June 2016

Blog spotlights ‘evergreen’ evangelism principles

June 30 2016 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

Southern Baptist pastors looking to equip their churches in evangelism have a new tool to employ. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has launched a blog to bring attention to “evergreen” principles that are working in some of the most evangelistic Southern Baptist churches in North America.

NAMB Media
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) launched a new blog to bring attention to “evergreen” principles that are working in some of the most evangelistic Southern Baptist churches in North America. NAMB Evangelism Executive Director Joel Southerland (far left) directs the blog, which includes guest authors and video segments. Southerland hosted a three-segment pastor’s roundtable to discuss leading a church on mission. The panel included three highly effective evangelistic senior pastors, Rocky Purvis (second from left), Northside Baptist Church, Lexington, S.C., Steven Kyle, Hiland Park Baptist Church, Panama City, Fla. and Tim Dowdy (far right), Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church, McDonough, Ga.


Church leaders can already find content on a variety of topics related to these principles on the Your Church on Mission blog, including developing an evangelistic culture, encouraging your people to bring guests, engaging your community through service and strategic thinking. The blog’s content includes both text and videos.
 
Joel Southerland, NAMB’s executive director for evangelism, says the blog doesn’t focus on “best practices,” because those may not be applicable in different geographic regions and different church sizes. By focusing on the principles behind the best practices, Southerland believes the blog will be universally applicable for Southern Baptist churches.
 
“Evergreen principles should be true regardless of time, technology, culture or context,” Southerland said. “We don’t want to create tools that just apply to churches in the South.”
 
While evangelism tools can be helpful for churches, Southerland said, congregations must be ready when the tool no longer works.
 
“Many Southern Baptist churches are using these tools – and they’re great – but they all have a shelf life,” Southerland said. “And when the tool is over, too many churches don’t know what to do next. I’ve seen it in my ministry as a pastor. I’ve seen it in other people’s ministries, too. As long as the tool works, it’s great. But the moment the tool stops working we’re back to square one and we’ve missed the larger principles that are in play.”
 
One such blog post by Georgia pastor J.R. Lee, urges pastors to establish an “evangelism culture.” Lee writes that many pastors focus much of their efforts on vision, which he admits is critically important.
 
“Here’s the thing: Culture might be more important,” Lee writes. “Culture will eat your vision for lunch every single day.”
 
He then writes about some of the activities his church has done in an effort to build an evangelistic culture.
 
The blog also includes two video posts, each about 15 minutes long, where Southerland interviews in a conversational manner pastors Rocky Purvis, Steven Kyle and Tim Dowdy. One focuses on the principles behind an on mission worship gathering. The other focuses on helping your congregation live on mission.
 
“Instilling in your people and reminding them to be a missionary doesn’t mean to sign up with the North American Mission Board or the [International Mission Board] and go somewhere,” Dowdy said in the video about missional living. “You’re on mission every day. Every day that God gives you on this planet, as a believer, you’re on mission. If we can talk about it enough so that when our people are waking up in the morning, what they’re thinking about is not ‘this is an average day’ or ‘this is a pressure-packed day’ or ‘I’ve got a lot of traveling to do,’ but they think ‘this is the day I’m on mission with God.’”
 
Each video includes a guide to help viewers find key points in the interview that address specific topics.
 
To view the blog, visit namb.net/yourchurchonmission. On the page you can also find information about subscribing to it through an RSS feed.
Southern Baptist pastors looking to equip their churches in evangelism have a new tool to employ. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has launched a blog to bring attention to “evergreen” principles that are working in some of the most evangelistic Southern Baptist churches in North America.
 
Church leaders can already find content on a variety of topics related to these principles on the Your Church on Mission blog, including developing an evangelistic culture, encouraging your people to bring guests, engaging your community through service and strategic thinking. The blog’s content includes both text and videos.
 
Joel Southerland, NAMB’s executive director for evangelism, says the blog doesn’t focus on “best practices,” because those may not be applicable in different geographic regions and different church sizes. By focusing on the principles behind the best practices, Southerland believes the blog will be universally applicable for Southern Baptist churches.
 
“Evergreen principles should be true regardless of time, technology, culture or context,” Southerland said. “We don’t want to create tools that just apply to churches in the South.”
 
While evangelism tools can be helpful for churches, Southerland said, congregations must be ready when the tool no longer works.
 
“Many Southern Baptist churches are using these tools – and they’re great – but they all have a shelf life,” Southerland said. “And when the tool is over, too many churches don’t know what to do next. I’ve seen it in my ministry as a pastor. I’ve seen it in other people’s ministries, too. As long as the tool works, it’s great. But the moment the tool stops working we’re back to square one and we’ve missed the larger principles that are in play.”
 
One such blog post by Georgia pastor J.R. Lee, urges pastors to establish an “evangelism culture.” Lee writes that many pastors focus much of their efforts on vision, which he admits is critically important.
 
“Here’s the thing: Culture might be more important,” Lee writes. “Culture will eat your vision for lunch every single day.”
 
He then writes about some of the activities his church has done in an effort to build an evangelistic culture.
 
The blog also includes two video posts, each about 15 minutes long, where Southerland interviews in a conversational manner pastors Rocky Purvis, Steven Kyle and Tim Dowdy. One focuses on the principles behind an on mission worship gathering. The other focuses on helping your congregation live on mission.
 
“Instilling in your people and reminding them to be a missionary doesn’t mean to sign up with the North American Mission Board or the [International Mission Board] and go somewhere,” Dowdy said in the video about missional living. “You’re on mission every day. Every day that God gives you on this planet, as a believer, you’re on mission. If we can talk about it enough so that when our people are waking up in the morning, what they’re thinking about is not ‘this is an average day’ or ‘this is a pressure-packed day’ or ‘I’ve got a lot of traveling to do,’ but they think ‘this is the day I’m on mission with God.’”
 
