June 2015

Rural church sees God-sized ministry unfold

June 25 2015 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector

The premise behind the Journey of Hope Ministry Center is simple.
 
“There are as many hungry people in rural America as there are in urban America,” said Doug Mitchell, pastor of Midland Baptist Church in Bell Buckle, Tenn., which operates the center.
 
And, he said, people need to hear about Jesus.
 
The ministry center actually began with the late Dean Cantrell, a deacon who would pick up bread from local outlets and deliver it to needy families. Cantrell’s health worsened in 2009 and, before his death, he asked the church to take over the bread ministry.
 
“We didn’t know what to do with it,” Mitchell admitted. Word spread that bread was available and, before long, the pastor had to find more bread because Journey of Hope continued to run out.
 
The ministry has since grown “leaps and bounds,” Mitchell said. It outgrew the church but God opened doors for a move across the street into the old Midland School building.

 
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Photo by Lonnie Wilkey
Volunteers at the Journey of Hope Ministry Center operated by Midland Baptist Church in rural Tennessee include members of nearby Baptist, Episcopal and Church of Christ congregations.

The majority of the food now is donated by Second Harvest Food Bank and a nearby Walmart distribution center. The church pays for the transportation cost only for the Second Harvest food, with God providing the needed funds. “We have waited on God,” Mitchell said, “and the money always shows up.”
 
Mitchell estimated that Journey of Hope Ministry distributed more than 3.5 million pounds of food last year from Second Harvest, Walmart and other sources, including meat and fresh fruits and vegetables.
 
Food is distributed twice each week in four-hour blocks on Fridays and Saturdays at the center, during which families also can select clothing and household items.
 
Approximately 600 families encompassing about 2,000 people receive food during the two days. And it’s not the same families, Mitchell said. The center has a software program that tracks who receives food and how often. About 60 new families are reached each week, the pastor said.
 
Reflecting on the ministry, Mitchell said if God had “thrown this all on us at once, we would have run from it.”
 
Instead, the ministry grew steadily and God always provided what the church needed at the right time to meet the needs of people in rural Rutherford and Bedford counties.
 
Besides the food, God has provided a stable of loyal volunteers. When Midland assumed the ministry in 2009, about 60 people were attending the church’s Sunday morning services. The number has nearly doubled since, yet the Journey of Hope outreach is still more than Midland can do by itself, Mitchell said, noting that the center now has volunteers from local churches of all denominations.
 
“It’s more than Midland Baptist,” the pastor said. “It’s a God thing. Everyone here loves to serve.”
 
That was never more evident than just recently.
 
On Palm Sunday in March, vandals broke into the center, causing an estimated $30,000 in damages, including some refrigeration equipment. The center did not have insurance on the contents.
 
Local media picked up the story and shared it throughout Middle Tennessee.
 
Randy C. Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, learned of the need, and the TBC provided a gift from the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions to assist with some of Journey of Hope’s losses.
 
Without even being called, about 60 volunteers showed up the following day to clean up the center and prepare for the next week’s food distribution.
 
“We did not miss a week,” Mitchell said, especially in regard to the center’s primary reason for being: Amid each food distribution, Mitchell presents a short message and prays with the people.
 
“There are a lot of people who have accepted Christ as Savior as a result of this ministry,” Mitchell said. “I can’t remember a time when at least one person didn’t accept Christ. That’s why the ministry is here – to spread the gospel.
 
“When a mom is worried about her babies eating, she can’t concentrate on anything else,” Mitchell said. In feeding the children, he said, parents are more open to hearing the gospel.
 
Mitchell also has seen people who were raised in the faith “but were later hurt by a church” who have returned to the fold after receiving help from the center.
 
“This ministry is a good way to see the love of Christ,” the pastor said.
 
Roger Brown, pastor of Cedar Grove United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro who volunteers at the center, described Journey of Hope as “an opportunity to partner in the body of Christ to spread the gospel through sharing God’s love and feeding the hungry.”
 
Midland member Diane Douthit, one of the ministry’s co-directors, said she and her husband David spend numerous hours at the center “to show God’s love” by preparing for the distribution as well as helping when the center is open. “It’s definitely a labor of love for us,” she said.
 
Joe Sorah, compassion ministries specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, has seen the center’s impact firsthand.
 
Sorah cited several lessons to be learned from his visits to Midland Baptist in the rural Concord Baptist Association:

  1. One man’s vision can change a whole church and community. “This ministry began with the one man answering the call of God,” Sorah said, “and now there will be people in heaven because of his obedience.”

  2. Small churches can do great works for the Kingdom of God. “We’ve got to stop making excuses why we aren’t reaching more people with the Gospel,” Sorah said. “We must do what God calls us to do and stop thinking about what we can’t do.”

  3. See the harvest field. “Pastor Doug had to see his harvest field white unto harvest. When he did, he obediently presented the Gospel. The results speak for themselves,” Sorah said.

“What if he had never gotten his Bible out that first day and preached? Look at all that might have remained lost. We’ve got to take advantage of our opportunities.”
 
Midland and their pastor are “faithfully fulfilling their calling,” Sorah said. “What an example they are for other churches to follow.”
 
