March 2018

Christ’s resurrection: strongest evidence cited

March 30 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
 
It’s a question asked and answered each Easter in news reports, television documentaries and personal conversations. This year, two Southern Baptists who train others to defend the faith have offered their thoughts on the best way to answer.

Images published by the Baptist Sunday School Board during the late 1920s.


Rob Phillips, who leads apologetics for the Missouri Baptist Convention, pointed to the “minimal facts argument,” which defends the resurrection using only evidence “considered virtually undeniable,” even by skeptics. Stephen Wellum, a theology professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), said evidence for the resurrection always must be coupled with an explanation of the resurrection’s significance within the Christian worldview.
 
Phillips told Baptist Press (BP) the minimal facts argument is “a compelling case for the resurrection” in the 21st century because “there appears to be such a high level of skepticism today about the Bible in general and about its recorded miracles in particular.”
 
Citing Liberty University apologist Gary Habermas, Phillips noted two requirements for a “minimal fact“: “First, each fact must be confirmed by several strong and independent arguments, typically 10 or more historical confirmations. Second, the vast majority of scholars – even liberal Christian scholars, non-Christian scholars and atheists – must recognize the occurrence’s historical nature.”
 
Phillips identified six such “minimal facts” that support a belief in Christ rising from the dead bodily:

  • “Jesus died by crucifixion;
  • “Very soon after His death, His followers had real experiences that they thought were actual appearances of the risen Jesus;
  • “Their lives were transformed as a result, even to the point of being willing to die specifically for their faith in the resurrection message;
  • “These things were taught very early, soon after the crucifixion;
  • “James, Jesus’ unbelieving brother, became a Christian due to his own experience with whom he believed to be the resurrected Christ;
  • “The Christian persecutor Paul ... became a believer after a similar experience.”

 
Phillips concluded, “These ‘minimal facts’ come not only from multiple eyewitnesses as recorded in scripture, but from numerous non-biblical sources – even sources hostile to Christianity. While there is overwhelming evidence to support these historic events, our goal as followers of Jesus is not necessarily to win a debate or to get in the last word.
 
“Rather, it is to offer a winsome testimony of the resurrected Christ with whom we have an unbreakable relationship, and to encourage our listeners to trust Him for everlasting life,” Phillips said in written comments.
 
Houston Baptist University (HBU) apologetics professor Lee Strobel explained in his book The Case for Christ why the facts Phillips cited are virtually indisputable. In February, Strobel presented some of his research for an HBU apologetics simulcast.
 
In The Case for Christ, Strobel reviewed the medical evidence for Jesus’ death on the cross with physician and research scientist Alexander Metherell, who concluded the idea that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross is “a fanciful theory without any possible basis in fact.” Strobel also noted a “staggering” amount of first-century testimony from people who claimed to have seen the risen Christ – too much testimony for it to have been hallucination.
 
“If you were to call each one of the witnesses to a court of law to be cross-examined for just fifteen minutes,” Strobel wrote, “and you went around the clock without a break, it would take you from breakfast on Monday until dinner on Friday to hear them all. After listening to 129 straight hours of eyewitness testimony, who could possibly walk away unconvinced?”
 
After also noting circumstantial evidence for the resurrection and evidence that Christ’s tomb was empty on Easter morning, Strobel concluded Jesus truly did rise from the dead. “If my conclusion in the case for Christ is correct,” he wrote in the book, “your future and your eternity hinge on how you respond to Christ.”
 
Wellum, professor of Christian theology at SBTS, said “the evidence for the resurrection is well known and it consists of three interlocking pieces: 1) the fact of the empty tomb, 2) the resurrection appearances of Christ and 3) the transformation of the disciples and the establishment of the church. This data is interlocking since one piece of the data without the others would not provide a good case.”
 
However, Wellum told BP in written comments, “it is not the mere fact of the resurrection alone that is important but the meaning.”
 
