March 2016

Creativity meets church planting in Montreal

March 10 2016 by Jim Burton, NAMB

When Tony Silveira’s family arrived in Montreal in 2006, the Portuguese native was not naive. After starting churches in Toronto for 12 years and assisting with efforts in Montreal, he knew challenges existed in cities where there was an apparent resistance to religion.
“In general, churches don’t have a good reputation,” Silveira said. “Religious words are curse words.”


NAMB photo by Claudine Chausse
Tony and Sara Silveira are leading a church plant in Montreal, along with daughter Sara and son Andrew. The Silveiras also have an older adult son, David. The Silveiras are North American Mission Board 2016 Week of Prayer Missionaries. The goal for the 2016 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is $70 million.

A city that he now says is against religion was once nicknamed “the city of 100 bell towers,” evidenced by the presence of so many churches. Many were extraordinary cathedrals, some nearly 200 years old, with exquisite architecture. Today, most are empty on Sundays. Many of those bell-tower buildings are now tourist attractions.
Local governments have zoning laws that make locating churches on a main thoroughfare virtually impossible, which calls for creativity.


South Shore community

Montreal’s regional population of more than 5 million people (with the core city occupying an island, much like Manhattan) is bounded on the south by the St. Lawrence River. The South Shore community where Silveira is church planting has about 1.5 million residents.
While permits for churches in high-traffic areas are impractical, municipalities are anxious for commerce. Silveira found prime real estate that has an estimated 200,000 cars passing every day and started The Studio, a convention center venue for business seminars and meetings – and churches.
“It looks more like a Starbucks than a church,” Silveira said. “It’s cozy – not too big.”
Creating a business center aligned with Silveira’s objective to reach marketplace leaders and university students. Besides community and business events, the venue now hosts six churches, three of which he started. This allows the Studio to double as a multi-congregational site, where each church pays rent to make the location viable.


NAMB photo by Claudine Chausse
From the homeless population to high-powered businessmen, Tony Silveira’s location along a main thoroughfare affords him the opportunity to meet and minister to a variety of people.

Research reflects Montreal’s ambivalence toward Christianity. While some statistics say less than .5 percent are Christian, Silveira believes it’s closer to 7 or 8 percent.
“The gospel is growing very fast here,” he said.
That growth stems partly from youth rebellion, as teenagers and young adults often do the opposite of their parents during that stage of life, he noted.
“Millennials are where I see the best potential for growth,” Silveira said. “Their parents are anti-church, and, naturally, when they go through the rebellious stages, they will look for church.”


Churches across Montreal

Silveira brought about 27 years of church planting experience to Montreal from his work in Europe and Toronto. But he knew nothing about the North American Mission Board (NAMB), Send North America or the farm system.
That lack of knowledge changed when he met Jacques Avakian, NAMB’s lead church planting catalyst for Quebec. Silveira’s introduction to the farm system, NAMB’s method for identifying and mentoring potential church planters, aligned with his vision and experience.
“I listened to his story and the vision God had given him,” Avakian said. “I loved what I heard.”
  Meanwhile, Silveira was pleased to learn about what was already happening in Montreal.
“I was so touched by seeing the other church plants that NAMB has here,” Silveira said. “The farm system was the first time I’ve ever heard about it. It’s the best church planting model I’ve seen in the world.


NAMB photo by Tania Zaleski
Tony Silveira (center) opened The Studio – a multi-use event space – as a creative alternative to a traditional meeting space.

“I started Passion Canada to mentor church planters,” Silveira said of his registered ministry.
Passion Canada is the umbrella organization under which Silveira plants churches and mentors others. With The Studio, he’s created a reproducible model.
“He is very creative,” Avakian said. “His whole church planting strategy speaks for itself.”
Silveira preaches at the 9:30 a.m. English multi-cultural service called The Church Unlimited. At 11:15 a.m., there’s a French-speaking congregation called La 180 Zone. Then at 6:30 p.m., an English service called WeR1 (We Are One) has mostly youth and young adults. One of his protégés leads that service.
“I’m about to launch two other churches through the Passion Center,” said Silveira, who intended to start six new churches by the end of 2015. (He calls The Studio the Passion Center when it’s hosting churches.)
Meanwhile, he preaches every other week at a Mohawk First Nations church on the South Shore, and, when possible, he travels to Northern Quebec to minister to the Cree tribe.
The average giving of a Christian Quebec church member is $7 per week, Silveira said, which necessitates the business model he’s chosen. His only other financial support comes from NAMB through the Cooperative Program (CP) and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO).
“Without the CP and AAEO, I would not be where I am now,” Silveira said.
That stability also allows him to plan proactively.
“My vision is to multiply what we have here,” Silveira said. “I don’t see that the next generation wants a mega church. What I foresee is opening multiple locations where 300 people can still do community.”
The next generation also isn’t likely to want bell towers, preferring a simpler organic church model built on user-friendly evangelism, discipleship and fellowship, he said.
“I would like to expand the model with different flavors and styles of churches in different regions of Montreal.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jim Burton is a photojournalist and writer living in Atlanta. The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 6-13, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering provide support for missionaries who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists across North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year’s offering theme is “Here I am. Send Me.” For more information, visit To read about other 2016 featured missionaries, visit

3/10/2016 11:34:48 AM by Jim Burton, NAMB | with 0 comments

ReFRESH goes West, emboldens pastors, leaders

March 10 2016 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Erosion starts when hard-baked earth is scuffed by a worn boot or perhaps a random gust of wind. In time the indentation can become a gully, ditch, channel and valley. Eventually, it could grow to a deep canyon, noted award-winning National Geographic photographer Ken Jenkins.
“Destruction approaches slowly but it always leaves a trail,” said Jenkins, who punctuated his presentation of spiritual erosion with some of his photography – that included images of the Grand Canyon – at the recent ReFRESH in the West Conference at Hope Church in Las Vegas. It was the first ReFRESH conference in the western U.S., an event expanding across the nation to come alongside pastors and church leaders, to help encourage them in their ministry.
The Feb. 22-23 event was led by Pastor Michael Catt of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., and hosted by the Nevada Baptist Convention, Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board (NAMB).


