March 2009

EC search committee found ‘God’s candidate’

February 20 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The search committee seeking the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) has “identified God’s candidate for such a time as this” and will announce the nominee “very soon,” search committee vice chairman Adron Robinson reported Feb. 19.

Photo by Morris Abernathy
The search committee seeking the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee has "identified God's candidate for such a time as this" and will announce the nominee "very soon," search committee vice chairman Adron Robinson reported today (Feb. 19).

The search committee also responded to criticism that has surfaced this month regarding its consideration of non-Anglo candidates.
Reporting to a meeting of the EC in Nashville, Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, Ill., said the search committee cannot announce the candidate’s name yet because they have not officially notified the person of their intent to nominate him. When the search committee is ready to announce the nominee’s name, it will be released first to the full EC and then through Baptist Press.
EC chairman Mike Stone, an ex officio member of the search committee, referenced “unfortunate” criticism the search committee has received, noting a letter it received from four individuals even though media reports only noted three of them. The fourth sender, Stone said, asked to remain anonymous.
“Every” candidate submitted “has been seriously considered, for every submission is a sacred trust from Southern Baptists,” said Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist church in Blackshear, Ga. “Your committee has been both unanimous and unified at every single turn.”
From the time the committee was elected in April, “God was guiding us,” Stone said. A secret ballot election yielded “the most diverse group that you could get from a group of six Baptists,” exhibiting diversity in age, ethnicity, gender and experience.
Stone became the seventh member of the committee when he was elected EC chairman in June and became an ex officio member of the search team.
A special called meeting of the EC is likely to take up the search committee’s nomination before the EC’s next scheduled meeting in June, Stone said.

2/20/2019 10:56:17 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

With ‘Gospel above all,’ Greear tackles sex abuse

February 20 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Maintaining his signature theme of the “Gospel Above All,” Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear detailed a prescription to battle sex abuse and its enablers at the SBC Executive Committee meeting Feb. 18 in Nashville.


Photo by Morris Abernathy
Maintaining his signature theme of the “Gospel Above All,” Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear detailed a prescription to battle sex abuse and its enablers at the SBC Executive Committee meeting Feb. 18 in Nashville.

“We serve a God who laid down His life to protect the vulnerable,” Greear said in his presidential address. “How dare we proclaim that gospel with our mouths and then turn a blind eye when the vulnerable in our midst cry out for help?”
In his one-hour address, Greear also noted progress in his core objectives of church planting, evangelism, unifying the SBC around the gospel, reaching the next generation, reflecting the SBC’s ethnic and gender diversity in leadership, and renewing an SBC-wide commitment to cooperative missions.
Greear’s wide-ranging plan against sex abuse includes education, proven sincerity and diligence, accountability and possibly a sex abuse database and congregational disfellowship. The recommendations stem from the work of the Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Study to date. Funded by the EC and initiated by Greear, the study includes male and female security, legal, medical and religious professionals.
“Our goal is to ensure maximum protection for those that God has put within our care,” Greear said. “Our goal is for our response to abuse to match the gospel that we proclaim with our mouth.”
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., focused on Matthew 18:6 to point out Southern Baptists’ overwhelming responsibility for the vulnerable.
“Didn’t Jesus say that for whomever causes one of those little ones who believe in me to stumble, to fall away, that it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea?” Greear asked. “Can you imagine anything that would make someone fall away from the gospel more than experiencing abuse at the hands of those who were charged to teach them with the gospel, who represented the gospel to them?”
See Baptist Press's detailed report on Greear’s plan of action crafted through the advisory study.

Gospel Above All

Gospel Above All, based on I Corinthians 15:3-4, is Greear’s chosen theme for the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting June 11-12 in Birmingham, Ala.
The gospel is the basis of the SBC’s identity, Greear said, and its proclamation should not be thwarted by doubtful things not expressly addressed in the Bible, such as issues like global warming.
“We want to be a people that are known for the gospel,” Greear said of the SBC. “I am afraid that’s not what people think about right now when they think about us, and we need to change that.”
Personal opinions should never obscure the gospel, he said.
“There is a certain restraint that I have to show when it comes to what I build my identity on and what I am able to put out to our community,” Greear said. “The gospel must be above all.”
Greear emphasized a renewed commitment to cooperative missions, but he did not limit cooperation to the SBC Cooperative Program of funding missions.
“We’ve got to look at all options in how we work together in cooperative mission,” Greear said. “That is the essence of the Southern Baptist Convention, is that we believe we can do more together than we can separately. And that we believe that the Cooperative Program is a great gift ... for propelling the mission.”
Greear discussed the importance of increased cooperation extensively with state and associational executives in 2018.