“The skeptic can still always admit that Christ may have been risen from the dead without thinking that His resurrection has universal significance,” Wellum said. “Maybe Christ’s resurrection is one of those strange events that occur from time to time in history. After all, given the non-Christian’s worldview, they will look at even the ‘fact’ of the resurrection within their overall worldview.”
 
Within the Christian worldview, Wellum said, Christ’s resurrection “demonstrates at least three truths”:

  • “By Christ’s death and resurrection, death has been destroyed because as the Lord and Messiah, He has come to reverse the effects of sin, death and destruction (e.g., Hebrews 2:14-18).”
  • “Christ’s resurrection demonstrates that salvation has been accomplished ... that sin[’s penalty] has been paid and thus the power of death has been broken.”
  • “Christ’s resurrection demonstrates that judgment has come and will come to this world (Acts 17:31). Because of the resurrection, all humanity will be judged by Jesus Christ.”

 
Christians must show that their explanation of the resurrection makes more sense than alternative explanations, Wellum said.
 
“The significance of the resurrection of Jesus cannot be properly understood as simply an isolated phenomenon of brute power, or a freak accident of nature which belongs to Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The resurrection is not a strange or isolated event which has no intelligible links to the past and no relationship to the future,” Wellum said.
 
“Rather, the significance of the resurrection and the context in which to understand the death and resurrection of Jesus is the Old Testament scriptures,” he said. “For Jesus’ Messianic death and resurrection is the fulfillment of the plan of God to bring about both redemption and judgment. It is not an accident of nature, but the result of God’s plan, purposes and intention.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

3/30/2018 8:10:56 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Committee on Resolutions named for 2018 SBC

March 29 2018 by Baptist Press staff

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines has named members of the Committee on Resolutions for the June 12-13 SBC annual meeting in Dallas.
 
Jason Duesing of Missouri was named as the committee’s chairman by Gaines.
 
Duesing is provost and associate professor of historical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City and a member of Antioch Bible Baptist Church in Gladstone, Mo.
 
Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, appointed the committee in keeping with the provision in SBC Bylaw 20 that its members be named 75 days prior to the start of the annual meeting.
 
The other committee members, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Ken Alford, pastor, Crossroads Baptist Church, Valdosta, Ga.
  • Byron Day, pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Laurel, Md.
  • Candi Finch, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas; member of Hope Church, Fort Worth.
  • Willie McLaurin, special assistant to the executive director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, Franklin, Tenn.; member of Simeon Baptist Church, Antioch, Tenn.
  • Chris Metcalf, pastor, Lihue Baptist Church, Lihue, Hawaii.
  • Jason Paredes, lead pastor, Fielder Church, Arlington, Texas.
  • Adron Robinson, senior pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Country Club Hills, Ill.
  • Alicia Wong, associate professor of women’s ministry, Gateway Seminary, Ontario, Calif.; member of Rosena Church, San Bernardino, Ca.
  • Curtis Woods, associate executive director for convention relations, Kentucky Baptist Convention, Louisville, Ky.; member of Watson Memorial Baptist Church, Louisville.

 
The committee’s composition, according to Bylaw 20, must include at least two members who served the previous year, with Duesing and Alford meeting this requirement. Bylaw 20 also stipulates that the committee include at least three SBC Executive Committee members. This year they are Alford, Metcalf and Robinson.
 
The procedure for submitting resolutions is as follows according to Bylaw 20:

  • Proposed resolutions may be submitted as early as April 15 but no later than 15 days prior to the SBC annual meeting, giving the Resolutions Committee a two-week period in which to consider submissions. The committee also may propose resolutions for consideration during its deliberations. Resolutions may not be submitted during the annual meeting.
  • Proposed resolutions must be accompanied by a letter from a church qualified to send a messenger to the SBC annual meeting certifying that the individual submitting the resolution is a member in good standing.
  • Proposed resolutions preferably should be submitted by email or mailed to the Committee on Resolutions in care of the SBC Executive Committee, 901 Commerce St., Nashville, TN 37203. The drafts must be typewritten, titled, dated and include complete contact information for the person and his or her church.
  • No person will be allowed to submit more than three resolutions per year.
  • If a properly submitted resolution is not forwarded by the Committee on Resolutions to the SBC annual meeting, a two-thirds vote of messengers would be required to bring the proposed resolution to the convention floor.

