June 2016

Pro-lifers protest requiring churches to cover abortions

June 24 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Pro-life advocates are protesting a new Obama administration decision that permits the state of California to force even churches to cover abortions in their health insurance plans.
The criticisms, and calls for Congress to defend conscience protections, came after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced June 21 it had rejected complaints from churches and others that California had violated federal law by requiring their health plans to pay for elective abortions.
The Obama administration “is once again making a mockery of the law, and this time in the most unimaginable way,” said Casey Mattox, senior counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), in a written statement. “Churches should never be forced to cover elective abortion in their insurance plans. ... But the state of California has ordered every insurer, even those insuring churches, to cover elective abortions in blatant violation of the law.”
The action continues the administration’s “pattern of enforcing laws it wants to enforce, refusing to enforce others, and inventing new interpretations of others out of whole cloth,” Mattox said.
Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., a pro-life champion in Congress, said this White House “has again shown blatant disregard for the rule of law. This decision illustrates the far reaches of Obama’s radical pro-abortion ideology – forcing churches and communities of faith that have pro-life convictions to participate in and pay for a practice that dismembers and chemically poisons unborn children.”
The federal law in question is the Weldon Amendment, an annual rider since 2004 to the HHS appropriations measure that bars funds for a federal program or state or local government that “subjects any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the health care entity does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” The amendment is named after Rep. Dave Weldon, R.-Fla., a former, seven-term congressman who sponsored it.
In its June 21 letter, HHS’ Office of Civil Rights said each of the health insurers qualified as a “health care entity” but the complainants – seven churches, a religious organization and the employees of a faith-based university – covered by the insurance plans did not.
The 2014 directive from the California Department of Managed Health Care requiring the health plans of churches and others to cover abortions violates the First Amendment, as well as the Weldon Amendment, Mattox said.
Spokesmen for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said the HHS ruling “fails to respect not only the rights to life and religious freedom, but also the will of Congress and the rule of law.”
“Even those who disagree on the issue of life should be able to respect the conscience rights of those who wish not to be involved in supporting abortion,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore in a statement. Dolan is chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, while Lori chairs the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.
Smith, as well as Dolan and Lori, called on Congress to approve legislation providing a right of action in defense of conscience protections in court.
ADF and the Life Legal Defense Foundation, a California-based organization, represented the seven churches and employees of Loyola Marymount University in their complaints to the state of California.

6/24/2016 12:03:02 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Untapped source’ for missions discussed

June 24 2016 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Professionals – people with experience in business, education, sales, medicine and more – can help start and grow churches in places career missionaries cannot go by using their skills to network with other professionals in cities around the globe, a panel of Baptist leaders determined June 13 in St. Louis.
“We want to encourage any professional and soon-to-retire professional to consider this,” said Sebastian Traeger, executive vice president at the International Mission Board in Richmond, Va. Traeger was part of one of 18 Cooperative Program panels held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. “They’ll be in the context of the city they’re in, and could be most effective.... We’re talking cities of 5 to 25 million people or more.”

Photo by Jenna Wachsmuth
(Left to right) Micah Fries, vice president of LifeWay Research; Sebastian Traeger, executive vice president of the International Mission Board; Charles Fowler, senior pastor of Germantown Baptist Church, in Germantown, Tenn.; Kevin Prewett, Director of Marketplace Advance for the International Mission Board; and Jamie Dunlop, associate pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., participate in a panel titled Mobilizing Professionals to Mission on Monday, June 13 in St. Louis.

In Japan, Tokyo has a population of 37.8 million people. It is the largest city in the world, according to the World Atlas, which was updated in March 2016. Jakarta, Indonesia, is next at 30.5 million. Topping out at 25 million is Delhi, India. Metro Manila, Philippines, has 24.1 million people. Metro Seoul, South Korea, has 23.5 million. Cities that follow in size include Shanghai, China; Karachi, Pakistan; and Beijing, China. New York City, at 20.6 million, is ninth on the list of the nation’s largest cities. Sao Paulo, Brazil, rounds out the top 10 with 20.3 million.
Seventy-five cities, Traeger said, have a population of more than 5 million, and all of them are under-reached by an evangelical witness.
“Three to five million Americans are working overseas,” he noted. “We have in them a completely untapped source.”
Explaining marketplace missions, Traeger said a lifestyle using naturally-generated, work-related networks can result in churches planted and existing ones strengthened.
Traeger was joined on the panel moderated by Micah Fries, vice president of LifeWay Research in Nashville, Tenn., with Jamie Dunlop, associate pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and Charles Fowler, pastor of Germantown Baptist Church, Tenn.
“Churches are encouraged to raise up and equip their members to join church-planting teams in global cities or in harder-to-access areas,” Traeger said. “Think about taking a season of your life to serve God in this way.”
Germantown has a commitment to using marketplace strategies to plant churches and engage lostness in Germantown, Denver and Belize, Fowler said. The church, which focuses on disciple-making, has developed conferences it calls Missional Marketplace Summits to encourage participants to live out the gospel 24/7. The church also facilitates relationship-building lunch groups and online networking.
Fowler said he is leading Germantown church members to advance the Kingdom of God through their specific careers, business networks, gifting, and/or skills.
“Building gospel ministry on the foundation of personal experience in the marketplace allows missions and church planting to happen more naturally and facilitate a more consistent life at home, at work and on mission,” Fowler said. “It is one life, lived missionally, whenever and wherever.
“These marketplace strategies attract people who were never engaged in more traditional church planting strategies,” Fowler noted, “to not only get involved, but to lead evangelistic and church planting efforts.
“It is incredibly exciting to see the gospel come alive in the hearts, lives and careers of church members who for years supported missions but never committed to be an active part of how the gospel is advanced,” he said. “Today, that is a very real experience for our church family.”
For more information on marketplace ministries, go to imb.org/send. The Cooperative Program panel discussions were held during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting to highlight missions and ministry funded through the Southern Baptists’ unified giving channel.

