March 2016

David Crosby to be SBC president nominee

March 24 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Louisiana pastor David Crosby will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, fellow Louisiana pastor Fred Luter announced today (March 24).
 
“I have watched David the last 10 years here in New Orleans as he has taken the leadership of all the churches and pastors of our city in helping to rebuild New Orleans, which everybody knows was totally destroyed [in 2005] in Hurricane Katrina,” Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, said in an interview, telling Baptist Press of his intention to nominate Crosby during the SBC annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis.

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Photo by Matt Miller, Baptist Press
Louisiana pastor David Crosby will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, fellow Louisiana pastor Fred Luter announced March 24.

 
“I saw how he was able to get a lot of things done to get the city back up and running,” Luter said, noting Crosby’s “passion for the Body of Christ and for our convention.” “I can see that same passion he had for our city leading the Southern Baptist Convention.”
 
During the 20 years Crosby has pastored First Baptist Church in New Orleans, the congregation has given between 7 and 15 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program despite a major relocation effort and $3.5 million of damages sustained from Katrina, Luter said.
 
During the fiscal year that began a month following Katrina, First Baptist gave 10.4 percent through CP, according to the SBC’s Annual Church Profile (ACP). Over the past five years, the congregation has averaged 9.5 percent giving through CP, Southern Baptists’ unified program of supporting North American and global missions and ministries.
 
Total missions giving for the congregation has been at least 22 percent of its undesignated receipts each of the past five years, according to ACP.
 
Currently, First Baptist forwards 7 percent of undesignated receipts through CP; 1 percent to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; 1 percent to the New Orleans Baptist Association; .5 percent to Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans (a joint ministry of the North American Mission Board and the New Orleans Baptist Association); and approximately .5 percent to a ministry to seafarers at the Port of New Orleans, Crosby said.
 
A designated gift held in trust also generates funds given through CP each year, Crosby said.
 
The church has averaged 658 in worship and 24 baptisms annually over the past five years, according to ACP. Previously, Crosby pastored churches in Texas and Mississippi.
 
Luter said Crosby has demonstrated “a heart for missions and a heart for people regardless of their skin color or what side of the tracks they were born on.”
 
Some 20-25 percent of worship attendees at First Baptist come from non-Anglo ethnic groups, Luter said. Following Katrina, Franklin Avenue, which is predominantly African American, met at First Baptist’s facilities for two and a half years, and the two churches continue to engage in joint ministry and fellowship activities.
 
Total missions participation at First Baptist “may rival” worship attendance, Crosby said, with 4,235 instances of individuals participating in missions projects reported on the 2014 ACP, the most recent year for which data is available. That statistic includes some individuals being counted multiple times because they participated in multiple missions projects, Crosby explained.
 
Each week, First Baptist sends 80-100 adults into New Orleans to perform a variety of ministries, including feeding the homeless, providing weekend food for needy public school students, conducting prison ministry and nursing home ministry, teaching English as a second language and ministering to people in the sex industry.
 
The church has taken 14 trips to Ghana over the past six years in conjunction with its adoption of an unreached people group “through the guidance and encouragement of the International Mission Board,” Crosby said.
 
First Baptist sponsors NOLA Baptist Church, a NAMB church plant, and Crosby is a founding board member of New Orleans Baptist Ministries, the umbrella organization which operates Baptist Friendship House on behalf of NAMB and the local association.
 
Crosby has served a variety of leadership roles at the association, state convention and SBC levels, including moderator of the New Orleans Baptist Association, Executive Board member of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and member of the SBC Committees on Committees and Resolutions. He is a trustee at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif.
 
Crosby told BP, “I really believe in cooperation, and I believe the Southern Baptist Convention exists primarily to facilitate cooperation among our churches for the world mission of the Gospel. Cooperation, to me, has a financial component, and my churches have always been deeply invested in the Cooperative Program and the special missions offerings. Cooperation also has a personal component.”
 
He continued, “I also feel strongly about the gospel being both proclaimed and enfleshed. The gospel needs proclamation and incarnation. So I’m convicted that our behavior, both individually and collectively, should reflect the Savior and please Him, and that our words are not enough. ... I try to keep both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission on my heart.”
 
Crosby’s nomination is the third to be announced for the SBC annual meeting.
 
He is married to Janet and has three children and eight grandchildren. Crosby holds a master of divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor of philosophy from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.)

3/24/2016 2:52:00 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Merida: Make the ‘Hero’ of the Bible the hero of sermons

March 24 2016 by Katherine Chute, GGBTS

Tony Merida challenged students during a series of preaching lectures at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary to “make the Hero of the Bible the hero of your sermons.”
 
Merida, associate pastor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke during the Golden Gate’s Hester Lectureship March 16 and 17 on the topics “Preach the Word: A Renewed Vision of Preaching” and “Him We Proclaim: The Need for Christ-Exalting Exposition.”
 
“When I was in seminary, [we used to say] that we need to preach life-changing sermons,” said Merida, also founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C. “There’s nothing wrong with life-changing sermons, but you can’t preach life-changing sermons if the Life Changer is not at the center of those sermons. Keep the Life Changer at the heart of those sermons.”
 
