June 2015

John Stonestreet expounds on faith, culture and worldview

January 7 2019 by BSC Communications

John Stonestreet serves as president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He is a speaker, writer, cultural commentator and host of Breakpoint Radio, a program and podcast devoted to Christian worldview founded by the late Chuck Colson.

Stonestreet is passionate about illuminating a biblical worldview for today’s culture, and he will be the keynote speaker at this year’s N.C. Baptist Disciple-Making Conference on Tues., Feb. 26 at Green Street Baptist Church in High Point.
Stonestreet took some time to answer questions related to worldview, cultural engagement and what he plans to share at the conference. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of that conversation.
Q: For those who may not be familiar with it, can you describe the Colson Center and your role there?
A: The Colson Center stewards one aspect of the rich legacy of Chuck Colson after his many years in the prisons. He became concerned that the prison population was exploding in America and realized brokenness was happening upstream.
That drove him into studying some of the great thinkers like William Wilberforce, Abraham Kuyper and others who turned him on to the concept of Christians understanding their faith as a complete worldview, so they could engage the culture well.
Chuck spent the last 20 years of his life talking about culture and how the church should be involved in bringing restoration. Everything that belongs to that part of Chuck’s legacy is under our purview. Our podcasts, website, Colson Fellows program and Wilberforce Weekend – which is our big conference every year – are designed to help Christians understand what’s happening in the culture from a biblical worldview and to encourage, motivate and equip them to engage the culture as Christians.
Q: At the outset of your book A Practical Guide to Culture you write, “Culture is a big topic and is much more easily theorized about than engaged in.” Why are believers often hesitant to engage culture?
A: I think there are probably a number of reasons. One is they are not aware of how culture is shaping them. They are like proverbial fish who don’t know they’re wet.
If you are not intentionally stepping out, taking a look at it, trying to evaluate it and trying to be intentional about understanding it, then you just end up swimming in the cultural waters.
Another aspect is what you might call the cocktail party pressure – the social cost for going against the cultural tide. No one wants to be a jerk, and no one wants to be called a bigot, so there is pressure. We don’t stop and engage it; we just go along.
Also, there is a lack of equipping. One of the most descriptive phrases we’ve heard of where Christians are, comes from Christian Smith’s work several years ago when he said many young people are moralistic, therapeutic deists. In other words, they want to be good people, nice people and happy people, and ultimately that’s the extent of how they understand their faith applies to life.
When all believers have ever heard are sermons and Bible teachings that are moralistic or therapeutic – in other words this is how you can behave and this is how you can feel better – then they haven’t been equipped to understand worldview battles beneath our culture. There’s a lack of awareness, and maybe if they are aware of it, there’s a lack of feeling equipped. We don’t see engaging the culture as any central part of discipling believers, and I think it needs to be.
Q: Your book covers a lot of topics (entertainment and consumerism to sexual orientation and gender identity). What are some of the cultural shifts we need to understand in order to engage our neighbors with the gospel?
A: In addition to what we call in the book “cultural waves” – the things we feel – there’s the undercurrent, things that have shifted over the last several decades that have changed what it really means to experience the world today. One is the shift to the information age.

That’s a really big deal. Now, in the culture we have access to more information and we are more highly susceptible to confusion and deception. There are so many ideas coming at us all the time. We say in the book that the information age is really the ideas age. Often ideas come at us without a strong argument, without really being proven and maybe even are mischaracterized. So, we don’t have a real keen sense of discernment when it comes to ideas, because it’s easy to be deceived.
We’re in a culture where we’re more connected but also more relationally isolated than ever before. It’s one of the great ironies – we have more ways to talk to each other and more people report being lonely.
There’s a great opportunity there because the gospel is centered around the God who became flesh, so there’s a relational component to the Christian worldview that others don’t have.
Also, there are issues with sexuality, marriage and gender. A lot of times we see those as separate issues, but fundamentally all those issues are about identity. And we tend to look at those issues in moral terms. So, when it comes to all the issues about sexuality and marriage, a lot of times the church is having a moral conversation while the culture is having an identity conversation, which is why we’re often shooting past each other. 
Q: The 2019 Disciple-Making Conference will focus on how to be salt and light in a rapidly changing culture. How can we do that and where do we begin?
A: First of all, we have to know what we believe and why we believe it. We need to be really clear that when we talk about Christian truth, we’re not talking about things we believe are true; we’re talking about things that actually correspond with reality. I think that’s the jump a lot of people need to make – the difference between saying I believe this and being able to articulate and make the case that Christianity as a worldview best explains the way the world actually is.
We’re not going to be salt and light if we’re just addicted to being relevant at all costs.
That’s the irony of it. In order to reach the world, a lot of times we just want to be relevant, but the larger culture is confused on fundamental issues about what it means to be human, what’s right and wrong and what the answer to the world’s problems are. So, if we try to be relevant ... we’re actually going to be irrelevant to what’s actually true.

