June 2016

Woman’s Missionary Union highlights missional discipleship

June 20 2016 by Julie Walters, Woman’s Missionary Union

Wanda S. Lee, executive director of national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), thanked Southern Baptists for partnering through missions education to equip the next generation of missionaries, an endeavor she described as more critical than ever before in an increasingly postmodern world.
Lee noted to messengers June 15 at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting: “It is our desire to partner with every Southern Baptist church in discipling preschoolers, children, youth and adults by engaging them in meaningful missions involvement right in their own communities or on the other side of the world; to support those who go to the nations for a lifetime with our praying and giving; and to accept the mandate of the Great Commission in whatever way God calls us.”

Photo by John Swain
Retiring Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) Executive Director Wanda Lee gives the WMU report with Linda Cooper, president of the national WMU, during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.

National WMU President Linda Cooper thanked Southern Baptists for the largest Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in the history of the offering.
“When the financial needs were made known, Southern Baptists stepped up as they always have and gave over $165.8 million dollars,” Cooper said. “This is a reminder that what we do together is far greater than anything we can do alone as one person or one church.”
Lee reported that Cooper of Bowling Green, Ky., was re-elected to a second term as president of national WMU and Tana Hartsell of Concord, N.C., was re-elected to a second term as recording secretary during the WMU Missions Celebration and Annual Meeting on June 13 in St. Louis.
Lee added, “Throughout our history we have been blessed with wonderful leaders committed to living out the Great Commission every day.”
Earlier in the convention, Lee was honored for her 16-plus years as WMU executive director, having announced her intention to retire upon the election of a successor.
Messengers approved a resolution of appreciation for Lee, who was elected as WMU’s seventh executive director in January 2000, expressing “sincere and profound gratitude to God for the extraordinary life, ministry, and contributions” of Lee and her husband Larry.
Lee is the only woman in WMU’s history who also served as national president, an office she held 1996-2000. Lee served as president of Georgia WMU from 1993-1996. In addition, Lee, a nurse by training, and her husband served as missionaries with International Mission Board from 1979-1981 in St. Vincent, Windward Islands.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Walters is the corporate communications team leader for Woman’s Missionary Union. Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston contributed to this report.)

6/20/2016 12:33:04 PM by Julie Walters, Woman’s Missionary Union | with 0 comments

Traylor calls Baptists ‘to dwell in unity’

June 20 2016 by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention

Ted Traylor challenged Southern Baptists to move forward in cooperation and unity for the sake of the gospel – reflecting the preceding historic moment when Steve Gaines became Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president with gracious consent from fellow nominee J.D. Greear.
Traylor, in the annual convention sermon June 15 in St. Louis, drew from Psalm 133 to poignantly repeat the words of the psalmist David in the first verse of the passage: “How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.”

Photo by Van Payne
Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., preaches the convention sermon at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.

Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., said the appeal for unity was first sounded in the Southern Baptist Convention preamble written in 1845, which used three words to describe the organization of the denomination – eliciting, combining and directing, for one effort, the sake of the proclamation of the gospel.
“The reason we exist – one reason – to take the gospel to the world,” Traylor said.
The convention’s own statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message, also urges cooperation as a cornerstone of Southern Baptist beliefs, he noted.
But Traylor admitted “we have issues.”
Referencing comments from outgoing SBC President Ronnie Floyd, Traylor said, “What once was the battle for the Bible has become a battle with one another. The very soul of the convention is at stake.”
He quoted Southern Baptist David Dockery, president of Trinity International University: “Southern Baptists need a new spirit of mutual respect. We need to move from controversy and confusion to a new consensus and renewed commitment to cooperation.”
“Dr. Dockery has got it right,” Traylor said. “We need to move to Psalm 133 – ‘How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.’“
There is room in the tent for all Baptists, Traylor said, as long as doctrine is uncompromised. “There is no real unity existing where disagreement is not allowed,” he said. “There’s life in this tent.”
Traylor said he is not looking for uniformity. “Dead conventions are peaceful enough. No one is moving. No one is doing anything. Thank God for life in the Baptist tent.”
Some have asked for “a seat at the table,” Traylor said. “I keep hunting for the table. I can’t find the table.
“When you come into the Baptist tent, there is only one table and it’s got the cup and bread on it. When we come in this tent, we need to examine ourselves [to determine] if we are in the faith or not.”
Traylor identified three truths found in Psalm 133:

  • Unity is released, much like oil poured upon the head, or the Mississippi River and its tributaries. “We have to release our resources, going to the oceans of the world.”

  • Unity is refreshing, like the dew of God falling on His people, or as seen in one brother in prayer for another.

  • Unity is rewarded. “God commands the blessings of life when we are one.”

While he, too, is concerned about the decline in SBC baptisms, Traylor “wondered” if statistics are down “from a spirit of independence rather of cooperation ... that says ‘do not trust your leaders, and do not trust your brothers. Trust only yourself.’”
Applauding the example set by SBC presidential candidates Gaines and Greear, who both offered to withdraw from the election for the sake of unity, Traylor asked, “Could it have sparked something today – that picture of unity, a picture of what we ought to be?”
No one can compel, command or force cooperation. “I’m asking you for cooperation. I’m asking you in Jesus’ name for God to turn our hearts, I’m asking you to love one another. We can do better. Refuse disunity, refuse to be critical, refuse to be stingy.
“We need our Cooperative Program giving to spiral,” Traylor said, referencing Southern Baptists’ channel of missions support. “We do it for the sake of the gospel.”

6/20/2016 12:31:17 PM by Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments

International Mission Board ‘standing strong,’ Platt reports

June 17 2016 by Julie McGowan, International Mission Board

For more than 170 years, God has blessed the International Mission Board (IMB) for the spread of the gospel among the nations – and by God’s grace, 170 years later, the IMB is “standing strong,” IMB President David Platt reported to Southern Baptist Convention messengers June 15.
“I am confident that not every one of [those years] has been easy,” Platt said. “But that’s the beauty of Proverbs 3:5-6. As Southern Baptists have trusted in God, as Southern Baptists have acknowledged Him year after year, God has made our paths straight for the spread of His glory among the nations.”

