June 2019

Oregon bakers wait after high court order

June 19 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein now will wait to see if the U.S. Supreme Court’s insistence they receive a new hearing from a state court will produce a different result in their effort to practice their biblically based beliefs.

BP photo

The high court rescinded June 17 a ruling against the Kleins and returned the case to the Oregon Court of Appeals for reconsideration in light of the justices’ 2018 opinion in favor of a Colorado cake artist who refused to design and decorate a cake to celebrate the wedding of two men. In that 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated the religious free exercise clause of the First Amendment and demonstrated in its action “religious hostility” toward Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop.
The Kleins, who are Christians, declined to design and bake a cake for a lesbian commitment ceremony in 2013 because they believe marriage is only between a man and a woman. In December 2017, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld a decision by the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) that the Kleins’ refusal was based on unlawful discrimination against homosexuals. The Oregon Supreme Court refused in 2018 to review the appeals court opinion. The state agency had approved a $135,000 fine against the Kleins, who closed their shop and moved their business to their home.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, expressed gratitude the order “is not a setback for religious liberty. We also hope the court will one day definitively affirm an individual’s right to freedom of conscience.”
“No one, whether acting as a private citizen or business owner, should be forced to violate his or her conscience, even for issues that our culture demands tolerance with no dissent,” Moore said in written comments for Baptist Press. “No individual should be compelled to act in a manner that violates his or her deeply held religious beliefs.”
Kelly Shackelford – president of First Liberty Institute, which is helping represent the Kleins in court – described the order as a victory for the Kleins and for “religious liberty for all Americans.”
“The Constitution protects speech, popular or not, from condemnation by the government,” Shackelford said in a written release. “The message from the Court is clear, government hostility toward religious Americans will not be tolerated.”
The Kleins will be hoping the Oregon court’s judicial reconsideration will turn out differently than that in the case of another wedding vendor in a neighboring state.
The Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously June 6 that the state’s judicial system did not show religious animosity toward florist Barronelle Stutzman when it concluded she illegally discriminated by declining to design flowers for a same-sex wedding. The court also ruled against her in 2017.
Nearly a year before the order in the Kleins’ case, the Supreme Court annulled the Washington high court’s opinion in Stutzman’s appeal and instructed that court to reconsider their previous decision in light of the justices’ Masterpiece Cakeshop decision.
The Washington Supreme Court, however, ruled neither it nor a lower court exhibited religious hostility toward the florist. The high court reaffirmed its 2017 finding that refusing to provide services for a same-sex wedding comprises sexual orientation discrimination.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represents Stutzman in the case, said the Washington high court applied the U.S. Supreme Court’s instructions too narrowly. Stutzman’s contention that state Attorney General Bob Ferguson demonstrated hostility toward religion in his suit against her was the reason the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the Washington court, according to ADF. Ferguson not only initiated the state’s suit against Stutzman’s business but sued her personally, threatening all of her assets, according to ADF.
The Kleins’ case began when Aaron – who co-owned with his wife Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Gresham, Ore. – declined a request by Laurel Bowman for a cake for her ceremony with Rachel Cryer. The Kleins were willing to serve gays and lesbians, they said, but believed their Christian faith prevented them from providing a cake for a same-sex ceremony. Bowman and Cryer had a commitment ceremony in 2013 and a wedding in 2014 after same-sex marriage became legal in Oregon.
In its opinion, a three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals concluded the Kleins’ denial of service to Bowman and Cryer was “on account of” the lesbian couple’s sexual orientation under state law. The BOLI did not “impermissibly burden” either the Kleins’ free expression rights or their freedom of religion protected by the First Amendment, the judges said.
The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represents the same-sex couple, expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court order. Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jennifer Pizer, however, voiced confidence that, as in Stutzman’s case, the Oregon court “will again confirm that this discrimination case has been handled fairly and justly, precisely as Oregon law and the U.S. Constitution require.”
State laws and court rulings – and especially the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 legalization of gay marriage – have brought intense pressure on Christians and other people of faith who affirm the biblical view of marriage. This has been especially true in the wedding business, where florists, cake designers, photographers and others have been sued for declining to use their talents for same-sex weddings.
The case is Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/19/2019 11:27:59 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBC Women’s Session addresses leadership, ministry

June 19 2019 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Resource Network

Women from all across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) were urged to meet the challenges of leadership and ministry with patience and confidence at the newly inaugurated SBC Women’s Session, held June 10 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

The speakers for the three-hour event, which replaced the former Pastors’ Wives Conference to include a broader spectrum of women in attendance, featured Norine Brunson, wife of Andrew Brunson, the American pastor released last fall from imprisonment in Turkey, and Lori McDaniel, outgoing manager of church initiatives in mobilization at the International Mission Board (IMB). A panel discussion on women’s leadership and discipleship was moderated by Kathy Litton and included Kandi Gallaty, Amy Whitfield, Missie Branch, and Ashlyn Portero.
The event was held in conjunction with the SBC’s annual meeting, 11-12, in Birmingham, Ala.


Brunson shared how she met her husband Andrew at Wheaton College, married and later joined him as Evangelical Presbyterian Church missionaries to Turkey, where, after 25 years of ministry, they were imprisoned.
Brunson explained during the event how the Syrian war caused a flood of refugees into Turkey, including the Kurds, whom even the Turkish believers disdained and did not want to reach with the gospel.

Photo by Kathleen Murray
Donna Gaines, left, interviews Norine Brunson during the Women’s Session June 10 in Birmingham, Ala. Brunson’s husband, Andrew, was released in October 2018 after being imprisoned for his faith for two years in Turkey.

The Brunsons’ Turkish church ministered to the refugees, which likely led to complaints and the resultant attention of Turkish authorities. Soon, they were asked to come to the police station.
Expecting to receive their long-term residence permits, the Brunsons were instead thrown into a detention center, arrested as “a threat to national security.”
Brunson explained, “We had no contact. We couldn’t see a lawyer. We saw the U.S. consulates approaching; they were turned back. We couldn’t be in touch with our kids. So, it was difficult.”
Brunson’s captors suddenly released her 13 days later. However, Andrew Brunson was not released and would remain imprisoned for two years.
Brunson said she really had to cast herself on God and spend long periods of time with Him.
Her husband was finally sentenced to time served and released in October 2018, which Brunson credited, on the human level, to “unprecedented engagement by President Trump,” but even more, on the spiritual level, to the “unprecedented supernatural prayer movement” from the prayers of God’s people all over the world.
Upon her husband’s release, they were immediately forced to leave the country.
A book about the ordeal, God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance will be released this October.


McDaniel previously served alongside her husband Mike and their three children as IMB missionaries in Zambia before they returned to the U.S. to plant Grace Point Church in Bentonville, Ark., where Mike is senior pastor.
In her keynote remarks, McDaniel said her focus was that “we as women see that we are partners in the gospel and that we are partners in our diversity, characterized by unity, compelled by the name of Jesus Christ, propelled by the power of the Holy Spirit to advance the gospel to all people at all costs for the glory of His name.”
Drawing from Philippians 1:5, in which the apostle Paul expressed thanksgiving for the disciples’ “partnership in the gospel,” McDaniel shared several scripture passages of women who served alongside and ministered to Paul and to Jesus Himself.