Each video includes a guide to help viewers find key points in the interview that address specific topics.
 
To view the blog, visit namb.net/yourchurchonmission. On the page you can also find information about subscribing to it through an RSS feed.
 

6/30/2016 8:03:14 AM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments



SBC Chaplain Commission marks 75th Anniversary

June 30 2016 by Josie Rabbitt, NAMB

In the months leading up to the United States’ involvement in World War II, the Home Mission Board established a chaplaincy committee to endorse the work of military chaplains and verify their efforts as sanctioned by the association where they served. That was 75 years ago July, 1941.

Photo by Adam Covington
Doug Carver, the North American Mission Board’s executive director of chaplaincy, addressed the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis to mark the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Chaplaincy Committee, now Chaplaincy Commission, in July, 1941. The Home Mission Board established the endorsement procedure for Southern Baptist chaplains just six months before the United States would enter World War II.


Doug Carver, the North American Mission Board’s (the entity now responsible for chaplaincy) executive director of chaplaincy, called military chaplaincy “a frontline ministry that is vital to the extension of the local church and the advancement of the gospel.”
 
Carver stressed the importance of endorsed military chaplaincy, recounting that 75 years ago, when America was on the verge of war, messengers at the 1941 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Birmingham, Ala., “firmly agreed there was no greater soul-winning opportunity facing Southern Baptists than the thousands of young men pouring into the military training camps around the country.”
 
The messengers recognized the need for trained chaplains to aid the spiritual war within the physical one. This call to action – for Southern Baptist chaplains to officially be sanctioned within their association – was led by Alfred Carpenter, the first military chaplain commissioned by the Home Mission Board. Carpenter believed that “every chaplain was a missionary in uniform,” Carver said.
 
The initiative was successful, as ordained Southern Baptist chaplains recorded 299,342 professions of faith from 1941 to 1945. The positive effects from the endorsed chaplaincy movement also helped those called to this unique ministry to recognize its divine purpose.
 
“I haven’t had an assignment yet that I’ve asked for,” said Michael Coleman, former youth pastor at Ocean View Baptist Church, now an endorsed U.S. Army chaplain. “But every single assignment has been what God intended. My experience in Afghanistan was one of the most difficult times of my life, but the way God orchestrated it showed purpose. There was pain, but there was purpose. When I got home, I could see what He’d been doing all along through me.”
 
“Today, 75 years later, Southern Baptist chaplains continue carrying the gospel into places where the church cannot go,” said Carver, listing armed forces, correctional facilities, health care settings, the public safety arena, disaster relief sites and corporate environments as examples of areas where more than 3,400 chaplains currently serve.
 
Immediate past SBC President Ronnie Floyd also recognized the 75th anniversary of the first military chaplains endorsed by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and its predecessor, the Home Mission Board, at the SBC’s annual meeting, June 14-15, in St. Louis.
 
“The attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago is a constant reminder that our freedom, purchased by the blood of American patriots, should never be taken for granted,” Floyd said.
 
Floyd called it an “awesome privilege” to honor the veterans and those who served the veterans, while they fought for America’s freedom.
 
Endorsement affirms that the chaplain meets their denomination’s requirement to provide ministry in an institutional setting. The Chaplain Commission, composed of a small group of NAMB trustees, selects qualified people for endorsement as Southern Baptist chaplains.
 
This endorsement creates a formal covenant of mutual commitment, accountability and support between the chaplain, their local church and the SBC.
 
One such chaplain, Michael Langston, fulfills this role every day.
 
“I would go around and see a number of different chaplains,” said Langston, both a former Marine officer and Navy chaplain, now retired. “Chaplains deal with real life experiences of men and women in combat, as well as the aftermath and the issues experienced on the front lines. There are also run-of-the-mill daily issues of life about children, marital issues, purpose and questions about God in the midst of the carnage. I constantly see how we help others transition from that place of fear.”
 
Currently, NAMB has more than 1,500 endorsed chaplains in the armed forces. Learn more at namb.net/Chaplaincy.
 

6/30/2016 7:57:13 AM by Josie Rabbitt, NAMB | with 0 comments



Court’s order ‘great concern’ for religious liberty

June 30 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. Supreme Court has dealt a setback to religious freedom and prompted a warning from three of its members.
 
The high court announced June 28 it would not consider an appeal by pro-life pharmacists of a lower court decision they argued violates their First Amendment, free-exercise-of-religion rights. The justices’ refusal to review the federal appeals court opinion apparently will force the closure of the pharmacy involved and the departure from the profession or state of the pharmacists in the case.
 
Three of the justices dissented from the order, describing it as “an ominous sign.”
 
“If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern,” Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote on behalf of the dissenters.
 
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned last year a federal judge’s decision and upheld a Washington state rule that prohibits conscience-based pharmacy referrals. The appeals court – in affirming a regulation that permits pharmacists to make referrals for drugs they do not stock or dispense based on secular reasons but not based on religious conscience – ruled it does not violate the free-exercise clause.
 
Defenders of religious freedom strongly disagreed.
 
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore called the order “a disappointing and senseless decision by the court, one that signals that pro-life pharmacists must check their convictions at the door.”
 
“This coercion of the conscience is a disaster for every American, though, not just pharmacists,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in written comments for Baptist Press (BP). “Everyone has a stake in religious liberty and soul freedom, and this inaction by the Supreme Court shows how urgently we must advocate for the conscience rights of all.”
 
Kristen Waggoner, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said, “All Americans should be free to peacefully live and work consistent with their faith without fear of unjust punishment, and no one should be forced to participate in the taking of human life. We had hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would take this opportunity to reaffirm these long-held principles.”
 
