June 2015

5,406: SBC’s unofficial Columbus registration

June 19 2015 by Brian Koonce, The Pathway/Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting drew 5,406 messengers to Columbus June 16-17 from the nation’s 46,000-plus Southern Baptist churches. The unofficial total is a 2 percent rise from last year’s 5,295 messengers in Baltimore.
SBC registration secretary Jim Wells said the results were slightly below his pre-annual meeting guess, but good nonetheless, especially from Ohio.


Photo by Van Payne
More than 5,000 messengers attended the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 16-17 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. The 2015 meeting was themed Great Awakening with a full night session dedicated to a national call to prayer to all Southern Baptists for the next Great Awakening and to reach the world for Christ.

“[SBC President] Ronnie Floyd has spent a lot of time here along with Jack Kwok [executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio] mobilizing the churches to get them to turn out, and you could tell.”
Ohio churches indeed turned out in force for the first-ever SBC annual meeting in their state; their 714 messengers dwarfed their 2014 total of 89 and represented the largest state delegation. The state with the next largest contingent was Tennessee at 459, with Kentucky coming in just behind at 446. North Carolina was fourth in line with 351 registered messengers. Guam, Oregon, Maine and Vermont sent 1 messenger each.
Official numbers will be released later in June; the numbers do not include guests or children.
Next year, with the convention headed to St. Louis, Wells said he expects the location to yield a higher attendance.
“I think we’ll definitely have more in St. Louis,” he said. “Missouri will show up big, and the state conventions around Missouri are close.”
The unofficial messenger registration numbers by states and U.S. territories are as follows: Alabama, 225; Alaska, 17; Arizona, 24; Arkansas, 177; California, 113; Colorado, 15; Connecticut, 6; Delaware, 8; Florida, 275; Georgia, 287; Guam, 1; Hawaii, 8; Idaho, 6; Illinois, 138; Indiana, 128; Iowa, 6; Kansas, 28; Kentucky, 446; Louisiana, 160; Maine, 1; Maryland, 98; Massachusetts, 9; Michigan, 105; Minnesota, 2; Mississippi, 181; Missouri, 182; Nebraska, 2; Nevada, 23; New Hampshire, 4; New Jersey, 30; New Mexico, 30; New York, 40; North Carolina, 351; Ohio, 711; Oklahoma, 114; Oregon, 1; Pennsylvania, 57; Puerto Rico 3; South Carolina, 185; South Dakota, 5; Tennessee, 459; Texas, 319; Utah, 5; Vermont, 1; Virginia, 237; Washington, 8; Washington, D.C., 10; West Virginia, 66; Wisconsin, 7; Wyoming, 14. There were 81 messengers who were approved through the credentials process but were unaffiliated with a state convention.
Wells was first elected registration secretary in 2002 and was re-elected to another term June 16. He serves as the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program missionary for strategic partnerships.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Koonce is a writer for The Pathway newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

6/19/2015 9:12:00 AM by Brian Koonce, The Pathway/Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Ezell shares ‘NAMB Phase II’ vision

June 19 2015 by Joe Conway, NAMB

North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell shared highlights of a year of ministry expansion and introduced what he called “NAMB Phase II” to messengers in June 17’s morning session at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
“I want to thank Southern Baptists for their generous and sacrificial support for the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering,” Ezell said. “Thanks to the leadership of our pastors and the generosity of our congregations, the Annie offering was up 2 percent this past year.

NAMB photo by John Swain
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, tells messengers “every believer is called to be a missionary. Missions begin with starting ‘Gospel conversations,’ which lead to ‘Gospel congregations.’” Ezell and David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, prayed for missionaries being commissioned during the morning session of the SBC annual meeting June 17 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Ezell continued, “I am happy to say that last year Southern Baptists started 985 new churches – a 5 percent increase over the previous year. But, if we are to reach North America for Christ, our church plants must look like North America. That is why I am pleased to report that 58 percent of the churches Southern Baptists started in 2014 were non-Anglo,” Ezell said.
Ezell told messengers that former SBC president Fred Luter has accepted the role of NAMB Ambassador to African American churches. In addition to continuing as senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, Luter will assist NAMB with the goal of increasing African American congregations in the SBC from the present 4,000 to 5,000 by 2020.
Part of NAMB Phase II and the continuing Send North America strategy to reach North America through evangelistic church planting includes the Boulevard Experience. Boulevard is a focused effort to bring biblical discipleship to the urban context. Ezell introduced Dhati Lewis, director of NAMB’s Urban Initiatives, to outline Boulevard.
“A sociologist once said if we are to solve the problems we face in North America, we must solve the problems we face in the city,” Lewis said. Ultimately, Lewis said, the foundational challenge is to address the lack of men and solid male role models in the homes within cities.
“The Boulevard Experience exists for one reason alone – we want to be the last generation who had to leave the urban environment to receive sound theological training,” Lewis said as he outlined the initiative’s “four pillars” as church-centered, discipleship-driven, local-church-based and urban focused.

NAMB Photo by Susan Whitley
North America Mission Board (NAMB) Urban Initiatives Director Dhati Lewis introduced messengers at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus to the Boulevard Experience. Boulevard is a focused effort to bring biblical discipleship to the urban context with a goal of discipling men in cities to foster urban church panting.

“We want to embrace the density and diversity – the beauty and the complexity – that come with the challenges in the city. Our desire is to equip urban practitioners to make disciples in the city,” Lewis said.
Reporting on the “church planting class of 2010,” Ezell said the class’ 757 surviving churches represent 80 percent of the original number planted that year. The same cohort gave $3.3 million to SBC missions in 2014. The class of 2011 has a survival rate of 87 percent.
“In NAMB Phase II, numbers are still important – we want as many churches as possible,” Ezell said. “But we will not sacrifice quality for quantity. We are raising the bar in every area. We will stop at nothing to have the very best assessment, training and coaching for Southern Baptist church planters.”
Ezell told messengers the 3 Circles: Life Conversation Guide, introduced at the 2014 annual meeting in Baltimore, has 1.4 million print copies in circulation with an additional 38,000-plus phone and tablet app downloads.
“We have just introduced a Spanish version of the 3 Circles guide in print and app form,” Ezell said. “We are giving away the print guides through the end of the year and you can always get the app for free.”
Ezell concluded his report by inviting messengers to the Aug. 3-4 Send North America Conference in Nashville. The event is co-sponsored by the International Mission Board. Ezell noted the conference has more than 12,000 paid registrants, with less than 1,500 seats still available.
“Who would have dreamed that we will more than likely have a waiting list for a missions conference?” Ezell asked. “Southern Baptists, thank you again for your faithful prayers, your participation and your giving. We exist to serve you and it is a privilege to do so.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)
6/19/2015 9:10:00 AM by Joe Conway, NAMB | with 0 comments

Page: We are not alone

June 18 2015 by Erin Roach & Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Southern Baptists must take the gospel to the ends of the earth to let hurting people know they are not alone, Frank S. Page told messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and Southern Baptist churches are not alone in that task.
“We believe there are people who need to hear the gospel who need to know they are not alone. In their struggles, in their hurt, they need to know that someone cares about them,” Page, president of the Executive Committee, said June 16 in Columbus.
Baptism rates in the SBC have declined below the 1948 level, Page said, in part because “we have adopted society’s lie that people won’t talk to you about Christ anymore.”
“That’s a lie. People are open to the gospel if you approach them with a motive of Christ-like love and compassion. We need to increase our evangelism like we never have before,” Page said, urging believers to hold each other accountable in sharing Christ.