Photo by Kathleen Murray
Lori McDaniel, Global Mission Catalyst with the IMB, speaks at the SBC Women’s Session June 10 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in Birmingham, Ala. Her presentation was titled Women: Indispensable to the Gospel.

“They were people who had been mutually invested and have a mutual responsibility and a shared common task,” McDaniel explained, pointing to the church planted after a vision appeared to Paul from a “man from Macedonia” (Acts 16:9).
“Because of their obedience to the Spirit moving, God changed their trajectory and because of the change in their trajectory, it became a turning point in the history,” McDaniel said. “And the gospel leaves Asia and for the first time, goes transcontinental into Europe.
“And who knew that the ‘man from Macedonia’ appears to be a woman, Lydia.... A woman of affluence. A woman of influence. A woman who loved God, that didn’t know Jesus until God opens up her heart and she becomes the first believer that later on in this chapter, we see that the church is now meeting in her house.”
McDaniel continued, “And Paul, a former Pharisee, is the one who shares the gospel with her. A man, who at one point, according to Warren Wiersbe, had been taught by rabbis that it is better that the words of the law be burned than be delivered to a woman.
“But because of the power of transformation of the gospel in Paul’s heart, this is no longer his philosophy. He’s the man that wrote that ‘there’s neither Jew or gentile, there’s neither slave nor free, there’s neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus’” (Galatians 3:28), she said.
“The gospel is not limited by culture, or color, or gender, or geography. But partners who advance the gospel do so to all people that God puts in their path, and they often look for a different path to give the gospel to people who don’t yet have it,” she noted.
“Women, I want you to know that in your diversity that you have an integral, vital, critical, essential, indispensable role to play in advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ,” she said, cautioning the women not to “hear the word indispensable as meaning irreplaceable.”
She clarified, “But indispensable in the sense that we see throughout the entire narrative of God’s Word that He has been calling a people to Himself using men and women for the entire purpose of making His name known and sharing His glory among all the earth.”


Panel discussion

Kathy Litton, director of planter spouse development for the North American Mission Board, led a panel discussion on women in leadership and discipleship. Collectively, the women shared what prepared them most for leadership, about their unique giftedness, and about the value of women in the Kingdom of God, among other topics.
Whitfield, director of marketing and communications at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and co-host of the podcast “SBC This Week,” co-authored the book SBC FAQs: A Ready Reference and has served since 2016 as an assistant parliamentarian for the Southern Baptist Convention.
Sharing her desire to help people feel more engaged with the SBC, Whitfield credits her current leadership opportunities to the many previous leaders in her life who allowed her to ask questions and gave her space to grow.
Branch, assistant dean of students to women and the director of graduate life at SEBTS, explained how she has observed women’s greater propensity to bring community in workspaces.
“I think [coming together] forces the men in our space to see us, to even see each other as not just employees but brothers and sisters in Christ,” she said.
Branch also spoke to God’s timing for one’s life.
“I would just say be patient and be willing to really learn and invest in the season you’re in because ... your minds will be blown by how God can use you if you are faithful where you are,” she encouraged.
Portero currently serves as one of the executive directors overseeing and supporting staff and day-to-day ministry operations at City Church in Tallahassee, Fla. She expressed her gratitude for being allowed to serve as a leader in ministry, even at 30 years old.
“Our church grew really fast – is really young – and so we all had to really just kind of dive in and go,” Portero said, urging others to build intentional steps for people to get experience along the way. “Take things out of the test tube sometimes to see how it will go.”
The wide range of women who attended the gathering also enjoyed table conversations and worship led by Kristin and Eric Yeldell from First Baptist Church of Naples, Fla.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is the director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/19/2019 11:22:38 AM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Resource Network | with 0 comments

Women & Work Forum affirms call ‘to honor God’

June 19 2019 by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Convention

A Women & Work Forum drew 170 women to hear author and teacher Jen Wilkin and Tami Heim, president and CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance, after the June 11 session of the SBC annual meeting at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center.

Photo by Kathleen Murray
Courtney L. Moore, left, moderates a forum with Tami Heim, center, and Jen Wilkin June 11 in Birmingham, Ala.

“This is the kind of event I’d hoped to see for women,” Wilkin said. As a woman who was a stay-at-home mom for some time, then a church volunteer and eventually on staff at her church, Wilkin said she has developed some thoughts about women and work.
Wilkin drew from Genesis 1 in stating that God provided a framework for work in the Bible and that it is a mandate from Him. “Both men and women are created in the image of God and both are given dominion over the earth,” she said, noting that God called people to be fruitful, to multiply and be good stewards of the earth.
In the New Testament, Jesus charged both men and women with carrying out the Great Commission, Wilkin said. “We are not work-optional beings in the most literal sense. There is good work for us to do,” she said.
What matters, Wilkin said, is not one’s place of work but the heart behind the work being done.
“No work is undignified that is done as unto the Lord. What is going on in your heart?” she probed, stating that “what is going on in your heart can change without you changing your place of work.”
Heim recounted spending most of her life before Christ mapping out everything she was going to do, never wavering from wanting to work in fashion from the time she was 7 until college.
On the verge of her graduation, Heim surrendered her life to Christ. “My thinking was rearranged,” she said, “so that my thoughts were always on ‘Who can I talk to today and share what Jesus has done for me and my family?’”
Heim relayed three pieces of advice that she would have liked to tell her younger self.
First, she underscored a call to lead: “We do it every day – influencing the thinking and behavior of others.”
Next, there is a specific way God has called each person to lead based on one’s skills, presence and words. “Use what you have been given to honor and glorify Him,” Heim said. “Only you can give your presence and it is something powerful to give one’s presence,” she said. “Our words matter,” she continued, “so think about the things you say.”
Finally, she reminded that “today matters. What will you do faithfully today? You can make a choice to honor God and go in that direction or a choice that will distance you from what He has for you.”
The Women & Work Forum ended with a question-and-answer session led by founder Courtney L. Moore. Pulling from questions posted on social media, she asked Wilkin and Heim how they faced hurdles when trying to gain a seat at the table.
Wilkin answered that she “learned to walk into a room hoping to restore the vision of being a family of God and look to cultivate that with the men who are not her biological family.” Heim said that she has found that by honoring and respecting the men, they return the same honor and respect.
Women & Work will be releasing a podcast this coming fall as another resource to help women think biblically about their work. For more information visit womenwork.net.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keila Diaz is a digital communication assistant for the Florida Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/19/2019 11:19:28 AM by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments

Panel examines women’s role in SBC

June 18 2019 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Resource Network

Women have indispensable roles in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and in the church, said panelists during the “Indispensable partners: the value of women in God’s mission” panel discussion during the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

Photo by Van Payne
Trillia Newbell, director of Community Outreach for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, prays at the conclusion of a panel discussion called “Indispensable Partners: The Value of Women in God’s Mission” June 12 during the ERLC presentation during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