Nearly a fifth of an estimated 15 million Southern Baptists are minorities of various ethnicities, Greear said, referencing North American Mission Board statistics that 62 percent of churches planted in 2018 were non-Anglo.
Reflecting such diversity in leadership is Greear’s aim. White males comprise only 32 percent of the 2019 Committee on Committees, Greear said, which he appointed this month.
Among all SBC committees, women comprise 34 percent of posts, non-Anglos comprise over half of all committee appointees, he said, and 51 percent of committee members are from churches with fewer than 250 Sunday attendees.
“They are not people that were chosen because of their demographic status. They were not chosen because of their gender,” Greear said. “They were chosen because they are qualified leaders who ought to be speaking their wisdom into our entities and boards. We don’t believe in tokenism.”
Intentional steps to ensure diversity should include outreach not only to state conventions, but to various entities and networks within the SBC.
“We desperately need their wisdom going forward into the United States that God has called us to reach,” Greear said, “and the mission He has for us around the world.... We need them more than they need us.”
Engaging the next generation of Southern Baptists is a key aim, Greear said, while emphasizing the important contributions of established leaders and voices.
“I love and am so grateful for my Southern Baptist forefathers,” Greear said. “But we know it is time to include a new generation, a rising generation that is not just the church for tomorrow, but they are the church for today.”

Who’s Your One?

Evangelism and church planting are needed to fulfill the Great Commission, Greear said, emphasizing the evangelistic mission of “Who’s Your One?”
Under the initiative, Greear encourages each Southern Baptist to engage at least one lost person for a time, being hospitable toward them, sharing the gospel with them and praying for their salvation.
“In the core of everything I do, making disciples and reaching the lost has got to be paramount,” Greear said. “This is the core of the Great Commission.
“Church planting without evangelism is just reshuffling sheep around in the new folds,” Greear said. “Community ministry without evangelism is just making more people comfortable on their way to hell.”
As a result of the evangelism initiative at Greear’s pastorate, he said, he recorded 132 professions of faith at all campuses the week prior to his address.
Greear encouraged each church to directly become involved in church planting. At his pastorate, he has encouraged college students to give the first two years of their professional careers to living near a Southern Baptist church plant either in the U.S. or abroad.
“We’ve always told them you’ve got to get a job somewhere,” Greear said. “Why not get a job where God is doing something strategic?”
Under the emphasis, Greear’s church has sent out 1,100 missionaries, he said, including youth and retirees. He has created the Go2 initiative in cooperation with NAMB and the International Mission Board.
Information on Greear’s evangelistic and church planting initiatives are available at
2/20/2019 10:56:03 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ruling affirmed in Missouri Baptist Home, university cases

February 20 2019 by Missouri Pathway staff

Missouri Baptists are one step closer to restoring The Baptist Home and Missouri Baptist University (MBU) to the “MBC family.” On Feb. 19, the state’s Appeals Court in Kansas City affirmed a lower-court ruling ordering The Baptist Home and MBU to seat trustees elected by the Missouri Baptist Convention.

Unless the Missouri Supreme Court agrees to hear an appeal and then overturns the ruling, the two organizations would resume operating under convention-approved charters and duly elected Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) boards for the first time since 2001. The Baptist Home and MBU have until March 6 to file an application for rehearing in the Court of Appeals en banc or for transfer to the Missouri Supreme Court.
The three-judge Appeals Court panel upheld a Sept. 27, 2017, opinion by Special Judge Karl DeMarce in Cole County Circuit Court. In that ruling, DeMarce held that trustees of the home and university violated Missouri law when they cut off the MBC’s rights in 2000 and 2001, respectively. The charters of both institutions require MBC messengers to approve changes.
“The Appeals Court’s ruling is very encouraging – and not just for Missouri Baptists,” said John Yeats, the MBC’s executive director.
“Churches, conventions and ministries across the country will benefit from the ruling, which sets a precedent for non-profit corporate law,” he said. “In response to biblical principles, Missouri Baptists want to be faithful stewards of the ministries entrusted to us, which were grown with generations of Cooperative Program giving.”
Yeats continued, “Missouri Baptists should rejoice that these agencies are restored to lawful boards, lawful documents, and brotherly fellowship with the Missouri Baptist Convention. We are eager to welcome Missouri Baptist University and The Baptist Home back into the MBC family, and we look forward to the same kind of smooth transition we experienced with the Missouri Baptist Foundation.”