Mitchell said he has been blessed immeasurably through Journey of Hope. He has seen single moms who were helped through the ministry return when “they were on their feet” and donate baby clothes and items to the center “because they want to give back.” Others have become volunteers at the center.
 
“I see God’s hand in all that we do,” Mitchell said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t thank Him for letting me be a part of what He is doing here.”
 
For more information about the Journey of Hope Ministry Center, call Mitchell at (615) 713-0572.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector at tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

6/25/2015 11:01:31 AM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments



Assoc. leaders urged to embrace ‘crucial role’

June 24 2015 by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention

Denominational leaders championed the role of the association as partner and doctrinal watchdog during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL) in Columbus, Ohio.
 
Focusing on the theme, “Ready Churches, Ready Harvest,” based on Matthew 9:37, speakers sought to encourage, inspire and equip about 200 members in attendance June 14-15. The meeting was held the weekend before the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in Columbus.
 
Speakers shared how as young ministers, a local director of missions took them under their wing to guide them through challenging times. “You guys are on the front lines of ministry,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president, who recalled a director of missions who was a “titanic figure” in his own life.
 
Others shared their efforts to stay connected with the local association, including O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Services, and Steve Bass, North American Mission Board (NAMB) regional vice president. Bass said NAMB is increasing their efforts to “reconnect with the people who are closest to the churches,” as they work together “to implement an Acts 1:8 strategy.”

 
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Photo by Adam Covington
Ken Weathersby, right, talks with Johnny Rumbough, executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Association, prior to the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders meeting June 14 at the Hilton Hotel in Columbus, Ohio.

Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said throughout his ministry he has been active in the association, attending meetings to strengthen local churches. “Even if my church didn’t need the work of the association, our churches needed to be needed,” he said.
 
Challenging days are ahead, Page said, as the role of the association is “changing and morphing” while denominational work is being examined.
 
Referencing Philippians 1:12, Page urged leaders to “remain relevant in denominational life” by examining their own mindset, motive and methodology.
 
He told them not to “bemoan the loss of Cooperative Program support” by blaming a younger generation, saying “CP has flattened under our watch.”
 
Speaking to their “irreducible theological responsibility,” Mohler reminded leaders that many of Southern Baptists’ confessions of faith were named for associations responsible for writing them to maintain theological integrity and define beliefs.
 
“You have a very crucial role as leaders in the association,” Mohler said, “to stand beside the pastor and encourage them to stand by the task, to stand by the truth and to preach the truth in and out of season.”
 
While the readiness of the harvest is a given, the readiness of the church “to engage the harvest is the issue at stake,” said Gerald Roe, professor of Intercultural studies at North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C.
 
Satan is constantly attacking the harvest and church, Roe said, however, “The devil’s ultimate objective is the defamation of Jesus, the Lord of the harvest.”
 
Satan’s “tool of choice for eroding the churches’ confidence in Jesus seems to be the ever present influence and voice of popular culture,” Roe noted.
 
“If the devil can subvert the integrity of the Lord of the harvest, he can also sabotage the work in the harvest by stymying the readiness of the workers called to the harvest.”
 
Ken Weathersby, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement, cited John 13 to challenge and encourage participants to live with joy. He added that does not mean the absence of pain, problems, confusion or conflict.
 
Living with joy is living with a purpose that Jesus has a plan; it’s not letting the problems of this world “deter what I (Jesus) have called you to do,” he said.
 
Weathersby urged the associational leaders to live as a servant, with a holy, sanctified life and an intimate relationship with Jesus through prayer. “You are a servant of the Lord and He has you secure in His arms.”
 
Associational leaders attending shared they valued the spiritual insights and encouraging relationships that result from the annual gathering.
 
“The director of missions role is one of the most undefined ministries in the SBC network,” said Preston Collins of Norman, Okla. “We need each other to refine each other and talk about specific issues.”
 
As a new director of missions, David Robert, Bay Area Baptist Association in Michigan, said he found the breakout sessions helpful. “The session on ministry to bivocational pastors was a home run,” he said. “It gave me good ideas of what to look for and consider when working with ‘bi-vo’ pastors in my area.”
 
Elected as officers for the coming year were Mike Pennington, Bledsoe Association, Gallatin, Tenn., chairman; Tim Pruit, Gila Valley Baptist Association, Phoenix, Az., vice chairman; Philip Price, Jackson County Baptist Association, Pascagoula, Miss., recording secretary; Bob Lowman, Metrolina Baptist Association, Charlotte, N.C., nominating chairman; and Ray Gentry, Southside Baptist Network, McDonough, Ga., conference team leader.
 
SBCAL will meet next June 12-13.in St. Louis, Mo.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is the Florida Baptist Convention’s director of communications.)

6/24/2015 11:42:39 AM by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments



Light shines from Charleston after massacre

June 24 2015 by Rudy Gray, Baptist Courier

The national media spotlight has been on Charleston for several days following the massacre of nine Christians during a Wednesday night Bible study at the predominantly black Emanuel AME Church. A 21-year-old white supremacist, Dylann Storm Roof, joined in the service for about an hour before opening fire on the group.
 
This act of racist hate could have exploded into confusion and violence, but the light from Charleston has shone brighter than the media light that has been on the picturesque South Carolina city.
 