Photo by Bill Bangham
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, gives a report on several advisory councils and a new program called the Great Commission Advance to promote Southern Baptist missions and ministries. His report was part of the June 16 afternoon session of the SBC annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Toward that goal, churches need to train people to be good stewards of the resources God has given them so they will give the funds needed to help take the gospel to those who haven’t heard.
The Cooperative Program (CP) allows every church, “no matter its size and every group no matter its ethnicity” to be involved on a powerful level in fueling the missions task. No church is alone, Page said.
Page proposed a Great Commission Advance, a 10-year strategy beginning this year and leading to the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Program in 2025. Part of that strategy is a 1% Challenge in baptisms and a 1% Challenge in stewardship – encouraging church members to increase their giving through the local church.
Recently the convention has seen an uptick in Cooperative Program giving from churches after Page challenged them to increase their CP gifts by 1 percentage point.
Also in his report to messengers, Page said the work of the Hispanic Advisory Council, African American Advisory Council, Asian American Advisory Council and Mental Health Advisory Group has been completed, and he continues to meet with the Multiethnic Advisory Council and a council comprised of leaders from small membership and bivocational churches.
Page announced the addition of a Women’s Ministries Advisory Council and said all of the advisory groups are an effort toward removing obstacles that have kept Southern Baptists from partnering with maximum effectiveness in the gospel task.
Paul Kim was introduced as the first ever Asian American advisor to the Executive Committee, joining Ken Weathersby representing African American constituencies and Bobby Sena representing Hispanics on the EC staff.


Photo by Bill Bangham
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, welcomes Paul Kim, an Asian American consultant to the Executive Committee, during the Executive Committee report to the SBC annual meeting June 16 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Kelvin Cochran, a former Atlanta fire chief fired for writing a pro-family book, was Page’s guest during the EC report as a demonstration that religious liberty challenges are real. In the book, Cochran calls homosexual behavior immoral.
Cochran, a messenger from Elizabeth Baptist Church in Atlanta, said he has learned in this trial there are worldly consequences for standing for Christ and for biblical truth.
“There are also Kingdom consequences for standing for Christ and standing for biblical truth,” Cochran said, “and the Kingdom consequences are always, always greater than the worldly consequences.”


Cooperative Program in action

To show the Cooperative Program in action, Page invited three couples to the platform to tell how they are using CP funds to share Christ.
Robbie and Gail Nutter have reaped a harvest of thousands entering national and international missions through their collegiate ministry at Kansas State University, the couple told messengers.
The two are themselves products of the Baptist Student Union (BSU) they now lead.
“At the BSU, we weren’t just confronted by an inspiring vision, we were seized by one and we still haven’t gotten over it,” Robbie Nutter said. “The vision of investing our lives in a few and seeing them multiply is really the fastest way to reach the world.”
The couple encouraged Southern Baptists to support the Cooperative Program because it enables their collegiate ministry to thrive.
“Your giving has enabled these former students and thousands more like them to be reached for Christ,” Gail Nutter said. “Your giving to the Cooperative Program fuels this discipling culture, and this culture is really impacting the globe.”


Photo by Bill Bangham
Paul and Katie Kizziah, missionaries with the International Mission Board, speak during the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee report during the afternoon session June 16 at the SBC annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Muche Ukegbu and his wife Diamone learned the power of the Cooperative Program while helping plant a church in Atlanta five years ago.
“A year into our church plant, God introduced us to tremendous grace through the North American Mission Board and their farm system,” he told messengers. “What the North American Mission Board provided in abundance, in abundance, was space to process, to wrestle, to grow, to be developed, to be poured into ... all because of your giving. I just want to say thank you for that.”
CP also enabled the couple to move to Miami with their three young children and a ministry team 10 months ago, and they have planted a church and seen lives changed by the gospel. More than 140 adults attended the church launch on Easter, Ukegbu said, and sinners have confessed and repented.
“We represent a lot of church planters with various stories who are benefitting tremendously from the Cooperative Program and your faithful giving,” Ukegbu said. “So I just want to commend to you what Paul commended to the Galatians, that you would not grow weary in doing good, for you will reap in due season, and I just want to say thank you again.”
When David and Katie Kizziah were approved as International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries to Zambia, their son’s autism diagnosis interrupted their plans.
But because Kizziah was a Southern Baptist pastor in Kentucky, Southern Baptists’ monetary gifts allowed their son to get the care he needed without delay, and he no longer tests on the autism scale, his mother told messengers.
The couple, who was later commissioned in the IMB Sending Celebration June 17, thanked Southern Baptists for their financial support.
“We cannot do this without your faithful partnership. We are so grateful to you, our Southern Baptist pastors, for your giving to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” he said. “It is indeed in the strength of this partnership that we go.
“And without this partnership, we never would have been here in the first place. We owe a debt to you, our SBC family, not only for sending us now, but for discipling us, for educating us, nurturing us, caring for our family, and most importantly, for leading us to Jesus in the first place,” Kizziah said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville, and Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

6/18/2015 3:02:50 PM by Erin Roach & Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Messengers pray in Columbus ‘as one family’

June 18 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Thousands of messengers at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) knelt in prayer and raised their hands to heaven June 16 as they prayed for revival in the church and a great awakening across the United States. Spiritual leaders from Southern Baptist churches across America – including Hispanic, Korean, Native American and African American pastors – prayed for an end to racism and prejudice as they pledged to work together “as one family.”
The SBC’s National Call to Prayer included participants around the world, connected by broadcasts from the Daystar worldwide television network and the Salem satellite radio network, as well as a live stream on the Internet.
“The only thing that can ultimately reshape America is a spiritual awakening and a great movement by God,” Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC, told messengers. “There has been no great movement by God without extraordinary prayer. When was the last time you gathered thousands of people on a Tuesday evening and prayed for spiritual awakening across the United States? We have full confidence in what God can do.”
Floyd, alongside other pastors on stage throughout the evening, said he had participated in prayer a few days ago with a group of spiritual leaders in Ohio’s capitol building. Underneath the seal of the state of Ohio that appears in front of the building are the words “With God, all things are possible,” he noted.


