June 2017

ERLC helps lead call for justice reform

June 23 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity has joined with Prison Fellowship and other organizations in an appeal to Christians to work for a “fair and redemptive” justice system in the world’s leading incarcerating country.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) partnered with Prison Fellowship, the country’s largest outreach to prisoners, and two other evangelical groups to produce the Justice Declaration, which was unveiled June 20 at a Washington, D.C., news conference.

Photo by Brady Weller
ERLC President Russell Moore comments on the Justice Declaration during its unveiling at a June 20 news conference in Washington, D.C.

In its appeal, the statement urges followers of Jesus to support “proportional punishment,” care for victims of crime, minister to the families of prisoners, preach the gospel and disciple incarcerated men and women.
The motivation for creating the Justice Declaration and an accompanying white paper is “our nation’s crisis of over-criminalization,” Prison Fellowship President James Ackerman said at the news conference.
“Our country’s overreliance on incarceration fails to make us safer or to restore people and communities who have been harmed,” Ackerman noted.
The United States has only five percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population, Ackerman said. Nearly 2.2 million people are behind bars, and 2.7 million children have a parent who is in prison, he told reporters. About 65 million people have a criminal conviction.
“I think most of us in American life can agree – our criminal justice system doesn’t work the way it is supposed to,” ERLC President Russell Moore said at the news conference. “We should fix it, and as evangelical Christians, we should be among the first to say so.”
In addition to Moore, other Southern Baptist leaders among the nearly 100 original signers are James Merritt, Atlanta-area pastor and former SBC president; Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention; Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University; Trillia Newbell, the ERLC’s director of community outreach; college presidents; and seminary and college professors.
C. Ben Mitchell, provost and professor of moral philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., served as the project writer for the declaration and white paper.
In addition to the ERLC and Prison Fellowship, the other partners in the initiative are the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
A new Barna public opinion survey commissioned by Prison Fellowship showed 87 percent of Americans – and an even higher rate of practicing Christians – agree the main goal of the justice system should be restoration for the victim, the community and the person who commits the crime. Yet, the poll also showed 53 percent of practicing Christians affirmed this statement: “It’s important to make an example out of someone for certain crimes, even if it means giving them a more severe punishment than their crime deserves.”
Too many Christians fail to recognize “disproportionate punishment” is inconsistent with the church’s values, Ackerman told reporters.
Moore said at the news conference, “Our criminal justice system does not exist to vent. Our criminal justice system exists in order to restrain evil and in order to rehabilitate and to reform those who have committed crimes.”
NAE President Leith Anderson said, “The time has come to fix our criminal justice system. And the reason is there is too much injustice in America’s criminal justice system.”
Anderson cited prison overcrowding and racial inequities in the prison population among evidences of the problem.
Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., said the declaration has struck an “important nerve” regarding race relations.
“In this hour of racial tension, the most important step of healing that we could take at this point is to deal with the fact that there is an increasing, permanent underclass that is coming out of black and Hispanic people being incarcerated and their lives being, in a sense, marked off” the list of achievers in the society, he told reporters. “I believe this is the most important civil rights step that we will take in our lifetimes.”
Among its calls, the declaration urges Christians to:

  • Seek to prevent crime by nourishing “seedbeds of virtue,” including families, churches and other sources of “moral formation;”

  • Minister to survivors of crimes and assure their protection;

  • Support “proportional punishment,” including “alternatives to incarceration, that protects public safety, fosters accountability and provides opportunities to make amends;”

  • Welcome back into churches and communities those who “have paid their debt to society” and provide opportunities for them to achieve their potential.

The white paper – “Responding to Crime and Incarceration: A Call to the Church” – addresses the causes of “over-criminalization” and offers faith-based solutions.
At the 2013 SBC meeting, messengers approved a resolution expressing “support of legislative policies that seek to reduce high incarceration rates without jeopardizing public safety” and affirmed that “probation and parole may serve as a wise, just, and effective alternative to prolonged incarceration for certain nonviolent offenders.”
The resolution urged federal, state and local criminal justice agencies to “increase cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention and other like-minded organizations who seek to reach offenders with the life-transformational gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The ERLC endorsed in 2015 a bill designed to reduce the prison population and increase public safety by calling for the Department of Justice to expand programs to reduce recidivism – which is the relapse into criminal activity by ex-prisoners that results in re-arrest, reconviction or re-imprisonment typically within three years after their release – by partnering with faith-based and other non-profit organizations.
The sponsors of the Justice Declaration have invited Christians to endorse the document at justicedeclaration.org.

6/23/2017 11:37:03 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Prayer, evangelism highlight SBC 2017 recap video

June 23 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Prayer and soul-winning evangelism are highlighted in a brief video recapping the spiritual emphases of the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Phoenix.
Impassioned pleas with outstretched hands and heads bowed before God, high praise, brief interviews and video captions of Southern Baptist leaders and members comprise the video capturing the June 13-14 meeting and its preliminary events in Phoenix and surrounding suburbs.
The SBC’s growing diversity in leadership is captured in African American and Hispanic pastors and officers.
Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines includes the video, produced by the communications team at Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., at Bellevue.org.
“We need to embrace all the methods we can to bring the best minds together to try to do what we can do to improve in the area of personal soul winning and preaching evangelistically,” Gaines said in the video. “Jesus Christ is all about salvation; we must minister to others.”
Former SBC President Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., exhorts Christians to have a burden for the salvation of the lost.
“You can never win people to the Lord, unless somehow you develop deep down in your heart, a genuine real life burden and compassion that they come to know the Lord,” Hunt said in a soundbite from his June 13 afternoon sermon in the meeting hall.
Southern Baptist Chaplain Doug Carver emphasizes the importance of prayer.
“We have a rapidly changing culture and society, and for such a time as this, we as believers in Christ Jesus and as Southern Baptists, need to be about the business of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth,” said Carver, executive director of chaplaincy at the North American Mission Board. “There are so many hungry and hurting people wanting to hear the Good News of Jesus, and this is our time.”
The two-and-a-half-minute video, shown below, is also available for viewing and download at sbc.net through mid-July, or at sbcannualmeeting.net.