 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Art Toalston, senior editor of Baptist Press.)
 

3/29/2018 8:33:00 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Women’s discipleship underscored at NOBTS event

March 29 2018 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

At home or on the job, women committed to discipleship and transformed by Christ can change the world, speakers said at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s (NOBTS) “Discipling women into the future” conference.
 
Rhonda Kelley, wife of NOBTS President Chuck Kelley, said the March 15-16 sessions aimed to equip women to minister through the church to other women, which the seminary’s women’s academic programs likewise do.

Photo by Chandler McCall, NOBTS
Author and speaker Chris Adams addressed the “Discipling women into the future” conference at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. “The goal is to disciple women so they can teach someone else,” she said.


“Women are gifted by God to serve Him and others but must develop those gifts and abilities personally,” Kelley said. “As women grow in their faith, they can pour truth and experience into the lives of others through discipleship and mentoring. What a joy to train others for woman-to-woman ministry.”
 
Comedian Anita Renfroe opened the conference with a performance of song and laughter. Renfroe, whose stage and television appearances include the Grand Ole Opry, “Good Morning America” and CBS’ “The Early Show,” has produced numerous DVDs and books including The Purse-Driven Life and Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You: Kids, Carbs and the Coming Hormonal Apocalypse.
 
Renfro, in her concluding devotional thoughts, called on women to give God whatever is in their “hearts, hands and home.”
 
Author and speaker Chris Adams, who retired last year as the lead women’s ministry specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources, drew from author Robby Gallaty in urging conference attendees to be disciples who make disciples. Gallaty is pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., who with his wife, Kandi, leads the discipleship-based Replicate Ministries.
 
Adams said the purpose of an effective discipleship program is “replication.”
 
“If we don’t invest in the spiritual health of women, we will fail in being good leaders for them,” Adams said. “The goal is to disciple women so they can teach someone else.”
 
Discipleship is more than coming to Bible study, Adams said, noting that it should lead to spiritually mature women who are called by God, growing and becoming like Christ, submitting to His authority and willing to sacrifice in order to follow God’s leading.
 
A clear course for discipleship, Adams said, is founded on prayer and focused on transformation of lives rather than on attendance numbers. Helping women catch a vision for how God can use them is a must, she said.
 
“Now, go out and change the world,” Adams concluded.
 
In testimony, NOBTS student Amy Smith shared the struggles of losing her father as a young teen. Her life changed when a mother who had lost a son to suicide connected with her, Smith said.
 
“She discipled me,” Smith said. “I watched her use her pain to pour her life into mine.”
 
Aria Stiles, Nashville-based Bluegrass violinist who has toured with Pam Tillis and played behind music stars Ricky Skaggs and Michael W. Smith, led in worship, which also featured the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church women’s praise team.
 
Cindy Townsend, women’s minister at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., was the afternoon plenary speaker. Breakout sessions were led by women ministry leaders from churches as well as NOBTS women’s ministry leaders.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of public relations for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

3/29/2018 8:30:29 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments



Her call: vulnerable women & babies in their wombs

March 29 2018 by Kayla Rinker, The Pathway

The abdominal bleeding wouldn’t stop and she was running a fever of 104. The landlord knew the ordeal her young tenant had been through at Planned Parenthood, so she called somebody who knew more about post-abortion health concerns than she did.
 
After a few phone calls, the scared young woman was connected with Bonnie Lee.

