June 2013

WMU addresses human exploitation, pornography

June 17 2013 by Julie Walters, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – For 125 years, Woman’s Missionary Union has focused on a singular purpose of engaging churches in missions, Wanda S. Lee, executive director of national WMU, told messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston.

“Throughout our history, addressing critical needs facing each generation has also been a part of our work,” Lee said. “From hunger to AIDS to violence and more, WMU has tried to raise the level of awareness of each issue within the church while offering suggestions for how Christians should respond.”

Over the past three years, WMU has focused attention and provided resources to help churches address various aspects of human exploitation, such as bullying, human trafficking and exploiting the environment.

This year, Lee said WMU is focusing on “one of the most significant issues related to human exploitation that is affecting our families and churches ... the issue of pornography.”

Debby Akerman, president of national WMU and a member of Ocean View Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach, S.C., shared the following statistics:
  • Every second, more than $3,000 is being spent on pornography.
  • Every 39 minutes, a new pornographic video is made in the United States.
  • There are at least 100,000 websites that offer illegal child pornography.
  • The average age of a child’s first exposure to Internet pornography is 11 years old.
  • More than 11 million teenagers engage in Internet pornography on a regular basis.
  • Of divorces, 56 percent involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.
In partnership with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Jay Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla., WMU launched the Join One Million Men in the War Against Pornography campaign in Houston.

“Through this campaign, we are calling out one million men to live free of pornography and challenging one million women to commit to pray for their spouses, sons and friends as we work together to combat this evil that is destroying our families and invading our churches,” Lee said.

As a church-based initiative, the campaign includes several resources produced by New Hope Publishers, a division of WMU:
  • Our Hardcore Battle Plan A-Z, a 32-page booklet for men
  • Our Hardcore Battle Plan: 1 Million Women Praying, a 32-page prayer booklet for women
  • Our Hardcore Battle Plan: Joining in the War Against Pornography, a book for men
  • Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives: Winning in the War Against Pornography, a book for wives
  • Our Hardcore Battle Plan DVD, a small group resource and planning guide for churches.
Also available are a website, www.Join1MillionMen.org; a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/JoinOneMillionMen; and a free app with access to a daily scripture and other resources to assist individual believers in the daily war against pornography.

Photo by Bill Bangham
Wanda Lee, executive director of the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), speaks about the legacy of developing women leaders during the organization’s 125th anniversary celebration. WMU is also joining in the push to raise awareness about pornography. New Hope Publishers, a division of WMU, published materials to promote the John 1 Million Men movement.

Messengers in Houston were encouraged to visit a campaign booth in the SBC exhibit hall to learn more about the movement. Dennis, author and founder of Join One Million Men, along with other men from his church, were there to answer questions about how to get involved in the movement. Representatives of WMU and New Hope were in their booths to tell about the Join One Million Women Praying effort.

“You may be thinking, ‘Why is WMU tackling such a difficult issue?’” Lee said. “And my response would be, ‘If not WMU, then who?’ Paul challenges us in Ephesians 4:1 to ‘walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.’

“Who will join us in the campaign to bring all men and women, boys and girls into an awareness of the seriousness of this issue,” Lee said, “and the knowledge of God’s love for all of us as He desires a pure and worthy life lived in devotion to Him? As we begin this yearlong celebration of 125 years of missions involvement through WMU, let’s join together and make a difference for Christ.”

Lee also announced that those present at the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting June 9-10 in Houston elected Akerman to a fourth term as president and Rosalie Hunt of Guntersville, Ala., to a fifth term as recording secretary of national WMU.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Walters is the corporate communications team leader for WMU. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/17/2013 4:26:08 PM by Julie Walters, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Be ‘Totally His,’ Elliff urges Baptists

June 14 2013 by Laura Fielding, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff challenged Southern Baptists to commit to being “Totally His” and cooperate for the sake of the gospel during the mission board’s report at the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in Houston.

Now is the time of greatest lostness in the world, Elliff said, when nearly 1 billion people are likely to die without ever hearing the gospel in a way they can understand or respond. But also during this time, access has never been easier and resources have never been more abundant. 

“God has given Southern Baptists something incredible, and that is an understanding of what it means to cooperate,” Elliff said. “... The essence of [the Cooperative Program] is that we found out how to work together. Are we going to let that slide? Are we going to retrench in this day of the world’s greatest lostness? Are we going to refuse to sacrifice?” 

It started in Montana

Elliff began telling a story that spans decades, lives and continents – from Montana to the mountains of Ecuador to southern Asia. At the heart of this story, he said, are two issues: first, people who are totally His and, second, people who have learned “the secret” of cooperating – a secret that Southern Baptists need to recapture.

Photo by Thomas Graham
Tom Elliff, IMB president, challenged Southern Baptists to commit to being “Totally His” for international missions and to cooperate together for the gospel in IMB’s presentation during the SBC Annual Meeting June 11-12 in Houston. 

The story began in a church: Paramount Baptist Church of Amarillo, Texas. Sam Cordell* had been taught about missions by his church and even went on two international mission trips. One day, Cordell was intrigued by his church’s planned mission trip to Montana and decided to join them. 

Something happened there, Elliff said, that meant Cordell was going to personally multiply exponentially. Dub Finley, a church planter in Montana, explained through a video how his daughter Debbie* met Cordell during his mission trip and eventually married him. 

“It was obvious when they decided to get married that missions was going to be in their lives very much,” Finley said. “At that point, we weren’t sure just how, but we knew where his heart was and my daughter’s, too.” 

