June 2017

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

Gaines to Greear: ‘I’ll nominate you’

June 21 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

In an informal meeting last year, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines offered to nominate J.D. Greear for SBC president in 2018.
Gaines, who is now serving his second term, said he would be willing to make the nomination as a gesture of unity after then-candidate Greear decided to withdraw from the 2016 SBC presidential election.

Photos by Paul W. Lee & Bill Bangham
Steve Gaines, left, and J.D. Greear, right, preach at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, recounted the exchange in a panel discussion hosted by Baptist 21 at the 2017 SBC annual meeting. Several people, including Akin, were present when the conversation took place.
Greear, who serves as pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., had both considered withdrawing from the 2016 election due to concerns about division in the convention. Two ballot votes failed to produce a winner on June 14, 2016, and a third was scheduled for the next day when Gaines and Greear agreed at Akin’s request to discuss the situation later that night.
Both candidates thought extremely close vote totals signaled a troubling divide in the SBC, and they were looking for ways to unify the convention.
“I’ve never seen such humility – authentic humility on each one of their parts,” Akin said at the Baptist 21 event. “They were each more than willing to hand over the reins for this year’s leadership to one another.”
When Greear and others convinced Gaines that Greear’s withdrawal was the best option, according to Akin, Gaines said, “Well J.D., I’ll tell you what, come [2018], if you want me to, brother, I’ll nominate you.”
Akin added, “Personally, I’d love to see that happen.”
The third vote never took place because Greear officially withdrew his name from the ballot on the morning of June 15, 2016. Gaines was elected that day by acclamation, and ran for re-election unopposed in 2017.
Gaines confirmed Akin’s account of the discussion in a text message to Biblical Recorder staff, but declined to comment further because he had not spoken to Greear about the nomination since last summer.
The Biblical Recorder asked Greear whether or not he would run if nominated. He said, “When I stepped aside for Pastor Steve to serve as president last year, I knew it was the right thing for the moment, and what God wanted. I continue to be willing and excited to serve our convention in whatever way might be helpful, and for now that is to help [Steve] Gaines advance those things God has put on his heart, which is why I agreed to be on his Soul Winning Task Force.” (See related story.)
Greear continued, “When it comes time for 2018 presidential nominations, I’ll be open to whatever God wants. But I believe it most honors God to consider things in their own time.”
In response to a question about how he would feel if Gaines made the nomination, Greear said, “President Gaines is a friend, and his support in any endeavor would be an honor.”
No official nomination announcements have been made for the 2018 SBC presidential election. Next year’s annual meeting will take place June 12-13 in Dallas, Texas.

6/21/2017 12:02:41 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Deporting Iraqi Christians called ‘death sentence’