ADF represented the pharmacists in their legal challenge, and the ERLC supported them in a friend-of-the-court brief.
 
“Singling out people of faith and denying them the same freedom to refer is a violation of federal law,” Waggoner said in a written release. “Not one customer in Washington has been denied timely access to any drug due to a religious objection. As the [federal court] found, the government designed its law for the ‘primary – if not sole – purpose’ of targeting religious health care providers.”
 
Alito echoed that finding in his dissent, writing, “There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for – or that they actually serve – any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State.
 
“The bottom line is clear: Washington would rather have no pharmacy than one that doesn’t toe the line on abortifacient emergency contraceptives,” he said.
 
Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas joined Alito in dissenting. The majority offered no explanation for its decision, which is typical in orders declining review.
 
The Stormans family, which owns a pharmacy in Olympia, Wash., and Margo Thelen and Rhonda Mesler, pharmacists who work at other stores, challenged the 2007 Washington rule that requires them to provide such drugs as Plan B and “ella.”
 
The Stormans, who own Ralph’s Thriftway grocery store and its pharmacy, and the two pharmacists were willing to refer patients who seek potentially abortion-causing drugs to other pharmacists. More than 30 pharmacies within five miles of Ralph’s Thriftway stock the drugs, according to ADF.
 
Plan B, also known as the “morning-after” pill, possesses a post-fertilization mechanism that potentially can cause abortions by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. In a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486, “ella” can act even after implantation to end the life of a child.
 
The ERLC and 10 other religious groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief in February that asked the high court to review the Ninth Circuit’s opinion.
 
The American Pharmacists Association and 37 other national and state pharmacy associations were among others who filed briefs in support of the pharmacy and pharmacists.
 
The case was Stormans v. Wiesman.
 

6/30/2016 7:51:52 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



SCOTUS marriage ruling sparked year of ministry

June 30 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

When the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide one year ago this month, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entities and cooperating Baptist state conventions sprung to action to help pastors and churches navigate the new cultural milieu.
 
From books and conferences to videos and suggested church bylaw revisions, Baptist-produced resources have helped thousands with ministry, legal and family responses to the high court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling June 26, 2015.
 
“The biggest surprise for many church people is how many of their friends and family members are being impacted by this issue,” said Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary of the SBC and editor of the book Ministry in the New Marriage Culture. “It’s not enough to decide not to allow same-sex weddings in church facilities or [not to] endorse same-sex marriages among members. These are important decisions but they don’t make the problem go away.
 
“The real ministerial challenge,” Iorg told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments, “is helping people impacted by the choices of others. For example, the deacon with a granddaughter who marries a woman and invites him to her wedding. The Sunday School teacher who has a child in her class who has two married male fathers. The business owner who now has same-sex married employees who are entitled to benefits.”
 

SBC entities respond

Iorg’s book, released Oct. 1 of last year by B&H, was based on a 2013 conference at Gateway, then Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, which became increasingly relevant following the Obergefell ruling. The book, featuring an array of authors, explains the biblical and theological foundations for ministry within a culture that embraces same-sex marriage and provides practical guidance on legal issues, children’s ministry, family counseling and more.
 
“I have spoken on the book from California to Florida,” Iorg said, “and the consistent response has been ‘thank you’ for helping us start thinking about how to respond to the thorny issues created by same-sex marriage.”
 
Among the most immediate responses to the Supreme Court’s ruling came from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). The day the decision was handed down, the ERLC “had ready dozens of resources,” the entity said in a statement to BP. “In fact, our site was such a go-to destination for people across the country that we had to strengthen our capacity to withstand all the traffic.”
 
Subsequently, the ERLC helped bring together hundreds of evangelical leaders to sign an affirmation of biblical marriage that drew nearly 15,000 online endorsements in 24 hours; convened a conference in July on “the Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage” in Austin, Texas; partnered with pastor and author Sam Alberry to create a series of short videos on same-sex attraction; and published a book titled The Gospel and Same-Sex Marriage edited by ERLC director of policy studies Andrew Walker and ERLC President Russell Moore.
 
At LifeWay Christian Resources, the B&H Academic division published Unchanging Witness in January, a detailed explanation of what Scripture teaches about homosexuality and how Christians in various phases of church history have responded to it.
 
In the book, authors Donald Fortson and Rollin Grams refute arguments by some of the contemporary homosexual movement’s most prominent scholars.
 
“We address a number of the contemporary, revisionist authors and mainline denominations in the West that are trying to distort the clear and unchanging witness of Scripture and the church on this issue,” Grams, associate professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, told BP in written comments. “Our book lays out the biblical and orthodox theology of sexuality on which any truly Christian pastoral care must be based.”
 

State conventions

Numerous Baptist state conventions have helped equip churches for ministry in the new marriage culture. Among them, the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA) has continued a ministry it began three years ago, when Illinois began moving toward legalization of same-sex marriage.
 
The state’s same-sex marriage law took effect June 1 of last year, less than a month before the Supreme Court’s ruling.
 
“When we saw that Illinois was to be one of the first states considering same-sex marriage legislation, our churches passed a unanimous resolution in support of biblical marriage and religious freedom,” IBSA executive director Nate Adams told BP in written comments. “This empowered me to speak directly to the issue on behalf of our churches, and I did so with letters to all our state legislators. Conservative legislators held off the legislation for a while, but once it was passed, we began focusing our efforts on awareness and education for our churches.
 
“Now, and especially since the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Adams said, “our energy is going into making sure churches understand their religious freedoms regarding same-sex marriage assertions, and helping them take steps to protect those liberties through their bylaws and written operating procedures. We have used conferences, articles and especially downloadable resources on our website to make these protections as accessible to churches as possible.”
 
