June 2014

SBC messengers adopt updated qualifications

June 11 2014 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

An update to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) constitution regarding qualifications for churches to send messengers to the annual meeting was adopted during the Executive Committee’s (EC) report to the convention June 11 in Baltimore.

Describing the recommendation as “small church friendly,” EC chairman Ernest Easley said the proposal to revise Article III is a response to a motion from last year’s annual meeting in Houston that requested updating messenger qualifications. It was the 16th motion in the past 35 years to call for a reevaluation of Article III.

Messengers adopted the recommendation without debate or questions from the floor. In order to officially revise Article III, the recommendation will need to be approved by messengers a second time during the 2015 annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

“The Executive Committee floated the recommendation out across the convention the last several months in order to build consensus which has really proved beneficial in the current recommendation that we have today,” Easley said just before messengers voted to adopt the revision.

Easley addressed initial concerns with the recommendation that involved the perception by some that it negatively impacted smaller churches. He noted that most of these congregations “give proportionately to the Cooperative Program” and that the recommendation now includes a reference to Cooperative Program (CP) support.

The recommendation also addressed concerns that earlier proposed Article III revisions could have been interpreted to “impose a confession of faith upon a church,” Easley, pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., said. That perception “was never our intent,” he added.

Easley said the wording in the first part of the recommendation – No. 1, (1) of Article III – was adjusted. See full text of the proposed revision to the Article III below this story. It now reads, “Has a faith in practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith.” Easley said the words “closely identifies” were taken directly from the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

Article III currently states that churches in friendly cooperation with the convention can send one additional messenger for every 250 members or for each $250 per year “paid to the work of the Convention.” The $250 amount dates back to 1888.

Under the new proposal approved by messengers, each cooperating church that contributed to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year would automatically qualify for two messengers.

“In the years where records have been kept, most churches send two messengers,” Easley said in a question-and-answer session carried by Baptist Press on March 4. “The second largest category of representation,” Easley said, “is of churches that send only one messenger.

“Second, pastors are often accompanied by their wives,” he said. “We thought it reasonable to encourage them to come as a couple, no matter the size of the church or the amount of the church’s gifts to the convention.”

According to a Feb. 19 report in Baptist Press, a cooperating church would be able to send additional messengers by one of two options, whichever allows them to send the greater number of messengers:

  • One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts through any combination of gifts through the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity, the report said.
  • One additional messenger for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the same combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.

The $6,000 figure was selected by adjusting for inflation and other factors since 1888, the report said. The amount is meant to be comparable to the $250 figure adopted 126 years ago.

Other business

During the Executive Committee’s report, messengers:

  • adopted the 2014-15 SBC Operating Budget in the amount of $7.2 million, with $5.6 million through the Cooperative Program. A total of $2.1 million is budgeted for SBC administration expenses and $5 million is allocated toward operating expenses for the Executive Committee.

  • approved Birmingham, Ala., as the site of the 2019 SBC annual meeting, to be held June 11-12.

  • approved Orlando, Fla., for the SBC 2020 annual meeting, to be held June 9-10.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor of Baptist Press.)

Following is the text of the proposed Article III that was slated for consideration by the Southern Baptist Convention during its June 10 opening session in Baltimore:

Article III. Composition: The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of Baptist churches in cooperation with the Convention. The following subparagraphs describe the Convention’s current standards and method of determining the maximum number of messengers the Convention will recognize from each cooperating church to attend the Convention’s annual meeting.

1. The Convention will only deem a church to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention, and sympathetic with its purposes and work (i.e., a “cooperating” church as that descriptive term is used in the Convention’s governing documents) which:
(1) Has a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith. (By way of example, churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior would be deemed not to be in cooperation with the Convention.)
(2) Has formally approved its intention to cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention. (By way of example, the regular filing of the annual report requested by the Convention would be one indication of such cooperation.)
(3) Has made undesignated, financial contribution(s) through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity during the fiscal year preceding.

2. Under the terms above, the Convention will recognize to participate in its annual meeting two (2) messengers from each cooperating church, and such additional messengers as are permitted below.

3. The Convention will recognize additional messengers from a cooperating church under one of the options described below. Whichever method allows the church the greater number of messengers shall apply:
(1) One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity; or
(2) One additional messenger for each $6,000 which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity.

4. The messengers shall be appointed and certified by their church to the Convention, but the Convention will not recognize more than twelve (12) from any cooperating church.

5. Each messenger shall be a member of the church by which he or she is appointed.

6. If a church experiences a natural disaster or calamitous event and, as a result, the church is not qualified to appoint as many messengers as the church could appoint for the Convention’s annual meeting immediately before the event, the church’s pastor or an authorized church representative may, for no more than the three (3) annual meetings after the event, certify the facts to the registration secretary and obtain the same number of messengers it could have certified for the Convention’s annual meeting immediately before the event.

6/11/2014 10:28:46 AM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ronnie Floyd wins Southern Baptist presidency

June 10 2014 by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press

In a year when the Southern Baptist Convention focused on "Restoration & Revival Through Prayer," Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, who has sought to encourage Southern Baptists to deepen their spiritual walk through books, Sunday School studies and pastor prayer meetings, has been elected as the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) president.

Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas for 27 years, topped fellow nominees Maryland pastor Dennis Manpoong Kim and Kentucky pastor Jared Moore to win the SBC post June 10 in Baltimore.

The new SBC president succeeds New Orleans pastor Fred Luter of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, who became the first African American to lead the SBC when he was elected in 2012.

With 5,001 registered messengers and 3,553 ballots cast, Floyd received 1,834 votes, or


Photo by Matt Miller
Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, speaks during the 2014 Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference June 8-9 at the Baltimore Convention Center. The theme of the conference represents a deep soul-cry of "Show us Your glory." 

51.62 percent. Kim, pastor of Global Mission Church of Greater Washington in Silver Spring, Md., received 1,446 votes or 40.70 percent while Moore, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky., received 210 votes or 5.91 percent. Moore is the current second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Floyd was nominated by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. Kim and Moore were placed in nomination, respectively, by Texas pastor Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington and Bennie Smith, a deacon at the Kentucky church where Moore is pastor.

Mohler, in his nomination speech, said Floyd, 58, has "the Great Commission in his heart" and has been a leader "with peerless experience in the Southern Baptist Convention."

Mohler noted Floyd's service as president of the Pastors' Conference; chairman of the SBC Executive Committee; participation on the denomination's Program and Structure Committee; and, "most importantly," as chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (2009-10), which set forth wide-ranging recommendations for expanding the SBC's missions outreach.