1/7/2019 6:33:53 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

National CP 4.5% under YTD budget projection

January 7 2019 by Baptist Press Staff

Contributions to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee in December were 4.50 percent below the projected budget for the first quarter of the current fiscal year. And they were 0.19 percent above the amount received during the same period last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee Interim President and Executive Vice President D. August Boto.

As of Dec. 31, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget totaled $46,315,254.71, or $86,029.25, above the $46,229,225.46 received through the first three months of the 2017–2018 fiscal year. The fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. The December total is $2,184,745.29 below the $48,500,000 YTD allocation budget projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America.
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving, begun in 1925, through which a local church can contribute to the ministries of its state convention and the missions and ministries of the SBC through a unified giving plan to support both sets of ministries. Monies include receipts from individuals, churches and state conventions for distribution according to the 2018-2019 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
Meanwhile, year-to-date designated giving of $10,232,108.45 was 11.95 percent, or $1,388,252.43, below gifts of $11,620,360.88 received in the first three months of the last fiscal year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief, Disaster Relief and other special gifts.
CP allocation receipts for SBC work for the month of December totaled $14,779,341.27. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $3,753,123.64.
State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions to Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to SBC national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.
The convention-adopted budget for 2018-2019 is $194 million and is disbursed as follows: 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board, 22.79 percent to North American missions through the North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education through the six SBC seminaries and the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The SBC Executive Committee distributes all CP and designated gifts it receives on a weekly basis to the SBC ministry entities.
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the timing of when the cooperating state Baptist conventions forward the national portion of CP contributions to the Executive Committee, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the number of Sundays in a given month, and the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted.
CP allocation budget gifts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at cpmissions.net/CPReports.

1/7/2019 6:33:36 PM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments

Though not in Congress, N.C. pastor at ‘peace’

January 4 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

With his apparent election to Congress still uncertified nearly two months after Election Day, former pastor Mark Harris said he is wounded by questions about his character but determined to persevere in his quest for public office.

Screen capture from WRAL
Congressional candidate Mark Harris told reporters Jan. 3 he stands on his "good name and reputation" amid an election fraud investigation.