He said it’s not that preaching about morality is bad but that morality is insufficient and that lifting words out of scripture removes the authority from the text.

 
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SEBTS photo

“What makes Christianity distinctive is the Christ,” he said. “There are good men who love Jesus who can preach Christ-less sermons. But are they making the Hero of the Bible the hero of the sermon?”
 
Merida called for a renewed vision of preaching that encourages young men to become pastors, to answer a unique calling to a congregation.
 
“I see a lot of seminary students. I ask how many want to preach in the local church, and the numbers are dropping,” he said. “We used to try to talk people out of preaching; now we’re trying to talk them into it. I’m really concerned about this lack of interest. I want to raise up and deploy ordinary pastors who love people, want to preach the gospel and who saturate their congregations with a love of the gospel. We don’t need any more conference speakers.”
 
Merida reminded the audience that God builds His church by His Word and that we show how we think about the Bible by how we use the Bible. He noted that there are many preachers who affirm the inspiration of the Bible but fail to deliver Bible-saturated sermons on a week-to-week basis.
 
“You might build a crowd based on personality, but you can’t build a church,” he said. “We are brought to life by the Word, we are matured by the Word. Other religions have preachers; other religions have missionaries. What makes us different is what we preach. Paul tells us to preach faithfully.”
 
He acknowledged there would be times when preaching feels like a hopeless exercise, and there may be weeks that you ask “is this doing anything?”
 
“Preach with complete patience anyway,” he said. “You have to trust the cumulative effect of preaching, of why we’re doing all this. It’s like feeding your kids. They might look the same today as yesterday, but when you see their pictures on the stairway, you say ‘they’ve grown.’ We need to meditate God’s patience with us. We need to work the gospel deeply in our lives.”
 
Merida also called for preachers to work hard at their craft to improve:
 
“As long as we have breath, we’re in this to improve,” Merida said. “Our subject is so much bigger than ourselves. God has entrusted this treasure to we fallen people. My concern when it comes to this issue is not a lack of the Bible, it’s a failure to saturate every sermon with the Message.”
 
The Hester Lectureship on preaching at Golden Gate Seminary is funded by an endowment created in 1969 by the late Dr. H.I. Hester, a longtime professor of Bible and head of the department of religion at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kathie Chute is director of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, with campuses in the Bay Area and Southern California, Phoenix, Denver and the Pacific Northwest.)

3/24/2016 1:12:53 PM by Katherine Chute, GGBTS | with 0 comments



Court ponders religious liberty in HHS mandate

March 24 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. Supreme Court considered arguments March 23 that the federal government is intent on forcing Christian and other religious ministries to violate their consciences by accepting a rule that makes them complicit in abortion.
 
Lawyers for the objecting institutions – including some Southern Baptist-related entities – and the Obama administration made their cases before the justices regarding the abortion/contraception mandate, a federal regulation issued to help implement the 2010 health-care reform law. The mandate requires employers to provide for their workers not only contraceptives but drugs and devices that can potentially cause abortions. Those who refuse to abide by the requirement face fines in the millions of dollars.
 
GuideStone Financial Resources, the Southern Baptist Convention’s health and financial benefits entity, and two of the ministries it serves, as well as three Baptist universities, are among the challengers to a mandate accommodation provided by the federal government to religious nonprofits.
 
During the arguments, Paul Clement, representing those challenging the accommodation, told the justices the Little Sisters of the Poor – a Roman Catholic order of nuns – and others “face a dilemma.” They can abide by their religious beliefs and pay millions of dollars of penalties or obey the government, he said.
 
“My clients would love to be a conscientious objector, but the government insists they be a conscientious collaborator,” Clement said.

 
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Photo courtesy of Rep. Diane Black’s office
Catholic nuns were in the crowd outside the Supreme Court today when justices heard arguments in the Little Sisters of the Poor case challenging Obamacare’s abortion/contraception mandate.

The seven consolidated cases accepted by the high court involve religious nonprofits that have lost at the appeals court level. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provided an exemption to the mandate for churches and their auxiliaries but did not extend it to non-church-related, nonprofit organizations that object.
 
HHS issued an accommodation for religious nonprofits, but many of those ministries or institutions have found it unacceptable. They contend it still makes them complicit in covering contraceptives and potentially abortion-causing drugs. HHS requires them to provide written notification they meet the requirements for an accommodation, which forces the nonprofit’s insurer or a third-party administrator to provide contraceptive coverage.
 
The federally approved contraceptives for which coverage is required include the intrauterine device (IUD) and such drugs as Plan B, the “morning-after” pill. Both the IUD and “morning-after” pill possess post-fertilization mechanisms that potentially can cause abortions by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. The rule also covers “ella,” which – in a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486 – can even act after implantation to end the life of the child.
 
In the oral arguments, Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general, told the court the ministries have no objection “to signing an opt-out form,” but they do object to what amounts to an authorization form for coverage of abortion-causing and other contraceptives.
 
Donald Verrilli, the current solicitor general, argued on behalf of the federal government the accommodation constitutes a “sensible balance” between religious freedom and the government’s interest.
 
