June 2018

Connect 316 prays for unity, clarity in SBC

June 26 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

On the eve of this year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, Connect 316 – an organization advocating a “traditionalist” view of salvation – convened for a prayer meeting in lieu of its annual celebration.

Photo by Kathleen Murray
Richard Land, middle, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., prays with David Hankins, right, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, and other attendees at a meeting of Connect 316 June 11 at the Omni Hotel in Dallas.

“We heard” outgoing SBC President Steve Gaines’ call to prayer, Connect 316 executive board member Tim Barnette told the June 11 gathering at the Dallas Omni. “So we wanted to join him in that and support that because we believe, like Jerry Falwell Sr. used to say, that nothing of eternal consequence takes place apart from concerted prayer. We believe what James says, that the prayer of the righteous is intensely powerful.”
Connect 316’s previously scheduled gathering was to feature an address by SBC presidential candidate Ken Hemphill and presentation of the Jerry Vines Award for Promotion of Whosoever Will Doctrine in Southern Baptist Life. But the organization changed its plans in early June. The schedule adjustment followed Gaines’ call to prayer and the sudden resignation of Connect 316 executive director Rick Patrick.
Connect 316, according to its website, is a fellowship that affirms a doctrine of salvation between that of Calvinism and Arminianism, holding that Christ died for the sins of every person.
The prayer meeting featured brief remarks by three Connect 316 participants – David Hankins, Richard Land and Leighton Flowers – as well as intercession for SBC annual meeting participants, unity within the convention and clarity in the way Southern Baptists articulate their beliefs about salvation.
Nearly 120 Southern Baptists attended the gathering, which followed the evening session of the SBC Pastors’ Conference.
Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, read from Psalm 46 and said believers’ strength comes from God.
“Whatever we’re up against – whether it’s in our personal lives or in our congregational life or in our convention life – God is the one who has to win the battle,” Hankins said. “The horse is made ready for the battle, but victory rests with the Lord. Some of us have been working to get the horse ready for battle.” Yet at the SBC annual meeting “victory rests with the Lord, and that’s why we are coming to pray.”
Hankins led in prayer for participants in the annual meeting, including Hemphill and fellow presidential candidate J.D. Greear, who went on to win the election June 12. Hemphill attended the prayer gathering, and attendees received a copy of his book Unlimited: God’s Love, Atonement, and Mission.
Land, former president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, led in prayer for unity within the SBC and said the convention appears to be “more divided than any time I can remember since the 1988 convention in San Antonio,” which occurred amid the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence.
Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 2:4 that God “wants everyone to be saved,” Land said, has “been the bedrock of what has united us for missions both here and around the world.”
The SBC “is divided, and we need true unity,” said Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., a unity “that’s based upon repentance and honesty and transparency before God, and repentance and honesty and transparency before each other.”
Leighton Flowers, evangelism director for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, led in prayer that Southern Baptists would be clear concerning their beliefs about the doctrine of salvation.
“It is not divisive to be clear,” Flowers said. “It is not divisive to speak up about your concerns within the body.... It is not wrong for me to say, ‘Brother, I love you, but I disagree with how you interpret Romans 9’” concerning the doctrine of election.
The gathering concluded with attendees’ joining hands as they prayed for clarity and for God’s will to be accomplished in the SBC.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.  Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/26/2018 11:04:42 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pew: Religious restrictions spreading globally

June 25 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Religious restrictions continue to spread globally in Pew Research Center’s ninth annual study of laws and social hostilities in 198 countries, although most countries still rank low to moderate on a study scale researchers devised.
Less than half of the countries, 42 percent, ranked high or very high on Pew’s scale of restrictions including both laws and social hostilities, up from 40 percent in 2015 and 29 percent in the baseline study period of 2007, Pew said.
“Since some of these countries are among the world’s most populous (such as China and India), this means that a large share of the world’s population in 2016 – 83 percent – lived in countries with high or very high religious restrictions,” Pew said, as compared to 79 percent of the world’s population living in those countries in 2015.
With religious minorities bearing the brunt of the restrictions and harassment, Pew said, “the actual proportion of the world’s population that is affected by high levels of religious restrictions may be considerably lower than 85 percent.”
In spite of the rankings and variables, religiously motivated harassment and restrictions of varying amounts, whether from the government or society, were reported in 187 of the countries studied. The findings are up from 169 countries in 2015 and indicate the most widespread harassment since 2007.
Rankings are based on a composite of government restrictions, including laws, policies and actions by officials, which had increased, and hostilities perpetrated by organizations and social groups, which had remained stable. In its study, Pew devised a 10-point scale based on several indicators and divided the countries into five regions, the Americas, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Middle-East/North Africa.
Christians were most likely to face governmental and social harassment in the Asia-Pacific region, Pew said. There, governments in 30 percent of the countries harassed Christians, and social groups in 27 percent of the countries had done so. Across the globe, Christians were harassed in 144 countries, up from 128 countries in 2015.
“In Uzbekistan, for example, authorities raided the private homes of Protestant Christians, seized religious literature and imposed fines,” Pew said in its report. “And in Nepal, local communities in the Kathmandu Valley opposed burials by perceived ‘outsiders,’ making it difficult for Protestant churches to access land they had bought years earlier.”
Muslims were most likely to face harassment by both governments and social groups in Europe, where governmental harassment was found in 28 percent of the countries and social harassment in 36 percent. Globally, Muslims were harassed in 142 countries in 2016, up from 125 the previous year.
Jews, who comprise 0.2 percent of the world’s population, faced harassment in 87 countries, most often perpetrated by individuals rather than the government.
Egypt, Russia, India, Indonesia and Turkey had the highest levels of both government restrictions and social hostilities in 2016, among the world’s most populous countries. In government restrictions alone, China ranked highest, with India ranking highest in social hostilities.
When considering government restrictions alone, 55 countries – comprising 28 percent of those studied – ranked high and very high on the scale, Pew said, compared to 50 countries or 25 percent in 2015.
When considering societal harassment, the 54 countries that ranked high or very high on the scale in 2016 were virtually unchanged from the 53 countries ranking high or very high the previous year, remaining stable at 27 percent.
Ranking highest in government restrictions in addition to China, Russian Egypt and Turkey were Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Turkmenistan, Syria, Algeria, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Eritrea, Morocco, Brunei, Singapore, Western Sahara, Azerbaijan, Laos, Burma, Iraq and Mauritania.
Ranking highest in societal harassment in addition to India, Russia and Egypt were Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Palestinian territories, Israel and Bangladesh.
Government restrictions included efforts to ban particular faiths, prohibit conversion, limit preaching or give preferential treatment to one or more religious groups. Social hostilities included religion-related armed conflict or terrorism, mob or sectarian violence and harassment over religion-based attire.
Researchers studied more than a dozen sources of public information, including reports from the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, various European groups, the United Nations and many independent, nongovernmental organizations, Pew said.
The full report is available pewforum.org under the religion tab.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/25/2018 10:55:33 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

