March 2016

Array of Baptists embrace presidential contenders

March 4 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

The campaign trail is cutting an ever-widening swath through Southern Baptist notables.
In short:

  • Paige Patterson is among the Southern Baptists on a Ted Cruz religious liberty advisory board; R. Albert Mohler Jr. is on a Marco Rubio pro-life advisory board; and Rick Warren is on a Rubio religious liberty advisory board.

  • Cruz has been endorsed by Jerry Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters, and by his Houston pastor, Gregg Matte of First Baptist Church.

  • Donald Trump now has former candidate Mike Huckabee’s daughter as one of his senior advisers.

  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich has garnered endorsements from former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and from Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.


Cruz advisory board

The Ted Cruz campaign announced its 19-member religious liberty advisory board on March 1.
In addition to Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, the board includes Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., and a former U.S. Senate candidate; Tony Beam, North Greenville University’s vice president for student services and Christian worldview; and home rehab personalities David and Jason Benham.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council in Washington and a Southern Baptist, is the advisory board’s chairman. Also on the board are Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation.

Rubio advisory boards

The Marco Rubio campaign announced its 10-member pro-life advisory board on Jan. 19 and its 15-member religious liberty advisory board on Jan. 5.
In addition to Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., the pro-life Rubio panel includes Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life advocate; Ravi Zacharias, president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries; Scott Klusendorf, president of the Life Training Institute; Francis Beckwith, professor of philosophy and church-state studies at Baylor University; and Steve Aden of the Alliance Defending Freedom serving as director of its Center for Life Alliances.
In addition to Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, the Rubio religious liberty panel, according to a report by WORLD Magazine in January, includes Thomas White, president of Cedarville University in Ohio; Wayne Grudem, research professor of theology and biblical studies with Phoenix Seminary; Thomas Kidd, distinguished professor of history and associate director of Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion; and Doug Napier, executive vice president of the Alliance Defending Freedom.
The Rubio religious liberty board also included Samuel Rodriguez, who was listed on the similar board with the Cruz campaign. Baptist Press attempted to check with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference but had not received clarification by its March 3 mid-afternoon deadline.

Trump & Huckabee

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s daughter Sarah Huckabee joined the Trump campaign as a senior adviser on Feb. 25, according to CNN, after the Huckabee presidential campaign was suspended in early February.
Sarah Huckabee, in a statement quoted by CNN, said she “volunteered to join Mr. Trump’s campaign because he is a champion of working families; not Washington-Wall Street elites.” Trump “will break the grip of the donor class on our government and make it accountable to working families again,” she said.
On Super Tuesday (March 1), Mike Huckabee made Trump-related news when he admonished on the “Fox and Friends” morning show, “... don’t pretend somehow that all these voters who have gone out and voted for him are stupid,” The Hill reported. “They’re not stupid ... they’re angry.”
Huckabee, who has not endorsed Trump, is a former Fox News personality, Baptist pastor and president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Other endorsements

  • Jerry Johnson, NRB president and a former president of Criswell College in Dallas and former administrator at Southern Seminary, endorsed Cruz in a two-minute YouTube video Feb. 29 titled “Why I’m voting for Ted Cruz in 2016.” Johnson acknowledged his role with NRB in the video but stated that he was making the endorsement as an individual.

  • Gregg Matte, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston where Cruz and his family are members, embraced Cruz’s candidacy in a statement to the campaign initially in December which was recirculated on Matte’s Facebook page in late February.

“We all know Senator Cruz as a brilliant, strong, and confident leader, unswervingly handling the Constitution with respect and wisdom,” Matte, a former president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference, said. “But I also know him as a husband, father, and friend. Ted Cruz is in touch with the normal routines of everyday life while also being outstanding in dealing with the complex issues of our day. This combination of character and competence gives me confidence that, under Ted’s leadership, America can once again head in the right direction.”

  • Rubio’s campaign website lists the endorsements of former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and Hobby Lobby founder David Green.

  • In January, much-publicized pro-Trump comments were voiced by Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, but not a formal endorsement, while Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, endorsed the New York tycoon and TV personality. Critical assessments of Trump, meanwhile, have been frequently voiced by Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission who has not endorsed a candidate or otherwise openly identified with a candidate.

  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign in Mississippi is being chaired by Andy Taggart, a member of the Jackson-area Broadmoor Baptist Church and former executive director of the Mississippi Republican Party who also served as a chief of staff for former Gov. Kirk Fordice.

A Kasich news release also listed the endorsements of Baptist church members Trent Lott, U.S. senator from Mississippi from 1988-2007, and Robert Bentley, Alabama’s current governor.
On Super Tuesday, Trump prevailed in seven states; Cruz in three; Rubio in one.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

3/4/2016 1:11:23 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

IMB’s David Platt looks forward after ‘reset’

March 4 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Following an “organizational reset” that saw more than 1,100 International Mission Board (IMB) personnel transition away from the board, President David Platt told a March 3 live stream audience he is ready to focus on the future.
“I really want to shift the conversation from talking about numbers and finances to talking about how this army of brothers and sisters going out specifically from Southern Baptist churches across North America can make the gospel known among the nations,” Platt told an online audience that included viewers on more than 1,000 electronic devices.
Platt acknowledged “there has been and continues to be in the IMB family ... and the broader Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) family a kind of grieving process” associated with seeing hundreds of missionaries and stateside staff shift to other ministry fields. Southern Baptists are “continually wrestling through” implications of that transition even as they focus on fulfilling the Great Commission going forward.