SBC President J.D. Greear, who moderated the discussion on June 12, began by asking the women on the panel about their initial response to the Sexual Abuse Advisory Study report that preceded their time on stage. (See the related Biblical Recorder story here.)
Author and Bible teacher Jen Wilkin, classes and curriculum director at the Village Church in Dallas, appeared visibly overcome with emotion as she shared how she received texts from women who said, “This is what we prayed for.”
“And that is my overwhelming feeling: This is what we prayed for,” she said.
Author and speaker Donna Gaines thanked Greear personally for taking the lead on the issue.
Gaines is the founder of ARISE2Read, a nonprofit that focuses on literacy in the inner city, and wife of former SBC president and pastor Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church in the Memphis, Tenn., area.
A sex abuse survivor, Trillia Newbell, director of community outreach for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said she is “grateful to know I’m in a safe place. So that speaks volumes.”
Noting her hope because the issue has been taken so seriously, she said, “We know what we know, we’ve seen what we see, we can’t unsee it, and we aren’t sitting idly by, and I praise God for that.”
Greear then asked panelists, “What is complementarianism as understood by Southern Baptists and is there disagreement on it even among this panel?”
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., noted that “complementarianism, as a bedrock basic, affirms that men and women equally bear the image of God.”
“There is an essential equality between men and women,” he said, “and yet within that framework God has established distinctive roles and assignments for men and for women, and we rejoice in that good gift of God.”
Akin called attention to men’s particular role as “servant leaders” as assigned by the Lord “particularly in the home and in the church.”
“God calls women in the home to submit to the leadership of their husbands, but there’s no sense in which there is any inferiority, it is simply different assignments within the clear understanding, that we’re equal image bearers before God,” Akin emphasized.
Newbell explained, “We know that there is a broad complementarianism so people will apply it broadly outside of the church and the home. And then there’s the narrow where people mostly would define it as the pastoral position and the home. … I’ve seen it applied incredibly differently, all sorts of different ways within the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond.” 
Malcolm Yarnell, professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, recognized the two major groups that are staking out positions – “both very well respected within the Southern Baptist Convention.”
“For some, the pastoral role comes under examination, and for some complementarians the pastoral role is exclusively for males,” he said, noting they go a bit further than the Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M), which emphasizes the office of pastor. This group argues from 1 Timothy 2:12 that only a qualified male can teach and exercise authority.
“Another group would have a different understanding of that verse and what that verse entails,” Yarnell said. “The congregation may have a female address the congregation in a teaching role, but not in an authoritative or doctrine-defining role.”
Greear pressed, “Can women hold leadership positions in the Southern Baptist Convention that are not in violation of complementarianism?”
Yarnell responded, “The Southern Convention is definitely not a church. The entities of the Southern Baptist Convention are not churches.”
He differentiated the local church, which Jesus established, with the entities, which are “human creations.” As such, entities “can structure them however we wish,” he said.
Yarnell said at least seven previous SBC presidents were not pastors but lay leaders. “That ought to tell us something about the openness of the convention,” he said.
When asked if a woman could serve as SBC president, Gaines, wife of a former SBC president, answered, “If you look at the BF&M, the only office restricted to men is the office of pastor. So under that umbrella, technically, yes, a woman could be president of the SBC. Practically, I would say, no, simply because the office itself is leading and shepherding a convention of churches, which are led by pastors. And this is just personal preference. I prefer to see a pastor in that position.” 
The practice and tradition of the SBC, she noted, has been to invite the SBC president to come and preach at church services and conventions, typically ministering to pastors.
Responding to recent conversations and debate on the issue, Wilkin expressed her desire for this issue to be as between brothers and sisters rather than adversarial and with “a tone of love versus fear.”
Southern Baptists should discuss the topic with the primary goal of “building tables” instead of “building fences,” she said.
She also urged for churches to look for “visible women” and “church mothers” whom others could come to for discipleship and growth and for the female perspective.
Akin agreed, noting half the people who hear sermons are women. “We will be better preachers if we have female voices speaking into our lives … [Women] look at life differently,” he said. “They think differently. They ask different questions. And if I want to minister to them effectively, I need their voice in my life.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is the director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/18/2019 12:53:12 PM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Resource Network | with 0 comments

Panelists urge unity, not uniformity in SBC

June 18 2019 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty” – that was Ken Whitten’s closing statement and the overall theme of the Gospel Above All panel June 12 at the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting.

Photo by Adam Covington
J.D. Greear, far left, president of the SBC, leads a panel discussion titled “Gospel Above All: Keeping Secondary Issues Secondary,” June 12 during the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting in Birmingham, Ala. Other panelists included Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater, Fla.; Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas; Kathy Litton, director of planter spouse development for the North American Mission Board; Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.

The panel was one of three during the meeting in Birmingham, Ala., “designed to spotlight some conversations already taking place,” SBC President J.D. Greear said. Other panels addressed racial reconciliation and the value of women in God’s mission.
For Wednesday morning’s Gospel Above All conversation, Greear interviewed panelists Willy Rice, senior pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater, Fla.; Juan Sanchez, senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas; Kathy Litton, newly elected SBC registration secretary and director of planter spouse development for the North American Mission Board (NAMB); Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.; and Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.
“One of our most cherished values (as Southern Baptists) is disagreement,” Greear said as he opened the panel, noting that the panelists held some different viewpoints than each other. He asked panelists to talk about how to “establish a grid” for how to disagree well – which topics demand unity, which ones offer space to disagree, and how to handle both with love.
Sanchez said for him, there are three concentric circles – core beliefs at the center, characteristic beliefs next, then charity beliefs.
Core beliefs are those necessary for salvation, he said. “If you remove one of those, you are not a Christian.”
Characteristic beliefs are those that make each church the type of Christian church it is, such as baptism making Baptists who they are, Sanchez said. Charity beliefs are tertiary issues like views on the end times, entertainment or education.
“We tend to fight at those charity beliefs,” he said, noting that political topics tend to be in the charity category except in matters such as the sanctity of life.
Allen said Southern Baptists have gotten themselves in trouble by conflating two categories – what they fight over and what they merely advocate for.
“I’m willing to fight over anything that goes outside our confession,” he said. “I’m willing to merely advocate for things inside of it.”
Allowing people room to advocate for different things “takes charity and grace and believing the best about each other,” Allen said. He mentioned that eschatology was a hot topic of division in the 1980s, and a decade ago the issue of Calvinism versus Arminianism at more of a “fever pitch,” but both have died down.
Now gender issues have become a bit of a flashpoint, with people talking over each other on the topic, he said. Especially on the internet “some of it is intentional misrepresentation of one another, which is disgusting and sub-Christian.”
Litton asked Allen if there was space within complementarianism to allow charity for shades of nuance in interpretation. Allen, who said he is firmly complementarian, responded, “Emphatically yes.” He noted there is room for that in the Baptist Faith & Message, which is what unites Southern Baptists.
Sanchez said “unity does not mean unanimity” and that Southern Baptists should fight for unity of the spirit and the bond of peace. “The church is to display gospel unity,” he said.
Whitten said the church has got to be above the fray of the negative world and negative media. “We ought to be a good ‘twitness,’” said Whitten, addressing how Christians represent themselves on Twitter and other social media platforms. “We’ve got to be the most gracious, loving, kind people we can be.”
Litton noted that Satan “is actively working to divide us on the smallest or greatest issues.”
In her work with NAMB, Litton sees church planters launched all across the country “from the reddest of the red states into the bluest of the blue states.” It would be counter to their mission to repel the people they are trying to reach by offending them on tertiary issues, she said.
“Do you think these people are going to take that big, personal risk and sacrifice to post things that are inflammatory to the people that they work among? If the gospel is above all, you would set those aside,” Litton said.
Whitten said “no party owns us” as Southern Baptists. “We ought to be close enough to both parties to tell them both to repent,” he said. “We belong to one person – the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Rice said the convention needs “a rebirth of humility and kindness with one another.”
He said for him, the greatest moment of the convention was Tuesday afternoon’s sending service for new International Mission Board missionaries. He thanked leaders for “elevating that in the program so that it becomes the primary reason we’re here.”
Watching the commissioning service with “a full heart and moist eyes,” he wasn’t thinking about each missionary’s soteriological position – he was “confident they were taking the gospel to the nations,” Rice said. Their focus on getting the gospel “to the neighbors and the nations” is what makes him know his church can partner with them, he said – not their agreement on tertiary issues.
Greear said Southern Baptists shouldn’t downplay important issues “but we want to know the gospel is above all.”
He closed the panel by asking messengers to gather in groups of two or three and pray for unity in the convention for the sake of the gospel. Kneeling on stage, Greear prayed for God to do something supernatural in Southern Baptists and for “petty divisions” to fade away.
“We want to pray a prayer of repentance and say, ‘God, forgive us for where we have not held one another with the esteem we would want to be held,’” Greear said. “We want for the world to see Jesus.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Grace Thornton is a writer based in Birmingham, Ala. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/18/2019 12:49:45 PM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Seminary luncheons relay highlights & achievements