2017 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting Highlights from TalkCP on Vimeo.

6/23/2017 11:31:50 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

B21 panel calls for unity amid differences

June 23 2017 by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS

Christian unity should transcend differences on Calvinism, politics and race for the advancement of the gospel, panelists told more than 800 attendees June 13 at the ninth annual Baptist21 luncheon during the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) meeting in Phoenix.
“Our world is going straight to hell and we need to be one in telling people about Jesus and not letting these secondary things divide us,” said SBC President Steve Gaines, senior pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.

Photo by Matt Miller
A panel discusses pressing issues in the Southern Baptist Convention, church and evangelicalism at a Baptist21 lunch June 13 at the Phoenix Convention Center between the morning and afternoon sessions of the SBC annual meeting. Panelists included SBC President Steve Gaines, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Daniel Akin, Russell Moore, J.D. Greear, Matt Chandler, Kevin Smith and Jedidiah Coppenger.

Responding to moderator Jedidiah Coppenger on the debate over Calvinism in the denomination, Gaines said Baptists should focus on soul-winning evangelism regardless of their doctrinal convictions on the matter. He said Baptists are better evangelizing together rather than fighting over secondary doctrines. Gaines also encouraged Calvinist-leaning pastors to allow unbelievers to respond during evangelistic presentations and church services because confessing the name of Jesus is necessary to be saved.
“The main thing we can do to go forward is to focus on winning people to Jesus Christ,” Gaines said. “If you’re a Calvinist or a non-Calvinist you don’t know who’s lost and who’s saved. I would just say if you’re going to be a Calvinist be a Spurgeon Calvinist, and let’s go out and tell people about Jesus Christ. The bottom line is this: we’re supposed to ask people to repent and believe in the Gospel.”

Politics an ‘unnecessary division’

Reflecting on the 2016 presidential election, panelists said believers have followed the culture by placing too much emphasis on politics at the expense of Christian fellowship. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said the social media age allows people to shape their identities around political affiliations. Southern Baptists must respond by clearly defining the gospel and calling people to Christian community that rises above partisan divisions.
“A lot of our neighbors who don’t believe what we believe assume Christianity is really just a political agenda and Jesus is an ornament on top of that,” Moore said. “One of the great gifts that we can give to America right now as we proclaim the gospel is to say, ‘His kingdom is not of this world,’ which means that politics really isn’t the most important thing about your life.”
Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, said white Southern Baptists should be aware of how their political engagement affects minorities in the SBC. He said shifting political moods shouldn’t interfere with “John 17 unity,” which is the means for the Spirit’s work in revival and renewal.
“There’s nothing about Caesar or politics or social or economic issues that is worth me jeopardizing my fellowship with the most distant Southern Baptist brother that I barely know,” Smith said.
J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Denton, Texas, said pastors don’t need to be experts on political issues and shouldn’t let their opinions interfere with ministry.
“I think politics is really important, but I think the gospel is more important,” Greear said. “I might be wrong about the helpfulness or unhelpfulness of universal healthcare, but I am not wrong about the gospel. And I refuse to let my public opinions on the former keep people from hearing me on the latter because ... I am not tying the authority of our pulpit to something that the Bible does not draw a direct line between.”
Chandler, who is also president of the Acts 29 church planting network, said pastors often feel pressured to understand complex political issues but should focus on preaching the gospel and use the ERLC as a resource.

Racial unity requires ‘intentionality’

Diversifying SBC congregations and denominational life requires intentionality in relationships and hiring practices before experiencing true integration, panelists said in response to Coppenger’s question about racial reconciliation.
Greear and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin said the SBC will only improve on race relations when they intentionally hire ethnic minorities and allow them to lead at the local and national levels. But Greear cautioned attendees against thinking the process in the local church is easy, and said “we don’t want to host multicultural events, we want to live multicultural lives.”
Smith, who has pastored both majority black and multiethnic congregations, said churches need to reach across socioeconomic barriers, which adds another layer to racial division. He urged white leaders to be vocal in expressing their concern for racial reconciliation, and that “silent friends discourage fellowship” in times of adversity.
“In a culture that obviously has a history of racism it is hurtful to fellowship when we see few brothers that are willing to pay the cost of friendship,” Smith said, commending leaders like ERLC’s Moore who he said spent social capital on advocating for minorities.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, pointed to the growth of ethnic minority-led congregations in the denomination as a sign of hope and progress, and attributed the SBC’s primary diversity problem to the denomination’s history. Mohler recently contributed a chapter to the new B&H Academic title, “Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Mohler said the need to listen to minorities in the SBC to bring about further reconciliation “humbles me more than anything else.”
“Our legacy goes back to 1845 in terms of the greatest obstacle we face is with what historically is the largest minority group in the United States, African-Americans. This is the great burden we carry, it’s the great scandal and stain we can never remove,” Mohler said, referring to the SBC’s founding as a split from Northern Baptists over the issue of slavery.
“We are even now the most racially, ethnically, linguistically diverse denomination in the United States, and far more diverse than the liberal denominations that are given to an ideology of diversity rather than a theology of diversity,” he said. “But that can’t earn us any space to escape the great problem we have.”