Photo by Matt Miller
Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, leads small groups of messengers at the SBC annual meeting June 16 to “repent of all racism and all prejudice.” Floyd called on all Southern Baptists to pray for the next Great Awakening during the evening session at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

“It is providential we are here, because with God all things are possible,” he said. “We pray that tonight will become a generational moment. Lord, open up the heavens and come down.”
Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, called Southern Baptists to personal repentance.
“God is calling us to brokenness and humility,” he said. “The greatest sin is pride.”
Citing Nehemiah, who prayed for his own city when the walls were in ruins and the city was left unprotected, Graham said that is the spiritual condition of the U.S., “God’s people are without protection.”
Nehemiah’s response was to pray for his nation, but to start with himself and his own family. He prayed and fasted to get right with God. Graham challenged Southern Baptists to pray in brokenness, humility and repentance.
Surrounded by others of Asian descent, Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., said Asian American churches join him in “racial reconciliation and healing in our land.” Recalling the Haystack Prayer Meeting in the 19th Century that launched a great awakening, he asked, “Why can we not experience a new spiritual awakening today? What we do here can lead the entire nation.”
With 2.1 billion people who have never heard about salvation, J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., sought to personalize the number, reminding Southern Baptists they are “people like us.” But without Christ, they will suffer eternal death.
Reading Psalm 126:4, he urged Southern Baptists to reach the world through the hard work of evangelism, prayer and patience, “yearning for the heavens to open up” to send a spiritual awakening.
Don’t always look back at what God has done, Greear said. He not only “moved yesterday, but is a God of today and tomorrow.”


Photo by Paul W. Lee
Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 16 pray fervently during a call to prayer by SBC President Ronnie Floyd. Floyd asked small groups to gather in the convention hall to pray for racial reconciliation and the next Great Awakening.

Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla., noted a litany of sins he sees being committed by Southern Baptists, including – among others – skepticism, distrust and a lack of urgency to reach the world with the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
“What if God heard us tonight confess our sins?” Whitten asked. “What if God said, ‘I will bring a spiritual awakening? What if a discipleship movement took place across the world?”
K. Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, was the first of several to pray for racial reconciliation.
“The Bible calls us to be in unity,” Williams exhorted prayer meeting participants. “It’s skin; not sin. Come together. Stand up and be the people of God. Rise up!” His next words were drowned out by the applause of the crowd.
In the call for racial reconciliation, Ted Traylor, pastor Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla., said some of the same people in his church who taught him as a boy to sing “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight,” left the worship service when a black man came to their church.
Indicating the men he was standing with on stage, Traylor said, “We’re the white guys in the crowd.” He commented that much had been given to them as a racial class in America and God expected much in return.
Borrowing from A.W. Tozer, James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., said too many American churches are so busy doing church that if the Holy Spirit left their fellowship they would not realize it.
Christians today, he admonished, are not too different than the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus condemns in Scripture. He described Jesus’ words against them as one of the most “damning rebukes” because they misinterpreted Scripture and failed to believe in the power of God.
He said Christians need God’s power to work in them, witness through them and walk before them.


Photo by Paul W. Lee
Messengers at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting worship together in between small group and corporate prayer time during the June 16 evening session dedicated to prayer at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church, Las Vegas, Nev., said, “I have read about revival. I have heard about revival.” He cited the great revivals in America and Wales and the conversion of new believers in China and Iran. Pitman’s voice cracked with emotion when he said, “But I have never experienced that kind of awakening where I live.”
Pitman said he was not content just to read about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit but wanted the nation to experience it like never before. And the reason for God’s lack of activity in the church is not due to the lostness of the nation, but “the lack of desperation of the people of God.”
David Galvan, lead pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista-Nueva Vida (New Life Church) in Dallas, Texas, drew parallels between the Hellenistic widows being neglected in Acts chapter 6 and modern day racism and discrimination.
“Even for Peter, there was deep prejudice in his life,” Galvan said.
He admitted to making the same mistake himself, just like many in the church.
“Early in my ministry, I had to come to the realization that I had misunderstood the Great Commission,” he said. “I thought that I should only be reaching Hispanics for Christ. I had to come to the point of repentance and ask God to forgive me for what I’d done.”
Timmy Chavis, senior pastor of Bear Swamp Baptist Church in Pembroke, N.C., and a Native American, said, “I am so glad that God has brought our convention together to be the spearhead of not just a national effort, but a global effort to let all people know that we stand together as God’s people, and that we have all been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. We have one Father, there is one Lord, we’re going to one Heaven, we have one faith and one baptism and are one people.”
Steve Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., called on the church to seek revival as a body. He spoke from Acts 4, when the early church prayed, sought after the Holy Spirit and then proclaimed the gospel.
“In three centuries, these Christians conquered the world’s greatest empire [the Roman Empire],” he said. “How in the world could a group of ragtag fisherman, tax collectors, zealots and commoners turn their world upside down in such a short time? They had a holy fire burning in their souls that could not be extinguished.”
Robert Wilson, pastor of Light of the Word Church in Atlanta, said his prayer was that there be real unity.
“We’re not about just trying to be segmented, but we want to ask God to take our hearts and really meld them together, so that when the world sees us as Southern Baptists – black, white, red, yellow, brown – they see us as one.”
Floyd reminded participants that revival across America must begin with churches.
“Now is the time the world can see what God can do,” he said. “The heart of God is for His people to walk in light. That’s why the church needs revival. It’s time for revival in the church.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Story compiled by Kathie Chute, director of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. With reporting from Diana Chandler, Barbara Denman, Keila Diaz, Brian Koonce, Bonnie Pritchett, Karen Willoughby.)

6/18/2015 2:49:55 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Key advances reported by SBC seminaries

June 18 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) seminaries noted key initiatives as well as enrollment gains in their reports to messengers June 16 at the SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
This year, all six seminary presidents presented their reports jointly. After the report, each president introduced the next and prayed over him.

Golden Gate

Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, told messengers that the move to a new main campus in 2016 will be completed debt-free and with two new facilities to serve as anchor campuses on the West Coast.
“The [Southern California] facility in Ontario, Calif., is a state-of-art 21st-century educational center with more than 150,000 square feet of usable space,” Iorg said. Meanwhile, “The [northern California] facility in Fremont, Calif., will serve 250-300 commuter students in the Bay Area as we continue our historic ministry near San Francisco. We are spending about $45 million to complete these facilities debt-free.”
As part of its move to new California campuses, the seminary has requested a name change to Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, which received the first of two votes June 16 toward final approval during the SBC annual meeting next year in St. Louis.
Iorg emphasized that the new facilities’ designs would be mission-specific, devoted to the seminary’s educational programs and equipped to handle the educational delivery demands of the future.
Iorg said the move has opened an unprecedented opportunity to “re-imagine seminary for the future … We have endeavored, in response, to seize the opportunity and create a new seminary for the 21st century,” he said.