"He is a unifier and a denominational statesman. He knows the Southern Baptist Convention at every level, and he has served and led at every level," Mohler said.

While chairman of the task force, Mohler said Floyd "bridged generations and institutional boundaries to forge a new commitment to reaching the world for Christ. As an immediate result of that leadership experience, Ronnie Floyd became convinced of the need to direct ever greater financial support to the world missions task."

After his experience on the task force, Floyd steered his church to be one of the convention's leading contributors through the Cooperative Program, "even leading his church to give more to the Cooperative Program during a time of national recession, contributing more than $700,000 last year alone," Mohler said.

"We need a man of that commitment and leadership now as president of our beloved convention -- a man who models the message."

Mohler said Floyd "will lead all Southern Baptists, and he will lead us well. He is a bridge-builder who unites us theologically and stands in a direct line of noble leaders who have defended the inerrancy of Scripture and every doctrine of our Baptist Faith & Message.

"At this crucial hour, we Southern Baptists desperately need a leader who can model convictional compassion and compassionate conviction -- who can articulate our message in the midst of most trying times -- and represent us all as the world around us turns upside down.... He will stand without compromise, articulate with clarity, and lead us with confidence."

McKissic, in his nomination speech, described Kim as "a rare find among Southern Baptists."

Kim has a heart for prayer, McKissic said, and has leaders praying at his church almost continually during the day. McKissic also said Southern Baptists should elect Kim because he would be the convention's first president who is pastor of a multicultural church that is "wholly committed to cross-cultural evangelism and discipleship."

"The world needs to see such cross-cultural, discipleship-driven churches, trained in evangelism and saturated in prayer," McKissic said.

McKissic further recommended Kim because of his heart for inclusion and cooperation. Kim has led 40 international mission trips and would have be the SBC's first president not from the traditional South.

"The election of Dr. Kim would speak volumes to the nation and to the world that the Southern Baptist family is global, intergenerational, multiracial and culturally diverse," McKissic said. "The election of Dr. Kim would signal our future, which is Gospel-driven, Gospel-centered and reflective of the Kingdom of God for such a time as this."

Moore has led New Salem for the past four years, serving previously as a pastor and youth pastor in Tennessee. He also has served as a teaching assistant at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and an online adjunct professor at Mid-Continent University in Mayfield, Ky.

In "trying to speak for smaller churches," Smith said, "I believe that Brother Jared's voice would be valuable because he is an average Southern Baptist, and he has preached and led in many small churches, like our church, for 14 years."

New Salem, a rural congregation in Lincoln County, is comprised of about 60 people, Smith said.

Calling Moore an "intelligent and loving person," who is "dedicated to serving Jesus Christ," Smith added that Moore has been "especially good at reaching the unchurched" in the community.

"He is also a pastor who is very missions-minded and leads us to be a missions-minded church," Smith said, noting that New Salem gives approximately 16 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program.

Floyd has been a key organizer of two pastor/leader prayer gatherings that each drew participants from nearly 30 states during the past year -- a Jan. 13-14 meeting in Atlanta attended by 400 pastors and leaders and a Sept. 30-Oct. 1 meeting in the Dallas-Fort Worth area attended by 175-plus pastors.

Floyd also has served as general editor for the updated version of Bible Studies for Life, the popular Bible study curriculum produced by LifeWay Christian Resources. He led an advisory team of pastors and ministry leaders to help design the new material from a church perspective. Floyd also serves as lead pastor and strategist with the North American Mission Board for its Send North America church planting strategy. He is the author of 10 books, including Our Last Great Hope: Awakening the Great Commission (2011) and The Power of Prayer and Fasting (2010).

As the pastor of Cross Church, Floyd led the congregation to start campuses in Springdale, Rogers and Fayetteville.

He holds doctor of ministry and master of divinity degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas and an undergraduate degree from Howard Payne University, also in Texas.

Floyd and his wife Jeana have been married 37 years and have two married sons and six grandchildren.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is the Florida Baptist Convention's director of communications. Tim Ellsworth of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and Todd Deaton of Kentucky Baptists' Western Recorder contributed to this article.)

6/10/2014 4:26:14 PM by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Changed lives for Christ mark Crossover 2014

June 10 2014 by Adam Miller, Tobin Perry and Joe Conway, NAMB/Baptist Press

Dante Carter wanted Crossover Baltimore to communicate compassion to the hurting people he often encounters in the city.

“There’s a lot of hurt and pain...,” Carter, youth pastor at Northeast Baptist Church (NBC) in the heart of the Armistead Gardens community, said. “We want to give people an opportunity to hear the gospel preached and to experience the love of Christ through the people of our church.”

Northeast Baptist was one of 36 Baltimore-area Baptist churches that joined arms with nearly 2,000 volunteers from 18 states and Canada to serve the Baltimore community and share Christ with its residents during Crossover. The event preceded the beginning of the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting taking place June 10-11 in the city.

Joined by volunteers from Clark-Venable Baptist Church in Decatur, Miss., First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Va., and Baltimore’s Towne Baptist Church and Canton Baptist Church, Northeast Baptist hosted a block party. The event included a presentation by a group of professional Christian athletes called the Strength Team and drew residents from the surrounding row houses.

One witness of the Strength Team and its evangelistic message had more than a passing interest. Cindy Irizarry, Crossover Baltimore mobilization and logistics director, was seated next to a mother and her young son.

“When he finished his testimony and gospel presentation, the Strength Team member asked anyone who wanted to receive Christ to raise a hand,” Irizarry said. “The mom raised her hand. I leaned over and said, ‘Are you asking Jesus to be your savior?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ She looked down at her son and he raised his hand, too.”

Mother and son joined six other people from the audience who came forward as Northeast Baptist pastor Bill Higgins lead the group in prayer. During the church’s week of community outreach another nine people came to faith in Christ.


Photo by Adam Covington
Dale South, kneeling, pastor of Long Green Baptist Church in Glen Arm, Md., shares the – using an Evangecube with Taylor, 8, front left, and Anyia, 9, while Jeff Huber of Long Green Baptist Church watches. Anyia, who had just prayed to receive Christ asked South to explain it to her friend at the Cockeysville (Md.) Baptist Church block party June 7 as part of the annual Crossover evangelistic outreach.

“It was glorious to see so many of our church members and pastors so enthusiastic,” Irizarry said. “You could see the hope and the excitement in their faces. To see volunteers, both local and from everywhere, come to serve – it was exciting.”

