June 2013

Moore pledges to stand for the gospel

June 13 2013 by Dwayne Hastings, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – It was a changing of the guard, so to speak, during the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) annual report to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting in Houston.

And judging from their response, it appeared messengers were pleased with where the convention’s moral concerns entity had been and the direction it was going.

Photo by Adam Covington
Former Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land delivered his final report to messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 11. Land urged Southern Baptist churches not to be “thermometers” but to be “thermostats” that dictate the “temperature” in society. He also endorsed the anti-pornography “Join One Million Men” campaign.

Russell Moore assumed the reins of the ERLC June 1 from Richard Land, who is retiring this year after 25 years of service to Southern Baptists as ERLC president. Moore was dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., before coming to the ERLC.

In his final report to the SBC June 11, Land said if America perishes it will be because of “self-inflicted wounds,” suggesting America faces a “far greater peril” from its own immorality than it ever has from its geopolitical enemies.

“For a quarter of a century now we have rejoiced together with tears of joy and in seasons of spiritual victory. We have consoled each other with tears of sorrow in times of spiritual setback as together we have endeavored to be God’s watchmen on the wall warning Americans that the greatest dangers to our beloved country are within the walls, not outside the walls,” said Land, who was named president emeritus of the ERLC.

“Together we have attempted to champion Christ, confront our culture, defend the good and oppose the evil,” Land said, adding that society’s problems are “God-sized.”

Moore expressed deep appreciation for Land’s contribution to Southern Baptist life.

“When the history of this era of Baptist Christianity is written, there will be so many things to commend Richard Land and his revolutionary leadership, but there is nothing greater than this in my opinion: no one stood more courageously toe-to-toe with the spirit of the abortion culture, with the spirit of death, than Richard Land,” Moore said.

“No one did more to lead Southern Baptists out of the wilderness of the spirit of death and back to the biblical truth that Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, born and unborn,” Moore said.

In turning his attention to his vision for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Moore said the entity is not a political action committee.

“We are instead fiercely independent, prophetically near, and we exist to equip free churches in a free state to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” adding, “We’re about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the mission of His Kingdom.”

Photo by Adam Covington
New Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore described his view of the entity to messengers at the SBC’s Annual Meeting: “We are not a political action committee.” The ERLC, he said, is “fiercely independent.” “We are about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” 

Moore said the Bible Belt culture of nominal Christianity is withering.

“Let’s not seek to resuscitate it. Let’s work instead for something new, and something old: the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven, gathered in churches of transformed people, reconciled to one another, on mission with one another, holding that old, old gospel that changed us in the first place,” Moore said.

Under his leadership the ERLC will “push back against the fallenness and injustice around us,” Moore said.

“We live in a world where too many children are disposed of as medical waste, and where too many languish in orphanages and foster care systems; where too many children are living in the wreckage of the divorce culture, robbing them of mother and father and home,” Moore said, “where too many are trafficked and molested; and where too many are placed in shallow graves as a result of famine or AIDS or malaria or genocide.”

Moore said although great progress has been made in the SBC, a denomination that was “founded partly to protect the sin of slaveholding racial supremacists,” it is critically important for the ERLC to continue leading in the area of racial reconciliation.

“We must work toward racial justice in the public arena and in our denomination consistently and persistently, and even more importantly, we must work for churches that aren’t divided up by skin color or by social class but are united and on mission together, by the blood of Christ and the bond of the Spirit,” Moore said.

He promised to not shrink back in the fight for religious liberty for all.

“We will say everywhere that because Jesus will not allow a government bureaucrat to stand with a sinner at the judgment seat, no government has authority over a free conscience,” Moore said, noting, “The gospel doesn’t need government subsidies or government supervision. The gospel is big enough to fight for itself.”

The ERLC’s new president said the entity will encourage churches to model a healthy marriage culture. “A government bureaucracy did not invent marriage and a government bureaucracy cannot reinvent it either,” he said.

The ERLC sponsored an event during the convention focused on helping churches foster a marriage culture that is distinctly biblical.

In the face of new and challenging ethical and moral questions that will need answers that have not yet been considered or imagined, Moore said this is one reason the ERLC exists.

“We are not here simply to register our outrage and to protest. Satan is undisturbed by all that bluster. Satan isn’t afraid of culture warriors or values voters; Satan is afraid of a crucified Galilean who has a great deal of trouble staying dead for very long,” Moore said, adding that because of that truth, “We can’t fight like the devil to please the Lord.”

“We will stand with conviction, and we’ll contend, as the prophets and apostles did in the public square, against injustice, but we’ll do so with a tone shaped by the gospel, with a convictional kindness that recognizes that our enemies are not persons of flesh and blood,” Moore said. “Our enemies are invisible principalities and powers the Scriptures say are in the air around us. We oppose demons; we don’t demonize opponents.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dwayne Hastings is a vice president at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/13/2013 11:16:36 AM by Dwayne Hastings, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Timeline: Boy Scouts & Southern Baptists

June 13 2013 by John Evans, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Spurred by the decision of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to admit openly homosexual youth as Scouts, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) passed a resolution on the matter June 12 during its annual meeting in Houston.

Below is a timeline of key events in the history of the BSA and the controversy over homosexual Scouts and Scout leaders.

February 1910: Boy Scouts of America incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia.
June 1992: Decrying attacks on the BSA by homosexual and atheist activists, the Southern Baptist Convention passes a resolution urging the BSA to “maintain its historic commitments and to continue its proper work among the boys and young men of America.”
June 2000: Following judicial challenges to the BSA’s policy barring homosexual Scouts and Scout leaders, the Southern Baptist Convention passes a resolution urging the BSA to “hold fast to its traditional ideals.”
June 2000: Supreme Court rules in Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale that the Boy Scouts have a constitutional right to bar homosexuals from becoming troop leaders.
July 2012: BSA special committee unanimously recommends retaining policy disallowing homosexual Scout leaders.
January 2013: BSA indicates it may reverse its stance on homosexual Scout leaders in February by allowing each local council to decide if its troops will allow homosexual leaders. Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, meets with Scout leaders and urges them to reconsider.
February 2013: Pro-family groups run an ad in USA Today urging the BSA to stand by its current policy on homosexual Scout leaders.
February 2013: Facing pressure from supporters and members, BSA postpones decision on allowing homosexual scout leaders until May, when it intends to put the matter before its 1,400 voting members. Southern Baptist leaders applaud the move.
March 2013: Page meets with Scout leaders again, reiterates he will not support BSA if it reverses its policy on homosexual leaders.
April 2013: BSA announces it will vote in May on a proposal to leave in place its prohibition on homosexual Scout leaders but allow homosexual youth to join.
May 23, 2013: BSA’s 1,400-member National Council, by 61-39 percent vote, approves proposal to admit homosexual youth into Boy Scouts but continue to bar homosexual Scout leaders.
June 12, 2013: At its annual meeting in Houston, the Southern Baptist Convention passes a resolution opposing the BSA’s new membership policy. The resolution thanked those who fought against the change and expressed concern that homosexual Scout leaders may be allowed next. The resolution also affirmed the right of families and churches to decide whether to sever ties with the Scouts and suggested the Royal Ambassadors program as a potential alternative (www.wmu.com/ra). And it called for a change of leadership at the national Scout level.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – John Evans is a writer based in Houston. See SBC 2013 for more about annual meeting.)