A mirror of the Foundation case

The Appeals Court’s remedy mirrors the result in the Missouri Baptist Foundation case, which the Missouri Supreme Court resolved in September of 2016. The Foundation charter also contained a crucial “consent clause,” which requires approval of MBC messengers for charter changes, and resulted in a court order transitioning the board to MBC-elected trustees.
That transition has occurred smoothly over the past several years, the MBC reports, with no disruption of services to clients and with good cooperation between the former trustees and the new trustees.
“Foundation President Neil Franks and his leadership team are doing a marvelous job of serving Missouri Baptists, and we are grateful to all of them for a smooth transition and a shared vision of the future,” Yeats said.
The core issue is governance, Yeats noted. “The question always has been, ‘Who has the legal right and fiduciary responsibility to govern the entities?’ We have argued that it is a board of trustees duly elected by Missouri Baptists – and the courts have affirmed that position.”

Last resort

The home and university are among five MBC entities that changed their charters in 2000-2001 to become “self-perpetuating boards,” rejecting the right of MBC to approve charter amendments, to elect trustee boards, etc. Estimates at the time put the value of combined assets of the breakaway entities at more than $250 million.
After months of seeking private reconciliation and even binding Christian arbitration – all of which the self-perpetuating boards reportedly rejected – Missouri Baptists directed the MBC to seek a legal remedy as a last resort. The MBC then asked the Cole County Circuit Court for a declaratory judgment, seeking a judge’s interpretation of the law and corporate documents. This led to more than a decade of lower-court rulings that ended mostly in the MBC’s favor.
Judge Frank Conley ruled for the MBC and against the foundation in Cole County Circuit Court, and the Appeals Court in Kansas City affirmed that decision. When the Missouri Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal late in 2016, the foundation returned to the MBC.
MBC attorneys then filed two motions for summary judgment as to The Baptist Home and MBU. Special Judge Karl DeMarce signed his “final judgment” on Sept. 27, 2017, ordering the return of both entities to the MBC and resolving all remaining claims in the cases.

‘Welcoming the Home and MBU back’

Randy Comer, chairman of the MBC’s Agency Restoration Group, expressed his thanks to Missouri Baptists for their prayers, patience and steadfast support.
“We joyfully look forward to welcoming the Home and MBU back into the MBC family,” he said. “We care deeply about our students at MBU and our seniors on each Baptist Home campus, and our duly elected MBC trustees are committed to providing excellent services to them. We ask the Lord to continue to show us His favor in the days ahead.”
MBC’s legal team has included Michael and Jonathan Whitehead, a father-son duo practicing in suburban Kansas City, and James F. Freeman III with the Swanson Midgley law firm, also in Kansas City. The Whiteheads are members of Fellowship of Greenwood and Abundant Life, Lee’s Summit, respectively. Freeman is a member of Country Meadows Baptist Church, Lee’s Summit.
The Baptist Home provides retirement communities and residential care for senior adults on three campuses in Arcadia Valley, Chillicothe, and Ozark, and with headquarters in Ironton. Independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care are available on each campus. A new campus is under construction in Ashland.
Missouri Baptist University’s main campus is located in St. Louis and has reported total enrollment of more than 5,000 students, including extensions and online learning.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was reported by The Pathway,, news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

2/20/2019 10:55:53 AM by Missouri Pathway staff | with 0 comments

Gateway to offer all master’s degrees online

February 20 2019 by Kathie Chute, Gateway Seminary

Gateway Seminary will become the first Southern Baptist seminary to offer all its master’s degrees completely online in the fall of 2019.

Approval to offer the final two degree programs online came from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) on Feb. 15.

“Having all of our master’s degrees online means that more than ever before, Gateway students have optimum flexibility to hone their ministry skills as they expand God’s Kingdom around the world,” said Kristen Ferguson, Gateway’s director of online education. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to offer this flexibility to them.”
Ferguson said professors teaching online adhere to the best practices found in the field of online education, including:

  • Weekly interaction between students and professor as they engage the content of the course.