Unity ahead of Dallas 2018

During the panel, Gaines and Greear recounted the SBC presidential election of 2016, when Greear conceded to Gaines prior to a third runoff vote. Both said they were ready to concede but Akin’s counsel led Greear to persist that Gaines should accept the presidency.
“Both of us came into that with an attitude of ‘Let’s wash each other’s feet and let’s think about what’s best for the convention,’” Greear said. “Brothers and sisters, we have a gospel that is too beautiful and a mission that is too urgent to let anything really step in the way.”
Akin corroborated the account and said he had never seen such “authentic humility” in how Gaines and Greear handled the situation. Akin said he would “love to see” Gaines nominate Greear for SBC president in Dallas for the 2018 annual meeting, a possibility he said Gaines mentioned during their meeting in 2016.
Gaines confirmed Akin’s account of the discussion, but declined to comment further because he had not spoken to Greear about the nomination since last summer, the Biblical Recorder reported June 21.
Most importantly, Akin noted, Gaines and Greer modeled unity for the SBC despite differences.
“They modeled for our people how we can come together generationally and theologically and move forward in what God has called us to do and that is to get the gospel to every tribe, tongue, people and nation,” Akin said. “What unites us is so much bigger than these small things where we have differences.”
Video of the B21 panel will be available soon on baptist21.com. B21 focuses on addressing issues relevant to Southern Baptists in the 21st century.

6/23/2017 11:04:24 AM by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS | with 0 comments

SBCAL group to study DOM title change, efficiency

June 23 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A 12-member study group is expected to recommend in 2018 a new title, credentialing process and expectations of effectiveness for Southern Baptist directors of missions (DOMs).
The Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL) appointed the group at its conference held June 11-12 in advance of the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Phoenix. The team is charged with submitting a report at the SBCAL 2018 meeting in Dallas.

Photo by Marc Ira Hooks
Robby Gallaty, second from left, pastor of Longhollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., speaks with associational leaders before he addresses the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders during the first day of the group’s two-day meeting June 11 in Phoenix.

The changes are needed as the SBCAL works to better serve missional leadership needs across the SBC, SBCAL Executive Director Ray Gentry told Baptist Press.
“We feel like it’s time for a new name for the new century and the new demands upon us and the new opportunities before us,” Gentry said. “In addition, a profile of associational effectiveness with competencies ... is even a bigger enchilada than the title.
“There really is no commonly accepted job description for a DOM,” he said, “and so we want to come up with a profile with competencies for search committees and for purposes of coaching and helping new DOMs. We feel like that’s going to be very, very important and very helpful to raise the credibility, and the profile and the effectiveness of DOMs.”
The SBCAL has never had a process of credentialing for DOMs, Gentry said, pointing out the common practice of business associations in particular to have credentialing processes. A cross-section of respected Southern Baptist leaders named to the study team is intended to encourage widespread use and approval of any recommendations the SBCAL adopts from the study group, Gentry said.
“We have a cross-section to help us to really be attentive to all of the different demands and priorities that need to be addressed in 2017 and in the coming days,” Gentry said. “Whenever this team reports, we wanted them to have the respect of whoever in Southern Baptist life will read the report. If we don’t have buy-in from megachurch pastors, from state conventions and SBC entity heads, then it will be for naught.”
Rick Wheeler, the lead missional strategist from the Jacksonville Baptist Association of the Florida Baptist Convention, will lead the team on which Gentry will also serve.
Joining them are members Mike Carlisle, executive director, San Diego (Calif.) Southern Baptist Association; Paul Chitwood, executive director, Kentucky Baptist Convention; Josh Ellis, associate director, Union Baptist Association, Houston; Dale Fisher, executive director, Caldwell Baptist Association, Lenoir, N.C.; Steve Holt, state DOM, Tennessee Baptist Association; Jason Lowe, DOM, Pike Association of Southern Baptists, Pikeville, Ky.; Mark Millman, church planter strategist/DOM, Southern Wisconsin Baptist Association; Roger “Sing” Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations, SBC Executive Committee, Nashville; Ted Traylor, senior pastor, Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla.; and Port Wilburn, executive DOM, San Francisco (Calif.) Peninsula Baptist Association.

Other business

In other business during the meeting at the Westin Phoenix Downtown hotel, the SBCAL amended its constitution to allow non-Southern Baptist but like-minded missional leaders to join as non-voting members, approved a 2017-2018 budget of $62,000, appointed regional leadership team coordinators, and approved a 2017-2018 executive team of officers, and denominational and associational members.
In addition to Gentry, officers are chairman Tim Pruitt, associational missionary, Gila Valley Baptist Association, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention; vice chairman David Stokes, DOM, Central Kentucky Network of Baptists, Kentucky Baptist Convention; recording secretary Philip Price, executive director, Jackson County Baptist Association, Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, and nominating chairman Preston Collins, executive DOM, Union Baptist Association, Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Newly appointed associational members are Mitch Martin, executive DOM, Mid-South Baptist Association, Memphis, Tenn.; Sean McMahon, executive director, Florida Baptist Association, Tallahassee, Fla.; Robby Smith, DOM, Catawba River Baptist Association, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and Mark Snowden, director of missional leadership, Cincinnati (Ohio) Area Baptist Association. They join returning associational members Ronny Carroll, Bob Dean, Mike Pennington, Pruitt, Stokes, Deryl Lackey, Vince Smith and Terry Stockman.
Denominational members are Steve Bass, representing the North American Mission Board; Kristy Carr, Woman’s Missionary Union; Mark Dance, LifeWay Christian Resources; Tim Head, GuideStone; Oldham, SBC Executive Committee, and Terry Sharp, International Mission Board.
Regional leadership team coordinators, designed to correlate with NAMB’s ministry regions in the U.S., are Keith Lawrence, Northeast, DOM, Maine Baptist Association; Millman, Midwest; Bobby Braswell, Southeast, associational missionary, Middle Baptist Association, Georgia Baptist Mission Board; Charles Cruce, Southwest, DOM/treasurer, Tulsa (Okla.) Metro Baptist Network; and Lackey, West, DOM, Inland Empire Baptist Association, Ontario, Calif.