6/24/2016 11:55:25 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Center for Public Theology launches at Midwestern

June 24 2016 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

The new Center for Public Theology (CPT) at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) aims to equip the church “for theological engagement in a fallen order and a secularizing public square,” as described by MBTS President Jason Allen.
Allen has named Owen Strachan as the center’s director.
Strachan, 35, joined Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s faculty as associate professor of public theology in June 2015. He is the author or coauthor of eight books and has served as president of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood since 2014.

Owen Strachan

Allen, addressing MBTS’s alumni and friends luncheon June 15 during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in St. Louis, said, “In being a seminary that exists to serve the local church, the CPT offers another vital training tool to equip pastors, missionaries and ministry leaders to fulfill the Great Commission amidst a lost and morally-confused culture.”
Strachan, in a June 22 news release, said the Center for Public Theology will engage the public square from a worldview “created by sound doctrine. … The fallen-ness of this world has not changed in two millennia, and also the church’s commission – its task, its call to preach the gospel and live faithfully in a fallen world – has not changed either.
“We’re living in strange days. The news cycle is dominated by confusing political events. The church is perplexed over how to be the church in this moment,” Strachan said. “It’s my hope that the CPT can help believers think well about our world and engage it as gospel-shaped salt and light.”
Believers should not be reluctant to engage the public square, he said, but should be plunging in, as they have the most important contributions to make because they represent the very mind of almighty God.
“The rising generation needs to know what the Bible teaches, and how it can be applied to a secular order,” Strachan said. “We find ourselves in a fifth-century moment. Rome is decaying, and all theology is apologetics. All theology is cultural engagement. Your doctrine of God? Your understanding of the atonement? Your vision of the church? It is directly connected to your engagement of the world. For the boundary between the church and the world has fallen, and Christians must continually make their case in the public square, or else take their place in the ash-heap of history.”
Currently at the CPT website – cpt.mbts.edu – are several culture commentaries by Strachan, including “The future is not determined: on millennials and politics,” “Your gender is too small: man as male and female” and “The gospel is bad news for our stereotypes.”
Future initiatives of the center, Strachan said, include a lectureship series, podcasts and additional essayists.
Strachan’s latest book, with Gavin Peacock, is The Grand Design: Male and Female He Made Them. His other books include The Colson Way, The Pastor as Public Theologian, Awakening the Evangelical Mind and Risky Gospel.
Strachan came to MBTS’s Kansas City, Mo., campus from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky where he was assistant professor of Christian theology and church history and director of the Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement.
The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) that Strachan leads was founded in 1987 with a mission to “set forth the teachings of the Bible about the complementary differences between men and women, created equally in the image of God, because these teachings are essential for obedience to Scripture and for the health of the family and the church.” Strachan served as CBMW’s executive director for a year before becoming president.
Strachan holds a Ph.D. in theological studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois, an M.Div. in biblical and theological studies from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an undergraduate degree in history from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, his home state.
Through Strachan’s leadership, Allen said in mid-June, “Our aim is to prepare believers theologically to engage the swiftly-declining matters of society, politics and culture knowledgably and confidently, yet humbly and in a Christ-like spirit. We accomplish this mission through complete trust and assurance in the truthfulness of Scripture and the transforming power of grace.”
For a video of Strachan describing the mission of the Center for Public Theology, click here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston contributed to this article.)

6/24/2016 11:47:07 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments

Floyd, Jeffress, others new Trump advisers

June 23 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Immediate past Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd and Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress are among a diverse group of evangelicals Donald Trump named June 21 to advise him on religion and politics.
Trump’s 25-member Evangelical Executive Advisory Board includes at least eight Southern Baptists. They were among more than 1,000 conservative faith leaders who attended a June 21 invitation-only question-and-answer session with Trump and Ben Carson in New York, hosted by United in Purpose and the one-year-old My Faith Votes, and moderated by former U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Photo from A. Larry Ross Communications
Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump fielded questions from among 1,000 evangelicals June 21 at an invitation-only event New York.