  • Timely feedback on assignments so that students grow each week.

  • High quality videos intentionally recorded for the online platform and for the online student.

  • Contextual assignments integrated in many classes so that students learn on the field and in their own context, then bring that learning experience back to the classroom for guidance and critique.

  • Class sizes limited to 24-28 students so that each professor has ample time to invest personally into the lives of each student.

“As a seminary intentionally designed for the 21st century, we are already well equipped to serve students from a distance through our library services, student support and administrative guidance,” Ferguson said.
She added that Gateway faculty members approve course templates that require the same learning objectives and signature assignments to be achieved in every course, no matter the delivery system.
“Gateway Seminary holds the online program to the same standards of excellent theological education and ministry training that a student receives on campus,” she said. “We measure the quality of Gateway’s online classes per semester and on an annual basis and consistently see that the quality is the same according to student evaluations and quality of coursework submitted by students.”
Besides all master’s degrees, selected certificates and concentrations also will be available online. The online master of divinity degree program will include concentrations in biblical studies, Christian counseling, educational leadership, global missiology, women’s ministry and youth ministry. Other online master’s programs include the master of theological studies, the master of arts in Christian counseling, the master of arts in educational leadership, the master of arts in intercultural studies and the master of arts in missiology.
The seminary taught its first online class in 1995 and in 2006 began offering the maximum number of programs allowed under ATS accreditation. In 2013, the institution became one of the first to offer a fully online master of divinity degree.
“Our hope is to not only help students gain the necessary competency in biblical knowledge and ministry skill,” Ferguson said, “but to foster a learning environment as students are actively engaged in ministry all over the world.”
For more information, contact or call 888-442-8701.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kathie Chute is director of communications for Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/20/2019 10:54:23 AM by Kathie Chute, Gateway Seminary | with 0 comments

Greear on CNN: Abusers ‘have no place’ in SBC

February 19 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear told CNN he is calling the convention to disfellowship churches “that show a wanton disregard that allows abuse.”
Appearing Feb. 18 on CNN’s “New Day,” Greear also said he will call tonight at an SBC Executive Committee meeting in Nashville for “enhanced language” in SBC documents to underscore the convention’s longstanding belief abuse “is out of step with” The Baptist Faith and Message.

CNN screen capture from YouTube
SBC President J.D. Greear told CNN Feb. 18 there is “no place in our convention” for “churches that show a wanton disregard that allows abuse.”

“Churches that show a wanton disregard that allows abuse, that allows it to happen, that protects the abuser – they have no place in our convention,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Southern Baptist churches, “because of the God that we believe in and that we worship, ought to be safe places for the vulnerable, and predators ought to have no place in our midst.
“If that means that we are going to disfellowship churches that show this wanton disregard or show a criminal negligence when it comes to these issues, then that’s what we’re going to do,” Greear said.
Greear’s appearance on CNN was his first live interview, according to CNN, since the Houston Chronicle published a three-part series of articles on sexual abuse among Southern Baptists. The Chronicle claimed approximately 380 instances among Southern Baptists since 1998 – including more than 250 since 2008 – of “those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned.” The crimes have left more than 700 victims, the newspaper stated.
“Absolute horror” at such instances of abuse was Greear’s first response when he read the Chronicle’s reporting, he said.
The SBC already had condemned abuse in a 2018 resolution among other statements, and Greear launched a Sexual Abuse Advisory Study in July. But the Chronicle’s articles “made the urgency” of a report about the study to the EC “all the more pressing,” he said.
Greear delivered such a report the evening of Feb. 18.
Participants in the study, Greear said, have included Andrea Munford, the lead detective on the sexual abuse investigation of former U.S.A. gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, and Rachael Denhollander, an attorney and former gymnast who accused Nassar of abuse.
Greear turned to scripture to support his stance against abuse and churches that fail to act against abusers. He cited Jesus’ statement recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke that it would be better for someone to have a millstone hung around his neck and be drowned than to cause a child to “stumble.”
“What would make them stumble more than [for] the ones that they’re hearing about God from to be people that also are allowing them to be in situations where they can experience some of the worst kind of abuse ever known to mankind?” Greear asked.
When pressed by CNN anchor John Berman about taking more action against abuse than past SBC presidents, Greear noted the president lacks power to disfellowship churches. Only messengers to the SBC annual meeting, or the EC acting on their behalf between annual meetings, have that power. Yet Greear said he is confident Southern Baptists possess “a readiness to deal with this issue.”
Southern Baptists must be vigilant about preventing abuse, Greear said, and take care not to create, “intentionally or unintentionally, safe spaces for abusers.”
Some Southern Baptists, Greear said, seem to have assumed abuse is “not something that can happen to us.” However, abuse can occur “anywhere there are people.”