Jason Allen, in his third president’s report since being elected to lead Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, called this time in SBC history “a golden era in theological education.”
“You can be proud of your six seminaries,” Allen said. “Collectively, we are doctrinally sound, Great Commission-focused, and given to serving your churches. As we have done that, God has blessed your seminaries with massive enrollments.”
As part of this success, Allen noted that Midwestern’s story possibly was the most unlikely of all. In spite of past doctrinal challenges and more recent operational challenges, he said the seminary witnessed a year of “unprecedented institutional accomplishment.”


BR photo by Seth Brown
The SBC seminary presidents gives a report during the morning session of the first day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 16-17 at The Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

“This past year has been a record one, with virtually every institutional metric showing robust growth and seminary health,” Allen said, noting that a report by the Association of Theological Schools accrediting agency ranked Midwestern as the fastest-growing seminary in North America among schools enrolling at least 500 students.
Allen attributed the explosive growth to Midwestern’s emphasis on existing “for the Church,” a motto the seminary has begun using. The seminary’s determination to exist for the local church is convictional, biblically mandated and denominationally needed, he said.
“Christ promised to build His church, not our seminary,” Allen said. “However, we are confident that as we strengthen His church, He will strengthen us. ... Our biblical mandate calls us to train actual, committed servants for the church.”
Allen concluded his report with the announcement of a Sept. 28-29 symposium, “SBC & the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal, and Recommitment.”
“This year, Midwestern Seminary is hosting a historic summit on the future of the SBC,” Allen said. “Al Mohler, Paige Patterson, Ronnie Floyd, Frank Page and many, many other SBC leaders will join me in discussing issues facing Southern Baptists moving forward into the 21st century.” For more information about the symposium, visit mbts.edu/events/.

New Orleans

Chuck Kelley, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) president, began his report to messengers by quoting from the call of Isaiah recorded in Isaiah 6: “Whom can I send? Who will go for us? And I [Isaiah] said, ‘Here am I, send me.’”
“New Orleans Seminary exists to serve all of those who hear the call Isaiah heard and are answering the call to serve the Lord,” Kelley said.
Accessibility is one key way NOBTS is helping men and women answer God’s call and train for ministry, Kelley said. Initiatives like the seminary’s extensive extension center system and fully-online undergraduate and master’s degrees are extending the NOBTS campus and allowing students to train for ministry without leaving the churches they already serve. Online learning is giving the seminary a truly global reach, Kelley said, making training available to any God-called man or woman in the world who has a computer and an Internet connection.
One of the newest accessibility initiatives at NOBTS is the Entrust Mentoring Community, Kelley said. Entrust allows a student to earn much of his or her degree while ministering in a local church setting. Study is guided by NOBTS professors and enhanced by weekly interaction with local church mentors. Any SBC church in the United States with a willing mentor is a potential Entrust study location, Kelley said.
Kelley said the seminary not only is teaching about ministry but is actively involved in doing ministry. From community Christian counseling in New Orleans to a ministry partnership with a local drug and alcohol recovery ministry and training programs at five state prisons, NOBTS pairs the theoretical scholarship students expect in the classroom with real-world ministry experiences.
Kelley closed his report with special thanks to the other five SBC seminaries, the SBC entities, the SBC Executive Committee and the convention’s churches for the love and support the seminary received in the devastating wake of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans will mark the storm’s 10th anniversary on Aug. 29.


BR photo by Seth Brown
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., gives a seminary report during the morning session of the first day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 16-17 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

“It was as hopeless of a situation as I have ever faced in all of my life,” Kelley said. “We would not have been able to survive without your help, but help you did.
“And now, I am delighted to say that this year we will finish with the largest enrollment in the history of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,” he said.


Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, shared how the seminary is training more than 3,400 students to flood the lands of darkness with the gospel light.
Currently, Southeastern graduates are serving in unreached and underserved areas in North America and around the world as church planters in the Northwest, Midwest and Heartland regions and in 40 countries.
Southeastern’s Kingdom Diversity Initiative has propelled the non-majority student population at Southeastern to increase nearly 50 percent in the past four years to nearly 14 percent of the total student population.
The seminary would like to see that number continue to grow and build up future leaders of the convention, Akin said. “We hope to see numbers increase so that our seminary, churches and convention look like the church in heaven,” he emphasized. “In God’s grace the nations are coming to us.”
Southeastern’s distance learning program provides theological training to students in 50 countries while its EQUIP internship program has now partnered with more than 300 churches. The seminary’s Global Theological Initiative currently features 15 to 20 international partnerships, with new programs beginning this year in countries such as Cuba, Hong Kong, Brazil and the Ukraine.
“At Southeastern Seminary we take pride in saying it is a dangerous place to come study,” Akin said. “We are going to challenge you to pray the prayer, ‘Why should I stay?’”


Southern Baptist seminaries are “ground zero” for how churches respond to the rapid moral shift in American culture, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in his June 16 report to messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
“We’re living in a world that’s going to demand more and ever more when it comes to faithfulness on the part of our students and graduates,” Mohler said, speaking about the imminent Supreme Court decision on the legalization of same-sex marriage. “There will be no place to hide. And that just reinforces for us how important what happens on our campuses is, and I say that for all six seminaries. It reminds us at Southern Seminary what’s at stake and why it’s so important.”
Mohler said this is an example of why seminary education is “deadly dangerous” business because theological drift in seminaries affects entire denominations. In the face of such danger, Southern is committed to biblical fidelity, he said.
“I just want you to know our commitment is we’re going to stand firm,” Mohler said. “We’re going to stand in the Gospel, we’re going to stand in the inerrancy of Scripture, we’re going to stand in the faith once for all delivered to the saints, and we’re going to stand with you together.”
Mohler insisted the seminary could not carry out its assignment without the prayer and Cooperative Program gifts of Southern Baptists.
“We are now in a situation where there are more young men studying for the pastorate on Southern Seminary’s campus than there has ever been in one place at one time in the history of the Christian church,” Mohler said. According to the newly published “President’s Report,” nearly 4,792 total students are enrolled at Southern, with 1,952 master of divinity students.