Related story

Boy Scout resolution adopted by SBC
6/13/2013 11:10:13 AM by John Evans, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Boy Scout resolution adopted by SBC

June 13 2013 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Southern Baptists expressed their “opposition to and disappointment in” the membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) but affirmed the freedom of local churches to determine their own relationships with the national Scouting organization.

The action came in a resolution drafted by the convention’s Resolutions Committee and approved by messengers June 12 during the SBC’s annual meeting in Houston. Southern Baptists have tracked the BSA membership controversy closely in recent months, as many churches either sponsor or are affiliated with local Scouting troops.

Steve Lemke, provost at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary who chaired the Resolutions Committee, said the committee felt compelled to address the matter.

“We think we did so in a balanced way,” Lemke said.

The lengthy resolution detailed the sequence of events that led to the BSA’s May 23 vote to approve new membership guidelines stating that “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

The resolution says the Boy Scouts decision is “viewed by many homosexual activists as merely the first step in a process that will fundamentally change the BSA,” putting “the Scouts at odds with a consistent biblical worldview on matters of human sexuality.” It further says the decision “has the potential to complicate basic understandings of male friendships, needlessly politicize human sexuality, and heighten sexual tensions within the Boy Scouts.”

The Southern Baptist Convention’s statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, states that “Christians should oppose ... all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography,” the resolution noted, adding that Southern Baptists “consistently have expressed their opposition to the normalization of homosexual behavior in American culture through more than a dozen resolutions over the past thirty years.”

In their resolution, Southern Baptists expressed continued opposition to the policy change and gratitude for the thousands within the Scouting family and the broader culture who voiced opposition to the BSA executive leadership’s intent to change its membership and leadership policies.

The resolution voiced gratitude “to each voting member of the National Council who voted in opposition to the policy change for membership” and expressed a “well-founded concern that the current executive leadership of the BSA, along with certain board members, may utilize this membership policy change as merely the first step toward future approval of homosexual leaders in the Scouts.” Messengers called on the Boy Scouts to remove from executive and board leadership those who sought to change the organization’s membership and leadership policies.

Photo by Thomas Graham
Messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention cast votes to approve a resolution on the Boy Scouts that expresses “opposition to and disappointment in the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to change its membership policy” to allow homosexual members. The resolution does not take a position as to whether churches should disassociate with the Scouts, but it does urge churches that do sever ties “not to abandon their ministry to boys but consider expanding their Royal Ambassadors ministry.”

In addressing how local Baptist churches respond to the policy changes, messengers declined to encourage either a withdrawal from the Boy Scouts or a continued commitment to the organization. The convention instead opted to “affirm the right of all families and churches prayerfully to assess their continued relationship with the BSA, expressing our support for those churches and families that as a matter of conscience can no longer be part of the Scouting family.”

Churches that make such a decision to sever ties with the Boy Scouts should not abandon their ministry to boys, the resolution states, but should consider expanding their Royal Ambassadors ministry (www.wmu.com/ra), “a distinctively Southern Baptist missions organization to develop godly young men.”

As originally worded, the resolution encouraged “churches and families that choose to remain in relationship with the Boy Scouts” to work toward the policy’s reversal. An amendment from the floor, however, effectively struck the reference to churches and families remaining in relationship to the organization. An additional amendment passed that encouraged churches who do remain involved with the Boy Scouts to do so with the express purpose of sharing the gospel with boys.

The resolution concluded: “... we declare our love in Christ for all young people regardless of their perceived sexual orientation, praying that God will bring all youth into a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Messengers rejected an amendment that would have removed any references to churches making their own decisions about the nature of their relationship with BSA, in addition to an amendment that would have changed “perceived sexual orientation” to “sexual preference.”

Wes Taylor, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Palatka, Fla., and an Eagle Scout, spoke in favor of the resolution, arguing that homosexuality is directly opposed to everything Scouting stands for and that BSA is moving away from its founding principles.

Charlie Dale, pastor of First Baptist Church in Indian Springs, Ala., however, said the resolution wouldn’t help the cause of Christ because BSA has said it’s against the sexual activity of any boy. A church wouldn’t kick a 12-year-old boy who says he’s gay out of Sunday School, Dale said, so the resolution in effect was holding BSA to a standard different from churches.

In a news conference following the convention’s adoption of the resolution, Lemke emphasized that the resolution was not against boys, but was intended to express concern with the direction of the Boy Scouts.

“Frankly, we feel like the membership decision is a first step, because they’ve already announced their interest in having leadership in that direction,” Lemke said. “Our concern is about the direction and the orientation, the trajectory of the Boy Scouts. They seem to be going in a way that politicizes the whole membership question. It also brings a sexual dimension that wasn’t there before.”

The Boy Scouts were a popular topic among Southern Baptists during their Houston meeting. A motion made from the floor on Tuesday requesting that the SBC Executive Committee appoint a task force to look into alternative or substitute programs for the Boy Scouts was referred to the Executive Committee for consideration.

Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the Boy Scouts made a decision they believed to be “some sort of compromise that has really pleased no one in any place in American culture.”

“I don’t think it’s going to stay there,” Moore said about the policy decision. “I think instead what you are going to see is a further evolution into another step, and congregations are going to have to be ready to address that.”

Moore emphasized that Southern Baptist churches are not saying that the Boy Scouts should exclude boys with same-sex attractions. “That was never the case before. We’re not saying that should be the case going forward,” Moore said.

“What we’re saying is that the Boy Scouts previously had an understanding of sexuality that was geared toward expression in marriage,” Moore continued. “That has changed, and that is a momentous change. This isn’t an organization like any other community organization. It’s an organization that says, ‘We’re teaching and training boys what it means to be men and what it means to live virtuous lives.’

“Once you take sexuality and the expression of sexuality and politicize it in the way the Boy Scouts have done, you change the nature of that moral education in a way that Southern Baptists, most of us, have grave concerns about.”

In the wake of the Boy Scouts’ membership policy change, some Southern Baptist congregations moved immediately to sever their ties with the organization. Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, the Atlanta-area church led by former SBC President Bryant Wright, was one of those churches.

“One of the reasons we’ve loved Boy Scouts is because so many non-Christians and unchurched people have come into our Scout troop, and then some of those – not many, but some – do wind up not only coming to Christ, but coming into the church,” Wright said. “So it’s with great grief that we’ve made this decision. It’s frustrating to us because it’s been forced upon us because of the actions of the Boy Scouts.”

Wright said other Christians and other churches may have a different view about whether to break relations now or to continue their partnerships and see what direction the Boy Scouts organization takes in the future. While Johnson Ferry will continue to work with boys to help them finish as an Eagle Scout with the church’s troop, Wright said the church decided it needed to take action now.

The Association of Baptists for Scouting issued a statement asking churches to stay involved with their Boy Scout troops, arguing that churches would retain the power to enforce a code of conduct on their local chapters.

While Roger S. Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations at the SBC’s Executive Committee, called such appeals “persuasively crafted,” he said many Southern Baptists “see this policy change for what it is – the first step toward the ultimate goal of bringing the Scouts into line with the prevailing culture on the issue of homosexual identity and conduct.”

“We grieve that the Scouts have planted the seed of their eventual destruction,” Oldham said. “It won’t happen overnight, but the course has been set.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is director of media relations with Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode contributed to this article.)

