it’s not legalism,” Fielding said, promoting both Passover and Pentecost celebrations, even in addition to Easter.

“There’s nothing wrong with Easter, but it would be better called Resurrection Day,” Fielding said. “Our church does that; we call it Resurrection Day, but you don’t do that versus the Passover where Jesus actually died and was resurrected.”

Fielding did not promote celebrating the feasts so much as focusing on the Kingdom of God.

“I wasn’t in there basically telling everybody to do the feasts or do the law; that was not what I was talking about. I was showing that there’s an attitude in the church that God has replaced Israel and that the things that He gave them are no longer there. That’s not what the Bible says,” Fielding said. “It shows it as a progression. Just like He didn’t reject Adam and Eve [He didn’t reject Israel]. He says we’re going back toward the opportunity to eat of the tree of life in Revelation so we can live forever in the Kingdom of God.”

Amy Downey, director and missionary of Tezdakah Ministries and a professor of Arlington Baptist College in Arlington, Texas, also spoke at the meeting, as did the fellowship’s president, Messianic rabbi Ric Worshill; Bob Burton, North American Mission Board Midwest Region mobilizer and Send City coordinator; senior rabbi Jim Pratt of the host synagogue; and Boaz Michael, founder of First Fruits of Zion Ministries in Marshfield, Mo.

In the Messianic fellowship’s business meeting, the group elected executive officers and managers, choosing Worshill as president and executive director; Fielding as director of Region 1, encompassing the Northeast Region and islands, and Fielding and Downing as members of the nominating committee.

Other officers are Bruce Stokes, vice president and director of missions; Mike Herts, missions development manager; Randall Clark, ministry development manager; Mike Saffle, ministry training manager; and Connie Saffle, secretary. A treasurer will be appointed, Worshill said.

Other regional directors are Jay Isbell, Region 2 for the South and East; Hal Garrett, Region 2 for the South and West; John Denson, Region 3 for the Midwest; and Robin Rose and Trevor Embry, both representing Region 4 for the West. An additional Region 3 directorship and a Region 5 directorship (Canada) remained vacant after elections, Worshill said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ staff writer. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/24/2013 3:39:55 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Istanbul pastor shows hope to protesters

June 24 2013 by Ralph Brock, Baptist Press

ISTANBUL – While protesters and police furiously clash in Istanbul, a pastor there is quietly continuing his ministry.

Nicholas* lives and works in Taksim, the epicenter of the increasingly violent encounters of recent days in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. In the most recent clashes, tear gas invaded Nicholas’ home, forcing his children to abandon their bedrooms and sleep in the living room where it was bearable.

Despite the turmoil, Nicholas said he and his family are not afraid. He is concerned about the uncertainty of the future of Turkey but believes it is a blessing to lead a church so close to the action.

“It is important that the church continue normally and demonstrate our faith,” he said. “God is the ultimate authority to whom we submit.”

Nicholas said he believes his nervous neighbors need to see the peace that is evident among followers of Christ. On Father’s Day, Nicholas led 30 people in a subdued worship service despite the brewing threat of violence on the street.

A protester dons the now-symbolic protest mask and goggles in Istanbul, Turkey, and situates himself in the driver’s seat of a bus heavily damaged by anti-government demonstrators.

Refusing to be distracted by the events swirling around him, Nicholas said, “Our mission is beyond this neighborhood and really beyond this world.”

He said he admires the passion of the protesters who flocked to Istanbul’s Gezi Park, but he sees a lack of clear purpose and goals. That is a sharp contrast to his mission of sharing the real hope that comes from having a personal relationship with God, he said.

A few days earlier, Gezi Park had been the site of tens of thousands of protesters singing, dancing and drinking in defiance of the prime minister. That party is clearly over; driven out of the park by the police, the protesters have fled and taken to the streets. In addition to being battered and shaken, they are angry and defiant, demanding a change in the country’s leadership. To the protesters, Nicholas says, “Ultimately we find our confidence in God.”

There is a growing fear among Christians in Turkey, but Nicholas said there is always something to fear because Christians live in a broken world. 

“Every day there is something to fear – tear gas, cancer, flu and other illness,” he said. 

But Christians shouldn’t overcome fear, he explained, by “self-righteousness or willpower.” Victory over fear, Nicholas said, only comes from God.

“If we live life in fear and depression, we’ve stopped living,” he said.

The church will continue on as it always has, because there needs to be a place for people to hear the Gospel. “There are many more dangerous places in the world where our brothers and sisters in Christ meet faithfully,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas asks for prayer for Turkey’s leaders to rule with wisdom and justice. For the citizens of Turkey, he prays they would discover the true hope that can be found in God.