At many of the Crossover Baltimore sites seminary students were putting into practice what they had received training for earlier in the week – the “3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide.” The guide is a new resource from the North American Mission Board. An app version can be found at sendnetwork.com or namb.net/3circles.

“It was a marvelous day on so many fronts,” Bob Mackey, Embrace Baltimore executive director, said. “One of my favorite highlights this week is having over 200 students from six seminaries volunteering the equivalent man hours of one person working 5.4 years full-time in Baltimore and sharing Christ with compassion, grace and determination.”


Conversations about Christ

Alvin Reid, Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, led 3 Circles: Life Conversation evangelism training with the students earlier in the week. Crossover Baltimore provided the opportunity for application.

One of the venues where seminary students served was the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s Collegiate Ministry beach volleyball tournament held at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

John Kovacs, who pastors the 6-year-old The Light Church in Baltimore, said he hopes Crossover events like the volleyball tournament will provide visibility for local churches.

“I think the most significant thing this kind of ministry provides for us is presence,” Kovacs said. “To be out and meeting people is great. I just got to connect with two guys today who didn’t know about our church.”

Jeanine Carter, a member of First Baptist Church Dallas, had her second opportunity of the day to lead someone to Christ while helping at the volleyball event. A woman from Spain and her boyfriend there inquired about a local church. As Carter was talking to the couple, she discovered the woman was a Christian but her boyfriend was not. Carter shared the gospel and he prayed to receive Christ. Earlier in the day, Carter had led a hotel staff member to faith in Christ.

“We as Christians should be witnessing to those who are not,” Carter said.

Captivate Christian Church, a Southern Baptist church plant, hosted Community Day in Patterson Park drawing about 8,000 neighbors and netting 1,700 new perspective families for the church.

After being provided with everything from free groceries to free clothing, lunch and more, one particular Baltimore man had a natural next question – why? Pastor Hal Kitchings, who planted The Bridge Church in Memphis, Tenn., was ready with an answer.

“I had the new [3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide] in my pocket and I just pulled it out,” Kitchings said. “I went to some of the verses, because I was basically at the end. He was ready to listen. He had come from a difficult background.”

Kitchings then prayed with the man and connected him to Captivate. Community Day, staffed by more than 300 volunteers from Georgia and Baltimore, included gifts of groceries and clothing, light medical and dental care, entertainment and lunch. It is one of five such events that Southern Baptists from South Georgia are spearheading in major cities around North America. The first of those events – all designed to serve the community and aid new church plants – was held in Memphis in partnership with Kitching’s church in the spring.

“God has given me so much,” 92-year-old volunteer Jeanette Coody, of First Baptist Church Valdosta (Ga.), said. “I can never repay Him for all He has done for me, but I come out and do things like this to express my gratitude.”

Saturday was marked on Cornelius Woodson’s calendar. It brought the chance to get out of the house and practice his favorite sport. Woodson, 7, of Parkville, Md., took third base at Hamilton Little League Park.

“My mom signed me up,” the Little League veteran said. “I just wanted to get a workout. It’s better to practice out here than it is to practice at my house.”

Woodson joined dozens of other children at the park where Parkville Baptist Church hosted a baseball skills clinic in partnership with First Baptist Church of Monroe, Va.

“This is really the first time our church has reached out to this community in this way,” Parkville Baptist pastor Kurt Wesolowski, who began leading the church eight months ago, said.

Stephen Arrington, outreach pastor of First Baptist Monroe, said the day’s events are important for the mission of local churches.

“I’ve learned it doesn’t matter how a community feels about you or what they say about you,” Arrington said. “Our job is to be a positive influence and to love and serve this community.”

Infinity Church Baltimore and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary students hosted a community fair outreach at The League, a non-profit organization in the city. The event included everything from health screenings to job assistance to food for residents of the surrounding low-income community.

“Everything you learned in the classroom makes you aware of what you can face, but coming here showed me you have to let the Holy Spirit guide you,” Danny Pilkington, an undergraduate student at Southeastern who led the team helping Infinity Church throughout the week, said. “You can come up with all kinds of good arguments [for your faith], but sometimes all a person wants is a hug or a person to talk to, someone to cry with.”

Infinity Church Baltimore pastor Jeremy Dickson says the fair was a great opportunity to serve the local community.

“We didn’t just want to draw people to our church plant,” Dickson said. “We were asking, ‘What do our people really need?’ What we find is that a lot of them are suffering because they just don’t have the resources.”

Similarly, in Randallsville, Md., members of Colonial Hills Baptist Church and dozens of volunteers served and shared the love of Christ with the surrounding community.

“I’m out here because this community needs to know that we are in this community and that we care about the people here,” Colonial Hills member Will McClamb said.

“The long-term ripple effect of Crossover on our region will last for a lifetime for all of those who met Christ this week and alter the missionary focus of so many of our churches to engage their neighbors,” said Bob Mackey who credited the compassion and cooperation “among so many Southern Baptists who fill the ranks of our seminaries, churches, colleges, state conventions, associations and SBC entities.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adam Miller, Tobin Perry and Joe Conway write for the North American Mission Board.)

6/10/2014 9:52:41 AM by Adam Miller, Tobin Perry and Joe Conway, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastors preach, pray ‘Show Us Your Glory’

June 10 2014 by Baptist Press

Pastors, churches and the convention must catch a glimpse of God’s glory to fuel their mission, speakers said at the 2014 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference in its first two sessions June 8-9.

The annual conference preceding the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting was held this year at the Baltimore Convention Center focusing on the theme “Show Us Your Glory” from Moses’ prayer in Exodus 33.

Speakers in the Sunday evening and Monday morning sessions included:

Ronnie Floyd

Southern Baptists must be known for the power and glory of God in their midst in order to fulfill their mission, Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd said in the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference opening session Sunday night.

Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas who will be among the nominees for SBC president, used Moses’ frequent communication with God on Mount Sinai “as a man talks to his friend” to show how pastors must seek the glory of God on their lives.

“Moses wanted nothing more than to ensure that the presence of God would come upon the people and that that would become the distinctive mark in their culture,” Floyd said.

“Jesus is the glory of God, and anytime we want the gospel to be sent to the ends of the earth, we are saying we want the Lord Jesus and His glory to be absolutely felt by all the nations of the world.”