CP panelists tackle race, state of SBC, Calvinism

June 25 2018 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Panelists on the Cooperative Program (CP) Stage in the exhibit hall prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in Dallas, discussed a variety of cultural and denominational issues during 20-minute segments live-streamed on talkcp.com.

Photo by Adam Covington
Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), center, discusses the state of the SBC during a panel discussion with R. Albert Mohler Jr., right, and Jon Akin, director of young leader engagement for the North American Mission Board (NAMB).

Among topics on the stage were the state of the SBC, abuse in the church (see related story), racism, diversity and Calvinism.
“There’s a lot more good in the Southern Baptist Convention than there is bad,” said outgoing SBC President Steve Gaines in a June 11 discussion on the state of the SBC. But with the recent negative headlines regarding some of its most well-known leaders, Gaines noted that “God is trying to get our attention. We struggle with pride. We need to humble ourselves and let God use us.”
The segments featuring seminary staff and faculty, entity leaders, church planters, missionaries, authors and other experts were designed to address topics of interest to Southern Baptists attending their annual gathering and those watching online, said C. Ashley Clayton, the SBC’s vice president for Cooperative Program and stewardship.
“The panelists are ‘thought agents’ discussing important and high-leverage issues at the top of the mind for many, if not most, Southern Baptists,” Clayton told Baptist Press.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), and Gaines joined moderator Jonathan Akin for a discussion on the state of the SBC.
“I’m very thankful we are part of a family,” Mohler said. “In a family, you don’t want a film crew with you every minute,” but that’s essentially what happens in a 24/7 secular media world. “We may have our pride wounded, but that happens before God uses us.”
Gaines added, “All of us need to live in a state of repentance and humility ... Everyone should have around them people who will hold them accountable and not be impressed” by the position they hold.

Photo by Samuelle Grove
Jon Akin, left, director of Young Leader Engagement at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) moderates a panel discussion June 11 on Diversity and Race Relations in the Southern Baptist Convention. Panelists included, left to right: Danny Akin president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Jarvis Williams, associate professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS); and Dhati Lewis, associate professor for New Testament at SBTS and pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta.