IMB Photo by Chris Carter
IMB President David Platt casts vision for the future of IMB and responds to questions and comments submitted live via Twitter during a livestream event Thursday, March 3.

In an hour-long livestream event that included viewer questions submitted via Twitter, Platt listed five “primary desires” that drive the IMB in its ongoing work:

  • A desire to exalt Christ

  • A desire to mobilize ordinary Christians

  • A desire to serve and equip local churches

  • A desire to facilitate church planting

  • A desire for the 46,000-plus Southern Baptist churches to each play their part in accomplishing the Great Commission.

The SBC’s program of international missions, Platt said, can be envisioned as a “three-legged stool” whose legs represent missionaries, local churches and the IMB. Local churches send and continually encourage missionaries while the IMB leads those missionaries to play specific roles in a coordinated global strategy to evangelize the world’s 6,000 unreached people groups.
The path forward in sharing Christ is “going to cost people’s lives, futures, plans [and] dreams,” Platt said.
But believers take the gospel even to lands where terrorists oppose it and seek their lives, he said, “because there was a day when all of us were totally opposed to the glory or our God. We were running from Him in rebellion against Him, and He came running after us. In His mercy, God pursued us to the sacrifice of His only Son.
“So now it just makes sense for all those who are hidden in Him ... to go to the most radically rebellious against the Gospel and to proclaim it in the grace and the love of Christ, knowing it will cost us, but believing it will be totally worth it,” Platt said.
To help churches fulfill the Great Commission, Platt noted two forthcoming IMB resources: a six-week course for small groups and a six-month curriculum on cross-cultural disciple making. Additionally, “Missions Intensive” training events will help pastors and other leaders transform their churches into “global missions sending center[s].”
The IMB’s Global Cities initiative is in a pilot phase that seeks to help ordinary believers find ways to plant their lives in major world cities to make disciples there, Platt said. Among the cities Platt listed are Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, London and Shanghai – each of which provides missionary platforms for professionals, families, singles, retirees, entrepreneurs and students.
By going overseas in such capacities, Southern Baptists can become part of what Platt called a “limitless” missionary force that includes more than just fully-funded IMB employees.
As this army of Christians plants churches among unreached people groups, the IMB will do all it can to ensure those congregations are biblical and healthy, Platt said.
“The missionary task is not just evangelism – lead them to Christ and get out,” he said. Rather, it is “lead people to Christ; see them baptized and gathered together in a church; see leaders trained up in that church so that now the church can be led by pastors who are shepherding that church well, and the church is now involved in sending people to missions.
“The missionary task carries all that,” Platt said, “which necessitates a focus not just on the planting of the church but the health of the church.”
Small and large Southern Baptist churches alike are called to participate in the Great Commission worldwide, Platt said, and the IMB stands ready to help them all.
“The potential exists in every single church no matter what size – 13 or 13,000 – to send somebody,” he said. “If that’s the case, then how much more the beauty of how this picture in the Southern Baptist Convention works, because no one church can do this alone.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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IMB reduces, reorganizes communication team

3/4/2016 1:06:03 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Depression, suicide draw focus of counseling conference

March 4 2016 by Rachel Gaddis, Ouachita Baptist University

Encouraging those in attendance to adopt a “theology of life,” Frank S. Page delivered the keynote address during a Christian counseling conf. that focused on depression.
Ouachita Baptist University’s (OBU) Pruet School of Christian Studies hosted the sixth annual Conference on Issues in Christian Counseling at OBU on Feb. 26. Sponsored by Ouachita, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, the one-day conference brought together a total of 160 mental health professionals – counselors, nurses and social workers – and pastors from around the state to examine the issue of depression.
A Christian theology on mental illness, mental health and suicide is needed, said Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. “There are many people who are not darkening the doors of your church because of depression,” he said. “Some feel like people in the church don’t understand. Guess what? Many don’t.”
Page shared his family’s personal experience with both depression and suicide. Page is the author of several books, including Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide that he wrote after his daughter took her own life in 2009. He also appointed a Mental Health Advisory Group in response to a motion on mental health ministry and a resolution on mental health concerns introduced at the 2013 SBC annual meeting.