Meanwhile, a Baptist associational leader in Charlotte, N.C. – where Harris pastored First Baptist Church until 2017 – said churches and pastors are praying for Harris. On Christmas Eve, Harris told Metrolina Baptist Association executive director Bob Lowman he feels “a peace” amid media coverage and allegations of election fraud.
Harris, who has denied any wrongdoing connected with the election, told reporters Jan. 3 that questions about his integrity are “painful and hurtful” aspects of the post-election fiasco.
“We went through a tough campaign in the fall,” including ads “that took my sermons out of context,” “twisted” them and attempted “to create an image of me that was nowhere near where I am as an individual,” Harris told reporters in Raleigh, N.C., after meeting with state election investigators. He apparently was referencing attack ads about his preaching on biblical gender roles.
“But I must say, as painful and hurtful as that was, this has been even worse because I don’t have anything that’s more valuable than my good name,” Harris said. “And I intend to stand on that good name and reputation that I have built over 30 years as a senior pastor in the state of North Carolina and the leadership that I’ve been able to bring.”
Harris was president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina from 2011-2013 and served on the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions Committee. The new Congress was sworn in without Harris in Washington about the same time he addressed media in Raleigh.
Unofficial election results from North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District showed Harris, a Republican, defeating Democrat Dan McCready in November by 905 votes out of nearly 283,000 cast. However, the State Board of Elections refused to certify the results amid claims of irregularities regarding absentee ballots. Media reports have alleged election fraud.
Before the Board of Elections resolved the claims, a state court dissolved the board in a separate case. Harris filed court documents Jan. 3 asking a Wake County Superior Court judge to certify the election results immediately while election fraud investigations continue.
“We don’t believe that the number of ballots in question would change the outcome of this election,” Harris said.
A new Board of Elections won’t be in place until Jan. 31, and the state’s political parties have squabbled over Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposal to appoint an interim board.
Media reports have speculated new primary and general elections eventually may be called.
The 9th District election “is complete chaos,” Charlotte television reporter Joe Bruno told NPR, “and it changes every day.”
Harris told Charlotte’s WBT radio Dec. 28 he would run again if new elections were held. “I answered a call to do this, and I have been running,” he said. “And I will run until there’s nowhere else for me to run in this election.”
Harris added, “We have simply been trusting God each day that truth would be revealed.”
Lowman, Harris’ longtime friend, said Harris told him before a Christmas Eve worship service he “had a peace” about the election and has thought often about the song “God Will Make a Way.”
“There have been the predictable partisan comments from people across the board,” Lowman told Baptist Press. “But at least from what I’ve heard from Mark and others connected with that process ... it’s not that they want their way. They just want the right and truth to come out.”
Churches, pastors and other Baptist leaders, Lowman said, “have been rallying around to pray for” Harris and his wife Beth “as well as for the process.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – With reporting by Allan Blume, editor of North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder news journal.)

1/4/2019 10:47:43 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Alabama football players give boost to local ministry

January 4 2019 by Tim Ellsworth, Union University

Alabama running back Josh Jacobs and three other Crimson Tide football players provided a pleasant surprise for a 13-year-old boy while delivering a mattress and bed to a Tuscaloosa home in partnership with Calvary Baptist Church’s S.D. Allen Ministry.

Submitted photo
Alabama football players Hale Hentges and Keaton Anderson, left, along with a couple of other S.D. Allen Ministry volunteers, helped deliver beds to families in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Jacobs walked into the house, and the boy who lived there looked him up and down.
“Are you Josh Jacobs?” the boy asked.
Jeff Hurn, director of the S.D. Allen Ministry, noted it “was such a cool thing that somebody that these kids essentially look up to as role models, it’s something special to see them realize that those guys are real people who care as well.”
Jacobs, Hale Hentges, Miller Forristall and Keaton Anderson, all from the Alabama football team, helped Hurn last month deliver the 1,000th bed the ministry has provided to Tuscaloosa-area residents who can’t afford such luxuries.

On Jan. 7, the four players and the rest of their Crimson Tide teammates will face Clemson for the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Calvary Baptist Church began the S.D. Allen Ministry in the aftermath of a 2011 tornado that caused widespread destruction in Tuscaloosa. The church originally adopted about 25 families from a local housing project who lost everything in the storm – moving them into new apartments and paying their utilities and rent for three months. That number quickly increased to 130 families.

Submitted photo
Alabama football players, from left, Miller Forristall, Josh Jacobs, Keaton Anderson and Hale Hentges, along with S.D. Allen Ministry director Jeff Hurn, right, pose with the family that received the 1,000th bed the ministry has provided.

In the months after the tornado, the church began to realize that while several other sources were available to provide food and clothing to people in need, the city had no agency providing beds and furniture. That led to the establishment of the S.D. Allen Ministry. S.D. Allen was a member of Calvary who left the church funds, after his death, to be used for missions and outreach.
“Pretty quickly we focused in on necessary furniture items, specifically beds and sofas and stuff that could really help low income families and children and homeless veterans,” Hurn said. “I’ve come to find out that there are possibly thousands of people in just the Tuscaloosa area, within a one-hour radius, who are sleeping on the floor because they don’t have enough money to purchase a bed to sleep on.”
For Hurn, the involvement of Alabama football players is a huge boost to his ministry. Crimson Tide players are local celebrities with huge followings on social media. Anderson and Hentges joined up with the S.D. Allen Ministry when they selected a community organization for a marketing class project. They’ve helped Hurn with furniture deliveries and with promoting the ministry on social media.
Through that class, Hurn built a relationship with them that led to Jacobs’ and Forristall’s involvement as well.
Anytime one of the players posts on social media about S.D. Allen Ministry, Hurn sees an immediate uptick in phone calls and emails from people wanting to volunteer or make donations.