June 21 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist religious freedom advocate Russell Moore has joined other evangelical leaders in urging the Trump administration to stop its deportation of Christians to Iraq.
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), and six others asked John Kelly, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, in a letter June 19 to end the deportations until Iraq’s government can protect religious minorities.
Recent reports have indicated the federal government has started the process of deporting Chaldean Christians back to their homeland, where the United States government has designated the murderous campaign of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) as genocide.
“We write urgently and with grave concern that Christians will be removed from the United States to face potential persecution, and even death, in the Middle East,” said the leaders, who represent the seven organizations that are members of the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT).
While the letter signers said they are encouraged by the Trump administration’s emphasis on protecting the rights of religious minorities globally, they requested the administration “exercise the discretion available under law to defer the deportation of Chaldeans who pose no threat to U.S. public safety to Iraq until such time as the situation in Iraq stabilizes and its government proves willing and capable of protecting the rights of religious minorities.”
They urged Kelly “to take the same approach to any individual, regardless of whether they share our Christian faith or not, who does not pose a threat to the safety of Americans and for whom deportation would be likely to result in persecution, torture, or death.”
The United States deported some Iraqis to their home country in April and is scheduled to deport about 1,400 more, according to Christianity Today.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials arrested about 40 Chaldean Christians June 11 in the Detroit metro area, the Detroit Free Press reported. Chaldean Christians fear they will be targets of Islamic extremists if deported to Iraq.
Moore told Baptist Press, “This is wrong, wrong, wrong. Deporting these Iraqi Christians is nothing less than a death sentence.
“I cannot understand how our government could act so cruelly and counter-productively to some of the most vulnerable people in the world,” he said in written comments. “These deportations should be stopped immediately. We should be protecting these imperiled people, not surrendering them up for execution.”
Also signing onto the letter were: Samuel Rodriguez, president, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Leith Anderson, president, National Association of Evangelicals; Scott Arbeiter, president, World Relief; Shirley Hoogstra, president, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; Hyepin Im, president, Korean Churches for Community Development; and Jo Anne Lyon, ambassador and general superintendent emerita, The Wesleyan Church. EIT is a coalition of evangelical organizations supporting immigration reform.
The EIT letter cites comments by Vice President Mike Pence in making its appeal to the administration. According to the letter, Pence said at a global summit in May on Christian persecution, “[I]n Iraq, at the hands of extremists, we’ve actually seen monasteries demolished, priests and monks beheaded, and the two-millennia-old Christian tradition in Mosul virtually extinguished overnight.”
Iraq had not received deportees from the U.S. since 2010 but agreed earlier this year to do so to be removed from President Trump’s temporary travel ban, Christianity Today reported.
The letter signers acknowledge at least some of the Iraqis facing deportation have committed crimes.
“We do not minimize the serious criminal offenses of which some of these individuals have been convicted; it is entirely appropriate that they be punished for their offenses,” the letter says. “However, having served their sentences, we must seriously consider whether it is just to deport a person who poses little risk to the American public to a situation where they are likely to experience significant harm because of their faith.”
The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation June 6 to aid Christians and other survivors of the genocide committed by ISIS and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The bill, which still requires Senate approval before going to Trump, would provide humanitarian aid to Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities in the two Middle East countries. It also would promote criminal investigations and prosecutions of the terrorists responsible for genocidal acts and crimes against humanity.
In March 2016, then-Secretary of State John Kerry designated the terrorist campaign by ISIS against Christians and other religious minorities as genocide. No ISIS member has been tried for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes since then, religious freedom advocates have said.
ISIS’ terror campaign in the Middle East has included execution, rape and sexual enslavement. Other ISIS atrocities cited by religious liberty advocates include torture, mass graves, assassination of religious leaders and the destruction of churches, monasteries and cemeteries.
Violence by Islamic extremists since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 has resulted in an exodus from the country by many Christians and other religious adherents. The number of professing Christians in that country has declined by death and displacement from as much as 1.4 million to less than 300,000, according to estimates.

6/21/2017 10:30:19 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

CP panels celebrate Baptist ministries, missions

June 21 2017 by David Roach & Daniel Woodman, Baptist Press

Countering declining baptism numbers, improving preaching, combatting pornography and increasing women’s involvement in the Southern Baptist Convention were among topics discussed by panelists at the Cooperative Program (CP) booth during the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.
A series of panel discussions hosted in the SBC exhibit hall June 12-14 celebrated gospel advancement through the efforts of Southern Baptists, including ministries fueled by the CP, Southern Baptists’ unified method of funding missions and ministries in North America and internationally.