Submitted photo
Bonnie Lee, left, a Missouri Baptist pro-life advocate, supports the sanctity of human life and the betterment of women during a pro-life rally at the state capitol in Jefferson City.


“Am I dying?” she asked Lee.
 
The woman had called the nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood and was told she may have the flu and was advised not to come in or else she might expose everyone.
 
“They don’t want to admit and document complications,” Lee said. “Her condition was life-threatening and when we got her the care she needed, they discovered she still had some fetal tissue, which means she had not had a complete abortion and was experiencing a raging infection.
 
“She told me, ‘I know I deserve this because I killed my baby.’ Her pain was much more than physical.”
 
A retired registered nurse, Lee serves as the Mid-Missouri Baptist Association’s discipleship ministry and religious liberty and ethics specialist. She is a sidewalk advocate with 40 Days for Life and is part of the legislative arm for Team P.L.A.Y. (Prayer, Legislation, Activity and You, a collaboration of organizations and individuals dedicated to limiting abortion in Missouri). She also is a member of the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board and of Open Heart Baptist Church in Columbia.
 
The young woman didn’t have family in the area so she asked Lee to accompany her to the OBGYN to make sure all the infection was gone.
 
“As we waited for her appointment, she pulled out her phone and showed me a picture of the cutest little fairy garden underneath a tree,” Lee recounted. “She said, ‘That’s where I buried him. I buried my child in the backyard.’
 
“I can’t imagine the pain these women go through for years and years. How are these women going to heal if they don’t feel free to share their stories?” Lee reflected.
 
“The aborted babies have no voice and the exploited women in crisis situations have no voice,” she said. “That’s the reason why I do what I do. We are to give voice to the voiceless.”
 
While Lee’s calling to fight on the front lines of Missouri’s pro-life movement began in 2010, she sees how God laid the groundwork for her ministry. Her work as a surgical nurse educated her in sanitary requirements and her work in clinical drug trials gave her experience in patient consent legalities – what informed consent is and what it is not. The last four years before retiring, Lee worked as a legal nurse consultant, which gave her experience in sifting facts, finding truth and uncovering negligence.
 
“Twice in my career I’ve actually been terminated for standing on the truth,” Lee said. “It was not a pleasant time in my life, but those experiences are the only reason why I understand what power can do to people. Through all of that, I saw God’s affirmation that He is in control, He will provide and He has a better plan – a plan that I could never have imagined.”
 
That plan unfolded for Lee one day during an errand for her mother.
 
“It was providence,” she said. “I went to pick up some dressing needed for my mother’s knee and I saw two ladies standing on the sidewalk. I could tell they were praying. My eyes wandered up to the sign on the building behind them and it said, ‘Planned Parenthood.’ I had lived in Columbia since 1984 and I didn’t know we had a Planned Parenthood clinic. I had always been pro-life, but I’ve since learned that 800 babies had been killed in my own city and I had no idea.”
 
“Once God awakened me to the reality of what was happening, I could be silent no more,” except: “It took me a year before I considered becoming a sidewalk advocate, which is someone who reaches out to the women who come to Planned Parenthood and offers personal prayer, information and alternatives,” Lee said. Having experienced a miscarriage at five months between the births of her two sons, it was tough to wrap her mind around a woman choosing to end a pregnancy.
 
“I had so much anger in my heart that I didn’t feel compassionate and I knew my words to them wouldn’t be either.”
 
Over time God broke her heart for exploited women in crisis situations. And now she knows her fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities and evil powers that want to continue to treat abortion as a business.
 
“Even those who are militant to defend their pro-abortion stand are often trying to bury the truth,” Lee said. “The light of that truth comes through and it’s too painful to acknowledge. The guilt and shame preys upon people.”
 
Lee said Baptist churches could and should do a lot to help. They could offer post-abortion healing ministries; support Baptist children’s homes, such as the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, through the Cooperative Program; and do all they can to support their local crisis pregnancy centers. Churches must make a declaration to fight for all human life, put feet to the ground, as well as be the strong voice of hope and forgiveness, she said.
 