In the seven-hour Q&A at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, Trump answered pre-submitted questions from conservative Christians on religious freedom of speech and conscience, sanctity of human life, U.S. Supreme Court nominations, national defense and other issues pertinent to the presidency.
Floyd said his attendance at the meeting and advisory board membership are not an endorsement of Trump’s U.S. presidential quest, but an “avenue to voice what matters to evangelicals.”
“In this critical time in America, knowing the stakes have never been higher in our nation and after seeking the counsel of godly men and praying through this decision, I have agreed to serve on the Evangelical Executive Advisory Board for Donald Trump,” Floyd told Baptist Press (BP). “With the evangelical concerns of Supreme Court appointments, the sanctity and dignity of human life from the womb to the tomb, religious liberty at home and abroad, Israel and the Middle East, poverty, crime, violence, lack of opportunity in urban areas, and racial tension, I believe it is incumbent on me to serve in this advisory capacity.”
Event visionary, organizer and United in Purpose CEO Bill Dallas said the attendance of major ministry leaders and small-church pastors alike shows the concern and power of faith leaders to transform culture.
“This is not a political rally, but rather an opportunity to unify leaders spiritually in worship and pray together and interact with a candidate in a way that can have a profound impact on our nation,” Dallas said. “Our society often exalts those with the most influence but the real impact is all of us coming together. As Christian leaders, we must engage – not just in politics, but in all areas of culture. Jointly, we can make a difference.”
Newly elected SBC president Steve Gaines attended the meeting but chose not to comment about the event, according to communications director Jim Barnwell at Gaines’ pastorate Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis.
Executive advisory board member Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, has supported Trump for months.
“He talked about his commitment to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, his firm belief in the sanctity of life, and his real desire to protect the religious freedoms of all Americans, but certainly Christian Americans,” Jeffress told BP of the meeting. “I think the audience was very receptive when they heard him say that Christians are being marginalized in today’s culture. He really believes that.”

Photo from A. Larry Ross Communications
James Dobson, a member of the newly formed Donald Trump Evangelical Executive Advisory Board, poses a question to the candidate at a New York June 21 event sponsored by United in Purpose and My Faith Votes.

There was no discussion of the racial and/or religious profiling of Muslims at the large meeting, Jeffress said, but said he understands Trump’s concerns.
“I think many of us are very sympathetic with what Mr. Trump is trying to do,” Jeffress said. “He doesn’t hate anyone, but he realizes that government has a God-given mandate to protect its citizens. And I think we have to acknowledge that whether we’re talking about Orlando or Paris or San Bernardino, these acts were not committed by militant Methodists; they were all committed by militant Muslims. And you can’t ignore that fact.”
Trump showed clear interest in evangelicals’ concerns, Jeffress told BP, but didn’t offer specifics of how he would achieve his presidential goals. Of the numerous questions submitted, Jeffress said, only eight or 10 made it to the floor of the meeting.
His advisory capacity will not focus on Trump’s Christian discipleship, Jeffress said.
“It would be very presumptuous for this group as a whole to try to disciple Donald Trump,” Jeffress said. “He has been my friend for a year now and he is a very open person, a very honest person, but I don’t think the role of the group is to do any type of a mass discipleship program. This is not going to be a weekly Bible study.”
What Jeffress understands about Trump’s Christianity is between the two of them as friends, the pastor told BP.
“I can say publicly, Mr. Trump’s faith is very important to him but it’s also very personal to him,” Jeffress said. “And I think what evangelical Christians need to know is that if Donald Trump is elected president, evangelicals will have a true friend in the White House.”
The executive advisory board will lead a much larger Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee Trump will announce this month, according to a Trump campaign press release.
“I have such tremendous respect and admiration for this group,” Trump said in a press release announcing the executive group, “and I look forward to continuing to talk about the issues important to Evangelicals, and all Americans, and the common sense solutions I will implement when I am President.”
Former U.S. presidential candidate Ben Carson opened the New York meeting, which also featured comments from researcher George Barna, founder of the Barna Group, and radio host and author Eric Metaxas. Trump only attended a portion of the meeting; a panel discussion followed the Q&A session.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, in acknowledging support for Trump at the afternoon press conference, said he doesn’t agree with Trump on all issues.
“A conversation began today that I believe is going to continue over the next 130 days,” Perkins said at the press conference. “And it’s one I think evangelical leaders, social conservative leaders and others are looking forward to having, with an outcome that will hopefully see this country turned back to where it will respect our first freedoms and will get this country back on track.”
Other Southern Baptists on the executive advisory board are David Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, El Cajon, Calif.; Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas; Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University; former Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary; James MacDonald, founder and senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, and Jay Strack, president of Student Leadership University.
Rounding out the advisory council are former congresswoman Michelle Bachmann; A.R. Bernard, senior pastor and CEO of Christian Cultural Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Mark Burns, pastor of Harvest Praise and Worship Center, Easley, S.C.; Tim Clinton, president of the American Association of Christian Counselors; Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, founders of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Fort Worth, Texas; James Dobson, founder and former leader of Focus on the Family; Jentezen Franklin, senior pastor of Free Chapel, Gainesville, Ga. and Irvine, Calif.; Harry Jackson, senior pastor, Hope Christian Church, Beltsville, Md.; Johnnie Moore, president of the Kairos Co., Glendale, Calif.; Robert Morris, senior pastor of Gateway Church, Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; Tom Mullins, senior pastor, Christ Fellowship, Palm Beach County, Fla.; Ralph Reed, founder, Faith and Freedom Coalition, Duluth, Ga.; James Robison, founder, Life Outreach International, Fort Worth, Texas; Tony Suarez, executive vice president, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Sacramento, Calif.; Paula White, senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center, Apopka, Fla.; Tom Winters, attorney with Winters and King Inc., Tulsa, Okla.; and Sealy Yates, attorney with Yates and Yates, Orange, Calif.