Photo by Van Payne
Dan Darling, left, vice president of communications for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, interviews a panel titled “The Gospel and Pornography” at the Cooperative Program booth in the exhibit hall at the Phoenix Convention Center during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. Panelist included Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.; Daryl Crouch, senior pastor of Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn.; and Trevin Wax, teaching pastor of Third Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Evangelism & baptisms

In response to news baptisms among Southern Baptist churches have decreased eight of the past 10 years, a panel encouraged pastors to offer more evangelistic training and share the Gospel more often.
North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell said the SBC’s baptism trend can be reversed by another “GCR” – a “Gospel conversation resurgence.”
“We have to have more gospel conversations,” Ezell said. “... We have 47,000 SBC churches. If we had 47,000 pastors having one gospel conversation a week, that’s almost 2.5 million Gospel conversations” annually.
Southern Baptists’ failure to lead more people to Christ “is a pastor issue,” Ezell said.
SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page said factors beyond a lack of evangelism likely have contributed to declining baptism numbers in the convention. The decreasing number of children in Southern Baptist families and a desire to guard against false professions of faith, he said, may influence the downward trend in baptisms.
Still, “the more you share” the gospel, Page said, “the more there is openness [to believe it]. And yes, there are people who are waiting for somebody to tell them about the Lord.”
Milton Hollifield, executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, cited “a lack of disciple making” in churches as one reason believers don’t share the Gospel more.
“One of the basic [elements] of making disciples is helping people understand the need to share the gospel with other people,” Hollifield said. “It’s what the Lord has commanded us to do.”
SBC President Steve Gaines said Southern Baptists must call sinners to repent and believe the gospel during worship services and other public events.
While a “come-forward altar call” is not the only means of calling people to salvation, churches must “give people the opportunity to get saved then and there,” said Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.


A wide-ranging panel discussion on preaching included discussion of, among other issues, how to schedule sermon preparation and how to give an evangelistic invitation.
Gaines and Page encouraged pastors to spend their mornings studying for sermons – though Page said he tends to study on airplanes much of the time in his current role. Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., said he devotes the last two full days of each week to sermon preparation.
James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., said his sermon preparation always includes exegesis of the sermon text in its original language and reading the text in four or five English translations.
All four panelists spoke of planning out sermon texts and topics months in advance. When asked how long their sermons typically last, panelists’ answers ranged from 25-65 minutes.
Regarding evangelistic invitations, panelists spoke of presenting the gospel at different junctures in the sermon, but all agreed on the necessity of calling for repentance and faith as part of every message.
“I always ask people to repent of their sins,” Gaines said, “believe savingly that Jesus died on the cross for their sins [and] rose from the dead to give them eternal life and receive Him by calling on the name of the Lord and being saved.”


A panel on “the gospel and pornography” discussed the effect of pornography on churches and how to address the growing epidemic among Christians.
Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla., noted the pervasiveness of pornography. “We are talking about a ten billion dollar industry,” Whitten said. “We are talking about an industry that made more money than NBC, ABC, FOX and CBS put together. We are not [merely] talking about a lust issue here; we are talking about a worship issue. We are talking about idolatry.”
Daryl Crouch, pastor of Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., said harsh denunciation is not always an effective first response to a believer ensnared in pornography.
“I think shock and shame is probably not the best response,” Crouch said. “I think [it is important] to be able to have some conversations about it and to build some theological foundations.”
Trevin Wax, Bible and reference publisher for LifeWay Christian Resources’ B&H arm, said true love should be presented as a better option than pornography.
“As pastors, we are only doing half the work if we say stay away without also painting the beautiful picture of what God intends sexuality to be,” Wax said. “The Bible’s view has to be more beautiful than the toxic, poisonous beauty [a man] thinks he is looking for when he is browsing the websites.”