Submitted photo
Volunteers from the S.D. Allen Ministry load up mattresses to be delivered to needy families.

Because the football players are typically so busy with classes and football, they aren’t often seen out in the community. That makes it extra special for them to be involved with the S.D. Allen Ministry.
“For a kid or a single mom to have one of those guys knock on their front door, it’s almost like a Publisher’s Clearinghouse commercial,” Hurn said. “Someone knocks on your door, and they’re so surprised. It’s like they’ve seen a ghost.”
For Hurn, the Crimson Tide component is a bonus that allows him to do a better job of fulfilling his mission of providing not only for people’s physical needs, but for their spiritual needs as well.
“This is the easiest way to get the gospel into somebody’s life,” Hurn said. “They’ll open the door for you anytime you want to come bring a bed for their kid to sleep in. So, with each family I pray for them and let them know that God’s provided this bed for them just like He’s provided salvation through Christ for them as well.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.)

1/4/2019 10:47:36 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Union University | with 0 comments

Third gender option takes effect in NYC, California

January 4 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

People who don’t believe they’re either male or female can now choose a third gender in New York City and California, joining six other states and Washington, D.C., that allow the option.
Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington State and Washington, D.C. allow a non-binary gender option, often designated by X on legal documents, including driver’s licenses and birth certificates.
Gender X becomes legal in New Jersey in February, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s tracking site. Vermont is in the process of making the change, and state officials pledged in January 2018 to have the option in place by July of this year.
In Arkansas, a little-known option has allowed non-binary designations on documents since 2010, HuffPost reported in October 2018. The designation is becoming more widespread following its adoption by Oregon and Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2017, with legislation reintroduced in New York State this month. Germany became the first European nation to allow gender X in December 2018, the German government announced.
Mayor Bill de Blasio celebrated the change in New York City.
“To all trans and non-binary New Yorkers: we see you, hear you and respect you,” he tweeted days in advance of the change. “Starting in 2019, all New Yorkers will be able to change their gender on their birth certificate to M, F or X – without a doctor’s note.”
Argentina, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, India, Malta, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan and Uruguay are among nations allowing a third gender, according to various news reports and government websites.
Southern Baptists affirm binary gender in Article III of the Baptist Faith and Message, referencing Genesis 1:27, while the 2014 SBC resolution On Transgender Identity affirms “God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception – a perception which is often influenced by fallen human nature in ways contrary to God’s design.”

1/4/2019 10:47:24 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBU professor’s firing, university’s theology discussed

January 3 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

As a former Southwest Baptist University (SBU) professor appeals his termination for allegedly accusing faculty colleagues of deviating from theological orthodoxy, the university has commissioned an “external peer assessment” to include “evaluations regarding orthodoxy” on the Bolivar, Mo., campus.

Photo from SBU
A theology professor's termination by Southwest Baptist University (SBU) has sparked discussion of theological views among faculty in SBU's Courts Redford College of Theology and Ministry.