Proverbs 31:8-9 says: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
 
“And we dare say that’s political? And are silent?” Lee said. “Women sit in the pews unhealed and afraid to speak out. … That’s got to change. Abortion will not stop until there is a heart change across the board.”
 
For more information about 40 Days for Life visit 40daysforlife.com and for more information about Team P.L.A.Y. visit womenmustbesafe.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kayla Rinker writes for The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)
 

3/29/2018 8:26:49 AM by Kayla Rinker, The Pathway | with 0 comments



‘Cemetery’ displays collegians’ pro-life stance

March 29 2018 by Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message

Nearly 500 flags in a “Cemetery for the Innocent” covered a section of Louisiana College’s quad as a memorial to the unborn on March 20.
 
Each flag represented five of the lives aborted daily in the U.S.

Brian Blackwell photo
Louisiana College Students for Life members reflect on lives of the unborn during the Cemetery for the Innocent on campus March 20, 2018.


Chaz Morgan, president of the Louisiana College Students for Life, described the Cemetery for the Innocent as a visual picture of the battle that those who value life face daily in comments to the state convention’s Baptist Message news journal.
 
“We wanted students to be aware of how serious this issue is in our nation today,” Morgan said. “We’re showing people there are pro-life people out there who stand for what they believe in.” The Students for Life initiative also included distribution of flyers about the abortion issue.
 
This is the second year the organization has hosted the Cemetery for the Innocent.
 
The Cemetery for the Innocent is one of several pro-life events the student organization has sponsored. Last month, they teamed up with other organizations Feb. 3 for the third annual Louisiana Life March in central Louisiana, which drew more than 5,600 participants who marched for life from the college’s campus in Pineville to the amphitheater in nearby downtown Alexandria.
 
A brief video of Morgan describing the Cemetery for the Innocent can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=EXM1LlHnJ9c.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Blackwell writes for the Baptist Message, baptistmessage.com, news journal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)
 

3/29/2018 8:23:11 AM by Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message | with 0 comments



Assisted suicide dies in 2 New England states

March 29 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Legislative efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide have failed in two New England states, but Hawaii appears to be on the verge of enacting the practice.
 
If Hawaii legalizes assisted suicide, it will become the seventh state to do so, following California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington – as well as the District of Columbia.
 
“Assisted suicide is an assault on dignity,” Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “Assisted suicide turns human life and death into marketable goods. Moreover, it undermines the inherent worth of every person, regardless of age, health or mental ability.”
 
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, expressed his gratitude for the failure of bills in Massachusetts and Connecticut. “My prayer is that all of our states and citizens would promote legislation that honors human life rather than markets death,” he said.
 
Bills in both the Massachusetts and Connecticut legislatures failed to move beyond committees, assisted-suicide foes reported.
 
The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health sent bills from both the Senate and House of Representatives to a study committee March 22, according to the Patients Rights Action Fund. That action effectively killed the legislation. A proposal in the Connecticut House died in committee, the disability rights organization Not Dead Yet said March 26.
 
The Hawaii House of Representatives, however, passed an assisted-suicide measure March 6 in a 39-12 vote. Two state Senate committees have approved the legislation since House passage. The most recent approval came in a March 23 vote by the state Senate Judiciary Committee. A Senate vote in favor of the bill seemingly would assure it becomes law. Gov. David Ige is on record in support of the proposal.
 
The legislative actions are the latest in the ongoing battle between advocates for and opponents of authorizing doctors to prescribe lethal drugs for people who want to end their lives. The proposals typically limit those receiving the lethal doses to people who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and supposedly have less than six months to live.
 
Legislators in at least 25 states proposed bills legalizing assisted suicide in their most recent sessions, according to the pro-assisted suicide Death With Dignity National Center.
 
