June 2018

Stewardship panel: Finances & marriage discussed

June 20 2018 by Barbara Denman

Developing a stewardship plan to get out of debt will strengthen marriages and create stronger disciples, according to a group of pastors and speakers who participated on the President’s Panel on Stewardship June 13 at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Dallas.

Photo by Marc Ira Hooks
Steve Gaines, left, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), moderates a panel on stewardship during the final session of the SBC annual meeting June 13 in Dallas. The panel included personal finance speaker and author Dave Ramsey, second from right; his daughter, Rachel Cruze, also an author and speaker; Grant Gaines, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn.; Nick Floyd, lead teaching pastor of Cross Church’s campus in Fayetteville, Ark.; and Mike Glenn, pastor of Brentwood (Tenn.) Baptist Church.

Led by immediate past SBC President Steve Gaines, the panel consisted of personal finance speaker and author Dave Ramsey; his daughter Rachel Cruze, also an author and speaker; Grant Gaines, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn.; Nick Floyd, lead teaching pastor of Cross Church’s campus in Fayetteville, Ark.; and Mike Glenn, pastor of Brentwood (Tenn.) Baptist Church.
Gaines encouraged churches to offer Financial Peace University (FPU), a personal finance class available from Ramsey Solutions. FPU is available at a discount for Southern Baptist churches through a partnership between Ramsey Solutions and the SBC Executive Committee.
Leading FPU at a church “is really not about money,” Ramsey noted. “It’s about lordship,” marriage and evangelism, he said. “There is opportunity to lead people to the Lord by reaching them in a felt need.”
Cruze, who works with the Financial Peace University, said being in debt is the number one cause of divorce. Research indicates that this generation is the most indebted in history, she added.
The average couple has $15,000 in credit card debt, $592 for monthly automobile payments and $36,000 in student debt. Being in debt causes seemingly small issues to escalate, Cruze said, for both single parents and married couples.
Talking about money “forces” couples “to think long term” about their dreams and goals. “When couples can sit together and talk about the future and dream, suddenly there’s this new spark in a marriage,” she said.
The group urged pastors to make stewardship a critical aspect of teaching from the pulpit and interpersonally.
Grant Gaines, son of the immediate past SBC president, said it is important for pastors to preach about financial stewardship in sermons. They should highlight Scriptures on stewardship when preaching and encourage members to see that good stewardship reflects God’s image and discipleship, he said.
While talk of money may be a controversial subject at some churches, or may reflect abuses from the prosperity gospel, Floyd said he believes it is a “neglected call to discipleship.” Every small group at his church will study Financial Peace, he said.
Floyd, son of former SBC president Ronnie Floyd, noted that when the church staff was taken through the Financial Peace seminar, within nine weeks, the group reduced their debt by $90,000 and increased their savings by $46,000.
Ramsey said debt forces one to remain in a “toxic situation.” When one is no longer a slave to debt, he said, they don’t have to serve two masters. He also noted that those without debt can be more generous to others.
The panelists also urged parents to begin educating children about stewardship at an early age.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is a writer based in Jacksonville, Fla. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/20/2018 12:20:23 PM by Barbara Denman | with 0 comments

IMB ‘open for business,’ Platt tells SBC messengers

June 19 2018 by Ann Lovell, Baptist Press

International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt declared the IMB “open for business” in his report to messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Dallas, June 13.

Photo by Van Payne
International Mission Board President David Platt delivers the IMB report to messengers at the SBC annual meeting June 13.

“By the grace of God and through the generous support of Southern Baptist churches, the IMB is positioned on strong biblical foundations, and we are standing on firm financial ground,” Platt said. “Our giving is up through both the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon. And our sending is up. Lord willing, we will send more missionaries this year than we have in years.”

More than a president

In February, Platt asked IMB trustees to begin the search for his successor. He is leaving the IMB to begin a pastoral ministry in Washington, D.C. Although a search committee is “working hard,” the IMB is not about the president, Platt said.
“The IMB is about a coalition of over 47,000 churches working together to support thousands of anonymous missionaries whose names and places where they work can’t even be mentioned in public because they are spreading the gospel at great risk to their lives. They are the IMB, and I want to report to you on what they are doing,” Platt said.

Good news from around the globe

Platt shared a number of twitter-length reports from IMB missionaries serving around the world, including:

  • A Muslim people group is hearing the gospel for the first time in one of the largest slums in Sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Thousands of Iranian and Afghan refugees are coming to know Christ across Europe.

  • One church in a European city started four new churches in the last year. When six people were recently baptized, two were European, one was Chinese, and the other three were Iranian.

