June 2019

Ben Mandrell elected LifeWay president

June 28 2019 by Biblical Recorder Staff

LifeWay Christian Resources trustees unanimously elected Ben Mandrell as the organization’s next president and CEO in a special called meeting today in Atlanta.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to lead in such an important season for LifeWay,” Mandrell told trustees, according to a LifeWay press release. “My first priority is to get our family to Nashville and begin loving the people at LifeWay. There is already an amazing team in place, and I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and work alongside them.”

Mandrell, who served as lead pastor at Storyline Fellowship in Arvada, Colo., will succeed Thom Rainer, who retired earlier this year. Brad Waggoner has been the acting president and CEO since March 1.


Ben Mandrell
Photo courtesy of Storyline Fellowship

During a press conference following his election, Mandrell said although LifeWay’s methodology and delivery will change, its “mission will not be lost.”

When asked how business and ministry aspects of the organization work together, Mandrell noted his vision to build relationships with a “broader audience.” 

“People pay for what adds value to their lives,” he said. “What tools can we create that churches will look at and make their job so much easier? … When you meet needs, people will pay for those resources. I know I have.”

Addressing a question about LifeWay’s doctrinal standards regarding the books and resources it carries, Mandrell said, “That goes back to our confessional statement of the Baptist Faith and Message. We will continue to preach things that are consistent with our beliefs and who we are as an organization.”

Kent Dacus, chairman of LifeWay’s presidential search committee, said the committee considered more than 100 individuals – a pool that was “very diverse in both ethnicity and gender.” He described the search as “extensive” and “deliberate.”

The committee was “solely focused on the best person to lead LifeWay,” Dacus said. “We saw a person that was committed to his local church, committed to his wife and his family. We saw deep character in him.”

Jimmy Scroggins, chairman of LifeWay’s board of trustees, commended Mandrell on having a “grasp on the kinds of churches that we need to be able to resource.” 

Mandrell has a “relentless commitment to seeing people who are far from God come to know Christ,” Scroggins said. 

Mandrell received a bachelor's degree from Anderson University in Indiana, a master’s degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a doctoral degree from Union University in Jackson, Tenn. He and his wife, Lynley, have four children. The family plans to relocate to Nashville in July. 
6/28/2019 5:27:51 PM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments

Scoggins up for second term as BSC president

June 28 2019 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Editor

The current president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) will be nominated for a second term this November.

Contributed photo
Steve Scoggins

Michael Smith, director of missions for Carolina Baptist Association, will nominate Steve Scoggins, senior pastor of First Baptist Church (FBC) in Hendersonville for the office during the BSC annual meeting Nov. 11-12 in Greensboro.
“Steve Scoggins has, for years, established a remarkable record in leading churches in Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina,” said Smith in email comments to the Biblical Recorder. “No matter where he has gone, the churches he has served have grown and become vibrant, heathy congregations. Steve’s basic philosophy of loving the Lord, and loving people has been effective in the way he goes about doing both.”
Smith said that same “philosophy of ministry” has catapulted FBC to the top in giving, mission efforts and leadership.
“That same philosophy can be seen in the way Steve has led the state convention this past year as president,” Smith said. “His steadiness, and ability to work with the various people throughout the state, have helped give our convention stability in a very unstable time.”
In comments to the Biblical Recorder, Scoggins noted his church’s strong support for the Cooperative Program (CP).
“Our church has been either first or second in gifts to the CP in North Carolina for over 20 years,” Scoggins said. “The reality of what we are doing matches the principles I have always supported. I have been committed to the principle behind the CP, allowing a balanced way to support all types of great ministries, from reaching the nations, to training ministers, to caring for orphans here at home. This year I have gotten to know our state missionaries and to see their work first hand. All of my surprises have been ‘pleasant surprises.’”
With the theme of “God’s Great Work” for this year’s BSC annual meeting, Scoggins wants “to show N.C. that we are doing the work of both the Great Commission and the Great  Commandment through the ministries being supported by the Cooperative Program.”
He said serving a second term would allow him to continue to be a cheerleader for the good work in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and in N.C.
“After serving over 40 years as an SBC pastor, I want to help the next generation be encouraged and effective in their serving the Lord,” Scoggins said.
Micheal Pardue, current BSC first vice president, and Matt Ledbetter, current BSC second vice president, will also be re-nominated. Pardue is pastor of First Baptist Icard in Connelly Springs, and Ledbetter recently became pastor of Creeksville Baptist Church in Conway.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was updated June 29.)