Photo submitted
The ReFRESH in the West Conference was led by Pastor Michael Catt of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., and hosted by the Nevada Baptist Convention, Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board. The event took place Feb. 22-23 at Hope Church in Las Vegas.

Though Sherwood Baptist Church is best known nationally for producing Christian movies such as “Flywheel,” “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof” and “Courageous,” these films are just one aspect of Sherwood’s varied ministries under Catt’s leadership.
ReFRESH, which started a dozen years ago as an outgrowth of a revival conference at Sherwood, spread to Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; Richmond, Va.; Branson, Mo.; Boston; and now Las Vegas.
ReFRESH was designed to encourage and strengthen ministry-weary men and their wives who often labor in isolation and without recognition, far from spiritual “watering holes” more accessible to pastors in the southern U.S., Catt said.
At least 138 pastors, leaders and wives from six western states – California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah – registered for the ReFRESH event.
Jim Ricks pastors Walker Baptist Church on the far eastern edge of California and is a member of the Sierra Baptist Association in Fernley, Nev. Ricks said he was eager for the fellowship he expected to find at the two-day event for pastors in Las Vegas.
“My heart is overflowing and I’m an emotional wreck,” Ricks said, his voice cracking. “For me, to live is to minister, but what I’ve realized being here is that I need desperate prayer for a desperate faith, making sure I am putting Christ first.”
Catt said in his opening remarks, “We have prayed for years to come to the West.”


Photo submitted
Pastors and church leaders gathered Feb. 22-23 for encouragement at the ReFRESH in the West Conference at Hope Church in Las Vegas. It was the first ReFRESH conference in the western U.S.

“We knew it had to be the right time, the right place and the right leadership, and we got that with Kevin White, executive director of the Nevada Baptist Convention, and Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church,” Catt said. “These men have a heart for revival and spiritual awakening.”
He also credited Rob Lee, executive director of the Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention, and the North American Mission Board, for their support.
“We want to encourage you and to strengthen you,” Catt told those in attendance, “to put air in your tires and gas in your tank because we need you here in the West where there are so many people and so few churches.”
Catt and three other men each spoke twice at ReFRESH: Jenkins, photographer with the National Geographic Society and a member of Zion Grove Baptist Church in Sevierville, Tenn.; Tom Elliff, retired president of the International Mission Board; and Pitman, who started Hope Church in 2001.
Among some of the topics: “The Life Worth Living,” “Leaving a Legacy of Faith,” “Spiritual Erosion,” “Snares,” and “The Problem Behind the Problem.”
During one of his messages, Pitman spoke about the “miracle-unleashing of God’s extraordinary power right in the middle of our everyday life.” He said, “The presence of God changes everything.”
Pitman spoke about the woman sick for a dozen years, who made her way to within inches of Jesus, somehow knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt, “If I can just touch Jesus, I will be healed.”
The “Ignite” theme of ReFRESH was designed to build on the momentum seen in churches and Bible study across the West, with the prayer that those sparks would ignite fires of revival that could result in a multi-state, multi-cultural and multi-national spiritual awakening, said Ken Bevel, Sherwood’s connections and events pastor.
Doug Vaughan, pastor of Crosspoint Community Church in Reno, said he came to ReFRESH mainly “to help support our state convention. I really feel a unity growing in our convention.” But the Reno pastor acknowledged he left with a lot more.
“The preaching has been amazing,” Vaughn said. “It’s timely for us. I really feel refreshed for the long haul. To get that encouragement, just to know we’re not alone, it means a lot.”
Catt said, “All revival is, is New Testament Christianity in action.”
“We came here to shine encouragement,” the Sherwood Baptist Church pastor said, “so people leave here with fire in their bellies.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/10/2016 11:21:38 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Missouri Senate votes to put religious liberty on ballot

March 10 2016 by Ben Hawkins, Missouri Pathway

Missourians will vote on protecting people from being penalized for their religious beliefs on marriage if a resolution passed by the Missouri Senate March 9 is next passed by the state’s House of Representatives.
President Pro Tem of the Senate Ron Richard broke a 39-hour filibuster of Senate Joint Resolution 39 (SJR 39), also called the Missouri Religious Freedom Amendment, by calling for the previous question. In accordance with Senate rules, members of the Senate then took a 7 a.m. roll call, and SJR 39 passed its first-round approval, 23-9.
SJR 39 now heads to the House of Representatives for approval for the ballot box this fall. If voters approve the resolution, it will be added to the Missouri constitution. The resolution’s legislative process does not require the signature of Gov. Jay Nixon.
Drafters of SJR 39 insist that the amendment “is a shield, not a sword” – intended not to attack any group of people, but simply to provide religious liberty protections for people of any faith following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage last summer. SJR 39 would protect the religious liberty of pastors, churches and other religious organizations as well as business people who use their creative abilities within the wedding industry.


Photo courtesy of The Pathway
Michael Whitehead (right), legal counsel for the Missouri Baptist Convention, addresses a state Senate subcommittee Feb. 29 in behalf of Senate Joint Resolution 39 to give Missourians a vote on protecting people from being penalized for their religious beliefs on marriage.

Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, affirmed the Missouri initiative. “All Americans need protection from any threat or any violation of religious liberty,” said Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. “Southern Baptists have always championed the freedom of religion in America; therefore, we pray that Missourians will support this common conviction that ignited the birth of our nation years ago.”
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, stated, “I applaud this effort by the people of Missouri to preserve our First Amendment rights.
“Local and state governments continue to assault the religious rights of men and women who believe marriage is the union of a man and woman. Government has no right to coerce business owners who believe a wedding ceremony is an act of religious worship to provide their services for ceremonies that violate their religious convictions. Penalizing such business owners is a chilling violation of the free exercise of religion. It must stop,” Page said.
Missouri Baptists have strongly supported SJR 39, sponsored by Sen. Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis, from the bill’s inception. Several were among a crowd of religious liberty defenders at a Senate committee hearing on the bill Feb. 29.
But they weren’t alone. Supporters also included – among others – George Paul Wood, vice president with the Assemblies of God and son of the president of the Worldwide Fellowship of the Assemblies of God, as well as Ashley McDonald, who represented the Missouri Farm Bureau. The day after the Senate committee hearing, Mike Hoey, communications director with the Missouri Catholic Conference, also announced the Catholic leaders’ support of the bill.
David Krueger, chairman of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) Christian Life Commission, told the Senate Committee, “Today, the frontline of religious liberty is not at the front door of the church – not yet anyway – but at the front door of the Christian business owner, the Christian college and university, and Christian social and benevolence agencies of all kinds.”
The threat to religious liberty, Krueger said, has come from “a new moral and legal order” that is aiming to normalize same-sex marriage in the United States.
“Missouri needs a Religious Liberty Amendment that protects the religious liberty rights of its citizens,” said Krueger, pastor of First Baptist Church in Linn. “This amendment is not – let me repeat – this amendment is not a license to discriminate against protected classes of people. It is a shield, and not a sword.”
The bill would be a “shield” for churches like Open Heart Baptist Church of Columbia, Bonnie Lee told the Senate committee. Open Heart – like many other churches – wants to serve the community with its facilities, she said, but church leaders and members fear that, by opening themselves up to the community in this way, they are also opening themselves up to legal attack because of their biblical beliefs about marriage.
“I appreciate that Missouri would stand up and let us feel comfortable and let us exercise that faith,” Lee said. “I appreciate so much a bill from our state that protects our freedom of religion.”
Michael Whitehead, legal counsel for the Missouri convention, reminded the committee that religion is not confined to the worship center or to private Bible study, but that religious beliefs affect every aspect of people’s lives.
“People should be able to practice what they preach and not be penalized by the government,” Whitehead said, adding that the people of Missouri should be able to speak on these issues at the ballot box.
Don Hinkle, editor of the Missouri convention’s Pathway newsjournal and MBC public policy adviser, told the committee that Baptists have historically been at the forefront of defending religious liberty. For example, after years of facing jail time for preaching without governmental permission, colonial Baptists were among the first to support the U.S. Bill of Rights.
“This has always been probably the most important issue to us,” Hinkle said. “It is who we are.”
SJR 39 is online at Among its highlights:

  • The bill begins by declaring that the state shall not penalize any religious organization for believing or acting according to “sincere religious beliefs” about the “marriage” between two people of the same sex. Included among the religious organizations protected by the bill would be denominations, like the Missouri Baptist Convention, as well as the MBC’s universities and children’s home.

  • The state shall not penalize a clergy member or religious leader for refusing – on the basis of his or her religious beliefs – “to perform, solemnize, or facilitate” a same-sex “marriage or ceremony.”

  • The state shall not penalize “any church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other house of worship, denomination, or other religious organization” because of that the organization’s refusal – on the basis of its religious beliefs – to “perform, solemnize, or facilitate” a same-sex “marriage or ceremony.”

  • The state shall not penalize an individual who – on the basis of his or her religious beliefs – “declines either to be a participant in” or “to provide goods or services of expressional or artistic creation” for a same-sex “marriage or ceremony or an ensuing celebration thereof.”

To learn more about SJR 39, visit
John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri convention, said after the Senate’s approval of SJR 39: “This bill is a very important piece of legislation. We are very grateful for all the Senate leaders engaged in its passage. Despite how this bill is spun in the public (such as anti-gay) this bill cuts both ways in guaranteeing religious freedom for all.
“With the passage of the amendment by the citizens of Missouri, the government cannot be used to coerce religious expression in churches, in institutions and the marketplace. Let’s encourage members of the Missouri House to pass this measure quickly,” Yeats said in a written statement.
Missouri Baptists have a long history of defending religious freedom, adopting 12 resolutions in its defense since 1976. This includes a 1990 resolution celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, which affirmed the right to believe that “religion flourishes best without government’s interference” and promised to defend this “fundamental principle” in years to come.
In a 2014 religious liberty resolution, the convention called on Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to defend a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage that was passed in 2004 by a 71-29 percent margin. This portion of the Missouri constitution now has been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex ruling.
During the MBC annual meeting last fall, MBC messengers again affirmed the convention’s strong support of religious liberty in response to the court ruling.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ben Hawkins is associate editor of The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston contributed to this story.)

3/10/2016 11:11:21 AM by Ben Hawkins, Missouri Pathway | with 0 comments

Montana executive Fred Hewett announces retirement

March 10 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Fred Hewett, executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention (MTSBC), has announced he will retire after the convention’s annual meeting in October.
Hewett, 62, who has led Montana Baptists for nearly nine years, made the announcement March 4 in Billings during the two-day M-Pact Montana Conference for church ministry in today’s culture.
Hewett initially disclosed his retirement plans to the MTSBC Executive Board during their regular session March 3 then publicly announced the news at M-Pact Montana the following day.
To provide adequate time for the search process for the next executive director and for a smooth transition, Hewett said he will serve through the end of the Montana convention’s annual meeting the first week in October.