Roof said he chose Charleston “because it is the most historic city in my state. Someone has to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.” What Roof soon discovered was that the hate and evil he demonstrated was met with real-world Christians who chose to respond with what seemed like unbelievable love and forgiveness.
 
Chris Singleton, a sophomore at Charleston Southern University and member of the baseball team, felt the pain of the attack. His mother was one of the nine who was shot and killed. Less than 24 hours following her death, he said, “Love is always stronger than hate.” Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley said, “If that guy thought in his tortured mind that he was going to divide the races, it had the opposite effect.”
 
The Charleston Post and Courier wrote, “In a remarkable display of joy, sorrow, and trust, worshippers at Emanuel AME Church on Sunday morning honored slain parishioners by celebrating the power of faith and community.”
 

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Emanuel AME Church

Norvell Goff, elder in charge of the AME Edisto district that includes Emanuel, said, “A lot of people expected us to do something strange and break out in a riot. Well, they just don’t know us.” Members of the church made comments like, “We are bent but not broken” and “We are not going to let hate win.” Many grieving family members said they forgave Roof, encouraging him to trust Christ as his Savior.
 
The South Carolina Baptist Convention immediately responded to this tragedy by sending $25,000 to help the families. First Baptist Church of Charleston gave an additional $2,000. Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers, sent $100,000 to help the families with burial expenses.
 
Marshall Blalock, senior pastor of Charleston First Baptist, said, “This tragedy was a despicable act of hatred, that no one can understand. God, in his goodness and sovereignty, has inspired these families to magnify the blessing of grace and prevailing love in the midst of what was intended for evil. Now that we have a week of funerals, I ask that you pray for the families who are enduring the pain of this experience in a way that perhaps exceeds the initial shock. This week will be an emotional one for our city, particularly the families of Emanuel Church.”
 
Churches across denominational lines have joined together in a show of support for Emanuel. Blalock noted, “The beauty and power of the gospel was on display at the bond hearing where black lay Christians from Emanuel AME Church gave the greatest gospel witness in the history of our city. One after another, families forgave the man who killed their loved ones and even called on him to repent and receive Christ as his Savior.” Blalock added that the love and grace of these Christians had inspired Charleston and “has created a gospel conversation throughout the city.”
 
Three Charleston-area Southern Baptist congregations – Awaken Church, Journey Church and Centerpoint Church – suspended their regular Sunday services and joined together for worship in sweltering heat on Marion Square, conveying to Emanuel their love and support.
 
South Carolina Rep. Davey Hiott, a member of Pickens First Baptist Church, said, “It is hard to put into words how someone could have that much hate built up inside of them to carry out such a horrific tragedy. The most inspiring part of the whole ordeal is the way the AME church and Charleston people have responded. Many expected racial tension and division, but what they got was comfort, care, love and forgiveness. The families involved are to be commended for their selfless response to senseless killing. What man intended for bad, God can – and will – use for good.”
 
On Sunday night, a walk across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge meant as a display of solidarity turned into a celebration of unity, faith and hope. Organizers anticipated 3,000, but police estimated the crowd to be well over 10,000.
 
Our nation can say to Charleston, with deep gratitude, “Thank you for showing us the better way.” The light that is shining from the “Holy City,” nicknamed because of its many churches, touches us all. In this struggle between love and hate, love won.
 
We have seen the power and truth of God in action – not in times of ease, but in a time of great tragedy. Roof brought murder to the real world and found that the darkness of that evil providentially became the backdrop for God’s light to shine even more brightly.
 
As most of our state mourns this great injustice and prays for the families of the deceased, we are also encouraged by the testimony of God’s people.
 
There is a light in Charleston that shines brightly.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rudy Gray is editor of the Baptist Courier at baptistcourier.com, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)
 

Related stories:

S.C. massacre ‘demonic,’ Baptist pastor says
Christians in Washington respond to S.C. tragedy with prayer

6/24/2015 11:35:40 AM by Rudy Gray, Baptist Courier | with 0 comments



Native American vision tour upcoming for Okla.

June 24 2015 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

A church plant in Oklahoma City has taken on the responsibility of starting a church in Tucson, Ariz., both in a Native American context.
 
“We promote the work of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC),” said Emerson Falls, pastor of Circle of Life in Oklahoma City and president of the Fellowship of Native American Christians (FoNAC), which meets each year in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
Falls’ comment involves the church he leads and the anticipated Tucson church plant, each connecting to FoNAC and the SBC.

 
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Photo by Rebekah Rausch
Emerson Falls, president of the Fellowship of Native American Christians, welcomes attendees to the FoNac annual meeting June 15 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Circle of Life Church meets Wednesday evenings for worship, while weekends are spent ministering among people attending powwows across Oklahoma, which has the most Native Americans of any U.S. state.
 
The Tucson church plant will seek to reach out to Yaqui Indians.
 
Falls and FoNAC’s executive director, Gary Hawkins, addressed the fellowship’s gathering June 15 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
 
Worship in a Native language led by Augustus Smith, president of Native Praise, and a message brought by Vern Charette, assistant professor of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, also were part of this year’s meeting of the fellowship, which was organized in 2006.
 
Of the 566 Native American tribes across the United States, more than 250 are in Oklahoma, with another 75 in North Carolina, Hawkins said. At least 100,000 Native Americans can be counted in each of 14 states. In addition, more than 630 tribal groups are spread across Canada. Fewer than 10 percent of Natives in the U.S. are Christian.
 