Full text of the resolution follows:


WHEREAS, For more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has been a values-based boys organization designed to “prepare young people for a lifetime of character and leadership,” equipping them “to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law”; and

WHEREAS, The Scout Oath contains language that is consistent with belief in God and biblical precepts that serve as the basis for Christian faith: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight”; and

WHEREAS, The leadership of the Boy Scouts throughout its history has restricted from membership and leadership those persons who would affect the group’s ability to advocate its viewpoints in regard to belief in God and His moral precepts; and

WHEREAS, In 1992, and again in 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted resolutions affirming the Boy Scouts in their stand that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations of the Scout Oath, encouraging the BSA “to maintain its historic commitments” (1992) and “to hold fast to its traditional ideals” (2000); and

WHEREAS, The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the constitutional right to freedom of association allows a private organization, as part of its “expressive message,” to exclude a person from membership when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints” and that allowing homosexuals as adult leaders would interfere with that message (Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale); and

WHEREAS, In 2004, the Boy Scouts adopted a policy statement that said, in part, “Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed”; and

WHEREAS, In 2012, an eleven-person committee appointed by the National Council of the Boy Scouts completed a two-year study and reported its unanimous decision that the Boy Scouts retain the current policy as outlined above; and

WHEREAS, NBC News reported in breaking news on January 28, 2013, that the BSA executive leadership, in concert with certain members of the BSA board of directors, was poised to change the Scouts’ historic policy at its February 4-5 board meeting the following week to allow avowed homosexuals into membership and leadership positions within the Boy Scouts of America; and

WHEREAS, During the week between when news broke of this proposed policy change and the February board meeting, the Boy Scouts received an outpouring of feedback from Scouts, Scouting families, sponsoring organizations, and the American public; and

WHEREAS, On February 6, 2013, the BSA board determined that, “due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a deliberate review of its membership policy”; and

WHEREAS, The National Council of the Boy Scouts voted on May 23, 2013, to approve new membership guidelines that state, “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone”; and basic understandings of male friendships, needlessly politicize human sexuality, and heighten sexual tensions within the Boy Scouts; and

WHEREAS, Many Southern Baptist churches sponsor Boy Scout troops and many Southern Baptists are involved in Scouting; and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message states that “Christians should oppose . . . all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography,” and Southern Baptists consistently have expressed their opposition to the normalization of homosexual behavior in American culture through more than a dozen resolutions over the past thirty years; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Houston, Texas, June 11-12, 2013, express our continued opposition to and disappointment in the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to change its membership policy; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we express our gratitude for the thousands of individuals within the Scouting family and the culture at large who expressed their opposition to the BSA executive leadership’s intent to change its membership and leadership policies in regard to homosexuality, leading to the compromise recommendation it presented to the BSA National Council; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we express our gratitude to each voting member of the National Council who voted in opposition to the policy change for membership; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we express our well-founded concern that the current executive leadership of the BSA, along with certain board members, may utilize this membership policy change as merely the first step toward future approval of homosexual leaders in the Scouts; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we call on the Boy Scouts to remove from executive and board leadership those individuals who, earlier this year, sought to change both the membership and leadership policy of the Scouts without seeking input from the full range of the Scouting family; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we affirm the right of all families and churches prayerfully to assess their continued relationship with the BSA, expressing our support for those churches and families that as a matter of conscience can no longer be part of the Scouting family; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we encourage churches and families that remain in the Boy Scouts to seek to impact as many boys as possible with the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ, to work toward the reversal of this new membership policy, and to advocate against any future change in leadership and membership policy that normalizes sexual conduct opposed to the biblical standard;

RESOLVED, That we encourage churches that choose to sever ties with the Boy Scouts not to abandon their ministry to boys but consider expanding their Royal Ambassadors ministry, a distinctively Southern Baptist missions organization to develop godly young men; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we declare our love in Christ for all young people regardless of their perceived sexual orientation, praying that God will bring all youth into a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
6/13/2013 9:08:29 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastors talk leadership & preaching

June 12 2013 by Frank Michael McCormick & Bonnie Pritchett, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Leadership and preaching – two key facets of ministry – garnered added attention at the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference via panel discussions during this year’s gathering in Houston.


“Leadership is embedded in the very definition of being a pastor,” said Eric Geiger, vice president of LifeWay Christian Resources’ church resource division, in a session moderated by Pastors’ Conference President Gregg Matte, pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston and joined by Jack Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, and Rodney Woo, senior pastor of the International Baptist Church in Singapore.

Geiger said pastors who delegate leadership or fail to develop it do so at considerable risk. Effective shepherding and good leadership go together, he said, while also noting that God will hold pastors accountable for the well-being of their flock.

Shepherding is not without the conflict and criticism that come with the role of leadership, and Geiger advised to keep it in perspective since the pastor serves the entire congregation, not just the one complaining.

Woo was pastor of a declining Houston-area church and faced dissent as he worked to draw multi-ethnic neighbors into the once-Anglo congregation. When criticism arises, he said, take it in stride, consider the source, and filter the complaint through Scripture and godly lay leaders.

Photo by Matt Miller
Rodney Woo, pastor of the International Baptist Church in Singapore, speaks during the second morning of the two-day 2013 Pastors’ Conference at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

But never discount it, Woo said, noting, “When the critics speak, listen.”

Woo said the most effective advice offered during the transition to a revived and ethnically diverse church came from a critic. The man – a friend born and raised in East Texas, an area still struggling with racism – suggested that Woo take the transition slowly. Doing so would help the church’s remaining Anglo members acclimate to the changes taking place instead of prompting an exodus from a congregation they no longer identified with or recognized.

Matte asked the pastors what spiritual disciplines best served them in their leadership roles. Woo said he was prompted by an otherwise boring seminary pastor to devote more time to reading Scripture. Since then he has committed to reading through the New Testament once a month.

Graham said humility of character is essential, while attitudes of entitlement or entanglements in worldly affairs “make us unattractive as leaders.”

“You can’t be a pastor without leadership,” Graham said.


Matte noted how when a church member talks of having a great pastor, he or she often has the pastor’s preaching in mind.

“We prepare our messages, then we give our messages, then we have to recover from our messages,” said Matte, who was joined in the panel discussion by Tony Merida, lead pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., and associate professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and president of 9Marks Ministries; and Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark.

Matte asked the panelists how they prepare their messages. 

“I generally plan a few weeks ahead, just knowing where I’m going with the big idea,” Merida said. “By Monday [prior to the sermon], I try to start with unanswered questions I have about the text. I try to work through the passage, identify a theme. By Monday or Tuesday, I know the big idea of the sermon.”

Merida said he writes a manuscript on Wednesday and Thursday, with editing on Friday and meditation on Saturday.

Dever said he condenses the process for composing a specific sermon into two days.

“The first day is exegesis,” Dever said. “I want to have a sermon outline by the end of the first day. Second day, I’m writing it.”

Dever added that on Saturday night before preaching on Sunday, a small group meets at his house. He reads his sermon manuscript to them, receives feedback and makes changes accordingly.

Floyd emphasized reading and meditating on the sermon texts throughout the days leading up to preaching it, while also having a concise system of sermon preparation. He said the first day he focuses on exegesis. The second day, he works to compose the sermon.

“My goal is by Wednesday it’s done,” Floyd said.

As a follow up, Matte asked each pastor if he writes and preaches from a manuscript or just an outline.

“I prepare a manuscript,” Merida said. “It helps me be precise with word choice.”