Fred Hewett

Darren Hales, president of MTSBC, stated, “We love Dr. Hewett deeply and hate to see him go. He has been an outstanding leader for us through some challenging days.
“Because of his leadership, we are penetrating the lostness of Montana, are on solid financial footing and have a clear vision for our future. He will be hard to replace,” said Hales, pastor of Big Sky Fellowship in Helena.
Under Hewett’s leadership, the Montana convention’s Cooperative Program (CP) giving has recorded unprecedented growth, with 2015 as the sixth straight year of CP increases from the state’s 141 churches and missions/church plants.
“We did two things” to achieve the CP gains, Hewett said. “We promoted CP throughout the year and gave our pastors the tools they needed to tell the CP story, and they did. This is actually a testimony of our pastor’s leadership and our churches’ generosity.”
Amid changes brought by the SBC’s Great Commission Task Force in 2010, Hewett said, “We have found stability and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) remains a valuable partner.
“We have created a strategy team led by a full-time state staff and five men serving part-time, each serving in a region of Montana. They are there to fill the hole created when we lost our NAMB-funded associational missionaries. The strategy team’s primary tasks are to network pastors and churches together for encouragement and training; serve as a conduit of communication; assist churches and pastors in times of conflict and pastorless times; and leadership training for pastors and church leaders. It is working well for us thus far.”
The Montana convention also has created a full-time position called “director of next-gen ministries,” now filled by Adam Burt, whose primary task is to help churches reach and disciple the next generation – youth and college age – in Montana.
Hewett said the director of next-gen ministries coordinates the convention’s Get Real youth evangelism events in the eastern and western parts of Montana and leads the student missionary ministry and Winter Blast gathering of Montana college students and church youth/college workers for evangelism, training and resourcing.
An unmet goal, Hewett said, is attaining representation for Montana Baptists on Southern Baptist entity boards and on convention committees.
“I pray that Montana and other small conventions will soon have this recognition,” Hewett said. “Though we are small, it is very important to us. It will say that we are valued and a part of the SBC family. The irony is that we seek to meet the same CP percentage giving to Southern Baptist missions and ministries as those who have board representation, yet we are not deemed eligible for a seat at the table. I believe this is a little known fact among Southern Baptists.”
Following Hewett’s retirement announcement, the MTSBC Executive Board formed an eight-person search team and selected Bruce Speer, pastor of Crosspoint Church in Missoula, as chair.
“To replace Fred will be difficult,” Speer said, “but we know that God will reveal His man in due time. We look forward to launching a nationwide search and will post more information about the position in the next few weeks.”
Before serving as MTSBC executive director, Hewett had been a regional field rep in NAMB’s church planting group, planted a church in Jupiter, Fla., pastored in Atlanta and worked 12 years for State Farm Insurance Company.
Hewett holds a doctor of ministry degree from Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta, having earlier earned an M.Div. degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida.
After retirement Hewett and Cherryl, his wife of 40 years, will reside in Silverton, Colo.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

3/10/2016 11:04:52 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Steve Gaines to be SBC president nominee

March 9 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Georgia pastor Johnny Hunt announced March 9.
“When Steve Gaines shared his prayer journey he and [his wife] Donna had travelled, I was touched by his clear call to allow himself to be nominated,” Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., wrote in a news release stating his intention to nominate Gaines during the SBC annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis.
“Steve struggled with this nomination as he has always believed this office should seek the man,” Hunt continued. “With such a passionate desire for spiritual revival in our churches and nation, and knowing him to be a man of deep intense prayer, it brings joy to my heart to nominate Dr. Gaines.”
During the 11 years Gaines has pastored the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., the congregation has averaged 481 baptisms per year, according to the SBC’s Annual Church Profile (ACP). Previously, he pastored churches in Alabama, Tennessee and Texas.


Steve Gaines

Bellevue’s finance committee is recommending that the congregation give $1 million during its 2016-17 church year through the Cooperative Program (CP), Southern Baptists’ unified channel for funding state- and SBC-level missions and ministries. That will total approximately 4.6 percent of undesignated receipts, the church told Baptist Press.
As of April 1, 2012, Bellevue began forwarding all its CP giving through the Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC), the church said. Previously, it forwarded approximately $200,000-$340,000 annually in CP through the TBC, according to ACP data, and designated about twice that amount to be forwarded to the SBC Executive Committee for distribution according to the CP allocation formula, the church said.
The shift in giving methods resulted in an increase from giving 1.3 percent of undesignated receipts through CP in 2011 to 2.6 percent in 2012, according to ACP reports. Bellevue increased that percentage to 3.5 in 2013 and 3.8 in 2014. Between 2011 and 2016, the church has increased its CP giving by 278 percent.
The church’s Great Commission Giving totaled approximately $2.5 million over the past two years and is anticipated to be $1.3 million (6 percent of undesignated receipts) for the congregation’s 2016-17 church year, which begins April 1, Hunt said. Great Commission Giving is a category of giving established by SBC action in 2011 that encompasses giving through CP as well as direct gifts to SBC entities, associational giving and giving to state convention ministries.
Hunt said Bellevue has collaborated with the International Mission Board (IMB) to lead evangelism training in 34 countries since 2007 and “at the request of the IMB ... has been a strategy church for Jinotega, Nicaragua, since 2007.” The church also reported a $150,000 gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions last year and anticipated an equal gift for 2016.
Bellevue is partnering with the North American Mission Board to plant churches in the Northwest and has planted 10 churches in other areas, including work with Native Americans in three locations, Hunt said.
Total missions giving for next year is anticipated at 18 percent of Bellevue’s undesignated receipts, the church reported, and includes the “Bellevue Loves Memphis” initiative, a service evangelism campaign launched by Gaines in 2007.
Through Bellevue Loves Memphis, Hunt wrote, “the church has demonstrated love for their city through meeting practical needs as a platform from which to share the gospel. Thus far, they have held 33 workdays. Their volunteers numbering 30,000 have served 106,505 ‘man hours’ on 945 projects resulting in 510 professions of faith.”
Gaines has served as a member of the SBC Committee on Nominations, a trustee of LifeWay Christian Resources, a member of the committee that proposed a revision of the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000 and chairman of the SBC Resolutions Committee. He preached the SBC convention sermon in 2004 and served as SBC Pastors’ Conference president in 2005.
Gaines said, “I would like to continue [current SBC president] Dr. [Ronnie] Floyd’s emphasis on seeking God for a spiritual awakening and revival. ... I’ve been praying for an awakening for a long time, and that’s really my heart. I want the manifest presence of God in our churches and also in our denomination.
“... I also believe that we’ve got a real problem with our baptisms,” Gaines said. “We need to get back to personal evangelism and soul winning.”
Gaines’ presidential nomination is the second to be announced for the SBC annual meeting. North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear’s nomination was announced March 2.
Gaines is married to Donna and has four children and nine grandchildren. He holds master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