Exodus, with its record of Moses’ interactions with God, could rightly be viewed as a chronicle of Moses’ prayer life, Floyd noted, adding that three things Moses consistently did are instructive for today’s preachers:


  • Moses regularly practiced going up to talk with God, even begging God not to cut off the people after Aaron demonstrated poor leadership in the worship of the golden calf. “With great conviction he cried out to God in the midst of his prayer, ‘Lord, show us Your glory,’“ Floyd said. “There is only one thing that distinguishes you from other people: the presence and the glory of God being all over you.”
  • Moses demonstrated extraordinary prayer. “There is no extraordinary move of God that ever occurs that is not first preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God’s people,” Floyd said. Whatever your ordinary prayer life is, Floyd urged, pray more, and don’t rely on coolness or personality or even preaching ability to do ministry.
  • By going up and by extraordinary prayer, only then was Moses able to lead forward, Floyd said. “Moses determined in his heart, ‘I am not going forward without Your presence.’ Forward leaders, they understand something: They are distinguished by the power, presence of God and the glory of God in their lives and their ministry.”

The only thing Southern Baptists should be known for is the “power and the glory of God,” Floyd said, urging preachers to make a commitment not to preach unless His glory is on them and they have heard from God.


H.B. Charles Jr.

Citing Philippians 1:3-8, H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., urged pastors and churches to focus on the partnership found in the gospel rather than the needs of a collection of individuals.

“There was a time when the church saw themselves as pilgrims traveling together through a foreign land on their way home,” Charles said, but churches are now “prone to view ourselves as tourists who happen to be on the same bus with differing and competing interests, priorities and agendas.

“As a result, world philosophies like individualism, relativism, subjectivism and pragmatism dominate church life.”

The dynamics of the gospel found in this passage, Charles said, are the affirmation of thankfulness, prayer and partnership.

“No matter what situation, if you are not a grateful person, you are not walking in the will of God,” he admonished.

Thanksgiving leads to continual prayer, Charles said, adding that even the hardships the apostle Paul encountered ultimately led to the furtherance of the gospel. While the church at Philippi was not a perfect church, it brought much joy for Paul to pray for them.

Charles, describing Paul’s view of the church, said followers of Christ are yoked together as partners, bound by a Christian fellowship and partnership that is greater, deeper and stronger than geographical locations or physical structures, worship styles or ministries.

“We are bound together by the gospel,” Charles said.

David Platt

David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., ended the Sunday evening session by outlining 25 names, titles, attributes and activities of God found in Psalm 68 in order for pastors to “get a glimpse of God’s glory” and be compelled to display it in their churches and the world.

“Once you get a taste of the glory of God, you find yourself possessed by an insatiable passion for more and more and more,” Platt said.

“You want God more than anything else. You long for God over and above everything else. You plead to see and know and experience more and more and more of His glory.

“I want that to be true in my life. I want it to be true in the church that I lead.”

As Platt described the awe-invoking character and activity of God found in the psalm, he noted that God is active, cares for the weak, holds sovereignty over nature and nations, carries burdens, saves His people, and deserves praise throughout the earth.

Beholding the glory of God, Platt said, should drive Christians to stand in awe of Him and to give their lives to His mission.

“Give glory to this God,” Platt concluded. “Do not be casual with this God. Do not be complacent with this God. ... Stand in awe of this God! He has not saved us from our sins and filled us with His power so that we can sit back on the sidelines of what He is doing in the world. ...

“May it be said of you and me, of the churches we lead, and this convention that we ... were men and women who loved the glory of God more than we loved our own lives.”

Johnny Hunt

Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., and a former Southern Baptist Convention president, jumpstarted the second day of the conference with a message on personal evangelism drawn from Psalm 126. He first set forth statistics and frank statements regarding the state of evangelism in the Southern Baptist Convention.


Photo by Van Payne
Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., speaks during the June 9 morning session of the 2014 Pastors’ Conference at the Baltimore Convention Center. The two-day event is held prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 10-11 at the same location.

“Twenty-seven thousand of our 46,000 Southern Baptist churches baptized no teenagers last year,” Hunt said. “Another 9,000 baptized one.

“Do the math. Thirty-six thousand of the 46,000 Southern Baptist churches [baptized] no teenagers. Let that continue, and we’ll see where the next generation lands. We’ve got to make much of the gospel.”

Hunt challenged ministers in the audience to recommit themselves to intentional personal evangelism. As an example to attendees, Hunt said one thing he did as a young minister to constantly remind him to pray for and witness to specific people in his life was to carry with him the names of people he was actively witnessing to.

“I’ve gone back to this and carry them in my Bible,” Hunt said. “As a spiritual leader, who are you planting the gospel in their life?”

Turning to Psalm 126, Hunt described the Israelites rejoicing as God delivered them from a period of captivity. But in their rejoicing, Hunt said, they were careful to remember the captivity from which God freed them and to remember those who had not yet been set free. In current terms, Hunt said, they went from “the blessing of being saved to the burden of being saved.” He then contrasted that with present-day Christians who have little burden for the lost and who have, instead, forgotten their life prior to knowing Jesus Christ.

Hunt then offered additional statistics, stating that Southern Baptists baptized 4,600 less people last year despite having 91 more churches.

Hunt closed with a simple prayer: “God help us. God help us.”


Clayton King

When pastors feel discouraged and worn out, they should give up their ministry to God instead of quitting, said Clayton King, founder and president of Crossroads Camps and Clayton King Ministries.

King, in a message titled “God’s Glory in Giving Up,” preached from 1 Kings 19:1-9 when Elijah ran for his life from Queen Jezebel after securing victory against the false prophets of Baal. King said Elijah’s experience serves as a guideline for pastors to surrender their ministries to God during times of anxiety and distress.

“When God calls you into ministry, there is a price to be paid and a burden to carry,” said King, a teaching pastor at Newspring Church in Anderson, S.C., and campus pastor for Liberty University.

King emphasized the need for pastors to receive encouragement and honor from other ministers as well as seeking times of rest to avoid moral and spiritual failure.

“If you are a pastor of a church that is always on call and cannot ever turn off your phone, and everybody has to have access to you, then you have created a train wreck of your life and you are headed to destruction,” King said, setting forth Elijah’s example of escaping the source of his anxiety.

“Get honest with God about your limitations.”

Recounting the story of a pastor who lost his family and ministry, King urged conference attendees to devote time to family, spend money on vacations, schedule regular alone time, and find rest and nourishment.

“If we will give up now,” King said, “we won’t have to quit later.”

Eric Mason

Eric Mason, lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, Pa., and president of Thriving, an outreach to aid ethnic minorities for ministry in an urban context, spoke on Ephesians 5:15-20 in a message titled “Glorifying God Through a Godly Resolve.