6/23/2016 11:10:51 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Insanity of God’ shows faith amid despair

June 23 2016 by Bob Smietana, Fact & Trends

Nik Ripken almost abandoned hope when he first arrived in Somalia 25 years ago.
Ripken, then a young International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, had caught a ride with the Red Cross in a small plane carrying relief supplies across the border between Kenya and its war-ravaged neighbor.

Photo by Jenna Wachsmuth
Nik and Ruth Ripken appeared at the screening of “The Insanity of God” documentary Monday, June 13 in St. Louis. The film is based on Nik Ripken’s book by the same title and was screened prior to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

What he saw shook him to the core. He met parents who asked for burial cloths for the children they’d lost rather than food and water for themselves and saw soldiers passing out narcotics rather than relief supplies to those in need.
It was a country where despair was commonplace.
“It was like I’d been plunged into hell,” Ripken recounts in “The Insanity of God,” the first theatrical release from LifeWay Films, which was previewed June 13 at the Ferrara Theatre in St. Louis. The screening there was held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.
The movie, based on a book by Ripken (who uses a pseudonym), follows him and his wife Ruth from their days as a young missionary couple just starting out through their time in Somalia and some of the hardest places in the world.
Ripken worked in Somalia for years on relief projects. He also became friends with Somalia believers.
At one point in the film, he recalls sharing communion with four Somali believers, who feared for their lives. Soon afterward, he learned they and other Christians had been murdered.
He wondered how faith could survive in the midst of such suffering.
“What do you do when everything seems to be crucifixion and there’s no resurrection?” Ripken asks during the film.
That question soon became personal.
While at their home base in Kenya, the Ripkens’ young son Timothy suffered a severe asthma attack. Unbeknownst to the family, their home had a mold infestation exacerbated by the start of the rainy season.
Ripken rushed to the hospital. At one point, he pulled over and compelled a passerby to get in the car and drive so that he could administer CPR to Timothy.
But Ripken’s efforts were in vain and Timothy died. The Ripkens buried their son on the grounds of a school in Kenya, not far from their home.
The Ripkens struggled with guilt and wondered if Timothy would have lived if they had stayed in the United States.
Was their call to missions worth Timothy’s life?
Soon afterward, the Ripkens set out to answer that question. They traveled the globe, talking with Christians in more than 70 countries where believers face persecution.
Everywhere they went, they met believers who had been able to persevere despite their suffering. Among those persecuted Christians, the Ripkens found kindred souls, who knew the cost and suffering that come from following Jesus. They learned faith can endure and thrive, even in the midst of despair and struggle.
“Evil has never stopped doing what evil does,” Ripken says in the film. “God has not stopped doing what God does.”
The interviews with persecuted believers became the basis for Ripken’s book, “The Insanity of God,” and the film, which was co-sponsored by the IMB.
The preview crowd gave the film, which opens in 400 theaters across the United States on August 30 as a one-night event, a standing ovation.
The preview was the first time the Ripkens had seen this version of the film, which is dedicated to the memory of Timothy Ripken.
“I miss my son,” Ripken said in a question and answer session after the film. “And I miss walking with these people.”
He gave an impassioned plea for families to follow Jesus’s command to go and make disciples of all nations.
“Don’t cheat your kids out of going on this kind of journey,” he said. “Don’t cheat them out of experiencing Jesus among the nations. After 30 years of doing this, I believe Jesus said, ‘go into the world’ as much for those who will go as for those who will hear (the gospel.) Because if we don’t go and we don’t speak, we will miss Jesus Himself.”
The Ripkens say their job is to connect the dots so believers from around the world can learn from each other.
Ruth Ripken urged the audience not to forget those who suffer for their faith around the world.
“We are being persecuted every day because they are part of us,” she said. “As they hurt, we should hurt – as we are part of their body.”
Those who suffer for their faith also rejoice for Christians who are able to share their faith freely, Ruth noted. That lesson is sometime forgotten, she added.
“We are not a free church and persecuted church,” she said. “We are just the church. It’s time to grasp the power that we have because we are part of God’s family.”
During the question and answer session, Ripken also gave an update on one of the believers featured in the film. Ripken said he’d heard that Dmitri, a Russian pastor who’d been jailed for 17 years, had died. But Ripken later learned that was not true. He also learned that Dmitri’s son is now the chaplain at the prison where his father was once jailed.
“That’s the way God will work if you give Him a chance,” Ripken said.
More details about the film can be found at insanityofgodmovie.com.