  • A Yezidi refugee who was fleeing ISIS came to Christ and was baptized.

  • Refugees are coming to Christ, becoming disciple-makers, and returning to their war-torn homeland to rebuild the foundations of their lives and communities on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Last week, IMB missionaries shared the gospel alongside local partners with more than 1,100 Muslims in three days.

In addition to the shorter stories, Platt shared a longer story from a Muslim country in Southeast Asia. 
“One of our missionaries was with one of his national partners named Ahmad,” Platt said. “It looked like it was about to rain, and Ahmad asked our missionary if he could borrow an old shirt to wear as he rode his motorcycle because he didn’t want to get his new jacket wet. Our missionary handed him a big white T-shirt.”
Later that day, Ahmad was wearing that white shirt when it started raining, Platt continued. He pulled his motorcycle over under an awning. The owners of a nearby house came out, and as is their custom, invited him in for tea.
“He went in, and over tea, Ahmad thought, ‘I might as well share the gospel.’” Platt said. “Then he asked the couple, ‘Do you want to believe and be baptized?’”
Without any hesitation, the couple said, “Yes!”
“Do you understand what you’re doing? That you will probably be shunned by your family for this, or even worse?” Ahmad asked.
The man said, “You don’t understand. I’ve had several dreams over the last three nights, and in each dream, a man wearing white told me he had the way to salvation for my family and me. Last night, that man appeared to me again and told me a man dressed in white would come to my home the next day and share the way of salvation. When we saw you standing outside, we knew we needed to invite you in and hear whatever you had to say to us.”
This formerly Muslim couple now follows the Messiah, Platt said.
“If anyone asks you about what’s happening at the IMB, you tell them: Disciples are being made, churches are being multiplied, and Jesus is being glorified among people who previously never even heard His name,” Platt said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ann Lovell is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/19/2018 1:12:17 PM by Ann Lovell, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Disciple-making task force atop NAMB report at SBC

June 19 2018 by Josie Rabbitt Bingham, NAMB

Kevin Ezell delivered the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) report to messengers June 13 focusing on disciple-making and relaying an update on the effectiveness of Southern Baptist church planting efforts and NAMB’s new initiative in Puerto Rico.

Photo by Van Payne
Kevin Ezell delivered the North American Mission Board’s report to messengers June 13 focusing on disciple-making and relaying an update on the effectiveness of Southern Baptist church planting efforts and NAMB’s new initiative in Puerto Rico.

Ezell, NAMB’s president, began the report by inviting Robby Gallaty to share findings and recommendations from the disciple-making task force that NAMB and LifeWay Christian Resources convened two years ago. Gallaty, who chaired the committee, pastors Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn.
Gallaty recounted that the task force analyzed the last 20 years of Annual Church Profile (ACP) data. They discovered that despite the impressive number of baptisms over that span – 7.1 million – average church attendance remained virtually flat. Even after factoring in for mortality, Gallaty said 6.5 million people had dropped out of church attendance over those 20 years.
“Our convention could be twice as large as it is today if we would have simply engaged the people we just baptized,” Gallaty said. 
Gallaty summarized the task force’s recommendations: increase Bible engagement for church members; examine the connection between salvation decisions and group involvement; and examine the number of groups that multiply on a regular basis.
Ezell followed Gallaty with a recap of NAMB’s church planting efforts since he began leading the entity in 2010.
“Seven years ago, we began a new journey and started a laser focus on church planting,” Ezell said. “That is the New Testament model and we believe still the very best strategy for evangelism today.”
Church plants baptize at a 67 percent better attendee-to-baptism ratio when compared to established churches, Ezell said.
He also reported that NAMB has significantly increased its church planter assessment process. Today, only a third of candidates pass NAMB’s assessments. 
“When we raised our assessment, we knew church plant numbers would go down. But we will not compromise our quality in order to present bigger numbers the second week of June,” Ezell said in reference to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. “We must not focus on quantity, we must focus on quality.”
Ezell said that as the quality of assessments increased, the survival rate of our church plants has gone up. Overall, churches planted since 2011 have an 84 percent survival rate.
Demonstrating the impact of recent church plants, Ezell reported that in Canada, 71 percent of all baptisms came from churches started since 2010. In the Minnesota-Wisconsin convention, more baptisms came from church plants than all other Southern Baptist churches combined. In the New England states, 34 percent of all Baptisms were from church plants.

Photo by Van Payne
Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., shared findings and recommendations from the disciple-making task force that NAMB and LifeWay Christian Resources convened two years ago and Gallaty chaired.