6/28/2019 11:43:46 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Editor | with 0 comments

Southern Baptists respond to border crisis

June 28 2019 by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN

While state and national officials craft responses to the humanitarian crisis along the Mexico border, Southern Baptist entities – including the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) – are actively engaged in addressing the migrant influx.

Photo courtesy of West Brownsville Baptist Church
Pastor Carlos Navarro prays with migrants shuttled by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to the shelter at West Brownsville Baptist Church, Brownsville, Texas.

“The crisis at our southern border is unlike anything we’ve witnessed before and has put an enormous strain on the existing resources we have in place,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.
Abbott announced June 21 the deployment of 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to assist the Department of Homeland Security and the Customs and Border Patrol. The U.S. Congress passed a $4.5 billion border relief package June 25, while the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan bill to allocate $4.59 billion for the crisis advanced out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 30-1 vote the preceding week.
Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, emphasized June 27 the border crisis “has the attention of Southern Baptists.”
“I am grateful for churches and ministry groups in New Mexico, Texas and California helping in a variety of ways, such as serving hot meals and non-perishable lunches and providing other ministries of compassion as they are able,” he said in written comments to Baptist Press. “The hands-on ministry being done through local churches working in partnership with one another and in their associational and state networks is what Southern Baptists are all about.”
Floyd noted that at last year’s SBC annual meeting in Dallas, Southern Baptists “formally called on elected officials, especially those who are members of Southern Baptist churches, to do everything in their power to advocate for a just and equitable immigration system.”
“In the meantime,” Floyd said, “we urge Southern Baptists and other Christ-followers to be the hands and feet of Christ to those in need.”
The border crisis is nothing new to Southern Baptist churches in the Rio Grande Valley, as West Brownsville Baptist Church senior pastor Carlos Navarro explained. (See related report.)
Navarro has been involved in ministry to migrants since his arrival in the Valley a quarter-century ago, when he took over weekly teaching at a Brownsville detention center. After the closure of that facility in 2006, he began ministering at Southwest Key’s Casa Padre center. More than 1,500 young men and boys voluntarily attend Navarro’s weekly Bible teaching at Casa Padre, and recent weeks have seen the numbers of decisions for Christ soar from 150-200 to 200-250.
The church formed Golan Ministries – its name a reminder of the pastor’s support of Israel – “where my Lord and Savior will one day return,” in April 2018 after the Mexican Consulate in Brownsville contacted Navarro for help with that summer’s migrant crisis. Since then, Golan has provided water, clothing, food and Spanish Bibles to migrants on both sides of the border. The SBTC donated 1,500 Bibles to that effort.
In late April this year, West Brownsville Baptist began serving as an overflow respite center when the city’s two other emergency shelters, operated by the Catholic Church, reached capacity, and the mayor and city commissioners approached Navarro for help.
Navarro said yes, and West Brownsville members converted Sunday school rooms and other spaces to shelter migrants.
“Today is the 59th day,” Navarro said on June 26. “We have served over 1,600 migrants in two months.” Numbers have ranged from 75-100 per day initially to 35-50 daily now.
“They are sending us the most vulnerable, moms and dads with children, and single moms with children,” Navarro said, noting that migrants from South and Central America, India, Pakistan and Africa have sheltered at the church after clearing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
While the city of Brownsville has financed efforts at the other respite centers, West Brownsville Baptist has received no city funding and has relied upon donations, including significant grants from the SBTC and NAMB. The Red Cross donated 1,000 toiletry kits, some blankets and 20 cots.
Navarro says that, besides funds for supplies, West Brownsville Baptist needs adult, infant and children’s t-shirts and underwear from sizes small to large, disposable diapers, flip flops or Crocs in all sizes, personal hygiene wipes and disinfecting wipes.
“We go through a bottle and a half of Lysol a day to keep things sanitary,” Navarro said.
He also needs Bibles – preferably the revised Reina-Valera 1960 Bible with black covers – because West Brownsville is addressing both the spiritual and physical needs of the migrants. Navarro shares the gospel. Some 900 of the shelter’s 1,600 guests have reportedly professed to trusting Christ as their Savior to date.
Scottie Stice, SBTC disaster relief director, confirmed that a disaster relief (DR) shower and laundry unit would soon be deployed to West Brownsville Baptist to assist the church’s efforts.
In addition to the work of churches like West Brownsville along the border, SBTC DR volunteers have teamed with the Salvation Army in El Paso and Del Rio this spring and summer to serve migrants who have passed through security, been vetted by the border patrol and undergone medical screening before arriving at temporary shelters.
In Del Rio, small SBTC crews have rotated in and out to man a shower/laundry unit. The SBTC’s DR bunkhouse has also been on site, housing Salvation Army and SBTC volunteers. SBTC shower and laundry operations were suspended in late June and will resume after July 4.
Since May 5, disaster relief volunteers have helped prepare and serve from 600 to 1,400 meals per day in El Paso.
The Del Rio and El Paso relief efforts mark a “renewed partnership with the Salvation Army,” Stice said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jane Rodgers writes for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Baptist Press contributed to this story.)
Related Stories
‘Hungry’ & ‘confused’ migrants aided by N.M. Baptists
Former N.C. pastor answers plea for help at Tijuana border