“We know suicide is a horrible experience,” he said. “The pain that is left behind for family and friends is a pain that may deaden over time but never heals completely.”
Stating that the Bible deals with depression and suicide, Page referenced depression in Psalm 42 and seven biblical examples of suicide: Abimelek (Judges 9), Samson (Judges 16), King Saul and his armor bearer (1 Samuel 31), Ahithophell (2 Samuel 17), Zimri (1 Kings 16) and Judas (Matthew 27).
Citing 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Page said, “The theology of life begins with a recognition that we do not belong to us. In our culture today, everyone teaches, ‘You belong to you.’ Well, that’s not what we believe. A Christian theology promotes a stewardship of God’s ownership of everything, including our own lives.”
Page also stressed the need to confront negative responses and bad theology and challenged mental health professionals and pastors to “minister the Word of God and God’s comfort to those who are depressed and hurting.”
“Practice the ministry of presence,” Page said. “Our Lord does not leave us, but sometimes that ministry is best performed by those in the helping community – in church and in the medical professions and psychological professions. You are the hands and feet and heart of Jesus reaching out to those around you.”
Following Page’s address, participants had the opportunity to choose from a variety of breakout sessions related to their field or interests. Session topics included ethical considerations with therapy-resistant clients, child sexual abuse, depression and counseling people of faith, pastoral care of the depressed person, cultural and social influences on depression and pharmacotherapeutic management of depression, among others.
The National Board for Certified Counselors approved most of the breakout sessions for Continuing Education credit. Credit was available to licensed alcohol and abuse counselors, professional and marriage and family counselors; national career counselors; nursing professionals; and social work professionals.
During the conference’s lunch session Bill Viser, coordinator for the conference and professor of Christian ministries at Ouachita, reminded counselors of the importance of self-care. Titled “When Helping You Is Killing Me,” Viser’s session distinguished between burnout and depression and provided strategies to combat burnout. Participants were given time to talk about when they were most susceptible to burnout and their personal strategies for preventing it.
“All we want to do is highlight something that can happen to any of us,” Viser said. “If we don’t practice good strategies, if we don’t practice taking care of ourselves, it can and it will happen to us. We need all the good caregivers we can get in the field and don’t want to lose any.”
This was Luther Harris’ third year to attend the Conference on Issues in Christian Counseling. As a pastor and a chaplain for Life Touch Hospice in El Dorado, Ark., Harris encounters depression on a regular basis. Specifically in his role as a chaplain, he ministers to patients and their family members as they approach the end of life.
“It makes it hard if they have not accepted that they are dying, and depression tends to take an overwhelming stake in their lives at that moment,” Harris said. “Through this conference I’ve learned a great deal about how to approach it, what to look for – and not just from the perspective of Life Touch, but from the perspective of a pastor.”
For Tami Montgomery, a licensed professional counselor with Arkansas Counseling and Psychodiagnostics in Arkadelphia, Ark., attending the conference for the first time has given her “a whole different perspective on depression.”
“It’s refreshing for me that this is not a hellfire and brimstone perspective of depression,” she said, “and that as Christians we do recognize that it exists.”
For more information about the conference, contact the Pruet School of Christian Studies at (870) 245-5599.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rachel Gaddis is a senior mass communications major at Ouachita Baptist University.)

3/4/2016 12:54:30 PM by Rachel Gaddis, Ouachita Baptist University | with 0 comments

Trump, Clinton make gains on Super Tuesday

March 3 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton piled up more victories on Super Tuesday, further raising the question of whether they can be stopped from winning the presidential nominations of their political parties.
Trump – the celebrity billionaire – won the Republican vote in seven states on the busiest day of the nomination season, while Clinton – the former secretary of state and first lady – also gained victories in seven states March 1 in her effort to win the Democratic nod.
Even in winning seven states, Trump did not dominate to the extent pre-Super Tuesday polls seemed to indicate he would. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas won in Alaska, Oklahoma and his home state, while Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida won the Minnesota caucus.
Cruz managed to gain only 25 fewer delegates than Trump, winning 209 to the frontrunner’s 234, according to The New York Times at 1 p.m. Eastern Time March 2. In the total delegate count, Trump has 316, Cruz 226 and Rubio 106. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson trail with 25 and 8 delegates, respectively. In a statement released March 2, Carson suggested he might drop out of the race. “I do not see a political path forward in light of last evening’s Super Tuesday primary results,” he said.