In the month since SBU’s Nov. 28 termination of Clint Bass, assistant professor of theology and philosophy, online discussion has included a petition calling for the university’s administration and trustees to “exonerate” Bass. As of midday Jan. 2, the petition had garnered more than 1,300 signatures and was accompanied by letters supporting Bass from professors at two Southern Baptist Convention seminaries.
Within the petition were links to documents claiming to provide evidence of deviations by SBU faculty from the biblical doctrines of scripture, hell and justification by faith among other points of Baptist theology.
In defense of SBU, a Dec. 22 blog post by one of Bass’s former SBU faculty colleagues, Zach Manis, claimed Bass was fired for “gross professional misconduct” and defended the theological orthodoxy of faculty in SBU’s Courts Redford College of Theology and Ministry. The post appeared as a guest article on the personal blog of Rodney Reeves, dean of Redford College. In a Dec. 21 Facebook post, Reeves said he affirmed the inerrancy of scripture and had been “grieving for days over Clint’s dismissal.”
Bass was informed of his immediate termination in a letter from SBU President Eric Turner, which later was released online. The letter noted among “grounds for dismissal” “collecting evidence and ascribing views to [faculty colleagues] without personal interaction” and “use of non-credible information to formulate accusations against fellow faculty members.”
On Oct. 30, Bass “made serious allegations” orally to Turner and SBU Provost Lee Skinkle regarding his “colleagues’ personal and theological positions,” Turner wrote. “The allegations made were determined as unfounded” following “a systematic inquiry” by Skinkle. Turner accused Bass of using “notes and accusations as leverage” after being denied a promotion.
Bass alleged in a Dec. 21 statement he was granted an appeal hearing by a trustee committee but that his meeting with the committee was not conducted according to university policy.
“I was ready to participate in the process promised to me,” Bass wrote, adding the committee questioned him for hours with “a focus” on “my communications with other Missouri Baptists, and whether those communications were immoral.”
The day after Bass released his statement, SBU issued a news release announcing it had “commissioned an external peer assessment committee that will lead a University-wide dialogue regarding faith and learning. Included within this assessment will be deeper conversations and evaluations regarding orthodoxy.” The committee will be chaired, SBU stated, by David Dockery, president of Trinity International University.
SBU told Baptist Press in a Jan. 2 statement, “As the University has previously stated publicly, a faculty member at SBU was provided a Notice of Dismissal that outlined personal behavior concerning conduct violations of SBU’s Faculty Handbook. Since the employee’s dismissal, public discussions have mischaracterized the theological views and stances of the University.
“In an effort to ensure that the University’s theology integrity is intact, we have commissioned the peer assessment committee chaired by Dr. David Dockery. As we have been working on developing a strategic plan for the future of SBU, it is abundantly clear that SBU is and always should remain a Christ-centered community. We believe that the result of this dialogue will be an SBU that is even more firmly grounded in the core values that have defined us since our inception,” the university stated.
The online petition, posted at Change.org by Bass supporters, stated Bass “embraces with enthusiasm” the Baptist Faith and Message. Missouri Baptists “should be concerned not only about the theology being taught” in Redford College, but also “the way SBU’s administration has handled their investigation into Dr. Bass’s claims and his subsequent dismissal.”
Manis, professor of theology and philosophy at SBU, said the notion Bass was fired for his conservative theology is “flatly false.”
Social media defenses of Bass have included some by employees of SBC entities, including Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary theology professor Malcolm Yarnell and Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission research director Andrew Walker, an SBU alumnus who also commended the university for launching its peer assessment.
SBU is affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention.

1/3/2019 12:03:53 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Lord protected us,’ Baptist pastor says of gunman

January 3 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

“The Lord protected us,” a Texas pastor proclaimed after police arrested a masked gunman more than 250 miles away who cited the specific church as his destination.

Seguin Police Department photo
Tony Albert

“There is an overwhelming recognition that the Lord protected us and provided for us,” Terry Wright of First Baptist Church in Vidor told Baptist Press (BP) Jan. 2.
Police in Seguin, Texas, 254 miles southwest of Vidor, contacted the pastor after arresting 33-year-old Tony Dwayne Albert II, whom police said was dressed in tactical style clothing, had a loaded gun and said he was headed to the church to fulfill an unspecified prophecy.
“We’re very grateful that the man was caught,” Wright told BP. “We also know that he needs help. He has some problems, evidently, and we ... pray for his well-being, that through this, somehow or another, there be a spiritual impact in his life.
“I prayed for him this morning,” Wright said.
Albert told the Seguin Police Department he was headed for First Baptist Church of Vidor, police said after charging Albert with possession of marijuana and felony possession of a firearm. The 9mm handgun had been reported stolen from a residence in Vidor, police said, but Albert’s participation in the theft was not certain.
Wright described First Baptist in Vidor as a spiritually strong congregation with modern and tactical security measures in place. The incident underscores the need for evangelism, Wright told BP.
“They are saddened that someone would want to come here and harm people,” Wright said of First Baptist Vidor. “They also know there’s been other places where this has happened, and this is kind of the signs of the times that we live in. And if anything, it should prompt us to do more in the area of evangelism, in reaching people and ministering to people.”
In the town of 11,000, about 350 people attend First Baptist Vidor on any given Sunday, according to 2017 self-reported Annual Church Profile data.
According to reports, police arrested Albert after responding to a call from Las Mananitas restaurant in Seguin.
“He was looking at me and he was saying something about, ‘Do you know where the nearest church is at?’” ABC affiliate KSAT quoted waitress Brianna Jimenez. “And he said Baptist church.” The restaurant was on lockdown after staff noticed Albert carrying a gun as he exited the business.
Albert is being held in the Guadalupe County Jail and may face additional charges. The Vidor Police Department, the FBI, the Texas Rangers, the Guadalupe County District Attorney’s Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigation.
Albert is a Houston resident and his connection to Vidor was not known, Seguin police spokesperson Tanya Brown told BP today.