In addition, as church plants demonstrate staying power, they are accounting for a growing percentage of total churches located outside the South.
In all but four non-south state conventions, 20 percent or more of Southern Baptist churches were started since 2010. In New England, it’s 35 percent, and in Canada over 50 percent of all churches were started since 2010.
“Southern Baptists, we are gaining ground for the gospel outside the South,” Ezell said. “We are determined not to lower our standards. We are not going to waiver on our desire for excellence.”
Ezell shared that NAMB has added Puerto Rico as a new Send Emphasis Area in North America. For 25 years, there were no new Southern Baptist churches planted in San Juan – a city of 350,000 people.
“Today, we have 12 church plants launched or nearing launch,” Ezell said. “The relief effort in Puerto Rico will take many years, so please consider sending groups from your church to Puerto Rico to assist.”
Ezell ended the NAMB report to messengers with notes of thanks.
“We are honored to partner with Southern Baptists and to care for and equip your missionaries who are serving throughout North America. Please keep them and the North American Mission Board in your prayers and thank you for all you are doing to reach your community, our nation and our world for Christ.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Josie Rabbitt Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/19/2018 1:12:02 PM by Josie Rabbitt Bingham, NAMB | with 0 comments

Kie Bowman calls for new life in dry bones

June 19 2018 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, preached the convention sermon from Ezekiel 37, calling on Southern Baptists to ask God to breathe life into families, churches and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at the annual meeting in Dallas, June 13.

Photo by Ethan Loveless
Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, preached the convention sermon from Ezekiel 37, calling on Southern Baptists to ask God to breathe life into families, churches and the Southern Baptist Convention at the annual meeting in Dallas June 13.

Bowman, this year’s alternate convention sermon preacher, stepped in to give the meeting’s keynote message after Paige Patterson, former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, withdrew June 8.
During his message, Bowman noted that “Ezekiel was a priest. That means he had spent his entire life ministering around the things of God in the temple of God,”
“But in 597 B.C.,” he noted, Ezekiel “was captured as a prisoner of war and taken to a pagan culture, and 10 years later he got word that the temple had been destroyed. That means that everything he’d ever prayed about, everything he’d ever hoped for, everything he’d ever worked for was evaporated in the winds of war.”
God led Ezekiel, in a vision, to “the ultimate example of his shattered hopes and the desecration and the devastation of his national dreams – an army of skeletons,” Bowman said. “... This once great army was lying scattered on the desert floor.”
The message God gave Ezekiel 2,600 years ago was one of hope and life, he said, and it applies to believers today.
“This message is still a message of hope and life to your situation because our God is a God of life and a God of resurrection, and anything that looks dead to you may be the next God raises back to life,” Bowman said.
God wants bones to live again in the 21st century, so He calls believers to speak life, he said. Some messengers may be struggling in their marriages or with their children or in their ministries, Bowman said.
“Some of you may be just struggling with where we are as a convention. We’ve heard some sobering reports. Yes, we believe in the Good News. Yes, we’re optimistic, but it’s going to be an uphill battle and we all know it.
“… It may feel like to you that there are a lot of dry bones around your life, but here’s your good news: God specializes in raising the dead, and nothing is impossible with God,” Bowman said. “Anything God has ever done before He can do again, and anything God’s ever done anywhere He can do here, and anything God’s ever done with anyone, He can do with you.”
In Ezekiel 37, God gave the prophet some strange advice, Bowman said: preach to the ones who will not and cannot hear.
“God’s solution to the biggest problem imaginable, a valley of dry bones, was pretty simple: Declare the Word of the Lord to a culture that will not hear or cannot hear, and just keep declaring the mighty works of our sovereign God who says, ‘I will give you life.’”
God also calls His people to spiritual life, Bowman said. “It occurred to me this isn’t a passage about dry bones at all. This is a passage of scripture about our God’s amazing ability to raise the dead. And He does it by His Word when it is anointed by His Spirit.”
The message from God to His people today, Bowman said, is, “I’ll put my Spirit into defeated, dry, dead circumstances and situations and families and churches and denominations and people, and I will make you live again.”
“You and I have a choice to make today. We can live in our own strength and we will have the same spiritual impact as the prayer lives of a robot,” Bowman said, “or we can invite the Holy Spirit of God to breathe life into all of our dead places.”
Believers never grow spiritually by accident, he said, so if they want an Ezekiel 37 moment in their families, churches and ministries they must be intentional. In closing, he called the convention to a time of prayer, urging messengers to come forward and ask God to “breathe life on our churches, on our families, on our ministries, on our convention.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/19/2018 1:11:42 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

LifeWay to ‘provide biblical resources for the world’

June 19 2018 by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Christian Resources

LifeWay Christian Resources has begun giving away Bibles to help churches share the Word of God, LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer told messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Dallas.