In his report at the annual meeting, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson addressed the trustee action taken in response to concern at the 2014 meeting for an exception he granted to allow a Muslim student to study archaeology.
After careful consideration, trustees modified the bylaws article outlining the composition of the student body to allow a modified criteria for admission for limited special circumstances. The new bylaw language clarifies that trustees must approve any modified criteria for exceptional cases, Patterson said.
Patterson explained that the student no longer attends the seminary due to his life becoming endangered after his name and face were made public last year.
In addressing other matters, Patterson recounted a conversation with former International Mission Board President Tom Elliff in which Elliff requested that Southwestern adopt an unreached people group. Patterson explained that he wanted a large people group somewhere in the world that is virtually inaccessible and dangerous to get to with no known believers.
Shortly after the conversation, Southwestern adopted the Antandroy people group of nearly 1 million people on the island of Madagascar. A seminary mission team recently returned from the island where they saw nearly 400 professions of faith among the Antandroy people and two New Testament churches on the brink of establishment.
Southwestern will be involved in world missions – wherever needed, Patterson said.
Patterson concluded by asking for prayer for the seminary, students and faculty, that the seminary would stay true to the Word of God, that students would remain “consistent, personal soul-winners” and that faculty members would continue to set good examples.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on reporting by Kathie Chute of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, T. Patrick Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Gary D. Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Ali Dixon of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Craig Sanders of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Alyssa Martin of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

6/18/2015 2:36:30 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

SBC resolutions on key issues pull broad consensus

June 18 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Messengers to the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) adopted nine resolutions – some on culturally divisive issues – with almost no opposition.
All the resolutions offered in the Tuesday afternoon session (June 16) at the SBC’s meeting gained passage by unanimous or nearly unanimous votes. The messengers affirmed biblically based stances on such topics as same-sex marriage, racial reconciliation and the sanctity of human life, as well as religious persecution and pornography. Approved resolutions also called for spiritual awakening and celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Cooperative Program.


Photo by Paul W. Lee
Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., and chairman of the Committee on Resolutions, gives a report during the June 16 afternoon session of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Prior to the convention, the Resolutions Committee received only four resolutions, an unusually small number. As a result, the committee initiated more resolutions than normal, but committee chairman Steve Gaines said finding topics proved no problem.
“There are so many pressing issues morally and spiritually in our nation right now, it really didn’t take long to figure that out,” Gaines said at a news conference after the committee’s report.
He illustrated for reporters what he meant by pointing to a few of the resolutions.
“When it comes to our nation, when you look back at just the last 12 to 18 months, racial reconciliation needs to be at the top of our list,” said Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., a suburb of Memphis. “All of us who have children or grandchildren are very concerned about pornography. All of us are concerned about abortion and not just abortion but the sanctity of life on both ends.”
He added, “It’s not hard in light of what’s going on with [the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] and what’s going on in North Korea and other places to make resolutions” on religious persecution.


The approved resolutions:

  • urged the Supreme Court in its decision this summer to affirm the right of citizens to limit marriage to a male-female union, reasserted the SBC’s belief in the biblical view of marriage no matter how the justices rule and called for religious freedom for individuals and organizations who conscientiously object to same-sex marriage.

  • called for SBC churches and entities to work toward racial and ethnic diversity in their leaders and encouraged Southern Baptists to be “faithful ambassadors of reconciliation.”

  • affirmed the sanctity of human life “at all stages of development” and exhorted Southern Baptists to seek “the repeal of unjust laws and inhumane practices that degrade human life.”

  • denounced all religious persecution and called for Southern Baptists to pray for persecuted Christians during personal times and corporate worship.

  • 6-18-15SBCresolutions2.jpg

    Photo by Paul W. Lee
    Messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting vote on a resolutions report by raising ballots June 16 during the afternoon session at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

    appealed to the North Korean government to respect human rights and urged the U.S. government to pressure North Korea to recognize the religious freedom of its citizens.

  • expressed grief over the destructive impact of pornography and affirmed the power of the gospel of Jesus to deliver those who have committed sexual immorality.

  • pledged a commitment by Southern Baptists to seek God and to pray that He would bring revival.

  • expressed gratitude to God upon the 90th anniversary of the Cooperative Program for His leadership in its establishment and encouraged Southern Baptist churches to consider increases in their giving through it.

  • thanked God and all those who helped with this year’s meeting.

In presenting the resolutions to the messengers, the committee “knew that we were speaking on very important issues that we are facing in our culture and that I as a pastor think about that every time I preach,” Gaines said.
“We want to speak the truth, but we always want to do it in love and redemption,” he told reporters. “And we are not in any way angry with anybody. We love everybody. But when you love the Lord, you have to say what the Bible says.”
Messengers approved amendments to three of the resolutions presented by the committee. All those changes were welcomed by the committee as friendly amendments.
Joining Gaines on the Resolutions Committee were Berta Delgado-Young, communications editor and member, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas; Jason Duesing, member of Antioch Bible Baptist Church, Gladstone, Mo., and provost, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo.; Eric Geiger, teaching pastor, New Vision Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, Tenn., and a vice president of LifeWay Christian Resources, Nashville; Matthew Hall, member, Clifton Baptist Church, Louisville, and vice president for academic services, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Steven Lee, lead pastor, Redeemer City Church, Washington, D.C.; Kathy Litton, member, First Baptist Church North Mobile, Saraland, Ala., and leader of ministry to pastors’ wives, North American Mission Board; Stephen Rummage, pastor, Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla.; Rolland Slade, pastor, Meridian Southern Baptist Church, El Cajon, Calif.; and Jay Shell, member, West Baptist Church, Batesville, Ark.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

6/18/2015 2:24:58 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Broader NAMB mission, new seminary name approved

June 18 2015 by Baptist Press staff

An amendment to the mission statement of the North American Mission Board and a name change for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary were among the recommendations affirmed by messengers during the Executive Committee’s (EC) report to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) June 16 in Columbus.
Messengers confirmed an update to the SBC constitution regarding qualifications for churches to send messengers to the annual meeting. Messengers also approved a recommendation to approve the use of electronic voting after passing an amendment from the floor on the recommendation.

North American Mission Board

Messengers approved an amendment to the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) ministry statement to include planting churches overseas in agreed-upon instances with the International Mission Board (IMB).
The amendment is similar to an amended IMB ministry statement in 2011 to allow the IMB to assist with unreached people groups in the U.S. and Canada. EC members were told during their February meeting that the amended NAMB statement will relate particularly to military chaplains stationed at bases overseas.
The possibility of military chaplains facing religious liberty constraints is a key factor for the recommendation, the EC had reported, though the wording allows for other contingencies that may prompt NAMB-IMB overseas cooperation in the future. See related story.
Our culture “is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity and to the Christian message,” EC chairman Mike Routt had said in response to several questions raised before EC members voted to forward the recommendation to messengers in June.

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary name change

Messengers voted to approve a name change for its seminary in the West, from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary to Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. The vote was the first of two required to confirm the name change.


Photo by Matt Miller
Kevin Ezell, left, president of the North American Mission Board, shares the stage with David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, during the NAMB and IMB report June 17 at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Messengers at the 2016 SBC meeting will give final approval. The change is part of a transition process to move the main campus of the seminary from Mill Valley, Calif., to Ontario, Calif.