The IBSA also has urged pastors to “elevate marriage” – the theme of a 2014 conference – by teaching the biblical foundation of one man and one woman united in covenant commitment for a lifetime.
 
The Alabama Baptist Convention’s State Board of Missions has developed a sample Facilities Usage Policy that churches may choose to adopt in an effort to prevent their facilities from being used for same-sex weddings and their pastors from performing such weddings.
 
In February, the State Board of Missions sponsored a conference on “the church and sexuality” one day prior to the annual State Evangelism Conference. The 500-plus attendees “well exceed[ed] our initial expectations and estimates,” the State Board of Missions told BP in an email.
 
State Board of Missions executive director Rick Lance told Alabama Baptists in a blog post last summer, “We are not to be hateful people who despise and loathe those with whom we disagree. No, we are to have a missionary spirit, seeking to serve in a culture not inclined to look to Christ as the The Way, The Truth and The Life.”
 
The Tennessee Baptist Convention has helped churches on multiple fronts following the ruling, with an emphasis on smaller congregations.
 
“We recognized last year that our smaller churches potentially have more legal exposure than larger churches because of lack of resources,” Tennessee Baptist Convention communications director Chris Turner told BP in written comments. “We wanted to equip them so they could be proactive in protecting their churches, which is why we created a template to help them in amending their constitutions and bylaws.”
 
Turner noted, “There was and is a lot of misinformation out there so we created a series of articles for the Baptist and Reflector [Tennessee Baptists’ newsjournal] to help answer questions we heard from people. We sent those stories out directly to all our churches. This is obviously an issue that is not going away and we feel a responsibility to making sure we keep our pastors informed and churches equipped.”
 

Christians ‘on mission’

The day the court handed down its ruling by a 5-4 margin, Moore of the ERLC charged Christians in a video to be “holy” and on “mission” – words that have proven prophetic in light of the activities of SBC entities and state conventions.
 
“There are many people outside the court today,” Moore said, “who are exuberant because they believe that what the court has done today is to give them something that will fulfill them and make them happy. ... It won’t do that. Our churches need to be the places to receive the refugees from the Sexual Revolution, those who have been hurt and harmed by it.”
 

6/30/2016 7:43:15 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Study: Unchurched will talk about faith

June 30 2016 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends magazine

Americans who don’t go to church are happy to talk about religion and often think about the meaning of life, according to a new study released June 28.


They’re also open to taking part in community service events hosted at a church or going to a church concert, the research revealed. But only about a third say they’d be interested in going to a worship service, and few think about what happens after they die.
 
Those are among the findings of a new online survey of 2,000 unchurched Americans from LifeWay Research. The survey, conducted in partnership with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., found more than half of Americans who don’t go to church identify as Christians.
 
But they are mostly indifferent to organized religion, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“Unchurched Americans aren’t hostile to faith,” he said. “They just don’t think church is for them.”

 

Talking about faith isn’t taboo

For this survey, “unchurched” means those who have not attended a worship service in the last six months, outside of a holiday or special occasion like a wedding.
 
Among their characteristics:

  • Two-thirds (67 percent) are white

  • Just over half (53 percent) are male

  • About half (47 percent) have a high school diploma or less

  • Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) went to church regularly as a child

  • About a third (32 percent) consider themselves nonreligious

  • One in 5 identifies as Protestant, 1 in 4 as Catholic

Few are turned off by conversations about faith, McConnell said.
 
Nearly half (47 percent) say they discuss religion freely if the topic comes up. A third (31 percent) say they listen without responding, while 11 percent change the subject.
 
Only about a third (35 percent) say someone has ever explained the benefits of being a Christian to them.
 
Christians may be reluctant to talk about their faith out of fear of offending their friends, McConnell noted. But the survey found that fear is unfounded.
 
“Unchurched folks are not being overwhelmed by Christians talking about their faith,” McConnell said. “If faith is important to you, then your friends will be interested in hearing about it.”

 

A personal touch still matters


Researchers looked at the kinds of activities unchurched Americans might be interested in as well as methods for inviting them to church.
 
About two-thirds (62 percent) would attend a church meeting about neighborhood safety. Half would take part in a community service event (51 percent), concert (45 percent), sports or exercise program (46 percent), or neighborhood get-together (45 percent) at a church.
 
“Concerns for neighborhood safety and desire to express compassion to the under-resourced seem to be the biggest potential draws for the unchurched to get connected to a church,” said Rick Richardson, professor of evangelism and leadership at Wheaton College and research fellow for the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. “Invite unchurched people to those kinds of events, and many say they will attend.”
 
Fewer are interested in attending a worship service (35 percent), recovery group (25 percent) or seminar on a spiritual topic (24 percent) if invited.
 
When it comes to church invitations, a personal touch works better than a sales pitch.
 
More than half (55 percent) of unchurched Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church. Other methods, such as a church member knocking on the door (21 percent), a TV commercial (23 percent), postcard (23 percent) or Facebook ad (18 percent), are less effective.

 

Little interest in life after death

Researchers also asked unchurched Americans about the big questions of life.


 
About 7 in 10 agree there’s an ultimate plan and purpose for every person. One in 5 (19 percent) disagrees. One in 9 (11 percent) isn’t sure.
 
Nearly 6 in 10 (57 percent) say it’s important for them to find their deeper purpose in life. A third disagree (31 percent), while 1 in 9 (12 percent) isn’t sure.
 
Few wonder, at least on a regular basis, if they’ll go to heaven when they die. Just under half (43 percent) say they never ponder that question. One in 5 (20 percent) isn’t sure the last time that question came to mind. Three in 10 (29 percent) say they ask themselves that question on at least a monthly basis.
 