Photo by Marc Ira Hooks
LifeWay Christian Resources has begun giving away Bibles to help churches share the Word of God, LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer told messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Dallas on June 13.

“One of the best investments we have ever made has no immediate financial return but an incredible eternal return,” Rainer said during his report on June 13.
“We are handing out the Word of God, through churches, and we are seeing numbers upon numbers of people believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Only God could do that.”
The program – called “Share the Word. Together.” – is one of LifeWay’s newest initiatives to provide trustworthy biblical resources across the nation and around the world. Rainer highlighted several others during his report, including a new focus on community engagement and learning at LifeWay’s more than 170 stores.
“In 2018 we experienced a change in the momentum around LifeWay Christian Stores,” he said. “For the first time in years we’re experiencing growth in the traffic of people who come into our stores.”
The Gospel Project, a Bible study curriculum launched in 2012 to show how all Scripture points to Jesus, continues to dramatically expand its reach, Rainer said. “In 2018, every week 1.6 million people are studying the Word of God through The Gospel Project.”
He also noted widespread adoption of the Christian Standard Bible, launched a year ago by LifeWay. “It has been received well by churches all across the world.”
Serving churches around the world is a major commitment for LifeWay, Rainer said. A video shown as part of LifeWay’s presentation to the SBC pointed out that 85 percent of the world’s evangelical Christians live outside the United States, and many lack access to biblical resources and training.
In response, LifeWay has incorporated in China, India and Mexico. LifeWay Global distributed resources to 164 of the world’s 195 countries last year, reaching more than four million people, and LifeWay resources are licensed in more than 60 languages.
“We are not sitting idle waiting to serve the nations – we are actively at work,” said Ashish Thomas, general manager of LifeWay India, where Vacation Bible School will be offered in five languages this year in addition to English.
Providing resources to the global church is complex, but overcoming the barriers is worth the effort, said Cristopher Garrido, Spanish publisher for LifeWay.
He introduced a video featuring Francisco Medina, a pastor in the Dominican Republic whose ministry was transformed by a training seminar a few years ago.
“I’d been pastoring for over 30 years and felt I had a good grasp of the Bible. I quickly learned that I’d been teaching a false gospel,” Medina said in the video. “I wrongly believed that salvation required works, but this seminar helped me to see that my thinking was wrong. I was broken by the reality that I had been teaching a false gospel for so long.”
By reaching out to the nations, LifeWay hopes to touch hundreds of millions of lives for Christ, Rainer said.
“The Great Commission is clear – we are to make disciples of all nations,” he said. “On behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention, we will provide biblical resources for the world, that the world may know even more deeply the name of Jesus.”
While global ministry was the focus of LifeWay’s presentation, Rainer also noted in his report that Forbes magazine named LifeWay one of America’s best midsized employers for a second consecutive year.
In addition, LifeWay’s new corporate headquarters received two awards for excellence in development from the Urban Land Institute Nashville District Council.
The honors in themselves mean little, he said, but they testify to LifeWay’s mission and values.
“It’s not about bricks and mortar, it’s not about stone and wood – it’s about our witness,” Rainer said. “We are making a difference.”
He thanked SBC messengers for supporting, praying and walking alongside LifeWay.
“When all is said and done, we’ll look back on these years and we won’t talk about a great organization,” he said. “We will talk about a great God who’s done a great transformation in our ministry and around the world.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is manager of editorial services for LifeWay Christian Resources. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/19/2018 1:11:21 PM by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Dave Ramsey urges pastors to lead people out of debt

June 19 2018 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

Personal finance speaker and author Dave Ramsey, addressing the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting June 12, urged pastors to lead people out of debt by teaching them what the Bible says about money.

Photo by Kathleen Murray
Personal finance speaker and author Dave Ramsey, speaking at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas June 12, urged pastors to lead people out of debt by teaching them what the Bible says about money.

“When you stand up in front of your congregation, you’re looking at a large number of people who do not have the ability to handle their money,” Ramsey, CEO of Ramsey Solutions and author of Financial Peace University, told messengers.
Two percent of Americans are millionaires, Ramsey said, 10 percent are living debt-free, 70 percent are living paycheck to paycheck, 16 percent are coming into bankruptcy, going out of bankruptcy or are currently in bankruptcy, and two percent are in dire poverty.
“Quit preaching tithe lessons to broke people,” Ramsey said. “Let’s teach them how to get on a budget.... The natural byproduct of a Jesus lover when they have money is giving.”
To facilitate that, Ramsey offered Financial Peace University (FPU) to pastors at the SBC for free, saying, “We want you to go through the class as our gift to say thank you for who you are and how you serve the Kingdom of God.”
Additionally, he offered FPU leader guides to pastors at a discounted rate. Normally the guides cost $279, but the price has been lowered for pastors at the annual meeting to $99. The SBC Executive Committee offered a further discount of $20 for the first 1,000 pastors to sign up.