*Names changed for security reasons.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ralph Brock is a writer for the International Mission Board based in Central Asia.)
6/24/2013 3:32:42 PM by Ralph Brock, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Blackwell celebrates 30 years with Baptist Children's Homes

June 21 2013 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

On July 1, Michael Blackwell will celebrate 30 years as head of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH). With his booming voice, quirky sense of humor, wit and charisma, it doesn’t take long to discover why people are naturally drawn to this man.
If asked about Blackwell, many would agree he is among today’s most respected N.C. Baptists. For those who are new to the state, the list of his achievements since he took the reigns of BCH at age 41 can seem a little overwhelming.
As president, Blackwell has cut through many ribbons to dedicate new facilities. He’s helped lead the organization through the daunting accreditation process. He’s written four books. He’s spearheaded major capitol campaigns and initiatives, which include the organization’s increased focus on families and efforts to help single mothers raise their children in godly homes.
Under Blackwell’s leadership, BCH has also expanded to 19 communities throughout the state. In addition to ministering to children, today BCH cares for developmentally disabled adults, and assists the elderly through North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM).

BR photo by Shawn Hendricks
Michael Blackwell has spent 30 years leading the Baptist Children’s Homes. He makes the children a priority, not politics.

“[Blackwell’s] passion to help children and families is truly remarkable,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
“[He] inspires and encourages churches all across this state to have fulfilled our biblical mandate to reach out to the least.”
Hollifield shared his comments this spring during the North Carolina Baptist Heritage Award ceremony in Greensboro, where Blackwell delivered the keynote address.
Few institutional leaders in N.C. Baptist history have reached the 30-year milestone, Hollifield said. 

Hollifield, who shares the same birthday as Blackwell (May 3), went on to describe the BCH leader – who he and others refer to as “Mickey” – as a great friend, innovative, “creative in an ever-changing world,” “forward thinking” and a “true statesman.”
“Highly relational” are the words Blake Ragsdale, BCH director of communications, used when asked to describe his boss. “I’ll get a text message out of the blue from [Blackwell], ‘Have you gone to see this movie? What did you think about that?’” Ragsdale said. “He allows himself to be that way with staff.”
“People not only respond well to him, but he responds so well to others,” Ragsdale added. “It’s a lot of the reason why the Children’s Homes has been so successful. … That trickles right down to internal relationships as well, too.”
But for Blackwell, all of his successes comes down to his “burning desire to make a difference.” “At the end of the day, what have I done to make life better? I ask myself that almost every day. … Sometimes I go, ‘not a whole lot,’” said Blackwell.
Blackwell flipped through images on his phone of some developmentally disabled adults who visited him the previous day. One of them was grinning ear to ear as he sat in Blackwell’s office chair.
“Sometimes ... like yesterday, I go, ‘Well, I made life better for 12 people, I think,’” he said. “They made my life happier.”
Building strong relationships, trust and respect takes many years. “That doesn’t come in the first five years; It took a long time,” he said.
A former chair of the trustees once described Blackwell as having “unique talents, personality and commitments” that fit well with the president position.
Blackwell, a native of Gastonia, graduated from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism in 1964. He’d written for The Charlotte Observer, the Raleigh Times and The Durham Morning Herald. He also worked as a disc jockey and director of a radio station.
But Blackwell felt God pulling him toward ministry.
He went on to receive a master of divinity, master of theology and doctor of ministry degrees at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He served as a youth leader and associate pastor for Ridge Road Baptist Church in Raleigh and pastor of First Baptist Church Carthage and Monument Heights Baptist Church in Richmond, Va.
All of those experiences, Blackwell said, helped equip him for his role at BCH. Blackwell has also completed post-graduate work in management, business and theology.
Blackwell said he wants to be remembered for running a “steady ship” and an organization that is stronger today than it has ever been.
A lot has changed in residential care since Blackwell took the reigns as president I 1983. One major difference, he said, has involved the “higher degree of trauma” that children encounter in homes today.
“That can be trauma from … a drug addicted parent, parents who pimp out their daughter to get drug money,” he said.
“We’ve had that happen. … They’ve witnessed their father shooting their mother. The level of trauma … is higher, or at least more open and known, than it was.”
Blackwell recalled when much of the media didn’t address sexual abuse issues.
“They wouldn’t use it,” he said. “That was in 1983. Now you read it all over the place.”
In addition to awareness, reaching out to families has made a big difference in the organization’s effectiveness, Blackwell said.
“When I came it was basically just [about] the child,” Blackwell said. “The family was kind of over here, sort of a nebulous figure. … Now they’ve got to be a part of [the process].”