Opponents of assisted suicide continue to defend the sanctity of human life for the terminally ill, the disabled and other vulnerable human beings.
 
Matt Valliere, executive director of the Patients Rights Action Fund, commended specifically those who helped kill the Massachusetts proposal.
 
“Assisted suicide is not medical treatment,” Valliere said in a written statement. “It is bad public policy that puts a great many at risk of deadly harm through mistakes, coercion and abuse.”
 
Marie Manis, Massachusetts campaign director for the pro-assisted suicide organization Compassion & Choices, said her group is “deeply disappointed” at the death of the bill in this session, the Boston Herald reported.
 
Advocates for assisted suicide in the state gained a boost in December when the Massachusetts Medical Society broke with the American Medical Association to switch its position from opposed to neutral.
 
Critics of assisted suicide charge that the practice is not only potentially abusive, but it already is being used in place of health care. Some Americans with terminal illnesses have reported Medicaid and/or their insurance companies have informed them they will pay for a lethal prescription but not drugs to treat their afflictions.
 
Messengers to the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention meeting adopted a resolution affirming “the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages of development, from conception to natural death.” The resolution called on churches and Christians “to care for the elderly among us, to show them honor and dignity, and to prayerfully support and counsel those who are providing end-of-life care for the aged, the terminally ill, and the chronically infirmed.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

3/29/2018 8:20:22 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



FBC Sutherland Springs launches building project

March 28 2018 by Mike Ebert, NAMB

First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs, the Southern Baptist congregation whose members were targeted by a gunman in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, will begin construction of a new worship center and education building in May.

Image by Myrick Gurosky and Associates, provided by the North American Mission Board
First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs, Texas, will undertake construction on two new buildings beginning in May. The buildings will be completed in early 2019. Pastor Frank Pomeroy shared details of the plan with media on March 27.


Plans were announced March 27 by Frank Pomeroy, the church’s pastor. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) will accept donations for the project. If donations do not cover all of the construction expenses, NAMB will cover any remaining costs.
 
“Our primary goal is to lift up Jesus in our community,” Pomeroy said. “Sutherland Springs has a certain distinction because of the enormity of the tragedy that took place at our church, but every community is touched by tragedy. Every family and every person has hurts and sorrows. We want to be a lighthouse. The light of the gospel shines hope, even in the deepest darkness.”
 
Pomeroy said the new facilities will put the church in an even better position to serve others.
 
“We are grateful for the outpouring of prayers, for the love that we have felt,” Pomeroy said. “So many have done so much for us, and it has been a huge blessing. The purpose of these new buildings will be to serve God and serve others. That is why we exist.”
 
NAMB President Kevin Ezell raised the issue of a new building with Pomeroy in a conversation near the end of 2017. NAMB asked Myrick Gurosky and Associates (MG&A) in Birmingham, Ala., to lead in the development, design and construction of the buildings. MG&A has worked closely with Pomeroy and leaders of the church in developing designs. MG&A specializes in the management of design and construction and has worked on hundreds of church projects across the country.
 
“We are grateful to play a small part in the healing journey for our brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs,” Ezell said. “Southern Baptists were devastated by what took place [last November]. We immediately knew that, as their Southern Baptist family we wanted to lock arms with them, doing whatever we could to help restore hope. We know a lot of people want to help, and fortunately our experience in facilitating and mobilizing partners, volunteers, donations and prayer support in times of crisis has prepared us well to lead in a time such as this.”
 
Groups, organizations and individuals wanting to donate to the project can visit NAMB.net and click “Give.” The link will take them to a special area for giving to the Sutherland Springs building effort. Donations of services and materials can be given through the website restoresutherlandsprings.com.
 
“We have a lot of experience working with churches,” said MG&A President Scott Gurosky, “but this situation is unique. Already my team and I have been deeply moved by the faith, courage and perseverance that pastor Frank and his congregation have shown. We are excited to give them this opportunity to move forward in faith toward a new beginning.”
 