2/19/2019 3:35:45 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Cuba’s proposed constitution cuts religious freedom

February 19 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Cuban pastors are resisting pressure to support a Feb. 24 constitutional referendum that further limits religious freedoms in the Communist nation, international religious liberty advocates said.
The referendum comes amid a growth in Christianity in Cuba, Southern Baptists active there have said, including a reported 43,072 professions of faith among Eastern Cuban Baptists in 2017.
Cuban Communist Party (CCP) officials have gathered religious leaders, including Christian pastors in several cities, to confirm that religious leaders and their congregations would support the referendum, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported Feb. 15. At a recent meeting held Feb 12 in Santiago, the CCP only wanted to intimidate pastors, a church leader told CSW.
The proposed constitution significantly reduces religious freedom and removes language in the current constitution regarding freedom of conscience, religious liberty advocates have said. Also absent in the proposed constitution is language protecting religious freedom as stated in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Cuba signed in 2008.
“Church leaders have exercised their right to share their views on the content of the new constitution, and have publicly stated that they will not tell their members how to vote,” said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of CSW-United Kingdom.
“Religious groups in Cuba, who represent the largest portion of independent civil society in the country, attempted to feed into the public consultation process around the new constitution,” Thomas said, “but their concerns were largely ignored, including those regarding weakened language on freedom of religion or belief and freedom of conscience.”
Thomas called on the Cuban government to cease its pressure and intimidation tactics, just as the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urged in December 2018, according to a USCIRF press release.
“We urge the Cuban government to immediately cease all intimidation tactics and to fully consider the proposals put forth by religious organizations,” USCIRF vice Chair Kristina Arriaga said as early as Dec. 11, “to ensure freedom of religion and conscience for Cubans of all faiths or none.”
Cuba is already a USCIRF Tier 2 “country of particular concern” for religious liberty violations noted in the USCIRF 2018 Annual Report. The CCP threatened to confiscate church property, repeatedly interrogated and detained religious leaders, prohibited Sunday worship and controlled religious activity, USCIRF noted.
Only 5 percent of Cuba’s 11.147 million people are Protestant, according to the U.S. Department of State. As many as 70 percent are Roman Catholic, mixed with traditional African religions including Santeria, the State Department said. A quarter of Cubans are religiously unaffiliated.
Cuba’s current constitution has been in effect since 1976.

2/19/2019 3:35:30 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Lifeway ‘date nights’ nurture pastors & wives

February 19 2019 by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources

More than 80 ministry couples got a jumpstart on Valentine’s Day as LifeWay Christian Resources held a Pastor Date Night Feb. 12 at its downtown headquarters.
The event marked the 38th Pastor Date Night hosted by LifeWay the past four years in 19 states and Canada.
Mark Dance, director of LifeWay Pastors, and his wife Janet host Pastor Date Nights to help leaders develop healthy marriages and tackle questions specific to couples in ministry.

Photo by Aaron Wilson
Mark Dance, right, director of LifeWay Pastors, and his wife Janet – joined by Mike Glenn, pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church, and his wife Jeannie – answer questions texted in anonymously by ministry couples at the Pastor Date Night hosted Feb. 12 by LifeWay Christian Resources.

“Vocational ministry is the only profession on the planet that requires people to win at both work and home,” Mark told attendees at the Feb. 12 gathering. “It’s in our 2,000-year-old job description that if we’re to manage our church, we have to manage our home. We want to help you win at both.”
The Pastor Date Night at LifeWay was held in partnership with the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB) and six metro Nashville Baptist associations.
“Pastor Date Night was a great opportunity to show these couples that they’re loved, appreciated and valued,” said Steve Holt, TBMB church services director. “It was a blessing to see the interaction between couples around the tables, to hear the laughter and to witness the transparency of panelists as they shared from the stage.”
Pastor Date Nights are driven by a formula that involves fellowship, a complementary meal and the opportunity to ask anonymous questions to a panel of seasoned ministry couples via text messaging.