When Akin asked how the publicity surrounding the SBC was similar to the sex abuse scandals of recent years in the Roman Catholic church, Mohler said the SBC does not have a hierarchy, and there was no “organized silence.” He suggested there was an unorganized silence that let the concept of male superiority fester across the denomination for many years.
In the panel discussion on “Removing the Stain of Racism from the SBC,” various Southern Baptist leaders that included Jarvis Williams, Mohler, Curtis Woods, Matthew Hall and Kevin Jones discussed the reasons for the ineffectiveness to date of denominational repentance related to racism. 
“In 1995, what Southern Baptists wanted to say was, ‘We’re drawing a line’ so that in the future there would be no racism in the SBC,” Mohler said of that year’s resolution addressing racial reconciliation. “It was wrong, but honest.”
Southern Baptists wanted to put an end to racism, but the stain of it remained, said Mohler, who was part of the committee that brought the resolution to that year’s meeting.
“We needed to escape the trap of history,” Mohler continued. “You can’t just draw a line. [Racial reconciliation] is a stand that if we deal with it rightly, can show the gospel of Christ.”
Reconciliation with God requires healing the bad, Hall, dean of Southern Seminary’s Boyce College, said. “We need to start telling the stories and start the healing.”
Racism is a gospel issue, not a social issue, said Woods, associate executive director for convention relations at the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Mohler agreed.
“Our early Southern Baptists argued that there was a natural order of those who lead and those who follow,” Mohler said. “The gospel order is to declare Christ together ... You can see how bad theology leads to a horrible gospel.”
Two SBTS founders owned slaves when they started the school, Woods pointed out.
Akin moderated a later discussion that afternoon on diversity and race relations, where he was joined by Danny Akin, Jarvis Williams, and Dhati Lewis.
People of many races have contributed to the growth of the SBC, Williams said, but their stories haven’t been told.
One example: emancipated slave George Lisle was the first Baptist missionary to Jamaica, 30 years before Adoniram Judson went to Burma, and 10 years before William Carey went to India, Lewis said.  
“We need new textbooks,” Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said.
Moderator Jonathan Akin asked, “When will we know” the racially-inflicted wounds have been healed? He noted Southern Baptists want to move on, but seem mired in the mud of years past.
“Embracing a new reality is the next step after sorrow,” said Lewis, pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta. “It [racism] happened. A true repentance is the fruit of sorrow.”
Williams, associate professor of New Testament at SBTS, suggested providing scholarships for blacks and those of other ethnicities with a financial need would be one way of showing repentance, making reparations for years of racism.
“With great intentionality,” Danny Akin said, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary last year provided $300,000 in scholarships for ethnic minorities seeking advanced degrees.
The panel discussed ways the SBC can avoid tokenism. “Endow people with real power, so they are not just at the end of the table,” Williams said. “There’s a difference between diversity for the sake of diversity, which is tokenism, and a spiritually-empowered, gospel-centered, multi-ethnic, Kingdom-building inclusion that effects a long-term, systemic change in our SBC entities.”
“We’ve talked about it,” Danny Akin said. “Now it’s time to do it.”
During the segment addressing Calvinism, Southern Baptist pastors Willy Rice and Dean Inserra joined moderator Jonathan Howe to discuss what Rice said has become a divisive issue among Southern Baptists.
The reason, Inserra concurred, is because the term “Calvinism” lacks definition. One person might be a 3-point Calvinist, while others might be a 1-, 2-, 4- or 5-point Calvinist or something else, he explained.
“We should be able to get along,” said Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla. When he interviews a person for a staff position, he doesn’t ask their Calvinist position. “I want to know their heart,” he said. “Show me a guy who cares about people. That tells me all I need to know.”
Inserra, pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., mentioned “false caricatures” that include the supposition Calvinists don’t believe in evangelism.
“I think this needs to stop,” he said. “That’s nonsense.”
Inserra noted, “I think we’re using soteriology to disguise power, pride and tribalism. There’s a lot of arrogance on both sides of the fence.”
Rice said, “It’s always the mission in Southern Baptist life to win people to Jesus Christ.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent with Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/25/2018 10:48:20 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Panel takes stock of Southern Baptists’ unity

June 25 2018 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

Engaging the topic of unity within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) President Jason Allen moderated a panel discussion during the fourth annual For the Church Regional Conference June 12.

Photo by Matt Miller
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted a micro-conference June 12 featuring eight panelists discussing contemporary challenges facing Southern Baptist churches. Panelists included (left to right): Thom Rainer, H.B Charles Jr., Mark Dever, Micah Fries, Noe Garcia, J.D. Greear, Vance Pitman and Jason Allen.

More than 1,000 people filled the room to hear a spirited discussion by J.D. Greear, Thom Rainer, Mark Dever, H.B. Charles Jr., Vance Pitman, Noe Garcia and Micah Fries during the SBC annual meeting at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.
Allen queried the panelists on four points: the general state of the SBC’s unity; whether social media can be used in a healthy manner in creating unity; the state of unity in the local church; and whether the denomination should be hopeful about unity.
Fries, pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., noted two trends he finds troubling regarding unity within the SBC.
“There has been an emphasis on performance over piety,” Fries said. “As a result of this, I feel we’ve lost our moral and ethical center to some degree ... What ultimately results is a lack of Christlikeness in our lives, and particularly in the way we engage with one another.”
Also of concern, Fries said, is that many at the national level engage one another in a way they would never do at the local church level. “We treat each other differently, again, because of a lack of a moral and ethical center that needs to be reclaimed through a commitment to holiness and piety.”
A more personal perspective, said Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, could get to the root of the issue. Instead of wondering what the denomination or local church might do to address such issues, he noted personal introspection might be the greater need of the day.
“When I begin to ask, ‘God, what would You have me to do?’ about a certain issue, I realize I have so far to go that I don’t have the wherewithal or integrity then to criticize others because I fall so short myself,” Rainer said.
“I wonder what would happen,” he said, “if several million Southern Baptists would simply say, ‘I want to be a gospel-bearer; I want to be a man or woman of integrity; and I’m going to worry about myself first, and then my church.’ As a result, you’ll see the church and denomination become much happier.”
Garcia, pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, thinks of Ephesians 4 when the subject of unity arises. Particularly within the passage, he noted, are the words, “be eager to keep the peace.”
“Unfortunately, we have failed somewhat to do this in the SBC. Here is my fear. It is that the LDS tells a better story than the SBC does,” Garcia said, referencing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons. “We’re doing so much good, but you wouldn’t know it because social media gives ‘feet’ to the bad.
“We’re so concerned about being right on social media that at the same time we disregard the bride of Christ. We have to be more eager to protect the bride of Christ than being right in the SBC.”
Regarding ways social media affects SBC unity, Allen asked if there is a healthy approach to using the medium to convey key messages.
Rainer proposed a three-step process before interacting on social media:
“First, I understand that anything I place on social media becomes permanent,” Rainer said. “Then I ask how I would want to be treated, and lastly I ask if what I’m saying is doing something helpful for the body of Christ.”“
Allen said he considers “to whom am I speaking” as a governing principle when interacting on social media.
“I try to treat it the way I would speak to someone in my church. I try not to be shrill, angry or sarcastic when I type it out,” Allen said. “It takes maturity on all of our parts to interact on social media responsibly and to build unity.”
Allen’s third question transitioned to the state of the local church when it comes to unity.
Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, said he feels there’s a fresh move of God within Southern Baptist churches, especially through church planting.
“The young guys I’m around who are planting churches and have a heart for the mission and engaging the city – who see the church as the tool to engage the city and nations for the gospel – are a fresh wind. I’m super encouraged [by] the number of baptisms through new churches planted in pioneer areas in America, and it is incredible and amazing to see what God is doing through the SBC.”
Also with a positive perspective, Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., added that over the 25 years he’s been in the nation’s capital, the number of evangelical Christians has increased not just in the SBC but in other denominations as well.
“There are more people in more assemblies where the gospel is preached every Sunday in the D.C. area than there was 25 years ago. There’s really good news out there,” Dever said.
Wrapping up the event, Allen directed a question to Greear, who pastors The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., and will serve as the next president of the SBC. Allen asked, “Why are you hopeful for the SBC?”
Greear responded, “We are seeing in multiple ways that God is moving in the SBC, and he is answering some prayers in ways we might not have expected. I see this as an invitation to respond to God.
“There are some 6,400 unreached people groups,” Greear added. “This means the greatest days of God’s movement are in front of us. I really want to be part of that and I want my kids to be a part of that. I want to see God continue to work through us because the nations are waiting on the gospel.”
The full panel discussion will be available at mbts.edu.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/25/2018 10:44:09 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments

SBC, church’s role in politics focus of 9Marks panel

June 25 2018 by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS

The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) current condition and how churches should engage politics were topics of conversation at this year’s 9Marks evening events, June 11-12, in Dallas.

Photo by Mark Ira Hooks
Mark Dever, left, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and president of 9Marks, and Jonathan Lehman discuss the church's role in politics June 11 in Dallas.

Mark Dever moderated both 9Marks events, hosted with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). Dever is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and president of 9Marks, an organization dedicated to helping foster church health. The events, which started at 9 p.m., were held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. 
Dever interviewed Jonathan Leeman, editorial director for 9Marks, Monday June 11 to discuss Leeman’s new book, How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith & Politics in a Divided Age. Leeman’s book seeks to show that the church cannot be religiously neutral in the realm of politics. 
“Not only should we not do that, we can’t do that,” Leeman said. “That’s impossible.”
Both Dever and pastors in attendance had the opportunity for an interactive conversation regarding Leeman’s book in which they discussed the role of government in the life of the church and individual believer.
“The good of government is that it builds a platform for salvation,” Leeman said.
He encouraged pastors and church members to also allow for Christian freedom and the Lord’s guidance when it comes to fellow believers making political decisions.
If we pray for our neighbors, we should be praying for our politicians, said Leeman, referencing how Paul encouraged believers to pray for authority in 1 Timothy 2.
“I think one of the glorious opportunities you have, if you’re the pastor of a church, is to build the kind of love and empathy and unity that the unbelieving world around you does not understand,” Dever said.
On June 12, Southern Baptist leaders discussed the state of the convention and addressed specific questions raised by those in attendance.
One pastor asked the panel whether or not a trustee board had ever been voted out of office in the history of the SBC, referring to the vote that would happen June 13 regarding the motion brought to remove the executive committee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which messengers did not pass the following day.
“If you set up a situation where the convention removes trustees because the convention in a moment in a meeting disagrees with the decision the trustees made, then you don’t have a trustee system,” said Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
One area of encouragement mentioned by Danny Akin, president of SEBTS, was the election earlier that Tuesday of J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, as president of the SBC.
“I think J.D. is where the future is,” Akin said. “He will lead us well. I think he will model well for us.”
Akin said the 68 percent vote for Greear shows that an older generation is ready to “pass the baton” to the next generation while still providing wise counsel.
With so many current vacancies in the SBC, Dever asked Akin if those who are new to the SBC should be worried.
“It’s not unsettling. There’s an opportunity for great advancement in a new day,” said Akin, expressing excitement for what’s ahead.
Dever asked pastors Matt Chandler and H.B. Charles Jr. how they could encourage newer Southern Baptist members with best practices in SBC participation over the two-day meeting.
“Each year when we’ve come in, [we’ve] met with individuals from the IMB, NAMB and [we] talk church planting and global missions,” said Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, explaining how his team collaborates with others during the annual meeting.
“There are great gospel things going on,” said Charles, pastor-teacher at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville and Orange Park, Fla., “and to hear those reports about what God is doing in the seminaries and in NAMB and the IMB. It’s not just business stuff. Those are important things to hear and those are testimonies to how God is at work. I would say take it in and rejoice over those things.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lauren Pratt is the news and information specialist for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/25/2018 10:40:06 AM by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS | with 0 comments

B21 panel urges strong stand on abuse of all forms

June 25 2018 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

Southern Baptists should take a strong stand against all forms of abuse and fight to create gracious church environments in which abuse victims are heard and loved, panelists said during the Baptist21 luncheon on June 12 in Dallas.