This lack of interest in the afterlife can pose a problem for Christians who want to share their faith, McConnell said. Many have been trained to ask questions like, “If you died tonight, would you go to heaven?”
 
That tactic might not be as effective today, McConnell said.
 
“If the only benefit of being a Christian is that you get to go to heaven, most unchurched people don’t care,” McConnell said. “It can’t be the only way of talking about faith.”
 
Instead, McConnell suggested those who want to share their faith talk about how their relationship with Jesus affects them in day-to-day life and discuss the benefits of being part of a church. And be proactive, he said.
 
“Don’t wait for unchurched people to bring up the topic of faith,” he said. “It’s probably not going to happen.”
 
Methodology: A demographically balanced online panel was used for interviewing American adults. The study was sponsored by the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College. The survey was conducted May 23 to June 1, 2016. Slight weights were used to balance gender, age, ethnicity, income, region and religion. The sample was screened to include only those who have not attended a religious service in the past six months except for a religious holiday or special event such as a wedding or funeral. The completed sample is 2,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error from the online panel does not exceed plus or minus 2.7 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect the church.)
 

6/30/2016 7:33:53 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends magazine | with 0 comments



Air Force investigating religious liberty claim

June 29 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The U.S. Air Force is investigating an episode at California’s Travis Air Force Base in which a 33-year veteran was forcibly removed from a colleague’s private retirement ceremony allegedly because the speech he was delivering was to include a reference to God.
 
The episode led Michael Berry of the Texas-based First Liberty Institute to send the Air Force a June 20 letter on behalf of retired Senior Master Sgt. Oscar Rodriguez, the speaker who was forcibly removed. The letter demanded a written admission of wrongdoing, a written apology and “punitive action against those determined to be responsible for violating Mr. Rodriguez’s constitutional rights.” The letter asked the Air Force to respond by June 27.

First Liberty photo
Oscar Rodriguez


On June 22, the secretary of the Air Force directed the Air Force inspector general to conduct an “independent investigation,” according to a statement the Air Force released to Baptist Press (BP).
 
Douglas Carver, retired Army chief of chaplains, told BP, “Currently, there is a fair amount of complexity, confusion and misunderstanding regarding why [the] retirement ceremony was stopped during the flag-folding ceremonial speech that referenced God. My sources assure me that this was not solely a religious liberty issue but did violate, at a minimum, free speech protected under the First Amendment.”
 
On April 3, Rodriguez attended the retirement ceremony of Master Sgt. Charles Roberson, at Roberson’s invitation, to deliver a speech during a flag-folding ceremony, according to Berry’s letter. When the flag-folding ceremony began, Rodriguez stood and was warned by a uniformed airman not to perform the speech, the prepared text of which was 340 words and referenced God six times. When Rodriguez began the speech anyway, four uniformed airmen forcibly removed him from the hall.
 
The episode was captured on video and posted on YouTube. Rodriguez had not yet referenced God when he was removed.
 
First Liberty, formerly Liberty Institute, stated on its website Rodriguez had performed the speech “for years” at retirement ceremonies as well as civic and patriotic events, receiving commendations from former Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Congressman John Garamendi (D-Calif.) among others.
 
Prior to Roberson’s retirement ceremony, Lt. Col. Michael Sovitsky, commanding officer of the squadron from which Roberson was retiring, indicated he “did not want Mr. Rodriguez to participate as a speaker because, historically, Mr. Rodriguez’s flag-folding speeches make reference to ‘God,’” wrote Berry, First Liberty’s senior counsel and director of military affairs. Sovitsky allegedly attempted to prevent Rodriguez from attending but learned he lacked the authority to do so.
 
In an attempt to “resolve any issues,” Roberson and Rodriguez offered to place signs on the auditorium doors warning that “the word ‘God’ would be used during the retirement ceremony,” Berry stated.
 
Whether the four airmen who removed Rodriguez acted at Sovitsky’s command or on their own, the Air Force “intentionally violated the constitutional rights of a private American citizen. Such acts fly in the face of the Air Force’s core values,” Berry wrote.
 
The Air Force’s June 22 statement noted, “Air Force personnel may use a flag folding ceremony script that has religious references at their retirement ceremonies. Since retirement ceremonies are personal in nature, the script preference for a flag folding ceremony is at the discretion of the individual being honored and represents the member’s views, not those of the Air Force. The Air Force greatly values the rights of its personnel in matters of religion and facilitates the free exercise of religion by its members as well as the right to observe no religion at all.”
 
Carver, the North American Mission Board’s executive director of chaplaincy, urged observers of the case “to withhold judgment until we know all the facts.”
 
“Many questions remain,” Carver said in written comments. “Did the unit commander direct the removal the guest speaker? Was this a violation of the religious liberty of those gathered for the retirement? Is this another case of the government’s growing trend to sanitize religious language from public events?
 
“The most disappointing part of this story is,” Carver continued, “why would a distinguished senior airman, who began his Air Force career by swearing ‘so help me God’ in his initial Oath of Enlistment, be prevented from concluding his honorable service to the nation by giving thanks to Almighty God?”
 
Michael Whitehead, general counsel for the Missouri Baptist Convention and a former captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps, told BP in written comments, “A commander has a right to prevent disruption and breach of discipline on a military base. But a guest who invokes deity does not constitute a disruption. What was disruptive was the sight and sound of MPs dragging the poor guest out the door before he could say the dreaded ‘G’ word.”
 
Whitehead, a former staff member at two Southern Baptist Convention entities, added, “It violates common sense and the Constitution to argue that these soldiers have forfeited their personal freedoms while they fight for freedom for the rest of us. The Uniform Code of Military Justice and rules of military discipline may be more restrictive than civilian laws. But the government cannot deny basic religious freedom and freedom of speech to soldiers, absent a compelling government interest. This was not a combat zone. It was a retirement party.”
 