Women & and the SBC

Another panel’s discussion revolved around the findings of the Women’s Advisory Council appointed by Page to study how women can be more involved in SBC life.
“I was just convinced,” Page said of his decision to appoint the council, “that our women in the SBC are underutilized and under-involved, and the truth is that they make up the majority of Southern Baptists.”
Council chair Rhonda Kelley “has done a phenomenal job in involving a wide variety of women across the convention to bring to me a report of how we can deepen the involvement of women, how we can encourage them in their ministry and how we can involve them more in SBC life,” Page said.
Kelley, wife of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley, discussed a survey the council distributed to state leaders for women to complete. Some 3,200 women from every state completed the survey, Kelley said.
“They provided for us a lot of helpful information ... about the past, present and, we think, future involvement of women in and through our Southern Baptist churches, according to biblical guidelines, specifically to reach more women with the Gospel message,” Kelley said.
Ashlyn Portero, executive director at City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., suggested steps the SBC could take to get more women involved.
“I think part of it is bringing along more of our female staff members [to SBC annual meetings] and not just bringing them here to take it all in and get the experience, but to educate them on why it is important to be involved in Southern Baptist life,” Portero said.

6/21/2017 10:23:53 AM by David Roach & Daniel Woodman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ezell: SBC needs a ‘Gospel Conversation Resurgence’

June 21 2017 by Mike Ebert, NAMB

Pledging “NAMB will do its part,” North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell said the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) needs a “Gospel Conversation Resurgence” if declining baptism numbers are to turn around.
“If one member from each of our 47,000 churches shares the gospel each day, it would result in over 17 million gospel conversations in a year,” Ezell told messengers at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix. “Can you imagine what would happen if Southern Baptists had that many gospel conversations?”

Photo by Matt Jones
North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell delivers the NAMB report June 14 on the last day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. He reported 732 new churches were planted and 232 existing churches began cooperating with the SBC in 2016.

Ezell shared how the Send Conference, co-presented by NAMB and the International Mission Board, challenges and equips believers to be on mission to share Jesus in everyday life. More than 8,000 have attended the conferences this year with another scheduled for late July in Orlando, Fla.
In addition, NAMB’s Three Circles Life Conversation Guide has more than 2 million copies in circulation and the phone app has been downloaded more than 93,000 times.
Shifting to how NAMB missionaries are evangelizing North America, Ezell shared that Dan Coleman, church planting missionary in Augusta, Maine, has averaged 100 baptisms annually since his church was planted. La Chapelle, a church plant in Montreal, has baptized more than 450. And near Phoenix, Heart Cry Gathering has baptized 27 since its launch last year with 14 of those coming from Mormon backgrounds.
“Church planting is evangelism,” Ezell said. Citing an analysis of the SBC’s Annual Church Profile (ACP) from 2015, Ezell said church plants baptize a new believer for every 10 worship attendees. That’s 74 percent better than in established churches, where the ratio is one baptism for every 17.4 worship attendees.
In 2016, Ezell said Southern Baptists started 732 new churches in North America with 232 new affiliations for a total of 964 new congregations.
“We need to be planting more,” he said. “But our biggest challenge is finding workers for the harvest field.”
Still, the impact of new churches in areas outside the South has been significant, even in a relatively short amount of time.
Ezell shared that churches planted since 2010 accounted for more that 25 percent or more of all baptisms in the Maryland-Delaware, Northwest and New York state Baptist conventions, according to an analysis of 2015 ACP data. New England and Alaska conventions saw 42 percent of all baptisms from church plants. And in Canada, 62 percent of all reported baptisms came from churches started since 2010.
“Your missionaries are reaching people for Christ,” Ezell said. “More Gospel congregations will lead to more gospel conversations.”
Church plants are also growing the SBC footprint beyond the South. In several state conventions, churches started since 2010 account for more than 20 percent of all SBC churches. In the Penn-South Jersey, Minnesota-Wisconsin and New York state conventions, 30 percent of all churches were started since 2010. One-third of all SBC churches in the New England convention are post-2010 plants and in Canada, it’s 47 percent.
“Southern Baptist work is growing stronger and stronger in these areas because your churches sacrificially send the resources,” Ezell told SBC messengers.
In closing, Ezell thanked Southern Baptists for giving the second highest amount ever to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions last year.
“We exist to serve pastors and churches,” he said. “You are the missionary-sending centers. You are the church planting centers.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Ebert writes for the North American Mission Board.)