Photo by Van Payne
Trillia Newbell, left, director of community outreach for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Matt Chandler, pastor of Village Church near Dallas, were part of the B21 panel discussion June 12 during a break of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

More than 1,300 people attended the sold-out event in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center during the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting to hear seven Southern Baptist leaders address the theme of “United and Diverse: Critical Issues for our Cooperative Future.”
The panel was moderated by Jedidiah Coppenger, co-founder of Baptist21 and lead pastor of Redemption City Church in Franklin, Tenn. The panel featured Trillia Newbell, Russell Moore, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Kevin Smith, Matt Chandler, Danny Akin, and D.A. Horton.
In light of recent scandals involving sexual immorality and sexual abuse throughout evangelicalism and the SBC, churches and institutions need to reevaluate and update their policies for dealing with immoral and criminal behavior, said Newbell, director of community outreach for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Churches and institutions need to develop extensive procedures well before abuse occurs, she said, so that abuse victims will feel free to speak out about their experiences. Victims need to know they are safe and loved, Newbell noted. This means leaders and other church members should not act surprised if someone reports abuse.
“We’ve got to take the shock out of our suffering,” she said. “If you respond in shock, it is so shaming. It immediately adds guilt and shame,” she said. “Make sure you have gracious environments. It is difficult to share that you have been sexually assaulted – you can be victimized and you can be viewed differently. You don’t need to re-victimize victims.”
Newbell, who previously shared about her own experience of abuse at age 18, also said women need to be part of every institution’s process of reevaluating its abuse policies.
“Talk to women in your midst who have experienced abuse, because they are the ones who will understand how to truly help,” Newbell said.
Chandler, pastor of the Village Church in Ft. Worth, Texas, and president of the Acts29 Network, said churches should look for outside help as they update their abuse policies. Village Church uses the Ft. Worth-based Love & Norris law firm, which helps both secular and religious organizations prevent abuse and appropriately respond to it. A lot is expected of pastors in 2018, Chandler said, and they need to understand where they need help.
“We need to be trained in this,” he said. “I don’t care how well you know your Bible – we are not ready for this. We have got to get Christian outside help that helps us understand what to do in a fallen world.”
No church or pastor wants to be known for enabling sexual abusers, but churches and institutions can be so single-minded about their mission that they overlook major sin and criminality, said Moore, who is president of the ERLC.
“We want so much for our communities to see the good things that Jesus is doing within the church. Sometimes that can lead to an institutional self-preservation,” Moore said. “That then leads to a silencing, a marginalization of victims, and it can actually empower abuse.”
Moore said churches need to remember that they live in a “Genesis 3 world” in which sin still exists, even in the church. Churches should plan beforehand to handle abuse appropriately, and when abuse occurs to handle it quickly and transparently.
“Start thinking about this in ministry long before it happens. And when it does happen, don’t move into a motivation to hide.”

Complementarianism ‘not the problem’

Mohler noted the evangelical church’s failure to deal appropriately with sexual abuse is often based on a misunderstanding of complementarianism – the view that women are equal to men but have different roles and responsibilities in the church and the home than men.
Mohler said Southern Baptists need to be clear about what complementarianism does and does not mean.
“It’s embarrassing to be called by people to defend your theology under the accusation that it leads to the abuse of women, but what if it does? Or what if it can? Then it is our responsibility to make sure it must not.” Mohler said. “Distortions of complementarianism will be no more welcome among us than distortions of any other biblical doctrine. And when we are talking about any other biblical doctrine, historically we know what to call it. So let’s use the strongest language of sin and idolatry like the word ‘heresy’ to indicate distortions.”
Chandler said Southern Baptists should not give up on the doctrine of complementarianism but make sure they apply it appropriately. The theology of complementarianism is not the problem, Chandler said, but rather its practice in many cases.
“Without even knowing it, you’ll [communicate], ‘Women are dangerous, and we can’t let women destroy taking the gospel call to the nations.’ Complementarianism says ‘We need women,’” Chandler said. “Complementarian theology is right and good. But where it breaks down and leads to all sorts of dark things is in the philosophy and practice of a very good doctrine.... Are you in your practice actually more of a patriarchal oppressor than a complementarian?”

Racial diversity a ‘snapshot’ of the kingdom

The panel also addressed the problem of racism in the American church. D.A. Horton, pastor of Reach Fellowship and chief evangelist for the Urban Youth Workers Institute, said the church needs to identify racism for what it is: the “sin of partiality.” When the church fails to use biblical language about racism, it lets it linger, he said.
Horton said the kingdom of God is ultimately multiethnic and multigenerational, and the church should be made up of people from different racial backgrounds – not just African Americans, but also Latinos, Asian Americans, and Middle Eastern Christians.
“We have to think systemically and structurally in our convention what it looks like to reflect the eschatological people we really are on this side of eternity,” he said. “[The church is]; a snapshot for the onlooking world that this is what the kingdom of heaven looks like.”
Newbell added that Christians should recognize the value of knowing and loving their neighbors. Many believers approach racial issues from a negative perspective, she said, highlighting the church’s failure to denounce slavery and Jim Crow laws and the tainted racial legacy of the SBC. Racial diversity is not just a reversal of past wrongs, it is a celebration of God’s creative work, she said.
“If we really want our churches to be transformed, we have got to get to know our neighbor. Proximity changes everything,” Newbell said. “Look at the scriptures, and you see God creating a people in his image – all very different – to reflect His glory. Jesus died on the cross, bearing the wrath that we all deserve, and anyone who would believe from every tribe, tongue and nation gets to be with Him for eternity. We can celebrate this. My prayer and hope for the church and us is that we can celebrate together the way we are made differently. Proximity allows for that change.”
Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said everyone comes from a different perspective – a perspective that can change as believers listen to one another. Akin said he was grieved by how aggressively political much of the SBC was during the 2016 presidential election.
“Some of [the politics] was absolutely wrong, ungodly, and it misrepresented people,” he said. “Those who said what they said and did some of the things they did ought to be ashamed of themselves. That’s not how we as a convention of churches should be doing our business when it comes to electing our president.”
Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, said the church needs to value other believers’ political opinions. And this others-directed mindset is not optional, he said.
“It’s extremely helpful to engage a fellow believer that you’re disagreeing with as a brother or sister [rather] than an enemy,” he said. “Let us consider one another. To not consider one another is not a bad option – it’s sin. Biblical imperatives trump options.”
Video of the B21 panel will be available soon at baptist21.com. B21 is a pastor-led network that focuses on addressing issues relevant to Southern Baptists in the 21st century.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andrew J.W. Smith writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/25/2018 10:34:09 AM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments

Platt underscores Lottie Moon’s urgency for the gospel

June 22 2018 by Ann Lovell

This year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) marked the 100th anniversary of the naming of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt told more than 1,100 Southern Baptists at the IMB dinner June 11 at the SBC annual meeting in Dallas.

Photo by Chris Carter/IMB
This year's SBC annual meeting marked the 100th anniversary of the naming of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, with IMB President David Platt highlighting her missions urgency: "The needs of these people press upon my soul."

Lottie Moon was a single female missionary who served with the Foreign Mission Board (now IMB) in China from 1873 until her death on Dec. 24, 1912, aboard a ship in the harbor of Kobe, Japan. She is among Southern Baptists’ most well-known missionaries, thanks to the passionate letters she wrote to people back home advocating for more workers and more financial resources.
“Why did messengers to the convention make sure that we would remember her name 100 years later?” Platt asked. “Why have we raised billions of dollars in honor of this fiery miniature missionary – a 4-foot, 3-inch woman whose feet didn’t even touch the floor when she sat in a chair?”
The answers to those questions, Platt said, date back to Dec. 12, 1840, when Charlotte (“Lottie”) Diggs Moon was born, and to Dec. 21, 1858, when the intelligent young woman with the fiery personality was born again and subsequently had an urgency to impart her faith through missions.
Referencing an 1849 Foreign Mission Board policy that no single woman could serve as a missionary, Platt said Moon “believed that every person, regardless of gender, had a part to play in reaching every nation ... that every church, regardless of size or resources, had a part to play in reaching every nation,” Platt said.


Photo by Chris Carter/IMB
Bandan Koro African Drum and Dance Ensemble perform at the beginning of the IMB dinner at the SBC annual meeting in Dallas.

Through her letters, Lottie reminded Southern Baptists of their responsibility to send and support missionaries. She wrote in a letter dated Nov. 1, 1873, “The harvest is very great, and the laborers, oh! so few. Why does the Southern Baptist church lag behind in this great work?”
“‘Why,’ Lottie Moon had asked, ‘with so much opportunity to spread the gospel around the world to people who have never heard the name of Jesus, do so few Southern Baptists go to them?’” Platt recounted. “Why were Southern Baptists placing limits on the kinds of people who could go? Why were Southern Baptists placing limits on the amount of support they might send?”
Continuing from Lottie’s letter, Platt read, “The needs of these people press upon my soul, and I cannot be silent. It is grievous to think of these human souls going down to death without even one opportunity of hearing the name of Jesus. ... Why are the laborers so few? Where we have four, we should have not less than 100. Are these wild words? They would not seem so were the church of God awake to her high privilege and her weighty responsibilities.”
Platt reminded pastors and church leaders of the challenge Lottie shared from Matthew 9:37: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
He urged pastors and church leaders to pray for more workers to reach the 2.8 billion people throughout the world who have yet to hear the gospel, challenging them to change those statistics.
“How will we as a convention of churches change that? I bring you good news tonight,” Platt said.
“The IMB, by the grace of God, is on firm financial ground. We have worked hard to open pathways to send limitless ‘Lottie Moons’ around the world from Southern Baptist churches. But that will not happen if pastors and church leaders in this room do not wake up to your high privilege and weighty responsibility to send them,” Platt said. “This is why we exist as a Southern Baptist Convention: for the sending of missionaries to men, women and children ... who have never heard the good news of the gospel.”

Photo by Chris Carter/IMB
IMB dinner guests pray over a personal letter from an IMB missionary. Each of the 1,100 people attending the dinner received a personal letter from a different IMB missionary, thanking the local church for their partnership and describing their ministry.

The dinner, broadcast on Facebook Live, concluded by allowing guests to read a letter written by a newly appointed IMB missionary and to pray for them as if they were Lottie Moon – “with 40 years of trials and triumphs ahead of them.”
Platt and Edgar Aponte, IMB vice president for mobilization, also assured pastors and church leaders that IMB is listening to churches.
“We spent many months learning from churches of all sizes in an effort to be a better partner,” Aponte said.
“At IMB, we believe that every church, regardless of size or resources has a part to play in the Great Commission,” Platt said. “There is no church too small to send missionaries when we are working together. There is no church too big to send missionaries with us.”
“Every church. Every nation,” Platt concluded. “Together this coalition of 40,000 churches can make a massive dent in getting the gospel to the nations.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ann Lovell is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Va. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/22/2018 12:10:41 PM by Ann Lovell | with 0 comments

Hispanics talk discipleship at LifeWay luncheon

June 22 2018 by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Convention

Nearly 60 Hispanic pastors and leaders gained discipleship insights and resources during a LifeWay Leadership luncheon June 12 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.