6/23/2016 11:04:36 AM by Bob Smietana, Fact & Trends | with 0 comments

Filipino Baptists expand on 20/20 plan

June 23 2016 by Daniel Woodman, Baptist Press

Finishing the first year of a five-year initiative to plant 100 new churches, the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America (FSBFNA) reported progress on their goal.
Filipino Baptist churches across North America have planted more than 20 new churches, Peter Yanes, FSBFNA president, reported during the fellowship’s June 14 meeting in St. Louis.

Photo by Chris Carter
Christian Yanes, member of Philadelphia Bible Church International in Philadelphia, leads worship at the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America on Tuesday, June 14 in St. Louis.

A “20/20” plan was initiated last year to reach more Filipinos in North America, who number 3.4 million according to the original report.
Yanes described the process as a collaborative effort by churches and believers to share the gospel intentionally.
“Every believer should start a gospel conversation, and followed by a disciple-making that would result to a gospel congregation,” Yanes said in written comments to Baptist Press (BP) after the meeting. “An intentional discipleship process should be in place [in] every local church to make it work.”
Many Filipino churches are becoming international churches as they reach out to and bring in people of various ethnic backgrounds, Yanes noted.
New bylaws were passed during the meeting emphasizing participation and giving from partner churches, while 60 percent of the fellowship’s proposed budget was allocated to assist church plants. The fellowship also will be implementing the position of executive director in the near future. As the officer core turns over every few years, the executive position will provide stability and guidance, Yanes said.
Jeremy Sin of the North American Mission Board’s Send North America church planting initiative reminded Filipinos to be comfortable using their specific talents in the ministry. Sin, in speaking to the fellowship, described “different kinds of people working together” in the Bible by recounting the journeys of figures such as Paul, Silas, and Timothy. These men all had unique and specific talents that they brought to the ministry, Sin said.
Jeremiah Lepasana, pastor of Bible Church International in New Jersey, used the story of Esther in the main sermon at the meeting to relay a need for courage on the mission field “in such a time as this.”
Lepasana pointed to Esther’s willingness to risk her own life in order to save the lives of her people. He urged believers to be unashamed and unrelenting in their sharing of the gospel.
“The greatest tragedy of our passiveness is to see the perishing of people closest to us, our own friends and family members. It’s unfortunate that, because we’re not emphasizing soul-winning enough, some of our people are not understanding that their loved ones are lost,” Lepasana said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Daniel Woodman, who will be a junior journalism major at the University of Missouri, is a summer intern with Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

6/23/2016 11:00:23 AM by Daniel Woodman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Connect316 defends ‘traditionalist’ doctrines

June 23 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Cooperation among Southern Baptists with diverse theological views, the definition of “gospel” and the extent of the atonement were among the topics addressed at the Connect316 banquet June 14 in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in St. Louis.
Connect316 – a coalition of Southern Baptists who advocate what they call a “traditionalist” understanding of the doctrine of salvation and disagree with some points of so-called “New Calvinism” – also presented Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson with the Jerry Vines Award for the Promotion of Whosoever Will Doctrine in Southern Baptist Life.

Photo by Chris Carter
Paige Patterson (left), president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, receives the Jerry Vines Award from Rick Patrick during the Connect316 dinner Tuesday, June 14 in St. Louis.