Messenger qualifications

Messengers gave the necessary second-year approval to officially revise qualifications for churches to send messengers to the annual meeting. In order to officially confirm the recommendation, it needed to be reaffirmed by messengers for the second time during this year’s SBC annual meeting.
Describing the recommendation as “small church friendly,” last year’s EC chairman Ernest Easley told messengers the proposal to revise Article III – with additional recommended adjustments to Article 14 and SBC Bylaw 8 – was a response to a motion from the 2013 annual meeting in Houston that requested updating messenger qualifications. See related story.
All of the amendments will take effect at the end of this year’s annual meeting.
Before the change, Article III stated that churches in friendly cooperation with the convention could send one additional messenger for every 250 members or for each $250 per year “paid to the work of the Convention.” The $250 amount dates back to 1888.
Under the new proposal approved by messengers, each cooperating church that contributes to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year will automatically qualify for two messengers. One additional messenger can be added for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the normative combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity. And churches can now send up to 12 messengers rather than 10.
While one messenger voiced concerns of increased cost and possibly hurting small-church participation during annual meetings, messengers overwhelmingly approved the recommendation.
“The reason I’m against this is I want to have representation as messengers from a broad perspective as far as we can go,” said Bob Davis, Beulah Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va.
“There are many of our churches that cannot send that kind of money. I realize there is an alternative that the percentage that you give to the Cooperative Program will also qualify you for a messenger. I’m from Virginia. Our convention has a lot of new starts. I preach in a lot of places as an evangelist. I know there are a lot of small churches that cannot do either one.”
EC chairman Mike Routt noted the amendment does not inhibit people from coming but rather invites more to the table by allowing churches to send up to 12 messengers.
“We understand that the majority of our Southern Baptist churches are smaller churches,” he noted. “We also understand that on the average, two persons come per church. So we have gone from one member, one messenger from each church to two.”
Routt also said the reason for increasing the amount from $250 to $6,000 was an adjustment to the rate of inflation. “In 1888, for each messenger, to the convention there was $250 given,” he said. “Today, many years later, 126 years later, the figure $6,000 was the same amount of money that it was in 1888.”


Electronic voting

The results of a vote on a recommendation for SBC bylaw amendments to allow for electronic voting devices in the convention hall was delayed during June 16’s business session when a proposed amendment from the floor to the recommendation went to a ballot vote. The amendment passed and messengers approved the recommendation June 17 after voting to strike a portion of the EC’s recommendation that removed the quorum requirement.
The EC’s recommendation on electronic voting defined a quorum for voting on SBC business as those present at the time of a ballot. The recommendation left bylaw requirements in force that a messenger must be present at the time a vote is taken in order to participate. Voting by proxy is not permitted. The tabulation of all votes is under the supervision of the registration secretary.
William Blosch of First Newark Baptist Church in Thomasville, Ga., expressed concerns on Tuesday that allowing a quorum to be based on those present at the time of a ballot left room for too few informed messengers to be present to vote.
“Eliminating a specific quorum requirement and changing it to whomever happens to be in the convention hall at that time is highly unwise on the part of the messengers,” Blosch said.
The EC’s Shane Hall, noted Tuesday “it is true that when we look at the issue addressing the quorum that there are situations that may arise where smaller-in-attendance meetings would address this very concern. However, we felt like there was an overriding concern,” he said. “And the overriding concern is that in the previous years there have been numerous times when it has been questionable whether there has been a quorum present. And there have been opportunities in the past where a quorum could have been called and business would have been impeded because there is not presence of a quorum.
“We feel that if there is business to be dealt with by the convention those messengers who are most concerned with the work of the convention will be in the hall at the time that the issues are dealt with,” he said.
In its February meeting, the EC reported electronic voting could allow the ability to schedule elections closer together and “to make the best and most efficient use of time in annual meeting programming.”


Other business

During the Executive Committee’s report, messengers:
– honored former International Mission Board president Tom Elliff with a resolution of appreciation for his three-plus years of service as president of the mission board. Elliff retired in August 2014 and was honored for his lifetime of service in Southern Baptist missions and ministry.
The resolution notes Elliff’s faithfulness and vision in his leadership of IMB. As IMB president, Eliff initiated the Embrace outreach to unengaged, unreached people groups; the Ready Reserves strategy to engage former missionaries in ministry; the Global Strategic Mobilization of Southern Baptist business professionals; Global Connect, which trains local churches in international ministry; the School of Prayer for All Nations, focused on prayer training; and Internationalization of Missions, which assists national Baptists and other Great Commission partners in effective mission endeavors.
Elliff served with his wife Jeannie in missions to Zimbabwe and pastored eight churches over a 42-year period. He and Jeannie were unable to attend this year’s annual meeting. Messengers prayed for Jeannie, who is battling cancer.
– approved a 2015-16 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $186.5 million, designating $136,518,000 (73.2 percent) of that for world missions, $41,328,400 (22.16 percent) for theological education, $3,077,250 (1.65 percent) for ethics and religious liberty ministries and $5,576,350 (2.99 percent) for the SBC operating budget. The International Mission Board is slated to receive $94,014,650 of the world missions budget; the North American Mission Board, $42,503,350.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled from Baptist Press reports and reporting by Shawn Hendricks, managing editor of Baptist Press. With additional reporting from Diana Chandler, Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor, and Kathie Chute, director of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.)

6/18/2015 11:23:28 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Floyd: ‘Rise up’ in a ‘dangerous, hopeless world’

June 17 2015 by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, TEXAN/Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd called for pastoral leadership in the natio’'s largest Protestant denomination to seize a “Bonhoeffer moment” by refusing to be silent in the face of persecution, to hold on to the Word of God, take heart and be encouraged.
“The lostness has never been greater in our dangerous and hopeless world,” Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said in his president’s message to the SBC annual meeting June 16 in Columbus, Ohio.
“Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to rise up and lead.”
Punctuated by frequent applause from nearly 7,000 messengers and guests, Floyd’s message, titled "Now Is the Time to Lead," began with broadcast clips showing that "the alarm clock is going off in our nation and across the world."
“I believe if the 59 presidents who have preceded me could speak to us in this hour … they would declare to us that we are living right now in our most defining hour as Southern Baptists.” Citing Romans 13:11 to declare it a “kairos” moment, Floyd described a season “fixed by a sovereign God as a true moment of destiny.”
From Islamic militants’ savagery and the horrors of human trafficking to the void of religious liberty that wrongly imprisons believers like Saeed Abedini in Iran, Floyd appealed for Christians to heed the warning of the German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Quoting from The Cost of Discipleship, Floyd said the opponent of the Nazi movement was right in saying, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
With 153 million orphans worldwide, a seventh of the world living in extreme poverty, 750 million lacking clean water, continuing natural disasters and the global economy hanging in the balance, Floyd said the world not only is dangerous but living without hope.

Racism, abortion & marriage

He called on Christ-followers to decry all racism and prejudice as well as callousness over the estimated 57 million babies killed since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on abortion.