After seminary, the Cordells returned to Montana as church planters. There they formed an important relationship with the Montana Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU). For more than 30 years, members of the Montana WMU have been prayer partners with the Cordells in their ministry. Paula Rasmussen, director of Montana WMU, shared in the video how partnering with the Cordells had impacted her. 

“The best part of my relationship with Sam and Debbie has just been the fact that you feel like you’re a part of a missionary adventure,” Rasmussen said. 

It spread to South America

Sam and Debbie became burdened for the world and were appointed as IMB missionaries to South America in 1991, first serving in Chile then in Ecuador where they worked with the Quichua Indians. Since Sam and Debbie have a “unique ability to invite people in on the journey with them,” Elliff said, they began to partner with many Southern Baptist short-term mission teams. 

Gary Hollingsworth, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Trussville, Ala., and now pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., spoke about how both churches had partnered with the Cordells in Ecuador. 

For Immanuel, getting involved in missions was “our first step in terms of really going beyond giving,” Hollingsworth said. “We’d always been a strong giving church, but it really set a high standard on our going.” 

Through the work of partners like Immanuel Baptist and the Cordells, “God began to bless among the Quichua,” Elliff said. In less than a decade, Cordell had discipled and trained 200 Quichua believers to share the gospel, and trained 41 Quichua to plant churches. In the process, one of the men began to stand out – Cebrian Boli­var*, who planted and led 26 churches himself.

After some time, the Cordells began to realize their work among the Quichua was drawing to a close, and they began to think about serving in another area of the world. 

“We’re not to be settlers, we’re to be pioneers,” Elliff said. “We’re not to just settle down and enjoy the light ... Sam wanted to be a person who punched holes in the darkness.” 

When the Cordells announced they were leaving South America for southern Asia, Bolivar asked if he could come with them. Cordell sensed that Bolivar was truly called – but warned him it would not be easy.

Bolivar was not an obvious choice as a missionary candidate – he grew up on a small farm in the Andes Mountains where farmers eke out a meager income. Of the 20 Christian families who would be supporting him, only two had any kind of motorized vehicle. 

And then his father, although a believer, opposed his going. Bolivar, one of 10 children, was expected to take over his father’s farm and care for him in old age. 

One day Boli­var asked his father: “If you had 10 sheep, how many of those belong to the Lord?” 

“One,” his father answered. 

“What about 10 chickens?” Boli­var asked.

“Well, one,” his father responded.

“Father, you have 10 children,” Boli­var said. “Shouldn’t one of them go to the Lord?” 

And his father said, “So, son, it must be you.” 

It moved to Asia

Boli­var has now been working in southern Asia with Cordell for nearly two years, making new friends and learning English and Hindi. In a video, Boli­var said he is there because of God’s calling in his heart, and sharing God’s love is the “most beautiful thing” we can do. 

“It was unbelievable how God could touch the life of a young man like this and put that call – that he just has to do it for God,” Cordell said. 

Even with the Quichua believers bonding together, there was not enough money to fully support Boli­var, Cordell said. But Immanuel Baptist Church has helped support him as well.

Elliff then asked if the crowd would like to meet Boli­var, and he appeared on the screen through Skype. 

At first, Boli­var said through translation by Cordell, “It was so hard for me to really believe that God was calling me. It was tough. But I felt love for these people so far away in South Asia that I knew God was calling me.” 

When Elliff asked if they would pray for Boli­var, the crowd of several thousand overwhelmingly indicated they would. 

Cordell said Boli­var has had many opportunities to share his faith with people in southern Asia. One young man named Chaggi has accepted Jesus Christ through a relationship with Boli­var and is now the third generation of witness in this legacy of faith. 

5 challenges

The Cordells’ story is not the story of just one church or one man and his wife, Elliff said. It is the story of Southern Baptists cooperating to touch the ends of the earth – through the work and partnership of Southern Baptist churches, Southern Baptist seminaries, WMU, IMB, the Quichua of Ecuador and the people of southern Asia. 

“This is only a microcosm,” Elliff said. “... This could be repeated time and time and time again.

“... Are we going to retrench? Are we going to back up?” he asked. “... Would it not be the case that if we would give ourselves to putting our hot hearts around the stackpole of international missions that God might smile on Southern Baptists and give us more days?

“Oh, God, I pray that that would be the case. And I pray that you and I would decide to be totally His, absolutely surrender to Him.” 

In closing, Elliff gave the crowd five challenges:
  • Pray for the unreached and your Southern Baptist missionaries working among them every day.
  • Engage with your church in support of global mission every week.
  • Pray with your church for a genuine revival that produces laborers for the harvest every month.
  • Participate in one of your church’s global missions projects every year.
  • Offer yourself as a faithful witness every day, for the rest of your life. 
People willing to commit to those five things can find resources to help in their journey at www.totallyhis.imb.org.

*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Fielding is a writer for the International Mission Board. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/14/2013 3:36:05 PM by Laura Fielding, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ezell: More missionaries, church planters needed

June 14 2013 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell, during his report to the SBC annual meeting, called on Southern Baptists to dramatically increase the number of missionaries and church planters being sent to the North American mission field.

“This year we have 600 student missionaries,” Ezell told messengers June 11 in Houston. “In a convention with 45,000 churches and 16 million members, that is not bad, that is pathetic. We must have 6,000 student missionaries every year.”

Ezell’s presentation included an overview of NAMB’s strategy and spotlighted several key ministry areas.

“Our mission is to penetrate lostness in North America. Our strategy is Send North America,” Ezell told messengers.

“We seek to partner with you and your church to penetrate lostness by planting healthy, evangelistic churches,” Ezell said, reporting that 929 new Southern Baptist churches were planted in 2012, with another 155 joining the SBC by affiliation. He noted that 2,589 churches have become engaged in the Send North America strategy.