Braxton Hunter, the first of three speakers and president of Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Ind., encouraged traditionalists and Calvinists to work together in the SBC.
“The gospel is too important” to “fracture the convention” between Calvinists and traditionalists, Hunter said. “We need to cooperate where we can.”
Still, Hunter noted a concern that “certain entities,” like the broadly Reformed groups The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel, “have positioned themselves in such a way in name and posture so as to indicate that they are more adequately representing the gospel than other groups are of differing soteriological persuasions.” Traditionalists should respond to such groups by articulating their views on salvation with clarity and courage, he said.
The relationship in Scripture between God’s sovereignty and human freedom is not utterly incomprehensible, Hunter said. Rather than resign themselves to accepting these two notions as mysterious and irreconcilable in this life, believers should use theology and philosophy to argue against any form of determinism and defend the view that “anyone can be saved, Jesus died for everyone and God wants everyone to be saved.” Hunter also argued that being born again does not precede the exercise of faith.
Blake Newsom, pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., said the term “gospel” is losing its meaning in some circles because it is used as a “buzzword” rather than a technical term to reference Scripture’s message about Jesus.
“It has lost or is losing its core identity and meaning due to the books, conversations and retweets of ... empty statements about the gospel,” Newsom said.
The term gospel is not synonymous with formal evangelistic presentations, “important Christian doctrines” or “implications of the gospel,” Newsom said. Citing 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, he said the gospel is a description of “the person and work of Christ as depicted in Scripture and [its] application to humanity.”
Some contemporary gospel presentations “tend to be too propositional,” Newsom said. “They need to be more personal. That means we are simply telling people about the person and work of Jesus. We are not ticking through theological points.”
David Allen, dean of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s school of theology, said the doctrine of unlimited atonement is “very close to the heart of the gospel, so we can’t afford to get it wrong.”
Unlimited atonement refers to the idea that on the cross, Christ paid the penalty due for every human’s sin. Limited atonement is the view Christ’s death paid only for the sins of the elect.
Allen, author of the 2016 book The Extent of the Atonement: History and Critique (B&H), said believing Christ died only for the elect – however that term is defined – leads logically to the conclusion that some people are “not savable” and makes a universal offer of the gospel “disingenuous.”
“When you offer salvation to everybody, if you’re a preacher who believes in limited atonement, you’re offering something to a group of people in your audience that does not exist” because there is no means of salvation apart from Christ’s atonement, Allen said. “How do you justify that?”
The doctrine of limited atonement arose primarily during the past 400 years, said Allen, who will become dean of the seminary’s school of preaching Aug. 1. He said proponents of unlimited atonement include “Augustine and every early church father through the sixth century”; “all of the medieval theologians with the exception of a French monk named Gottschalk in the ninth century”; John Calvin; Martin Luther; Andrew Fuller; and the first three SBC presidents.
In presenting the Vines Award to Patterson, Connect316 executive director Rick Patrick noted the Southwestern Seminary president’s “cordial debate” of Calvinism in 2006 with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and his authorship of a chapter in the 2010 book Whosoever Will (B&H).
For proponents of a traditionalist doctrine of salvation, “I cannot even imagine where we would be today without the preaching and the writing and the stellar leadership of Dr. Paige Patterson,” said Patrick, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sylacauga, Ala.

6/23/2016 10:57:05 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Jamison receives O’Brien Award

June 23 2016 by Julie Walters, Woman’s Missionary Union

Mindy Jamison, co-director of Friendship Baptist Center in Des Moines, Iowa, for the past 17 years along with her husband Jon, is this year’s recipient of the Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development.
“Mindy pours her life into people living in the inner city of Des Moines, and at the same time invites and encourages others to minister alongside her,” said Joni Wilkinson, executive director of Iowa Womans’ Missionary Union (WMU) and volunteer at the Friendship Center, who recommended Jamison for the award. “She is a mentor to women of all ages and backgrounds and continues to teach about her passion – living out her faith in her community and seeing people living in poverty come to know Christ.”

Photo by Van Payne
Mindy Jamison (center), co-director of the Friendship Baptist Center in Des Moines, Iowa, stands with David George (left), president of the Woman’s Missionary Union Foundation, and Wanda Lee (right), retiring WMU executive director, during the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting Monday, June 13 in St. Louis. Jamison was the recipient of the 2016 Dellanna West O’Brien Award for Women’s Leadership Development for her work.

Wanda Lee, executive director of national WMU, presented Jamison with the award during the WMU Missions Celebration on June 13 in St. Louis. The gathering was held there in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.
Established in 1998, the O’Brien award recognizes a Baptist woman who demonstrates the ability to foster leadership in women. David George, president of the WMU Foundation, also presented a grant of $2,500 to help Jamison continue her development and ministry to others.
Accepting the award, Jamison reflected on her experience as a summer missionary in St. Louis. “In 1996, I came [to Missouri] and [served] under Vivian[McCaughan] and learned some really wonderful things about being a minister. If you knew her, you know she lived out her call courageously and made no apologies about who she was in Christ, and that was a wonderful example to me.”
Then in 1999, Jamison went to New Orleans and served with missionaries Kay Bennett and Ginger Smith, two other women who live out their call courageously, she said.
Jamison underscored the importance of building relationships for effective ministry and outreach.
“Gone are the days when we can swoop into a community that’s living in poverty and pass out free things and feel like that is ministry to people in poverty,” she said. “We must be about building real, authentic relationships with those impacted by poverty.
“They are not there for our amusement or to feel good about ourselves or what we’ve done that day,” Jamison noted. “They are living in chronic chaos, chronic pain, and chronic trouble. We must build real, authentic relationships with them. Let’s let the gospel transform their lives in such a way that they transform their own communities.”
Jamison received a degree in social work from Carson-Newman College, Jefferson City, Tenn., and a masters of divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
The Jamisons, who have one daughter, served as missionaries through the North American Mission Board until December 2015. This past year they served as missionaries through the Baptist Convention of Iowa.
In addition, they serve as community ministry consultants for the Baptist Convention of Iowa, helping to educate churches on the culture of poverty and to build relationships with hurting communities. They also lead a worship service at the Friendship Center on Sundays.