6/29/2016 8:47:14 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Veteran communicators tell SBC story

June 29 2016 by Margaret Colson, Baptist Communicators Association


They have been firsthand witnesses of Southern Baptist history in the making. Through their lenses, desktops, and now laptops, they have shared that witness time and time again over the past 30-plus years.
 
At the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in St. Louis, close to 60 communicators – some Baptist Press (BP) staff and others partnering alongside them – served as the denomination’s official media team. Among them were seven communicators who collectively have more than 150 years of experience serving as Southern Baptists’ professional eyes and ears – shooting photos and multimedia as well as writing articles about every facet of the meeting.


Photo by Morris Abernathy
Bob Carey (right) works with student interns – Jenna Wachsmuth (far left) and Miranda Johns (middle) – from North Carolina’s Gardner-Webb University in the Southern Baptist Convention’s press production room at the SBC’s annual meeting in St. Louis. Carey is department chair and coordinator of photojournalism at the university.


“The value we offer as communicators is to give a larger vision of what Southern Baptists are all about,” explained veteran photographer Bill Bangham, who participated in his first annual meeting when he worked for the former Brotherhood Commission in the 1980s. He has missed few annual meetings since then, even after career transitions to both the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board, where he recently retired.
 
Years ago, a layperson told him, “Through your photos, you take me to places where I would never go, allow me to meet people I would never meet, help me see things I would never see.” The words have kept him going, camera in hand, through the years.
 
Technology has changed how – but not why – the communicators do their jobs.
 
“What’s most important isn’t the equipment or technology; it’s the story itself – the subjects of the story, the people we meet along the way,” said seasoned photographer Jim Veneman, who this year celebrated his 31st year coordinating visual coverage for the SBC annual meeting.


Photo by Adam Covington
Morris Abernathy receives memory cards from assignment photographers in the press production room in St. Louis, where communicators helped cover events surrounding the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.


Las Vegas in 1989 – with temperatures soaring past 100 degrees – was the first stop for photographer Morris Abernathy’s stint covering Southern Baptists’ annual meeting. His professional experience in the darkroom at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary made him a good match to travel with the media team in a van loaded with photographic equipment in Nashville to their destination in Nevada, where they would set up a darkroom in a convention hall bathroom. “We had so much fun,” he said.
 
Year after year, with a career that has taken him to LifeWay Christian Resources, Union University and now as an owner of a small business in Jackson, Tenn., Abernathy hasn’t missed an annual meeting. With each year, he said, “I’m reminded how important the job is. These photos and these articles exist to tell the story of Southern Baptists.”
 
Veneman, who also invested much of his career at LifeWay Christian Resources and then Union University, noted, “We tell the Southern Baptist story in a way that will reflect the very best of who we are.” Veneman now teaches photojournalism at California Baptist University.
 
One facet of the annual meeting story focuses on the crowds who gather and the individuals who comprise those crowds. For more than three decades, photographer and media strategy consultant Van Payne has been tasked with taking the “convention photograph,” one photo designed to give an overall snapshot of that year’s denominational gathering.


Photo by Van Payne
Leroy Jones, messenger from First Baptist Church, Alford, Texas, casts his vote years ago during the Southern Baptist Convention’s presidential election in New Orleans. More than 37,000 messengers voted during the election. The image was taken by Van Payne, who reflected on covering the SBC’s annual meeting for many years.


When messengers gathered in the New Orleans’ SuperDome years ago, Payne snapped a photo of one messenger focused on his ballot and his vote, with a wide angle lens showing the expanse of the venue and the thousands of people behind him.
 
“The shape of the SuperDome and the scale of the convention that year gave me the best chance I’ve ever had to portray an individual contribution in the context of a mass event,” said Payne, who formerly served for 40 years in communications with the International Mission Board.
 
Another facet of the annual meeting story focuses on Crossover, the SBC’s pre-convention evangelistic blitz.
 
Covering Crossover Houston in 1993, photojournalist Bob Carey traveled to a community park where a preacher was set to deliver the gospel message to a sizeable crowd. There, Carey found the preacher and one little boy. With no crowd, the preacher “preached to the one,” said Carey, who noted that the preacher did have a personal conversation with the young boy. “One soul matters.”

Carey’s annual Crossover assignment fits him well. “I’m an evangelist at heart,” he said. “Photos and multimedia are my evangelistic tools.”
 
That evangelistic heart inspired Carey, department chair and coordinator of photojournalism at North Carolina’s Gardner-Webb University, to start taking several students with him to the annual meeting.


Photo by Bob Carey
Evangelist Jack Smith from Emmanuel Southern Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla., preaches to a crowd of one at a public park in south Houston in 1993. The photo was taken by Bob Carey during Crossover Houston. Carey, who noted “one soul matters,” has often reflected on that memorable image during his years of covering events surrounding the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.


His students participate in Crossover coverage and also help document Southern Baptist history by photographing every person who steps behind a microphone at the annual meeting. The photos later find their permanent home in the Southern Baptist archives.
 
“I love bringing my students,” he said, “so they can listen and learn about Baptist life.”
 
Writer Karen Willoughby, a national correspondent for Baptist Press, listened and learned from God as she made her way to be a part of the SBC annual meeting media team.
 
More than a quarter century ago, because of setbacks and frustrations, she was ready to give up on what she sensed had been God’s call on her life: “to write the stories of what God was doing through His people.”
 
Then, in her morning Bible reading, “Unexpectedly, I thumbed open my Bible and my eyes opened to Isaiah 30:8 on the lower right inside column: ‘Go now, write it on a tablet before them. Inscribe it on a scroll, that it may be a witness forever.
 