Floyd and Dever also compose manuscripts, but Dever said preaching from a manuscript isn’t for everyone.

“I use a manuscript myself, but so many young guys who use a manuscript that I see ... it’s just too wooden,” Dever said, cautioning later, “Manuscripts have a lot of advantages, but none of them matter if it’s just deadly in the pulpit.” 

Panelists also discussed the use of illustrations, specifically whether to use personal illustrations.

Dever said he does not favor personal illustrations, especially from the senior pastor.

“The temptation for me is to make the church kind of the ‘Mark Show,’ like ‘Come get interested in my life,’“ Dever said. “I think it’s too easy to build a church carnally around a person.”

Merida concurred, saying he thinks less about illustration and more about application.

“I’m real cautious about illustrations, because I really want the text to win,” Floyd said.

Matte said he likes illustrations, calling them modern-day parables, but he underscored the importance of not telling stories just for the sake of a laugh.

Panelists also discussed the distinction between decisional preaching and public invitations. Matte said his church services still include a time for public “come forward” invitations. Floyd said his church does also, but he said bringing people to a point of decision is what’s ultimately important.

“I believe that all preaching, in my humble opinion, should lead to a decision,” Floyd said. “Now I’m not saying it needs to lead to a decision down an aisle. I don’t think that’s the real point we want to stress today, even though I value the public invitation.”

Floyd said at his church he gives four different “calls,” a Gospel call, a church membership call, a ministry and missions call, and a general call to respond to God.

Dever said he makes a point to address non-Christians directly, calling them to repent of their sins and put their trust in Christ.

“We never preach without an invitation in that sense, but I wouldn’t associate it with a physical movement at the end of the service,” Dever said.

Matte asked Merida directly what mistakes he sees preachers making. Merida said he’s concerned with preachers who favor topical preaching over expositional preaching. Too often, preachers use a text as a “diving board” rather than “swimming around it,” Merida said.

“I really think it reveals a lack of trust in the Bible,” Merida said.

Merida also called preachers to be Christ-centered in their exposition.

“When I was in seminary, we heard a lot about preaching for life change,” he said. “I just tell our guys, ‘If you want to preach life-changing sermons, then make sure the Life Changer is at the heart of every sermon.’“

Matte also asked the panelists on their average sermon length. Dever said he preaches about an hour. Floyd said 37 to 40 minutes. Merida responded 46 minutes, and Matte said he preaches about 35 minutes.

“There is nothing in the Bible about longer sermons being holier,” Dever added. “I think you can preach great long sermons and great short sermons. You can preach lousy long sermons and lousy short sermons.”

“I’ve preached both,” Floyd said.

Regarding their recovery after preaching, Matte, Floyd, Dever and Merida each shared what their Sunday afternoons and Mondays are like. Matte and Dever said they take part or all of Monday off, while Floyd said he is at the office first thing Monday. Merida said he intends to start taking a break on Mondays this year. All of them, though, emphasized guarding carefully their focused, personal time with their family.

“I made a decision over 28 years ago that every Friday I was going to take off and spend with Jeana. Every Friday, I’ve done that for 28 years, with only a few exceptions,” Floyd said of his time with his wife. “Pastors have to guard their time and their schedule.”

Floyd said both his marriage and his ministry are stronger because of that unwavering time commitment to his family.

A third panel discussion at the Pastors’ Conference addressed family and ministry with Matte and his wife Kelly; Bryant Wright, senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and his wife, Anne; and Paul Jimenez, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., and his wife, Cheri (see separate Baptist Press June 10 article).

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Frank Michael McCormick is assistant director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/12/2013 4:06:29 PM by Frank Michael McCormick & Bonnie Pritchett, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastors’ Conf. speakers exhort faithfulness

June 12 2013 by Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Pastors received encouragement and challenge to remain strong in ministry and to champion the gospel during the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference (SBPC) June 9-10 in Houston.

SBPC President Gregg Matte, pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church, invited speakers serving in churches from coast to coast and internationally. The annual two-day event concluded with a message from former Arkansas governor and current Fox News Channel host Mike Huckabee. (See story.)

Bruce Frank

Bruce Frank, pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, N.C., opened the conference on Sunday evening with a message on finishing well in ministry.

Frank, who later was elected as SBPC president, preached from 2 Timothy 4:9-18, in which the apostle Paul is ministering to a young and struggling Timothy. Speaking from his experiences with ministry struggles, Frank said, “I understand that you are going through many trials, pastor, but what is going to matter 10 years from now? The important thing to remember is to both finish – and finish well – in your service to Christ and others.”

Noting that many clergy are burned out or stressed in their ministry, Frank reminded conference attendees always to be aware of the obvious obstacles and to confront them.

Photo by Thomas Graham
Bruce Frank, pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church in North Carolina, speaks during the evening session of the Pastors’ Conference June 9 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. The event was held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 11-12 at the same location.

“You are going to be lonely, tired, angry and impatient at times,” Frank said. “I have a question for you, though: ‘Is ministry still worship for you?’

“From this passage in 2 Timothy, you see Paul fired up about his love for Jesus. So, are you in awe of Jesus and are you allowing God’s message of salvation to change you daily? When Paul looks in the mirror, he sees not a pastor or a church planter, but who Christ is and what Christ has done in his life.”

Noting how this passage applies to pastors today, Frank said they, like Paul, must focus on both their ministry and their devotion to Christ.

“Nobody will do ministry on behalf of you,” Frank said. “God has called you to be servants for the church, and we should not expect to get any applause for this servitude. 

“And your relationship must remain preeminently focused on Jesus and then we can properly give credit where credit is due.”

John Bisagno

Bisagno, pastor emeritus at Houston’s First Baptist Church, told pastors that, in the words of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, they are “built to last.” He urged ministers to finish the task to which God has called them and for which He has equipped them.

Many who enter the ministry do not last, Bisagno said. He said hundreds of ministers from various Christian denominations leave the ministry every month and that only a minority of seminary graduates will remain in the ministry eight years after graduation.

“I know ministry can be a battle,” Bisagno said. “Some win. Sadly, some lose.” 

Those who quit the battle or find themselves disqualified, he said, subject America and the world to an ever-quickening spiritual decline – a decline that he said has led Islam, Mormonism and the occult to become the first, second and third fastest growing religions in the United States, respectively.

The decline of Christianity and the disappearance of those once committed to the ministry do not have to continue, Bisagno said. He offered four areas of focus: moral issues, money, people and a realistic understanding of success in ministry. 

As for moral issues, Bisagno told ministers to guard their eyes, love their wives and maintain correctly ordered priorities. Concerning money, he said to follow Matthew 6:33 in seeking first the Kingdom of the Lord before anything else. Specifically, he told them not to touch church money, to have no “shady” dealings with the church credit card, and never to discuss the amount of an honorarium or salary.

Discussing people, Bisagno challenged pastors to be wary of the legalists, the faithless, the doubtful and the “self-appointed church bosses.” He counseled pastors to remember their commonality, avoid their discouragement and not to respond combatively. Instead, listen closely and lead wisely, he said.

Through it all ministers must finish the fight and finish it well, Bisagno said.

“Go back to basic training,” Bisagno said. “Go back to the Cross. Get some guts. Pay the price. Get with it. The ship is sinking. Get back in the battle. It’s a day for heroes. It’s a day for leaders. It’s a day for change. It’s a day for victory. God built you to last.”