“There’s just more things to do than we’re capable of doing,” Hawkins said, yet noting, “We serve a God who is not limited. … Jesus can make a difference in the lives of Native American people.”
 
In partnership with the SBC’s North American Mission Board, FoNAC plans to lead a vision trip to Native American groups in western Oklahoma this year, following by later vision trips to Phoenix/Tucson, Los Angeles and Minneapolis/St.Paul. The group is on the Internet at fonac.org.
 
Anglo churches are encouraged to partner with Native churches to reach Native Americans through long-term connections, Hawkins said. These can include financial support and grants now that the fellowship has become a 501c3 nonprofit organization.
 
FoNAC emphasizes ministry that supports the work of the on-site Christians, Falls said, rather than swooping in, making a splash and leaving a hole that isn’t filled until the next mission team comes in.
 
(EDTIOR’S NOTE – Karen Willoughby is a writer in Mapleton, Utah.)

6/24/2015 11:25:55 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Strachan takes theology/culture role at Midwestern

June 24 2015 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

Owen Strachan will join Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (MBTS) faculty July 1 as associate professor of Christian theology and director of a forthcoming center for theology and culture, MBTS President Jason Allen announced June 22.
 
Strachan currently is assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and its Boyce College and director of the seminary’s Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement.
 
Strachan also is president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

 
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Owen Strachan

“Dr. Strachan is one of the brightest young minds in the Southern Baptist Convention and the broader evangelical world,” Allen said. “He is a gifted thinker and author, and we are thrilled to have him coming to Midwestern Seminary. There is no question he will further strengthen our accomplished faculty.”
 
Allen added, “Dr. Strachan is both thoughtful and convictional, and he is the perfect man to lead our forthcoming center on theology and culture. It will be a serious center, led by a serious man, engaging the most serious and urgent theological and cultural issues of our generation. And, ultimately, the center will serve the church, comporting with Midwestern Seminary’s mission to exist for the church.”
 
Strachan called it “a thrill to join a surging seminary. This is a rare privilege in our time, when many schools are moving away from traditional training. I love and share the robust vision of theological education that Midwestern Seminary has so effectively promoted. There is no more important work in the world than training future leaders of God’s church. This is life or death stuff. The blessing of the Lord is on this school, and it’s hard not to want to be a part of that.”
 
Strachan, author of several books being released this year, said his role at Midwestern also will allow “for maximal writing time, which is a calling on my life.”
 
“I relish engaging the culture and believe that it is a vital part of doctrinal instruction,” Strachan said. “It’s my hope that the center for theology and culture will serve as a power plant for knowledge of the Word and the times. … [S]ecularism, Islam and sexualized postmodernism are, in reality, opportunities – gospel opportunities. I want to help train up an army of gospel Navy SEALs who … show that Christ is all.”
 
Five books by Strachan are being released this year: The Colson Way (Thomas Nelson); Reawakening the Evangelical Mind (Zondervan); The Pastor as Public Theologian (Baker); Designed for Joy (Crossway); and Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Influence of Carl F.H. Henry (Crossway). His book Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome was published in 2013, preceded by Jonathan Edwards, Lover of God; Jonathan Edwards on Beauty; Jonathan Edwards on the Good Life; Jonathan Edwards on True Christianity; and Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell. He also is the editor of The Pastor as Scholar, the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry by John Piper and D.A. Carson.
 
Strachan is a research fellow of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and a contributing writer for The Gospel Coalition. His articles also have appeared in The Atlantic, Washington Post, First Things and Christianity Today and he has been profiled in WORLD magazine as a young evangelical leader and by Baptist Press for his pro-life work.
 
Strachan holds a doctorate in theological studies from the Chicago-area Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, a master of divinity degree from Southern Seminary and an undergraduate degree in history from Bowdoin College in Bruswick, Maine, his native state. At Trinity, he was the managing director of the Carl F.H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding and associate director of the Jonathan Edwards Center.
 
Jason G. Duesing, MBTS provost, said Strachan’s ability “to contribute to the seminary faculty as a writing theologian as well as an accomplished classroom lecturer makes him a welcomed addition to our team of scholars and instructors. Like the Kansas City Royals, with all-stars at every spot on the field, we are having fun pursuing our gospel work with some of the greatest faculty in evangelicalism.”
 
Strachan’s heart “for training and shaping ‘pastor-theologians’ fits perfectly under our ‘for the Church’ banner,” Duesing said. “That he also brings expertise on the great evangelical theologian, Carl F.H. Henry, to the task of teaching theology could not come at a better time for theological education. In our day, we need the wisdom of Henry more than ever.”
 
Strachan will be relocating to Kansas City with his wife, Bethany, and their three children.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

6/24/2015 11:17:58 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments



Late trustee nominees OK’d, entities field questions

June 24 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Among the Southern Baptist Convention entity trustees elected June 16 at the SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, were 11 added to the Committee on Nominations report following its initial release May 1.
 
Also at the annual meeting, messengers asked questions of two SBC entity heads.
 
The 11 additional proposed trustees were nominated by a seven-member subcommittee of the Committee on Nominations appointed at the committee’s March meeting in Nashville. The need for late nominations arose for a variety of reasons such as initial nominees’ opting not to serve, trustee resignations and trustee deaths.
 