“It continues to amaze me that God has used me like this. Who am I, that He would even notice me?” said the experienced writer who this year marked her 20th consecutive year on the Southern Baptist media team.
 
For the media team, providing communications coverage of the SBC’s annual meeting can often seem like a mad dash to the finish line. Yet, the team is unwaveringly committed to excellence, said Art Toalston, Baptist Press senior editor and a 25-year annual meeting veteran.
 
“Every comma, every semicolon, every period demonstrates a core concern for excellence. These details help readers get to key messages of each story. Every story, however grand or mundane, can and should be well-rendered,” he said.
 
“The impact we have as Baptist journalists is not through one single story – or even two or three stories. It’s through the consistency of our witness. It’s the ongoing witness and explanation of our faith that has a true impact. It does not come in momentary fashion,” he said.
 
The annual SBC media team’s commitment serves Southern Baptists well, said Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press managing editor/director of operations.
 
“We couldn’t do it without them. Their experience and knowledge of the inner workings of the SBC are invaluable. They also seem to genuinely love what they do – and love doing quality work. Baptist Press is blessed to be able to work alongside them,” Hendricks said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Margaret Colson is a writer in Marietta, Ga., and executive director of Baptist Communicators Association.)

6/29/2016 8:35:07 AM by Margaret Colson, Baptist Communicators Association | with 0 comments



Collegiate ministries evolve into multiplying churches

June 29 2016 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Channeling college students’ zeal for Christ drew the focus of two panel discussions held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in St. Louis.
 
The purpose of the panels, which took place on the Cooperative Program (CP) stage in the exhibit hall at America’s Center, showcased missions and ministry funded by the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified giving channel.

Photo by Miranda Johns
Troy Nesbitt, founding pastor and director of Salt Network at Cornerstone Church of Ames in Ames, Iowa, speaks to the importance of reaching college students during a panel discussion titled “The Salt Company Story: Why plant churches near university campuses?” at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday, June 14 at America’s Center in St. Louis.


“I’ve never been more encouraged about the future of the church,” said Keith Weiser of Resonate Church in Pullman, Wash., and four other primarily collegiate congregations in three states. “These students, they want to be activists for the gospel.”
 
In Ames, Iowa, The Salt Company is a collegiate ministry that has birthed student-and-community churches in Ames, Cedar Falls, and Waterloo, Iowa. Another is set to launch this fall in Des Moines, Iowa, and another will launch next spring in Columbia, Mo.
 
“The university is the gateway to the nation, to our cities, to the world,” said Mark Vance, director of The Salt Company. “We have to go where they [students] are.”
 
Both collegiate ministry panels, June 14-15, were moderated by Brian Frye, collegiate strategist with the North American Mission Board. Eleven million of 27 million undergraduate college students live on campus in the United States and attend 403 universities, Frye told Baptist Press. He noted Southern Baptists have started churches related to 70 of those universities. The goal by 2026 is to have churches related to all 403 universities, Frye noted.
 
The Salt Company and Resonate are leading the charge.
 
The Salt Company’s story starts with Iowa Baptists, who with the help of Cooperative Program dollars started Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Ames in 1959. With CP support, Oklahoma Baptists started a collegiate ministry in the 1970s on the Ames campus of Iowa State University.
 
When collegiate ministry directors lost their national funding in 1985, local churches took on the responsibility as best they could. Troy Nesbitt, son of Grand Avenue Baptist’s pastor, Tom Nesbitt, became the college pastor of a group of about 50 ISU students. That number grew by 1994 to about 300 each week at The Salt Company’s midweek meeting, about 200 of whom participated in Grand Avenue Baptist’s Sunday morning worship service. About 200 non-college students also participated.
 
With the facilities maxed out, Troy Nesbitt suggested to his father that the college students start their own church, and Cornerstone Church was born with 200 students and 24 members of the Ames community, aided by Cooperative Program funding.
 
“It was a novel idea at the time to plant a ‘second generation’ church,” Nesbitt said.
 
A year later, Jeff Dodge was called as Cornerstone’s teaching pastor, and Nesbitt led the community side of the church, which met in a campus facility for a time. Four years after Cornerstone started, the church had grown to approximately 600 in attendance, and in 1999 a church seating 640 was built. The current worship center seats 1,300.
 
Mark Aaron was one who emerged from the students first engaged and then discipled by The Salt Company. Aaron took the entire staff of Salt Company small group leaders with him in 2010 when he started a new work on the campus of the University of North Iowa in Cedar Falls.
 
“We put on a concert and 150 showed up for it, so we jumped on board with that,” Nesbitt said. “We wanted to have a church that reached the community and college students. Both reach each other.”
 
Paul Sabino had been called in 2003 to lead The Salt Company collegiate ministry, which had continued separate from Cornerstone Church.
 
Sabino started Candeo Church of Waterloo in 2013. Candeo is a Latin word that means “to shine.” The first year they baptized 20 college students and one person from the community. Today, 800 people participate in Candeo’s Sunday morning worship services, including about 200 college students.
 
“We baptized 100 last year and 200 total since we started,” Sabino said.
 
This fall, a church plant is to start in Des Moines, Iowa, and next year in Columbia, Mo.
 
“Don’t be the last bulb on the circuit” is a pithy statement they use, Nesbitt said. With that in mind, about 30 Salt Company-related students have moved to “Mizzou,” the University of Missouri in Columbia, where they will pay out-of-state tuition in order to start a church there.
 
Resonate’s story dates to 2004, when Weiser became Baptist Collegiate Ministries director at Washington State University, he told Baptist Press before the second panel discussion. By 2007, about 50 students were involved in midweek Bible studies. That number initially dwindled to half when the ministry was re-organized into Resonate Church, a church focused on reaching college students. But within a year the new church grew to 200, of which 90 percent were students.
 