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, told pastors that Southern Baptist churches must reclaim salt-and-light ministries and churches. 

“Christians are called to be salt and light and to live in such a way that makes us distinct from the world but also impacts the world,” Stetzer said.

Stetzer, who also is lead pastor of Grace Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., explained the biblical concepts of salt and light and why they are important.

Preaching from Matthew 5, Stetzer observed things about salt that he said would take churches and ministries to “a higher level.” For the former, Stetzer claimed that salt “preserves,” “creates thirst” and “needs to stay salty.”

Citing statistics that indicate a decline in total membership of the Southern Baptist Convention over a 50-year period and the lowest baptism rate since 1948, Stetzer warned pastors that the Southern Baptist Convention runs the risk of losing its saltiness. 

“What this convention needs to be about, what this day needs to be about is our people in God’s church saying to King Jesus, ‘Lord, our hearts are broken. Revive us, Jesus. Send us again on Your mission. Help us to live out as salt and light.’”

Calling Matthew 5 the “most important sermon preached by the most important person,” Stetzer said it presents light as the visible dimension of a faithful Christian life. 

“I believe there has never been a more important time for us to be salt and light in our lifetime than right now.”

Rodney Woo

In an age of shifting demographics, churches must focus on uniting believers from different cultures into one family of God, said Rodney Woo, pastor of International Baptist Church in Singapore. During the Monday morning session, Woo pointed to the church at Rome in the books of Acts and Romans as such a model. 

“I believe that many of our churches are going to actually identify more with the church at Rome than almost any other church in the New Testament because of the shifting times in the United States, and especially among Southern Baptists,” Woo said.

Woo noted the demographic changes experienced by the church: It started with mostly Jews, who had returned after the filling of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The church then became entirely Gentile after Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome. Finally, after Claudius died and Jews began to return, the church settled into an uneasy ethnic split as majority Gentile/minority Jew. 

“We get some indicators from the apostle Paul that there were some elements of tension between the minority Jews and the majority Gentiles,” Woo said. “The ones who used to be in charge now are no longer in charge.”

Woo reminded pastors that the present century has its own lines of demarcation, and for those in the minority status, who feel different and ostracized, those lines matter.

“And so I want you to get into the skin of a person who may not be a majority, and they’re coming to your church,” Woo said.

Paul did not ignore the real ethnic differences within the church, Woo said, but rather emphasized that there was no distinction in God’s sight between Jew and Gentile, that all are one in Christ.

“We as the recipients of the gospel of God’s grace, of the power of God – God has called us to reach across lines,” Woo said. “In the church at Rome, there was not a Jewish church and there was not a Gentile church. It was Christ’s church.”

Matt Carter

Matt Carter, pastor at Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, challenged pastors to love their wives and family well. 

“We want to be known as men who are not only making an impact in our ministries,” Carter said, “but we want to be known as great husbands and great fathers.”

Carter preached from Ephesians 5, emphasizing Jesus’ love for the church. Using his own personal story as an example, he confessed that earlier in his ministry, if someone pulled back the veil on his life, it would be evident he was not a great husband.

Several years ago, after Carter’s wife said she did not feel pursued or cherished by him, he realized his passion for the church had eclipsed his primary call to love his wife. Carter said he turned to Ephesians 5 to seek guidance from God as he sought to win back the heart of his wife. Although familiar, He pointed out in Ephesians 5:23-25 that Jesus not only loved the church but He loved her first. 

“Find out, men, the way your wife receives love and then love her that way,” Carter said, “and do it first regardless of what she’s doing.” 

Carter said he works hard to love his wife by being a “one-woman man.” He never travels alone, has protective software on both his computer and phone, and has given access to his email, phone, social media and financial records over to his wife. 

Carter also encouraged pastors to lead first in the arena of conflict: “In the midst of conflict, you take the initiative to bring peace.” 

Finally, Carter said that besides the Holy Spirit, God has called husbands to take an active part in their wives’ sanctification. A husband should regularly ask his wife about her spiritual life and encourage her to utilize her spiritual gifts in the body of Christ.

“I believe there are way too many wives out there that are widows spiritually,” Carter said, “and we as pastors are ministering to everyone around us but her.

“Who among us at our death would not desire for our wife to be able to write to our children and say, ‘Oh, what a legacy my husband and your father has left’? By the grace of Jesus and by His power, let’s live in such a way where they can say that.” 

Greg Laurie

Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., spoke from Acts 17 to challenge believers to be faithful in preaching the gospel. 

“I came to the Lord through the preaching of the gospel,” Laurie said. “I’m as passionate about preaching the gospel as I have ever been. I’ll take it a step further: I’m more passionate.” 

Laurie came to faith in Jesus Christ at age 17 when he heard the gospel preached on his high school campus. Two years later, he began a Bible study of about 30 people that eventually grew into Harvest Christian Fellowship and more than 15,000 church members. 

At age 60, Laurie remains devoted to preaching the gospel that transformed his life. More than 371,000 professions of faith have been recorded during Laurie’s evangelistic Harvest Crusades.

Laurie shared with Pastors’ Conference attendees that the gospel carried him through the darkest valleys, including his oldest son’s death in 2008. 

“It tested my faith. If the gospel did not come through for me in my hour of need, I would have given up preaching,” Laurie said. “Everything we go through in life is preparation for something else. With the comfort God has given me, I want to comfort others. We should never waste our pain.”

Laurie urged pastors to preach biblical messages that do not overlook the cross and return of Christ. 

“Focus on Jesus Christ crucified and risen,” Laurie said. “If you want your message to have authority, you have to speak of Him crucified.”

Although the Day of Judgment is one of the hardest things to preach, Laurie said, “to leave it out is not to declare the whole gospel.”

Laurie reminded believers that the command is to preach and to share the gospel, but the results are in God’s hands. 

“One day, before we know it, we’re going to stand before God,” Laurie said. “When you stand before Jesus, He’s not going to say, ‘Well done, my good and successful servant.’ He’s going to say, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’ Our job is to be faithful to the end.” 

Tim McKenzie

Tim McKenzie, president and founder of On Every Word Ministries, brought a message from God’s Word that was just that: God’s Word. 

McKenzie put a twist on the most basic of sermons as he wove passages from both the Old and New Testaments in a 37-minute memorized recitation that drew from 19 books of the Bible. He began in Genesis, walking through the seven days of creation and jumping periodically to Romans 1 and other passages to view “His eternal power and divine nature.” McKenzie paired each day of the creation account with a corresponding biblical truth about the God who lights the world, feeds the birds of the air and offers rest to the weary.

“The earth was formless and empty,” McKenzie quoted. “And darkness was over the surface of the deep. The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters and God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.

“And the people living in darkness have seen a great light,” he continued. “On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. O send forth Your light and Your truth and let them guide me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain, into the place that You dwell. 

“And Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path, and the unfolding of Thy words is light,” McKenzie said.

“This is the message that we heard from Jesus and declare to you: that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

Gary Rosberg

Gary Rosberg, an author, radio host and marriage conference speaker, was scheduled to speak at Pastors’ Conference, but medical reasons prevented him from speaking. Matte led the conference attendees in a time of prayer for Rosberg.