The Supreme Court specifically is seeking to determine in the case if the accommodation violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which bars the federal government from substantially burdening free exercise of religion unless it can demonstrate it has a “compelling interest” and is using the “least restrictive means” to further that interest.
 
The government does not concede the accommodation is a “substantial burden” on the nonprofits’ religious liberty because the contraceptive coverage is provided by a third party, Verrilli told the justices.
 
Chief Justice John Roberts, however, told Verrilli it seems accurate to him to describe the accommodation as a “hijacking” of the nonprofits’ insurance plans.
 
Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito sounded especially skeptical of the federal government’s position, while the three female justices – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – led the challenges to the arguments by lawyers on behalf of the nonprofits.
 
As has been the case since the mid-February death of conservative Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, the high court heard oral arguments with only eight members sitting. It appears the court could split 4-4. If so, the appeals court decisions would stand, leaving only the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals with a ruling in favor of the nonprofits’ religious freedom rights.
 
Lawyers for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Alliance Defending Freedom told Baptist Press outside the courtroom, however, even some of the liberal justices seemed to struggle with the government’s position and might vote in support of the nonprofits.
 
Three Southern Baptist entities – the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the International Mission Board (IMB) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – and Southern’s president, R. Albert Mohler Jr., filed a friend-of-the-court brief in January that urged the high court to rule the accommodation violates religious freedom.
 
In a column published Wednesday in The Hill, ERLC President Russell Moore said of the case, “The government isn’t really arguing that it has no other choice. The government instead is arguing that the ministries misunderstand their own faith; that they can participate in its complicated contraceptive delivery scheme without disobeying God.”
 
Moore wrote, “Let’s hope the Court stands up for freedom and cooperation, not for government pressure and coercion.”
 
GuideStone is exempt from the mandate and accompanying fines, but it serves ministries that face massive penalties for failure to obey the rule. Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga., and Oklahoma City-based Reaching Souls International joined GuideStone in challenging the accommodation. Other Baptist institutions involved in appeals before the high court are Oklahoma Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University.
 
GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said in a Tuesday news release, “The accommodation was unacceptable from its first reading. As many in Southern Baptist life rightly noted, this was nothing more than an accounting trick. The government claims this is an ‘opt-out,’ when actually, it is an ‘opt-in,’ in that the government seeks to use our plan.”
 
One of the arguments offered by Hawkins, Moore and others for rejecting the accommodation is the fact that more than one-third of Americans are not subject to the mandate. Several large corporations, the American military and cities such as New York are exempt from the requirement.
 
The court is expected to issue its opinion before its term ends, which normally is in late June. The case is Zubik v. Burwell.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/24/2016 1:05:37 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



NFL, Apple object to Georgia religious liberty bill

March 24 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Georgia Baptists acknowledge the religious liberty bill passed by their state legislature isn’t perfect. But they’re urging their state’s governor to sign it despite his hints of a veto and threats from the (National Football League) NFL that adopting the measure could disqualify Atlanta from hosting the Super Bowl.
 
The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has been “trying to communicate to our pastors and churches the importance of making sure their members ... contact the governor by way of email, by way of letters, by way of phone contacts” to express their support for the Free Exercise Protection Act, said Mike Griffin, the Mission Board’s public affairs representative. “We’re seeing a lot of that now.”
 
Griffin, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, added Georgia Baptist leaders are encouraging prayer that Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, will sign the bill, which passed the legislature March 16 and combines elements of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a First Amendment Defense Act and a Pastor Protection Act.
 
Among other provisions, the bill would permit business owners to decline participation in same-sex weddings if doing so violates their sincerely held religious beliefs. The measure also would protect faith-based organizations that support traditional marriage from being denied government benefits because of their convictions, Griffin said.

 
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The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, took issue with the legislation’s final language, arguing it “waters down a religious freedom bill that had real force.”
 
Specifically, The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson and Roger Severino wrote in an online commentary that “the bill provides Religious Freedom Restoration Act levels of protection for certain protected persons, but it explicitly says these protections cannot apply in cases of ‘invidious discrimination.’” By leaving “invidious” undefined, the measure opens itself to anti-Christian interpretations by activists judges, Anderson and Severino argued.
 
Additionally, the section protecting faith-based organizations from government discrimination covers only “churches, religious schools and ‘integrated auxiliaries,’” Anderson and Severino wrote, leaving some religious organizations unprotected.
 
The Heritage Foundation authors alleged the bill “provides no protection for bakers or florists or other similar wedding professionals.” However, Griffin said it allows courts to give such individuals “injunctive relief” while not granting them standing to sue the government “for monetary damages.”
 

Potential veto

Deal told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) enacting the religious liberty bill was “not on my agenda.” The governor then noted his status as a Southern Baptist and a Mercer University graduate before offering a theological argument on tolerance.
 
“We have a belief in forgiveness and that we do not have to discriminate unduly against anyone on the basis of our own religious beliefs,” Deal said of Christians. “We are not jeopardized, in my opinion, by those who believe differently from us. We are not, in my opinion, put in jeopardy by virtue of those who might hold different beliefs or who may not even agree with what our Supreme Court said the law of the land is on the issue of same-sex marriage. I do not feel threatened by the fact that people who might choose same-sex marriages pursue that route.”
 