Spiritual enrichment

Worship, roundtable discussions, workshops, a banquet, a ministry fair and networking rounded out the two-day event.
Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist church in Hendersonville, Tenn., preached the June 11 morning sermon. Former SBC president Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., was the banquet speaker.
Gallaty’s message from Matthew 28:19-20 urged the group to help churches in their associations be more focused on discipleship than any other function of church life. “Could it be,” Gallaty said, speaking about the steady decline of the Southern Baptist Convention, “that for many years we have taught people to share their faith, but not to share their life?”
At the banquet, Hunt spoke from the book of Titus, saying the letter is all about leadership. Hunt said research shows there are around 400 leaders whose stories are told in the Bible. Of that 400, only 80 “finished well,” he said. He listed as common markers of success humility, intimacy with God, obedience, faith and an ability to receive counsel.

6/23/2017 10:59:09 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

9Marks panels discuss church, SBC

June 23 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press & Lauren Pratt, SEBTS

Pastors and entity leaders discussed church unity in a divisive age and the statistical decline of the denomination during two 9Marks conversations held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Phoenix.
9Marks, a church health ministry based in Washington, D.C., sponsored the late-evening panel discussions in partnership with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission June 12 and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary June 13.
In the June 12 session, 9Marks and ERLC leaders provided guidance on addressing differences within churches and the culture regarding secondary issues.

Photo by Jeremy Scott
Mark Dever, left, leads a panel discussion for 9Marks after the evening session of the June 13 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. Panelists included (left to right): R. Albert Mohler Jr., H.B. Charles, and Daniel Akin.

Mark Dever warned pastors that Satan “is going to continue to put increasing pressure on our churches to fall out with each other over different answers to debatable questions.” Dever – the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington and president of 9Marks – distinguished such essentials as the deity of Christ and the inerrancy of Scripture from “debatable” issues.
“[W]e just need to understand Satan is going to exploit these new conversations to cause people to feel very confident and self-righteous on one side or the other in what are debatable matters,” he told the audience. “And it’s a different thing debating the rightness or wrongness of their position and whether or not the whole church has to affirm that position. “
Dever urged pastors “to be vigilant watchers over that freedom and liberty of Christians in your local church to disagree with each other calmly and kindly and with respect.”
Looking back at what was a “very difficult election” for his church, Dever said one of the things he learned in 2016 is “as confused as I may be over some things, I know we are to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. And that means I need to listen and inculcate listening and be empathetic to people who are disagreeing with me on important but secondary issues. And I need to teach the people how to not divide over those issues, and that’s very delicate, difficult work, but it’s work that I think as a pastor it’s good work for me to do.”
ERLC President Russell Moore expressed his concern about the way “politics has become a religion in American society.”
Americans are seeking to identify with “my people,” he said. “And that means my people are right, and the other people are completely wrong and are to be opposed with the sort of zeal that comes with a heresy trial and the sort of longing for community that God has given to us for a church and for a kingdom.”
In this climate, Moore said, “one of the most counter-cultural things the church has to give to the rest of the world is to say, ‘Politics isn’t as important as you think it is. Your motives, your conscience, your integrity, those things are more important than you think they are.’”
Dever and Moore, along with ERLC Executive Vice President Phillip Bethancourt, also responded to a series of questions posed by moderator Jonathan Leeman, 9Marks editorial director, on hypothetical cases of church discipline and membership, as well as such issues as transgenderism and pornography.
On June 13, Dever moderated a panel that assessed the state of the SBC and commented on the deliberations during the annual meeting regarding a resolution on “alt-right white supremacy.” Panel members were Southeastern Seminary President Danny Akin; Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr.; H.B. Charles, newly elected president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference and pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.; and Leeman.
Multiple issues have come into play in the decline in baptisms and church membership in the SBC, Mohler said.
“It’s not just [one thing],” he told the audience. “It’s everything.”
Mohler noted the change in how Christianity is viewed in the United States.
“We should expect it’s going to get harder and people aren’t going to be joining our churches in order to be cool, because by joining our churches they’re going to be looked at as uncool,” Mohler said. “That’s going to change the statistics.”
The session came immediately after messengers approved a motion to permit the Resolutions Committee to return the next day with a resolution on “alt-right white supremacy,” even though its report was completed earlier June 13. The committee’s request came after some messengers sought to bring such a proposal to the floor and the failure to do so earlier had generated criticism on social media. The messengers approved in a nearly unanimous vote June 14 the resolution denouncing “alt-right white supremacy.”
Dever asked Charles how the issue affected him and other African American Christians.
“How these moments are interpreted make big statements,” said Charles, who said he would be in a position to have conversations surrounding this topic when he returned home.
Akin said fellow Christians are to humble themselves and seek forgiveness.
“We don’t have any problem humbling ourselves, acknowledging that we made a mistake, asking forgiveness and trying to move forward and do the right thing,” Akin said.
Mohler saw God’s provision in the situation and was thankful the SBC still had time to make a clear statement on the issue.
“Thank goodness the Resolutions Committee brought its report on Tuesday and not Wednesday at 2:45, which would be no case to recover,” Mohler said.
The underlying motive for doing the right thing is not because of publicity but conscience, Akin said.
“We don’t do the right thing because of the media,” he noted. “We do the right thing because it’s the right thing.”
Akin pointed to the importance of staying for the full length of the convention to vote on important matters such as the “alt-right” resolution.
“I would say to all of us coming to the convention: Be there when it begins; stay until it ends,” Akin said, “because you never know that something like what took place tonight will arise and your presence and your vote is desperately needed.”