Photo by Matt Miller
David Platt, president of the International Mission Board (IMB), gives the IMB's portion of the Joint Mission Presentation at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis Wednesday, June 15.

Ten months ago, in the course of IMB’s normal budgeting process, leaders addressed the reality that the organization had overspent by $210 million over the past six years. Knowing that 80 percent of IMB’s budget is devoted to personnel costs, a diverse group of leaders – including missionaries with collective decades of experience – concluded that for IMB to be in a healthy financial position, the entity needed to reduce the total number of personnel, both overseas and stateside.
“We called every member of the IMB family to go before the Lord in a fresh way and to ask, ‘Are You leading me to make a transition during this time?’” Platt said. “We wanted this process to be as voluntary as possible, and by God’s grace, I can say to you that it was entirely voluntary for every one of our missionaries overseas. For anyone who believed the Lord was leading them to stay overseas, they were able to stay overseas. And for anyone who believed the Lord was leading them to make a transition, we were able to help them generously in that transition.”
Hundreds of personnel transitioned from overseas and stateside roles during the process, Platt said. He thanked Southern Baptists for the outpouring of support they have shown the IMB personnel in transition.
“I praise God for churches, associations, state conventions, the [Woman’s Missionary Union] and other entities who have rallied around these retirees and others, helping them redeploy into meaningful ministry across North America,” Platt said. “During a time in which I know the adversary has wanted and worked to divide Southern Baptists, you as a convention have come together in a powerful display of cooperative unity.”
Platt praised God for Southern Baptists’ commitment to stand beside IMB, evidenced by increased giving to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, which reached a record $165.8 million this year. Platt projected that IMB will be operating with a balanced budget for 2017, with the stage set for a healthy financial future.
“Thank you, Southern Baptists, for saying, ‘We believe in the IMB. We care about people who’ve never heard the gospel. And we want to get the gospel to them,’” Platt said.

Pathways, people, places

Thousands of missionaries and seasoned leaders with thousands of years of collective experience remain on the field, he said. This mission force maintains IMB as the largest missions organization of its kind in the world, with potential for the force to grow to thousands more in the days to come.
“Now some might say, ‘You just said goodbye to hundreds of missionaries for financial reasons; what’s the IMB’s strategy for sending thousands more in their place?’” Platt said. “In the months ahead, we are going to be talking with you across this convention of churches about creating more pathways for more people with the Spirit of God to go to more places with the gospel of God.”
Platt reflected on the staggering world population growth, noting that it wasn’t until 1800 that the world’s population hit 1 billion people. Through exponential growth, the global population is projected to grow to 9 billion people by 2048. Billions remain unreached with the gospel, and without change, that number will increase.
With Lottie Moon Christmas Offering gifts increasing, and the cost of sending a missionary being about $50,000, “then we can send a couple of hundred more missionaries,” Platt said. “That’s the kind of thinking we must avoid. Our goal as a group of 40,000 churches is not just to send a couple of hundred more missionaries. We want to send thousands more missionaries, and the potential for doing that is real if we’ll create the pathways for that to happen.”
“Let me be crystal clear: the IMB is still going to send full-time, fully-funded career missionaries just like we’ve always sent,” he said. “They are the priceless, precious, critical core of our mission force.”
Those career missionaries will be surrounded with professionals, students, retirees and others who collectively show that global mission “is not just for a select few people in the church, but for multitudes of Spirit-filled men and women across the church,” he said.
“God, give us a vision of thousands more people going from all of our churches through all kinds of pathways for Your glory in all kinds of places all over the world,” he implored.
At the end of IMB’s report, two messengers asked questions from the floor: the first inquired how missionaries who have retired can be contacted for possible interim or part-time mission service in churches, and Platt answered they can contact their state Woman’s Missionary Union, their state convention, or IMB. The second messenger asked how professionals going overseas to work can be trained to join a mission team, and Platt answered they can email training@imb.org or go online to training.imb.org to register for more information on new training resources.

6/17/2016 11:02:21 AM by Julie McGowan, International Mission Board | with 0 comments

‘It’s working,’ Ezell says of strategy & direction

June 17 2016 by Joe Conway, North American Mission Board

Addressing Southern Baptist messengers during their annual meeting in St. Louis, North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell asked them and himself – “Is it working?” Ezell’s question referred to the overall strategy and direction of the mission board.
“NAMB’s primary reason for existence is to help Southern Baptists reach North America for Christ,” Ezell said June 15. “That is the mission that runs through everything that we do.” Ezell thanked messengers for faithfully giving to the Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.

Photo by John Swain
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, gives the entity's report during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.