Deal said he personally believes in “traditional marriage” between a man and a woman, the AJC reported.
 
Under state law, Deal has until May 3 to sign or veto the religious liberty bill. If he takes no action, it will become law automatically.
 
Gerald Harris, editor of Georgia Baptists’ Christian Index newsjournal, wrote in a March 10 editorial that Deal “is dead wrong to stand in the way of a religious liberty bill ... that will insure freedom for all people of faith.” Responding to Deal’s theological analysis, Harris argued God’s love “must be balanced with His justice.”
 
“In our society,” Harris wrote, “there are many good, well-meaning people whose characterization of God’s love is a love that only exhorts but never exposes, restores but never rebukes, comforts but never confronts, consoles but never corrects. It is a love that has no foundation in truth, justice and righteousness. In order to truly love God, you must also hate sin, wickedness and unrighteousness. True love cannot function without hate.”
 

Super Bowl to be denied?

Meanwhile, some businesses – including the NFL, Coca Cola, Apple and Intel – urged Deal to veto the religious liberty bill. The NFL suggested enacting the measure could remove Atlanta from contention to host the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl, CBS News reported.
 
Atlanta’s professional sports franchises – the Falcons, Braves and Hawks – all have opposed the bill along with the NCAA, according to The Washington Post.
 
State Sen. Greg Kirk, the bill’s senate sponsor, told Baptist Press “the NFL needs to stick to football and let lawmakers make laws.”
 
Georgia is America’s “number one place to do business” and has “done everything the NFL has asked,” including exempting Super Bowl tickets from state sales tax and building a new stadium, said Kirk, a former Southern Baptist pastor.
 
State Rep. Kevin Tanner, a House sponsor of the bill, said protecting religious liberty will not harm businesses.
 
Georgia is “set up for businesses to operate and flourish here in the state,” said Tanner, a Southern Baptist deacon. “Offering this protection to our citizens is not going to hurt the business community in any way, and they know that. ... This is an opportunity for publicity and for them to attract folks to the fact that they’re diverse and they’re open.”
 

Religious freedom ‘critical’

Georgia Baptist Convention President Thomas Hammond, pastor of First Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Ga., said it would be “disappointing ... for all Americans to lose any freedoms they have enjoyed for over 200 years simply because of the wishes of a very small and vocal minority.”
 
“It is difficult,” Hammond said in written comments, “to realize how critical all freedoms are, including the freedom of religion, for our pursuit of happiness and the sustainability of our society until we lose them. Sadly, by then it would be too late.”
 
For Jerry Vines, a former Southern Baptist Convention president with a Georgia-based preaching ministry, the decision to protect religious liberty or bow to business leaders is a choice of spirituality versus materialism.
 
“I pray our leaders in Georgia don’t make the same tragic mistake Judas did, choosing the material over the spiritual, Satan over the Savior,” Vines said. “Thirty pieces of silver bought Judas a ticket to Hell.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/24/2016 12:54:38 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Florida Baptists minister to Syrian refugees

March 24 2016 by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Witness

The Syrian refugee crisis happening thousands of miles away from Florida might soon come closer to home as the federal government seeks to relocate 10,000 Syrian refugees, with a couple hundred coming to the Sunshine State in 2016.
 
There are 20 million refugees in the world, with almost 49,000 coming to Florida last year, according to data from World Relief and the Florida Department of Children and Families. About 100 of them were Syrian.
 
This data represents a special opportunity for Florida Baptists to reach a group of people they would otherwise not have the chance to encounter.
 
But how can Baptist churches across the state interact and share the gospel with a group of people that have a significantly different worldview?

 
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First of all, says Rick Wheeler, lead missional strategist for the Jacksonville Baptist Association (JBA), get to know a Syrian refugee.
 
“If you’ve ever met a refugee, you’re dealing with a person who’s lost everything. And they come to our airports, and they have a white plastic bag, and everything they own is in there,” he said.
 
Some perspectives on the Syrian refugee crisis say that allowing Syrian refugees into the country poses a threat to national security.
 
A LifeWay Research telephone survey of 1,000 protestant senior pastors found that 44 percent agree that their church has a sense of fear about refugees coming to the United States.
 
Wheeler says that politicians and media sound bites make it seem like it’s an either/or dilemma. Either help the refugee or risk national security. When in fact, he says, Americans can do both.
 
As a sanctuary city designated by the state government, Jacksonville has seen its share of refugees, which is why, says Wheeler, most of the JBA churches are accustomed to interacting with them.
 
“The people that I deal with are not military people. They are women, widows, children, men. They are in despair,” he said.
 
Safaa and Elham Hillawi fled their hometown in Iraq due to religious persecution.
 
Since arriving in Jacksonville eight years ago, the couple has been working to reach other refugees, most of whom are Muslim.
 
Like in Iraq, Elham says the way they do church here is house churches. After the war in Iraq it became dangerous for Christians to meet in groups larger than 20, and because their church was very large they had to break up into small groups that met throughout the city of Baghdad.
 
In Jacksonville, they use a similar approach to which refugees have responded well.
 
She says trust is a challenge for ministering to Muslim refugees.
 
“Some of the families are afraid of the Muslim families because they feel they cannot trust them, even the ones that say they are Christians have to be vetted,” she said.
 