6/28/2019 11:37:39 AM by Jane Rodgers, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments

2019 human trafficking report: U.S. has work to do

June 28 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The U.S. is among 33 top countries fighting human trafficking but falls short in prosecuting traffickers, aiding victims and tackling forced labor in particular, the U.S. State Department said in its latest report.

Faith communities can help countries address human trafficking, which currently victimizes an estimated 25 million adults and children worldwide in sex trafficking and forced labor, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large John Cotton Richmond said in releasing the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP).
“Traffickers continue to operate with impunity, and only a small fraction of victims receive trauma-informed, victim-centered support services,” said Richmond, ambassador-at-large to monitor and combat trafficking in persons. “Yet, by working together, governments, civil society organizations, survivor advocates, and faith communities can reverse this troubling pattern.”
The TIP report annually measures nearly 200 nations on their success in fighting human trafficking within their own borders, based on practices established in the latest versions of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), and the international 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol). Most victims of human trafficking are victimized within their country of residence, the report said, although sex trafficking victims are transported internationally more often than labor victims.
The U.S. “fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” the report found. “These efforts included increasing the number of convictions, increasing the amount of funding for victim services and number of victims served, continuing to seek and incorporate survivor input on human trafficking programs and policies, and launching new public outreach measures to more sectors.
“Although the government meets the minimum standards,” the State Department reported, “it opened, charged, and prosecuted fewer cases; issued fewer victims trafficking-specific immigration options, and granted fewer foreign national victims of trafficking eligibility to access benefits and services.”
The TIP report is a valuable resource for churches seeking to engage human trafficking globally, said Raleigh Sadler, a Southern Baptist who founded Let My People Go, a New York ministry equipping churches to address human trafficking.
“The report exists to educate us on what human trafficking looks like around the world and what is being done about it,” Sadler said. “For those of us in the local church, we could read the country narratives to have a better picture of what is happening in each setting. Imagine what could happen if we prayed for those in each country.” Sadler’s ministry, online at lmpgnetwork.org, offers church training through a Justice Weekend of intensive teaching on recognizing vulnerability and serving the most vulnerable; and the LMPG Experience, a missional week of teaching, service projects and other outreaches to vulnerable populations in New York. Upcoming LMPG Experience weeks are March 9-13 and 16-20 in 2020.
TIP divides countries into three tiers, with Tier 1 countries meeting minimum TVPA standards to eliminate trafficking, Tier 2 nations making significant efforts to comply with TVPA, and Tier 3 countries not making significant efforts to comply, according to the report. A Tier 2 Watch List earmarks nations that have committed to meet minimum standards, but have a significant number of people severely victimized by human trafficking and the nations are unable to provide evidence of improvements.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described human trafficking as a strain and a stain on all of humanity.
“We detest it because it flagrantly violates the unalienable rights that belong to every human being,” Pompeo said upon the report’s release June 20 in Washington. “Every person, everywhere, is inherently vested with profound, inherent, equal dignity.... America was founded on a promise to defend those rights – including life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice. But too often we’ve fallen short, and we cannot fall short on this challenge.”
Sharing Tier 1 with the U.S. are Argentina, Australia, Austria, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Guyana, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.
Countries with the most severe problems, those in Tier 3, not only overlook human trafficking, the report said, but some systematically perpetrate the crime.
“Some of these governments allow human traffickers to run rampant, and other governments are human traffickers themselves,” Pompeo said. “In North Korea, the government subjects its own citizens to forced labor both at home and abroad and then uses proceeds to fund nefarious activities.
“In China, authorities have detained more than a million members of ethnically Muslim minority groups in internment camps,” Pompeo said. “Many are forced to produce garments, carpets, cleaning supplies, and other goods for domestic sale.”
Tier 3 countries are Belarus, Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, China, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, The Gambia, Iran, North Korea, Mauritania, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan and Venezuela.
The majority of countries studied, nearly 100, ranked in Tier 2, but no designation is permanent. An additional 38 countries are on the Tier 2 Watch List.
The report covers April 2018 through March 2019 and utilizes information from a variety of sources including U.S. embassies, government officials, nongovernmental and international organizations, published reports, news articles, academic studies, research trips worldwide and information submitted to tipreport@state.gov.
The study defines human trafficking as “sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act” is under age 18; or “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