“Churches plant churches, and we only plant Southern Baptist churches,” Ezell said. “We have raised the bar on our church planter assessment and all planters must affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and give to the Cooperative Program and other Great Commission [causes].”

Photo by Susan Whitley/NAMB
Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma disaster relief director Sam Porter, left, briefs North American Mission Board president Kevin Ezell on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) efforts in Oklahoma City following deadly tornadoes there in May. Porter came to report to messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston following 23 straight days of service directing SBDR efforts in central Oklahoma.

Ezell told messengers that “too many churches are sick, plateaued and are dying.” To help remedy this Ezell said NAMB has sponsored nine church revitalization conferences led by Johnny Hunt in nine states and launched a Pastor for Pastors initiative.

“Your generosity to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering resulted in a 1.9 percent increase in giving totaling $57.2 million [in 2012],” Ezell said. “Thank you, Southern Baptists.”

A full 81 percent of people in North America live in cities, Ezell said as he shared that NAMB has identified 32 Send North America cities on which to focus, with a missionary serving as a Send City coordinator deployed to each one. 

Additionally NAMB’s goal is to have at least one church planting catalyst for each 1 million people in North America. Ezell said this is not a hard rule, noting the adjustment in Alaska with a total population of 750,000 people but with three major cities. There will be three catalysts in Alaska.

On balance, in states like Mississippi where there is one SBC church for every 1,385 people, Ezell said Southern Baptists have done well. But he said resources and priorities must recognize places like New Jersey where there is one church for every 78,760 people, or Canada with one church for every 115,040.

A combination of increasing the birth rate of church plants and decreasing the death rate of existing churches is needed, Ezell said, not for the sake of church numbers but for the people those churches will reach – people like Stephanie Barbaro of Detroit who was featured in a video shown at the convention and who came to faith through the ministry of Lakepointe Community Church and planter Scott Blanchard.

“We need a thousand more Scotts because there are a million more Stephanies,” Ezell said, introducing Blanchard and his wife Karen on the platform. Lakepointe launched in 2010 and has baptized more than 60 people.

“Detroit is postmodern and difficult to reach,” said Blanchard, who is 80 percent deaf. “It is dark and becoming darker. We need more churches to communicate true light. We need more churches to step up and be involved.” 

Asked about his personal challenges, Blanchard said people told him he could not be a pastor, but he believed that God made him and God could use him.

“I am thankful for the people who believed in me,” Blanchard said. “I am thankful for my wife. I am thankful for NAMB for believing in me.”

Ezell said, “We know where the next generation of missionaries are: They are in your churches.” He introduced NAMB’s “Farm System,” a strategy to help reach a goal of 15,000 new church plants in the next 10 years.

The number of student missionaries, Ezell said, must grow from the current 600 to 6,000 each year. The next level in the Farm System – church planting interns – must grow from the current 125 to 3,000 annually. 

Church planter apprentices, NAMB’s final level of training before a missionary becomes a church planter, need to increase from the current 125 apprentices to 1,500 per year in order to meet the need for 1,500 church plants each year.

To help existing churches, Ezell pointed to church revitalization. 

“There are churches that are sick and dying and they are in denial,” Ezell said. “I pray your church can come alongside them and help bring them back to health.” 

He said dying churches can become legacy church plants, passing on their resources.

Ezell next introduced Chaplain Maj. Gen. (retired) Doug Carver, who encouraged churches to be prepared for returning military chaplains and troops who have been deployed in the war on terror. 

Carver, a member of First Baptist Church, Matthews, N.C., introduced a video of Charles Woods being interviewed about his late son, Navy Seal Tyrone Woods, who was killed defending U.S. diplomats under attack in Benghazi, Libya, last September.

The video featured NAMB-endorsed Navy Chaplain Commander Don Biadog who was part of the chaplain team who ministered to the Woods family at the funeral service. Biadog came to the platform to a standing ovation.

“I told the family that God will never abandon them,” Biadog said, “and that Jesus loves them. Our ministry of presence helps remind them that God does care.”

A video detailing the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response to the May 20 tornado in Moore, Okla., followed.

Sam Porter, disaster relief director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, joined Ezell onstage to thank Southern Baptists for their prayers and support.

“Four thousand people lost their homes in the Oklahoma City area,” Porter said. “We have responded to 878 of those homeowners in the first three weeks because of trained volunteers assisting us from across the country.” 

In addition, Porter said Oklahoma Baptists already have distributed $895,000 to survivors.

Because “we want to connect the help that we provide with the hope that is in Christ,” Ezell shared a new television ad that will be used to raise awareness about Baptist relief. It can be viewed at baptistrelief.org on the media tab.

Ezell also introduced NAMB’s new prayer initiative, TenTwo, inviting messengers to join NAMB in praying Luke 10:2 at 10:02 in the morning or evening, and to focus on Oct. 2 as an intentional day of prayer for workers for the harvest.

Midwest Region vice president Gary Frost, who leads NAMB’s prayer initiatives, introduced a video churches can use to promote TenTwo. (See related column.)

“If plans and programs and conferences could fulfill the Great Commission, the job would be done,” Frost said. “We need the power of the Holy Ghost. We need to pray to the Lord of the harvest.”

Ezell concluded the presentation by asking messengers to surround church planters and chaplains at the microphone stations on the floor as Frost prayed Luke 10:2.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board. To learn more about Send North America and partnering in church planting, visit namb.net/mobilize-me. Information and videos about topics from the report and presentation are available at namb.net. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/14/2013 3:28:00 PM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Luter leads slate in mostly quiet election

June 14 2013 by John Evans, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, was elected without opposition to a second term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, leading a slate of candidates who ran mostly unopposed. 

Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, was elected first vice president, while Jared Moore, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky., won a term as second vice president. 

John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, was re-elected to a 17th term as recording secretary. Jim Wells, strategic partners team leader for the Missouri convention, was re-elected to an 11th term as registration secretary. 

Mark A. Croston Sr., pastor of East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., nominated Luter for another term as president, calling him “the kind of guy we need on the scene.” 

Croston recounted Luter’s pastorate at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church beginning in 1986, when Luter took the helm of the struggling 65-member church and led its growth into a megachurch with several thousand members. 

Photo by Adam Covington
Newly elected officers of the Southern Baptist Convention include (clockwise from bottom left): Bart Barber, first vice president, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas; John Yeats, re-elected recording secretary, executive director of Missouri Baptist Convention; Jim Wells, re-elected registration secretary, strategic partners team leader for the Missouri Baptist Convention; Jared Moore, second vice president, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky.; and Fred Luter, re-elected president, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. 

“[They] called this young, fiery preacher to be their pastor because he preached boldly and lived holy,” Croston said. 

Croston praised Luter as a man of dignity who has led the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) with distinction, lauding Luter’s commitment to the inerrancy of scripture, support of the Cooperative Program and love of biblical marriage. 

“He is the husband of Elizabeth, the father of Chip and Kimberly, the pastor of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La.,” Croston said, “and a believer that Jesus Christ still is the way, the truth and the life, and that no man comes to the Father but by Him.” 

First vice president

Barber ran unopposed and was nominated by Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn. 

Gaines lauded Barber’s years of service, including as a pastor, in key Southern Baptist Convention positions and as an adjunct professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

“He is a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, soul-winning, pastor-theologian who leads a wonderful Southern Baptist congregation that is taking the gospel to the world,” Gaines said.

Second vice president

In the only contested election of the meeting, Moore won the office over Don Cass, a longtime pastor and denominational leader in Texas and New Mexico. 

Moore received 451 of 682 votes cast (66.13 percent) while Cass received 223 (32.7 percent).

Jeff Wright, pastor of Midway Baptist Church in Cookeville, Tenn., nominated Moore, saying that Moore’s perspective as an “average pastor” of a rural Southern Baptist church would be of value to the convention. 

“I think Jared offers us that along with a firm conviction that the Word of God is sufficient to build the church of Christ to the glory of Jesus Christ alone,” Wright said.

Other elections

Yeats was unopposed in his re-election as recording secretary. He was nominated by his son, John Mark Yeats, pastor of Normandale Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Wells also ran unopposed as registration secretary. Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, nominated Wells.

The convention elected John Meader, pastor of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas, to preach the 2014 convention sermon, with John Avant, pastor of First Baptist Church Concord in Knoxville, Tenn., as the alternate preacher. Roger McGee, pastor of music and worship at First Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., will be the 2014 convention’s music director. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – John Evans is a writer in Houston. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/14/2013 3:22:34 PM by John Evans, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hawkins reports GuideStone’s success

June 14 2013 by Roy Hayhurst, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins focused on the entity’s progress in investments, health care, wellness and Mission:Dignity in his annual report to the Southern Baptist Convention June 11 in Houston.

Investment performance

GuideStone’s MyDestination 2025 Fund received a Lipper Award as the Best Fund Over Three Years (Mixed-Asset Target 2025 Funds), ranking highest of 92 similar funds for its performance as of Nov. 30, 2012. The MyDestination Funds were the nation’s first Christian-based, socially screened, date-target funds when they launched in August 2006.

GuideStone also ranked No. 1 out of 182 eligible fund families with up to $40 billion in assets, and received the Lipper award for Best Overall Small Fund Group in the U.S. over the three-year period ending Nov. 30, 2011.

Hawkins noted continued strong performance for GuideStone Funds, as recognized by secular ranking firms. In the first quarter of 2013, fi360 ranked GuideStone sixth among 226 mutual fund families, the ninth consecutive quarter GuideStone ranked in the top 5 percent of all fund families. The fi360 rankings are based on a number of criteria, including assets under management, organizational stability, style and asset class consistency, performance relative to peers, and expense ratios.

Health care

Hawkins reported a 98 percent retention rate for GuideStone’s health insurance program.

Photo by Rachel Lender
O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, gives an annual report during the morning session of the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 11-12 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

“People are shopping [for their insurance coverage] and finding it’s very competitive in the market, and helpful for those who are in the plans,” Hawkins said. “At the same time, we are facing some tremendous challenges” due to health care reform.

Hawkins noted that church health plans were not addressed in the national health care reform debate, despite being among the nation’s oldest health care plans. While GuideStone’s plans date to the 1960s, some denominational health plans date back a century or more. In total, more than 1 million ministers and their families are covered by church health plans.

“We are working diligently to get legislative and administrative fixes,” Hawkins said of uncertainties facing church health plans. “You know, it’s hard to compete with someone who’s going to be out there in the marketplace who doesn’t have to make a profit and can print their own money. If we can get these fixes, we can compete with [other insurance providers].”


GuideStone attracted hundreds to its annual free wellness check valued at $150.

“Still about half of the claims we pay are for what the industry calls preventable diseases,” Hawkins said. “These are things you’re getting sick from that you don’t have to be getting sick from if you’d just get on a wellness program.”

Individuals and churches that want help building a wellness regiment can find free resources on GuideStone’s website, www.GuideStone.org/Wellness

New initiatives

Hawkins highlighted GuideStone’s new ministry-focused website, www.OSHawkins.com, offering free e-books and sermon outlines and audio and video resources. The resource also helps drive traffic to GuideStone and Mission:Dignity’s websites.