Her advice to Southern Baptist churches wanting to reach out to Syrian refugees in their communities – many of whom might be Muslim – is to become familiarized with the Quran.
 
Many Muslims think the person reaching out to them doesn’t understand their religion or culture, she said. If so, they will not feel compelled to listen to what a Christian is sharing.
 
Sometimes churches believe giving a refugee family money or a car is a big help, but she says churches should give “food, take them to the hospital if they need it, show them the love, tell them about Jesus. That is better than giving them something big.”
 
Some churches may not have refugees nearby, but they still can reach out to Syrians who are stuck in other countries as they flee the violence in theirs.
 
David Trivette, missions minister at First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, leads the church’s efforts in helping Syrian refugees internationally.
 
Church at the Mall has partnered with Agora Church – a church plant in Budapest, Hungary – to help the Syrian refugees arriving daily by train.
 
David Hamar, pastor of Agora Church, and International Mission Board missionaries Trey and Denise Shaw and Monte and April Baker are leading the ground-floor efforts to meet Syrian families at the train stations, share the gospel with them, supply their physical needs and keep them company as they sort out their next step.
 
“Led by WMU and other mission-minded folks within our church, a spaghetti luncheon took place to raise support and awareness of how we can pray for our ministry partners as they minister to the Syrian refugees,” said Trivette in an email.
 
“We also sent a team from Church at the Mall during Thanksgiving to show encouragement to our ministry partners and Agora Church, [which] has opened [its] doors to many immigrants as they acclimate into the Hungarian culture.”
 
In an email to Trivette, Monte Baker says that some of the ways they’ve been able to help Syrian refugees is by taking church families to meet the refugees at the train stations and letting the kids play together. At another train station, mission teams were able to help prepare lunch for approximately 400 Syrians who arrived that day. He also was able to obtain permission from the Hungarian government to enter the refugee camps to share the gospel. Baker also shared that the biggest need among the refugees arriving in Hungary is shoes.
 
“Overall, I find the refugees hospitable, kind, intelligent and looking for a better life, a life without fear and a chance to work and provide a future for their families,” wrote Baker. “I have not encountered any hostility whatsoever, but instead people open to relationships.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness at gofbw.com, newsjournal of the Florida Baptist Convention. Keila Diaz is a reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness.)

3/24/2016 12:40:32 PM by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Witness | with 0 comments



Our Lottie Moon story

March 24 2016 by BR staff

The Biblical Recorder is sharing some of the stories about the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO) from churches across the state. The money raised goes to support the International Mission Board (IMB) and its missionaries around the globe. Other stories were printed in the Feb. 13 issue. This list represents the five churches that have members on the IMB Board of Trustees.
 

Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem

News of the financial struggles of the IMB, combined with the urgent desire of Calvary members to share the hope of the gospel, led them to give their largest gift ever towards international missions, according to senior pastor Rob Peters.
 
Calvary Baptist Church has consistently led the churches of North Carolina with the largest LMCO for many years. The church’s gift of $585,366.62 was the second largest gift from all Southern Baptist churches in 2014. The church reported more than $604,000 has been received for the 2015 offering.
 
“The people of Calvary sense God is doing something good and new as the IMB reset occurs,” Peters said, “and it is our desire to put all of the weight and resources of Calvary behind this effort. Especially encouraging was our young families’ commitment to participate and sacrifice for this year’s offering.” The church leaders are in the process of evaluating the goal for their 2016 LMCO, with plans to raise their commitment to new heights. Peters serves as a trustee of IMB.

 
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Parkwood Baptist Church, Gastonia

The second largest LMCO gift among North Carolina churches in 2014 was given by the people of Parkwood Baptist Church. That amount was $446,945.39. But the 2015 gift has exceeded the previous year by more than $100,000.
 
Jeff Long, Parkwood’s senior pastor, said, “We called the church to a day of prayer and fasting on Dec. 16 for the purpose of asking God what He would have each of us to give to the offering, to pray for the workers and partnerships that we are involved with around the world, and to ask Him to send people from our congregation to the nations.”
 
The challenge to hold such a day came from the Missions Intensive hosted by the IMB and taught by David Platt in mid-October. The IMB website says, “Missions Intensive is a gathering of senior pastors and church leaders prayerfully seeking God concerning His global mission and the local church’s role in that mission.”
 
“We left the intensive deeply convicted that even though we are heavily involved in gospel work around the world, we were not giving ourselves to Act 13 prayer. We plan to host at least four days of prayer and fasting throughout the year,” Long added.
 
On Dec. 20, the church launched the LMCO offering. The total offering is approaching $575,000 for the year.
 
Long said, “The day of prayer and fasting and the generosity through God’s people at Parkwood are evidence of what Hudson Taylor said, ‘God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.’” Long serves on the board of trustees of IMB.
 

First Baptist Church, Durham

Eighteen years ago Andrew Davis accepted the call to pastor First Baptist Church in Durham. At that time the typical annual LMCO was $25,000 each year. In 2015 the church’s goal was $150,000. When the offering ended their gifts totaled $153,000.
 