The power of story

Ramsey said the prevalence of smartphones and other media in the culture today has caused people to have extremely short attention spans, but something that still has power is a story.
“The Bible says our testimonies have power,” Ramsey said. “You can tell people your story.... People today will argue with a fencepost, but it is difficult for people to argue with you about your story. As my old pastor used to say, a man with an experience is not at the mercy of a man with an opinion.”
Pastors need to be careful, he said, that they are not the hero in someone else’s story but the guide. People often tell him that he changed their life, but Ramsey points out that he only showed them how, and ultimately the person who took the financial advice and changed is the hero.
Ramsey shared with messengers his personal testimony, saying he didn’t know Jesus when he was young.
“I started buying and selling real estate, and I got rich. By the time I was 26 years old, I had $4 million worth of real estate,” Ramsey said, adding he was spurred toward Jesus by a Christian businessman.
“... But then I had done stupid stuff with money.... I borrowed too much money, and the bank got sold to another bank ... and they called my notes. We spent the next two and a half years of our life losing everything we owned.
“I met Jesus on the way up. I got to know Him on the way down. With a brand-new baby and a toddler and a marriage hanging on by a thread, we finally hit bottom at 28 years old. We were bankrupt,” Ramsey said. “I remember standing in the shower with it so hot I could barely stand it, and I would stand there and cry because I didn’t know what to do. I was so scared I couldn’t breathe.”
Ramsey surrendered everything he had – and didn’t have – to Jesus and started handling money God’s way.
“I had a degree in finance with all these letters and licenses after my name, but there I sat broke. So I didn’t really want to use that plan anymore.”
He discovered finance authors Larry Burkett, Ron Blue and Howard Dayton and started reading about biblical finance.
“When the Word of God intersects your life, it changes the trajectory of your life permanently,” Ramsey said.
God kept blessing, and what started with Ramsey in a “bad suit with an overhead projector” teaching a small class called Financial Peace University has grown so that 50,000 churches have taught the class.
“It blows my mind that God can speak to a donkey, number one, but, number two, that He does replace what the locusts have taken. He does have a plan for my life. I still get choked up when I think about it,” Ramsey said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer based in Nashville. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/19/2018 1:10:58 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘All of us’ must evangelize, SBC agrees with task force

June 18 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Lay persons, pastors, churches, state conventions and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entities have a role in an evangelism renewal plan Southern Baptists adopted Wednesday (June 13).

Photo by Van Payne
Adam W. Greenway, Southern Seminary evangelism professor and chairman of the SBC’s Evangelism Task Force, presented the task force’s plan to messengers June 13 after first releasing the document June 11.