June 18 2019 by SBC Seminary Staff

Alumni and friends of the Southern Baptist Convention’s six seminaries gathered to hear their institutions’ 2018-2019 highlights and achievements June 11 and 12 in conjunction with the SBC’s annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

Iorg notes Gateway online D.Min., social media fundraising effort

Kathie Chute, Gateway Seminary


About 130 alumni and friends of Gateway Seminary gathered for their annual luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham, Ala., June 12. Attendees heard reports about the seminary’s progress and honored distinguished alumni.

BP file photo

President Jeff Iorg said Gateway’s accrediting agency had granted reaccreditation for 10 years and complimented the seminary on the strength and consistency of its academic program.
Iorg also reported that the Arizona campus was relocated to a new facility in Phoenix “and now features educational technology on the same level as our campus in Ontario [the seminary’s main campus in Southern California].
“In addition, all of our master’s degrees are fully online,” Iorg said. “We are the only SBC seminary with all of our master’s degrees fully online, and the doctor of ministry program will be available completely online soon.”
The first online D.Min. cohort will begin in Singapore in July if accreditors grant permission to proceed with the program, Iorg said.
Gateway’s enrollment has increased by 6 percent over last year, with full-time equivalency hours also up, he reported.
Iorg announced that the seminary had conducted its first-ever social media-driven fundraising campaign, raising $75,000 in seven days, culminating at the spring trustee dinner.
“I thought, ‘That will never work. I wouldn’t give a dime over a text message.’ I like to be wrong about that!”
Iorg recognized Gateway’s Distinguished Alumni Award honorees Mark Wyatt and Kelly King.
“We are proud of the outstanding accomplishment Mark and Kelly have shown throughout their careers as they exemplified a commitment to shaping leaders and expanding God’s kingdom around the world,” Iorg said.
Wyatt has served as vice president for marketing and communication at California Baptist University since 2002; King serves as women’s ministry specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources. Additional information about the careers of Wyatt and King appeared in this BP story on May 30.

Allen moderates MBTS panel on cultural Christianity

T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

A panel discussion on the topic of “Cultural Christianity and the Gospel,” the president’s report, and presentation of the Alumnus of the Year Award highlighted Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) alumni & friends’ luncheon June 12 at the Birmingham Jefferson County Convention Center.
MBTS President Jason Allen reported on the Mathena Student Center’s completion, significant faculty hires, the seminary’s transition to a biblical counseling model, the relaunching of Spurgeon College and record enrollment.
Allen described the $13 million, 40,000-square-foot Mathena Student Center as a spectacular addition to campus, providing space for study, fellowship over meals, exercising and holding events. He added that the campus dynamic has been enhanced by the building’s completion.
He also highlighted notable new faculty hires over the past year, recognizing Andreas Kostenberger as research professor of New Testament and biblical theology; Jason DeRouchie, research professor of Old Testament and biblical theology; Dale Johnson, associate professor of biblical counseling; Andrew King, assistant dean of Spurgeon College; and Thomas Kidd, distinguished professor of church history.
Discussing the relaunching of Spurgeon College just over a year ago, Allen said the college’s ministry footprint is expanding, with students coming to the Kansas City campus to train for positions other than pastors, ministers and missionaries.
“Yes, we are training pastors and ministers and missionaries through Spurgeon College, but we also will be training men and women who are intending to be serving Christ both vocationally and in the marketplace,” he said. “So, they will come and get trained in biblical disciplines, theology, church history and similar subjects because we want them to have a strong, Bible-based undergraduate program. But they can also get a degree in business, in communications and in other programs … to serve and proclaim the gospel at home or around the world in the marketplace.”
Allen expressed gratitude to God for continued enrollment growth, which is on course to reach 3,800 to 3,900 students, tripling the enrollment seven years ago.
Allen reported that a renovation of Midwestern’s library is planned for the year ahead, with the project currently in the stage of determining a final proposal for the building’s schematics and design.
“We’re not knocking out walls or expanding the existing library,” he said, “but it will be recreated – be reimagined – not only to modernize it or make it only a place to house books, but as a place that is welcoming, inviting for students to study, to gather, and to be encouraged and mentored together.”
Allen honored Dean Inserra, lead pastor at City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., as the recipient of the seminary’s Alumnus of the Year award.
Inserra received a master of theological studies from Midwestern in 2015. He has served as lead pastor of City Church throughout his ministry, being called to start the church in his hometown when he was student body president at Leon High School. Inserra recently authored The Unsaved Christian through Moody Publishing.
Allen moderated a panel discussion on “Cultural Christianity and the Gospel.” Panelists included Inserra; Micah Fries, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Collin Hansen, an author and editorial director for The Gospel Coalition.
The panel broadly addressed the topic of scores of souls who attend church, even regularly, yet never engage or interact in a meaningful way. Thus, the question arises as to the salvation of many who sit in today’s pews.
Inserra and Fries both agreed that the local church is one of the largest mission fields. However, it’s a difficult one because many of the people being evangelized have gone through “pseudo-salvation” experiences.
Fries said the church has not been helpful in discussing the issue, saying such members need to get serious about their faith or say they’re backslidden – all in the name of being loving.
But: “It’s not loving to someone to pat them on the back on the way to hell, but we love them,” Fries said. “We don’t want to think the worst of them. We don’t want to believe that they may, in fact, not be regenerate.”
Part of the problem, Hansen said is that churches don’t want to offend those attending. “We’re scared to call people out of something to do something hard, which Jesus did. We’ve believed the simple gospel idea, which is true, for so long. But we’ve never called them to death to self as they embrace life in Christ,” Hansen said.
The solution is not easy, the panelists said. It will take recognizing the situation within local churches and confronting people with their need for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Kelleys honored during NOBTS alumni gathering