6/28/2019 11:32:40 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastor in his 69th year at same church

June 28 2019 by Chip Hutcheson, Western Recorder

Pastoring for 69 years is a rarity today – but very few have the distinction of pastoring the same church for that length of time.

Submitted photo
James Royalty stands by the Red Hill Baptist Church sign, which proclaims the church’s homecoming day in July a few years ago.

That is a distinction held by James Royalty, who will complete his 69th year at Red Hill Baptist Church, Radcliff, Ky., in July.
He began working as a printer since his father had a small print shop. At one time he inquired about a position with the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s (KBC) Western Recorder in the days of “hot metal” printing. He and his family started a newspaper in Radcliff, The Sentinel, which is still in family hands today.
It was at a KBC annual meeting that he decided to accept a call to preach the gospel – a call he had struggled with for five years. “I thought that I couldn’t do it, but I went to Georgetown College and worked my way through there – it took me seven years because I worked while I went to college,” the 90-year-old pastor recalled.
“In my calling, I said I was not a preacher, but where God wants me I’ll go, and I’ll stay as long as He wants me to stay,” he noted. “I had four opportunities to leave Red Hill, but I turned them all down. After all, the Lord put me there to start with. I was needed there.” He said he has no plans to retire, but to continue “until the Lord calls me home.”
He has remained as pastor in the spite of some health challenges. In 2010 he had a heart attack, then in 2015 suffered a fall, which was followed by a stroke a month later. He was in and out of the hospital for about two weeks.
“I felt like I was needed, and I stayed with it. I remember thinking – if it’s 10 years or 20 years or 50 years, that’s left up to the Lord.”
He preached one of the first messages at Red Hill, which was a mission of Vine Grove Baptist. He was called as its first pastor in July 1950. Not only was he the church’s first pastor, but it was his desire to hold a series of revival services in the Red Hill community that spawned the mission work.
The services in those early days were held in an old, borrowed Army field tent. Vine Grove supplied homemade slat benches and an old Army pump organ was brought in to provide the music. Royalty, still in school at Georgetown, traveled to Red Hill each Sunday to preach. The planting church paid for his weekly trips to Georgetown, and the mission was instructed to incur no debt.
The mission was given a one-acre lot, and construction on a basement building measuring 19-feet by 30-feet began.

Submitted photo
James Royalty

While that work was underway, services continued in the tent. But on a snowy December day in 1950, when Royalty drove in from Georgetown he found the tent had been blown down. The members had to repair the borrowed tent in order to turn it back in, and that provided the impetus to move to the basement building, which only had a mud floor, walls and a center support girder on posts. A pot-bellied stove that had been used in the tent was brought in. Construction on the basement was completed in the next few months, then work on the upstairs began and was completed in 1951. The mission was organized into a church in 1952 as part of the Severns Valley Association.
Because so many people needed transportation, Red Hill became one of the early churches to start a bus ministry, resulting in more than 40 people being served, in addition to a few who were given transportation to other churches.
More land was purchased and the church moved to its present location at 1991 Hill St., dedicating a full-service basement facility Nov. 12, 1961. Ten years later, construction of an auditorium began. It was dedicated July 9, 1972.
Red Hill has a strong legacy in missions giving. It has been the sponsor of a Laotian ministry and a Spanish ministry, and members have done volunteer mission work in Kentucky and outside the U.S. It sends 13 percent of all undesignated gifts to the Cooperative Program and 4 percent to the Severns Valley Association.
The pastor offers advice to younger pastors.
“Find the Lord’s work and stay with it,” he said. “A problem today is that churches won’t support them so they can take care of their family. For some, it’s not that they particularly want to move, but the churches don’t support them to make a living.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chip Hutcheson is managing editor of the Western Recorder.)