Staying focused

Blackwell also has worked hard to steer BCH clear of politics – especially Baptist politics.
“Keep it about the children,” he said. “… You keep it about the mission, the vision, sharing hope, changing lives, and then everybody can resonate to that.”
“[BCH is for] all North Carolina Baptists,” Blackwell added. “I am friends with a lot of pastors.
“Half the time I don’t know if they are moderate, conservative, arch-conservative. It’s got to be about the children. And our staff understands that. … If they get invited to a church, they go. … 
“The churches are our lifeline.”
Blackwell, whose favorite verse is Philippians 4:13, said his faith keeps him focused and grounded.
“I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me,” Blackwell said. “That was my favorite verse when [my wife and I] were dating. … It’s still that [verse].” 

Looking ahead

For now the 71-year-old shrugs off talk about retirement.
A year ago Blackwell began shifting more responsibility over to his chief operating officer Keith Henry. But Blackwell said he isn’t going anywhere – at least for now.
He still has plenty of work in front of him.
This year BCH will begin a “big” three-year statewide campaign to increase financial support for the organization.
“I have to be here for that; that’s going to be something that’s going to consume the bulk of my energy for the next several years,” he said.
“When I get through that, successfully, then I will be able to say, ‘OK, now what do we need to do?’”
And when he’s not working, Blackwell said he enjoys simply spending time with his wife Catherine and their two adult children – Julie and Michael – and two grandchildren.
“Outside of that, I try to take care of myself. I try to eat right, get some exercise,” he said. “As far as refinishing furniture or going out here to the golf course or taking up lacrosse or learning Chinese, no thank you.”
“If I can still stay excited and my health stays the way it is, I’ve got a few more years left.”
For more information, visit bchfamily.org.

(EDITORS NOTE – In the print publication of the Biblical Recorder, there was a special layout for this particular story. It covered the center spread of the June 22 issue and included a special timeline of major events throughout Baptist Childrens Homes history. To order your copy, call 919-847-2127 or visit brnow.org to find out how you can subscribe or get a copy.)
6/21/2013 11:29:54 AM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 1 comments

Southern Baptists weigh in on Exodus closing

June 21 2013 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

IRVINE, Calif. – Southern Baptist leaders are sharing their thoughts after Exodus International, a decades-old ministry of helping people overcome homosexual behavior, announced June 19 it is closing down. The organization’s president, Alan Chambers, also issued a public apology to people who have been hurt by the ministry.
“Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered,” said Chambers in his written statement, alluding also to the development of a new ministry to “reduce fear.”

Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the folding of Exodus International “doesn’t mean the folding of an evangelical sexual ethic, though it does mean a move away from a therapeutic model of sexual sanctification.”

“Evangelical Christianity increasingly addresses sexual issues more in line with the older Christian tradition of sin and temptation and triumph than with the language of therapy,” Moore told Baptist Press. “We can’t have a utopian view of overcoming temptation of any sort.”

Jesus never promises any Christian freedom from temptation, Moore said, but He does promise the power of the Spirit to fight against the pull to temptation, whatever the temptation may be.

“Increasingly churches are addressing persons with same-sex attractions the same way they address everyone else: in terms of the gospel and a lifelong call to take up one’s cross and follow Christ,” Moore said. “This means the Christian grappling with same-sex attractions needs to hear that the gospel addresses him or her, and that this person needs the whole body of Christ, in community, not just an accountability group of those who are defined by the same temptations.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said it became clear last year – when Chambers suggested that people can persist in homosexual behavior and still receive the salvation that Jesus offers – that Chambers and Exodus International were rethinking their understanding of a Christian approach to homosexuality.

“Sadly, it appears that this rethinking has resulted in something like a surrender to the cultural currents of the day,” Mohler told Baptist Press. 

Chambers’ apology was to appear on an episode of “Our America” with Lisa Ling on the Oprah Winfrey Network June 20, but in a speech at the Exodus Freedom conference at Concordia College in Irvine, Calif., Wednesday night and in a statement released earlier that day, Chambers said he must “finally own and acknowledge the hurt of others.”

File photo from Exodus International
Alan Chambers of Exodus International, in 2006, and other pro-family groups protested at the American Psychological Association over its stance that homosexuality cannot be changed.  