Messengers adopted an eight-pronged approach recommended by an Evangelism Task Force Steve Gaines appointed in 2017 in his final term as SBC president. Task Force vice chairman Adam W. Greenway presented the plan to messengers after first releasing the document June 11.
“It will take all of us working together in unity for the task of the Great Commission to be accomplished,” said Greenway, dean of Southern Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry. “Every one of us has a part to play. This is a critical task for us.”
Before the vote, the task force concurrently submitted to messengers a 12-point Evangelism Articles of Affirmation and Denial, based on and supported by scripture.
“We wanted to take the opportunity to provide a clear set of principles in terms of things we believe Southern Baptists can heartily affirm as it comes to speaking about evangelism,” Greenway said, “and with clarity saying things we do not believe evangelism entails.
“One of the most important things we can give to our convention of churches, and to a watching world, is a clear statement about ... where Southern Baptists stand on the issues related to evangelism.”
Southern Baptist churches are autonomous and are not obligated to put the recommendations in action; they are encouraged to embrace the report as a ready and viable church resource.
The task force called on all Southern Baptists to “renew with great urgency the priority of evangelizing the next generations,” and to adapt the recommended methodology to individual environments “without changing our theology.”
“If the only people who ever hear you talk about the gospel are already believers,” Greenway said on the annual meeting stage, “then you are not being gospel centered. You’re not committed to sharing the gospel.
“It was never meant to be merely an intramural subject for debate,” he said of the gospel. “It was meant to be the intentional passion that we declare to lost people, that there is hope in Jesus Christ.”
Churches should set aside a day each month to pray for salvation of the lost and the effectiveness of the church’s evangelistic efforts, conduct annual witness training, adopt a baptism goal and submit their Annual Church Profile to help judge the SBC’s evangelism effectiveness.
Pastors should model personal evangelism for their congregations, present public gospel invitations of various kinds that call unbelievers to repent and believe; and “renew extending to followers of Christ God’s call to the pastorate, to missions, to evangelism and to all other vocational ministries.”
Seminaries should train and engage employees and students in annual witness training and gospel-sharing events, such as mission trips, local mission partnerships and local churches; and “consider enhancing curriculum requirements in evangelism.”
Directors of missions are encouraged to “identify, celebrate and use as a training model” churches and pastors that are effective in evangelism evidenced by baptisms, and to enlist support for churches from Baptist colleges, seminaries, state conventions and evangelistically effective churches.
State convention executive directors should infuse all their ministry efforts with an awareness of lostness and the need for salvation, the report states, and should prioritize evangelism in staffing, training and ministry.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) should help reestablish evangelism as a denominational priority, the task force recommends, and NAMB’s senior leadership should involve churches, associations and state conventions in evangelistic outreach.
The task force recommended the Executive Committee of the SBC establish a Baptism Sunday on the SBC calendar. Churches would be “invited to work especially hard to lead people to Christ in the weeks prior to the selected date and to focus on a significant baptismal service in which the meaning of baptism is articulated in preaching and teaching,” the task force said.
Greenway presented the report instead of former task force chairman Paige Patterson, who resigned his chairmanship at the close of his tenure as Southwestern Seminary president.
In addition to Greenway, task force members included Southwest Seminary professor of preaching David Allen; Englewood Baptist Church of Jackson, Tenn., pastor Jordan Easley; Cross Church of Fayetteville, Ark., campus pastor Nick Floyd; North Phoenix (Ariz.) Baptist Church pastor Noe Garcia; newly elected SBC president J.D. Greear; Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg; Midwestern Seminary professor of preaching Robert Matz; Cross Pointe Church of Duluth, Ga., pastor James Merritt; and First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Ill., pastor Doug Mouton.
Concluding the membership roster were New Orleans Seminary professor of evangelism Preston Nix; Brown Missionary Baptist Church of Southaven, Miss., pastor Bartholomew Orr; Southwester Seminary professor of evangelism Matt Queen; Southeastern Seminary professor of evangelism Alvin Reid; Family Church of West Palm Beach, Fla., pastor Jimmy Scroggins; Southeastern Seminary professor of preaching Jim Shaddix; and Gaines, ex-officio.
See BP’s June 11 story for the full text of the recommendations and evangelism articles.
(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.)

6/18/2018 2:33:05 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

ERLC: New initiatives on women, abuse

June 18 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Russell Moore announced new initiatives on women and abuse during the report of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) Wednesday (June 13) at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Photo by Kathleen Murray
Russell Moore announced two new initiatives – a women's summit and a study on abuse – during the report of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Wednesday (June 13) at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Moore, the ERLC’s president, said the entity will convene a women’s summit as a major part of its work in the year ahead. He also told messengers the ERLC is partnering with LifeWay Research in commissioning a full-scale study on the extent of abuse in churches.
The announcement of the initiatives followed months of what Moore described as “horrible, horrible revelations” of sexual abuse and assault. Those disclosures of abuse and misconduct by male leaders in churches and the secular world have rocked Southern Baptists, other evangelicals and the wider culture.
The ERLC will gather women from across the SBC and the evangelical world “to think through ways to enhance our ministries and invest in our churches,” Moore told messengers. “There should not be one inch of toleration for the abuse or mistreatment of women or others within our churches, and if we care about human dignity, we must be clear about that.
“I’m grateful that this [convention] has spoken with such clarity about what we believe about the dignity of women, our sisters in Christ and joint heirs in Christ.”
Of the study on abuse, he said, “When those findings are available, we’ll make them known to you. And whatever they reveal, your [ERLC] will be there to serve our denomination with resources and information that can help us conform our lives and ministries to the will of Christ and to make sure that we have every preventive measure in place to see to it that no one finds anything other than safety and refuge in the church of Jesus Christ.”
Another major event in the year ahead will be the ERLC’s 2018 national conference – “The Cross-shaped Family” – Oct. 11-13 in Dallas.
In the last year, the ERLC’s areas of focus have included, Moore said:

Religious liberty

The Supreme Court twice has “reaffirmed freedom of conscience and religious liberty for everyone,” he said. In those cases, the high court ruled in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri and Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado. The ERLC filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the religious freedom of both. Moore told messengers. “[A]s Baptists, above all people, we must be the ones that stand up and say there is no expiration date on freedom of conscience.”