“Because of the urgency of missions and the need of finances at IMB, the church wanted to respond generously,” Davis said. “I don’t try to put guilt in the people to give, but just to make the need known and let them respond.”
 

Englewood Baptist Church, Rocky Mount

Last year Englewood Baptist Church gave their largest ever Lottie Moon offering. According to Senior Pastor Michael Cloer the church’s gifts totaled $112,485.08. “However, we did not receive it one month,” he said. “Every Sunday of the year we show a missions video, pray for a different [Unengaged, Unreached People Group], and receive our regular offering including our Lottie Moon gifts. We encourage our people to give to Lottie Moon year-round and they do.”
 
Two couples are presently serving overseas through the IMB out of the congregation, and the church is in the process of sending an additional couple. They will directly support this couple from the church through IMB as Great Commission Global Connect (GC2) missionaries to South Asia. “While we are directly supporting this family, we did not decrease, but we increased our Lottie Moon giving,” Cloer said.
 

Coats Baptist Church, Coats

Bobbi Ashford is a member of Coats Baptist Church. She is also serving her fourth year as an IMB trustee. She said the church is in the process of searching for a pastor but set the LMCO goal at $30,000 in 2015. The church gave a little more than $34,000. The Sunday morning worship attendance is 300.

3/24/2016 12:21:54 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments



DR response continues in Deep South

March 23 2016 by Jim Burton, NAMB

When flood victim Lynell Davis walked into the Southern Baptist Incident Command Center at Woodlawn Park Baptist Church, long-time Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteer Marlene Thompson could see that he was distraught.
 
“He looked like he hadn’t slept in days,” said Thompson of Colyell, La. “He sat down and was shaking, said he hadn’t had food.”

 
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NAMB photo by Stewart F. House
Johnnye Kennon, a resident whose home was damaged by flooding in Minden, La., shows flood pictures to Gevan Spinney, pastor of First Baptist Church Haughton, La.

The volunteers at Woodlawn Park in Hammond, La., provided Davis with food, and then began the process of completing forms for disaster relief team members to clean his flooded home. “He gave me his paperwork and I was able to file his insurance in 15 minutes,” Thompson said. “He sat there and wept.”
 
Davis told Thompson that he had cried out for God’s help all night.
 
“He sent me here, and you were able to help me,” Davis said. That evening, he would profess faith in Jesus Christ.
 
With widespread flooding across Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, Davis represents just one homeowner that SBDR will help. With an estimated 5,000 homes damaged in Louisiana, 1,900 in Mississippi and 2,000 in Texas, Davis’ story will likely repeat many more times.
 
“This is growing by the hour,” said David Abernathy, the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s (LBC) Disaster Relief incident commander. “We’re finding a lot of damage in rural parishes, which have small communities that are real resourceful, but they can only go so far.”
 
As water recedes in north Louisiana, communities in south Louisiana that weren’t even touched a few days ago now have floodwaters. Water is slow to drain, and there is no more flash flooding, Abernathy said.
 
LBC has organized the response in five regional operations across their 28-flooded parishes. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) is assisting with coordination of the multi-state response in Louisiana. To date, there are SBDR volunteers serving in the Louisiana response from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

 
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NAMB photo by Stewart F. House
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Natalie Harding of Paducah, Ky., a member of Bellview Baptist Church, works with an SBDR team on a Lake D'Arbonne area home, which was damaged by flood water in Farmerville, La.

Disaster Relief teams from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Texas Baptist Men are coordinating efforts in Texas. The Northwest convention’s SBDR team is handling additional relief efforts in Washington. Arkansas Baptists are coordinating SBDR ministry in their state. NAMB is sending supplies to aid all of those efforts.
 
“I’ve been amazed at the outpouring of support we’ve gotten because a lot of these states have been through major disasters of their own in the last six months plus,” Abernathy said. “Still, they have responded to the call with anything they could send us. It brings back how much we can do when we work together.”
 
In north Monroe, La., Wes Johnson of Chandler, Okla., is leading the SBDR effort there from the campus of North Monroe Baptist Church (NMBC) with teams from Louisiana, Oklahoma and Alabama. They have requests for the cleanup of 92 homes.
 
“We have a wonderful college team here from the University of Alabama,” Johnson said. “They get to see witnessing to helpless, hurting people. They are learning how to deal with that and how to react in a caring and positive manner.”
 
Johnson said NMBC has been a gracious host to the volunteers.
 
“They have done great stuff for us, opening their hearts and building,” Johnson said.
 
NMBC Senior Pastor Bill Dye said their church began responding before disaster relief units arrived.
  “NMBC responded to the flooding first of all by trying to save houses through sandbagging,” Dye said. “We spent most of Wednesday through Friday fighting the flooding with limited success.
 
“It was truly remarkable though to see young men in their 20s, many with their homes already flooded, staying up all night fighting the rising water with their neighbors.”
 
After the floods, NMBC switched to recovery mode.

 
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NAMB photo by Stewart F. House
Dezzie Jackson, a 45-year resident at her home on Woods Street in Minden, La., asks for prayer with Gevan Spinney, pastor of First Baptist Church Haughton, La., after she received a phone call telling her that her vehicle was a total loss due to flood damage.