“On Monday, at the Pastor’s Conference [Send Luncheon] we launched Send Relief,” Ezell said. “These are church-based compassion ministries that meet physical needs, alleviate suffering and deliver the eternal hope only Jesus can give. Send Relief will be a great evangelistic resource for every church, no matter its size or budget.”
Ezell turned his attention to NAMB’s Send North America focus and church planting. Then he asked his question.
“Since 2011, NAMB has directed an increasing amount of its resources to church planting,” Ezell said. “It is fair to ask after five years – is it working?
Starting with church planting’s impact on baptisms rates, Ezell said church plants “baptize one person for every 14 members, compared to one for 52 in existing churches. This is true in the South and non-South. For example, Louisiana Baptists recently reported that their church plants have averaged 126 decisions for Christ each month since 2010.”
Ezell shared several examples of areas where churches planted since 2010 contributed a significant percentage of total baptisms from their states last year: In Vermont it was 83 percent; in the Baptist Convention of New England, which includes six states – 39 percent; and in Canada, 53 percent of baptisms from Baptist churches came from churches planted in 2010 or later.
“Southern Baptists, church plants reach people for Christ and the more we plant, the more baptisms we will see,” Ezell said.
In 2015 Southern Baptists planted 926 churches with 188 new affiliations for a total of 1,114 new congregations.
Ezell told messengers that all Southern Baptists know the denomination is strong in the South.
– 78 percent of Southern Baptist churches are located in the South.
– 86 percent of Southern Baptists are in the South.
– 87 percent of Cooperative Program giving each year comes from the South.
“We are grateful for where we are strong, but an emphasis on where we are weak was needed to reach all of North America. Beginning five years ago we began focusing most of our efforts on reaching underserved areas in the Northeast, the Midwest, the West and in Canada. So a fair question to ask is – is it working?”
Ezell shared:
– 20 percent of the Southern Baptist churches in Iowa were planted since 2010. And that many or more were planted in Nevada, California, Maryland-Delaware, Kansas-Nebraska and Arizona.
– 24 percent of Southern Baptist churches in Alaska and the Penn-South Jersey Convention were started since 2010.
– 25 percent in the Minnesota-Wisconsin Convention.
– 26 percent in New York.
– 31 percent in the Baptist Convention of New England.
“Canada has some of the highest lostness rates in North America,” Ezell noted. “In the last five years NAMB has tripled its investment in Canada. And we are grateful to be able to report to you today that 44 percent of Baptist churches in existence there have been started since 2010. Forty-four percent. Is the Send North America strategy working? We are convinced it is. Is it perfect? No. Do we have things to improve? Yes. But is it working? We praise God for how He has blessed and we would say, absolutely.”
Ezell also shared that NAMB has distributed more than 2 million “3 Circles: Life Conversation Guides” in English and Spanish since the evangelism resource was introduced at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Baltimore. In response to the continuing decline in baptisms, NAMB will host a series of Engage 24 conferences to help pastors and churches give greater focus to evangelism.
In addition to traditional events, Crossover Phoenix will include the first-ever Crossover City-Wide Crusade in partnership with Greg Laurie and Harvest America.
“We hope everyone attending next year’s Southern Baptist Convention will make plans to arrive early and attend this event which we believe can help transform Phoenix and ignite an evangelistic spark throughout our convention,” Ezell said.
Ezell ended by thanking pastors.
“You are the front-lines of this ministry,” Ezell said. “You are the mission-sending centers. We exist to serve you and help you as you lead your flock. That is a responsibility I take seriously and it is one that I consider a great privilege. Thank you for how you lead your congregation to pray, to participate and to provide for our missionaries. We are deeply grateful and will stop at nothing less than excellence in every area.”

6/17/2016 10:36:04 AM by Joe Conway, North American Mission Board | with 0 comments

SBC seminary presidents recap campus highlights

June 17 2016 by Compiled by Art Toalston

Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) six seminaries noted growth in ministry, enrollment and financial support in their reports to messengers June 15 at the SBC annual meeting in St. Louis.

Photo by Matt Miller
Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention (formerly Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary), gives a report on the seminary during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.



“We are welcoming Dr. Jeff Iorg who got a new job yesterday as president of the Gateway Seminary in the state of California,” SBC President Ronnie Floyd said June 15 as he introduced Iorg for the seminary’s report to the Southern Baptist Convention.
The seminary’s name change from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary was affirmed by SBC messengers the previous day, after a first vote in 2015. SBC bylaws require two consecutive years of messengers’ approval for such a change.
Iorg called the seminary’s transition over the past two years “one of the most significant relocations in American history.”
“Today the first moving trucks transporting our equipment from northern California are being unloaded in Ontario [in Southern California]. Starting next Monday, we will begin moving into our new primary campus near Los Angeles. We will open that campus on July 5 and be ready to go as Gateway Seminary.
“By the end of this year, we will have two new campuses in Ontario and Fremont to anchor our work on the West Coast,” Iorg continued. “We will have relocated dozens of families, employed about 50 new people, created two new student bodies, transitioned all technological functions, opened new student housing, created new student housing options, established a new organizational plan and implemented a new compensation plan.
“To say the least, it has been quite a ride over these two years.”
Iorg told messengers that God has enabled the seminary to do these things without rancor or division.
“The Gateway Seminary family has displayed remarkable discipline, institutional humility, personal sacrifice and divine patience,” he said. “Former employees are ending service graciously, new employees are taking on tasks with enthusiasm and relocating employees are experiencing God’s blessings as they find houses, churches, schools and jobs for their spouses.”
Iorg said enrollment at the former Bay Area campus in Mill Valley declined as its closure became imminent, but the regional campuses and the online enrollment increased so that the seminary’s overall enrollment remained steady.
“This progress, while largely positive, has not come without cost,” Iorg said. “The spiritual, emotional and financial toil of our employees and students has been significant. The remarkable response so many have made does not discount the difficulty they have been through. Our employees and students have been remarkable models of the truth that the mission matters most. While they have made this determined choice, it has not been easy.
“Our employees and our students who have made this great transition possible are the heroes of this process, and I salute them this morning for their hard work.”
Iorg reported that Gateway Seminary has multiplied the $85 million received for the sale of the Mill Valley property to more than $100 million in assets for future use, including about $70 million in real estate, without any deferred maintenance – and designed for ministry in the 21st century – all debt-free.
“When we conclude the construction process, we will own two debt-free campuses in prime locations in California worth over $52 million,” Iorg said. “We will also own a development lot in Ontario worth $4 million. We will own a building in Brea, Calif., worth about $4 million. We will own two student apartment complexes worth over $8 million and the new Casey and Doris DeShon Missionary House in Ontario worth $500,000.”
Iorg said the decision was made to build a campus equipped with essentials to accomplish the seminary’s mission, including classrooms, faculty offices, administrative offices, library, chapel and community gathering space – and not other facilities like gyms, childcare centers and bookstores.
“When millions of people have not yet heard the name of Jesus Christ and our mission force is being slashed, Gateway Seminary has chosen to model frugality and simplicity to prioritize future resources for global missions.”
Iorg said Gateway Seminary is built on the foundation of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, healthier than any time in its history.
“We are battle-tested and ready to go forward,” he said. “We thank you for your support, your gifts over the years and for your prayers. Keep sending us your students, and thank you for all you’ve done to make this relocation possible.”

Photo by Matt Miller
Jason K. Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, gives a report on the seminary during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.



Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) President Jason Allen reported to messengers that its mission of existing for the church is the reason for a dramatic enrollment increase and other signs of God’s favor over the past four years.
Noting an enrollment surge of almost double since 2012, a report by school accreditors of MBTS being among the fastest growing seminaries in North America and stories of key financial contributions to the school, Allen said all are signs of God’s evident blessing upon the Kansas City-based school.
“I have told people in recent weeks that I believe Midwestern Seminary is the most remarkable story of theological education in North America,” Allen said. “That’s a big, bold statement, but ... what God has done at Midwestern Seminary is nothing short of spectacular.
“To what do we attribute all of this? I believe from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet that God is choosing to bless Midwestern Seminary because of three words – ‘for the church.’”
Allen said God has called the seminary’s leadership, faculty and staff specifically to devote their best energies and full resources toward serving the church.
Allen took the messengers back four years to think about the seminary’s condition, when enrollment hovered at approximately 1,200 students. There are now just over 2,300 students. He added that expectations for next year are to officially exceed twice the size of what it was in 2012.
“In fact, so remarkable is our growth that our accrediting agency, ATS [Association of Theological Schools], notified me about a year ago ... that Midwestern Seminary is one of the fastest growing seminaries in North America,” he said.
“By the criteria that matters most,” he added, “they labeled us the fastest growing seminary in North America.”
Allen continued, saying that financial gifts to the school continue to be a source of blessing and encouragement.
He noted that he stood before messengers last year and announced that over the previous two years, MBTS had received more gifts and near-term pledges financially than the total accumulation of gifts and near-term pledges since the school’s founding in 1957.
“I stand before you today to give an even more remarkable word,” Allen said. “This past year, our gifts and near-term pledges have actually surpassed the total I announced last year.”
One specific example Allen noted was the generosity of the Mathena family from Oklahoma City who gifted the seminary $7 million as a lead gift toward a campus student center.
Of the project, Allen said, “Given the growth of our residential community, we have chosen to fulfill the ambition of this seminary since 1957 to have an established student center on this campus that meets the needs of our students, of our spouses and families, and of the collective seminary community.”
Relating back to God’s favor toward Midwestern Seminary, Allen admitted his favorite part: “The sweetest development for me the past few years has been to see this vision, ‘for the church,’ go from being my vision ... to being the vision for Midwestern Seminary.
“Who do I thank for a school roughly twice the size, for financial blessings coming day to day? I thank God for kind providence and, under God, I thank you, Southern Baptists, who are placing your confidence in us.”

Photo by Matt Miller
Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, gives a report on the seminary during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.


New Orleans

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) President Chuck Kelley addressed the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention for the 20th time in his current role as an entity leader. He took the opportunity to express thanks for the SBC’s Cooperative Program for the $149 million given to NOBTS during his 20-year tenure as president.
“We are so grateful for our partnership,” Kelley said. “We are grateful for what God is doing in the School of Providence and Prayer.”
When the seminary was created in 1917, only a few Southern Baptist churches existed in New Orleans, Kelley said. The city was anything but a Baptist stronghold.
“We were put there to be a lighthouse as well as a schoolhouse,” Kelley said. “From that day when we started with five or six Southern Baptist congregations, there are more than a hundred Southern Baptist congregations in New Orleans now, nearly all of them started by students and faculty of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. New church plants are still going on today.”
The task of NOBTS is to prepare students to answer the call of God, Kelley said. The curriculum blends classic theological training – biblical studies, theology, church history and preaching – with the practical – interpersonal relationship courses and evangelism training.
“[Every student] must spend at least one semester going out door-to-door in the city of New Orleans sharing Jesus Christ and learning how to bring people to Christ,” Kelley said. “We simply have to get the gospel out from behind our pulpits into the streets and neighborhoods of our cities and communities.”
Kelley lauded an anonymous donation given to establish the Fred Luter Jr. Scholarship for African-American students, which will provide $150,000 per year for African American students studying in New Orleans and Atlanta.
“We know we have to raise up a generation of leaders who can lead not only in African American churches, but who can bring that African American voice into the affairs of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Kelley said. “That is a very high priority for us.”
Another anonymous gift in 2014 established the Caskey scholarships for bivocational ministers and those who serve smaller membership churches. The full-tuition scholarships are available for students serving in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The program places a high value on biblical exposition and evangelism. Students receiving the scholarship are required to engage in at least one gospel conversation each week. The results have been phenomenal.
“In the past two years, these students have had 7,585 gospel conversations with people who are lost,” Kelley said. “Four thousand, seven hundred and eighty-seven of them got to the point to ask someone to give their lives to Jesus Christ and 1,061 people were born again.”
New Orleans Seminary was voted into existence by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1917 and held its first classes in 1918 and will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2017 and 2018. As a part of this centennial celebration, the seminary will prioritize evangelism, Kelley said.
“Our goal is for the New Orleans Seminary family to have 100,000 gospel conversations to celebrate our 100th anniversary,” Kelley said. “We think lifting up Jesus is the best way to celebrate what God is doing at NOBTS.”

Photo by Matt Miller
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, gives a report on the seminary during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.



Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) President Danny Akin, in his report to messengers June 15, spoke on the seminary’s mission and vision to work with churches in making disciples of all nations.
“We are a Great Commission seminary,” Akin said. “We love to partner with churches in doing theological education under the umbrella of the Great Commission.”
A new way SEBTS is partnering with local churches is to make theological education accessible to lay leaders. Starting this fall, Southeastern will offer new GO Certificates for Christians at any level. “We’ve been praying and thinking for several years, how is it that we might also serve our local churches even better, in a more direct kind of way,” Akin said.
The certificates are completely online and provide a flexible schedule for students to work at their own pace. The classes can help Bible study leaders, Sunday School teachers and others to go deeper in their understanding of Scripture so that they can better serve in their ministries.
“We also believe that we are called to partner with the churches in doing theological education. In fact, we believe that the best theological education takes place in partnership with local churches,” Akin said.
Because of this, Southeastern has redesigned its master of divinity degrees to strengthen the core curriculum and reduce the total hours to 81. In addition, the seminary created several new master of arts degrees and now has six fully online degrees that can be completed from anywhere.
Akin also reported that the seminary, located in Wake Forest, N.C., is in its sixth year of record enrollment with more than 3,500 students. The Kingdom Diversity Initiative, an effort to make the SEBTS student body more reflective of the church in heaven, made significant strides, going from 8.3 percent in 2011 to 15.5 percent in 2016, growth of more than 137 percent in the non-white student population.
One way that SEBTS is making an impact on the nations is through its Global Theological Initiative program, which seeks to enhance theological education in at least 15 different locations around the world through strategic partnerships.
Akin told of his recent opportunity to attend the graduation of 23 master of theology students from Brazil. He brought back a message of thanks to Southern Baptists from Pastor Fernando Brandão, president of the Junta de Missões Nacionais, or the Brazilian Baptist National Mission Board.
Akin repeated Brandão’s message with these words: “My great, great, great-grandfather was brought to faith in Jesus by a Southern Baptist missionary. My entire family can trace its religious origins back to the witness of a Southern Baptist missionary, and I am doing what I do today because Southern Baptists came and gave. And our family met Jesus through their efforts.”
In closing, Akin mentioned the new official SEBTS hymn, “For the Cause,” written by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend. After reading a few lines from the hymn, Akin said, “When students come to Southeastern, from the very first convocation service until graduation, they will be reminded on both ends. We are committed to being obedient to the final marching orders of King Jesus until he comes again.”

Photo by Matt Miller
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., gives a report on the seminary during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.



The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SBTS) record-setting enrollment numbers testify to an ideological paradox of the cultural revolution, SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during his June 15 report to messengers in St. Louis.
Despite the supposed death of conservative theological education foretold by mainline liberalism 50 years ago, the confessional seminaries of the SBC are healthier than ever, Mohler said. Although experts in theological education said only seminaries that adopt a secularized message would survive, that has not been the case, he noted, pointing to the fact that SBTS’s enrollment exceeded 5,000 students for the first time in its history during the 2015-2016 academic year.
“Here’s the great paradox: The seminaries that followed that methodology and adopted that trajectory are the seminaries that are dead or are dying,” Mohler said. “It is the seminaries that have refused to bend the knee ... that are not only surviving but by God’s grace, thriving.”
Mohler said more is now required of SBTS, located in Louisville, Ky., and the other SBC seminaries than any other time in the history of the convention. Although the gospel message itself never changes, the challenges before the graduates of Southern Seminary are dramatically different than when the seminary was founded in 1859.
“We are on the hinge of history right now, of such massive change,” Mohler said. “The secularization that is going on in the society around us, the massive intellectual worldview challenges we now face, the moral revolution that now so characterizes our times is producing a context of ministry that is not only markedly different than that experienced by previous generations, it is one that is increasingly marked by hostility toward the cause of Christ and His gospel.”
Concluding his report, Mohler thanked messengers for their support and for funding the seminary through the Cooperative Program, which helps prepare ministers to face the rising cultural challenges concerning gender identity and sexual orientation.
“There are more young men training for the gospel ministry and to pastor churches on the campus of [The] Southern Baptist Theological Seminary right now than have ever been at any place in the history of the Christian church. And for that we are so very, very thankful,” Mohler said.

Photo by Matt Miller
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, gives a report on the seminary during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.



Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), noted to messengers how the theology of all six SBC seminaries leads to evangelism and missions.
“Today, we have a gracious theological bequest from our heavenly Father. We have done everything we can to return these six seminaries to a testimony for Christ,” Patterson said in this report to the annual meeting in St. Louis. “When the theology is right, it will produce a waterfall of evangelistic and missionary involvement.”
Patterson told of the evangelistic zeal of Southwestern’s 75 students and faculty who participated in the door-to-door evangelism efforts of Crossover St. Louis. After five days, 105 people had made a profession of faith.
Patterson specifically noted an interaction between M.Div. student Kim Whitten and a troubled woman she met in a hospital. After a student participating in Crossover became overheated and required medical attention, Whitten used her time in the hospital waiting room to intentionally seek out people with whom to share the gospel. After praying, a woman sitting across from her caught her attention. She told Whitten, “Today is the worst day of my life.” After the woman shared many of the tragedies that had taken place in her life recently, Whitten led her to faith in Jesus Christ.
“Now that is what ought to happen coming out of a theological institution,” Patterson said.
Additionally, Patterson noted another recent evangelism initiative by the seminary that resulted in the salvation of 192 men and boys. Patterson, who has spoken at multiple wild game and sports banquets across the United States, said the seminary held a similar event on Southwestern’s campus in Fort Worth, Texas, hosting 2,000 men and boys.
Patterson addressed the ongoing work of Global Theological Innovation (GTI) – an initiative developed at Southwestern to cultivate and develop networks of partnerships to influence theological education worldwide. Since its beginning, GTI has formed 96 international partnerships. GTI partners with each seminary to review curriculum, send Southwestern professors and SBC pastors to teach courses, and train its faculty members.
“Everywhere in the world, theological education is facing major difficulties. The involvement of our seminaries, which you have made possible, is making a difference,” Patterson said. “In many cases we are restarting a seminary that has gone out of existence, and in some places, establishing a new one. But everywhere, [GTI] is providing theological preparation for the church ministry. We are very grateful to God for what you have made possible.”
Patterson concluded, thanking the messengers for their continuous prayer and support through the Cooperative Program. “We as your six seminary presidents never take for granted that we are serving on your behalf and for your best interest, and, above all else, for Christ’s sake and for the Kingdom of God,” Patterson said. “Thank you for your Cooperative Program support and for all that you do.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston with reporting by Kathie Chute of Gateway Seminary, T. Patrick Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Gary D. Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Harper McKay of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Andrew J.W. Smith of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Katie Coleman of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

6/17/2016 10:28:47 AM by Compiled by Art Toalston | with 0 comments

Southern Baptists honor Pearl Harbor survivor

June 17 2016 by Todd Deaton, Western Recorder

World War II veteran Bill McAnany, one of 2,000 living survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was introduced to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) as messengers honored America and recognized military veterans June 14 at the SBC’s annual meeting in St. Louis.