He highlighted the property and casualty program GuideStone offers as part of a strategic alliance with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, noting that more than half the proposals GuideStone makes for property and casualty coverage are being written, and that the retention rate is near 95 percent. Visit www.GuideStonePropertyCasualty.org for more information about the program and the alliance with Brotherhood Mutual.


GuideStone presented its inaugural Harold and Judy Vick Mission:Dignity Church Award to Sagemont Church in Houston, which has given more than $1.5 million to the ministry for retired pastors and their widows. The award, named for longtime GuideStone trustee Harold Vick and his wife Judy, was presented to John D. Morgan, senior pastor at Sagemont, and Jim Green, administrator of the Houston church.

GuideStone has given more than $100 million to retired Southern Baptist pastors and their widows, with all donations to Mission:Dignity given to those in need.

“Not a dime of that money came from GuideStone or GuideStone Funds,” Hawkins said. “Every penny came from individuals and churches that saw the vision and took the serious admonition of James when he said ‘pure religion that is undefiled is that you take care of widows and orphans.’”

Hawkins encouraged messengers to sign up for materials for Mission:Dignity Sunday, June 23. Churches interested in celebrating Mission:Dignity can choose to do so any Sunday. Undated materials are available and can be ordered through Mission:Dignity’s website, www.MissionDignitySBC.org. (See related story.)

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is senior manager of editorial services at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/14/2013 3:07:33 PM by Roy Hayhurst, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

LifeWay’s trustees approve Glorieta sale

June 14 2013 by Marty King, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources have approved the sale of the Glorieta Conference Center to a group dedicated to continue using the property as a Christian camp and conference center. The new nonprofit corporation, called Glorieta 2.0, was formed and funded by a group of Christian businessmen and camping professionals.

“We are so thankful the Lord has brought together these dedicated believers who are already involved in a similar Christian camp near Rocksprings, Texas, called Camp Eagle,” said Thom Rainer, LifeWay’s president. “We have come to know their deep desire to build on the rich history of Glorieta and provide a path forward that will allow this marvelous facility to reach men and women, boys and girls for Christ.”

Rainer said the individuals involved in Glorieta 2.0 are evangelicals with a high view of scripture and commitment to evangelism and discipleship. LifeWay will continue to hold youth conferences like Centrifuge and Student Life at the facility east of Santa Fe, N.M., while Glorieta 2.0 will add day camps, family camps, high adventure wilderness programs, and church and individual camping options.

Most of the programming will be based on Camp Eagle’s outdoor adventure model. Camp Eagle was established in 1999 by a Texas-based nonprofit board of directors whose mission statement is to “Inspire Christ-like change through outdoor adventure, authentic relationships and Biblical Truth.”

The organization’s belief statement affirms biblical inerrancy, the deity of Jesus Christ and His redemptive mission, the deity and work of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s saving work for sinful man.

Nearly two years ago, LifeWay’s board of trustees authorized the organization’s administration to pursue viable options for the disposition of the Glorieta campus due to changes in church practices, rising costs and a volatile economy. Southern Baptist Convention entities and Baptist state conventions were offered the opportunity to take over the ministry, but significant financial challenges to operate the 2,400-acre facility prevented an agreement until now.

Jerry Rhyne, LifeWay vice president and chief financial officer, said the agreement with Glorieta 2.0, which is purchasing the campus for one dollar, does not include 140 acres across Interstate 25, nor three acres and buildings formerly used by Glorieta Baptist Church which has disbanded. 

Rhyne said one of the most important requirements for any sale of Glorieta was that new owners provide options that are fair, reasonable and prudent for individuals and churches that lease land at Glorieta for residential homes and small group facilities.

A motion to transfer the property to Glorieta 2.0 was sent to trustees from LifeWay’s trustee executive committee by email June 10, and trustees returned their votes by electronic mail.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marty King is director of corporate communications for LifeWay Christian Resources.)
6/14/2013 2:57:58 PM by Marty King, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptists recognized for missions giving

June 13 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

North Carolina Baptists led the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in their support for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in 2012. The churches of the Baptist State Convention of N.C. (BSC) led all state conventions in gifts to this special offering that supports international missionaries.
International Mission Board (IMB) president Tom Elliff recognized Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, and Mark Harris, BSC president, during an International Mission Board (IMB) hosted breakfast in conjunction with the June 11-12 SBC meeting in Houston, Texas.
Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem was recognized as the top giving church among all SBC churches.
In 2012, N.C. Baptists gave $13,498,146.88 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, up $905,000 from the previous year. All total, Southern Baptist churches gave $149,276,303.72 to the 2012 Offering, up more than $2 million from last year.

BR photo by K. Allan Blume
North Carolina was the top state in giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for 2012. Here, Ken Winter, International Mission Board vice president for Church and Partner Services, poses with Milton A. Hollifield Jr., Baptist State Convention of N.C. (BSC), executive director-treasurer; Mark Harris, BSC president and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte; Ryan Pack, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, and his wife Heather. Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem was recognized as the top giving church to the offering.