Mason explained that the first three chapters of Ephesians present doctrine while and chapters four through six present duty. In Ephesians 5, he said, Paul takes a “pause for praise” -- offering doxology between orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

Defining God-glorifying resolve as a “commitment to see or make something happen based on what God wants to do based on his Word,” Mason gave three commitments believers must make in order to live lives of godly resolve:

1) “live a life of spiritual discernment”; 2) “maximize every season the Lord gives you”; and (3) make sure “the Lord will be the strongest commitment in your life.”

Mason concluded his message by saying that his prayer for himself and other pastors is “that we would have a divine and a godly resolve to follow God through Jesus Christ.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, compiled this article with reporting by Jerry Pierce of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Barbara Denman of the Florida Baptist Convention, Frank Michael McCormack of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Craig Sanders and Aaron Cline Hanbury, both of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

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Seek God, share a testimony, pastors urged

6/10/2014 9:34:39 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

96 missionaries commissioned at rare joint IMB/NAMB service

June 10 2014 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware

The International Mission Board (IMB) and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) commissioned 96 missionaries during a rare joint commissioning service sponsored by the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), June 8, at the Baltimore Convention Center.

In an emotional service marked by prayer and praise, many were commissioned to serve as church planters, evangelism catalysts, collegiate ministers, refugee workers, chaplains and ministers to people groups in difficult areas of the world.

A capacity crowd listened to numerous testimonies of how God called individuals to Himself and into His service.


Photo by Bill Bangham
Roger Wall, left, embraces Dante and Schenita Randolph during a time of prayer for the 95 International Mission Board and North American Mission Board missionaries commissioned during a Woman’s Missionary Union Celebration June 8 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Wall, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Pageland, S.C., served in Durham, N.C., where the Randolphs serve as missionaries at Grace Park Church.

Charles, 71, and Jan C., 69, after years of serving in various countries, now will work with South Asian refugees. “Why do we go? Why not retire and just take it easy?” Charles asked. “Because God’s called us, and we cannot say, ‘No,’” Jan answered. Charles agreed, “Missions is for life! Don’t let your age keep you from doing what God wants you to do!”

Through an interpreter, Gilmer and Ethel Mauricio, who had pastored several churches across South America, shared how they came to serve as church planters in Iowa. Because they could not find a Spanish language church, the couple visited Immanuel Baptist Church, a congregation that had prayed for four years for God to send a Hispanic planter. Five days later, the Mauricios started a Spanish language church there with 24 people. The church now has around 60 worshipers.

Jose Nater, along with his wife Mayra, shared how he serves as a bivocational pastor of three simultaneous church plants on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Kirk and Tamra Overstreet, church planting catalysts in California, have seen thousands come to know Christ. Kirk said he grew up as a pastor’s kid and had made a lot of bad choices, but 18 years ago, he repented and put his trust in Jesus. The couple has planted churches for the past 14 years.

Some missionaries said they heard God’s call to mission service while serving on short-term mission trips. Five of them had been involved in Girls in Action when they were younger.

IMB President Tom Elliff challenged the missionaries to spread the gospel with urgency. He shared his experience with a young man who once asked him about God. Feeling exhausted at the time, Elliff agreed to meet him at a later date. Sadly, the man committed suicide before Elliff had the opportunity to share the gospel.

“That event radically changed my life,” Elliff said. He encouraged the missionaries to follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition in Colossians 4:17, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

Pointing to Acts 18, NAMB President Kevin Ezell encouraged the missionaries and their families not to be afraid of the mission assignments.

“It’s a lot easier to talk about missions to your kids at VBS than it is at a commissioning service,” he acknowledged, noting God’s presence, protection and perspective would provide for each of them.

Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, and Debby Akerman, WMU president, offered prayers for the missionaries. Native Praise, a musical group composed of Native Americans from Oklahoma, shared praise music in English, and three languages which represent the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma. Wanda Lee, WMU’s executive director/treasurer, led participants to consider committing to pray, give or go in support of missions.

The last joint commissioning service between IMB and NAMB is believed to have been conducted 25 years ago, said Lee, who organized the event as a prelude to this year’s WMU annual meeting and missions celebration. The event marks the culmination of a yearlong celebration of WMU’s 125th anniversary.

(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.)
6/10/2014 9:25:05 AM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware | with 0 comments

Senate approves prayer plaque for WWII monument

June 9 2014 by Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service

Just in time for the 70th anniversary of D-Day June 6, the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent passed a bill to include a prayer plaque at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The prayer to be included on the plaque was delivered over the radio to millions of Americans by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the morning of the D-Day invasion, the Allied push into Europe that eventually led to the end of the conflict.
“O Lord, give us Faith,” the prayer reads in part. “Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade.” It concludes: “Thy will be done, Almighty God.”


U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The commemorative area of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., recognizes the sacrifice of America’s WWII generation and the contribution of our allies. A field of 4,000 sculpted gold stars on the Freedom Wall commemorates the more than 400,000 Americans who gave their lives, and symbolizes the sacrifice of families across the nation.

The U.S. House will have to approve the bill, known as the World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2013, before it heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature. But political pundits say there is little doubt the House will approve the measure since it passed a similar version of the bill last year.
Hailed by some religious and veterans groups, the Senate vote was another in a string of recent losses for secular activists who oppose the inclusion of a prayer on public property, such as the National Mall, the location of the memorial. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled sectarian prayers before government meetings are legal, and, at the state level, a challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance was unsuccessful.
Michael De Dora, director of public policy for the Center for Inquiry, a humanist organization and member of a coalition of religious and secular groups opposed to the prayer plaque, said the Senate vote was both a surprise and a disappointment.
“We thought the Senate would take the long view of this and see the policy implications of adding a Christian prayer to a World War II monument,” De Dora said. “But even more upsetting was the way it was passed. There was no floor debate, no official vote, no one went on the record regarding their position. No one was allowed to speak up and no one did speak up.”
That’s because the bill was passed by “unanimous consent,” a point of parliamentary procedure by which there is no vote, only a chance to register objections. No senator objected.