Gary D. Myers, NOBTS

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) alumni and friends gathered June 11 for a grateful look back at the tenure of Chuck Kelley and a hopeful look forward under the leadership of Jamie Dew.
A capacity crowd of 650 gathered to celebrate the ministry of Chuck and Rhonda Kelley at NOBTS before their upcoming retirement July 31. The gathering also afforded trustees the opportunity to introduce Dew, the newly elected NOBTS president, to another segment of the seminary community. Participants expressed gratitude for the accomplishments of the Kelleys and hopeful anticipation for the seminary’s newest leader.
During the dinner, trustees announced the election of Kelley to the role of president emeritus. Then trustees and members of the NOBTS administration surprised the Kelleys with an award and the announcement of two new scholarships.
Outgoing trustee chairman Frank Cox and incoming trustee chairman Tony Lambert announced Rhonda Kelley as the 2019 Distinguished Alumna recipient much to her surprise. Cox and Lambert listed Rhonda Kelley’s 17 books, her efforts to train women students, and her involvement in convention leadership in the area of women’s ministry as reasons she was selected for the award. Another surprise came when Mark Hagelman, acting vice president for institutional advancement, announced the creation of two new doctoral fellowships in honor of the Kelleys – one in discipleship studies and one in women’s ministry.
R. Albert Molher Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivered a tribute to Kelley on behalf of the Council of Seminary Presidents, sharing what he had learned about Kelley during the many years they have led sister seminaries.
“If you come to know Chuck Kelley, you are going to know that he loves Christ, you’re going to know he loves people coming to know Jesus,” Mohler said. “You are going to come to know that he loves Rhonda. That is very evident, and it is wonderful and to the glory of God.”
Mohler said Chuck Kelley also loves the students and faculty of NOBTS. That love takes on the form of tireless pastoral care for those he leads, Mohler said.
Lambert commended Kelley for his personal integrity as a leader, recounting that God had led him to a verse, Psalm 78:7, which represented Kelley’s ministry. The psalm reads, “He shepherded them with a pure heart and guided them with skillful hands.”
“So this is what a funeral is like,” Kelley quipped after the tributes. “Thank you, one and all for words far more kind than I could ever imagine. So many of you in this room have made such an impact on my life.
“The only true measure to evaluate a seminary president is what the students who come are able to do for Jesus,” Kelley said to the students and alumni in the room.
Before Jamie Dew addressed the crowd, Kelley commended the presidential search team and the trustees on their choice of the next NOBTS leader. Kelley greeted Dew on the stage with warm embrace and expressed his own hopeful thoughts about the future of NOBTS.
After his introduction, Dew took a few moments to thank Kelley for his leadership and his commitment to evangelism.
“Your life and your ministry has been one of holding up the gospel of Jesus, preaching it yourself, teaching others to preach the gospel of Jesus and urging our entire denomination to do the same,” Dew said. “For that I thank you my dear brother.”
Dew promised to raise up a generation of servants of Jesus Christ at NOBTS, noting that the basin and towel should symbolize the ministry of those who follow Christ. The seminary will continue to prioritize the proclamation of the gospel and will be known for people of prayer and spiritual fervor, Dew said.
“I want New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to be the type of place where our students leave more passionate and closer to Jesus than they were when they got here,” Dew said.
The alumni event followed the Tuesday evening session of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in which messengers approved a resolution honoring Chuck Kelley’s 23-year tenure as NOBTS president. After the vote, Kelley received a standing ovation from convention messengers.

SEBTS luncheon highlights Great Commission stories

Lauren Pratt, SEBTS

A time of worship, celebration and prayer marked Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary 2019 alumni and friends’ luncheon.
The luncheon featured first-person Great Commission stories from four students and alumni as well as a time of prayer and commissioning for Jamie Dew as he transitions to his new role as president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Kambiz Saghaey, a current doctor of education student at Southeastern, was the first to share his story of radical conversion and persecution while living in the Middle East.
“People call that persecution, but I call that the closest relationship with God,” Saghaey said.
After experiencing persecution for his faith, Saghaey has an appreciation for the freedom he has to worship Christ in the U.S. and a desire to see Persian peoples trained to take the gospel to those who haven’t heard. He is doing this through his role as director of the Persian Leadership Development office at Southeastern, providing a unique fully-accredited, theologically-driven bachelor’s degree program delivered in Farsi.
The second Great Commission story came from Daniel Richie, an evangelist from Charlotte, N.C., and a graduate from The College at Southeastern. From birth, he was nearly dead and born without both arms, causing the doctor to encourage his parents to go ahead and let him die at the hospital. While that “cast a big shadow” on his life, as he described it, he recounted that at age 15 he began to learn what the Bible said about his worth.
“God in His grace was pursuing me even when I wanted nothing to do with Him, and for me to trust Him and rest in Jesus as my everything changed the course of my life,” said Ritchie, who was called to preach at age 16.
Betsy Gomez, a student pursuing her master of arts in ministry to women, shared her story of how Jesus radically transformed her identity. While she grew up in the church, it was not until later that a friend clearly communicated with her how the gospel shapes one’s identity. Before this, Gomez said success had been her idol. However, now she sees how the gospel is beautifully displayed both in the home and the workplace.
“In that moment, I was so free. I understood that the gospel was not just a door; it was everything,” said Gomez, who now works with Revive Our Hearts, a ministry led by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, where she equips women to thrive in their identity in Christ through teaching in Latin America and managing the media team and blog for Hispanic women.
Lastly, Jeff Struecker recounted how his time serving on the Army’s task force in Mogadishu, Somalia, transformed his view of gospel urgency, when he saw a friend and fellow soldier shot and killed instantly while riding in the back seat of Streucker’s Humvee. The gravity of his friend’s eternity loomed large in Struecker’s mind as a result of that experience.
“That was the moment that God attached for me this gospel urgency that I think should go with every Christian who understands the Great Commission,” he said.
Struecker served more than 22 years in the military. He surrendered his life to the Lord in ministry and decided to become a chaplain in the Airborne and Ranger units, which he served for the last 10 years of his military service. Struecker, who received his Ph.D. from Southeastern in 2015, is the lead pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga., and an assistant professor of Christian leadership at Southeastern, teaching graduate and doctoral intensives.
After hearing stories from graduates and current students, Danny Akin took time to pray for Jamie Dew as he and his family move to NOBTS, where he will serve as its newly-elected president.
“It becomes so much more personal when the people that the Lord chooses to send are very close and dear to you,” said Akin of Dew. Cabinet members and their wives gathered around Dew and his family while the audience extended their hands toward the stage to commission them through prayer.
As Akin closed the luncheon, he shared briefly that he was “wonderfully encouraged” by how the convention took action in view of complementarianism, racial reconciliation and addressing the abuse crisis. He noted that Southeastern is seeking to play a key role in each of those areas.
“I would argue that all three of those things are embedded in what it means to be a Great Commission seminary,” Akin said.