Racial reconciliation

The ERLC has worked to continue its “unflinching focus on racial reconciliation and unity,” Moore said. In partnership with The Gospel Coalition, it co-hosted MLK50, an April conference in Memphis on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. 

Sanctity of human life

The ERLC joined with Focus on the Family for the third consecutive year to co-host the Evangelicals for Life conference in January in Washington, D.C “We spoke very clearly that it is time for the reborn to stand up for the unborn,” Moore said. It also continued its ministry through the Psalm 139 Project to provide ultrasound machines for pregnancy resource centers. 

Gender, sexuality and marriage

The ERLC has created resources on the biblical teaching on gender, sexuality and marriage “for churches to use not only in discipling our own people in those precious truths but also evangelizing those who don’t see things the way we do,” he said.
Moore encouraged the messengers to unite around “a common gospel and a Great Commission.”
“We must be the people who not only sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ but who work hard to protect all of those that Jesus loves,” he said.
During the ERLC presentation that followed the report, the locations of the 12 pregnancy centers in which ultrasound machines have been placed through Psalm 139 Project funds were displayed on a map of the United States. Eleven other potential sites also were shown on the map.
Nathan Lino, lead pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, shared with messengers how the ERLC helped the church after flooding from Hurricane Harvey last year destroyed the ultrasound machine in the pregnancy center of the church’s mission in the city’s Fifth Ward.
The ERLC worked quickly to meet the need and partnered with Focus on the Family to purchase a new machine. In less than eight weeks, the center reopened with the machine in operation, he said.
“And so I’m standing before you today as one Southern Baptist pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention saying that for our congregation when we were in great need, the ERLC showed up,” Lino said. “And what Hurricane Harvey intended for evil, our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed for good.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

6/18/2018 2:32:32 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

9,637: SBC’s unofficial Dallas registration

June 18 2018 by Brian Koonce, The Pathway

The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting drew 9,637 messengers to Dallas June 12-13. The unofficial total is nearly double last year’s 5,015 messengers in Phoenix, topping that total by 11 a.m. the day before the meeting even began.

Photo by Van Payne
Paul Kim, Asian American relations consultant for the SBC Executive Committee, leads members of the Council of Korean Baptists to register as messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 12.

When registered guests, exhibitors and others are included, the count of those at the SBC annual meeting rose to approximately 15,000, according to the convention manager.
It is the highest attendance at an annual meeting since Orlando in 2010 (11,070), but fewer than in 1997 when the convention last met in Dallas (12,519). The all-time high messenger count – 45,519 in 1985 – also happened in Dallas in 1985.
Reelected SBC registration secretary Don Currence of First Baptist Church in Ozark, Mo., said he anticipated the high turnout due to the location, the SBC presidential election, and several other issues that piqued messengers’ interest. Given that next year’s meeting location in Alabama is in the heart of the South, he anticipates another high attendance figure.
“Birmingham is a strong location,” Currence said. “It will be less expensive for many people to travel there, and the hotels are cheaper as well. It will be one of the cheaper convention sites we’ve been to.”
Texas Baptist churches turned out in force in Dallas; their 2,036 messenger total was by far the largest among the states. Louisiana was the second highest at 718 messengers. North Carolina had 540 messengers.
The unofficial state-by-state messenger registration numbers are: Alaska, 25; Alabama, 452; Arkansas, 430; Arizona, 84; California, 219; Colorado, 53; Connecticut, 5; Washington, D.C., 15; Delaware, 12; Florida, 465; Georgia, 513; Hawaii, 29; Iowa, 18; Idaho, 8; Illinois, 171; Indiana, 81; Kansas, 80; Kentucky, 390; Louisiana, 718; Massachusetts, 20; Maryland, 88; Michigan, 49; Minnesota, 11; Missouri, 391; Mississippi, 374; Montana, 18; North Carolina, 540; Nebraska, 6; New Hampshire, 4; New Jersey, 17; New Mexico, 110; Nevada, 46; New York, 55; Ohio, 104; Oklahoma, 524; Oregon, 11; Pennsylvania, 29; Puerto Rico, 1; Rhode Island, 2; South Carolina, 286; South Dakota, 24; Tennessee, 615; Texas, 2,036; Utah, 16; Virginia, 288; Vermont, 3; Washington, 38; Wisconsin, 12; West Virginia, 27; Wyoming, 14. There were 144 messengers who were approved through the credentials process but were unaffiliated with a state convention.
Official attendance numbers will be released later in June; the state-by-state numbers do not include guests or children.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Koonce is a writer for The Pathway, news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/18/2018 2:28:36 PM by Brian Koonce, The Pathway | with 0 comments

Centennial, Mission:Dignity atop GuideStone report

June 18 2018 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources

O.S. Hawkins brought the 100th report of GuideStone Financial Resources on Tuesday morning to messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention during their June 12–13 in Dallas.