Elliff expressed appreciation to all the churches that sacrificially give so that missionaries can be sent out to share the gospel around the world. “Working together you see a greater work than you ever could apart,” he said.
The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering helps support missionaries serving in some of the hardest areas of the world. Although many lost people live in countries that are not open to the gospel and do not allow individuals to enter the country on a missionary visa, people are hungry for truth, he said.
“The IMB long ago made a decision that because a person was born in those hard places they should not be denied the opportunity to hear the gospel,” Elliff said.
“Satan has gotten us to believe that the world’s basic response to the gospel is resistance. The reality is that the world is filled with broken-hearted people wondering when someone is going tell them the truth; something that will change their life.”
Nearly one billion people in the world are likely to live and die without ever hearing the gospel.
Two years ago the IMB introduced “Embrace,” an effort to help churches engage unreached, unengaged people groups with the gospel. In addition to sending out IMB missionaries to live overseas, church members actually become the missionaries as their churches embrace an unreached people group and commit to work among that people group for the sake of the gospel.
Two years ago, the world was home to 3,800 unreached, unengaged people groups. Now, through the work of Southern Baptist churches, that number is 3,047.
“That is the greatest reduction in unreached, unengaged people groups in the history of the Christian faith,” Elliff said. “This is the opportunity for the greatest advancement of the gospel.”
Believers must continue to remain faithful to penetrating lostness and sharing the gospel.
“Missions ought to cause you to weep,” Elliff said. “I pray you will pray desperately for the kind of revival among Southern Baptists that will bring forth laborers for the harvest.”
To learn more about embracing unreached, unengaged people groups visit www.imb.org.
6/13/2013 11:56:17 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 1 comments

‘Pray like never before,’ Page tells SBC

June 13 2013 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Challenging days, both in the culture and in the church, call for an unprecedented faithfulness in prayer, Executive Committee President Frank Page told messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in Houston June 11.

“Most everyone knows of my most recent efforts in these past months to persuade Scouting leaders to maintain a policy which I believe upholds a commitment to morality. That battle was lost. It broke my heart,” Page said.

“Most of us know that in a few days we can expect the Supreme Court to issue a ruling about the constitutionality of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act,” he said. “We need to pray like never before. We are under attack. The worldview of God and our Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit is under attack.”

Instead of advancing as it ought, the Southern Baptist Convention in some ways is guilty of sliding backwards, Page said, adding that the world is winning too many battles and “the evil one has splintered God’s people into so many directions that unity is at best an elusive goal.”

Page mentioned an initiative – Great Commission Advance – which he said will have “an extremely impressive and hard launch” at next year’s annual meeting in Baltimore.

Photo by Matt Miller
Executive Committee President Frank Page gives the Executive Committee (EC) report during the opening session of the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 11-12 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. He told messengers the EC asked for a “reduction in CP allocation, again.” The percentage has fallen from 3.4 percent to 2.99 percent. Moments earlier, messengers approved the newest reduction in allocation. The extra funds will go to the International Mission Board. “We want more and more to go to reach the nations for Christ,” Page said. 

“Great Commission Advance is an effort in partnership with our entities, with our seminaries, our mission boards, our state convention partners, our pastors and churches to present to this convention that which is called Great Commission Advance,” Page said. “Part of it is the 1% Challenge we’ve already started.”

Earlier in the day, Page had said that if Southern Baptists would just give 1 percent of budget more through the Cooperative Program, “next year we’d see $100 million go to support our seminaries, our mission work and all the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Page thanked SBC President Fred Luter for leading Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans to take the 1% Challenge.

“We will be talking more about Great Commission Advance, but I want you to know as your Chief Encouraging Officer, I am not ready to back down, back off or back up from God’s call for us to be a Great Commission people,” Page said. “I want you to be a part of moving forward, not moving backward, but moving forward for the glory of God and for the cause of Christ.”

Page recapped some of the ways he has worked during the past year to help turn the convention to a more God-honoring direction in key areas: prayer, ethnic participation and Calvinism.

Gary Frost, vice president for the North American Mission Board’s Midwest Region, and Gordon Fort, senior vice president for prayer mobilization and training at the International Mission Board, joined Page on the platform to pray for revival and unity within the convention.

During the past year, Page has been calling for increased involvement from ethnic groups in the leadership of the convention, and he reported that he has seen some encouraging signs.

Of the Hispanic Advisory Council in particular, Page said, “Information has been received, encouragement is deepening and this fastest-growing ethnic group is stepping up to the plate in involvement in Southern Baptist missions and ministries.”

By the year 2050, Page said, there will be no majority population in the United States. Instead, everyone, including Anglos, will be part of a minority people group. “And to reach this world for Christ we need to do it together,” Page said.

Page was joined onstage by pastors A.B. Vines and K. Marshall Williams of the African American Advisory Council and professor Daniel Sanchez of the Hispanic Advisory Council to pray for unity among ethnic groups in the task of accomplishing the Great Commission.

Another topic of concern to the convention, Page said, has been disagreements over Calvinism that have led to serious divisions. Page assembled an advisory committee on Calvinism last year, not knowing whether any progress could be made.

The committee, Page said, endeavored to “start talking to each other and not about each other and at each other.”

What they found, he said, is that there are “massive areas, shocking to see, upon which we do agree. In fact, in talking with one another we began to develop friendships and we began realizing that we agree far more than we thought we did.”

The Calvinism committee released a report in late May calling on Southern Baptists to stand together for the Great Commission despite theological differences, and Page exhorted messengers to “live by the Christ-like principles” found in the report.

“I am not naive. I know there will continue to be problems and difficulties but I am convinced that if we will talk to each other together we will see a unity that will allow us to win more men, women, boys and girls to Christ than ever before,” Page said.

Members of the Calvinism advisory group stood with Page on the platform, and he led in prayer toward living out the principles prescribed in the report.

Also in his address to messengers, Page noted that recent data from the convention’s Annual Church Profile (ACP) survey showed continued declines in nearly every category, including baptisms, average attendance and total giving.

“We desperately need the hand of God,” Page said. “One of our big challenges in these days is that one out of every five Southern Baptist churches will not send in an ACP. We can only tell what we know. Our baptism numbers are down. Or are they? We don’t know because you won’t tell us. Please participate.”