“Now we have 1,200 [in church on Sunday] on six sites and five universities,” Weiser said. He listed Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Eastern Washington University in Cheney, University of Oregon in Eugene and the University of Idaho in Moscow, in addition to the original Resonate site in Pullman, related to Washington State University.
 
“We felt called to multiply our church beyond the Palouse region” of eastern Washington and western Idaho, Weiser said. “Everything we did – and do – is to help students understand how to take the Great Commission wherever they go, and that includes every university.”
 
Resonate members and staff make a major thrust each semester to connect with incoming students, Weiser explained during the panel discussion. The initial welcome leads to Connect groups that evangelize and then disciple students, and that also develop leadership skills.
 
“We ask students to give two years of their life post-college to be part of church planting,” Weiser said. “We started this last year and when we asked them to respond, 143 students expressed their desire to plant churches post-college.”
 
Leadership development is key to the growth strategies of both The Salt Company and Resonate, the panelists noted.
 
“There was always a vision” for expansion, said Sabino, founding pastor of Candeo and a former director of The Salt Company. “We had a leadership track. Leaders attract leaders.
 
“There’s no glass ceiling at The Salt Company,” Sabino said. “If someone does my job better than me, let’s give it to him.”
 
An important aspect of ministry with college students is the need to let them lead, to let them make the mistakes that teach them what works and what doesn’t, said Jeff Dodge, minister of education at Cornerstone Ames. “You have to let go of leadership, of teaching ministry, and instead, let them experience it.”
 
When moderator Frye asked for reasons to invest in college students, the panelists were quick to point out those advantages.
 
The zeal for the Lord of newly-converted college students is a boon for the local church, said Stan Hayek, to be planter/pastor of Anthem Church in Columbia, Mo., birthed from The Salt Company.
 
Today’s college students will change the culture tomorrow, and if they’re not Christian there’s no telling what they’ll do with the future, said Sabino.
 
“Pour yourself into the next generation and see the blessing,” said Dodge of Cornerstone Ames.
 
Watch the discussion here:

6/29/2016 8:28:13 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Website to aid foster care, adoption in Kentucky

June 29 2016 by Kentucky Today Staff

A new website aims to make it easier for Kentucky parents to navigate the foster care and adoption process.
 
“Every child deserves a loving home,” First Lady Glenna Bevin said in unveiling the adopt.ky.gov website with Kentucky Health and Family Services Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson.


Bevin said her office worked closely with the state’s Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) to create a website to clearly show each step in becoming a foster or adoptive parent – at no additional taxpayer expense.
 
The Bevins have nine children, and four are adopted. Bevin has said that her top priority as first lady is child and family advocacy.
 
Glisson said the new website is an important first step toward making the adoption process less stressful and confusing.
 
“For prospective parents wanting to complete their ‘forever families,’ the steps of adopting can seem endless,” Glisson said. “This improved website is meant to make the process understandable from the start by explaining options and providing contacts to ask for help.”
 
According to DCBS, about 8,100 children are in Kentucky foster care, and many of them are awaiting adoption.
 
“Foster care is meant to be a temporary setting until families can be safely reunified,” DCBS Commissioner Adria Johnson said. “But when children cannot return home, we work to find loving, permanent homes for them. This new website has revitalized the entry point for families to learn about opening their hearts and homes to a vulnerable child.”
 
The new site, unveiled June 8, also includes regional contact information and a link to the Special Needs Adoption Program photo search database where families can use criteria like gender, age and siblings to search the listings of children awaiting adoption.
 
“It’s important that families seeking to adopt find the child match who is right for them.” Johnson said. “This initial database search, with guidance from DCBS caseworkers, can help parents find children who are a good fit for their families.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com, is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

6/29/2016 8:22:12 AM by Kentucky Today Staff | with 0 comments



Jamaica missionaries’ slaying draws murder charge

June 29 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Local authorities have charged one man and named another a “person of interest” in the April 30 murders of two American missionaries in Jamaica.
 
Andre Thomas, 25, was charged with murder and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition in connection with the deaths of Randy Hentzel and Harold Nichols, the Jamaica Constabulary Force reported June 23 in a news release. Thomas was arrested in early June and also faces unrelated charges under Jamaica’s Sexual Offenses Act, according to the release.

Contributed photo
An arrest has been made in the April 30 murder of missionary Randy Hentzel (back, center) in Jamaica.


Law enforcement officials have designated Dwight Henry, 25, a person of interest and asked him to contact detectives June 24. Anyone with information about Henry’s whereabouts has been asked to contact the authorities.
 
Missionaries with the Pennsylvania-based Teams for Medical Missions, Hentzel, 48, was a member of First Family Church in Ankeny, Iowa, a Southern Baptist congregation, and Nichols, 53, was a member of East Randolph (N.Y.) United Methodist Church.
 
First Family pastor Todd Stiles told Baptist Press, “After reading the report [of Thomas’ arrest], my heart was gladdened that justice appears to be moving in the right direction. ... The family has found their solace in the Lord, and so while I’m confident they’re glad to see the authorities working on their behalf, I know the ultimate peace they have is in their Savior.”
 
Hentzel and Nichols were slain in a remote, rural area of Jamaica. The two men went for a motorcycle ride at approximately 8 a.m., and Hentzel’s body was found hours later beside a motorcycle in some bushes, according to an initial news release from the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Nichols’ body was found the next day in a separate area.
 
A May 3 release from the Jamaica Constabulary Force indicated Hentzel died of a gunshot would while Nichols’ body had a gunshot wound and “chop wounds.”
 
St. Mary parish, where the deaths occurred, is a region known for violence, according to media reports.

6/29/2016 8:16:34 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Displaying results 1-10 (of 50)
 |<  < 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5  >  >|