Related Story:
J.D. Greear to be SBC president nominee

3/9/2016 3:04:25 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

NYC bathroom order called ‘one-way tolerance’

March 9 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A New York City executive order underscoring the requirement that city agencies allow transgender persons to use any restroom they choose is among the latest round of cultural challenges to which believers are responding.
In other developments, Georgia’s Republican governor has suggested his opposition to a bill that would allow wedding vendors to decline service to same-sex couples based on religious convictions; Hawaii legislators are considering a proposal to ban licensed counselors from attempting to help minors overcome same-sex attraction; and Alabama’s Supreme Court dismissed a set of petitions requesting enforcement of the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order March 7 that bans city employees from requesting identification or any other proof of gender before allowing individuals into public restrooms, according to a news release from the mayor’s office.
The order applies to 55 municipal buildings, including locker rooms at pools and recreation centers, The Wall Street Journal reported. The city already had laws in place allowing transgender individuals to use any restrooms they chose at any public accommodation, according to NPR.
“Today’s order makes it clear that New York City fully supports the right of every New Yorker to use the single-sex facility consistent with their gender identity,” de Blasio, a Democrat, said according to his news release. “New York City is the birthplace of the fight for LGBT rights, and we continue to lead in that fight so every New Yorker can live with dignity.”
In addition to announcing the executive order, de Blasio’s release stated “that any employer, housing provider or public accommodation that denies access to bathroom or single sex facilities based on gender identity can be prosecuted for violation of the NYC Human Rights Law.”
Ray Parascando, pastor of Crossroads Church in the New York borough of Staten Island, told Baptist Press the city’s restroom policy places children at risk and exemplifies a pattern of “one-way tolerance” that discriminates against Christian beliefs and morals.
“You put children at risk, especially in parks, if you’re going to have somebody who thinks they’re a guy going into a little boys’ bathroom and vice versa,” Parascando said.
He dismissed as “misleading” a claim in the mayor’s news release that “law enforcement officials, government employees and domestic violence experts in 12 states that have laws prohibiting gender identity discrimination in accommodations have reported zero bathroom attacks.”
Parascando responded, “That study, like many of the numbers [the mayor’s office] puts out ..., is misrepresenting” because there is no precedent of such a “widespread desire and initiative to change the organization of the bathrooms.” He speculated open access to restrooms in certain New York neighborhoods in particular likely would result in attacks.
Beyond safety concerns, Parascando said, “the mayor’s warrior policy” on issues related to homosexuality “is just encouraging ... more confusion kids should not have to wrestle with at a young age. They shouldn’t have to learn about it by bathrooms.”
Crossroads has launched a campaign to promote sexual purity, Parascando said, “because I have parents who are telling me, ‘I need help.’ And these people aren’t saved. They’re in over their head because the culture is so darn perverse here.”
Transgender restroom policies have garnered attention in other states as well, NPR reported. South Dakota’s governor vetoed a bill March 1 that would have required public school students to use restrooms and locker rooms designed for their gender at birth. Houston voters overturned a nondiscrimination ordinance in November in part over concerns regarding restroom access. And in North Carolina, some legislators have expressed concern over a Charlotte ordinance that would lift restrictions on restroom access.
A 2014 Southern Baptist Convention resolution “on transgender identity” “affirm[ed] God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception.” The resolution “regard[ed] our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God and therefore condemn[ed] acts of abuse or bullying committed against them.”
The resolution stated additionally, “We invite all transgender persons to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the Gospel.”

In other cultural developments:

  • Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Southern Baptist, has threatened to veto any legislation that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported March 3. Deal’s comments came as state legislators considered a bill that would allow business owners with sincerely held religious beliefs to decline participation in same-sex weddings.

“I hope that we can all just take a deep breath, recognize that the world is changing around us, and recognize that it is important that we protect fundamental religious beliefs,” Deal said according to the AJC. “But we don’t have to discriminate against other people in order to do that. And that’s the compromise that I’m looking for.”

  • Proposed legislation in Hawaii on “sexual orientation change efforts” is under consideration by state lawmakers.