6/23/2016 10:47:04 AM by Julie Walters, Woman’s Missionary Union | with 0 comments

Missions effectiveness examined by SBC leaders

June 22 2016 by Karen L Willoughby, Baptist Press

Entity leaders discussed ways to be more effective in global missions during one of 18 Cooperative Program panel discussions held June 13-15 in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in St. Louis.
The videotaped discussion took place at one side of the America Center’s exhibit hall with Jon Akin, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church near Nashville moderating.
Responding to his questions were Frank S. Page, executive director of the SBC’s Executive Committee; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and David Platt, president of the International Mission Board (IMB).

Photo by Miranda Johns
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, discusses the importance of advancing the gospel locally, regionally, and globally during a panel discussion Monday, June 13 in St. Louis.

Moderator Jon Akin opened the discussion by asking Page about a report on the decline in attendance, members and baptisms in Southern Baptist churches. Does this indicate America is going to become like Europe – post-Christian, unchurched?
“I believe if we lose the base we lose the battle,” Page responded. “The base of Christianity in America is so important. I’m not saying other places in the world cannot send; they are. They cannot reach; they do.
“I believe we must sense the seriousness of this,” Page noted. “We must see what’s happening and redouble, retriple our efforts at seeing people coming to Christ, at revitalizing churches, at planting evangelistically strong churches here and around the world. So I’m deeply burdened. I am.”
Page was in Germany recently, he said, at a conference attended by perhaps 1,300 preachers, and 75 percent of them were under 30 years of age.
“So I saw hope,” Page said. “I said, ‘Well, maybe God’s not done with Europe and maybe God’s not done with us.’“
When the moderator asked Mohler to analyze the issues leading to the declines, the seminary president referred to a mid-century chorus, “Deep and Wide.”
“Now it’s deep or wide in the sense that where you find Christianity you’re increasingly in the secularized West,” Mohler responded. “You either find it deep, where you find deep gospel commitment, deep commitment to truth, deep ecclesiology or it’s merely wide, and the wide is what’s disappearing.
“Cultural nominal Christianity is what’s disappearing,” Mohler said. “But where it’s found deep, there we have the real opportunity to preach the gospel. We’ve got to have healthy churches. We’ve got to have churches deeply committed to Christ, deeply committed to the gospel, deeply committed to the Great Commission, deeply committed to ecclesiology, deeply committed to doctrine and the inerrancy of scripture, and that’s our only hope.
“So one of the things Southern Baptists have got to get used to is, we’ve found a certain pride in wide, and all along we should have been a little more concerned – and that’s an understatement – for deep. And so we have to be really, really clear now that we’re not going to try for wide at the expense of deep. We’re going to try for wide that emerges from the deep. Those are two different things.”
Some people suggest the SBC should shore up the home base before going to the mission field, Jon Akin said. He asked Platt to comment.
“I don’t think it agrees with Scripture,” Platt said. “I think we’re fooling ourselves to think we’re going to go deep if we turn a deaf ear to the need of the nations to hear the gospel. That’s part of depth. We’re fooling ourselves if we think, ‘Oh, we’ll be healthy if we just focus on ourselves.’ That’s totally antithetical to everything that’s in the New Testament.”
Seminary president Akin said, “The issue is access to the gospel.”
“At least, that’s part of the equation,” he noted. “We have access to the gospel here. There are wide portions of the world that have no access to the gospel.” If Southern Baptists stay home, he said, multiple millions, billions of people will live, die and go to hell without ever having the opportunity to respond to the gospel.
“That’s absolutely unacceptable,” Akin said. “If we go authentically deep, we’ll also go broad-wide, because the gospel demands we respond in that way.”
Moderator Akin asked Mohler, “Was Jesus giving us a program in Acts 1:8 or was something else going on there?” Akin was referring to Christians being Jesus’ witness locally, regionally and globally, all at the same time.
“I don’t want to say Jesus was giving a program,” Mohler responded. “Jesus was commanding His people. Those are two different things. Programs come and go. The commands of Christ are in place, in force, by Christ’s own Kingly authority, until He comes to claim His church.
“It’s not a matter of strategy in the first place; it’s a matter of obedience,” Mohler said. “In the Cooperative Program and in our mission efforts, we’re not trying to be faithful to a program,” he said. “We’re trying to be faithful to Christ and what Christ gave His church was a command.”
What steps can a pastor take when he goes to a church that does not have a comprehensive missions strategy, Jon Akin asked the panel.
“I’ve done this many times as a pastor for 34 years,” Page responded. “You begin to evaluate the DNA of the church. You begin looking at what they’ve been doing, and you begin to evaluate: Why do you do what you do, and is it effective? Is it efficient?
“And I’ve seen some of those church trips that are nothing more than glorified vacations,” Page said. “It’s doing no good for anyone. So I begin challenging and changing some of those strategies ... actually helping form reproducible missions strategies that are helping to bring about true missions commitment.”
Pastors should shepherd people, Platt said, “taking them from where they are, lovingly, patiently, carefully, walking them through the process.”
Danny Akin said pastors should “keep hammering” the Great Commission and Great Commandment to their congregation until “eventually it will work into the DNA of the church.”
Jon Akin then asked how churches can be the most effective in their global outreach.
“Any short-term mission – in order to be wise, faithful, effective – needs to be connected to a long-term, disciple-making process on the ground with people who know the language, culture, setting, context,” Platt said. “That’s one of the valuable things about having IMB in all these places that churches can connect with.”
Churches in the United States, Platt said, should connect with someone overseas who has an intentional, long-term, disciple-making process and who is seeing churches planted there in healthy ways.
“As local church pastors, you say, ‘How can we best be a part of that process? Apart from that relationship and that strategy, oftentimes short-term missions is going to prove to be harmful,” Platt said. “If we’re really approaching short-term missions right, it’s going to fuel long-term, disciple-making there – it’s going to be better as a result of our time there – and in our churches here.
“It’s going to be huge for people’s growth in Christ that will affect the way they live here,” Platt said. “That’s short-term missions done right.”
Each SBC entity has specific responsibilities that together fuel local churches’ Kingdom advancement, the panel agreed. “We cannot do our job if we are not in constant cooperation with one another,” Mohler said.