In the Democratic race, Clinton won an additional 486 delegates on Super Tuesday for a total of 577, while Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-identified socialist from Vermont, gained 321 delegates for a total of 386, The Times reported. That does not count superdelegates, where Clinton holds an overwhelming 457-22 advantage.
A Republican candidate must obtain 1,237 delegates to win the nomination, while a Democrat must gain 2,383.
“There is just about no chance of [Trump] being defeated for the nomination at this point unless either Cruz or Rubio can be persuaded to leave the race,” said Hunter Baker, associate professor of political science at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
“Hillary Clinton is going to continue to steamroll Bernie Sanders,” Baker told Baptist Press in written comments. “African-American voters trust the Clinton name, and that is showing in the results so far. In addition, it seems that Democrats in the South aren’t as crazy about the socialist label as some of their counterparts up north.”
Trump’s gains continue to mount – even with the backing of some self-identified evangelicals and conservatives – in spite of his inconsistent policy positions, multiple marriages and insults of others on the stump. His refusal Feb. 28 to disavow the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke may have hurt him on Super Tuesday, although Trump later repudiated Duke’s support.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said of Super Tuesday, “Last night’s results reveal a deeply divided electorate and quickly shifting society, without and within the Bible Belt.
“Christians above all others should be leading the way in calling for the conservation of moral principles and a just society,” Moore said. “In the midst of this unpredictable and fevered election cycle, we need more than ever for Gospel Christians to engage in the public square and at the ballot box, remembering that we are Americans best when we are Christians first.”
Bruce Ashford, provost and professor of theology and culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “For a number of reasons, conservative evangelicals are deeply concerned about the prospects of a Trump nomination. His candidacy is questionable on many of the issues that evangelicals care about, such as human dignity and religious liberty.”
While Cruz and Rubio continue to make the case “they are able to stop Trump,” Ashford said, both “are longshots to win the nomination, though the door is not yet closed.”
Trump, Baker said, “has vastly outperformed any reasonable expectation of what he could accomplish when he joined this race as what seemed to be a novelty candidate. He is the clear frontrunner and has significantly expanded the size of the GOP primary electorate.”
Baker said he had endorsed Rubio “on the logic that he would be a better general election candidate, but an awful lot will have to happen for him to get there. It’s hard to imagine Cruz being persuaded that he should be the one to leave when he has a total of four wins in his pocket, while Rubio only has one.”
Barry Creamer, president of and professor of humanities at Criswell College in Dallas, said, “Ironically, and unfortunately in my opinion, the Ted Cruz win in Texas may actually affirm the movement pushing Trump closer to the Republican nomination.”
Cruz, Creamer said, “probably won Texas for the very same reason that Trump is still winning in the majority of other states” – the feelings of betrayal and disenfranchisement by conservative voters toward the Republican Party.
“It seems likely that voters in Texas support Ted Cruz now for a reason similar to why they elected him to the Senate – because they agree with his stand against D.C.’s status quo, not solely, as many probably want the case to be, as a protest to the Trump campaign,” Creamer said.
The seven states in which Trump won March 1 were Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. Clinton took first place in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, while Sanders won in Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Vermont.
The next stops in the nomination journeys come March 5, when both parties hold primaries in Louisiana and caucuses in Kansas. The GOP also will have caucuses in Kentucky and Maine, while Democrats hold a caucus in Nebraska. On March 6, the Democrats will caucus in Maine; the Republicans will have a primary in Puerto Rico.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

3/3/2016 1:08:55 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Court division appears on Texas abortion regulations

March 3 2016 by Baptist Press

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared to divide as expected March 2 in oral arguments regarding a Texas law that regulates abortion doctors and clinics.
Questions from the high court’s liberal bloc – Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – seemed to demonstrate strong skepticism of the measure, which requires an abortion doctor to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in case a woman needs emergency admission. The law also mandates abortion clinics must meet the health and safety standards of other walk-in surgical centers.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito appeared most doubtful of the arguments by the law’s challengers, while Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy – typically the court’s swing vote – even expressed some uncertainty about the court overruling a legislature in such a case. As usual, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas did not ask any questions.
The high court heard the arguments with only eight justices, because of the recent death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, a leader of the conservative wing for nearly three decades. Scalia, 79, was found dead Feb. 13.
The court’s new alignment makes a 4-4 split in this case a possibility. If the court were to divide evenly, it would result in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision upholding the state law remaining in effect in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. A tie, however, would not establish a precedent and not be controlling in the rest of the country.
The primary question the high court faces is whether the Texas law is an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion. The justices established that standard in their 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey opinion, which permitted some restrictions but affirmed the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.
With Scalia’s former chair in the courtroom draped in black, Stephanie Toti, the lawyer for the challengers to the law, described the two parts of the Texas law as “unnecessary health regulations.” Each of the requirements “is extremely burdensome,” she said.
Donald Verrilli, the Obama administration’s solicitor general, told the court the Texas requirements are “much more extreme” than any restriction the justices have considered since the Casey decision.
Scott Keller, Texas’ solicitor general, told the court the law is designed to “improve abortion safety.”
If upheld by the high court, the law would reduce the number of abortion facilities in Texas from what had been about 40 to fewer than 10.
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) joined four other groups in a friend-of-the-court brief that urged the justices to affirm the Texas law. The Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention signed onto another brief in support of the requirements.
When the ERLC-SBTC brief was filed Feb. 1, ERLC President Russell Moore said, “Abortion activists have claimed for years that protecting women from harm is their primary goal, but they are certainly on the wrong side of women’s health on this issue.” His prayer, Moore said, is the court “will recognize the reasonableness of Texas’ measures and defend women and families.”
Gary Ledbetter, the SBTC’s director of communications and ministry relationships, said, “Abortion providers seem to believe that they should be exempt from regulation because it would make a hardship on their ability to make a profit.”
A large group of pro-life supporters and an even larger crowd of abortion-rights advocates gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court building before, during and after the arguments.
An opinion in the case, which is Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, is expected before the court ends its term in late June or early July.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

3/3/2016 12:59:39 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Evangelism rally at Baptist university seen as catalyst

March 3 2016 by Nathan Handley, Union University

Although it was a one-day evangelism rally, organizers are envisioning it as a catalyst for stirring Southern Baptists to share their faith.
The West Tennessee Evangelism Rally at Union University drew more than 800 attendees to hear key pastors and evangelists relay advice and encouragement for local Baptists’ evangelistic efforts.
“This is one of the best things I have been a part of in years,” said Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church.
“It shows me that people are still hungry to learn how to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.”