“That’s probably the most significant part of the whole event,” Dance said. “The wallflower in the corner has just as much a voice as the extrovert on the front row.”
Before texting in questions, couples enter a dining area set up as a date atmosphere with music playing in the background. Round tables invite guests to mingle and develop new friendships as dinner is served.
“After about 45 minutes, I’ll introduce the panel, which consists of Janet, me and another couple or two in ministry,” Dance said. “I let them know we’re not here to talk about growing their church but about growing them personally. We’re here to help them get healthy and stay healthy.”
At the Feb. 12 event, the Dances were joined by Mike Glenn, pastor of the Nashville-area Brentwood Baptist Church, and his wife Jeannie. The two couples tackled questions attendees anonymously texted such as:

  • How do you balance church work and marriage?

  • What are some healthy pastor marriage habits?

  • How open should you be with your spouse about church conflict?

  • How do you take a day off with all the challenges of ministry?

  • What’s the hardest part about being a pastor’s wife?

Photo by Aaron Wilson
LifeWay Christian Resources hosted a Pastor Date Night for more than 80 ministry couples on Feb. 12 at LifeWay's headquarters in downtown Nashville.

“It’s important for pastors’ wives to have their questions answered candidly by people who understand them,” Janet Dance said. “[Being a pastor’s wife] is a life with unique challenges as well as blessings. A pastor’s wife is very hesitant to share among people who don’t understand this life.”

As LifeWay Pastors events have gained traction across the country, Baptist associations, conventions and seminaries have all partnered with LifeWay to host Pastor Date Nights and Pastor Roundtables – seminary luncheons that include a panel discussion. By the end of 2019, all six SBC seminaries and the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Alberta will have hosted at least one LifeWay Pastors event.

“Seminaries are a crucial key to our strategy of pastoral care,” Dance said. “We also want couples to know early in their ministry that LifeWay cares about their lives and families, as well as their ministries.”
The next Pastor Roundtable will be at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, on March 4. The next Pastor Date Night will in Indianapolis on April 5.
To see all 2019 LifeWay Pastors offerings, visit
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Wilson is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/19/2019 3:35:12 PM by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Church plant reaches millennials at local cineplex

February 19 2019 by Dave Arden, NAMB

A church plant that meets in one of the theaters in a cineplex may not be big news.
Except when a church plant impacts so many millennials that it never plans to leave.

Submitted photo
CityView Church's volunteers gather for prayer at a Phoenix cineplex prior to their Sunday morning worship.

Jeremiah Semmler and CityView Church in Phoenix have seen more than 350 people land in their theater seats and connect with the church family. Instead of watching a new release, many soon meet Jesus and become released to a new life in Christ.
“Every Sunday in the theater, more than likely there is somebody that does not know Jesus,” Semmler said. “We do not ever plan to leave the theater.”
Semmler is an Arizona native planting a church near the neighborhood where he grew up. He served for many years as a student pastor before becoming a church planter, launching CityView in September 2015.
Nsikan (pronounced n-say-ken) is one example of a millennial who has connected with Christ at CityView.
Nsikan came to the AMC movie complex to see a movie. One of CityView’s greeters went over to welcome him and his friend and invited them to church.
Semmler encouraged the two friends after worship, “If you like it here come back next week.”
Nsikan returned and first connected with CityView member Sandy and then Carol and Tim. Soon at a Panda Express, Carol shared the gospel with Nsikan and he gladly received Christ.
“I would like to get baptized,” the new brother said.
Nsikan now is one of many who has made the move from being a sit-down acquaintance to a stand-up follower of Jesus.

Submitted photo
In a Phoenix cineplex, Jeremiah Semmler is leading CityView Church to taking root, seeking to reach people who are "looking for a community home."