6/23/2017 10:51:44 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press & Lauren Pratt, SEBTS | with 0 comments

Pastors’ wives urged to be ‘brave,’ engage culture

June 22 2017 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware

Be “brave” in sharing God’s truth to those outside and inside the church, especially in the face of today’s increasing intolerance toward Christianity, said several speakers during the 2017 Pastors’ Wives Conference.
Based on Proverbs 31:25, “Brave” was the theme of this year’s conference. It was held June 12 in the North Ballroom of the Phoenix Convention Center prior to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Kelly Minter

Kelly Minter, a Christian recording artist and Bible study author, acknowledged, “We are past the time when God’s Word is standard,” pointing to how Jesus shared truth with the Samaritan woman in John 4, drawing much needed parallels for ways Christians can engage unbelievers in today’s post-Christian environment.

Photo by Jeremy Scott
Kelly Minter speaks at the Pastors’ Wives Conference June 11 at the Phoenix Convention Center on “Bravely Answering Gods Call."

First, Jesus did not affirm or accommodate the Samaritan woman’s “truth.” Jesus plainly said she had five husbands (John 4:18), not “five husbands is the new one husband” or “living with your boyfriend is the new marriage,” Minter said. In fact, Jesus doesn’t make her feel better about her situation at all. Instead, He draws her to His truth.
Secondly, Jesus did not avoid her in her “truth.” Minter explained that Jesus could have gone around Samaria to avoid the Samaritans, with whom the Jews at that time had “utter disdain” and “unbelievable division.” But Jesus “does not avoid people in uncomfortable, detrimental truths,” she said. “We can’t avoid the mess. We have got to cut right through it, pursue it.”
Finally, Jesus pursued the Samaritan woman in her “truth” so He could save her from it.
“We’re not going to compromise God’s truth but we’re also not going to use it as an excuse to fight the world or avoid the world,” Minter said, noting how “staggering” it was that the Samaritan woman ran into her town telling about how Jesus exposed all her sins (John 4:28-29). “Somehow she knew in the all-I-ever-did, there was forgiveness, hope, unbelievable love.”
Minter concluded, “What could happen if we confronted people with this kind of love? What would happen if people could come to us and confess their sin and their struggles, and we can ... have open, honest conversations – not because we are affirmers ... but because we could introduce Jesus Christ the Messiah, the Savior of the world?”

Marshelle Wilburn

Marshelle Wilburn, volunteer services manager for the Bay Area Rescue Mission in the San Francisco Bay area, shared how to bravely raise kids in a sexually-charged culture.

Photo by Jeremy Scott
Marshelle Wilburn, an urban church planting missionary to the San Francisco Bay area, speaks at the Pastors' Wives Conference June 11 at the Phoenix Convention Center on “Bravely Raising Kids in a Sexually Charged Culture.”

Wilburn is the wife of Port Wilburn, church planter and pastor of Rock Harbor Christian Fellowship in San Pablo, Calif., and mother of five children, whom the Wilburns are training up in righteousness to “strengthen the culture around them.”
In her message, Wilburn used the acronym, BRAVE, to encourage Christian parents to consider how to equip their children to engage today’s culture.
First, Christian parents must be “bold believers,” willing to share the Good News of what Jesus offers in a culture of “dos” instead of “do nots.” She and her husband constantly teach their children what they can do, “Pursue the Lord with your gifts, be a light, share the love of God with your friends.”
Second, Christian parents must be “radically relevant,” understanding what is going on in the culture to address it. “We can’t put hierarchies on things if we are going to be truly relevant in and being able to be able to share truth,” she said.
Third, Christian parents must be “audaciously adept,” so brave and so bold that they are not afraid to step out into culture. “We may be nervous about it, but not afraid,” she said, sharing her experience of attending a “queer” Christian support group for those questioning their sexuality to better understand how homosexuals reconciled their lifestyle with their spirituality. She did not approach them with condemnation but with love.
Fourth, Christian parents must be “vitally voracious” and willing to give life-giving truth without holding back.
And finally, Christian parents must be “equipped to be empathically engaging.” They should put themselves in the shoes of Christ to address these issues with the ones He enables to be in their spheres of influence “so that their futures might be changed in the presence of Jesus Christ.”
Keeping our children in “protected environments falls short of fulfilling the call of being His presence in this world,” she said.

Kay Warren

Kay Warren, who is married to Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., spoke practically to the pastors’ wives about taking care of themselves spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Photo by Jeremy Scott
Kay Warren, speaker, Bible study teacher and co-founder of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., speaks on “Sacred Privilege” at the Pastors’ Wives Conference June 11 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

“You and I must learn to control the controllables, and leave the uncontrollables to God” so that “we can be stronger in the broken places,” said Warren, author of the recently released, Sacred Privilege: Your Life and Ministry as a Pastor’s Wife.
“To be spiritually mature women, you are going to have to take responsibility for your own growth,” she said, pointing to daily being in God’s Word, praying and surrendering oneself. “I could only live in surrender to Jesus Christ on April 5, 2013 [the date of her son Matthew’s suicide], because I spent the 50 previous years saying yes to God,” she said.
Warren also urged the women to do the work necessary for emotional healing and to focus on physical health.
“What a travesty it would be to mistreat the one body we’ve been given,” she said. “Being a pastor’s wife is already hard. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.”
Pastors’ wives also heard two interviews from the stage.
Jeana Floyd, wife of Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Ark., interviewed Charlotte Akin, who is married to Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Akin shared her testimony of growing up with alcoholic parents, who later divorced and placed her and her siblings in the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home.