Gaines, one of the rally’s breakout leaders, said working with churches through local Baptist associations and the Tennessee Baptist Convention brought many to the rally.
Saying he hopes similar evangelism rallies will be initiated in other locations, Gaines noted, “You have to have leaders with hearts for evangelism. If they don’t have a heart for it, it’s not going to work.”
Union University President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver said Union wants to serve as a resource and partner in Southern Baptist life and with likeminded Christians.
“We had a great night with a unity of spirit among the 800 or so attendees, and we believe it can be a model for other such initiatives around the country,” Oliver said. “Of course, we hope the flame of evangelism was fanned among those who were part of the rally, and that the fruit of that flame will be many more people sharing the gospel.”
Ernest Easley, professor of evangelism at Union, organized the Feb. 21 event.
Fred Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, was the rally’s keynote speaker.
“We need to understand how critical, how important it is that we make evangelism a priority,” Luter said.
The rally included eight breakout sessions in addition to Luter’s address focused on the church in the book of Acts. Believers in the early church were so effective in carrying out the Great Commission that the Bible recounts that they turned the world upside down, Luter said.
“Not only their neighborhood, not only their community, not only their city, not only their state, not only their nation, but these believers have the reputation of turning the world upside down.” Luter said. “In other words, they shook some stuff up.”
Luter said the small group of believers could not have pulled off such a mighty task on their own. They were able to do it because they waited on the promise of God, the Holy Spirit.
“They had received the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said, “and now they were able to do in Him what they could not do of themselves by themselves.”
The believers in Acts were small in number and limited in resources, but they accomplished great things, Luter said. They were the same ones who were timid and hiding when Jesus was crucified before the power of the Holy Spirit gave them new boldness, strength and courage.
“They didn’t have any of that stuff that we claim we need to reach people with the gospel today,” Luter said. “But they turned the world upside down.”
And they had a new purpose.
“Once you’re empowered by the Holy Spirit, you begin to realize it’s not about you.” Luter said. “It’s not about your agenda. It’s not about your ideas. It’s not about your title ... Their purpose was to witness to the lost ...
“The same power that God gave to the disciples on the day of Pentecost is the same power that He’s given us tonight,” Luter said.
In addition to Gaines, the rally’s breakout sessions were led by Darrell Robinson, Michael Ellis, Brian Mills, John Powers, David Evans, Hal Poe and Jerry Drace on various aspects of evangelism, including evangelism strategies, prayer, evangelism in pop culture, revivals and giving invitations.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nathan Handley is a writer for Union University.)

3/3/2016 12:52:46 PM by Nathan Handley, Union University | with 0 comments

Church & sexuality focus of Alabama conference

March 3 2016 by Maggie Walsh, The Alabama Baptist

The sexual revolution in which our society finds itself has been a long time coming, said Timothy George, dean of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, in his keynote address, “The Biblical Truth About Sexuality in a Morally Relative Age.”
The speech kicked off The Church and Sexuality Conference on Feb. 29 at First Baptist Church, Montgomery, Ala.
“It’s tempting to think that this just came out of the blue, but it’s been in the making for a long, long time,” George said. It’s important to understand that there have been centuries of groundwork so that we can know why the “ground began to shake beneath our feet” so quickly, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in 2014.
Some may wonder, “What is the church to do?”


Photo from The Alabama Baptist
Rick Lance, left, Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions Executive Director, moderates a panel discussion with Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizen’s Action Program, and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, on “Religious Liberty in a Culture of Moral Decline.”