The Committee on Nominations’ entire slate of nominees to the SBC Executive Committee, the four convention boards, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the six seminaries and the Committee on Order of Business was elected after messengers rejected Virginia messenger Brent Hobbs’ motion to replace International Mission Board nominee Tom Polvogt of First Baptist Church in Katy, Texas, with Johnson Ellis of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.
 
The 11 late nominees were:

  • EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE: Michael A. (Adam) Hollingsworth, City Church, Tallahassee, Fla., elected to a term expiring 2016.

  • INTERNATIONAL MISSION BOARD: William M. Payne, Central Baptist Church, Syracuse, N.Y., elected to a term expiring 2016; Gibbie McMillan, East Fork Baptist Church, Kentwood, La., elected to a term expiring 2017; Thom Polvogt, First Baptist Church, Katy, Texas, elected to term expiring 2018; and Rob J. Peters, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, N.C., elected to a term expiring 2019.

  • NORTH AMERICAN MISSION BOARD: Gary L. Yochum, Harrison Hills Baptist Church, Lanesville, Ind., elected to a term expiring 2019.

  • THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: David P. Bruce, Lake Mills Baptist Church, Candler, N.C., elected to a term expiring 2016; Jeremiah W. (Jeremy) Rhoden, Clifton Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky., elected to a term expiring 2016.

  • SOUTHWESTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: N. Todd Houston, Beach Road Baptist Church, Southport, N.C., elected to a term expiring 2017.

  • NEW ORLEANS BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: David T. Um, Antioch Baptist Church, Cambridge, Mass., elected to a term expiring 2020.

  • GOLDEN GATE BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Tony Peffer, Faith for Life Church, Castleton, Vt., elected to a term expiring 2020.

Questions and answers

Messengers asked questions of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin and LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer.
 
William Blosch, a messenger from First Newark Baptist Church in Thomasville, Ga., asked Akin why he posted a video on the website of an organization called Openly Secular, which, according to the organization, seeks to “eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance by getting secular people – including atheists, freethinkers, agnostics, humanists and nonreligious people – to be open about their beliefs.”
 
Akin responded that the video was his answer to an atheist friend who said Southern Baptists want to “wipe” atheists “from the face of the earth.” Akin denied his friend’s accusation and told him Southern Baptists would like to see atheists come to faith in Christ. Akin said he also told his friend Baptists have a history of advocating religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
 
Though he disagrees with many beliefs of Openly Secular, Akin said he would suffer and die in defense of atheists’ religious liberty and told his friend he would be willing to state that in a video. “So that’s what I did,” Akin told messengers.
 
Alan Cross, a messenger from Gateway Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., asked Rainer about LifeWay’s efforts to better serve ethnic congregations. Rainer said LifeWay is making strides, with more than 1,000 resources available in 35 different languages.
 
“We’re moving forward, but at the same time, we are not where we should be,” Rainer said. “We have spent this last year listening carefully to various ethnic and other groups that can inform us about things that we who are Anglo will definitely need greater emphasis and information on.”
 
Rainer said he and his executive leadership staff “lead in our endeavor to reflect the diversity that is in the Kingdom of God. We will continue to have greater emphasis on ethnic diversity. We have a long way to go, but we will seek to lead in that direction.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press chief national correspondent David Roach with reporting by Ali Dixon of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Marty King of LifeWay Christian Resources.)

6/24/2015 11:11:46 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Will Southern Baptists support the call to remove S.C. flag?

June 23 2015 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Does a Southern Baptist leader’s call for the Confederate battle flag to come down mark a sea change in the views of evangelicals about a symbol long wrapped in both support for slavery and regional pride?
 
Or will conservative white Christians in the South resist change even as a growing number of Republican leaders – including S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley – from the region call for the flag to go?
 
“The cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire,” Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote in a widely noted blog post on June 19.
 
The column struck a chord because it landed in the midst of the national anguish, and debate, over racism in the U.S. following the massacre of nine parishioners by a white gunman inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
 
The suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, espoused white supremacist views and proudly displayed the Confederate flag, which continues to be flown full-mast on the South Carolina State House grounds.

 
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Photo by Jason Miczek
Sheila DiCiorrio holds a sign asking for the Confederate battle flag that flies at the South Carolina State House to be removed in Columbia, S.C., on June 20, 2015.

“Let’s take down that flag,” Moore concluded.
 
Some say Moore’s call is a marker of a changing ethos within the nation’s largest Protestant denomination as conservative Christians join in mourning the “Emanuel Nine.” Others wonder if the divide over the flag remains.
 
“Russell Moore articulated publicly and brilliantly what many of us have been saying for many years,” said Alan Cross, a white Montgomery, Ala., Southern Baptist pastor, who last week successfully requested that the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) report on its progress on racial reconciliation.
 
“That sentiment is just becoming more vocal and accepted now. Eyes are opening.”
 
Church historian Bill Leonard of Wake Forest University Divinity School agreed that Moore’s sentiments could “prevail given the pain of the current situation.”
 
But he said it’s doubtful all Southern Baptists will back him, despite the June 17 killings.
 