“It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the church’s treatment of the LBGT community, and also to be someone who must apologize for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt,” Chambers wrote. “Today it is as if I’ve just woken up to a greater sense of how painful it is to be a sinner in the hands of an angry church.”

Chambers, who has served as president of Exodus International for 11 years, said his newfound beliefs “center around grace,” rather than sin. 

“I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. ... And then there is the trauma that I have caused,” Chambers wrote, pointing to his decision for years not to disclose his own ongoing same-sex attractions.

Chambers’ apology continued, “I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. ... 

“I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart.”

Most of all, Chambers said, he regrets that people have interpreted “this religious rejection by Christians” as God’s rejection, and he said he will never again allow his beliefs about marriage and sex to interfere with loving his neighbor. 

Bob Stith, who served Southern Baptists as a national strategist for gender issues until funding for the position ceased last year, told Baptist Press he has no problem with making apologies and asking for forgiveness.

“I personally have known many men, women and parents who have been hurt by well-meaning words and actions by ministries, individuals and churches,” Stith, a former Exodus International board member, said. “To that extent, this apology could hopefully challenge us to be more thoughtful and Christ-like as we interact with an increasingly secular society.”

But Stith took issue with some components of Chambers’ apology, including the statement about gay parents being every bit as capable.

“While it may well be true that some same-sex couples have provided more stable and loving environments for children than some heterosexual couples, this statement seems to ignore that scripture only gives one pattern for family and nowhere can I find any justification to change that,” Stith said.

“Our standard must remain a total allegiance to scripture and not to the changing whims of culture,” Stith said.

Also, when Chambers apologized for communicating that homosexual families are “less than me and mine,” Stith said it’s not a matter of whose marriage is better but what God’s standard is.

“If [God] has a standard – which I clearly believe that He does – should we not be doing all in our power to uphold that standard and to call all creation into alignment with that standard?” Stith said.

Such statements from Chambers, Stith said, conflict with Chambers’ statement that God’s standard for sexual expression is between a man and a woman in marriage, causing “unnecessary confusion.”

Stith also warned that in the televised apology, Chambers appears alongside people who have been hurt by various ministries and the people are given the opportunity to vent their frustrations without the ministries being offered a response.

The Orlando-based Exodus International, with 260 member ministries worldwide, announced the decision to close after a unanimous vote by its board of directors who for a year, according to a news release, discussed and prayed about “the organization’s place in a changing culture.”

“We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change – and they want to be heard,” board member Tony Moore said in the news release.

Randy Thomas, executive vice president of Exodus International, told The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville that the group – going forward under a new name, reportedly to be announced late June 20 – will no longer aim to help people change from homosexual to heterosexual attractions.

“Providing help for people to turn from gay to straight is something we’ve distanced ourselves from,” Thomas said. Instead, the new mission will be to help people achieve a better relationship with Jesus without judgment, he said.

Mohler, in his comments to Baptist Press, described the Exodus announcement as “not a course correction – it is a capitulation.”

“The statements from Alan Chambers and Exodus International indicate that they have lost confidence in both the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Mohler said.

“The normalization of homosexuality contradicts the Bible’s consistent condemnation of all same-sex sexuality as sin. The rejection of the hope for change for homosexuals (as for all sinners) indicates a tragic loss of confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Mohler said.

In that light, he added, “it is far better for the ministry to disband than to misrepresent the Christian community and the gospel.”

Chambers’ personal comments, Mohler said, “are both troubling and confusing,” particularly his statements about sin.

“While Alan Chambers is right when he insists that our beliefs do not center on ‘sin’ because ‘sin’ isn’t at the center of our faith, he seems to have lost sight of the fact that Christ came to save us from our sin,” Mohler said. “Thus, sin is inseparable from our story of salvation in Christ.”

The news of Exodus International’s closing makes for a sad day for the Christian church, Mohler said, because the collapse of any ministry that had once served the cause of the gospel is a tragedy. He noted that this collapse was progressive, not instantaneous.

“The greatest tragedy is that persons experiencing same-sex attractions or involved in same-sex sexuality will be further confused by the capitulation of Exodus International,” Mohler said.

Russell Moore, in his comments to Baptist Press, said, “The Christian church has always maintained that sexual expression is directed only toward the one-flesh union of male and female in marriage.

“Anything else is to be turned away from, regardless of how difficult that is. The church has also maintained that all are fallen people who can be forgiven by the blood of Christ and who can receive power to walk according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh,” Moore said. “We shouldn’t be offering cures or quick fixes, but gospel.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
6/21/2013 11:26:01 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Displaying results 21-30 (of 121)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10  >  >|