Page closed with the story of a family who sold their business and tithed on the profits to their local church. That church, Page said, forwarded a portion of those receipts through the Cooperative Program for state, national and international missions and ministries.

As a result of that family’s selflessness, Page said, more than $750,000 of their gift went to the International Mission Board; more than $330,000 went to the North American Mission Board and $320,000 went to the convention’s six seminaries.

“Do you see how Christ-like selflessness ministers to all?” Page said.

The issues facing the Southern Baptist Convention, Page said, “are facing us in the local church,” where the average Southern Baptist gives only 2.3 percent of his income to the church.

“If the issue of biblical tithing were settled in the local church, we would not be having the issues we’re having now,” Page said. “... The issue is really not in percentages of Cooperative Program allocation, though that may need to be revisited. I’m not opposed to that. It’s not in the arguing of percentages here and there. The issue is happening in the pew.”

Earlier in the day, during the first part of the Executive Committee report, Page lamented that churches are giving just over 5 percent of their receipts through the Cooperative Program and total missions giving also has declined.

“I know I live in a dream world, but if Southern Baptists were actually to obey God’s call to tithe, which Jesus affirmed, and were to give 10 percent at least, and if churches were to go back to the historical patterns of giving at least 10 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program, friends we would see a dramatic increase so that we could send double, triple the number of missionaries we now do,” Page said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/13/2013 11:46:12 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Mental health issues garner SBC attention

June 13 2013 by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – During a year when mass shootings and suicides have stunned the nation, a resolution on “Mental Health Concerns and the Heart of God” was overwhelmingly approved by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) June 11-12 annual meeting in Houston.

The resolution offered by the SBC Committee on Resolutions sought to “affirm, support and share God’s love and redemption” while opposing “all stigmatization and prejudice” to those with mental health challenges.

The resolution identified such mental health issues as autism disorders, intellectual disability, mental health conditions like schizophrenia, clinical depression, anxiety orders, bipolar disorders and diseases of the aged including dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The resolution expressed support for “the wise use of medical interventions” and supported research and treatment “when undertaken in a manner consistent with a biblical worldview.”

Specifically addressing suicide as “a tragedy, leaving heartache, pain and unanswered questions in its wake,” the resolution urged that families of victims be treated with “great care, concern and compassion” from Christians and churches. Included in this is the “assurance that those in Christ cannot be separated from the eternal love of God in Christ Jesus.”

And it called for churches to find ways to love, minister and develop methods and resources to those who struggle with these challenges and their families.

After being presented by the Resolutions Committee, the resolution was debated for 15 minutes as two amendments were offered that sought to affirm the sufficiency of Scripture as the final authority on all mental health issues. Messengers defeated the amendments as discussion centered on the recognition that any mental illness, just as any other physical condition, needs medical care.

A third amendment was offered by Steven Owensby, pastor of First Baptist Church in Enoree, S.C. – “that the mission of Jesus described as His own in Luke 4:18-19 should also be the mission of His Church, namely to proclaim liberty to those who are oppressed with godly biblical counsel.”

Resolutions Committee chair Steve Lemke, provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, regarded the amendment as “friendly,” adding that “affirming biblical, godly, pastoral counsel is an essential in local church ministry.”

The resolution addressed the same topic as a motion presented June 11 by Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., that called on SBC entities to work cooperatively to create and identify resources available to individuals and churches that minister to those who suffer from mental health challenges.

“Jesus called us to care for the suffering, to care for the least of these. We often overlook them. At times their lives are so disrupted and severe they require intervention. These people and their families are isolated, stigmatized and rejected,” Floyd said.

Floyd cited statistics that 58 million Americans and 450 million persons worldwide suffer from mental disorders and 1 million die from suicide annually. He said churches and communities are filled with people who need Southern Baptists to minister to them and their families.

“It’s time for the SBC to be on the front lines of mental health challenges,” he said.

Attention has focused on two prominent Southern Baptist leaders in recent months, Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, who have lost children to suicide.

Warren lost his son Matthew to suicide at age 27 earlier this year after a lengthy battle with mental illness. Page, meanwhile, has authored a book on the death of his daughter, Melissa, who committed suicide in 2009 at age 32. Melissa, A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide, was released June 1 by the B&H Publishing Group of LifeWay Christian Resources.

During the LifeWay presentation to the SBC June 11, President Thom Rainer said it is unusual for him to promote a book during his report, but “strongly” recommended messengers read Melissa which he said is “one of the powerful books I’ve have every read.”

“Many of us in vocational ministry want to act like our homes have no problems; Frank Page takes down the facade and lets us see a real family with real struggles.”

Ranier said he hopes the book will help others “understand issues behind depression and suicide so we can more effectively minister to those who are hurting. I’m praying that a movement will grow from this book and perhaps lives can be saved from this darkness and we can have a greater awareness and sensitivity to this need.”

Ranier also announced that LifeWay will re-launch the curriculum series, “Bible Studies for Life,” which will begin with the series “Where the Bible Meets Life.” The curriculum will explore topics such as mental health and the biblical Christian response.

At a news conference after the conclusion of the Resolutions Committee report, chair Lemke said the resolution could open doors for churches to develop partnerships between congregations and health care providers to develop a holistic approach to offering a compassionate ministry for those who suffer from all types of mental health issues.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications, Florida Baptist Convention. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)

Related story

SBC mental health motion has pastor’s passion
6/13/2013 11:39:24 AM by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC mental health motion has pastor’s passion

June 13 2013 by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Messengers offered 12 motions June 11 during the opening day of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) June 11-12 annual meeting in Houston, the fewest number in recent years.

Only one of the 12 sparked discussion, a motion that brought an impassioned plea from its presenter, Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor and messenger from Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.