Photo by Keila Diaz
Nearly 60 Hispanic pastors and leaders gained discipleship insights and resources during a LifeWay Leadership luncheon June 12 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.

Craig Featherstone, LifeWay Global vice president, welcomed the group and noted LifeWay’s new centers in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil in addition to short-term Bible studies in Spanish.
These developments, he said, were steps toward creating resources to help churches – including Hispanic churches – make disciples and leaders.
“Without disciples the church cannot raise up new leaders,” Featherstone said.
Todd Adkins, director of LifeWay Leadership, spoke on how local churches can develop new leaders.
“God’s chosen vehicle to bring His Kingdom is the local church,” he said. “That’s plan A. There is no plan B.”
Adkins emphasized a model in which leaders develop disciples into leaders by having the disciple observe, then doing and having the disciple help, then vice versa and finally a handoff of responsibility.
Using Moses and Joshua as examples, Adkins illustrated two kinds of leadership legacies pastors can leave behind.
“Moses was intentional about developing Joshua by having Joshua with him everywhere,” so when Moses died, Joshua was able to pick up right were Moses left off. “Moses had a conviction for developing leaders,” Adkins said.
But after Joshua died, Adkins continued, the “following generations did not know God or what he had done for Israel. ... Joshua did not have a conviction for developing leaders.
“Often we think of baptism as the finish line but it should really be the starting point,” Adkins said.
Panelists Ramon Medina, pastor of Hispanic ministries at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, and Otto Sanchez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Ozama in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, answered questions about choosing, training and integrating leaders.
To build a team of trusted leaders, Medina advised finding people “who are different from you and can do things you can’t do.”
Sanchez listed steps the church he leads takes when building a team: prayer, observation, confirmation of character by others close to the candidate, ministry assignment, development and finally integration into the group.
In integrating new leaders into a formed group, Sanchez said the candidate will be observed thoroughly by the leadership team and then brought before the church for approval.
At Champion Forrest, Medina said, “[W]e observe a lot and then we put them through a character development class we’ve created.”
In 10-second advice for a church planter, Medina said “don’t limit yourself, God is great,” and Sanchez followed with “live with integrity and find the support of a godly leader.”
Cris Garrido, director of publishing for LifeWay Español, closed the luncheon with short but pointed comments about the importance of reading “resources that are edifying.”
“We must be diligent in reading because our time management and culture are not conducive to it.”
Some benefits of reading, Garrido added, are “gathering fresh ideas, understanding opposing views, and to know that we are not alone.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keila Diaz is a writer and digital communication assistant for the Florida Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/22/2018 12:10:28 PM by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments

Filipinos celebrate ministry, need more church planters

June 22 2018 by Morgan Collier, Baptist Press

The Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship of North America (FSBFNA) met together June 12 at Dallas Metroplex International Church to celebrate ministry accomplishments from the previous year and to worship followed by fellowship over lunch.

Photo by Kathleen Murray
Pastor Felix Sermon Jr., left, from Grace International Christian Church, Springfield, Va., and vice president for the East Coast Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship, prays for Pastor Alvin Camota of International Christian Fellowship in Suffern, N.Y. Camota was elected vice president of the Second-Generation Asian American Fellowship.

The meeting was held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Dallas, June 12-13.
From June 2017–June 2018, according to a ministry report distributed to those who attended the meeting, the FSBFNA sent a $300 typhoon relief fund December 20, 2017, to Oscar Garalde in Samar, Leyte, who has seven churches under his leadership; sent $300 as a scholarship for 10 youth leaders to attend Youth Leadership Camp of the Luzon Convention of Southern Baptist Churches held December 2017; sent volunteers and participated in the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief efforts Oct. 19-22 in Houston; and visited and encouraged pastors and churches in Houston and San Francisco in October 2017.

Also, FSBFNA leaders represented the fellowship at an advisory and consultative meeting with the SBC Executive Committee in August of 2017 and with the International Mission Board leaders earlier this year; attended the Church Planting Coach Training April 4-6 to assist church planters in their ministry; and sent 115 study Bibles for distribution to pastors of the Visayas-Mindanao Convention in May.

The fellowship also planted 20 churches in Colorado and Pennsylvania among other highlights.
“We are in need of more church planters in order to expand our mission,” FSBFNA President Dan Santiago said.
Santiago also shared a ministry update. In his report, he noted the FSBFNA held strategic and contextualized training for pastors and church leaders (one each for the east and west coasts); held fundraising events such as Christian concerts and dinners for church planting initiatives and fellowship funds; and helped churches with conflict resolution, pastor-search committee training, and other local church leadership trainings.

After Santiago gave updates, attendees formed groups to pray with one another at the start of their worship service.

Photo by Kathleen Murray
Russell “Butch” Diwa, senior pastor at Biblical Community Church, Richardson, Texas, preaches June 12 during the Filipino Southern Baptist Fellowship meeting June 12 at the Dallas Metroplex International Church in Dallas.