Photo by Van Payne
O.S. Hawkins brought the 100th report of GuideStone Financial Resources at the SBC annual meeting, highlighting the SBC entity’s centennial and its Mission:Dignity aid to needy retirees and widows.

Hawkins noted the privilege GuideStone has had of living out its founder’s vision.
“A century ago, our founder, William Lunsford, stood before the Southern Baptist Convention in Hot Springs, Ark., and told pastors, ‘Give yourselves wholeheartedly to the work. We will stand back of you. If you fall in the work, we will care for you. If you die, we will not allow your family to suffer. If you grow old in the work, we will comfort you in your declining years,’” Hawkins recounted.
“Every day at GuideStone, we keep that founder’s vision before us,” Hawkins said.
The ministry has grown from a small board that had to beg and scratch to provide support for the “old soldiers of the cross,” as Lunsford called them, to a $16 billion financial services organization. In its Mission:Dignity initiative, Hawkins said, it never lost sight of Lunsford’s vision.
Hawkins also noted that 100 years ago at the same Southern Baptist Convention, women for the first time were able to serve as messengers. He said women serve an important role at GuideStone: 42 percent of the workforce are women, including 11 in senior management and the chief financial officer.

GuideStone services

Last year, GuideStone topped $15 billion in assets under management and added $1.9 billion to the organization’s asset base, Hawkins said, praising the GuideStone Capital Management, LLC, team for their work on behalf of nearly a quarter million participants.
Hawkins, regarding health care, said GuideStone hears nearly daily from pastors and church leaders who want to do right by their staff while at the same time being responsible to their budgets. In response, he said, the SBC entity has announced a new insurance plan option, Secure Health, with enrollment to begin July 1.
The new plan provides access to the nationwide Blue Cross Blue Shield network as well as Teladoc consultations at no out-of-pocket costs. More information is available at GuideStone.org/SecureHealth.
GuideStone’s Property & Casualty program continues to save churches money while providing them with the insurance they need, Hawkins said. Through Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, GuideStone began offering coverage to churches and ministries in Louisiana. GuideStone has served as a Brotherhood Mutual agent in Texas and Alabama since 2012 and works to refer churches in other areas to Brotherhood Mutual’s established agents.

Vision 20/20

Several years ago GuideStone launched its long-range strategic plan, Vision 20/20, to guide the ministry through its 102nd year. Hawkins said the long-range plan includes registering GuideStone’s investment options, introducing new products and services and implementing participant service improvements. The plan culminates in 2020, when Hawkins said he would begin working with trustees to determine succession plans. Hawkins, who has led the ministry since 1997, is GuideStone’s seventh and longest-serving president.


“When we assumed stewardship of GuideStone, Mission:Dignity provided $50/month to those in need,” Hawkins told messengers. “Through your generosity, we are now able to provide the neediest couples of those with $600 each month.”
Hawkins noted that an endowment is in place to cover the costs of the program so that every gift goes straight to someone in need. By 2020, he estimated GuideStone will have raised $150 million for Mission:Dignity over the past two decades. Mission:Dignity receives no Cooperative Program funding; all funding comes from gifts from individuals, churches and Sunday School classes.
Hawkins reminded messengers that Mission:Dignity Sunday is June 24; materials for this emphasis can be ordered through MDSunday.org.
“Pastor, if you’re sitting out there today by that precious partner that for decades served alongside you in ministry ... if you go on before her, rest assured those of us at GuideStone through Mission:Dignity will be Christ’s hand extended to her as you wait for her in heaven, in Lunsford’s words, ‘comforting her in her declining years,’” Hawkins said.
Hawkins spoke of his Code series of books, with all author royalties and proceeds given to Mission:Dignity. The books are a resource for churches in evangelism efforts. His book The Christmas Code, which has sold more than 400,000 copies, has been used by churches around the nation as part of evangelistic efforts. More churches are expected to make use of the short, 25-day Advent season devotional this year. Hawkins also noted a new book, The Easter Code, will be available for similar emphases in 2019. Additionally, The Nehemiah Code: It’s Never Too Late for a New Beginning, will debut in August.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/18/2018 2:28:22 PM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments

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