1/3/2019 12:03:44 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Miracle cardiologist cherishes ‘power of prayer’

January 3 2019 by Mark Maynard, Kentucky Today

A cardiologist who had a miracle recovery from a grim cancer diagnosis this summer spoke emotionally Dec. 16 from the pulpit at Rose Hill Baptist Church.

Photo by Mark Maynard
David Bush, who has recovered from a grim cancer diagnosis this summer, spoke to his home church Dec. 16.

After receiving a standing ovation from a packed house in Ashland, Ky., David Bush thanked a congregation who had lifted him up in prayer during a two-month stretch when doctors gave him little hope.
Nobody would have given him much hope to even be in the service nine days before Christmas, let alone delivering a Sunday morning message.
It wasn’t unusual to have Bush speaking at Rose Hill, where he is a longtime deacon, board chairman of the Christian school operated by the church and a go-to substitute speaker for Pastor Matt Shamblin.
But it was a day of celebrating God’s goodness for the church.
All eyes were locked on Bush as he briefly told his new testimony of going from being one of Ashland’s busiest – and best – cardiologists to the intensive care unit at King’s Daughters Medical Center, clinging to every breath.
Meanwhile, Shamblin, his pastor, was gathering prayer warriors from wherever he could find them. Believers came from throughout the community but consistently from the church.
They had prayer vigils at the church and even at the hospital where Bush practiced – 24-hour vigils of deep prayer for their beloved Christian brother.
Bush noticed in June that he had a slight cough with some chest pain, and it was the forebear for an unforgettable two months.
“The bad thing about being a doctor is you know too much,” he said.
Doctors did chest X-rays and didn’t like what they saw. “If this is cancer,” they told him, “you should be dead.”
Cancer was in both lungs, his spine and seven spots on the brain. Even Bush knew the prognosis was poor. But neither he, his family nor his church family gave up hope.
“That was a low point with my family and me,” he said of learning cancer had spread to so many places. “It means that there’s little hope and you’re not going to be around long.”
But God had other plans even though there were still some moments when it didn’t look good.
“Doctors told my family a couple of times (when he was in ICU) that I wasn’t going to make it through the night,” Bush said. “But all over the world, thousands of people that I didn’t even know were praying for me. My life is a testament to the power of prayer and God.”
Gradually, Bush began taking a new medicine and began to improve and regain strength. He was discharged from the hospital in late July and was scanned again in September with startling results – the cancer was only in one lung and just slightly. And the tumors on his spine and brain were gone.
Bush’s message to the congregation, though, wasn’t so much about his miraculous recovery as it was about how his life is now more eternally pointed – and that everyone’s life should be that way as well. He spoke of the brevity of life, the importance of life, the true wisdom of life and the judgment from life.
“When you look at your own mortality, you evaluate life,” he said. “You have much more urgency to tell others about the gospel. You tend to remove the unimportant things in life.”
Life is fleeting, a puff of smoke, he said, and the sooner Christians realize that, the better.
“We number everything except our days because it doesn’t come normally,” he said. “It’s important to realize we have a limited time on earth to spread the gospel and to edify.”
Bush became emotional as his voice cracked several times during the sermon while he pleaded with his listeners to make God a priority. His brush with death made him refocus on what’s important.
“I need to do what God wants me to do,” he said. “Don’t fill your life up with temporary things. There should be no difference between our beliefs and our actions.”
The biggest reason that Christians don’t share the gospel isn’t because they are afraid or embarrassed, it is because their life does not match their testimony, according to a survey Bush read.
“Humbleness before God is one of the most important things in life,” he said. “He will not use prideful people.”
Once a Christian becomes serious, life changes. “The Bible says you will find God when you seek Him with your whole heart,” he said.
And when that happens, opportunities come and doors swing open, he said.
“God blesses obedience,” he noted. “When you walk through the doors, He gives you more.
“When you have true wisdom, it always leads you to missions – to tell others about the gospel, to seek the lost. There’s lost people everywhere. What glorifies God glorifies Christ and what glorifies Christ is salvation.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Maynard is managing editor of Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com, an online news service of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