Robert Abbey, former director of the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the memorial, said in written testimony before the House when it was considering the bill in 2011 that he opposed the addition of any plaque to the existing monument.
“It is not a judgment as to the merit of this new commemoration, simply that altering the Memorial in this way . . . will necessarily dilute this elegant memorial’s central message and its ability to clearly convey that message to move, educate, and inspire its many visitors,” Abbey said.
6/9/2014 10:50:09 AM by Kimberly Winston, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

CP taking church ‘outside of its box’ to reach world

June 9 2014 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

The Cooperative Program extends worldwide the reach of the 150 or so Sunday worshippers at Monument Baptist Church in Grand Junction, Colo., who lead an assortment of diverse ministries within and outside the church.

While Monument Baptist Grand Junction has been missions-minded and outward-focused since its start in 1971, pastor Ray Shirley has led it to expand its reach while also ministering within the church family.

The church sends 10 percent of its undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptists work together to fund missions and ministries in state conventions, North America and worldwide.

“The Cooperative Program helps link us [all Southern Baptist churches] together so we can be on mission together,” Shirley said. “We believe part of the commitment we make as Southern Baptists is to support the Cooperative Program. We believe it is our privilege to be part of that and to support missions locally, nationally and internationally. It really is a togetherness, and I like that.”

“We’re the body of Christ, the family of God, and the Cooperative Program is a good representation of that,” he said. “We’re all going in the same direction, using our gifts differently.”

The church donates a total of 22 percent of its operating budget to a variety of missions causes, supporting two Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ International) missionaries, an aviation ministry, Creation Puppeteers, the Alpha and Omega Institute, the International Mission Board and local pregnancy and homeless ministries.


Monument Baptist Church photo
Brad Harmon has the ball on a soccer field that Monument Baptist Church in Grand Junction, Colo. opens to the public at no cost. About 1,500 teams use the field, pastor Ray Shirley said.

“The hardest part of ministry is to be a healthy internal church and healthy outgoing church,” Shirley said. “It’s a hard battle because in mainline Christianity and even among mainline Southern Baptists, we’re really good at addressing the felt needs we’re comfortable with.

“At our church, we face those same struggles and bridging that gap to actually being a missional person who is evangelizing and striving to take the church outside of itself, outside of its box, that has been a struggle.”

In addition to starting two other churches, Monument Baptist Grand Junction has developed onsite softball and soccer fields available without cost to any team that wants to use them. The fields are in use at least five nights a week.

Its youth have gone on World Changers construction mission trips seven times in the last 12 years. Adults have gone on a dozen or more mission trips since 2000, when Shirley was called as pastor.

A Care Team helps facilitate the church’s ministerial reach.

“As a church what we did to help meet the internal issue was to develop a Care Team,” said Shirley, who is vice president of the Colorado Baptist General Convention and active in Grand Valley Baptist Association and the community. “I can’t do all the hospital visits, for example, but we have five couples –- who minister as couples –- to meet those needs I am unable to meet.”

Shirley and his wife Dianna joined the local community theater group when their son, then a third-grader, showed an interest in acting. This has led to the church’s unique ministry to the theater community, which Shirley said has little Gospel presence.

“We discovered a half-dozen more people in the church who enjoyed performing, and more since,” Shirley said. “It’s developed into a safe place to learn about the arts. … The hardest part of this theatre ministry is to be genuine and real; we’re all sinners.

“We’re trying to build a bridge to the lost,” he said. “If God reveals a pocket of lostness and we’re not willing to go there, then shame on us. The theatre community is a people group that has little or no Christian witness. The Holy Spirit is going to do the work; we’re the instruments He uses.

“We have gotten to know several people who are homosexuals,” Shirley said. “The Lord has shown us you can love the sinner and not the sin.”

One of the church’s members developed a burden for people who are deaf nine years ago after a Sunday guest speaker addressed the need. Understanding this to be a calling from God, Robin Stepanek went to school to study deaf ministry.

Today, Stepanek is Monument Baptist Grand Junction’s deaf coordinator, leading a ministry that reaches statewide with the church’s three trained interpreters.

“We host deaf conferences and deaf retreats and host a deaf conference in the fall that is attended by up to 100 from all over Colorado,” Shirley said. “For the last four years we’ve conducted classes in three levels of sign language interpretation that up to 200 students were involved in.”

The church’s interpreters translate for the deaf community in a variety of venues, including the local college, the university, medical and legal appointments throughout the Colorado Western Slope and sometimes as far as Denver.

“With being the church comes a heavy responsibility,” Shirley said. “Ministry is to be part of all our lives.”

One of his challenges is in helping all members of the Monument Baptist Grand Junction congregation find their ministry, and giving members opportunities to serve and learn at the same time, he said.

“Grand Junction is so wide open,” Shirley said. “We have so many people who don’t go to church or who are disgruntled. Basically you’ve got to know your story; you’ve got to take your story into the community so they see Christ in us.

“Our goal is to take the health of the church into the community,” Shirley said. “As we put our feet in motion, Christ can heal from within.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)
6/9/2014 10:42:22 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Christian mother’s death sentence condemned

June 9 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. Senate has unanimously condemned the death sentence of a Sudanese Christian woman and called for the immediate release from prison of her children and her.

Senators voted by unanimous consent June 3 for a resolution in support of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, who was convicted under Sharia law for “apostasy” (leaving Islam) by refusing to renounce her Christian faith. A Khartoum court sentenced her to death by hanging. She also received a sentence of 100 lashes for adultery on the basis of her marriage to a Christian, Daniel Wani, a South Sudanese-born citizen of the United States.

The Senate resolution gained approval a week after Ibrahim gave birth to the couple’s second child, a daughter, Maya, in the Omdurman Federal Prison for Women. Martin, their 20-month-old son, also is imprisoned with his mother.

Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., has introduced a similar resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives, but a floor vote has yet to take place.

Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, applauded the Senate action and called Ibrahim “a living picture of Jesus keeping his promise, made to us at Caesarea Philippi.


Daniel Wani and Meriam Ibrahim

“Jesus said that He would build His church, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it,” Moore said in a statement for Baptist Press. “As we thank God for the gospel to which she clings, let’s continue to pray that these actions by our officials will be the catalyst for [her] release.”

Moore also commended a June 2 letter from Sen. James Inhofe, R.-Okla., urgently requesting Secretary of State John Kerry to “use all official and personal channels” to seek Ibrahim’s release. In his letter to Kerry, Inhofe asked the State Department to explore providing political asylum to Ibrahim and her family.

“I ask you to use your powers of diplomacy to convince the Sudanese government to end this all too real and potentially deadly case of religious persecution,” Inhofe wrote.

Moore, as well, wrote Kerry seeking robust action. In his May 20 letter, Moore encouraged Kerry to denounce Ibrahim’s sentencing and to demand her release.