6/28/2019 11:28:24 AM by Chip Hutcheson, Western Recorder | with 0 comments

Path to reconciliation focus of ‘Advocates’

June 27 2019 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

Dhati Lewis remembers flipping through election night coverage on television, Nov. 8, 2016. He felt captivated by the news cycle as the results started pouring in.

Photo courtesy of Blueprint Church
Dhati Lewis, author of the book Advocates: The Narrow Path to Racial Reconciliation, is the North American Mission Board’s vice president over the Send Network, NAMB’s church planting ministry arm. Lewis also pastors Blueprint Church in Atlanta.

Lewis recalls that night in his new book Advocates: The Narrow Path to Racial Reconciliation and remembers a common theme that moved him deeply: “our country is divided.”
“Christians were saying it. Nonbelievers were saying it. News anchors from every station were saying it,” Lewis writes. “I heard those words ripple through every single channel, and I was grieved to my core.”
As a pastor of a diverse congregation in Atlanta, Blueprint Church, Lewis believed he was going to need to confront those divisions head on in order to shepherd his people well.
The 2016 election revealed divisions in the United States and the American church, Lewis writes. For an African American man with a heart for reconciliation, the eruption that took place that night underscored just how much work needed to be done.
Lewis began by addressing the divisions in his congregation, pausing their current sermon series to focus on the book of Philemon. That became the foundation for Advocates. In order to see tensions heal, Lewis writes, Christians need to take on the role of advocates, who plead for others to be reconciled to Christ and to one another.
“The issue of racial division is close to my heart for a lot of different reasons,” Lewis said about his reason for writing the book. “I’ve always had the desire to run to the tension with a heart for reconciliation; this book is a manifestation of that practice.”
Lewis became a vice president at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in 2018, leading the Send Network, NAMB’s ministry that focuses on starting new churches in areas that lack a strong, gospel presence. For years, Lewis has seen the need for reconciliation as a key to planting new churches.
“Racial division is a real problem that demands real solutions that can lead to real transformation,” Lewis said. “These divisions that have been caused by racism, classism, sexism and every other ‘ism’ are not new in our time. A lot of the New Testament was written about the same types of divisions that we are facing today.”
Paul wrote the letter to Philemon after the slave Onesimus, a runaway from Philemon’s household, met Paul in prison and came to know Christ as Lord. As a result, Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon and encourages the two to be reconciled as brothers.
The instruction Paul gives, Lewis writes, unveils three key qualities for an advocate – they rely on Christ, run to the tension, and respond with dignity.
While a Christian advocate will embrace these qualities, the typical, carnal response is to react as an aggravator who instead sows more division because their focus is self-interest, self-preservation or self-vindication rather than genuine reconciliation, Lewis explains in the book.
“When we hold our hearts up to God’s standard, we all fall dramatically short (Romans 3:23),” Lewis writes. “And that’s the beauty of the gospel. God reconciles even the worst of sinners. So when we engage as advocates, we must come in with an awareness of our own story, our own sin and our own bias.”
For any two groups who are divided over an issue, he notes, the easiest thing to do is to blame those on the other side for the discord. Through his writing, Lewis shows how that realization is not an easy one for any person or group to process. The balance of who’s right and who’s wrong is not always equal, but Christians realize each person shares the responsibility to pursue reconciliation together.
“For us to become advocates, we must do the hard work of facing anything that defines us that is divisive and not of Christ,” Lewis writes, “and be willing to surrender that in place of our identity as children of God and brothers and sisters to one another.”
Advocates can be purchased here through LifeWay.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)

6/27/2019 11:12:30 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

Every state at #SBC19, first time in 20 years

June 27 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

This year for the first time in at least two decades, churches in every state sent messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, the SBC Executive Committee (EC) said in official statistics released June 25.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam were also represented among the 8,183 messengers who attended the meeting June 11-12 in Birmingham, Ala., which drew a total of 13,502 attendees, said Bill Townes, convention manager and EC vice president for convention finance.
Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, praised the broad participation.
“We rejoice that for the first time in at least 20 years, every state registered messengers to this year’s Southern Baptist Convention,” Floyd told Baptist Press. “While our convention is a national gathering, the greatest number of messengers usually come from the states that are closest to the convention’s host city. Regardless of where we meet, we need thousands of our churches participating with us annually.”
Floyd encourages attendance as an efficient way to discover the SBC’s broad ministry and missions footprint funded through the Cooperative Program.
“I would encourage pastors to prioritize the dates for the convention each year,” Floyd said. (See graphic below.) “I would also appeal to the churches to send your pastor and his spouse, along with other messengers, to our annual meeting.