Photo by Adam Covington
Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, honors U.S. Navy veteran Bill McAnany, of Wood River, Ill., one of 2,000 living survivors of Pearl Harbor, during the opening session of the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Tuesday, June 14 in St. Louis.

Calling it an “awesome privilege,” SBC President Ronnie Floyd observed that a memory of WWII disappears from American culture every three minutes as those who fought in the global conflict pass into eternity.

“We must take every opportunity to honor our veterans of the greatest generation while they are still among us,” Floyd said.
This December, the United States will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese navy, Floyd noted. Recalling that the attack killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178 others, he noted, “Pearl Harbor is a constant reminder that our freedom, purchased by the blood of American patriots, should never be taken for granted.”
Floyd recounted McAnany’s story – that he joined the Navy in 1938 and was assigned to the USS Solace, a 400-bed hospital ship that was present at Pearl Harbor for the fateful events of Dec. 7, 1941.
Providing emergency medical care to the injured and dying and recovering bodies from the oil-stained waters of Pearl Harbor changed McAnany’s view on life forever, Floyd said.

Photo by Adam Covington
Gen. Doug Carver, executive director of chaplaincy with the North American Mission Board, introduces chaplains serving in the U.S. Armed Forces during the opening session of the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Tuesday, June 14 in St. Louis.

Quoting McAnany, of Wood River, Ill., Floyd said, “You quickly realize that life is a gift not meant to be wasted.”
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.

Doug Carver, NAMB’s executive director of chaplaincy, called military chaplaincy “truly a frontline ministry that is vital to the extension of the local church and the advancement of the gospel.”
Carver recounted that 75 years ago as America was on the verge of global war, messengers at the 1941 Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham, Ala., “firmly agreed that 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.”
In June 1941, the Home Mission Board commissioned the first chaplains and appointed Alfred Carpenter, pastor of First Baptist Church of Blytheville, Ark. to lead the effort.

Photo by Adam Covington
Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., salutes the American flag during the National Anthem, which was part of a ceremony honoring veterans at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Tuesday, June 14 in St. Louis.

“Carpenter believed that every chaplain was a missionary in uniform, an evangelist at large called to share the gospel where few missionaries could go,” Carver said. From 1941 to 1945, Southern Baptist chaplains recorded 299,342 professions of faith, accounting for 82 percent of those reported by the Home Mission Board during that period.
“Today, 75 years later, Southern Baptist chaplains continue to carry the gospel into places where the church cannot go,” Carver said, listing armed forces, correctional facilities, healthcare settings, the public safety arena, disaster relief sites and corporate environments as examples.

In recognizing all WWII veterans and other military veterans present at the SBC gathering in St. Louis, Floyd led SBC messengers in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Following the pledge, the choir and singers of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd Deaton is editor of the Western Recorder of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

6/17/2016 10:06:16 AM by Todd Deaton, Western Recorder | with 0 comments

Rainer recaps LifeWay’s eventful year

June 17 2016 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

In the spring of 1891, Southern Baptists meeting at the Alabama Opera House in Birmingham voted to create a Sunday School board to publish Bible studies and other resources for discipleship.
Today that board, now LifeWay Christian Resources, remains committed to the same core mission, Thom S. Rainer told messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) on Wednesday morning, July 15.

Photo by Bill Bangham
Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, gives his report during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention at America’s Center in St. Louis on June 15.

“The struggle to create the board is an incredible story I commend to your study,” LifeWay’s president said. “But 125 years later, LifeWay is still serving Southern Baptists with trustworthy biblical solutions for life, when so many other denominational publishers have vanished. What a testament to God’s faithfulness to His people.”
Rainer told messengers that 2015 was a historic year for LifeWay, filled with thankfulness for the past and excitement for the future.
Among the highlights was the sale of LifeWay’s downtown Nashville property, a move that had been in the works for about five years, Rainer said.
“We have known for some time that we had too much space,” he said. “We prayed. We waited on God. And God blessed us in the midst of a commercial real estate boom in downtown Nashville.”
The sale of the property, which closed last fall, was the largest real estate transaction in the city’s history, according to the Nashville Business Journal.
Two months ago, LifeWay broke ground on a new building, which is one-fourth the size of the former campus. The building, also in the downtown area, is in a new community being built in a reclaimed industrial area. LifeWay employees will be praying regularly for workers involved in the building process, with some already asking questions about Christ.
A new building, while exciting, isn’t LifeWay’s main focus, Rainer told messengers. Serving the church remains the main mission.
“Our buildings – old and new – are just that, buildings,” Rainer said. “LifeWay is a family of talented, innovative, dedicated believers called to create resources useful to the bride of Christ.”
As part of his report, Rainer showed a video of Grammy-and Dove Award-winning hip-hop artist Lecrae Moore, whose autobiography Unashamed, published by LifeWay’s B&H trade books division, is a New York Times bestseller.
Lecrae, recently profiled by the Washington Post as an up-and-coming evangelical leader, is a world-class artist who models how to live faithfully in a secular age, Rainer said.
In the video, Lecrae spoke about the challenges of being faithful over the long haul and the temptations of fame – which he compared to climbing to the top of a “two-foot ladder.”
“I am going to tell that truth till it kills me and I’m chilling with my Creator – Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” he said in the video. “To all my haters, for the ones who think I have forgotten and the ones who won’t let me say it: I ain’t scared no more. I’m unashamed.”
Among other highlights of Rainer’s report:

  • Every Sunday about 3 million people in tens of thousands of churches use LifeWay studies for small groups and Sunday School.

  • Russell Moore’s book Onward was named Christianity Today’s orthodoxy book of the year.

  • Priscilla Shirer’s book Fervent won the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association’s book of the year.

  • 22 books published by B&H were nominated as finalists in Christian Retailing’s annual best book awards.

  • LifeWay’s weekly podcast “5 Leadership Questions” draws tens of thousands of listeners and is among the top podcasts in iTunes’ religion category.