Greenway: SWBTS to be ‘catalyzing force in Southern Baptist life’

Alex Sibley, SWBTS

During Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) annual alumni and friends’ luncheon, attendees heard for the first time from newly elected President Adam W. Greenway, himself an alumnus of the seminary.
Greenway began by sharing his desire “to bring the Southwestern family back together, where every alumnus, every alumna feels loved and valued and appreciated by their alma mater.”
“Because, ultimately,” he said, “Southwestern Seminary is not a beautiful campus; it is a family of people whom God has called together into relationship.”
In the roughly 100 days since he was elected as Southwestern’s president, Greenway said he has aimed to reinvigorate “the incredible history and heritage, the vision and legacy” that extend all the way back to the seminary’s founder, B.H. Carroll.
“Continuing in that long line of faithfulness,” Greenway said, “what we desire to do is to see our seminary be the seminary where pastors and missionaries and church staff members and others are trained and raised up by God to make an impact here in North America and to the ends of the earth.”
Greenway said this has involved “making some very strategic decisions” and having “serious discussions” with his administration and with the seminary’s trustees “about how to recalibrate some things related to our business model, related to our academic model.”
He assured attendees he believes a new day has dawned. He shared that enrollment for the previous academic year encompassed 3,831 students from 71 countries and 44 states. The seminary unveiled a refurbished 82-hour master of divinity degree this spring and has added four new professors to its faculty: Gregory A. Wills as research professor of church history and Baptist heritage; Travis S. Kerns as associate professor of apologetics and world religions; Joseph R. Crider as interim dean of the School of Church Music and Worship; and Chuck T. Lewis as professor of church music and worship.
Finally, Greenway shared the results of the seminary’s recent Crossover evangelism efforts in Birmingham: Southwestern students visited 565 homes, engaged in 115 gospel conversations and led 14 people in professions of faith in Christ.
As he concluded his report, Greenway said, “It is so important to me that our seminary be once again that catalyzing force in Southern Baptist life that is helping to articulate the best of what it means to be Southern Baptist, the best of what it means to be committed to church ministry, the best of what it means to be committed to missions and evangelism; and that when people think of Southwestern Seminary, when they think about a Southwesterner, they think, ‘There is somebody who knows the gospel, who has a walk with God, and is going to be a force for all that is right and good in our world.’”
In addition to delivering his report, Greenway also honored three individuals with 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Awards: Malcolm McDow, a longtime evangelism professor at Southwestern; Brad Waggoner, acting president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources; and Danny Wood, pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., and president of this year’s Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference.
Officer elections also took place for Southwestern Seminary’s alumni association. Wes Baldwin and John Avant became president and vice president, respectively, by acclamation, and Guy Grimes was elected vice president for service.
The luncheon concluded with a presentation by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention – represented by Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, and Austin pastor Danny Forshee, chairman of the SBTC Executive Board – of $100,000 to Southwestern Seminary. In accepting the gift, Greenway assured the SBTC that this money would be put “to gospel use.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/18/2019 12:40:09 PM by SBC Seminary Staff | with 0 comments

18 of 23 SBC messenger motions referred

June 17 2019 by Myriah Snyder, The Christian Index

Eighteen of the 23 motions by messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., were referred to SBC committees or entities; five were ruled out of order.

Photo by Matt Miller
Morgan Bush, a messenger from Alabama, brings a motion during the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting June 11 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in Birmingham, Ala.

The Committee on Order of Business made the recommendations to messengers during the SBC’s June 11-12 meeting.
Referred to all entities:
– A motion by Phillip Bethancourt of Redemption City Church in Franklin, Tenn., to request that each SBC entity provide an update related to their efforts to address abuse, covering what the respective entity is doing to foster effective abuse awareness, prevention and care, what steps have been taken since 2018, and how their entity is partnering with the efforts of the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group.
Referred to the Executive Committee:
– A motion by Brad Cone of Lamp City Church in Decatur, Ga., that the Executive Committee consider modernizing the nomination process and technology for the SBC’s boards and committees.
– A motion by Leroy Fountain of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans that a comprehensive report be given at the 2020 annual meeting on the progress of 12 recommendations adopted by the SBC in 2011 for expanding ethnic participation in the convention.
– A motion by Morris Chapman of Triune Baptist Church in Arrington, Tenn., to request that the Executive Committee amend the SBC’s Business and Financial Plan where necessary to strengthen the fiscal accountability of the SBC’s entities to the convention.
– A motion by Matt Dunn of First Baptist Church in Bates City, Mo., that the convention convene a study committee to update the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) 2000 to include a 19th statement declaring “God will restore National Israel like Romans 11 says and bring about a reunion with her neighbors in the Middle East.”
– A motion by Dennis Golden of Grace Baptist Church in Braden, Tenn., to amend the SBC constitution and bylaws to allow all Southern Baptist senior pastors to cast their votes electronically for SBC officers.
– A motion by Pam Richardson of New Life Baptist Church in Baker, La., to amend the BF&M 2000 Article 6 to state, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office and function of the pastor is limited to men as qualified by scripture.”
– A motion by Ryan Broers of Cave City Baptist Church in Cave City, Ky., that the Executive Committee create an official statement regarding the social gospel – what it is and what role it should have in the ministries of the SBC and of Southern Baptist churches.
– A motion by Brent Epling of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., that the Executive Committee consider a day of special emphasis and prayer for the global persecuted church to be added to the SBC calendar of activities.
– A motion by Aaron Colyer of First Baptist Church in Roswell, N.M., that the Executive Committee consider the viability for developing an avenue for churches to request funding for the investigation of sexual abuse.
– A motion by Robert Anderson of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md., to add a George Liele Evangelism, Church Planting, and Missions Day to the SBC calendar of activities on the first Sunday in February. 
Referred to the Committee on Order of Business:
– A motion by Sarah Gregory of First Southern Baptist Church in Mountain Home, Idaho, to set aside a time at the 2020 annual meeting to honor the BF&M 2000, the Conservative Resurgence and its leaders.
Referred to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:
– A motion by David Haynes of First Baptist Church, Center Point, in Birmingham, requesting that the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission study the effects of birth control pills, IUDs and other contraceptive devices to see if they have any effect on a conceived child and report their findings in 2020.
– A motion by Rebecca Krueger of Concord Church in Calera, Ala., asking the Executive Committee and ERLC to implement a process to provide trauma counseling for survivors of abuse.
– A motion by Dau Ayub of First Baptist Church in Houston for the convention to increase its efforts to equip the local church to minister to groups promoting sexual immorality of various types and to be prepared for “attacks on the pulpit.”
Referred to the North American Mission Board:
– A motion by David Hobson of Dogwood Grove Baptist Church in Adger, Ala., to study the feasibility of initiating a program through the North American Mission Board to partner with associations comprised of smaller churches and bivocational pastors to place a second staff member as an associate pastor at no cost to the church or association until they can partially fund it.
Referred to LifeWay Christian Resources:
– A motion by Laura Smith of South Side Baptist Church in South Bend, Ind., to ask LifeWay Christian Resources to look into including a gospel presentation in each lesson for children through the sixth grade.
Referred to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:
– A motion by Benjamin Cole of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., that the convention request the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to authorize the seminary president and legal counsel to pursue the lawful recovery of school property that may have been removed from the president’s home.
The following motions were ruled out of order by the Committee on Order of Business, citing legal or polity constraints that prohibited their consideration:
– A motion by Wade Burleson of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., to amend the report of the International Mission Board to include the full text of the May 29, 2019, Sexual Abuse Examination update.
– A motion by Adam Blosser of Goshen Baptist Church in Spotsylvania, Va., to amend SBC Bylaw 18 adding, “The Recording Secretary shall be a non-voting member of the Executive Committee.”
The following motion was ruled out of order because it was in the nature of a resolution, and the time to submit resolutions had expired prior to the convention:
– A motion by Morgan Bush of Morningside Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., that each church be urged to consider the impact of pornography and take “vigorous action to meet and defeat the effect of pornography.”
The following motions were ruled out of order because they requested that the convention exercise authority over an entity’s board:
– A motion by Derin Stidd of Harmony Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ind., that the ERLC do a study on how churches, associations and state conventions can work with entities within their state to promote the immediate abolition of human abortion.
– A motion by Caleb Lewis of Gentilly Baptist Church in New Orleans to request that the Council of Seminary Presidents make the most recent BF&M the only doctrinal statement faculty is required to sign.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Myriah Snyder is content editor for The Christian Index, the news website of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/17/2019 12:32:28 PM by Myriah Snyder, The Christian Index | with 0 comments