Hawaii Family Forum, a pro-family group, stated on its website the measure “would prohibit a licensed mental health practitioner in Hawaii from offering counseling or psychotherapy to a minor that has unwanted same-sex attractions or gender identity confusion and seeks to resolve these feelings. It would also take away the rights of parents to choose a licensed mental health care provider for their children that is consistent with their religious and/or spiritual values, if their child wants to overcome unwanted same-sex attractions and/or gender identity confusion due to sexual abuse or confusion.”
An online petition circulated by Hawaii Family Forum called the bill “governmental intrusion” into the rights of families and asked legislators to reject it.

  • The Alabama Supreme Court issued a March 4 ruling that activists on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate claimed as a victory. The order dismissed all pending motions and petitions by conservatives who wanted the state’s gay marriage ban enforced but also included a concurring opinion by Chief Justice Roy Moore that argued state bans of same-sex marriage remain valid under the U.S. Constitution, The Washington Post reported.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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3/9/2016 11:24:02 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Marriage & family’s Gary Smalley dies

March 9 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Gary Smalley, a self-effacing yet prolific author and auditorium-packing speaker on marriage and the family, died March 6 in Branson, Mo.
“Gary Smalley was a tremendous communicator and personality,” said Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
“When he spoke at our church, the place was packed, people were helped and hundreds of marriages were enriched. His impact was huge in every way. Thank God for his legacy that will live on through thousands upon thousands of people,” Floyd said.


Gary Smalley

Smalley authored 60-plus books with 6 million in sales. He taped numerous videos, led conferences in churches across the country and joined with other authors and speakers in various projects, such as resources to help people find freedom from pornography and other sexual sin by the ministry Freedom Begins Here.
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, said Smalley also was “a trusted counselor in whom people confided their deepest longings, hurts, hopes and dreams. The practical advice and coaching he gave helped countless husbands and wives stave off divorce. How many children grew up with both their mom and their dad because God used Gary to repair and restore their marriages? More than you would imagine.”
Smalley was a guest on Focus on the Family’s broadcast more than 50 times, Daly said in a March 7 posting at, noting, “I especially loved Gary’s sense of humor. He took the subject of marriage and family seriously, but he didn’t take himself too seriously.”
Smalley’s son Greg, Focus on the Family’s vice president of marriage ministries, said in comments he relayed to Daly, “I loved my dad’s authenticity and transparency. He made a living telling people how he messed up as a husband and father. He was humble enough to admit he made mistakes and driven to learn how to grow as a follower of Christ, husband and father. ... [W]ho my dad was up on stage was exactly who he was at home.”
Attending his father’s events as a child, Greg Smalley said he was often told by people, “Your dad saved my marriage.”
Gary D. Chapman, another marriage and family author – notably The Five Love Languages – and conference speaker, recounted, “People often got the two of us confused. I once told him that people would come to me to autograph his books. I said, ‘Early on, I told them that I was not Gary Smalley, but Gary Chapman, and they would be embarrassed. So, now I don’t say a word, I just sign your name.’ He laughed and said, ‘You have not signed nearly as many of my books as I have signed copies of The Five Love Languages.’
“We had a good laugh. If people are going to confuse me with someone, I don’t know of a better choice than Gary Smalley,” said Chapman, who also is senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Among Smalley’s popular books were If He Only Knew: What No Woman Can Resist; Making Love Last Forever; The Key to Your Child’s Heart; and with John Trent, The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance and The Two Sides of Love, both Gold Medallion Award recipients from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.
Smalley also wrote several books with his wife Norma; with his son Greg; and with Ted Cunningham, pastor of the nondenominational Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Mo.
Smalley’s media appearances included “The Today Show,” “Fox & Friends,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Larry King Live.” His infomercial for a video series, “Hidden Keys to Loving Relations,” featured Pat Boone and, in later airings, John Tesh and Connie Sellecca and Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford.
In addition to Norma, his wife of 52 years, and son Greg, Smalley is survived by another son, Michael and a daughter, Kari, who both work in publishing and counseling; and seven grandchildren.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

3/9/2016 11:19:29 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Archivist Taffey Hall named SBHLA director

March 9 2016 by Abby Davis, SBTS

An archivist with more than a decade of experience researching Baptist history has been named the new director of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives (SBHLA), the Council of Seminary Presidents has announced.
Taffey Hall, previously the library’s archivist, will replace Bill Sumners as SBHLA director when he retires in July.
“I’m very glad Dr. Taffey Hall will become the director of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “She brings to this role a wonderful background as an experienced archivist and a strong advocate for historical studies among Southern Baptists. Dr. Hall has vast experience, having served many years on the staff of the Historical Library and Archives. She is also a certified archivist, bringing an excellent academic background and pedigree to this new responsibility.”


Taffey Hall

Mohler noted, “The election of Dr. Taffey Hall ensures a very smooth transition for one of Southern Baptists’ most prized institutions. She combines Christian commitment, an excellent academic preparation, wonderful relationships with historians and researchers, and a commitment to serve Southern Baptists through preserving our history and maintaining our heritage.”
According to its website, the SBHLA was established in 1938 as a part of the Southern Baptist Historical Society to serve as a research center on Baptist history, and as a central depository and archives of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) records.
Their records include thousands of books, Baptist associations’ and state conventions’ annuals, Baptist newspapers, histories of Baptist churches, archival records, and many other Baptist history resources in the SBC Building in Nashville, Tenn.
The Council of Seminary Presidents (CSP) has governed the SBHLA since the reorganization of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1997. The six SBC seminary presidents make up the CSP with Mohler as its president.
Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and chairman of the Council of Seminary Presidents, described Hall as “a gifted archivist with a passionate interest in the amazing story of Southern Baptist churches, ministries and ministers.”
“That is a perfect combination of gifts and skills for the leader of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, which is the largest collection of Southern Baptists materials in the nation,” Kelley said. “Dr. Bill Sumners has done a marvelous job bringing us to this point. Dr. Taffey Hall is well suited for taking us further still in preserving all aspects of the Southern Baptist story and keeping it accessible to those who want to learn who we are and what we have done.”
Hall replaces Sumners, who is retiring after nearly 30 years as the library’s director. When he announced his retirement in December, Sumners said the SBHLA’s collection was “modest” in 1983 but has grown to become the “largest, most diverse and most accessible collection of Baptist material in the world.”
“My heart feels grateful and happy,” Hall said about her promotion. “I feel blessed for the opportunity to serve the SBHLA and Southern Baptists in this new capacity. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities this responsibility will present.”
Before serving as the archivist for SBHLA, Hall held a variety of research positions in Tennessee.
Hall earned her Doctor of Education from Tennessee State University, Master of Arts from Middle Tennessee State University, and Bachelor of Arts from Tennessee Wesleyan College. She has been a member of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood since 2005.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Abby Davis writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