6/21/2017 10:20:26 AM by Mike Ebert, NAMB | with 0 comments

Financial stewardship is a heart matter, panel says

June 21 2017 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

Good financial stewardship stems from a right relationship with God, and the Bible has plenty to say about managing God’s resources God’s way, a group of pastors said during the President’s Panel on Stewardship June 14 at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Phoenix.
Led by SBC President Steve Gaines, the panel consisted of Hance Dilbeck, pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City; Jordan Easley, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn.; Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark.; Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee; K. Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia; and Chris Brown of Ramsey Solutions in Nashville, Tenn.

Photo by Matt Jones
Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines leads the President’s Panel on stewardship with pastors, left to right, Hance Dilbeck, Ronnie Floyd, K. Marshall Williams, Jordan Easley, Frank S. Page, and Chris Brown.

In a culture where the average American spends $1.26 for every dollar earned and 70 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, the church must teach God’s way of handling money because Americans will naturally gravitate toward the world’s way, Brown said.
“The world is doing a great job of teaching their way,” Brown said, adding that God’s way is based on gratitude while the world’s way is tied to entitlement.
Stewardship is about lordship, Dilbeck said, “so when people are struggling with stewardship, there is that sense of a deeper issue about lordship.” He noted that the Apostle Paul teaching on financial stewardship in 2 Corinthians points to the cross.
“He doesn’t talk about money,” Dilbeck said. “He talks to them about what Jesus has done for us on the cross and how we owe Him everything. Oftentimes, I find that people who are struggling with financial stewardship have never really gotten ahold of the lordship of Christ – Him owning everything.”
Williams said he considers believers God’s trustees, and each year he leads his church in a series on stewardship. “Many times people’s hearts are right in their wallets, in their pocketbooks,” Williams said. “I figure if you get the heart, you’ve got the wallet.”
One way to preach about stewardship unashamedly, Floyd said, is to encourage believers through personal testimony. Tell the story of how God impacts individual lives through giving, he said. “It’s grounded in the doctrine of God, that God owns absolutely everything and I own absolutely nothing,” Floyd said.
Easley said that if the Word of God addresses it, the preacher of God’s Word ought to address it. “There’s a lot of things we’d love to avoid, but this is one of those things that I believe as shepherds of hearts we have to teach people how to express love to the Lord,” Easley said. “I believe that giving is attached to the expression of love.”
Page said there’s a fear today based on people saying, “All the church wants is our money.” This can cause pastors, he noted, to shrink back from addressing financial stewardship. But Page uses scripture to teach people what Jesus said about money, and he tries to get them to understand that he’s not trying to get their money but to help them be free.
“When you start doing what God says, you’re going to experience financial freedom because God’s going to be able to take [your finances] farther than what you were doing with whatever it was you were keeping,” Page said.
Dilbeck said some people have lived so long under the pressure of debt that they’ve come to embrace it as a normal way of life.
“They don’t understand the burden, the way it affects a woman’s sense of security in the home, a man’s sense of respect, and that struggle starts moving to the core,” Dilbeck said. “Some of it is helping people understand there is a different way. They don’t have to live the way the rest of the world is living.”
Tithing is a spiritual discipline, Dilbeck said, such as learning to pray, worship and share the gospel. “When a child learns to tithe, they’re learning to order their financial life. It’s one of the best things we can do for a young person as we raise them up,” Dilbeck said.
Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., said his children remember him tearing up credit card applications that would come in the mail.
“Just because they say you qualify doesn’t mean you qualify,” Gaines said. “… If you mortgage the future to pay for the present, you’re in a lot of trouble.”
Page said he grew up in a poor home and was humiliated by calls from debt collectors as a child. He taught his daughters to live by the 80-10-10 principle, which means giving the first tenth of the income to God, saving another tenth and living on 80 percent.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville.)

6/21/2017 10:16:20 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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