Waggoner reinforces LifeWay’s commitment to mission

June 17 2019 by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources

LifeWay Christian Resources’ commitment to the mission given to the entity by Southern Baptists in 1891 has never been stronger, acting CEO Brad Waggoner said in his report to messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham, Ala.

Photo by Marc Ira Hooks
Brad Waggoner, acting president and executive vice president of LifeWay Christian Resources, gives a report June 12 during the last session of the two-day 2019 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting.

Despite the challenges LifeWay has faced the past year, the entity’s core ministry channels are strong and growing, Waggoner reported. In the first seven months of 2019, LifeWay’s publishing and events ministries have grown by $6.7 million over the prior year, while LifeWay.com has seen 14 consecutive months of growth, with revenue up nearly 24 percent.
Waggoner also reported on LifeWay’s partnership with the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Study to produce “Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused,” a free multimedia resource geared toward church staff members, lay leaders and volunteers.
“Ministry Grid, the digital platform where LifeWay is hosting the free ‘Church Cares’ training materials, has already seen 7,500 site visits, and more than 1,000 churches have registered to begin the certification process,” Waggoner said.
Waggoner also addressed issues related to the closing of LifeWay’s brick-and-mortar stores and how LifeWay will continue to assist churches in their mission of making disciples.
The report included a video of Waggoner detailing the organization’s financial realities and the difficult decision to close the LifeWay Christian Stores retail chain.
In 2014, LifeWay Stores began to see significant losses despite growing demand for LifeWay’s resources through other channels.
“At the close of 2018, LifeWay Stores had more than $19 million in losses for the year,” Waggoner reported. “Over the past five years, the total retail losses we’ve covered from revenue-generating ministry channels reached nearly $50 million.”
Those losses led to what Waggoner called one of the most difficult decisions in LifeWay’s 128-year history.
Waggoner reported that by the end of 2019, LifeWay will have shifted its retail strategy to meet customers’ needs and buying patterns. “We will enhance our online experience and explore new partnerships to provide LifeWay’s resources at affordable prices,” Waggoner said. “And we will stay the course.
“Southern Baptists, know this, LifeWay is more committed than ever to our mission,” Waggoner said.
“In many ways, LifeWay’s ministry is summed up in Colossians 1:28-29: ‘We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. We labor in this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in us.’”

Balanced, relatable, age-appropriate discipleship

For more than 60 years, LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life has helped churches engage people in the Word of God. Today, more than a million adults, students and children use Bible Studies for Life on a weekly basis.
During LifeWay’s presentation to messengers, Michael Kelley, director of discipleship, described how LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life ongoing curriculum helps churches shepherd and guide believers into maturity.
“Bible Studies for Life is a balanced, relatable and age-appropriate discipleship plan that church leaders can center their ministry on,” Kelley said. “Through Bible Studies for Life, a church or group can trust that their discipleship strategy is not haphazard but based on biblical principles validated by research balanced between key attributes of a growing disciple.”
Kelley recognized a subtle, yet present, danger when it comes to discipleship. “We have become very good at helping people answer a few questions about God and the world, and yet we have not built the underlying infrastructure of discipleship to create sustainable, long-term disciples of Jesus,” Kelley said.
“Discipleship must run more deeply than being able to answer a few questions,” he said. “Instead, we are transformed; and that transformation happens through the renewing of our minds. We don’t want surface level improvements; we want an entirely renewed mind.”
Bible Studies for Life focuses on real-life issues, helping believers – from kids to adults – not only know the truth but apply it in obedience, according to Kelley.
Through Bible Studies for Life, a church or group can trust their discipleship strategy will train children, students and adults in how to believe, think and then react to challenging life situations they face on a daily basis, he said.
“We want to see an entire church on an intentional discipleship pathway,” Kelley said, “one that moves people of every age further on their walk with Christ.”
For more information about Bible Studies for Life, visit BibleStudiesforLife.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carol Pipes is LifeWay’s director of corporate communications. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/17/2019 12:26:45 PM by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

‘The nations are waiting,’ Chitwood tells SBC

June 17 2019 by Julie McGowan, IMB

Massive cyclones in sub-Saharan Africa. Political and humanitarian crises in the Americas. Gangs among the Deaf. Police arrests in Southeast Asia. Slander in Central Asia.

Photo by Chris Carter, IMB
IMB President Paul Chitwood reports on the work of Southern Baptist international missions personnel during the June 11 afternoon session of the 2019 SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

Even amid such difficulties, International Mission Board (IMB) personnel are seeing God create opportunities for people to hear a clear gospel witness, IMB President Paul Chitwood reported June 11 during the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.
“The gospel is being preached among the nations, and we are privileged to be part of it,” Chitwood said, noting to Southern Baptist messengers:

– Overseas baptisms by churches that IMB missionaries have planted or directly partner with have increased by more than 6,000 over last year.

– New church starts reported in 2018 were nearly triple the number of new church starts IMB reported in 2016.

– The number of national believers who received advanced theological training increased by 10,000 over each of the prior two years.

Chitwood recounted to messengers numerous examples of gospel advance around the world:

  • In response to two cyclones in sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Baptist missionaries provided blankets, mosquito nets, sleeping mats, tarps and water treatment tablets. As a result, a village of Muslims who previously refused entry to missionaries have invited those carrying a gospel witness into their village.

  • In the Americas, God has used the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela to push the Venezuelan church outside its previous borders. More than 4 million Venezuelans have fled their country – many of them from churches of the Venezuelan Baptist Convention, birthed by Southern Baptist missionaries working in that country for the past 70 years. Churches are being planted in Mexico, Colombia and many other places by Venezuelan Baptists.

  • In East Asia, a missionary among the Deaf shared the gospel with a woman who responded by trusting Christ. Her husband, also Deaf, was a notorious gang leader. At first resistant to the gospel, the gang leader became intrigued by the Bible stories the missionary shared as the gang leader’s wife was being discipled. The gang leader accepted Christ as His Savior and then started new churches. Since the first of the year, he and his partners have led more than 38 Deaf to faith in Christ and have seen nearly every one of them baptized.

  • In Southeast Asia, Indonesian missionaries work alongside IMB missionaries to share the gospel cross-culturally in a neighboring country that practices Islamic law. Two months ago, a team of five of the Indonesian believers was arrested as sharing the gospel there. After four nights in jail, they were permanently deported from the country – but not before they shared the gospel with 15 policemen and the religious council who detained them. Because of their team and other previous short-term teams, the first-known believers in multiple places have been baptized and are forming churches.