Michael Kelley, director of groups ministry at LifeWay, reminded messengers of the importance of having an intentional process for making disciples, noting that it “does not happen by accident.”
To help churches in that process, LifeWay introduced two initiatives: “The Journey,” a year-long discipleship resource, and SmallGroup.com, which allows churches to use their own Bible study content to reinforce an intentional disciple-making process.
The goal, said Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project, is to help every Christian become a disciple-maker.
“Everyone in this room is here at least in part because someone else took up the charge of discipleship,” he said. “We are here today as a spiritual legacy of those who have gone before us.”
Wax then thanked faithful Christians who have dedicated their lives to helping others grow in their faith.
“To those everyday men and women who have taken up the charge of Jesus to make disciples,” he said, “we just want to say thank you, but also encourage the church to continue this sacred task, not only of making disciples but of making disciples who make disciples.”
In concluding the report, Rainer said he does not take LifeWay’s successful ministry for granted. Instead, LifeWay remains dedicated to the mission of creating resources to serve the church.
“We are privileged to build on a legacy of God’s faithfulness that began 125 years ago,” Rainer said. “Challenges are always before us, but we can say to God be the glory great things He has done. And great things He will do.”

6/17/2016 9:55:14 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments

Moore defends religious freedom for Muslims

June 16 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Russell Moore offered a ringing defense of religious freedom for all, including Muslims, during the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) report June 15 to the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
When questioned by a messenger how a Southern Baptist could defend the right of Muslims to build mosques, the ERLC’s president said it was not a difficult decision.

Photo by Adam Covington
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, gives the entity’s report during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.

“What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody,” Moore said.
“[W]hen you have a government that says, ‘We can decide whether or not a house of worship is being constructed based upon the theological beliefs of that house of worship,’ then there are going to be Southern Baptist churches in San Francisco and New York and throughout this country who are not going to be able to build,” Moore said.
The gospel – not just self-interest – is at stake, he told messengers.
Having a government with “the power to outlaw people from assembling together” and confessing their beliefs “does not turn people into Christians,” Moore said. “That turns people into pretend Christians, and it sends them straight to hell.
“The answer to Islam is not government power. The answer is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the new birth that comes from that.”
Many messengers greeted Moore’s comments with a standing ovation.
John Wofford, pastor of Armorel (Ark.) Baptist Church, had asked Moore at the conclusion of the ERLC’s prepared report how someone in the SBC could defend Muslims’ rights “to construct mosques in the United States when these people threaten our very way of existence as Christians in America.”
The ERLC and the International Mission Board defended religious freedom for all in a May friend-of-the-court brief in support of a Muslim community in New Jersey that has been prevented by the local government from building a mosque.
Moore told the convention the ERLC is “active in speaking up for the invisible” – who include, he said, unborn children and their mothers, a young girl trapped in sexual slavery in Thailand, Syrian refugees, foster children and families in Southern Baptist churches with special needs children.
One way the ERLC advocates for “the invisible,” Moore said, is through its Psalm 139 Project, which raises funds to provide ultrasound technology to pregnancy help centers. He announced the gift of a sonogram machine through Psalm 139 to Thrive St. Louis, a Christ-centered pregnancy help ministry. The machine, provided in partnership with Focus on the Family, will be placed in a new mobile unit to be operated by Thrive. During Moore’s presentation, a Thrive mobile unit was unveiled before the messengers.
“Our message is this: Children, including unborn children, aren’t disposable,” Moore told the convention. “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. And our message to the person who has experienced abortion is Jesus Christ.”
In the last year, the ERLC, he said, has:

  • Dissented from last June’s Supreme Court legalization of same-sex marriage by providing resources for churches, reaffirming its commitment to the biblical meaning of marriage and seeking to aid those harmed by the sexual revolution.

  • Worked to eliminate federal money for Planned Parenthood after its trade in aborted baby body parts was uncovered last year. “Planned Parenthood denies the dignity of children and women, our neighbors, our brothers and our sisters even to live,” he said, “and they should not receive one red cent of government funding.”

  • Combatted an “ugly uptick in racial bigotry” by speaking on behalf of Christian unity and working to model a community of brothers and sisters “who are reconciled to God and reconciled to one another.”

  • Stood alongside GuideStone Financial Resources and other Southern Baptist institutions to defend religious freedom in the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate. “The government has the audacity to argue before the Supreme Court that these ministries misunderstand their own faith, that they can deliver these drugs without disobeying God,” he told the convention. “I for one just don’t believe that the federal government understands what it means to be Baptist better than [GuideStone President] O.S. Hawkins does.”

  • Begun efforts to support legislation to provide protection in response to the administration’s May transgender directive to public schools and to host events to help churches address the issue. “Brothers and sisters, John the Baptist was arrested for saying Herod could not have his brother’s wife,” he said. “Today, some would be ridiculed for saying that Herod cannot be his brother’s wife.”

The ERLC, Moore said, also cosponsored the first Evangelicals for Life conference in January in Washington, D.C.; published its initial volumes in the Gospel for Life book series; and partnered with SBC seminaries to prepare students to address challenging ethical issues

6/16/2016 3:38:15 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

7,321: SBC’s unofficial St. Louis registration

June 16 2016 by Brian Koonce, The Pathway

The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting drew 7,321 messengers to St. Louis June 14-15 from the nation’s 46,000-plus Southern Baptist churches. The unofficial total is 35 percent above last year’s 5,407 messengers in Columbus, Ohio.
When registered guests, exhibitors and others are included, the count of those at the SBC annual meeting rose to 11,581 as of June 15.

Photo by Van Payne
More than 7,000 messengers gather at America’s Center in St. Louis for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday, June 14. The theme of the 2016 meeting was Awaken America.