“I think that his constituency in the SBC will be divided, particularly in South Carolina and Georgia, where those flag issues still create energy,” Leonard said.
 
Moore said Monday that he has received an overwhelmingly positive response to his blog post.
 
“I’m surprised by how positive the reaction has been, probably 98 or 99 percent” in favor generally, he told Religion News Service (RNS).
 
“Southern Baptists have been overwhelmingly positive in their responses,” Moore said. “The Lord is doing amazing things in bringing Southern Baptists together across ethnic and racial divisions.”
 
Leaders from African-American clergy to Sikh officials have called for South Carolina legislators to halt the flying of the controversial flag, especially at South Carolina’s State House. Some SBC executives affirmed Moore’s call for taking down the Confederate flag.
 
“Gospel-minded Christians should support taking down the flag,” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said in a statement to RNS. “Love of neighbor outweighs even love of region, and it certainly requires that we disassociate ourselves from any hint of racism, now or in the past.”
 
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., tweeted his thanks to Moore for his “very fine article.”
 
But Moore’s comments have received some criticism.
 
Blogger Douglas Wilson wrote that he has declined to join Moore’s call and instead thinks the response to the shootings at Emanuel AME should be on “issues that stand a chance of being far more relevant to the shooting than a flag at the state capitol.
 
“Is the point to help solve the problem or is the point to make a grand gesture?” Wilson wrote.
 
In a National Review column, evangelical writer David French differentiated between appropriate and inappropriate uses of the Confederate flag.
 
“Flying it as a symbol of white racial supremacy is undeniably vile, and any official use of the flag for that purpose should end, immediately,” he wrote. “Flying it over monuments to Confederate war dead is simply history.”
 
Southern Baptists’ sentiments about the flag and other racially charged issues could be shaped by what many have described as a moving prayer session on June 16 during their annual meeting, during which white Southern Baptists joined African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans onstage to pray for reconciliation and repentance for racism.
 
“Southern Baptists are finding their identity more in Christ than in Southern culture or racial identity,” said Cross, author of When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus.
 
“We still have a long way to go, but change is happening. Moore reflects that rather than being an outlier,” he said.
 
In the early days of the denomination, which has since repented for the role slavery played in its formation, such a statement about the Confederate flag would probably have been unthinkable.
 
An 1863 resolution by delegates of the Southern Baptist Convention said they “will render a hearty support to the Confederate Government in all constitutional measures to secure our independence.”
 
A century and a half later, Cross said that he has seen change beyond prayers from a convention stage and blog posts from a prominent denominational official.
 
“I do not know of very many Southern Baptists, if any, who fly the Confederate flag,” he said. “And I live in Montgomery, Alabama, the first capital of the Confederacy. We have some memorials around with the flag on it, but they are relics of the past and are not related to the active ministry of churches.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adelle M. Banks is production editor and a national correspondent at Religion News Service.)

6/23/2015 11:32:48 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 5 comments



Church security: need highlighted by S.C. shooting

June 23 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The massacre of nine Christians during a prayer service at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., highlights the need for all congregations to implement security measures, a security expert told Baptist Press.
 
“The biggest obstacle for churches is just not believing that [a violent attack] could happen at their churches,” said Jimmy Meeks, a Southern Baptist police officer in Hurst, Texas, who presents church security seminars across America. People “don’t listen to what needs to be done until they believe it needs to be done.”
 
Since 1999, there have been at least 971 incidents in which “deadly force” was employed at faith-based organizations in the U.S., according to statistics posted online by church security expert Carl Chinn. Those incidents resulted in more than 550 deaths, with more deadly force incidents occurring in Baptist churches than among any other group, according to Chinn.
 
Prior to the Charleston slayings, the most notorious church shootings on record included a 1980 attack at First Baptist Church in Daingerfield, Texas, that left five people dead and 15 injured, and a 1999 shooting at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, in which a lone gunman killed seven people and wounded seven more before committing suicide. In 2009, pastor Fred Winters died from four chest wounds sustained during a shooting at First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill.
 
Though some church violence garners widespread media coverage, violent deaths continue at a rate of more than 30 per year even when there is little media attention.
 
Establishing and training a security team, Meeks said, is the most important way a church can protect itself from violent intruders. He added that small and large churches alike need security teams.
 
“You have got to train” a security team, said Meeks, who has been interviewed by TIME and NBC since the June 17 shooting in Charleston. “... Men don’t rise to the occasion. They sink to the level of their training.”
 
Ideally, a church security team should consist of active and retired law enforcement professionals along with carefully selected and trained laypeople, according to GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. The team’s duties should include assessing risks, establishing a plan for responding to security threats and making sure the church has adequate insurance coverage to help victims if a crime occurs.
 
GuideStone’s online Safety Toolkit provides information on various facets of church security, including the prevention of violence. Among GuideStone’s recommendations for protecting a church against crime:

  • Install fire and burglar alarm systems that automatically alert a manned security station whenever an alarm sounds.

  • Install adequate dusk-to-dawn or motion-sensitive lighting around buildings.

  • Landscape church property to eliminate hiding areas close to buildings whenever possible.

  • Secure windows, basement entries and external stairways.

During worship services, Meeks said, a church should position security team members strategically in the worship center as well as in the parking lot. If suspicious individuals enter the church, security team members should approach them without being unfriendly and even sit with them if possible.
 