George urged participants to stay faithful to the ethics revealed in scripture, preach the whole counsel of God, rightly divide the Word of God and let the church be the hermeneutic of the gospel.
“We are to reach out in Jesus’ name and in the love of Christ to sexual sinners everywhere and of every kind. We are all broken,” George said.
But Christians must live life on “that thin edge of nausea and sweetness” to love sinners enough to push past our own discomfort or lack of understanding to share Jesus Christ and “be engaged with all the wisdom and humility we can muster,” he said.
Building off of George’s message, Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions Executive Director Rick Lance moderated a panel discussion on “Religious Liberty in a Culture of Moral Decline.”
On the panel was Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizen’s Action Program, and Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Lance said, “Religious liberty is an issue we’re going to have to get more and more familiarized with,” opening the discussion that ranged from involvement with government to engaging the culture in which we live.
Godfrey said there has to be a balance between compassion and love and speaking out against issues of morality. “We have to be prophets of God and at the same time show compassion.”
And we can do that, Moore said, by engaging people in a long-term conversation about what each side believes. We need to separate from the sin but never be afraid to be near sinners, but many times in the church we do the reverse, he said.
Godfrey noted Christians will continue to be marginalized on the issue of same-sex marriage. “It’s a matter of putting us on the periphery of society so that we don’t have any more of an influence,” he said.
Christians can combat the changing culture by seeing people in terms of “the long-term sweep of their lives,” Moore said. “Spend time dealing with people as people and not merely as issues.”
In the afternoon session, Moore returned to deliver the second keynote address on “Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel.”
Speaking on Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well in John 4:4–19, Moore focused on verse 16 where Jesus says, “Go get your husband and come here.”
Jesus points out the very thing that the woman is trying to hide, Moore said, and is willing to confront her at the place she is most trying to avoid.
“If we are a gospel people, then that means that our articulation of a sexual ethic ... is not a matter of our choosing,” he said. “It is a mandate that Jesus has given us.”
We have to speak with confidence that can only come from God’s design and His gospel message – that is how we will become a church for refugees from the sexual revolution, Moore said. But we cannot give easy answers for why people grapple with certain temptations. We must be among them, engaging them and trying to know them, he said.
“We cannot be afraid to be among people who are sinful and fallen,” Moore said “... [Because in ministering to them] we have a gospel opportunity to be a John 3:16 people in a John 4:16 world.”
After participants attended one of nine breakout sessions dealing with various issues relating to sexuality in culture, Lance moderated a second panel discussion on “Taking This Back to My Church.”
Panelist Jim Graham, pastor of Coosada Baptist Church in Coosada, Ala., said, “The key is loving people and trying to help people see that balance that Jesus was full of grace and truth. ... We have to embrace the tension.”
Kathy Litton, national director of ministry to pastors’ wives for the North American Mission Board, noted that Christians have to intensify their discipleship efforts and be transparent and real with those they are discipling.
“We need to love our neighbor as ourselves,” Litton said. “You can love someone better when you understand them more ... and we’ve got to show grace and we’ve got to be informed.”
Travis Coleman, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church, Prattville, and president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, added that intentionality is needed, especially where church leadership is concerned. That pertains to church policies, religious liberty and discipleship, he said.
For resources, link, video and audio recordings and information from The Church and Sexuality Conference, visit
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Maggie Walsh writes for The Alabama Baptist at, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention.)

3/3/2016 12:40:48 PM by Maggie Walsh, The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments

National CP 7.19% ahead of projection

March 3 2016 by Baptist Press Staff

Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee are 7.19 percent above the year-to-date budgeted projection and 1.46 percent above contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Frank S. Page.
The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2015-16 SBC Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget.
As of Feb. 29, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget through the first five months of the SBC’s fiscal year totaled $83,293,559.57. The total is $5,585,226.24 above the $77,708,333.33 year-to-date budgeted amount to support SBC ministries globally and across North America and is $1,195,455.23 more than the $82,098,104.34 received through the end of February 2015.
According to the budget adopted by the SBC at its June 2015 annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, if the convention exceeds its annual budget goal of $186.5 million dollars, the International Mission Board’s (IMB) share will go to 51 percent of any overage in CP allocation budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage.
Designated giving of $97,411,658.13 for the same year-to-date period is 4.91 percent, or $4,555,640.85, above gifts of $92,856,017.28 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts directly to SBC entities.
February’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $17,354,857.83. Designated gifts received last month, meanwhile, amounted to $55,161,127.22.
Each SBC entity and the Executive Committee have been given specific ministry responsibilities by the convention’s messengers. These ministry statements are listed in the SBC Organization Manual.
Each ministry assignment begins with the phrase “Assist churches.” The statements include such duties as “Assist churches ..:

  • “... by programs of master’s level theological education for ministers” (Seminaries);

  • “... in the ministries of evangelism and making disciples” (NAMB);

  • “... in sending and supporting Southern Baptist missionaries and volunteers by enlisting, equipping, and enabling them to fulfill their calling” (IMB);

  • “... in ministries to college and university students” (LifeWay);

  • “... in their moral witness in local communities” (ERLC); and

  • “... through relief to Southern Baptist ministers and Southern Baptist denominational employees” (GuideStone).

The convention-adopted budget is distributed 50.41 percent to international missions through IMB, 22.79 percent to North American missions through North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education through the convention’s six seminaries, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources are self-sustaining and do not receive CP funding.
The CP is a program of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the various ministries of its state or regional Baptist convention and to the various missions and ministries of the SBC with a single contribution. State and regional Baptist conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the CP to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to SBC national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget. The totals in this release reflect only the SBC portion of CP receipts.
CP allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state offices, to the denominational papers and are posted online at
The end-of-month total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of each month. Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions and the timing of when state conventions forward the national portion of their CP contributions to the Executive Committee.

3/3/2016 12:32:48 PM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments

J.D. Greear to be SBC president nominee

March 2 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Florida pastor Jimmy Scroggins announced March 2.
Greear, 42, “is leading his generation to live out a passion for the SBC, missions and the local church,” Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., wrote in a news release stating his intention to nominate Greear at the SBC annual meeting in June.