New officers

In addition to Frank’s election as president, Clint Pressley, senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., was elected as vice president of the Pastors’ Conference for 2014 and Alex Himaya, pastor of theChurch.at in Tulsa, Okla., as treasurer.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Keith Collier, with reporting by Michael McEwen, Sharayah Colter, Aaron Cline Hanbury, Jon Evans, Tim Sweetman, Melissa Lilley and Brian Koonce. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/12/2013 3:59:57 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Huckabee to pastors: ‘Feed the sheep’

June 12 2013 by Norm Miller, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Contrasting Tim Tebow with Jason Collins while citing the moral slide of American culture, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee addressed the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference June 10 in Houston.

Huckabee, host of the weekend show “Huckabee” on the Fox News Channel, said the pastorate once was “a wonderful, respected position, but not anymore” because people have contempt for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Despite the climate, Christians must do as Jesus encouraged the apostle Peter in John 21, where Jesus asked that, if the apostle loved Him, then Peter would feed the sheep, or take care of others who were Christ followers.

The single most important role for pastors is to feed and lead God’s sheep, and be prepared to bleed for them, to make sacrifices for God’s church, said Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor.

“Jesus is talking about good food, biblical food,” Huckabee noted, lamenting that “we are living in a time of biblical ignorance.”

“People who attend church, especially young people, have an extraordinary lack of biblical depth,” he said. “According to recent surveys, the kids who grow up in our evangelical churches do not really know the biblical definition of marriage, and that really does concern me.”

Photo by Matt Miller
Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and host of the Fox News show “Huckabee,” encouraged pastors to feed their sheep, lead their sheep and bleed for their sheep during the last night of the 2013 Pastors’ Conference June 10 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. 

“We need to be clear that, when holy matrimony is formed into an unholy pretzel, twisted into perversion – and when the military and the Boy Scouts become test labs for social experiments – we need to be very clear that, male and female, [God] created them,” Huckabee said.

Saying he is “constantly confronted” by people who say that Jesus was silent regarding marriage, Huckabee noted Matthew 19:5 where Jesus said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

“That seems pretty clear to me,” he said.

Citing veteran NBA center Jason Collins, who revealed his homosexuality on a sports website, Huckabee said the national media called Collins “a hero for announcing his sexual proclivities.”

Huckabee asked, where are the “accolades for Tim Tebow who announced that he follows Jesus? He was told to shut up.”

“It should concern us that we’re living in a culture where a person announces a sexual preference and it’s heroic” and another “announces he loves Jesus Christ, and he’s told ... to keep that to yourself.”

“We need to understand what we’re up against, and we’ve got to feed the sheep,” Huckabee said.

Pastors also must “lead the sheep,” and that includes equipping and empowering church members to live Christ-like lives, Huckabee said.

The biblical model of leadership is seen in biblical marriage, Huckabee said. The purpose of a father and mother is to create the next generation, and then train them to become the replacements who are no longer dependent upon their parents, but who can have and train children who are independent themselves.

“Feed them, lead them. And then it’s important that we’re willing to bleed,” Huckabee said, noting pastoral ministry requires personal sacrifice. “The toughest question of all is: Are we willing to pay a price? Are we willing to take a risk?”

Clarifying that the hope of America is not in the next election, Huckabee said, “I would never suggest, ever, that you would turn your pulpit into some political podium. But I would urge that the pulpit would be a powerful, prophetic and purposeful punch in the gut to a culture that is ungodly and unholy.”

Huckabee then lamented abortion, where “every year more than a million babies lose their lives in what ought to be the safest place on earth in their mother’s own womb. How can we be silent?”

Abortion is not a political issue, but is one of “whether or not our civilization will survive as a nation that honors the God who created that precious life” or whether that life is “expendable, disposable.”

“This is an issue upon which our nation will stand or fall,” he said, “and the pulpits of America must not be silent.” Christians must have “broken hearts not just for the babies, but for the mothers who are often exploited and twisted and turned and forced and cajoled into having the abortion that deep down in their maternal souls they know they don’t want to have.”

Regarding evangelicals’ stance on social and moral issues, Huckabee said some in the Republican Party are saying “that maybe we need to dial it back a little bit when it comes to issues like the sanctity of life and the holiness of marriage, and maybe just ease off.”

The crowd erupted into sustained applause when Huckabee said, “Well, I’ve got a news flash for the GOP: I plan to take my last ride in life on a white horse, not on an elephant and not on a donkey. And I will stick with the Word of God. And if the party, any party, goes a different way, I stick with Jesus. I believe He is forever.”

Huckabee said that one of the most touching examples of one who demonstrated what Jesus meant by feeding and leading the sheep was a pastor whose wife, after 50 years of marriage, was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease.

For years, the husband was at his wife’s side, feeding her every meal, every day, at the medical facility where she lived. In the latter stages of the disease, the wife was oblivious to her husband’s presence and help. Only when the spoon touched her lips would the natural reflex take over and the wife would eat.

The wife hadn’t said the husband’s name in more than a year.

Despite offers of help from others so the husband could have a day off, his answer was, Huckabee said, “No, there is no day off. I committed to [my wife] over 50 years ago that I wouldn’t leave her or forsake her.”

“The greatest mission in the world is the mission God has entrusted to you to feed, to lead, and to sacrifice, and if necessary, to bleed for those sheep to whom he has entrusted [to you],” Huckabee concluded. “It is an honor. It is a privilege. And God bless you for doing it.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Norm Miller is director of communications and marketing for Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/12/2013 3:54:47 PM by Norm Miller, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Moore: Religious liberty is top culture issue

June 12 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Religious freedom has become the most significant issue in American culture, Russell Moore told reporters at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

The new president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in a question-and-answer session June 11, said religious liberty is the premier issue “because without a sense of freedom of conscience you do not have the place to articulate the gospel” and advance Christ’s mission.

That does not mean religious freedom is only for Christians, Moore said.

“We’re not an interest group claiming our own rights,” Moore said. “This is religious liberty for everybody, because we believe the conscience cannot be negotiated away. We believe that the gospel comes to free people. That means we believe in freedom of conscience and the ability to speak openly in a free marketplace of ideas.”

Photo by Hannah Covington
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission hosted a breakfast panel discussion on “Marriage on the Line,” which included: David Platt, left, author and pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., and Russell Moore, new president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The event preceded the beginning of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 11-12 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

The ERLC and other religious liberty advocates have pointed to the military and health care as two of the arenas in which freedom of conscience is at risk. The ERLC has joined with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board to express concern regarding recent developments that have called into question the Pentagon’s commitment to religious freedom for chaplains and troops. The ERLC also has signed on to friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the freedom of conscience of employers who oppose the abortion/contraception mandate in the federal health care reform law.

Southern Baptists “have to contend for religious liberty constantly and to be on the lookout for where those threats to religious liberty will be in five, 10, 15 years,” Moore told reporters from Baptist and secular news outlets. “As Baptists, I think we have a unique contribution to make as those who come from a long legacy of preachers of the gospel who refused to be co-opted by the state and who also refused to be impeded by the state.”

Moore addressed the news media in his first SBC meeting since becoming ERLC president June 1 after the retirement of Richard Land.

Asked about the possibility that churches may lose their tax-exempt status, Moore said he hopes that will not happen, though he indicated it may someday become a reality.

Moore described tax exemption for churches as “an important aspect of protecting religious liberty. The power to tax is the power to destroy.”

“Obviously though, the church of Jesus Christ has to be ready to stand true to its principles and true to its Lord regardless of the political situation,” he said. “There are times when the church must say to the state, ‘We cannot abide by your rules and regulations.’ And there are a number of alternatives at that point. I don’t think we’re there yet.”