Security team members should be armed in states where it is permitted by law, Meeks said. If the security team does not carry weapons, it is crucial to confront and tackle a violent intruder immediately, even if doing so requires a security team member to sacrifice his life.
 
“You don’t have a lot of options” regarding violent intruders, Meeks said.
 
The popular WWJD [What Would Jesus Do] campaign years ago always depicted Jesus as doing “something sweet” and often overlooked Christ’s cautious or protective actions, Meeks said. “What about John 2:24b-25 – Jesus ‘knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man’? What’s wrong with not trusting people you don’t know? Be watchful of them.”
 
In addition to guarding against violent attacks, church security teams must focus on sex crime prevention, Meeks said. He noted that at one point during the past decade, 23 sex crimes were reported at U.S. Protestant churches every day.
 
GuideStone’s website recommends, among other child sexual abuse prevention measures, screening all children’s and youth workers as well as requiring that at least two adults be present in every room where children’s ministry occurs.
 
GuideStone guides to sexual abuse prevention are among more than 20 resources for sexual abuse prevention available at sbc.net under the “Resources” tab. A 2013 SBC resolution on “sexual abuse of children” encouraged “pastors and church leaders to develop and implement sound policies and procedures to protect our children.”
 
To guard against these and other security threats, Meeks underscored the importance of training security team members. One training option is Sheepdog Seminars, an organization for which Meeks and Chinn serve as speakers, but Meeks said a Google search for “church security training” will yield many helpful training choices. Churches also may contact their local Baptist state conventions for help with security resources.
 
“Whosoever will, let him come” should be the attitude of congregations toward guests, Meeks said. “But keep an eye on him if you’re not familiar with him, if he’s acting odd.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

Related Stories:

S.C. massacre ‘demonic,’ Baptist pastor says
Christians in Washington respond to S.C. tragedy with prayer

6/23/2015 11:25:39 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Angie Smith shares journey with ministers’ wives

June 23 2015 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press

Angie Smith told more than 1,000 ministers’ wives how much she had dreaded to speak at this year’s Ministers’ Wives Luncheon, held during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, June 16.
 
To explain, she pointed to her first experience with Christians as a Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University. Not yet a Christian, she had been invited to a Bible study – “whatever that was!” – by fellow students who instructed her to go to the LifeWay bookstore to buy her Bible study book.
 
In the store’s parking lot, the Beastie Boys blaring from her radio, Smith froze in fear. As she looked into the store, she felt she didn’t belong, a sentiment she carried throughout her early experiences as a new believer. She left the parking lot empty-handed, but still attended the study, where she later became a Christian.
 
“I felt really awkward when I became a Christian as an adult,” Smith confessed, sharing she would look up all the Bible passages in advance of each Bible study so that she wouldn’t look foolish in front of others. She also bought children’s Bibles at the LifeWay store so that she could better understand the Bible’s storylines.

 
6-23-15ministerswives.jpg

Photo by Adam Covington
Angie Smith, author of several books and wife of Todd Smith, lead singer of Christian music group Selah, was the featured speaker at the Ministers’ Wives luncheon June 16 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. The sold-out event was themed “Radiant Ministers’ Wives” based on Exodus 34:29.

Those “baby steps” eventually led to her becoming a LifeWay author of several books, including the recently released Seamless, a seven-session Bible study that helps explain the Bible as one complete story.
 
She is also the author of a blog entitled, “Bring the Rain” (now at angiesmithministries.com) and the books, I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy, and Mended, works born out of the loss of her and her husband Todd’s newborn daughter Aubrey in 2008. Todd is lead singer of the Dove Award-winning group Selah.
 
“Isn’t it ironic that I have been publishing with LifeWay for seven years now? Next time I do this, I am going to stand outside a bank!” Smith joked.
 
“But here’s the point. In that [parking lot] moment, God saw me sitting there, in this mess, and because of women like you who are sitting in this room, who just reached out and made me feel welcome, I am where I am today … as one who’s eternity is secure.”
 
Acknowledging many ministers’ wives feel inadequate for their tasks, she told them, “You’ve been called to be exactly where you are. You’ve been equipped to be the wife to the man that you are married to, to be the mother of your children, to be in the specific role in ministry … none of these things are accidental.”
 
Her voice cracking with emotion, Smith said, “Yet I know sometimes you might feel, ‘God, did you pick the wrong girl?’”
 
Encouraging the ministers’ wives from Psalm 34:4 to stay focused on the Lord, Smith reminded them what was their responsibility – to “seek, look, cry, and fear Him” – and what was God’s – He “answered, delivered, heard, saved.”
 
“I want to focus the rest of my days … with a radiance,” she said.
 
This year’s luncheon president, Mary Cox of Lawrenceville, Ga., said this year’s luncheon theme, “Radiant,” was based on Moses in Exodus 34:29, whose face was radiant because he had been with the Lord. “There are times we struggle with the stress of ministry and we do not feel like being radiant,” Cox said, “but when we look to the Lord and spend time with Him, we will become radiant.”
 
Guest musician TaRanda Greene, who began her career with Southern Gospel group The Greenes also shared her struggles. In 2010, she found herself a widow and a single mother of two girls, a story she now shares through music and testimony. She led a powerful rendition of the hymn, “It is Well,” which culminated into a standing ovation.
 