So far, the response from Kerry and the State Department to Ibrahim’s plight has failed to match the requests from religious freedom advocates inside and outside Congress.

The Senate’s resolution, however, not only condemned the sentencing and called for Ibrahim’s release but urged the U.S. government to refuse to normalize relations with or lift sanctions against Sudan until the Eastern African country abides by “international standards of freedom of religion or belief.” The measure also called for Khartoum to work to ensure its new constitution incorporates religious liberty protections.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R.-Fla., the resolution’s chief sponsor, said after its passage, “While the Senate made strides in its commitment to religious freedom, Ms. Ibrahim is still in the fight of her life. The world is watching as we await the decision of the Sudanese court, and today’s passage is a testament to our obligation to Ms. Ibrahim and her young family.”

Inhofe was a leading cosponsor of the bill, as were Democratic Sens. Christopher Coons of Delaware and Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

If the Sudanese court refuses to relent, Ibrahim’s death sentence reportedly would be carried out after she nurses her daughter to age 2.

The court confirmed the sentence May 15 after Ibrahim was granted 15 days to recant her faith. Ibrahim told the court, “I am a Christian, and I have never been a Muslim.” Ibrahim reportedly was born to a Sudanese Muslim father who disappeared from her life when she was 6 years old and an Ethiopian mother who was Ethiopian Orthodox. Though her mother reared her as a Christian, Islamic law asserts she is Muslim by birth because her father was Muslim.

Ibrahim, 27, was under regular pressure to reject Christianity after her son and she were imprisoned in mid-February. Before her May 15 court appearance, a Muslim scholar spent nearly 40 minutes trying to coerce her into recanting her Christian confession.

She received the sentence of 100 lashes for adultery because marriage to a Christian is considered illegal under Sharia law.

Ibrahim’s death sentence is the latest evidence of Sudan’s standing as one of the world’s worst violators of religious liberty. The State Department has listed the militant Islamic regime among its “countries of particular concern” (CPC) since 1999, the first year such designations were made by the U.S. government. Only eight countries are on the State Department’s CPC list, which is reserved for governments with the most severely repressive policies toward religious freedom.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
6/9/2014 10:34:11 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Cuban pastor sees divine appointment twice

June 9 2014 by Don Graham, IMB/Baptist Press

“You look green,” Daniel González’s friend teased as their train rumbled through the Cuban countryside. But the seminary student wasn’t going to let the stomach flu keep him from his ministry assignment. González was headed for the port city of Batabano to catch a ferry to Cuba’s Isle of Youth, 90 miles south of Havana.

Little did he know it would be both the worst trip of his life – but the most spiritually fruitful.

By the time the train arrived in Batabano, González was so sick he could barely walk. His friend helped him as far as the pier then left for his own ministry assignment elsewhere on the mainland. The ferry wouldn’t leave for hours. But he continued to feel worse. Exhausted, he fell asleep on the ground.

Eventually, a young man woke him up and asked if he needed help. González explained he was traveling to the island but was so sick he hadn’t yet purchased passage on the ferry.


IMB photo by Wilson Hunter
Cuban Baptist pastors Daniel González (left) and Karell Lescaille have been good friends for years. While studying at the Baptist seminary in Havana, González traveled to the island’s Isle of Youth on weekends to start a church. There, he led Karell to Christ.

“Give me your ID, I’m going to buy you a ticket,” the man named Karell offered. González was desperate to reach his destination, so he handed the stranger his ID and money and went back to sleep. Karell woke him when it was time to go and practically carried him onboard.

The four-hour trip across the Gulf of Batabano was pure misery for González. His stomach was already churning from the virus; combined with rolling seas, heat and the smell of several hundred sweaty bodies packed like sardines, “it was a horrible, horrible journey,” Gonzalez says. He eventually fell asleep on the deck.

About 1:30 a.m., González was awakened by the drunken laughter of a group of Cuban students. Karell was among them, headed to the Isle of Youth on vacation to visit family. González somehow summoned the strength to try to share the gospel with the students but they weren’t listening.

“I was so sick that preaching the gospel in that state wasn’t very appealing,” González says.

The ferry arrived at Nueva Gerona, the main city on the Isle of Youth, early in the morning. González was still quite ill and was beginning to wonder if he’d made a mistake by coming. He found his way to the park bench where he usually spent the night during his trips there. “I still didn’t have a permanent place to sleep on the island,” González recounts. There was nothing left to do but pray.

“Lord, heal me. I need to feel good. I’ve come all the way here,” he pleaded. God answered.

“I think it was the only time in my life that the Lord has healed me instantly,” González says. “I suddenly felt strong. I felt good. I bought some food and went for a walk, as usual.”

González had been working there for many months and was getting discouraged. He typically began the visits there by climbing a large hill that overlooked the city. “From up there, Nueva Gerona could fit in my hands. I would pray for each neighborhood,” González says. “That’s how my work began on the island: by evangelizing door to door.”

But that day González didn’t have the strength for the climb. The voice of one of his mentors, an older Cuban pastor named Antonio Pérez, echoed in his head. “How many shoes have you worn out?” Pérez used to ask young seminary students. “A pastor has to walk.”

So González started walking. He didn’t know exactly where he was going, but he was trusting the Holy Spirit to lead him. González ended up in a neighborhood he’d never visited. He picked a building at random, went to the third floor, knocked on a door and got the surprise of his life. It was Karell – the student who had helped him board the ferry.

“What are you doing here?” Karell asked, incredulous. Without missing a beat, González explained he’d come to finish the gospel presentation he’d started on the boat. And there, in the stairwell outside his parents’ apartment, Karell made Jesus his Lord and Savior.

González and Karell started sharing the gospel together on the Isle of Youth. House churches began to form in Nueva Gerona. In 2012, Karell became pastor of First Baptist Church of Nueva Gerona, a congregation of more than 400 members. Today, it is part of a network of traditional and house churches spread across the Isle of Youth.

“I never underestimate divine appointments, those moments that God gives you providentially to meet people of peace,” González says.

González spent 10 years as a missionary on the Isle of Youth. He currently is pastor of Santo Suarez Baptist Church (formerly called McCall Baptist Church) in Havana, which has started 60 house churches.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham writes for the International Mission Board.)

Related Story:

Cuban Baptists overcome challenging 'Roads to Victory'
6/9/2014 10:15:03 AM by Don Graham, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

WMU enjoys historic ties to Baltimore

June 6 2014 by Shannon Baker and Julie Walters, WMU/Baptist Press

As the home of Annie Armstrong and the first home of Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), Baltimore will host this year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting and the culmination of a yearlong celebration of WMU’s 125th anniversary.