“We created a food team to cook meals and deliver them to the workers and dislocated families,” Dye said. “Last week, NMBC prepared nearly 10,000 meals and distributed them throughout the community. We have more than 150 volunteers working in food service.”
 
The Mississippi Baptist Mission Board is establishing one of their operation centers in Clarksdale, which is near the Mississippi River in west Mississippi, where most of the original flooding occurred in that state. State Disaster Relief director Don Gann said the water has receded enough that work can begin there this week.
 
Meanwhile, he plans to establish a second response center in McLain, which is in southeast Mississippi.
 
Terry Henderson, Texas Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief director, estimated that 2,000 homes received flood damage there. Water has just receded from Caddo, and cleanup work has begun there. Other mud-out teams are working on homes from Newton to Orange, he said.
 
“This week we’re getting into communities and assessing all up and down the Sabine River,” Henderson said. The Sabine River was a major source of flooding, but receding has happened faster than expected.
 
Kirbyville continues to be a major challenge. At least three Baptist churches there have water up to their eaves, he said.
 
Those wishing to donate to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) can contact the Baptist convention in their state or visit donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
 
NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief ministries.
 
Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton is a writer and photojournalist based in Atlanta.)

3/23/2016 11:28:54 AM by Jim Burton, NAMB | with 0 comments



State laws help pastors decline gay weddings

March 23 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Pastor Protection Acts adopted in multiple states and under consideration in others seek to protect the right of ministers not to perform same-sex weddings. But the bills have drawn mixed reviews from religious liberty proponents.
 
Three state legislators who have served as Southern Baptist ministers told Baptist Press that Pastor Protection Acts are helpful even though they should be supplemented by broader guarantees of religious liberty in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage.
 
Roger Severino of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said Pastor Protection Acts “make doubly clear” that First Amendment guarantees of free speech and freedom of religion apply to clergy, yet the bills are “of limited value” because they tend to stop short of addressing “the real threat” – discrimination against believers who stand for traditional marriage in government roles and private business dealings.
 
According to news reports, at least three states – Texas, Oklahoma and Florida – have adopted Pastor Protection Acts, with others considering similar legislation, including Tennessee, Georgia and Ohio.

 
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Texas state Rep. Scott Sanford, an executive pastor at Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen, Texas, was the original author and House sponsor of the Lone Star State’s Pastor Protection Act, which became law last year. He said he “would have liked to have gone broader” with additional religious liberty protections, “but it was a matter of ... what the House leadership would allow on the floor.”
 
Still, Sanford said the bill has value and is “broader than the title suggests.”
 
The bill “protects those services connected with a church or a ministry,” Sanford said. “So, for instance, if a church had a wedding chapel service or a bakery service, it would be protected – or a floral service or a photography service. But if they’re stand-alone businesses, this bill does not address that.”
 
Oklahoma state Sen. Dan Newberry, who has served on staff at multiple Southern Baptist churches, said his state’s Ministers’ Bill of Rights clarifies the application of the First Amendment to clergy. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill into law last spring. It states, “No regularly licensed, ordained or authorized official of any religious organization shall be required to solemnize or recognize any marriage that violates the official’s conscience or religious beliefs.”
 
Newberry said some interpret the First Amendment as referencing only “the right to pray and worship how you see fit” and not the right of “ministers to say no” to weddings.
 
“So in our bill in the state of Oklahoma, the Ministers’ Bill of Rights, we attach your right to say no to the First Amendment,” Newberry said.
 
In Tennessee, a bill is under consideration by legislators stating no minister or religious organization “shall be required to solemnize any marriage ... if the action would cause the individual or organization to violate a sincerely held religious belief.” The office of the bill’s House sponsor, Andy Holt, said the staff of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has requested a meeting and “expressed concern” over the bill.
 
Tennessee Rep. Jerry Sexton, who served as a Southern Baptist bivocational pastor for 25 years, said Pastor Protection Acts may be necessary in the wake of the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision.
 
“As a minister,” Sexton said, “you can refuse to marry people of the opposite sex. Some ministers wouldn’t marry you if you’ve been married before. So there’s never been in the past any reprisal for refusing to do a marriage. But we’re just in a new territory, uncharted waters. So we really don’t know what to expect.”
 
Ministers, Sexton said, “ought to be protected.”
 
Severino, director of The Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, applauded the efforts of states that have adopted Pastor Protection Acts, but he expressed concern the bills may serve as “a distraction from the more pressing fight.”
 
“Pastor Protection Acts are motivated in reaction to an extreme decision” by the Supreme Court, Severino said. “But it is not enough to simply say religious freedom is protected so long as it’s protected in the four walls of a church.”
 
Same-sex marriage proponents “will often say, ‘Well of course no one should force a pastor to perform a religious wedding against their religious beliefs,’“ Severino said. That’s why he urged legislatures to go beyond Pastor Protection Acts and protect the religious freedom of adoption agencies, schools and private business owners whose opposition to same-sex marriage could provoke discrimination.
 