“We are one together for the gospel,” Santiago said.
The guest speaker for the fellowship was Russell “Butch” Diwa, senior pastor of Biblical Community Church in Richardson, Texas. Diwa preached from Psalm 133, and spoke about having a personal heart change along with regaining emotional and spiritual feeling for the lost and hurting.
He shared testimony of ministering to a family whose son had been born with no jaw and a hole in his heart. After feeling apathetic to the situation, Diwa shared, he prayed to “feel” again. Shortly after, Diwa was diagnosed with a tumor in the back of his jaw and had to replace his entire jaw with the bone in his fibula. Now he speaks with his jaw pulled back by two screws.
“The only time I forget pain is when I preach,” Diwa said. “Before we are able to minister to other people, God makes you feel again.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Morgan Collier, who will be a senior at Lamar University in Texas, is a summer intern with Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/22/2018 12:09:40 PM by Morgan Collier, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Native American spiritual needs weigh on FoNAC

June 22 2018 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Native Americans balance life in both the native and white culture and too often lose to both, Gary Hawkins said in his executive director’s report during the Fellowship of Native American Christians’ (FoNAC) sixth annual gathering in Dallas.

Photo by Van Payne
“Spiritual needs are tremendous among Native people,” Gary Hawkins, executive director of the Fellowship of Native American Christians, said during FoNAC’s June 10-11 meeting in Dallas.

“Spiritual needs are tremendous among native people,” Hawkins said during FoNAC’s June 10-11 meeting in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Dallas, Texas.
“Fewer than 10 percent of natives have an ongoing personal relationship with Christ Jesus, and a lot of them are dying without a clear presentation of salvation, making it so important we reach out today on our reservations and in our cities with ways of contextualizing the gospel to best reach natives,” Hawkins said.
“The world system is against spiritual things regarding God’s Kingdom work. But if you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, you don’t have anything of eternal significance.”
The FoNAC meeting included a variety of reports and a display of the gospel contextualized in Pawnee music, drums and dance led by Warren “Junior” Pratt, Pawnee chief and pastor of First Indian Baptist Church in Cushing, Okla. In their gospel presentations, Pratt and his family are known as the Tribe of Judah Native Dance Ministry.
FoNAC treasurer Tim Chavis, a Lumbee Native from the Burnt Swamp Baptist Association in North Carolina, presented a budget of $75,720 for the coming fiscal year, including $10,000 for regional seminars for training native pastors and those who want to minister within a native context.
The first regional training was at First Indian Baptist Church in Phoenix last year. Training on the East Coast or possibly in Oklahoma is planned for the coming year.
Hawkins opened his director’s report by explaining FoNAC’s scope:
“There are 567 federally-recognized tribes in the USA and 617 First Nations communities in Canada,” he said. “The spiritual needs are tremendous among native people. It’s not that native people lack spirituality. Many are very spiritual and very sincere, yet a personal relationship with Christ Jesus is sadly missing.”
FoNAC has grown as people have begun to respond to the need and the focus of its board and advisory council, Hawkins said.
“FoNAC started six years ago with $3,000, and for the first time this year our income has exceeded $100,000,” he said. “We’re growing and we’re networking, building partnerships.”
The Native American fellowship is connecting denominational and tribal leaders, ministry partners with native people of North America and other ministries for synergy that results in greater impact, Hawkins reported.
Some of the needs and opportunities include developing resources that are doctrinally sound and culturally relevant to be used in evangelism, making disciples and equipping leaders, Hawkins said, adding that these resources can be invaluable tools for those who have little or no working knowledge of ministry to native people.
Bibles and commentaries for untrained pastors and emerging leaders have proven to be of great benefit to many newer Christian natives, and FoNAC is discussing ways of getting donated resources to those who want them, Hawkins said.
“The biggest drawback besides cost is shipping and handling fees,” he said.
Another challenge is the purchase or rental of properties in larger cities for use by native congregations, Hawkins said.
Legacy church planting, he said, “could give a dying church the opportunity to live on through a new native work that starts in their church building, by partnering with another church, the local association or the state Baptist convention.”
New business consisted of electing an additional board member, Josh Leading Fox, a Pawnee and pastor of Indian Baptist Church in Immokalee, Fla.
“He’s done a great work and is greatly attuned to what we’re doing,” said Ledtkey McIntosh, FoNAC president and pastor of Glorieta Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.
With Augusta “Gus” Smith concluding five years as a board member, McIntosh said, “I don’t know how we’re going to replace her.” The board would like to add at least one woman as a member, Hawkins told Baptist Press.
Emerson Falls, Native American ministries specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, spoke to the group about the Robert Haskins School of Christian Ministry, a non-college, non-seminary training program the state convention has designed to help pastors with a lack of cultural understanding and a lack of people skills in a native context.
Falls also noted the need for partnerships on native reserves in Canada. Many of them are across the nation’s northern tier, but they “all are very scattered,” he said. “In winter, they’re very isolated.
“We live in a time of good technology,” Falls said. “You could provide a Bible study in their congregation through the internet.” He also suggested a financial gift for a short getaway for a pastor and his wife or an expenses-paid invitation to speak at a church. “Maybe four or five churches could work together with one church in northern Canada,” Falls suggested.
A vision tour is being planned for next spring for those “with the intent of being a partner,” Falls said. “Honestly pray about it.”
Ta Tumu, a Polynesian pastor ministering in Alberta and Saskatchewan, spoke of a native church in Onion Lake, Saskatchewan, that he described as the “Antioch Church of the North” because of its prowess in starting new churches and its Christian school of 31 students.
“God is working in the North,” Tumu said. “We need resources. We need fellowship. We need partnerships.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent with Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/22/2018 12:09:24 PM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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