“As churches invest in Great Commission missions and ministries that we do cooperatively,” he said, “it is good for these churches to come and check on the gospel investment they are making financially.”
Just over seven percent of Southern Baptist churches, or 3,428 of 47,456 congregations, sent messengers to the meeting, statistics show. Among the available statistics on church representation, a high of 13.8 percent of churches sent messengers in 1996, and a low of 4.7 percent of churches sent messengers in 2017. Attendance by church representation was not tabulated before 1993, including the year of the highest messenger attendance of 45,519 in Dallas in 1985.
The host state of Alabama led in messengers sent and churches represented, with 1,380 messengers attending from 498 churches, statistics show. Following were Georgia with 848 messengers from 319 churches, and Tennessee with 745 messengers from 297 churches. Florida sent the fourth largest group of messengers, 582, representing the sixth largest group of churches, 215. Conversely, Mississippi sent the fifth largest number of messengers, 523, from the fourth highest number of churches, 234. Texas was a close sixth in messengers, sending 518 messengers from the fifth largest group of churches, 233.
Most messengers, 5,453, were male (66.64 percent); compared to 2,730 women, (33.36 percent).
Only 860 messengers completed the survey tracking messengers’ age groups. Of those 860, a total of 280 were ages 60 and above, 111 were ages 55-59, messengers between ages 50 and 54 numbered 75, messengers in the 45-49 age group totaled 78, those ages 40-44 totaled 100, messengers from 35-39 totaled 84, the 30-34 age group included 59 messengers, and messengers ages 18-29 totaled 73.
Other highlights:

– In 2019, just over 1 of every 4 messengers of those completing the survey (27 percent) were attending the SBC annual meeting for the first time. The average since 2003 has been 1 out of 5 messengers attending for the first time.

– The average travel cost per attendee in Birmingham was $776, the lowest since 2006, while the average travel cost per attendee over the last 17 years is $969.

– 80 percent of attendees this year traveled to Birmingham by personal vehicle, significantly higher than the 57 percent average over the last 17 years.

– 25 percent of Birmingham attendees were under age 39 (1 in 4). Over the last 17 years, that average has been 20 percent.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

6/27/2019 11:07:22 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Report: Young adults less LGBT tolerant

June 27 2019 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

America’s younger generation is becoming less comfortable with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) individuals, according to a report released June 24.
The Accelerating Acceptance report, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD, showed that respondents age 18-34 were much less tolerant of LGBT people than in the prior two years’ surveys.
GLAAD first launched the report to gauge “the state of America’s hearts and minds when it comes to accepting LGBT people,” according to their website, glaad.org.
Released just before the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City that started the LGBT movement, this year’s results surprised advocates, as the younger generation has typically been known as more open and progressive. Overall, only 45 percent of non-LGBT respondents in the younger bracket said they were “very” or “somewhat” comfortable around LGBTQ people or with LGBT issues in 2018 – a sharp decline from 53 percent in 2017 and 63 percent in 2016.
In 2018, the biggest drop from the previous year happened among young women – from 64 percent in 2017 to 52 percent in 2018. It had dropped only 1 point – from 65 to 64 percent – the year before.
But across all three years, the decline was especially noticeable among young males, dropping from 62 percent in 2016 to 40 percent in 2017, then 35 percent in 2018.
“While young people are identifying as LGBT in higher rates than ever before, there has also been an uptick in non-LGBT young people pushing back against acceptance,” Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO, wrote in the report.
The drop in comfort showed up over a variety of scenarios. For example, 39 percent of non-LGBT respondents in the 18-34 age group in 2018 said they would be “very” or “somewhat” uncomfortable learning that their child had been taught a lesson on LGBT history in school, compared with 27 percent in 2016. When it comes to their child having an LGBT teacher, 33 percent were uncomfortable, compared to 25 percent from two years before.
Other scenarios – such as learning that a family member or their doctor is LGBT – also logged a 10 points or more growth in discomfort.
Across American adults of all ages, comfort with LGBT individuals remained stable. So did backing for equal rights, with 8 out of 10 adults in support.
According to GLAAD, the survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll from Jan. 8-11 among 1,970 U.S. adults ages 18 or older, including 1,754 who were classified as non-LGBT adults.
To read the full report, visit glaad.org/publications/accelerating-acceptance-2019.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a writer based in Birmingham, Ala.)