Photo by Bill Bangham
J.D. Greear

During the 14 years Greear has pastored The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., worship attendance has grown from 350 to just under 10,000, Scroggins said. Total baptisms increased from 19 in 2002 to 928 in 2014, the last year for which statistics are available through the SBC’s Annual Church Profile (ACP).
Scroggins said the 149 International Mission Board missionaries currently on the field from The Summit mark the largest total from any church in the convention – a statistic the church told Baptist Press the IMB has confirmed. Greear himself served two years with the IMB among a Muslim unreached people group before being called to The Summit.
Closer to home, The Summit has planted 26 churches in North America during the past five years in conjunction with the North American Mission Board.
Another key emphasis at The Summit is diversity, Scroggins said, with nearly 20 percent of worship attendees in English services coming from non-Anglo ethnic groups. One of the congregation’s nine campuses is Spanish-speaking, and one is located in a prison, the church said. “Nearly half” of the pastoral staff is non-Anglo, Scroggins said.
“Believing J.D. Greear is God’s man for the hour who models in his church the best of what a Southern Baptist pastor is all about,” Scroggins wrote, “I eagerly look forward to placing his name in nomination.”
In his release, Scroggins said the church “voted last year to give $390,000 to the Cooperative Program in 2016, making it one of the top CP giving churches in the state of North Carolina and the SBC.” He noted this marks a 230 percent increase in The Summit’s CP giving.
Three years ago, the congregation voted to increase its giving through the Cooperative Program over a five-year period to 2.4 percent of undesignated receipts, the church confirmed to BP. The Summit reached its goal two years early.
As of Jan. 1, 2016, The Summit began forwarding all its CP giving through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), the church said. Previously, it forwarded some funds it regarded as CP gifts directly through the SBC Executive Committee for distribution according to the CP allocation formula. In 2013-14, for instance, it gave $96,000 directly to the EC, according to the 2015 SBC Annual. The BSC reported CP receipts of $54,000 from The Summit in calendar year 2014. Adding the two numbers together yields the $150,000 the church self-reported as “CP giving” on its 2014 ACP – a total amounting to 1 percent of undesignated receipts.
The Summit’s Great Commission Giving “has been at or around 10 percent for the last several years,” Scroggins wrote. Great Commission Giving is a category of giving established by SBC action in 2011 that encompasses giving through CP, Southern Baptists’ unified program of funding state- and SBC-level ministries, as well as direct gifts to SBC entities, associational giving and giving to state convention ministries.
According to ACP data, The Summit’s Great Commission Giving was 13 percent of undesignated receipts in 2014, 12 percent in 2013 and 15 percent in 2012.
The Summit’s Great Commission Giving includes more than $1 million annually to IMB-related causes and more than $500,000 to NAMB-related causes, the church told BP. The Summit additionally is in the process of funding an endowed chair at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) to the total of $500,000.
Greear told BP, “One of the things God has put on my heart is that my generation needs to take personal responsibility for the agencies and the mission boards of the SBC and not just think of them as the SBC’s, but think of them as ours.”
He continued, “The second thing I want to do is celebrate the autonomy of the local church in choosing how it’s going to give. We want to see CP giving elevated, and we are doing that ... but we also want to see Great Commission Giving celebrated, because that’s part of the autonomy of the local church. Ideally, I want to see churches do what we are doing, which is give more sacrificially to the CP but then have the autonomy to direct [their] gifts to Great Commission Giving and have that not only be legitimate but celebrated.”
Greer emphasized that “missions is more effective when done in cooperation with like-minded churches, and we feel really good about the [entities] of the Southern Baptist Convention and how they’re leading.”
Greear’s nomination is the first to be announced for the June 14-15 annual meeting in St. Louis.
He is married to Veronica and has four children. Greear holds master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from SEBTS.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.)

Related Story:

Steve Gaines to be SBC president nominee

3/2/2016 3:11:41 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

SUPER TUESDAY: Voting & the ‘evangelical’