Semmler understands millennials and knows how to speak their language, with 25-35-year-olds comprising the largest sector of the growing church.
“Our main focus is on people who are searching,” Semmler said. “We identify with people who are looking for a community home. One of the coolest things is to see someone on their way to the movies end up at church to give their life to Christ.”
The mission of CityView is to: Belong in community. Believe in Jesus. Become what God has called you to be.
“We accept people before they have begun a faith journey,” Semmler said. “We are OK with moving slow.”
CityView makes an impact on its community in various ways. They do a “Black Friday Outreach” sharing gift bags with retail workers who have to work during the holidays. They provide support for Park Meadows Elementary School’s students and teachers, including helping paint and fix up the school. The church also serves in first responders care for the local police, supports foster care ministry and has a women’s ministry to local strippers.
Semmler has worked in overdrive to build the church plant’s ministry teams.
“We have removed the word ‘volunteer’ in our ministry,” he said. “Instead, we use the word ‘team member.’ Team members take ownership.”
CityView has established a culture of leadership development with a pathway for “team leaders” to become “area leaders” and eventually move into “director” responsibility, expanding their influence in each role, with more than half the church now involved in service.
CityView Church may decide to move to a different location in the next 10 or 15 years. Or this “Church at the Box Office” might stay. With big vision, they are aiming to venture anew into church planting in the next few years.
Stay tuned for the sequel.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dave Arden is a freelance writer and church planter catalyst for the North American Mission Board in Phoenix.)

2/19/2019 3:34:53 PM by Dave Arden, NAMB | with 0 comments

Iconic missionary encourages N.C. Baptists to remember their calling

February 19 2019 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Sam James, longtime missionary with the International Mission Board (IMB), encouraged Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) staff members to rest in God’s call on their lives and demonstrate the supernatural love of Christ as they serve in their respective ministries.
“The call of God is sufficient,” said James, who served 54 years with the IMB in places like Southeast Asia, East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. James has also held a variety of leadership roles with the IMB and has led trainings and conferences in 115 different countries. 

BSC photo by K Brown
“No matter what (your ministry) is here in this building, God has called you here, and you are working and serving Him,” said Sam James, retired missionary to the Baptist State Convention staff during a chapel service Feb. 6.

“There have been so many times when the only thing I had left in life was my call, but that has always been sufficient for me.”
James’ remarks came during a Feb. 6 chapel service to the entire state convention staff as they gathered together for a series of meetings at the BSC offices in Cary.
“No matter what (your ministry) is here in this building, God has called you here, and you are working and serving Him,” James said.
James praised the work of N.C. Baptists, saying he tried to remain informed about the state convention’s various ministries while on the international mission field. A native of Liberty, N.C., James was educated at Wake Forest College in Wake Forest, N.C., and moved with the school to Winston-Salem where it eventually became Wake Forest University.
He also studied at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which now occupies the former Wake Forest College campus, as well as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Prior to being commissioned as an international missionary, James helped found Homestead Heights Baptist Church in Durham, which is now known as The Summit Church and is pastored by Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear.
“Sam James had a vision of that church planting churches throughout the world, and that vision is still being lived out,” said BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr., who described James as an “icon” among SBC missionaries and leaders. “He is such a humble servant of God.”
During his message, James recounted several personal stories from his days as a missionary in South Vietnam, which included anecdotes of how God spared his life and granted him mercy and grace. God’s hand was upon James’ life and ministry to the point that it resulted in communist leaders showing him favor and granting him unprecedented opportunities to minister to the Vietnamese people.
James and his wife, Rachel, served in South Vietnam beginning in 1962. They served there throughout the Vietnam War, but were ultimately forced to flee the country when communist forces conquered Saigon on April 30, 1975, marking the end of the war. James was able to return to Vietnam 14 years later in 1989.
Although he is officially retired from the IMB and living in Virginia, James continues to travel to Vietnam for ministry at age 86.
James said his heart for the Vietnamese people doesn’t come from anything inside himself, but rather it is a manifestation of God’s supernatural love. James recounted a time when God reminded him of that love when he was deeply discouraged in the early years of his ministry. “That night, I knelt before God after six years in Vietnam,” James said. “God told me, ‘You’re not in Vietnam because you love the Vietnam people. You’re in Vietnam because I love them, and I want to love them through you.’”
James challenged N.C. Baptists to allow that same kind of love to flow through them. “That means you are surrendering yourself to Him,” James said, referencing Galatians 2:20 about being crucified with Christ. “That’s the call. That’s the mission.”

2/19/2019 3:34:07 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Gospel reaches complex culture

February 19 2019 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

Full of color, life, beauty and disparity, Miami is a city where “you can lose yourself and find yourself all at the same time,” said church planting missionary Muche Ukegbu.