6/27/2019 11:04:12 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Strengthen the Church: Q&A with Mark Hearn

June 26 2019 by BSC Communications

Mark Hearn serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Duluth, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, that is one of the most diverse communities in the United States. During his tenure as pastor, Hearn has led FBC Duluth to embrace multicultural ministry, a story that has been chronicled by The Wall Street Journal, Baptist Press and in the book Technicolor: Inspiring Your Church to Embrace Multicultural Ministry.

Mark Hearn

Hearn will serve as a keynote speaker for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s first-ever “Strengthen the Church Conference” on Tuesday, Aug. 13, which is designed to equip and inspire church leaders to embrace and pursue multicultural ministry.
Hearn recently took time to answer some questions about changing communities, First Baptist Duluth’s journey and what he plans to share at the conference.
Q: Communities across the country have become and are projected to continue becoming more and more culturally and ethnically diverse. Oftentimes, however, people and pastors can be slow to recognize or acknowledge how their communities are changing around them. What’s a first step for churches to recognize these changes and embrace multicultural ministry?
A: Most churches react to change like the frog in the kettle. A frog placed in warm water grows comfortable with its surroundings. So much so, that if the water is heated to boiling point, the frog will be boiled alive rather than jump to freedom. Our church was a “frog in the kettle.”
The Duluth community changed from a community whose population was more than 90 percent Anglo in 1990 to a mosaic community whose population was 41 percent Anglo when I arrived in 2010. In spite of this rapid diversification, ministries at FBC Duluth were pretty much unchanged. Pastors and church leaders need to keep up with what is changing in their communities.
School population data are public records that need to be accessed and analyzed regularly. Contact with city officials to discuss the direction of local government should be on the agenda of every church that desires to have genuine community impact. Statistical projections about community growth are available from most state conventions or discernible from places like www.citydata.com.
Q: You mentioned how Duluth grew into one of the most diverse cities in America. What similarities might Duluth have with other communities across the country when it comes to changing populations and demographics?
A: Demographers are now projecting that every city in America will be a “majority-minority” by 2050. This means that there will be no majority culture in the city. Duluth became a majority-minority in 2008. Therefore, we were about one generation ahead of the curve. I tell our church leaders, all the time, that we are paving the way as pioneers on a path that almost every American church will have to travel.
Since we began chronicling our story, I have been contacted to share our triumphs and failures with others who are seeking answers to their new normal. To date I have led seminars or consulted with churches in California, Louisiana, Arkansas, New York, Georgia and now North Carolina. I have heard repeatedly a note of gratitude from pastors and leaders who thought their situation was unique, and no one was addressing their changing dynamic.
Q: In your book, Technicolor: Inspiring Your Church to Embrace Multicultural Ministry, you share your story about how God led you and First Baptist Duluth to reach out and minister to your diverse community. How would you describe that journey?
A: One of the most encouraging verses in the Word of God is Galatians 6:9 (ESV): “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” The work of transitioning a church from a mono-ethnic, traditional setting to a vibrant multicultural community of faith is both challenging and exhilarating.
I have pastored FBC Duluth for just over nine years. Looking back, I can divide this tenure into three distinctive three-year time periods. The first three years were about casting vision. This was a period of discovering the demographic nuances of our area and forging a plan for the future.
The next three years were about grappling with the vision. While the early period was more about evaluation, this time frame was about education. In the interest of disclosure, this is when the idea of change turns into the reality of change and produces conflict. However, these past three years have seen the fruits of the vision.
In 2017, for the first time in the 130-year history of our church, the majority of our new members were internationally born. That amazing trend has continued and increased every successive year. We now have church members from 46 nations, offer our services each week in three additional languages, and over 30 percent of our leadership (staff, deacons and lay leaders) were born outside the United States. We truly believe the best is yet to come!
Q: We’re excited to have you join us for the Strengthen the Church Conference. What do you plan to share with attendees to encourage them to pursue multicultural ministry?
A: We are bringing our entire staff and a couple of lay leaders to the conference. Our plan is to share the path of our journey and to give some “best practices” for all who are interested in learning about next steps. However, I want to be very clear that our story is less about emulation and more about inspiration. Every church dynamic and demographic is different. There is not a “one-size-fits-all” plan to become a multicultural church. But there are common principles and paths that can begin the beautiful journey to discovering church in Technicolor!