Photo by Jeremy Scott
Donna Gaines, right, speaker and Bible study teacher, interviews Mary Margaret Gibson, ministry director of EvanTell’s Save the Mother, Save her Child, at the Pastors’ Wives Conference June 11 at the Phoenix Convention Center on “Bravely Sharing Your Faith.”

“I’ve always been able to not blame my parents,” said Akin, who became a Christian at the children’s home. “They just didn’t know Christ and didn’t know any better.”
Akin credited other women in her life for helping her grow in Christ. Those women included “Aunt Linda” who introduced her to Danny, and Danny’s sister Joy and mother Emma Lou, who helped her “feel confident in Christ.” Akin urged her listeners to “find those incredible women” and “to be one for others.”
Donna Gaines, wife of SBC President Steve Gaines, interviewed Mary Margaret Gibson, ministry director for EvanTell’s Save the Mother, Save her Child evangelism training and equipping ministry. Presently, her organization, which serves over 700 faith-based pregnancy centers in the U.S. and 40 overseas partners, is piloting a partnership with WMU’s Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) and Christian Men’s Job Corps (CMJC) to provide job readiness for clients.
Gibson said she doesn’t view crisis pregnancies as “unplanned” pregnancies, but as “unexpected” ones.
“God knows every baby. Every family is precious to God,” she said, adding, “Sharing the gospel comes very naturally when we realize how much the Lord loves them.”
Explaining EvanTell, Gibson said the training program teaches volunteers how to move from secular conversations, such as baby development, into spiritual discussions and ultimately a Gospel presentation. This conversational and contextual evangelism approach is used well beyond pregnancy crisis centers.
Closing, Gibson stood and thanked the pastors’ wives for being brave “even when they were afraid.” She urged them to remember that they are “after people” because God has already gone before them and prepared the way.
She also noted that negative emotions come from God and are cues for when one is not staying close enough to Him. Stay close, she urged.

6/22/2017 11:19:26 AM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware | with 0 comments

Filipino Baptists delay vote on executive director

June 22 2017 by Daniel Woodman, Baptist Press

A vote to postpone election of an executive director and continued emphasis on church planting were among highlights of the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America’s (FSBFNA) annual meeting June 13 in Phoenix.
During a business session, the fellowship’s officers nominated Dan Santiago, pastor of Covenant Christian Church in Jacksonville, Fla., as the first-ever FSBFNA executive director.

Photo by Adam Covington
Peter Yanes, left middle, North American church planting catalyst and ethnic church strategist in greater Philadelphia, prays with Allen Gayongala, middle, and Edgar Aungon, furthest right, before the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship annual meeting June 13 in Mesa, Ariz. The meeting is held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 13-14 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

While attendees supported Santiago and his leadership, they asked officers to clarify the role of an executive director in the fellowship’s bylaws and voted to delay calling an executive until the 2018 annual meeting in Dallas.
Each year, the fellowship meets in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. This year’s gathering was hosted by Fil-Am International Baptist Church in Mesa, Ariz.
“We are saying simply, delay it for a year. We are not saying we are not going to have” an executive director, Jerry Lepasana, pastor of Bible Church International in Garfield, N.J., said during the business session.
Regardless of who is elected, he noted, “officers should provide due diligence in coming up with” a more clarified job description for the executive director.
Santiago was elected FSBFNA president. Felix Sermon of Grace International Christian Church in Alexandria, Va., and Henry Amarila of Shadow Mountain Community Church’s Filipino congregation in El Cajon, Calif., were chosen as vice presidents for the east and west coasts respectively.
Also elected were secretary Solomon Reyes of Union (N.J.) Community Bible Church and treasurer Roberto Del Castillo of Harmony International Baptist Church in San Diego, Calif.
Speaking to a full house, Allan Gayongala of Valley International Christian Church in Peoria, Ariz., urged Filipino Baptists to be faithful to their ministries.

Photo by Adam Covington
Alberto Camacho, pastor of a church replant in New York, carves a delicious pig June 13 during the annual meeting of the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America at Fil-Am International Baptist Church in Mesa, Ariz.

Gayongala preached from Psalm 78, which references King David’s call to lead Israel. David remained faithful to the Lord, Gayongala said, even when he was engaged in tasks that might have seemed unimportant.
“David was chosen because he was faithful to little things,” Gayongala said. “Sometimes you are tempted to think that if we are serving the Lord, we must be serving big time. God is not calling us to bigness. He has chosen us for faithfulness. When we are faithful to little things, big things happen.”
Gayongala recounted his own struggles with planting churches and encouraged others to remain patient and faithful in planting new congregations. The message complemented the fellowship’s “20/20” initiative, aimed at planting 100 new churches between 2015 and 2020.
Jeremy Sin, a national church planting catalyst for the North American Mission Board, commended Filipino Baptists for their passion and positive attitude.
“I can see the laughter, the smiles in your faces,” Sin said. The FSBFNA annual meeting “is a time of joy where you share what God is doing in your lives in every corner in this continent.”
Filipino Baptists can continue to advance God’s Kingdom, Sin said, by maintaining their partnership with NAMB and supporting new church plants.
“I pray that our churches will be praying, participating and also supporting new church plants,” Sin said. “[I pray that] your churches will multiply themselves because church planters are coming out of your congregations.”
The meeting concluded with a meal of traditional Filipino dishes, including lechón or roasted pig.

6/22/2017 11:03:10 AM by Daniel Woodman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Messianics meet with Arabic-speaking believers

June 22 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Arabic praises could be heard alongside the more typical Hebrew worship at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship (SBMF) this year as the fellowship met June 11 at First Arabic Baptist Church in Phoenix.
The gathering – held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting – included a joint worship service of Arab, Kurdish and Jewish followers of Jesus; a fellowship meal; and an SBMF business session. Also in attendance were Muslims who have not yet trusted Christ as their Lord and Savior but value the friendship First Arabic offers.