It was May 14, 1888, when a group of women gathered and formally organized what is known today as Woman’s Missionary Union, Auxiliary to Southern Baptist Convention, in the basement of Broad Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Va. They elected Annie Armstrong as their leader and set up headquarters in Baltimore from 1888 to 1921.

“When WMU organized in 1888, praying for and giving to missions was at the forefront of the women’s minds,” Wanda S. Lee, executive director/treasurer of national WMU, said. “They had read many missionary letters; heard the pleas from individuals, like Lottie Moon; and recognized the need to raise awareness and increase funding to support missions. What began with gathering eggs and baking bread to sell for missions soon turned into a missionary movement unlike anything their churches had ever experienced.

“Once they saw the impact they were having in isolated areas,” Lee said, “they realized there was strength in their collective efforts for missions. As a result, WMU was born and continues today with that same passion for praying and giving on behalf of our missionaries.”

At that historic inaugural meeting of WMU 126 years ago, it was the determined voice of Annie Armstrong who challenged the women to organize with these words: “What are your marching orders?”


Born in 1850 in the industrial port city of Baltimore, Annie Armstrong, or “Miss Annie,” attended Seventh Baptist Church. At Seventh, she was baptized at the age of 20, and shortly thereafter joined more than 100 members from Seventh to pioneer a new work at Eutaw Place Baptist Church. There, Armstrong remained an active member for nearly 70 years, until her death in 1938.

Born in 1850 in the industrial port city of Baltimore, Armstrong, or “Miss Annie” as she was affectionately known, attended Seventh Baptist Church. At Seventh, Armstrong was baptized at the age of 20, and shortly thereafter joined more than 100 members from Seventh to pioneer a new work at Eutaw Place Baptist Church. There, Armstrong remained an active member for nearly 70 years, until her death in 1938.

Describing Armstrong as “a tall, stately, outspoken, strong-willed leader,” author Bobbie Sorrill credits Armstrong’s Harvard-educated pastor Richard Fuller for building her deep convictions about missions. With his preaching described as “logic on fire,” Fuller’s passionate Southern lawyer roots paved way for his influence in framing the Southern Baptist Convention, at which he preached the first annual sermon, giving Armstrong and others an insider’s view into the birth of the denomination.

At the local church level, Armstrong taught in the Infant class (also called the Primary Department, for children up to age 12) for 50 years. All the while, she maintained an interest in ministering to mothers, immigrants, the underprivileged, the sick, African Americans, Indians, and later in her life, her Jewish neighbors. Accordingly, she worked at the Home of the Friendless, a shelter for destitute children, where she served on the board of managers for more than 20 years. She also started the Ladies’ Bay View Mission, an organization to help the destitute and poor of Baltimore, in the same site as today’s Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Not only did Armstrong embrace Baltimore with the love of Christ, but her reach also extended to the uttermost parts of the world. Most notable are her efforts in missions education and missions support.

In 1880, in her first prominent leadership position, Armstrong served as the first president of the Woman’s Baptist Home Mission Society of Maryland, which involved women in supporting the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention. The society’s first priority locally was forming an Indian school and ministering to Chinese immigrants. The organization also provided support for work in Cuba and New Orleans.

Armstrong later became the corresponding secretary of the Maryland Mission Rooms, later called the Mission Literature Department, SBC. This department served as a missions library and reading room and ultimately became a publisher and distributor of missions literature.

Beginning in 1888, Armstrong led in framing the constitution of WMU. She served as corresponding secretary – a position equivalent to executive director today – until 1906, always refusing a salary for the work she did through WMU to further the gospel.

“Annie set an example of sacrificial giving and commitment that continues as a part of the fabric of WMU today,” Lee said. “From teaching children to caring for the immigrants in Baltimore to sending aid to the Native Americans of Oklahoma, she modeled during those formative years how Jesus calls us to share His story with all people while meeting their physical needs. Annie also established WMU as the missions information center for Southern Baptists.”

Without the benefit of today’s technology, Armstrong wrote letters by hand to all the Southern Baptist foreign societies. On one occasion, she asked them to contribute to the first Christmas offering to send one missionary to assist Lottie Moon in China. That offering resulted in enough money to send three. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions, so named at Armstrong’s recommendation, has raised more than $3.7 billion for international missions from 1888 through 2012.

In 1895, Armstrong led WMU to contribute $5,000 to help alleviate the Home Mission Board’s $25,000 debt and prevent the withdrawal of missionaries from their mission fields. In response, WMU instituted the Week of Self-Denial as a time of praying for and giving to home missions.

Since that time, a week of prayer and a home missions offering have continued. From 1907, when official reporting began, through 2013, WMU has helped raise more than $1.5 billion through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, with the offering renamed in Armstrong’s honor in 1934. Year after year, Armstrong came up with new ways to get missions information out to the churches, to stir up missions efforts, and to raise more prayer support and money for missions.

“Miss Annie was never one to long for the past or to linger in the present,” Debby Akerman, national WMU president, said. “From WMU’s first offices in Baltimore, she envisioned WMU’s future, prayed for God’s guidance, and led the fledgling organization steadily forward ... laying a solid missions foundation on which future leaders would build.”

WMU’s headquarters remained in Baltimore until 1921 when they moved to Birmingham, Ala. The organization occupied two different locations in the downtown metro area, one from 1921–1951 and the second from 1951–1984, before moving to their current address at 100 Missionary Ridge.

Over the course of 126 years, WMU has grown from a group of women passionate about missions to a thriving international missions organization that encourages both genders and all ages to share the love of Christ and seek to make Him known.

Also consistent with WMU’s focus on supporting missionaries, this year’s WMU Missions Celebration in Baltimore prior to the SBC annual meeting will feature a rare opportunity on Sunday, June 8, to experience a joint commissioning service of approximately 100 new field personnel representing the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board. Those who attend will hear from SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, NAMB President Kevin Ezell, IMB President Tom Elliff and national WMU leaders. This portion of the event will take place at 4 p.m. in the Baltimore Convention Center Ballroom. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

For more information about WMU’s Missions Celebration, visit wmu.com/baltimore. For more about missions discipleship and involvement opportunities, visit wmu.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is director of communications at the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Julie Walters is corporate communications team leader for Woman’s Missionary Union.)
6/6/2014 12:07:17 PM by Shannon Baker and Julie Walters, WMU/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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