SBC registration secretary Jim Wells said the results were higher than his pre-annual meeting estimate.
“I thought we’d have between 6,000 and 7,000,” he said. “7,321 is very good. The location being very accessible and the election year made a difference.”
Missouri churches turned out in force in St. Louis, the first time the SBC annual meeting has met in their state since 2002; their 887 messengers dwarfed their 2015 total of 182 in Columbus and represented the largest single contingent of messengers.
The state with the next largest number was Tennessee at 824, with Illinois coming in third at 533. Guam and the Virgin Islands sent 1 messenger each.
Official numbers will be released later in June; the state-by-state numbers do not include guests or children.
Next year, with the convention returning to Phoenix, Wells said he expects the registration to dip because of the location being out of driving distance for messengers, guessing at a registration total of just below 5,000.
The unofficial messenger registration numbers by states and U.S. territories are as follows: Alabama, 371; Alaska, 19; Arizona, 33; Arkansas, 357; California, 115; Colorado, 46; Connecticut, 4; Delaware, 5; Florida, 353; Georgia, 394; Guam, 1; Hawaii, 11; Idaho, 4; Illinois, 533; Indiana, 146; Iowa, 26; Kansas, 81; Kentucky, 477; Louisiana, 237; Maryland, 69; Massachusetts, 12; Michigan, 46; Minnesota, 3; Mississippi, 318; Missouri, 887; Montana, 10; Nebraska, 6; Nevada, 43; New Hampshire, 5; New Jersey, 28; New Mexico, 34; New York, 28; North Carolina, 397; Ohio, 138; Oklahoma, 212; Oregon, 5; Pennsylvania, 37; Puerto Rico, 5; South Carolina, 193; South Dakota, 14; Tennessee, 824; Texas, 487; Utah, 15; Vermont, 7; Virgin Islands, 1; Virginia, 218; Washington, 13; Washington, D.C., 16; West Virginia, 36; Wisconsin, 13; Wyoming, 9. There were 3 messengers who were approved through the credentials process but were unaffiliated with a state convention.
Wells was first elected registration secretary in 2002 and was re-elected to another term June 14. He is a retired director of missions and denominational worker and a member of Crossway Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Koonce is the assistant editor for The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

6/16/2016 3:33:05 PM by Brian Koonce, The Pathway | with 1 comments

Mission entities celebrate partnership, disciple-makers

June 16 2016 by Julie McGowan, International Mission Board

Highlighting the partnership between Southern Baptists across North America and around the world to spread the gospel and plant churches, the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) two mission entities held a “Sending Celebration” at the conclusion of the SBC’s annual meeting June 15 in St. Louis.
International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt and North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell called Southern Baptist messengers to join in celebrating the sent – those missionaries who have gone out into the near and far places of the world to bring the hope of Jesus Christ; the sending – those churches who are equipping, encouraging and coming alongside church planters and missionaries; and the lives transformed by the gospel because of Southern Baptists’ sending.
The celebration specifically featured the ways Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.; Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa; Candeo Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa; and Anthem Church in Columbia, Mo., equip and send missionaries from their churches.

Photo by Matt Miller
David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, jokes with Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, after the Joint Mission Presentation at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis Wednesday, June 15.

Celebrating “sending” churches includes the thousands of Southern Baptist churches giving through the Cooperative Program, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, the leaders noted. And it includes the cooperative effort of Southern Baptists to spread the gospel to those who’ve never heard it. The presentation also recognized Southern Baptist pastors and the role they play in shepherding and mobilizing local churches on mission.
“We have so much to celebrate, but there is still more to be done,” Ezell said, leading into a spoken word by lyrical artist Amena Brown.
Platt talked on stage with John Kimbell, pastor of preaching and discipleship, and Shawn Wright, pastor of leadership development at Clifton Baptist Church, noting their role as a sending church is not just about sending missionaries. It’s about making disciple makers, he noted. The pastors said they saw healthy growth and value in their church as they related to members sent out as missionaries.
“As people engage in a cause much bigger than themselves – which is what we’re made for – there is a joy in that,” Kimbell said. “And then we begin to experientially recognize the greater value of Christ and of the gospel, and that infiltrates every part of their lives as they are living as members of our congregation.”
Ezell introduced messengers to leaders of a church (Cornerstone) that planted a church (Candeo) that planted a church (Anthem): Troy Nesbitt, founding pastor of Cornerstone Church; Jeff Dodge, lead pastor, Cornerstone Church; Paul Sabino, lead pastor, Candeo Church; and Stan Hayak, church planter, Anthem Church. Cornerstone is committed to planting 20 churches near colleges in the next five years.
The most difficult thing to do in church planting is to send your best staff, the church leaders said, noting that when churches send their best, they take people with them. But that is where fear and faith come together, they contended.
“Don’t send the guys you don’t want,” Nesbitt said. “Send the guys you don’t want to lose, because then your heart goes, and then God will replace them.”
“Nobody is more shocked than we are about what’s happening,” he said. “And we wanted to do it in the context of the local church. As God has raised up new leaders to plant churches, we’re amazed at all that He has done.”
Platt read Romans 16:1-15 and challenged the messengers to consider the cooperation displayed in the Scripture.
“Here we sit, 2000 years later, a group of 40,000 churches with millions of church members … all across the Southern Baptist Convention, every one of them important, and together, we’re all cooperating on mission,” Platt said, noting the roles of both NAMB and IMB. “So let’s do this: let’s mobilize them to pray, and to give, and to go in North America, to start right where they live to make disciples.”
The Great Commission is not a “comfortable” call for any Christian to come, be baptized and sit in one location, he said, but rather it is a clear command for every follower of Christ to go, baptize and make disciples of the nations.
“So as people are making disciples right where they live, God will, by His Spirit, sovereignly set apart some of them to make disciples in other parts of the country,” Platt said, emphasizing God will also lead people to other parts of the world.
“This is why we exist: to bring together millions of men and women who are gathered together in tens of thousands of churches under the banner of the Bible for the spread of the gospel to the nations of the Earth,” he said. “Every member of your church has a part to play in this mission.”
For more information about how NAMB and IMB can help your church become a sending church, text “next steps” to 25827.
To learn more, visit imb.org/send or namb.net/send-me.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie McGowan is public relations leader for International Mission Board.

6/16/2016 3:24:45 PM by Julie McGowan, International Mission Board | with 0 comments

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