Officers for the 2016 luncheon in St. Louis, Mo., with the theme “Be Encouraged,” are Vicki Munton, of O’Fallon, Ill., president; and Sheila Peters of Columbia, Ill., Wyvetta Granger of East St. Louis, Ill., and Donna Quails of Arnold, Mo., as vice presidents.
 
Next year’s featured speaker at the June 14 luncheon will be popular comedian Anita Renfroe, who is known for her “unique brand of estrogen flavored musical comedy.” She has been featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “Dr. Phil,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” and many other media outlets.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network in Columbia, Md.)

6/23/2015 11:12:51 AM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



LifeWay reports strategic changes

June 23 2015 by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay

LifeWay Christian Resources is poised to reach a million people this fall with its Christ-centered curriculum, The Gospel Project, leaders announced at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Columbus.
 
During his report to SBC messengers, LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer laid out three strategic changes LifeWay is making to prepare for the future and serve churches more effectively. These strategic changes include selling its sprawling headquarters in downtown Nashville later this year and building a smaller facility nearby.
 
“Our leadership believes you make strategic changes when your organization is strongest,” Rainer said.
 
Rainer explained some of its buildings date from the early 20th century and weren’t designed for modern technology or collaborative work. LifeWay has moved printing, assembly and shipping elsewhere, leaving about two-thirds of the current property unused. Employees are scattered through nine buildings on nearly 15 acres, with five times the space they need.
 
“We cannot waste time, money and other resources on inefficient facilities,” Rainer said. “We must be the best stewards of the resources Southern Baptists have entrusted to our care.”

 
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Photo by Paul W. Lee
Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, gives a report and presentation during the last session of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting held June 16-17 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

LifeWay expects to break ground this fall on a new facility in downtown Nashville and move into the new building by late 2017.
 
The second strategic change was merging LifeWay’s Church Resources and B&H Publishing divisions. “It no longer makes sense to have two different publishers under one roof,” Rainer said. “The fusion of these two divisions has given us an incredible opportunity to lead with LifeWay.”
 
With that, Rainer also introduced plans to focus LifeWay’s retail stores more strongly on LifeWay products. “The stores will become more and more a local expression of LifeWay,” he said.
 
Unifying into “One LifeWay” will position the publisher to provide better services to churches, Rainer said. One such service, a smartphone app called DevoHub, was unveiled during the SBC meeting with live demonstrations in the exhibit hall and a presentation from LifeWay Resources Vice President Eric Geiger.
 
DevoHub is designed to eliminate barriers to daily Bible reading, a practice Geiger said impacts every other spiritual discipline. DevoHub will allow churches to provide devotional content to members and guests throughout the week.
 
“Devotionals will be sent to users’ phones from your church,” he said. “It’s a tool to allow them to study the scripture every single day in their personal devotions.”
 
Rainer noted LifeWay has seen three consecutive years of growth in providing Bible study materials after nearly 30 years of decline. Helping drive that growth is The Gospel Project, introduced in 2012 to guide church groups in teaching theology. LifeWay initially projected 30,000 users.
 
“Three years later we are amazed at what God has done,” said LifeWay Insights Vice President Ed Stetzer. More than 750,000 people now use the curriculum each week.
 
The number is expected to reach 1 million this fall as The Gospel Project launches a new three-year study plan, stretching chronologically from Genesis to Revelation and focusing on the role of Christ, Stetzer said.
 
“We believe Jesus isn’t part of the Bible story – He’s the point of the Bible story,” Stetzer said. “Every age, from babies to adults, will study the same Bible passage each week.”
 
The theology-oriented Gospel Project is one of four LifeWay curriculum options, each based on a different starting point, Geiger said. Explore the Bible approaches scripture book by book; Bible Studies for Life focuses on life issues. And for churches “who want their small groups to really be in sync with their pastor’s sermons,” Geiger said, LifeWay this year launched SmallGroup.com. The online tool allows leaders to build their own Bible study curriculum from more than 1,500 existing studies.
 
“You can search a passage of Scripture or a topic you’re wanting to study, and then you can customize a study for your group,” Geiger said.
 
Rainer also recapped high points from LifeWay’s past year:

  • B&H Publishing landed 28 titles on the Christian Booksellers Association Bestseller List and was voted Spanish Publisher of the Year for the second year in a row. Rainer noted the B&H book imprint will continue despite the division’s merger.

  • LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina hosted more than 64,000 guests and more than 2,100 campers at Camp Ridgecrest for Boys and Camp Crestridge for Girls.

  • LifeWay Christian Stores served nearly 2.7 million customers in 185 stores and partnered with customers and the International Mission Board to send 200,000 Bibles to South Asia and 126,000 to Central America.

“All of this has happened in a season of significant change for LifeWay,” Rainer said, with shifts occurring in church practices as well as the publishing industry.
 
LifeWay believes its new strategic directions are the best way to serve churches’ needs, he said. “Change is not about us – it is about us seeking God’s face, moving forward where He shows us. That is what we are doing, and we covet your prayers as we go.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is senior writer for LifeWay’s Facts & Trends magazine.)

6/23/2015 11:06:01 AM by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay | with 0 comments



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