3/9/2016 11:13:44 AM by Abby Davis, SBTS | with 0 comments

Erasmus’ Greek New Testament changed history 500 years ago

March 9 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A conference and museum exhibit at Houston Baptist University (HBU) helped mark the 500th anniversary of a Greek New Testament edition the exhibit’s curator said “spurred the Reformation” and “continues to be important” for biblical studies.
On March 1, 1516, a Dutch priest named Desiderius Erasmus published the Greek New Testament’s first ever “critical edition” – a version that drew from all available Greek manuscripts to compile a text with wording as close as possible to that of the original inspired authors. That work, which went through four revisions, was the first published Greek text available to the public. It is credited with changing Bible translation, preaching and even the course of church history.


Photo from Wikimedia Commons

HBU commemorated the anniversary with a Feb. 25-27 conference and an exhibit in its Dunham Bible Museum scheduled to run through Dec. 16 titled “Renaissance of the Bible: 500th Anniversary of Erasmus’ Greek Text, the Foundation for Reformation.”
“We have the first three editions of Erasmus’ Greek text in our collection, as well as Erasmus’ ‘Annotations’ and ‘Paraphrases’ in English, so it was natural for us to have a special exhibit for this 500th anniversary,” said Dunham Museum director Diana Severance. “As I began studying and putting together our exhibit, I gained new appreciation for Erasmus’ foundational importance to the Reformation.
“Erasmus saw the corruption in the church of his day and wanted to go back to the original source of the Christian faith, the Bible,” Severance said in written comments. “He believed the Bible should be for everyone, not just for the educated elite, and should be translated into the common vernacular of the people.”


‘Textus Receptus’

Erasmus was born in 1466 in Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands today. After both his parents died of the plague, Erasmus was raised by monks in a monastery, where he fostered a love for books. Eventually, he left the monastery to study at the University of Paris and became a leading scholar of the 16th-century “humanist” movement, which studied ancient Greek and Latin works.
He experienced what church historian Timothy George called a “turning point” in 1504 when he discovered a century-old manuscript by Lorenzo Valla with notes about Paul’s Epistles based on various Greek manuscripts. Inspired by Valla, Erasmus decided to publish a critical edition of the Greek New Testament.
“That had never been done before,” said George, a keynote speaker at HBU’s conference and dean of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School. Erasmus “collected manuscripts from all the places he could go – universities and monasteries that kept these manuscripts – brought them together, and began to collate them. And in 1516, a publisher in the city of Basel, Switzerland, named Froben published the first-ever critical edition of the New Testament, which Erasmus had edited.”
Not even Erasmus realized the significance of his accomplishment, George said. His work became the basis for Martin Luther’s German translation of the New Testament, William Tyndale’s English translation and Hungarian and Spanish translations.


Houston Baptist University photo
The first edition of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament was printed with Greek on the left of each page and a new Latin translation on the right.

A century later, Erasmus’ work was dubbed the “textus receptus” (Latin for “received text”) and became the basis for the King James Version.
In the late 1520s, Erasmus proposed a “new” way of pronouncing Greek he believed to be consistent with classical Greek pronunciation. Known as “Erasmian” pronunciation, his scheme remained the standard method used in academic settings to pronounce biblical Greek for nearly 500 years until some scholars challenged it recently, George said.


‘The egg Luther hatched’

In Germany, Luther studied the first edition of Erasmus’ Greek New Testament as he formulated his “95 Theses,” the document widely credited with launching the Protestant Reformation in 1517 by articulating a series of grievances against the Roman Catholic Church. The first three theses drew on Erasmus’ translation of the Greek word metanoeite, in Matthew 3:2 and elsewhere, as “repent” rather than the traditional Catholic rendering of “do penance,” which supported the sacramental system.
Erasmus, George said, “uncovered” that the Greek word referenced “a change of heart, a conversion of life” and “not just an act you do, a good work you perform.”
“Luther got that, and he used Erasmus’ Greek New Testament to give a whole different understanding of what repentance and penance was about,” George said. “And that’s what triggered the Reformation.”
Though Erasmus never left the Roman Catholic Church, it has been said since of the Reformation for five centuries, “Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched.”