March 2 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

As pollsters analyze the voting patterns of “evangelicals” in Super Tuesday presidential primaries, some pastors and theologians have noted the mainstream media’s failure to account for immense diversity among the movement claiming that label.
Voters went to the polls March 1 in 13 states and one U.S. territory, including several so-called Bible Belt states where evangelical voters were expected to exert considerable influence.
Yet confusion over the term “evangelical” has led Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore to stop using it to describe himself – at least during election season. Meanwhile, Texas pastor Robert Jeffress said evangelicals generally are united in their values but divided in their political strategies. African American Kentucky Baptist leader Curtis Woods noted black evangelicals tend to be particularly concerned with “social justice issues,” and evangelical left leader Jim Wallis argued the policies of GOP presidential candidates sometimes identified as evangelical favorites have “almost nothing to do” with Jesus’ mission of helping the poor and vulnerable.
Evangelicals are a mixed bag, politically speaking, said Nathan Finn, a church historian and dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University.
Some evangelicals “are denominational, and others are non-denominational,” Finn said. “We come in a variety of ethnicities and worship in a multitude of languages. Though we are all committed to the full authority and sufficiency of scripture, the necessity of personal conversion, the centrality of the atonement and the mandate to spread the gospel to all people, we debate among ourselves the finer points of each of these priorities.
“The vast majority of us are pro-life and affirm the biblical view of marriage,” Finn continued, “but these are not the only issues that affect how one votes. Thus, many of us are conservative, others are moderate and some are even liberal” in terms of the role of government. “I think this primary season is demonstrating what those of us ‘in the camp’ have known all along: there is no such thing as ‘the evangelical vote.’ At best, there are evangelical tendencies, but even these have to be qualified based upon factors such as region, income, frequency of church attendance, ethnicity and education level.”
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote in a Feb. 29 Washington Post op-ed that the 2016 election makes him “hate the word ‘evangelical’” when it is coopted to reference “election-year voting blocs or our most buffoonish television personalities” rather than the term’s traditional meaning connected with Christian theology.
“The word ‘evangelical’ isn’t, first of all, about American politics,” Moore wrote. “The word is rooted in the Greek word for gospel, good news for sinners through the life, death, resurrection and reign of Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God and anointed ruler of the cosmos. Evangelical means a commitment to the truth of God’s revelation in the Bible and a conviction that the blood of Christ is offered to any repentant, believing sinner as a full atonement for sin.”
Moore said he “noticed a few weeks ago” that he “had stopped describing [himself] as an ‘evangelical’” and had begun opting instead for the term “Gospel Christian.”
Moore lamented the “behavior of some evangelical leaders” who “gave stem-winding speeches about ‘character’ in office during the Clinton administration” but “now minimize the spewing of profanities in campaign speeches, race-baiting and courting white supremacists, boasting of adulterous affairs [and] debauching public morality and justice through the casino and pornography industries” – an apparent reference to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, whom Moore has criticized by name in other venues.
Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, told NPR Feb. 25 evangelical voters differ on their views of Trump in part because they take varying views of government’s role in upholding biblical values.
NBC News reported exit polls from the Feb. 23 Nevada Republican caucuses which put Trump’s support among self-professed evangelicals at 40 percent. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz drew 26 percent support among evangelicals and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio 23 percent.
“Evangelicals are divided between what I call the idealists and the pragmatists,” said Jeffress, who has introduced Trump at rallies but not officially endorsed him. “The idealists are the ones who ... would say if we could just get a strong Christian in the White House, perhaps we could return our nation to its Judeo-Christian foundation. But then there are the pragmatists who say, as much as we would like to have a faith-centered candidate, perhaps our country has moved too far to the left for that to happen, and so let’s get the most conservative candidate who is electable. And many of those are going for a Donald Trump.”
Woods, associate executive director for convention relations with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said that commentators often overlook issues of concern to black evangelicals when they characterize evangelicalism as homogenous.
“Pundits should approach evangelicals on the basis of theological identity, not perceived ethnic identity formation,” Woods said in written comments. “Because of this apparent ideological disconnect, we often see the issues accosting the hearts of black evangelical voters overlooked. Although I typically fear speaking monolithically for any people group, it seems to me that black evangelicals, like myself, are concerned about social justice issues like overcoming the plight of American racialization, enforcing the sanctity of life from the womb to the tomb, reducing mass incarceration of black males or, put another way, dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, and balancing both educational and economic scales when we enter the voter’s booth.”
Wallis, founder of Sojourners and a spiritual advisor to President Barack Obama, agreed that analyses of evangelical voters tend to ignore ethnic minority groups. Such analyses also tend to ignore evangelicals who identify with the Democratic Party, he added.
“When the media says ‘evangelicals’ they really mean ‘white evangelicals’ and virtually never measure the opinions and voting practices of black, brown, or even young evangelicals,” Wallis wrote in a Feb. 25 blog post. “In fact, they don’t even ask religious identity questions of Democratic primary voters where many of the black, brown, and young evangelicals may be voting.”
Jesus’ explanation of His mission in Luke 4, which Wallis argued focuses on care for the “poor and vulnerable,” should play a key role in defining the evangelical movement’s emphases, he wrote. Wallis critiqued supporters of Trump and Cruz in particular for supposedly acting contrary to evangelical values.
“The mission statement of Jesus in Luke 4 has almost nothing to do with the voting practices of white evangelicals in this election year,” Wallis wrote. “Or we might say that white nativism has trumped the faith of the evangelicals – or at least what Jesus meant by ‘evangelical.’”
Underscoring the diverse political preferences of evangelical voters, Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd told The Dallas Morning News he does not anticipate evangelicals’ rallying around a single candidate in the GOP primaries “as long as we have so many candidates.”
Amid political disagreement, however, evangelicals can unite by placing their ultimate hope in Christ, Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said in a March 1 interview.
“I’m optimistic [that] on Nov. 9, on the Wednesday following the Tuesday, unless the Lord himself comes, Jesus will be sovereign over all and He will be King of Kings and Lord of Lords, no matter who is the next president of the United States,” Floyd said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/2/2016 12:28:18 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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