6/26/2019 11:40:01 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Sutherland Springs finds healing through VBS

June 26 2019 by Joy Allmond, LifeWay Christian Resources

When First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs kicked off their annual Vacation Bible School (VBS) the week of June 3, it looked profoundly different from two years ago.

Screen capture from LifeWay video
Sherri Pomeroy, wife of Sutherland Springs Baptist Church pastor Frank Pomeroy, helped lead out in the church’s VBS in 2018, only months after the church suffered a devastating tragedy. “We knew we had to do it not only for the Lord, but to honor the memories of those who were gone,” she said.

On Nov. 5, 2017, a gunman entered their sanctuary, opened fire, and took the lives of 26 people. Several of those who lost their lives were instrumental in the VBS ministry of the church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
“VBS takes up a large portion of our year, because we do VBS big,” said Sherri Pomeroy, wife of Sutherland Springs pastor Frank Pomeroy. “Everybody around here knows this church produces an amazing VBS event every year, and all the kids want to go to it.”
Among those killed was the Pomeroys’ 14-year-old daughter Annabelle.
“VBS was her favorite event of the year,” Sherri said. “She loved having the DVD after VBS was over and being able to do the moves along with it. She loved playing with the other children and was excited about being a helper for the first time [the following summer].”
As the early months of 2018 rolled around, the leadership of Sutherland Springs had to make a tough but necessary – decision: They would once again host VBS, despite the painfully obvious voids.
“We didn’t want their work in the years past to be in vain,” Sherri said. “But it was tough. We had all new teachers – people who stepped up to stand in the gap. We knew we had to do it not only for the Lord, but to honor the memories of those who were gone.”
Jennifer Holcombe is one of the Sutherland Springs members who stepped up. She lost her husband, her 18-month-old daughter and several other family members in the attack.
“I knew we had to keep going and not stop doing these things to be able to heal,” Holcombe said. “Some of what we do is to keep it going for them. For me, if I could do it, I wasn’t going to say ‘no.’ I had to do it to keep myself going.”
Karla Holcombe, Jennifer’s mother-in-law – described by Sherri as the “creative genius” behind the VBS décor year after year – was among those lost during the 2018 attack.
Karla’s daughter, Sarah Slavin, recalls a pivotal moment of healing during the 2018 VBS week – an event that seemed impossible to carry out, given the searing loss of her mother, father and brother who all died in the shooting.
“My mom was very involved in Vacation Bible School when she was alive,” Slavin said. “And my dad (Bryan) would always make lots of props, and my brother (Danny) always made props. I couldn’t imagine VBS without them. But I realized the Holy Spirit was the one doing all this that I gave them credit for.”
Pastor Frank Pomeroy noted the Holy Spirit has not only been working in the church and the surrounding community to heal them, but He’s also been working through VBS to bring healing – and maybe a little joy.
Between 40 and 50 children attended VBS at Sutherland Springs last summer – the same number that had attended in years past, Sherri said.
This year attendance doubled – they ran out of 100 nametags.
“VBS – at least in our church – has been an outreach to the community,” Frank said. “Not only have we reached children, parents and grandparents – and had parents come to know Christ through VBS – but people came together [to pull it off].
“You could be in here every morning during the worship rally,” he said. “You could feel the Spirit moving in these kids. But I would even venture to say [the 2018] VBS was more for the adults of Sutherland Springs than for the kids.”
And while the VBS leaders, volunteers and kids of FBC Sutherland Springs were in a new facility this year, Pomeroy noted it’s the same Holy Spirit who will continue to heal hearts.
“It lets us see ... we can hold to the hem of His garment and still move forward,” he said.
“The tragedy that inflicted so much heartache can still be healed if we hold on to the Lord and look at [our situation] through the laughter of these children.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joy Allmond is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

6/26/2019 11:35:47 AM by Joy Allmond, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

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