  • In a city in Central Asia, Baptist churches had been slandered to an extent that drew the attention of an Islamic theology professor. He took 40 of his university students “to see what all the fuss was about.” Unannounced, they dropped by a Baptist church and asked the pastor if he would share what he does when people come to church. The pastor preached the past Sunday’s sermon – his Easter sermon – and those students heard a clear sermon on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

“Since 1845, Southern Baptists have been making disciples among the nations,” Chitwood said. “And now, in an unprecedented season of the globalization of missions, those who Southern Baptists have reached are now taking the gospel to the nations themselves.
“And the IMB is rebuilding its missionary force,” he reported. “When I came into my role in November, there were 82 long-term missionary candidates in the appointment pipeline. That number has increased more than 300 percent and today stands at 270. But we need more.
“Southern Baptists, your IMB is still sending your missionaries. Every church, regardless of size or resources, has a role to play in reaching every nation. And the nations are waiting.”
Chitwood’s report preceded a Sending Celebration highlighting the appointment of 26 IMB missionaries who join nearly 3,700 fellow Southern Baptist international missions personnel.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie McGowan is public relations director for the International Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/17/2019 12:22:04 PM by Julie McGowan, IMB | with 0 comments

NAMB reports on ‘Who’s Your One?’, church planting

June 17 2019 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

If 10 percent of church attenders in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) decided to pray for and see one person come to Christ over the next year, Southern Baptists would record the highest number of baptisms in the history of the SBC.

Photo by Adam Covington
Kevin Ezell, president of NAMB, gives a report to messengers at the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

Johnny Hunt shared that statistic during the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) presentation at the SBC’s annual meeting to underscore the importance of the “Who’s Your One?“ evangelism initiative. Hunt serves as senior vice president of evangelism and leadership at NAMB.
Who’s Your One headlined NAMB’s time on stage June 11 during the annual meeting of the SBC in Birmingham, Ala.
“We’ve got to get our focus back on the ‘ones,’” Hunt said. “Whatever is important to us, pastors, as the leaders, is what becomes important to our people.”
Hunt joined NAMB president Kevin Ezell and SBC President J.D. Greear for a discussion about the importance of evangelism in turning around declining baptism numbers.
“God, help Southern Baptists. God, lay on our heart what’s on Yours. He came to seek and to save that which was lost,” Hunt said. “We can do it. I’m telling you, under God, we can do it. So, we’ve got to lead our people and trust God.”
Greear described the role that every Southern Baptist plays in seeing more people come to Christ.
“When you study church history, you see that every great awakening and massive spread of the gospel always happened through so-called ‘ordinary’ people, not through people that are in fulltime ministry,” Greear said. “We serve the movement, but we’re not the tip of the spear of the movement.”
Across the SBC, there are different methods and strategies for reaching the unreached that fit different contexts, the report noted. Greear said that Who’s Your One is broad enough to include the various strategies and narrow enough for every Southern Baptist to rally around.
“We are going to turn that number [of baptisms] around,” Greear said, “when every Southern Baptist says ‘the Great Commission is my responsibility, and I’m the one who’s got to cross that relational bridge to bring somebody to faith in Christ.’”
Greear detailed how implementing Who’s Your One in his church, The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area, changed the culture to a focus on bringing individuals in the community to Christ. More people are praying for their “ones” and seeing people come to faith, Greear said.
Hunt also shared about the upcoming Who’s Your One Tour which will bring evangelism events across North America to equip and encourage churches to commit to sharing their faith. The events will begin with a Sunday evening of inspiration and encouragement followed by training the following morning.
“I wish every pastor, every staff person and their spouses and your key lay leaders would join us on those evenings,” Hunt said.
Following the presentation, attendees texted in the first name and location of their ‘one,’ a person they are committed to praying for and with whom they will share Christ. A map of North America on the screen filled with points of light to indicate those who were being prayed for.

NAMB ministries feature prominently

Ahead of the presentation, NAMB ministries played a role in the SBC’s opening session. Greear presented a $250,000 check from Send Relief, NAMB’s compassion ministry arm, to Birmingham’s mayor, Randall Woodfin. The money will go toward school supplies for students in need.
Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver, NAMB’s executive director of chaplaincy, delivered an opening message ahead of a time of prayer for the United States and its leaders.
Hunt presented a report about the Crossover evangelism events that took place in the greater Birmingham area on June 8. Southern Baptist volunteers knocked on the doors of 10,409 homes, had 1,817 gospel conversations and prayed with 2,251 people. As a result, 364 people came to faith in Jesus.

Ezell presents ministry report

Immediately before NAMB’s presentation, Ezell delivered his official report to the messengers at the SBC annual meeting. The report focused on NAMB’s primary ministry areas of evangelism, Send Relief and Send Network.
“At NAMB, we are all about the gospel,” Ezell began. “Everything we do is to help Southern Baptists take the gospel to North America.”
Hunt has focused on catalyzing evangelism within SBC churches. Ezell pointed to the first major evangelism initiative, Who’s Your One, and the effect it has had across the convention.
“Already we have distributed more than 20,000 Who’s Your One evangelism church kits, 155,000 prayer guides and 1.4 million bookmarks,” Ezell reported. NAMB provides those resources to churches free of charge.
Ezell also highlighted GenSend and GO2, initiatives that engage college students and recent graduates to live on mission across North America and around the world through a partnership with the International Mission Board.
Send Relief continued to send resources and volunteers to Puerto Rico where Hurricane Maria struck in 2017, Ezell said. In 2020, Send Relief will finalize the development on a new Ministry Center capable of housing up to 100 volunteers weekly to serve the island.
“Through Send Relief, we remain committed to changing lives with the hope of the gospel while delivering the help people so desperately need,” Ezell said. “Nowhere is this on better display right now than in Puerto Rico.”
Along with the compassion ministry emphasis, NAMB also built up its church planting infrastructure on the island.
“Currently there are 12 active plants on the island, more than there have been in at least 30 years. In just one year, reported baptisms among Southern Baptist churches on the island increased by 113 percent,” Ezell reported to applause from the messengers.
Ezell underscored a few other states and regions where baptisms increased in 2018 and tied some of that success to the longevity new church starts are having.
“We have the gold standard in planter assessments, training, coaching and care. The four-year survival rate for our church plants now stands at 80 percent,” Ezell said, which compares to 68 percent in 2006. “This longevity is having an impact in the areas we are emphasizing outside the South.”
More than 27 percent of Southern Baptist congregations outside the South have been started since 2010, Ezell said, and they account for 11 percent of all churches across the SBC. Of churches planted in 2018, 62 percent were non-Anglo or multi-ethnic.
While baptisms continue to be an issue in the SBC, baptism numbers increased in several states and regions outside the South where NAMB’s work is focused. Ezell also stated that more than 18 percent of all reported baptisms in the SBC came from churches started since 2010.
“We are sending planters to the field better prepared,” Ezell said. “We are starting churches that are having staying power. And most importantly they are proclaiming the gospel, and we are seeing Kingdom results.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

6/17/2019 12:15:57 PM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

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