Regarding ethical and religious freedom issues, Moore sees the ERLC’s role as “serving as the catalyst for conversations within churches because I believe churches are the places where Christians are shaped and formed and where consciences are re-created and sent forward” into the world, he said.

Moore rejected the idea that Christians “can form some sort of bubble in which we are isolated out from the world.” Instead, he cited Romans 12:21 to say followers of Christ should make sure they are not “overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”

Moore said he thinks “expressions of outrage, boycotts consistently against everyone who doesn’t conform to our sense of values [are] not an effective way to engage culture.”

“What I am really burdened to do is to try to speak prophetically to the churches and also speak for the churches to the outside culture” with kindness and gentleness, he told reporters. “I don’t think kindness is weakness. I don’t think gentleness is capitulation. I think this is the way that Jesus speaks and speaks the truth in love.”

Regarding evangelicals’ relationships with Democrats and Republicans, Moore said, “[T]he church of Jesus Christ is not owned by any political party and shouldn’t be co-opted by any political party.”

The ERLC will “keep a prophetic distance that enables us to speak honestly and bluntly to people in both parties,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/12/2013 3:47:30 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

WMU celebrates 125 years of missions

June 12 2013 by Shannon Baker & Laura Fielding, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Missions stories from Africa, Asia and the Americas highlighted the 125th anniversary celebration of the national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) during their 2013 Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting, June 9-10 at the Hilton Americas in Houston.

In addition, 2013-14 marks the 100th anniversary of missions education for girls (Girls’ Auxiliary, Girls in Action and Acteens) as well as the 25th anniversary of WMU’s Second Century Fund, which was birthed at WMU’s centennial to fund leadership training for women worldwide.

With the theme “The story lives on,” the meeting featured testimonies of missionaries from both the International and North American Mission Boards, birthday gifts from WMU friends and video greetings from WMU partners throughout the world.

Gregg Fort, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary in Zimbabwe, told WMU women, “With over 200 years of missionary experience in our immediate family, [the Forts] owe a tremendous amount to WMU.”

Fort’s parents are Wana Ann Fort and the late Milton Giles Fort Jr., who served as medical missionaries in Zimbabwe for nearly 36 years.

Gregg Fort and his wife Donna recounted stories of God’s work in a spiritually dark area of Zimbabwe, where until recently no evangelical churches existed. There are now 14 churches in the region.

Photo by Bill Bangham
Aurita Rai performs a traditional Bhutanese dance during the 125th anniversary Missions Celebration of the Woman’s Missionary Union June 10 at the Hilton Americas Hotel in Houston. The dance tells the story of Jesus’ love. Rai is a member of a Hindu minority group that was forced out of Bhutan a couple decades ago. She and her family are among the thousands of refugees who build new lives in Houston each year. Many are members of Canaan Bhutanese Baptist Church.

WMU Executive Director/Treasurer Wanda Lee presented Wana Ann Fort and writer Kim Davis with an author’s copy of their new book A Thousand Times Yes, which tells about the faithfulness of three generations of the Fort family.

Randy and Debbie M., IMB missionaries in South Asia, told how they distribute audio devices with recordings of the Bible in the country’s native languages and follow up with discipleship training. As a result, they have seen “over 600 people come into the Kingdom and 60 people become pastors,” Randy said.

“So even in the darkest places among the unengaged where it is very difficult to work, we feel we are in paradise because God is doing a work that is bigger and so far beyond us,” he added.

IMB missionary Jackie Bursmeyer, who has served in Chile for 35 years, attended the 50th anniversary of GAs (Girls in Action) when she was 13. Now celebrating the 100th anniversary of the group, she said, “I don’t think I’d be on the field today if not for your prayers and missions education.”

Bursmeyer connects with Chileans through children’s and women’s ministries and through a birthday cake ministry in which she makes celebratory cakes for people who have never had birthday cakes in their honor.

Patrick Coats, a NAMB church planting missionary in Homestead, Fla., said, “God tackled [him] into the ministry.” He started a community Bible study at a local theater that eventually turned into a church as more and more people began attending. Over time, he baptized 30 people.

Each missionary, as well as others, expressed thanks for the ways WMU touched their lives through GAs, RAs (Royal Ambassadors program for boys) and Acteens and through the prayers and encouragement of WMU members.

In honor of the anniversaries, several denominational leaders offered birthday greetings and presented gifts to WMU.

Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, thanked WMU for its partnership in gospel work.

“We count you as a valued, valued partner in the work of the gospel and thank God for what you’re doing to promote the work of the Lord through Southern Baptist missions and ministries across the world,” Page said.

IMB President Tom Elliff and NAMB President Kevin Ezell presented WMU with two frames, each containing four pages from the 1888 SBC Annual – the year WMU was organized in Richmond, Va.

NAMB’s gift featured a joint report of the then-Home and Foreign Mission Boards. According to the report, both boards encouraged the “formation of Woman’s Missionary Circles and Children’s Bands in all our churches and Sunday Schools for the double purpose of exciting interest in mission work and raising funds for the spread of the gospel.”

Noting a similar spirit of cooperation today, Elliff said NAMB and IMB “are determined to push the boundaries so close together that you won’t know when you step out of our boundary and into the other.”

IMB’s gift was the Foreign Mission Board report from the 1888 SBC annual meeting, which affirmed the work of Baptist women.

Five leaders from Korea Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union extended birthday greetings from themselves and the Asian Baptist Women’s Union. Sook Jae Lee, co-executive director of KBWMU, said that since its founding in 1954 the organization has appreciated the help of Southern Baptist missionaries and partnerships with the national and state WMUs.

“We can never pay you back for what you have done for us, but we believe God will reward you greatly,” Lee said through tears. “We hope to pass on this blessing that you have given us to Korea, Asia and the rest of the world for God’s Kingdom enlargement.”

Soon Shil Beck, executive director of KBWMU, presented Wanda Lee with a plaque of appreciation and a gift of $3,000 to the Second Century Fund and the WMU Foundation. Sook Jae Lee presented another plaque of appreciation to the Alabama WMU for their sisterhood and partnership with KBWMU from 1992-97 and a gift of $2,000 to national WMU in honor of Alabama WMU.

Rachel Contreras, women’s minister for the Baptist World Alliance, also presented a plaque to WMU, recognizing the entities’ partnership and “the chain of influence for 125 years that WMU has had in the world as it changes lives and gives new meaning.”

In other business:
  • Sook Jae Lee received this year’s Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership, named in honor of the past WMU executive director.
  • Johnny Rumbough, outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Directors of Missions (renamed Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders), said he was “very pleased” to announce a new partnership between the group and WMU. Rumbough said the directors of missions organization was expected to adopt not only a new name, but also a new leadership structure including associational leaders and representatives from four SBC entities and WMU. The WMU representative will be Jean Roberson, adult resource team leader for national WMU. Associations will now also be a part of WMU’s week of prayer emphasis.
  • Jay Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla., introduced an anti-pornography initiative named Join One Million Men, which asks men in churches of all denominations to make a commitment to live pornography-free lives. Dennis and his wife Angie also are challenging one million Christian women to pray for one million Christian men to fight pornography. “I believe that we are finally learning that the dark places are not just ‘over there,’ but here,” Wanda Lee said. “I believe God is calling WMU to raise the level of conversation with our families and our churches by calling women to pray.”
  • WMU representatives reelected Debby Akerman of South Carolina as WMU president and Rosalie Hunt of Alabama as WMU recording secretary for 2013-14.
In her address, Akerman said WMU celebrates 125 years because it has “stayed true to those missional core values given by God and fleshed out by [its] foremothers.”