NAMB photo by Daniel Delgado
Muche Ukegbu, his wife Diamone, and kids, left to right, Noah, Serenity and Joelle moved to Miami from Atlanta to plant The Brook Church in Miami in 2015. They are surrounded by several different cultures in Miami, and their ministry has led to the creation of a multi-ethnic church. The Ukegbus are featured in the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering Week of Prayer.


Miami’s spectrum of economic, ethnic and cultural diversity generates a complexity that Ukegbu and his family have been navigating since moving to the city to start their church, The Brook Church, which launched in the April of 2015.
As residents in Miami attempt to find themselves, they experience a certain level of freedom, but “if Jesus isn’t a part of that, if He’s not the center of that [search], then it’s not real freedom,” said Muche. “So, the need for Jesus in the midst of a collision of stories is why we’re here.”
Muche and his wife, Diamone, are 2019 Week of Prayer missionaries for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and are bringing the hope of the gospel into one of the most diverse cities in North America.

“Miami is global and international,” said Muche. “There’s an international root here that you’re just not going to escape.”
With the confluence of so many different people groups comes a need to help people find a solid foundation for their identities, and only twenty percent of people in Miami identify as an Evangelical Christian.
“Each culture tries to find itself,” said Diamone. “It may be someone coming from somewhere here in the States or trying to figure out, ‘How am I supposed to advance in life after my family has brought me here to this country?’”
Muche and Diamone have experienced their own journey of finding their place in the city – whether it’s being mistaken for Haitians or learning to raise their children in a symphony of varied cultures. They know to rely on God to help them minister with wisdom.
“The richness of Miami is that depending on what supermarket that you walk into, it’s going to determine what language they’re going to use to speak to you,” said Muche.

One neighborhood will speak Spanish, another Haitian Creole. In an area with high Jewish influence, the entire region shuts down to observe Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah.
“All these different customs that would be normal for that culture are concentrated in that area,” said Diamone, “and you feel it in each of the different sects of the city.”
While that diversity is beautiful, Muche comments, “the fact that in certain parts of the city it’s so distinct shows how segregated the city still is.”
Continuing to speak about the diversity, Muche said, “We occupy the same space. We’re in the same room, if you will, but what does something better than bringing people into the same room is Jesus. He brings different people, not just into the same room, but into the same family.”
While this sort of cultural isolation comes naturally, The Brook Church strives to understand and practice the truth of the gospel in such a way that enables everyone to feel a part of the family of God.
“And it’s glorious,” Muche said, “because even though you’re brought into that family, you don’t lose your cultural identify. It’s just redeemed.”
Their congregation attempts to make this reality apparent in the way they worship together – by singing the same song in multiple languages.
“It helps them feel like they’re part of something without losing something that they weren’t meant to lose in the first place,” Muche said.
That approach has made room for multiple nationalities to find a home in their church.

NAMB photo by Daniel Delgado
Diamone Ukegbu, center, leads the worship team at The Brook Church where they sing songs in three different languages so that those who attend can sing in their native tongue.

“When you walk into our church, it is amazing that there’s Bolivians and Peruvians and Colombians and Venezuelans sitting on the same row,” Diamone said.
To bring the gospel to Miami, The Brook Church works to bridge cultural divides with the power of the gospel, which requires them to find ways to relate to people across every level of their community.
“The need isn’t just an intellectual presentation of the gospel,” Muche explained. “It’s a relational one. The gospel shapes, not just how I see myself in relation to God, not just vertically, but this is how the gospel shapes how I see myself in relation to [others].”
As the culture changed in Miami during the 60s and 70s, Muche described how some of the church’s response “left a sour taste in the mouth of a lot of people in South Florida.” So, The Brook Church seeks to minister to the whole person – care about the whole person – in order to have an opportunity to share the gospel with their neighbors.
About 15 people moved with the Ukegbus when they came to the city, and now they see more than 100 people come on Sundays. As a church, they have baptized people who now experience a burden to go overseas to share the gospel or start churches throughout North America.
“God is working in ways that we couldn’t have planned for,” Muche said, “but because He is faithful, we’re experiencing them.”
Gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering make churches like The Brook Church possible. To learn more, visit

2/19/2019 3:33:21 PM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

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