6/22/2016 1:55:08 PM by Karen L Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Leader’s spiritual growth key to strong churches

June 22 2016 by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention

Nearly 200 associational leaders were challenged to “work heartily as for the Lord, and not for men” during the 2016 Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL) gathering held June 12-13 prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in St. Louis.
“Do you consider your work important?” asked SBCAL conference team leader Ray Gentry as he established the meeting theme. “Are you working heartily? Are you serving with all of your heart?”
Gentry, the director of ministry for the Southside Baptist Network in Georgia, warned that if associational leaders do not see their role as important, pastors they serve may not either. “Too many may take this role to coast, not to sharpen iron.”
“Some have not seen much happening in their association,” Gentry said, but urged them to “work heartily, humbly, leveraging (your) spiritual gifts.”
Preaching during the meeting’s Sunday worship service, Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, cited 2 Timothy 3, encouraging associational leaders in “keeping the faith in a faithless age.”
Recalling the evils facing the early church, he acknowledged similarities between the First and 21st Centuries. In these “dark times, we have to remind ourselves the church in every generation has known trials, the church in every generation has tribulation, the church in every generation has known challenges.”
Allen urged associational leaders to “cling to the promise that Jesus is Lord and is building His church.”
He offered seven admonitions from 2 Timothy that will enable associational leaders to keep the faith: grow in salvation; believe Scripture; preach the Word; be sober in all things; endure hardship; do the work of an evangelist; and fulfill your ministry.
“What does it mean to fulfill your ministry in a room of stakeholders in the SBC? We can’t begin to perform our ministry unless we understand our calling is to keep trust with our churches. We need to strengthen and collaboratively work to encourage one another.”
Keynote speaker Tom Wood, president of Church Multiplication Ministries and author of Gospel Coach, urged associational leaders “to deliver the gospel of Jesus” as a means “to increase the health and probability of your pastors.”
The gospel must be applied relationally, personally, missionally and spiritually, he said.
Associational leaders can fill a role as a gospel coach by helping pastors “revive and thrive” through accountability, training and communications.
Noting burnout and moral failure are primary reasons pastors leave the ministry, Wood reminded attendees the gospel remains the priority for growth and discipleship in the Christian life.
“The gospel is how we become Christian but also how we live Christian.”
Speaking on church revitalization, Richard Blackaby, president of Blackaby Ministries International, recalled the journey of his own father, Henry Blackaby, as an associational missionary. “On the Lord’s Day, he was praying for his churches.”
Noting that 70 percent of Southern Baptist churches are plateaued or dying and 900 close their doors each year, Blackaby suggested associational leaders look to the writings of John, exiled on the Isle of Patmos. The apostle, who had witnessed the transfiguration, resurrection and ascension, was assuming the role of a director of missions as he – even in his own distress – encouraged and prayed for the first three churches in the Book of Revelation, Blackaby contended.
John’s insights and prayers extended for those New Testament churches are relevant to churches today, he stressed.
Blackaby told the group their best days of ministry may be ahead but will only come as they experience renewal in their own faith. “You need a fresh encounter with the risen Christ yourself. You can’t give to others what you don’t have yourself.”
“The risen Lord can take a church from death’s door to the best days it’s ever had,” Blackaby said. “We all need an Isle of Patmos encounter with the risen Lord.”
Throughout the two days, associational leaders attended workshops and roundtable discussions to enhance their skills and equip them to be more effective in ministry.
In business matters, SBCAL elected 2016-17 officers: Mike Pennington, Tenn., chairman; Tim Pruit, Ariz., vice chairman; Philip Price, Miss., recording secretary; Bob Lowman, N.C., nominating chairman; and Ray Gentry, Ga., conference team leader.
Next year’s SBCAL annual conference will convene June 11-12 in Phoenix.

6/22/2016 1:47:21 PM by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments

Displaying results 21-30 (of 107)
 |<  <  1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10  >  >|