1/3/2019 12:03:35 PM by Mark Maynard, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments

Jon Nelson: from atheist to 1st black Missouri Baptist VP

January 3 2019 by Christopher Pearson, The Pathway

The Missouri Baptist Convention’s first African American officer, Jon Nelson, is not only a husband, father and church planter. He’s also a testimony to the grace of God that can take an adversary of faith, such as Nelson once was, and bring him into the service of the one he had hated.

Submitted Photo
Jon Nelson found himself alone as an atheist – with only the God he hated. Now, years later, he is a church planter and Missouri Baptist Convention first vice president.

Growing up in his parents’ inner-city church in Kansas City, Nelson admits he often intellectually wrestled with Christians there.
“When I attended my parents’ church, I would privately engage in debates to destroy others’ faith by asking venomous and loaded questions,” Nelson remembers of his effort to agitate doubt that anyone had about God, the Christian faith or the Bible. Having become a self-defined – but not publicly identified – atheist, he wanted others to taste and see the same freedom he felt by rejecting belief in any God.
For Nelson, this “freedom” began in high school and continued at Kansas State University. He used his God-given talents in analytical thinking and communication to break down not just Christians, but anyone of any faith around him, hoping to give them this so-called “freedom” as well.
But it came at a cost. Soon the friends he debated and judged for their belief in any God would leave him, and he found himself alone and at odds with only the God he hated.
Yet, even in his march toward freedom, which only left him in chains, God’s relentless grace refused to leave Nelson alone.
“There was this one young lady, a believer in Christ, that no matter what I did, she would not run away, but would keep coming back and forgiving me,” Nelson recounted. “I never understood it.” Through a series of sins and gracious forgiveness, he found his way into a church and heard the clear, drawing gospel of the Jesus Christ.
Shortly before being baptized, Nelson decided to use the gifts he once utilized to destroy the faith of others to now build their souls in Christ. He would later start down the road of earning a Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary undergraduate degree and becoming a pastor. However, becoming a church planter was not the end of how the Lord would use him.
Three years after planting Soma Community Church, a Missouri Baptist church in Jefferson City that serves the community of Lincoln University and the surrounding area, Nelson was elected as first vice president of the Missouri Baptist Convention in October – a far jump from the young atheist who sought to corrupt the hearts and faith of those around him. While many have filled this position, Nelson is believed to be the first African American to do so since the convention’s founding in the 1800s.
“It is incumbent upon our convention to be the first in issues of race in America,” Nelson told The Pathway, Missouri Baptists’ news journal, while also praising Southern Baptists for taking historic steps, such as the SBC’s 1995 resolution on racism.
“It is an honor to sit in the seat that so many good men have sat before me,” Nelson said of serving as a Missouri convention officer. “This is the organization my wife Heather and I have chosen to give a part of our lives and ministry to, now and in the future.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Christopher Pearson is a correspondent for The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

1/3/2019 12:03:19 PM by Christopher Pearson, The Pathway | with 0 comments

Rash begins 2019 as Alabama Baptist’s new editor

January 2 2019 by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist

When Jennifer Davis Rash was getting ready to graduate from the University of Alabama (UA) in 1993, Jim Oakley had a plan for her life.
“She was an ideal student for me to recommend because I knew she would do well and make me and our program both look good,” said Oakley, then a career counselor and internship placement director for the College of Communication and Information Sciences at UA.

Jennifer Davis Rash began her new role as The Alabama Baptist's editor-in-chief on Jan. 1.