“It would be best if legislatures passed Pastor Protection Acts, Religious Freedom Restoration Acts and First Amendment Defense Acts in combined religious freedom bills,” Severino said. “... That approach would get the best of all sides so that no freedom is left behind.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/23/2016 11:15:04 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Johnny Hunt event aims at teaching how to steward influence

March 23 2016 by BSC Communications

Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Woodstock of Woodstock, Ga., will conduct a leadership conference titled “Stewardship of Influence,” on Thursday, April 28 at Life Community Church in Jamestown.
 
During the one-day event, Hunt and John Mark Clifton with the North American Mission Board will share how to steward influence as a pastor and church leader.
 
The event is open to pastors, staff and lay leaders.
 
Hunt will also conduct a special session for pastors age 55 and up on finishing strong. Registration for the event is $15 and includes lunch. More information is available at ncbaptist.org/events.

 
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Hunt recently took some time to answer some questions about what he’ll be sharing at the conference.
 
Q: Throughout your ministry, you have sought to equip and encourage pastors and leaders in the local church. What are some biblical and practical ways we can grow as leaders?
 
A: I believe that one of the great ways that pastors will grow in biblical and practical ways is by discipling others. I spend an hour every week – after reading 12 chapters of God’s Word – with five other guys. We meet to highlight what we heard and attempt to explain it by being able to speak biblically. We see how God’s Word applies (to our lives), and what our response should be to what we read.
 
Also, leaders are learners. Read at least one good book outside the context of your preaching ministry every month. Make it something you become accountable to other guys about. Make sure you are growing; you can’t transfer to others that which you do not possess. God must be active, alive and working in your life; touching you for you to be able to touch others.
 
Q: The title and theme of this conference is “Stewardship of Influence.” How would you define and describe “Stewardship of Influence?”
 
A: God has made all of us stewards, and a steward is to be found faithful. You cannot lead people that you have no influence over. It has been said that leadership is influence.
 
I will define and describe what this looks like in a disciple’s life in our conference together in the revitalization time, but suffice it to say, whatever influence God has given me, am I stewarding it well to influence others to join me in my journey with Jesus?
 
Q: Prior to the conference, you will be conducting a special session with pastors who are 55 and older on “finishing strong.” Why is it so important to “finish strong” and leave a godly legacy?
 
A: I am looking forward to teaching on finishing strong. It is a new lesson that I have started teaching at our Revitalization Conferences. It is really talking about the fourth quarter in our lives and how we can stay focused and how these can be our greatest years. Basing it primarily on Proverbs 19:20, we should seek advice and counsel that we might be wiser in our later days. We are more equipped to lead now than we have ever been. God has been preparing us for what He has prepared for us. Now we should be at our best, but we should stay on guard that we finish strong and leave a legacy of a Christ-honoring life that others will be influenced by when we are gone.
 
Q: What do you hope attendees take away from this event?
 
A: It is my hope that every person that comes will leave being able to identify where God has given them the most influence and how they can steward that influence in a way to greatly influence and affect the lives of others. I look forward to being with each of you.

3/23/2016 11:08:26 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Upcoming trip to embrace living life on mission for women

March 23 2016 by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications

When Donna Elmore went to New York City on a mission trip in the fall of 2014, she learned the importance of following God faithfully.
 
During a routine bus ride in the city, a Muslim woman sat in the seat next to her. The two began a conversation, which eventually turned into a discussion about the gospel. Even when the entire group had to change buses, Elmore and the rest of the team remained with the woman, sharing the good news of Jesus with her.
 
This fall, Embrace and Women’s Evangelism and Discipleship will sponsor another mission trip to New York City. The trip is scheduled for Sept. 15-18. The cost is $550, and the deadline to apply is May 4.
 
While on the NYC Embrace trip in 2012, Wendy Mitchell also saw the importance of being flexible to God’s leading in the midst of our circumstances. One Sunday, due to a rerouted subway system, the group missed their stop to go to church, and instead decided to worship God together in a nearby park.
 
“We sat there on the bench, Ashley (Allen) read Matthew 9:37-38, all while looking out over Manhattan,” Mitchell said. “It was truly amazing and gave me an increased desire to serve the Lord in that city.”
 
While there is a unique need for a gospel presence in all cities, the need in the Metro New York area is especially great. The Metro New York area includes 22 million residents – and less than 3 percent of those residents have a relationship with Jesus Christ. “God has definitely brought the nations to us,” said Becky Richardson, who has participated in the Embracing NYC trip in the past. “In New York City, you have the opportunity to reach so many people groups.  You just have to be willing and obedient.”
 
In the past, Embrace mission trips to New York City have included everything from ESL (English as a second language) lessons that included a gospel presentation, to henna parties, where participants drew biblical art on their arms using henna.
 
“My favorite part is seeing women who go on this trip realize, ‘I’m not supposed to be about just being on a mission trip, but this should be my life,” said Ashley Allen, who leads the Embrace and Women’s Evangelism and Discipleship ministries of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). “I should live my life on mission – the same things that I’m doing here, I can do in North Carolina.’”
 
If you or your church would like to know more about Embrace and Women’s Evangelism and Discipleship, please visit ncbaptist.org/embrace or contact Ashley Allen at aallen@ncbaptist.org (800) 395-5102, ext. 5559. To find more information specific to the NYC mission trip, please visit ncbaptist.org/embracingnyc.

3/23/2016 11:04:44 AM by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



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