In a motion on mental health, Floyd called on SBC entities to work cooperatively to create and identify resources available to individuals and churches that minister to those who suffer from mental health challenges.

“Jesus called us to care for the suffering, to care for the least of these. We often overlook them. At times their lives are so disrupted and severe they require intervention. These people and their families are isolated, stigmatized and rejected,” Floyd said. 

He cited statistics that 58 million Americans and 450 million persons worldwide suffer from mental disorders and 1 million die from suicide annually. These chronic conditions must be managed, not cured, he explained. 

Churches and communities are filled with people who need Southern Baptists to minister to them and their families, he said.

Photo by Matt Miller
Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., spoke to his earlier motion regarding mental health during the afternoon session on the first day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 11-12. “We can no longer be silent about this issue,” Floyd said. “It is time that the Southern Baptist Convention be on the frontline of the mental health issue.” 

Floyd referred to recent mass shootings, “disturbing events left us stunned,” and suicides within the Southern Baptist family. He recalled a recent Twitter feed by California pastor Rick Warren, who lost his own son to suicide. Warren tweeted: “Why is it if any other organ in your body breaks you get sympathy, but if your brain breaks you get secrecy and shame.” 

The church must answer this question, Floyd said. “We can no longer be silent about this issue. We must cease in stigmatizing those with mental health challenges.”

He noted that when disasters occur, Southern Baptists do a “phenomenal job” in relieving the suffering.

“Now is the time we do as great a job in our churches and communities demonstrating compassion to the emotional level that can be piled high in the people and families that deal with mental health challenges.

“It’s time for the SBC to be on the front lines of mental health challenges.”

After Floyd addressed the convention, SBC President Fred Luter said “mental health is an issue that has affected all of us, someone in our family or local church.” 

The motion was referred to the SBC Executive Committee and all SBC entities for study, with their reports to provided to messengers at the 2014 annual meeting in Baltimore.

In an interview with Baptist Press after making the motion, Floyd said he was compelled to action after attending a symposium of Christian professionals on the heels of the Newton, Conn., shootings and “matters within our own SBC leadership.” The group discussed how to “mobilize the church and SBC around this issue,” he said. 

After making the motion, Floyd said he had been stopped by fellow pastors telling him they had lost children to suicide; were dealing with some form of mental illness in their family; or were suffering from depression themselves.

Many Southern Baptist entities have resources, but need to inform churches of their availability, he added. “We need to look at the issue and formulate some action plans.” 

Other resolutions referred to the Executive Committee for study to be reported back to the SBC in 2014 were:
  • that the Executive Committee publish a theological position paper on Southern Baptists’ use of gender-neutral Bibles, reconsidering the three SBC resolutions opposing the use of such translations, and consult the scholarly work found in the CBMW (Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) article, ‘An Evaluation of Gender Language in the 2011 Edition of the NIV Bible,’” offered by Tim Overton, Halteman Village Baptist Church, Muncie, Ind..
  • that a special task force be appointed to explore youth programs to teach leadership skills and moral standards once offered by the Boy Scouts of America “seeing they have lost their way and lost their moral compass, the Bible,” submitted by Harold M. Phillips, messenger from Pleasant View Baptist Church in Port Deposit, Md. 
  • that the SBC withdraw fellowship from Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, due to their support of the “abortion provider Planned Parenthood,” as indicated on their website, submitted by Steven Ball, messenger and pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Childress, Texas.
  • that the SBC reevaluate Article III of the Constitution, particularly subpoints 1 and 2 to update minimal standards used to define participating churches and messengers, offered by John Mark Yeats, pastor of Normandale Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Yeats noted that the base gift of $250 required to send each additional messenger to the SBC has not changed since 1888, “a sacrificial amount then, but a token amount today.” 
One motion, referred to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, asked that individuals speaking in an official Southern Baptist capacity refrain from stating a “supposed unified” or official position of Southern Baptist on immigration amnesty or pathway to citizenship. The motion was offered by Channing Kilgore, messenger from South Whitwell Baptist Church in Whitwell, Tenn.

A motion by Paul Cunningham, a messenger from Northwest Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, asked that reserved seating at the front of the auditorium be open to all messengers and not reserved for groups other than the handicapped. The Committee on Order of Business reported that the motion “was well received” and will be implemented. 

Another motion that a list of all convention elected trustees (including the name, church, state and term) be made available through the Southern Baptist Convention’s website, (www.sbc.net), submitted by Jay Adkins, a messenger from First Baptist Church in Westwego, La., was ruled as an internal matter and referred to the Executive Committee.

Four motions were ruled out of order by President Fred Luter acting on the recommendation of the Committee on Order of Business.

Two of the motions presented by Wiley Drake, messenger from First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., were ruled out of order because they expressed an opinion best accomplished through a resolution and sought to give responsibility to the SBC President not in the scope of his work:
  • that the SBC president lead the convention to observe the “Biblical Celebration of the Saturday Sabbath, along with our Lord’s Day on Sunday.”
  • that the SBC president lead the convention to follow the www.call2fall.com project with the 1.5 million people of the Family Research Council from Washington, D.C., and designate Call 2 Fall in June 2013. 
A motion presented by Kenneth Reiter, a messenger from Live Oak Baptist Church in Jacksboro, Texas, asking the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission to “investigate the American Cancer Society’s stand on stem cell research,” was ruled out of order because it directed the work of a SBC entity.

Another motion ruled out of order asked for SBC entities to refrain from using commercial advertisements to solicit funding from sources other than from the churches, presented by Phillip Senn, a messenger from Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Troy, Tenn. 

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)

Related story

Mental health issues garner SBC attention
6/13/2013 11:26:24 AM by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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