A change in preaching

Rick Melick, distinguished professor of New Testament at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, said it is “unclear how many manuscripts [Erasmus] used in his work,” but most originated in approximately the 10th century – much later than the third- and fourth-century manuscripts that have since been discovered and are used by contemporary scholars.
“Now most scholars reject the Erasmus text as the best text,” Melick said in written comments, “and therefore the translations based on it are also considered less than the best,” though they are quite accurate.
Still, Erasmus’ work “marked a significant turning point in history,” Melick said, and “changed the way serious pastors approach preaching.”
When today’s preachers reference Greek words and language-study resources, they are following a tradition instituted in part by Erasmus.
Thanks to Erasmus and his successors who produced other critical New Testament editions, “pastors can read the Greek texts to verify the content of the New Testament,” Melick said. “Critical editions enable them to make choices they believe are correct in places where there are variants. Pastors should work from the Greek text and in seminary are taught how to use it.
“Second, there are an abundance of resources that help pastors, based on the critical texts,” he continued. “These include word studies, theological dictionaries, commentaries, lexicons and translations. These significantly improve the content of preaching. Third, the critical text enables pastors to make their way through the multiplicity of translations in any language.”


‘I vehemently dissent’

Erasmus wasn’t without flaws, George said, noting he “missed ... the total gravity of sin and the depth of our alienation from God and so, therefore, the necessity of a grace that reaches deeper and is much more transformative.”
Yet “at his heart, I think he really wanted to follow Jesus Christ and encourage other people to live a Christian life,” George said.
That included providing common people with access to the New Testament, which appeared in Latin translation alongside the Greek in his original edition.
“I vehemently dissent from those who would not have private persons read the Holy Scriptures nor have them translated into the vulgar tongues,” Erasmus wrote in the preface to his 1516 edition. “... Would that they were translated into all languages so that not only Scotch and Irish, but Turks and Saracens [a medieval term for Arabs] might be able to read and know them.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/9/2016 11:04:28 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Language proves God’s existence, prof says

March 9 2016 by Benjamin Hawkins, The Pathway

Evidence for the existence of God is, quite literally, on the tip of your tongue, says Southern Baptist professor Jeremy Lyon.
Lyon, associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga., and John Baumgardner, a geophysicist who teaches at Southern California Seminary in El Cajon, Calif., argue the existence of language points to the existence of God.
Because language is not comprised merely of physical matter, it must have a source that is separate from the physical universe, Lyon and Baumgardner wrote in an article for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS) titled “A Linguistic Argument for God’s Existence.” That source, they asserted, can only be God.
“All of reality has linguistic underpinnings which point us to the God of the Bible, the God who speaks things into existence,” Lyon said, adding that human language, computer language, mathematical language and genetic coding language all point to God’s existence.
This “linguistic argument,” he said, is an underused tool that many people “can readily identify with” during evangelistic encounters.
“Whenever we are sharing [the gospel] with people, we always want to start with scripture. Scripture is the foundation. Scripture is the authority,” Lyon said. “We can say, ‘Look. As we read the biblical account of creation, the manner in which God created, we see that He is a God who speaks, a God who communicates, and things come into existence.’
“And then we can move into the natural realm,” he continued. “We can point them to observations that we can see. What we see all around us are these linguistic underpinnings, from human language to genetic language to mathematical language – that is, the laws of nature. We look at this evidence that pervades reality, and it sure sounds a lot like what we read in the opening [chapters] of scripture, where God speaks and things come into existence. The whole universe is the product of a God who speaks.”
At its most basic level, language assigns meaning to seemingly random symbols to create a vocabulary and includes rules for putting those symbols together to form longer messages with more complex meanings, Lyon and Baumgardner wrote in the December 2015 issue of JETS.
Human speech – whether in English, Spanish or Chinese – is only one example of language. Computer languages, mathematics and even genetic codes in DNA are also languages, they asserted.
All these types of language, they argued, buttress the Christian worldview in at least four ways.
First, according to the naturalistic worldview that is prevalent among scientists today, the material world – made up of matter and energy – is all that exists. Naturalism leaves no room for the existence of spiritual realities, like the human soul or the God described in scripture.
But, Lyon and Baumgardner argued, language “falsifies naturalism’s foundational truth claim.” Language conveys meaning, which is made up neither of matter nor energy. Meaning, whether conveyed by human speech or by the genetic language in DNA, is non-material.
Second, since language has a non-material component, it “demands a non-material source.”
“The laws of chemistry and physics offer no clue whatsoever that matter can assign meaning or otherwise deal with meaning at even the most rudimentary level,” Lyon and Baumgardner wrote. Even the most complex electronic hardware cannot generate meaning unless people create software that sends electronic messages through that hardware.
Third, since people can create and use languages, they must “possess non-material attributes” such as a non-material mind, or a soul or spirit.
Finally, since extremely complex languages are written into DNA, biological life itself depends upon non-material realities. Moreover, since matter and energy cannot produce language, this genetic language must have been created and encoded into DNA by something or someone that was non-material.
As Lyon and Baumgardner wrote, this conclusion led Antony Flew, “the renowned British philosopher and arguably the best-known atheist in the English-speaking world during the final half of the 20th century, to abandon his atheism and in 2004 to announce an earnest belief in God.”
But whereas Flew came simply to believe in some divine being, Lyon suggests the linguistic argument points to the biblical God in particular – a God who spoke the whole world into existence and who is “sustaining all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).
For this reason, Lyon said, believers shouldn’t depend solely on a philosophical argument to convince people about the truth of Christianity. They should point people to the Word spoken by God in scripture.
“Putting up science as an objection to trusting in God’s Word is usually a smokescreen,” he said. “It is not an intellectual issue. It is usually a heart issue. Start with the Word of God, and we can show them that the Word of God is intellectually tenable and satisfying. ... But if we never give them the Word of God, we can’t expect to see lives transformed.
“The Word of God transforms lives,” Lyon said. “The Word of God penetrates hearts.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Benjamin Hawkins is associate editor for The Pathway at, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

3/9/2016 10:57:33 AM by Benjamin Hawkins, The Pathway | with 1 comments

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