Photo by Matt Miller
Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd gives the president's address June 16 during the opening session of the SBC annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

He underscored Southern Baptists' belief that God created all people for His glory, “that humanity’s bearing of God’s image is not contingent upon one’s skin color.” Abortion, meanwhile, remains “a glaring desecration of the unborn child's purpose and value,” he said, urging vigilance on behalf of all human life and dignity from the womb to the tomb.
“Now we await the outcome of the next possible Supreme Court ruling that could alter our nation’s belief and practice on traditional and biblical marriage, but also our historic commitment to religious liberty for all people,” Floyd said, calling it a watershed moment potentially fueling “the already sweeping wildfire of the sexual revolution” beyond “anyone’s control locally, statewide, nationally and globally.”
He appealed to Southern Baptists to love all people “even if they are struggling with same-sex attraction or adultery or anything else,” aware that "we are all sinners in need of the Lord’s help and grace.”
Since neither the Supreme Court nor the culture is the final authority, Floyd insisted that he and thousands of pastors in the nation refuse to officiate any same-sex unions. Advocating freedom of religion, Floyd said Christians in America must stand for that priority, knowing it promotes the common good of the nation and the world.

Local churches

Instead of advancing as leaders, Floyd said many churches are sleeping or fighting, affected by indifference or internal debate.
The fellowship of the Southern Baptist family is challenged by a mindset that believes “combat against one another is some valiant, spiritualized effort,” Floyd said. “We need to be careful not to chase after secondary matters that end up in the weeds of suspicion, skepticism, criticism and cynicism about one another,” he said, calling on leaders to refuse such carnal actions by operating relationally from Matthew 18.
Instead of shrinking back in timidity and fearfulness, Floyd appealed for leadership that “believes and stands” on the promises of God’s Word, pointing to the Lord’s words in Revelation 3:7-8 that “I have placed before you an open door that no one is able to close.
“When other denominations and leaders are beginning to relax their message to be more politically correct, will we rise up in faithfulness to believe and stand on His Word and for Jesus' name?” Floyd asked. “There is not one government, one Supreme Court, one court case, one editorial, one commentator, one liberal, one conservative, one world leader, one politician, one radical group, one demon or one of anything that can shut the doors Jesus Himself has opened for us.”
Not only is Jesus the door to salvation, Floyd reminded, but He is the overseer of all doors.
“Stop seeing all the trends and events as obstacles for us and the gospel,” he insisted. “These are things that God will turn into open doors for the gospel.”

Baptist legacy

Throughout his message Floyd drew from the legacy of such Southern Baptist heroes as W.A. Criswell, Billy Graham, Adrian Rogers and E.Y. Mullins to make his case for leadership to take a stand based on “God's infallible, inerrant, authoritative and final Word in all things,” believing Jesus Christ to be the only way to salvation through repentance from sin and faith in Him alone.
Thirty years to the week since Criswell delivered his epic message “Whether We Live or Die,” Floyd referenced the late Dallas pastor’s conviction based on the Word of God that, “No battle was ever won by retreat or submission or surrender.”
Historically, two motivations have prompted Southern Baptists to go to battle, Floyd recounted the propagation of the gospel to the world and a perpetual commitment to the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. He recalled that in 1922 when dealing with encroaching modernity, SBC President E.Y. Mullins opened his address to the convention by saying, “Southern Baptists have come to one of our supreme hours in history.”
Quoting Graham’s 1979 message to Southern Baptists in Houston that “God is not calling us tonight to a playground or a sports arena He is calling us to a battleground,” Floyd pointed to a strategy for leadership based on the missionary mandate to reach the world for Christ and make disciples of all the nations. It was the “common cause” at the birth of the Southern Baptist Convention 170 years ago, he said, adding, “It will be the only thing that keeps us together.”

Era of desperation

Responding to President Barack Obama’s comment that there is “a sense possibly that the world is spinning so fast and nobody is able to control it,” Floyd said he senses a desperation and admission that Americans cannot fix themselves.
Underscoring the focus on prayer for spiritual awakening at the upcoming evening session of the SBC annual meeting, Floyd reiterated a theme he has been declaring most of his adult life since his own conversion as a teenager in Texas in 1972 when baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention peaked at 445,725.
“In that same year, we saw 137,667 12- to 17-year olds baptized, almost double what we reach today," Floyd said. Recalling the Jesus Movement era that mobilized teenagers, college students and young adults in America, he described God's awakening of “the fearful preacher, the dead church, the lifeless state convention and even the complex Southern Baptist Convention” as “our greatest hope today.”
While rejoicing that the SBC is gaining ground in the number of churches, Floyd lamented that Southern Baptist churches reported evangelistic outreach so low that they returned collectively to the level of baptisms 67 years ago when the U.S. population was 144 million in contrast to the 321 million Americans today.
“Most of our churches may have the doctrine right, but we are in an intensive care unit on a spiritual respirator regarding the lack of evangelism,” Floyd declared. “We may have a reputation for being alive, but we are dead if our evangelism is dead.”
The call for a simultaneous prioritization of evangelism and spiritual awakening requires great risk, Floyd acknowledged, calling on Southern Baptists to rise up and pray, give, believe, live and go like never before.
“The doors are wide open now and we must go, church by church, but also together,” he said, reiterating, “We need each other.”
Extending an olive branch to Southern Baptists “who are not with us,” Floyd asked them to come home. “There are [non-SBC] churches right now in America that already align with us doctrinally, missiologically and cooperatively that are considering joining us in advancing the gospel. … They need us and we need you to join us in advancing the gospel.”
A year of traveling on behalf of Southern Baptists to visit with pastors, church planters, state convention leaders and students who are among the 18,000 future pastors, missionaries and scholars, Floyd said he had heard their stories, prayed with them and offered encouragement.
“I saw the resolve on their faces to finish the task, from those living in the Middle East all the way to Cuba,” Floyd said. “I saw their burden so great, they would weep. Many of them are serving in countries where they would lose their lives if they were ever discovered sharing the gospel.”
Floyd concluded by stating, “The need is great, the hour is late and we must advance the gospel together to every ethnicity in the world.
“I appeal to you, that if anything in our churches, Southern Baptist Convention entities, state conventions and associations is not accelerating the Great Commission locally, nationally and internationally, we need to rid ourselves of it now. The urgency is upon us.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tammi Reed Ledbetter writes for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

6/17/2015 1:10:06 PM by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Floyd & former SBC presidents take marriage stance

June 17 2015 by Baptist Press staff

The current and 16 former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) presidents released a statement on biblical marriage and the national implications of same-sex marriage in a June 17 news conference prior to the concluding sessions of the SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
The full statement follows:


Ronnie Floyd

As Southern Baptist Christians, we are committed to Biblical faith and ethics. As a result, this body of Believers stands on the authority of Scripture and God’s Truth as central to our lives.
What the Bible says about marriage is clear, definitive and unchanging. We affirm biblical, traditional, natural marriage as the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. The Scriptures’ teaching on marriage is not negotiable. We stake our lives upon the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Consequently, we will not accept, nor adhere to, any legal redefinition of marriage issued by any political or judicial body including the United States Supreme Court. We will not recognize same-sex “marriages”, our churches will not host same-sex ceremonies, and we will not perform such ceremonies.
While we affirm our love for all people, including those struggling with same-sex attraction, we cannot and will not affirm the moral acceptability of homosexual behavior or any behavior that deviates from God’s design for marriage. We also believe religious freedom is at stake within this critical issue – that our first duty is to love and obey God, not man.
Therefore, we strongly encourage all Southern Baptist pastors, leaders, educators, and churches to openly reject any mandated legal definition of marriage and to use their influence to affirm God’s design for life and relationships. As the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination with over 16 million members, we stake our very lives and future on the Truth of God’s Word.
We also join together to support those who stand for natural marriage in the corporate world, the marketplace, education, entertainment, media and elsewhere with our prayers and influence, and resources.
Former SBC presidents signing the statement are Bailey E. Smith, SBC president, 1981-82; James T. Draper Jr., 1983-84; Charles F. Stanley, 1985-86; Jerry Vines, 1989-90; Morris H. Chapman, 1991-92; H. Edwin Young, 1993-94; James B. Henry, 1995-96; Tom Elliff, 1997-98; Paige Patterson, 1999-2000; James Merritt, 2001-02; Jack Graham, 2003-04; Bobby Welch, 2005-06; Frank S. Page, 2007-08; Johnny M. Hunt, 2009-10; Bryant Wright, 2011-12; and Fred Luter, 2013,14.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.)

6/17/2015 1:00:08 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

‘What if?’ asked at Send North America Luncheon

June 17 2015 by Joe Conway, NAMB

“What if?” That was the question posed to more than 2,600 attendees of the June 15 Send North America Luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Pastors’ Conference in the Greater Columbus Convention Center, host to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The event promised a glimpse into the future of missions in the SBC from the presidents of the International Mission Board (IMB) and North American Mission Board (NAMB).
NAMB President Kevin Ezell began the live portion of the event with the same question.
“What if we looked for every possible way to partner together to equip the church in North America for missions?” Ezell said. “What if we equipped every pastor to lead his people to live lives on mission?”
Ezell said NAMB has streamlined to advance the Send North America strategy to assist every church in finding its next step in missions – both across the continent and through 32 strategic Send North America cities.
“I am excited about what God is doing through the church in North America,” said David Platt, president of IMB, who co-sponsored the event. Platt said he believed it unwise both practically and biblically to pursue a top-down strategy of missions.
“The local church is the center of missions,” he said. “When you look at the Book of Acts, you don’t see NAMB or IMB anywhere, but you do see churches.”


NAMB Photo by John Swain
More than 2,600 guests joined hosts Kevin Ezell and David Platt to hear the men discuss the future of missions in the SBC at the Send North America Luncheon during the Pastors’ Conference at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, host to the annual meeting of the SBC.

Platt shared IMB’s concept of limitless mission teams which combine traditional, fully funded missionaries; professionals who move to an area to both work in a secular job and serve with the team; retirees who intentionally use their status to serve on a team; and students who strategically select their universities and commit to serving with the teams.
“We have 4,700 missionaries who are challenged in serving in some of the hardest and darkest places on the planet,” Platt said. “But there are 6,000-plus unreached people groups. In its history, IMB has funded 26,000 missionaries. I am thankful for their service. But we need 26,000 missionaries now.”
Facing reality, Platt said the IMB missionary force will likely drop in the coming year because of last year’s $21 million budget shortfall.
“We have to think in different ways,” Platt said. “We don’t need 100 more missionaries, we need 1,000 more. Our mission demands more. God is opening up opportunities for us with the globalization of the marketplace. We have to recognize those opportunities. When we think of global missions, we have to know that everyone has a part to play. The IMB has a part in that.”

Effective, efficient systems

Ezell asked Platt about his first nine months at the helm of IMB and where he finds himself today with potential changes.
“Everything is on the table,” Platt said. “We are exploring the most effective and efficient systems to get the gospel to the nations. But we must be deliberate in what we do.”
The move to a more simplified leadership structure at IMB was one change that made sense, Platt said. Policy changes to advance the creation of limitless missionary teams also made sense, he said. He emphasized that IMB’s board of trustees is in no way diminishing its commitment to the sound doctrinal and theological principals that have made the entity trustworthy, but rather is aligning policies with the Baptist Faith and Message.

The mission board presidents also discussed ways the entities can cooperate to benefit God’s kingdom and Southern Baptists in advancing God’s mission.
“We are working as closely together as we can,” Ezell said. “There are aspects of missions and church planting that are different in North America and overseas, but there are also commonalities in church planting. We can rely on each other’s expertise. People need to be comfortable with us exploring ways to advance missions.”
One of those possibilities is a combined registration process for missionary candidates, Ezell noted. Platt added having competing systems “makes no sense.” NAMB also provides scholarships for church planters to take vision trips to connect with people groups overseas for possible adoption.
Another area of cooperation is the Send North America Conference the entities will host Aug. 3-4 in Nashville. Earlier in the presentation, Ezell invited participants to commit to the event.
“What if we held a missions conference to celebrate what we can do together and explore the mission of God?” Ezell asked. He told the gathering the initial goal for 2012’s first Send Conference was 1,000 people; 2,200 attended. In 2013, more than 4,400 participated. Paid registration for the 2015 conference is above 12,000. Only 1,500 seats remain. The Send Conference is designed to help churches find their next steps in missions, regardless of their level of engagement.
The luncheon also included a Skype session with the two presidents and two Christian workers serving in South Asia. The couple has seen 25 people accept Jesus as Savior.
“We are working among an unreached people group,” one of the workers said. “We give the churches tools for multiplication. Seeing them catch the vision is exciting.”
The couple met in seminary and married before serving on mission in South Asia. They had been unable to have children, a journey that led them to commit to adoption. They received a letter of acceptance for a three-month old child with special needs from another country Monday. And, six months ago, they welcomed the birth of their first son.
Before Platt concluded the interview with a prayer, he informed the couple that the SBC Minister’s Adoption Fund, founded by Ezell when he was president of the Pastors’ Conference in 2010, will pay the remainder of their adoption expenses, about $10,000.
In closing, Ezell thanked Southern Baptists for their support of the Cooperative Program, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Platt reiterated the importance of the convention’s mission focus.
“It is not tolerable that 2 billion people have not heard the name of Jesus,” Platt said. “We must tell them.”
For more information about IMB, visit www.imb.org/send. Learn more about NAMB at namb.net/mobilize-me.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)

6/17/2015 12:39:59 PM by Joe Conway, NAMB | with 0 comments

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