Photo by Bill Bangham
Jamal Bishara, left, pastor of First Arabic Baptist Church in Phoenix, and Mike Saffle, pastor of Sabbath Peace Fellowship in Eagle Crest, Alaska, discuss worship songs to be used during the joined worship service June 11. First Arabic Baptist Church hosted the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix. The two churches sang in Hebrew and Arabic together.

The SBMF – which comprises largely Messianic Jews (Jews who follow Jesus as Messiah) – gathered around the theme “disciples making disciples who make disciples.”
“We’re here to celebrate the coming together of two different people groups that love Jesus and want to share Him with our people,” SBMF President Ric Worshill said at the worship service.
First Arabic pastor Jamal Bishara told Baptist Press a “core value” of the congregation he leads “is the unity of the church ... Our church is – just like heaven – for every tongue and nation, and will not exclude anyone.”
The joint worship service came about through the friendship Worshill and Bishara developed as they served together on the Multiethnic Advisory Council appointed in 2014 by SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page. The council sought to help Southern Baptist leaders more fully understand and appreciate the perspectives ethnic churches and church leaders bring to the common task of reaching people with the Gospel.
Among the worship service’s highlights were Hebrew and Arabic praise songs; benedictions in Hebrew, Arabic and English; a message by Jewish evangelist Rob Styler, in which he presented a monologue as the biblical character Adam; and simultaneous translation of all English into Arabic.
Bishara, a bivocational pastor who also manages eight dialysis facilities, said First Arabic conducts outreach to approximately 6,000 Muslims in Phoenix each year, seeing some come to faith in Christ. The congregation averages about 25 in Sunday morning worship, including Jordanians, Iraqis, Syrians and Palestinians.
The neighborhood around First Arabic has a significant population of Syrian refugees, said Bishara, an Arab Israeli with dual Israeli-American citizenship. The church attempts to reach them through visitation and English classes.
Muslims of various nationalities attended worship with the SBMF, Bishara said, because they “wanted to meet the Jewish brothers.”
Among worship attendees was Walat, a Syrian Kurd who arrived in the U.S. earlier this year as a refugee from Syria’s civil war. He told BP through a translator he fled from the Islamic State terrorist group because “there was slaughtering of the people” in his hometown.
Walat, who is Muslim, began attending worship at First Arabic because Bishara came to his house and invited him. “I love the community” of the church, Walat said, and the teaching about Jesus is “very good.”
For Worshill, it’s a natural fit to conduct evangelistic outreaches involving both Arabic-speaking and Jewish believers in Jesus. Jews and Arabs tend to resist the gospel, he said. They also can be ostracized from their families upon coming to Christ and need a strong Christian network of love and support.
Worshill, who is Jewish, has been teaching about Jesus by invitation at an Arabic community center in his home state of Illinois.
“We have to think in terms of an urgency. Every single day ... people are dying without Jesus. Everyone we lead to Jesus is one less that jumps into the lake of fire,” Worshill told worship attendees through tears.
In its business session, the SBMF:

  • Discussed increasing coordination with other groups that seek to evangelize Jews, including Jews for Jesus, Chosen People Ministries and CJF Ministries, formerly known as the Christian Jewish Foundation.
  • Reelected its current slate of officers, including Worshill as president.
  • Heard reports on mission trips to Israel and Europe.
  • Discussed ways to help messianic believers visit Israel.
  • Strategized about methods for reaching millennials and other younger generations with the gospel.
6/22/2017 10:58:32 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Korean Council elects new executive director

June 22 2017 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

James Kang was elected on a second ballot to a potentially unlimited term as executive director of the 830-church fellowship known as the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America, and as the “Korean Council.” And after discussing for nine years changing the constitution and bylaws of the 36-year-old fellowship, the legal documents were passed without discussion.
The annual meeting of the Korean Council took place June 12-14 at the Arizona Grand Resort in Phoenix, in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. The Korean Council includes churches from North, Central and South America.

Photo by Van Payne
Gi Yoal Bahn, president of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America, calls for a vote on the organization's new constitution, which was adopted at the June 14 meeting.

In addition to the election and vote on the constitution and bylaws, the record number of nearly 900 attendees heard reports from each of the council’s departments, passed a $756,000 budget – same as last year – prayed, worshiped and listened to messages preached by leaders from South Korea.


Kang, pastor for the last 20 years of Global Community Church in Portland, Ore., received the most votes on the first ballot for executive director, but with four candidates, not a majority. On the second ballot he received 230 votes to Taeuk Kim, pastor of Korean American Grace Baptist Church in Harley Heights, Texas, who received 125 votes.
“Helping Korean churches and serving them is an honorable mission for me,” Kang told Baptist Press. “The call of God to this work is to extend the Kingdom of God.”
The two other candidates for executive director were Byung J. Kim, pastor of Waynesboro (Penn.) Korean Baptist Church, and Jang Hu Noh, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship Church in Springfield, Mo.
In the revised legal documents, which passed before the elections, the executive director is to serve four years. In his third year, a vote of confidence in his leadership is to be taken at the annual meeting. If he receives a majority of votes, he will be able to continue for another four-year term, continuing indefinitely, with votes of confidence taken in every third year of his four-year term.
Kang plans to relocate to the Dallas area within two months, as required by the Korean Council’s constitution and bylaws.
Raymond Y. Lee, pastor of Sea World Baptist Church in San Diego, Calif., received 442 votes to win the presidency over Young Choi, pastor of Dover Korean Baptist Church of Dover, Del., who later was elected first vice president. In Gyun Oh, pastor of Hanuri Korean Baptist Church of Carrollton, Texas, was elected second vice president. The revised legal documents permit a president to serve a second, one-year term. Previously they served a total of one term.
Before he convened the Wednesday morning business session of the three-day conference, outgoing president Gi Youl Kahn spoke of the 12 pastors and/or their wives who had died during the previous 12 months. He led a time of prayer for their families and for those left to carry on their ministry.
Kahn, pastor of Korean Baptist Church of Indianapolis, Ind., then set a “serious yet light” tone for the meeting when he said, “Let’s not fight,” according to translation provided to Baptist Press by Kyung Won Song, pastor of Binghamton (N.Y.) Korean Baptist Church.