Influenced by more than 30 years as a GA leader, Akerman led participants to recite pledges, special songs and other mission education components before sharing written testimonies of the impact WMU has had on women and girls.

“Let us commit anew to radically challenge Christian believers to understand and be radically involved in the mission of God as we look forward to what God will do through WMU in the next 125 years,” Akerman said.

Next year’s WMU annual meeting is set for June 8-9 in Baltimore.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is national correspondent of BaptistLIFE, the newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Laura Fielding is a writer for the International Mission Board. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/12/2013 3:40:23 PM by Shannon Baker & Laura Fielding, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Korean missions leader receives O’Brien Award

June 12 2013 by Laura Wilson, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and WMU Foundation presented Sook Jae Lee of Seoul, Korea, with the Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development June 10 at the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting in Houston.

“Through Sook Jae’s leadership many Korean women have enjoyed being a part of WMU,” said Angela Kim, Korean WMU consultant and a past O’Brien Award winner. “She equipped and empowered them to become mission leaders.

“... I have known Sook Jae many years,” Kim continued. “Many times we shared our visions and the joy and the difficulties of the ministry. I also had an opportunity to see her work in Korea and was very impressed by her leadership. Sook Jae’s leadership style resembles that of Dellanna in many ways ... her clear vision, her passion for missions education and leadership development, yet being humble and personal and pressing on to her calling.”

Photo by Thomas Graham
Soon Shil Beck, executive director of the Korean Women’s Missionary Union, gives a birthday greeting and presents Wanda Lee, national executive director and treasurer for the Woman’s Missionary Union, with a check and plaque during the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting June 9 at the Hilton Americas Hotel in Houston. The WMU is celebrating 125 years of missions. 

At age 16, Lee received Jesus Christ as her Savior at a GA (WMU’s Girls in Action) camp. From there, God called her to be a nurse as well as a missionary. Lee became a registered nurse, taught at Wallace Memorial Baptist Hospital in Pusan, Korea, and served rural people for 17 years as a nurse practitioner and midwife.

In 1979, Lee attended an international community health seminar in Sri Lanka. While there, she witnessed the spiritual and physical poverty of the people and began to feel called to serve as a medical missionary to Southeast Asia. Through her service, a church was built and many people were saved. Lee also was invited to become the executive director of Korea Baptist WMU (KBWMU). After two years of prayer, she accepted the position.

Through Lee’s leadership, KBWMU entered into several partnerships with state WMUs in the U.S., including Kentucky WMU from 2006-10. It was through this partnership that Joy Bolton, executive director of Kentucky WMU, had the opportunity to witness Lee’s leadership among KBWMU leaders and nominated her for this award.

“Sook Jae’s leadership and influence were evident,” Bolton said as she reflected on several trips she took to Korea. “She had a vision for the future and as a part of our partnership, Sook Jae encouraged one of her associates, Soon Shil Beck, to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. I was particularly impressed with Sook Jae’s investment in Soon Shil to prepare her to become the next executive director of KBWMU and make for a smooth transition in leadership.”

Upon Beck’s return to Korea, she was named associate executive director and then elected co-executive director of KBWMU in 2011. Later this year, when Lee completes her term as president of the Asia Baptist Women’s Union (2009-13), she will retire from KBWMU and Beck will assume the full role.

Linda Cooper, president of Kentucky WMU, said, “Sook Jae is an outstanding leader in South Korea and literally around the world. She is most definitely inspiring other women as she leads by example.”

Established in 1999, the Dellanna West O’Brien Leadership Award for Women’s Leadership Development was created by WMU and the WMU Foundation to honor O’Brien, who served as executive director/treasurer of national WMU from 1989 to 1999. It is awarded annually to a Baptist woman who has demonstrated the ability to foster Christian leadership in women and demonstrates excellence in missions education. The award is accompanied by a grant to help the recipient continue her development and ministry to others.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Wilson is a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in Birmingham, Ala., serving as an intern this summer with WMU’s corporate communication team. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/12/2013 3:35:25 PM by Laura Wilson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Marriage-ministry theme lifts pastors’ wives

June 12 2013 by Sharayah Colter, Baptist Press

HOUSTON – Encouragement for the medley of marriage and ministry was relayed during the Pastors’ Wives Conference June 10, part of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference prior to each year’s SBC annual meeting.

The three-hour session included keynote addresses from Barbara O’Chester and Jennie Allen, a panel discussion and a time of prayer and worship.

“Marriage is not the joining of two worlds; it is the abandonment of two worlds and the forming of a brand-new world,” O’Chester said, noting that the two sets of backgrounds, temperaments and spiritual gifts each spouse brings to a union can be one of life’s greatest blessings.

“You throw into this mix the challenge of the ministry and it’s only by God’s grace and mercy that any of us make it in marriage,” said O’Chester, a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary distinguished alumnus award recipient and wife of retired pastor Harold O’Chester.

By God’s grace and wisdom, though not without troubles and trials, a ministry marriage can thrive and exude the testimony of the gospel that God intended, O’Chester said, describing how a woman controlled by the Holy Spirit, willing to forgive, eager to support, and committed to engaging in spiritual warfare can foster a successful marriage and therefore a more successful ministry. 

Jennie Allen, a Bible study author and wife of a former pastor, told the women to make themselves vulnerable enough to allow God to use them, even amid the certainty that hurts will come their way.

Allen carried multiple milk crates on stage to represent the burdens she found herself bearing years ago, explaining that she finally came to the point that when she could no longer bear the burdens, she built a wall out of them and hid behind them. When her plan to hide left her unsatisfied and unfulfilled, she said God showed her what to do instead and how to advise other women.

“He did not say, ‘Just bust down the wall and tell them it’s going to be OK,’” Allen said. “He said, ‘Bust down the wall and tell them that I am better than any hiding, than any potential circumstance that could ever be given or worked out.’ He said, ‘Come out of hiding and I will be your Rock; I will be your Shield; I will protect you. I am better.’”

A panel moderated by author and speaker Susie Hawkins, wife of GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins, fielded both pre-arranged questions and questions tweeted from attendees regarding marriage and ministry. Also on the panel were Suzanne Grigsby of Memphis, Tenn., daughter, wife and mother of three respective pastors; Kelly Matte of Houston, wife of 2013 Pastors’ Conference President Greg Matte; and Karolyn Chapman of Winston-Salem, N.C., wife of The Five Love Languages author Gary Chapman.

The four women discussed such topics as how to deal with criticism; how to maintain healthy boundaries; and how to respond to the tragically rising numbers of Christian men and women involved in pornography.

Keeping with the ministry-marriage theme of the conference, Kathy Litton, a consultant for the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) ministry to pastors’ wives, led the women in a 20-minute concerted prayer time specifically for their husbands and their marriages. She directed their prayer in areas of wisdom, forgiveness and strongholds.

“[We pray that] God’s glory would be made manifest in our marriages, not because we have perfect homes, not because we’ve got it all together, but so they can see the power of God working in our marriages.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sharayah Colter is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. See SBC 2013 for more about the annual meeting.)
6/12/2013 3:31:33 PM by Sharayah Colter, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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