He had several publications ready to offer her jobs, including one prominent paper who wanted to hire her “very badly,” Oakley said.
But Rash felt God had something different in mind – something totally off Oakley’s map. Rash said she felt like God was calling her to do media work through missions and ministry.
“The new direction surprised me as much as everyone else,” she said. “But I absolutely knew it was from God.
“I had never considered serving on the mission field prior to my senior year in college, but a few months before graduation I encountered a Southern Baptist missionary home from the field and my focus completely changed,” Rash said. “It was as if she had been appointed to recruit me.”
While the paperwork and process for applying to serve with the International Mission Board (IMB) was daunting – especially on top of a rigid class, work and extracurricular activity schedule – Rash said she felt drawn to the opportunity.
So after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, she packed up her car and headed to join the IMB’s partner ministry Caribbean Christian Publications based in Hollywood, Fla.
During that two years God solidified in her heart the call to leverage her career for the cause of Christ.
She also experienced a rich growth in her relationship with the Lord, made lifelong friends – one of whom would later become her husband, Jason – and discovered she had so much more to learn.
Oakley said he really couldn’t understand her decision at first, but came to grasp it during her time on the mission field.
They stayed in touch during those two years, and by the time her term of service was up, he understood. Oakley also knew exactly where she should land next.
It was late 1995 and Bob Terry, the new editor of The Alabama Baptist (TAB), was looking for strong new hires, Oakley said.

‘Sense of peace’

Rash trusted Oakley’s guidance, interviewed with Terry within a few days of returning from the mission field in December of that year and was shocked to discover how the Baptist state newspaper immediately felt like home.
“I went into the interview thinking the position would be sort of a layover opportunity until I finished seminary,” Rash said. “But that same sense of belonging and peace surfaced again, one similar to what I experienced with the missions call.”

Immediate connection

Terry agreed. “The unusual part of the interview process was how Jennifer and I seemed to click as we talked about the role of Christian communications and the role of media in the church.
“Her talent was attested to by the awards listed on her biographical sketch,” he said. “Her work with Caribbean Baptists demonstrated her willingness to work on a variety of different projects at the same time.”
The two negotiated and Terry offered her the job. Her start date was Jan. 1, 1996.
“It was one of the best decisions I ever made because Jennifer has been a wonderful colleague and friend all of our time together,” Terry said.
Now more than 23 years from that interview Rash has stepped into the role of TAB’s president and editor-in-chief on the heels of Terry’s retirement Dec. 31, 2018. Rash began her new role Jan. 1.
In those years in between she’s served in roles from an entry-level news writer to the paper’s executive editor, earned a master of theological studies from Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham and served her church and community in a variety of ways.
“I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Terry for taking a chance on an eager, young journalist with so much to learn and investing in my growth and development,” Rash said.

‘High energy’

Arthur Williams, chairman of TAB’s board of directors, said he’s excited about TAB’s future.
“She is very talented, hardworking, high energy, experienced and brings a wealth of knowledge to the paper,” he said. “I believe the future is bright for The Alabama Baptist under her direction and leadership.”
Amelia Pearson, board chairman at the time Rash was tapped as editor-elect, said she believes “Jennifer’s appointment is a good example of preparation intersecting with opportunity.”
“We are blessed that she has the experience in the business and that that experience has been with TAB,” Pearson noted. “I know she has the support of Dr. Terry and the staff, which made her a very logical choice for the board of directors. Her dedication and vision should take the newspaper far.”

‘Well prepared’

Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said he’s known Rash for more than 20 years and long felt she would be used by the Lord in a significant way.
“Approximately a decade ago I became convinced that Jennifer would serve well as an editor of a state paper. I was hopeful that her place of service would be The Alabama Baptist,” he said.
“That time has come and Jennifer is well prepared to assume the role of leadership at The Alabama Baptist. She epitomizes Christian professionalism in her attitude and in her work. I am proud to have Jennifer in this most important role in Alabama Baptist life. She will represent us very well.”
Rash brings “a unique combination of gifts” to the role, Terry said.
“She is winsome and outgoing, an inspiring leader and an award-winning journalist,” he noted. “Her years of service at TAB demonstrate her tireless energy and give her thorough grounding in the workings of this ministry, of Alabama Baptists and Southern Baptists.
“In addition to all of that she is creative and will lead the way to continue the heritage of leadership and service The Alabama Baptist has provided for the past 175 years. I wish her nothing but the best in the days ahead.”

1/2/2019 2:05:05 PM by Grace Thornton, The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments

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