Legal documents

Discussion on revising the constitution and bylaws have been a part of each of the Korean Council’s annual meetings for several years. This year, Kahn explained the work done by that committee over the last year to ensure everything was correct, including discussion with and work by the SBC’s attorneys.
“So today there will be no discussion,” Kahn said. “Please vote yes or no.” The revised constitution and bylaws passed without further comment.
Among the amendments, only those churches that financially support the Korean Council will be allowed to vote. Previously, anyone who attended was allowed to vote.
Churches wanting to join the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America must affirm the Baptist Faith and Message, and support the Council with at least 1 percent of their undesignated income.
Two churches, having been credentialed by the Korean Council’s executive committee, were accepted into membership: Managua (Nicaragua) Korean Baptist Church, and Jung Gum [Refined Gold] Church of Pocatello, Idaho.
These are the first existing churches (not including church plants) to have joined the Korean Council in several years, the president said.
“We need more Korean churches in Arizona,” said that state convention’s executive director, David Johnson, when he brought greetings during the Monday evening session to the gathering. Arizona has 11 Korean Southern Baptist churches.

Other reports

When word was sent to churches that only those that financially supported the Korean Council would be allowed to vote, 32 churches contributed that had not previously given. This resulted in a total income of $928,200.
Nonetheless, the 2018 budget was set for $756,000, the same as 2017. It passed without discussion.
The Korean Council – Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America – is organized similarly to the SBC, with departments for national missions, international missions, education and more.
Fifteen church plants are receiving $400 a month for three years. This money comes from the Domestic Missions budget, which also provides a one-year scholarship of $500 to graduating high school seniors of pastors planning to attend college. This year, 35 students will receive the scholarship.
The Foreign Missions department published 5,000 copies of a colorful and illustrated Spanish-language Children’s Bible. They’re available for $10 from the Korean Council.
The Foreign Missions department in 2016-17 endorsed two families for international service with funding through the Korean Council; two additional families were endorsed at the 2017 annual meeting. The Foreign Missions department funds the work of 57 Korean missionaries.
Forums took place again this year of English-ministry leaders and their Korean counterparts, one at the Arizona Grand Resort and “Part Two” Tuesday afternoon at the Phoenix Convention Center, to build understanding.

6/22/2017 10:54:14 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Chinese Baptist Fellowship shares church planting efforts

June 22 2017 by Myriah Snyder, Western Recorder

Church planting drew the spotlight of the Chinese Baptist Fellowship’s June 13 meeting in Phoenix.
In fact, the mission of the fellowship is threefold, according to Benny Wong, president of the Chinese Baptist Fellowship of USA and Canada and senior pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles. The fellowship exists for planting, caring and training. The fellowship’s gathering was held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting on June 13-14.

Photo by Bill Bangham
Yangwei Wi of Eastern Los Angeles shares a testimony about church planting at the June 13 Chinese Baptist Fellowship dinner at the Phoenix Convention Center.

As a fellowship, their goal is to see 600 Chinese church plants by 2020.
An International Mission Board worker among East Asian peoples (name not disclosed for security reasons) explained some of the work that his family is doing in East Asia. They work with a people group in East Asia that has a high illiteracy rate. Much of the work his family does is in oral Bible storying and Bible translation.
“We want to encourage you to connect through the IMB so that you can go and be a part of reaching out to your brothers and sisters in those countries,” he said, explaining that many of those present have family and friends in that area.
Jeremy Sin, a national church planting strategist with the North American Mission Board, brought with him a team of Send City missionaries to share about church planting efforts in Send Cities throughout North America.
Chris Wright in Chicago shared that Chicago is filled with immigrants from all nationalities, including Chinese. There are 42,000 Chinese people in the city, he noted. Three years ago there was only one existing Chinese Southern Baptist church in the city, but in the last three years two additional churches were planted.
“We’re very grateful to have two (more) Chinese planters, but it’s simply not enough,” he said, noting there are ongoing efforts to reach Chinese in Chicago.
Seattle, Ron Shepard said, has become “the number one destination for mainland, Mandarin Chinese,” and that they believe it’s “God’s time for us in Seattle church planting to focus on reaching the Mandarin Chinese.” The city now has a church planter on the east side of the city, a church planter in Chinatown, downtown Seattle, and south of Seattle.
“We really need prayer and engaged partners more than we need money. We need prayer partners,” Shepard said.
“We need encouragers. We need people who understand the unique challenges of immigrants and refugees and those who are ministering cross-culturally,” he said. “We believe that God is going to reshape the greater Seattle metro-area with the Asian culture, and that we have a unique opportunity.”
Other Send City missionaries, church planters and strategists who shared what God is doing in the Chinese populations in their cities included Joshua Whestine in Minneapolis, Linda Bergquist in San Francisco, Jerico Deveyra in Denver, Ray Woodard in Vancouver, and David Butler in Boston.
In addition, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Gateway Baptist Theological Seminary have extended their programs to include Chinese or Chinese/English bilingual programs.
The next meeting of the Chinese Baptist Fellowship will be held in June 2018 in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas. Their biennial conference will be a cruise in Los Angeles in Sept. 2018.

6/22/2017 10:44:04 AM by Myriah Snyder, Western Recorder | with 0 comments

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