The planned worship center features an exterior of stone and glass. Two towers on the corners of the building will emanate glowing light. Inside, the worship center will provide seating for 250 people. A memorial to the 26 people who lost their lives in the attack will be located in space between the worship center and the education facility.

Image by Myrick Gurosky and Associates, provided by the North American Mission Board
With construction slated to begin in May, the 250-seat worship center at First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs, Texas, will feature an exterior of stone and glass.


The education building is designed to host classrooms for infant through adult attendees. Outside, a lighted, paved parking lot also will be included.
 
MG&A and their consultants have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in development and design work. Gurosky said cost of the two buildings will be approximately $3 million, but they anticipate that donations of materials and services will significantly reduce the final total.
 
“We have already been approached by several companies that want to help the people of this church and town,” Gurosky said. “We want to give as many people as possible that opportunity, and it’s our goal to find partners to help us complete the planned facilities so that actual cost of the work is minimal.”
 
Construction on the property is being split into two phases. Phase 1 will include a worship center and education building. Funding for this phase is backed by NAMB with construction expected to begin in early May and a completion date anticipated for early 2019. Plans for Phase 2 of the project include a multi-purpose community and activity center and will be funded from other sources.
 
To donate services or materials, visit restoresutherlandsprings.com. To donate funds, visit namb.net.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Ebert serves as director of public relations for the North American Mission Board.)

3/28/2018 11:00:11 AM by Mike Ebert, NAMB | with 0 comments



Köstenberger examines biblical & systematic theology

March 28 2018 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

New Testament scholar Andreas Köstenberger emphasized the importance of rightly studying biblical theology during Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (MBTS) annual Sizemore Lectures, March 13-14 at the Kansas City, Mo., campus.

SEBTS photo
Andreas Köstenberger


Köstenberger, who has served for more than 20 years as senior research professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, focused his two-lecture series on the topic, “The Promise and Practice of Biblical Theology.”
 
In the opening lecture, Köstenberger set forth a definition of biblical theology, saying, “Biblical theology is theology that is biblical – that is, biblical theology is not our own theology, or that of our church or denomination. It is the theology of the biblical writers themselves.”
 
Köstenberger said key questions must be asked once a definition of biblical theology is clearly understood: “How do you know what the theology of the biblical writers is?” “What is your method?” and “Is ascertaining the theology of the biblical writers even a realistic goal?”
 
In determining the answers, Köstenberger stated that each person brings presuppositions to the practice of studying biblical theology. Presuppositions aren’t necessarily a bad thing, he said, even if it results in an imperfect interpretation of a passage because then the whole of the scholarly community can come together in a mutual dialogue and critique to arrive at a more accurate understanding of that passage.
 
Köstenberger then transitioned to what biblical theology isn’t, namely systematic theology. He provided a definition of systematic theology from the previous year’s Sizemore lecturer, D.A. Carson: Christian theology is “organized on atemporal principles of logic, order and need.” It moves from subjects such as cosmology and bibliology to theology proper (God), Christology, soteriology and eschatology.
 
Systematic theology can be beneficial, Köstenberger said, but it also carries with it dangers. “We need to be careful to engage biblical theology first before moving on to systematic theology. In this way we can guard against the tendency to read our own questions and issues into the text.”
 
The final aspect of Köstenberger’s first lecture was to establish which method should be used when engaging in biblical theology – to study from a historical vantage point, done so inductively – paying specific attention to the actual words – and descriptively – accurately describing the convictions or beliefs of the biblical authors.
 
He added that four methods typically are used in engaging biblical theology: studying a given book or corpus of scripture; using a central themes approach; identifying the center of scripture; and using a metanarrative or story approach.
 
Explaining that the central themes and the metanarrative methods can be helpful, Köstenberger called the book or corpus study the “classic approach,” saying, “I certainly think this is how we should continue to conceive of biblical theology as far as its essence is concerned.”
 
In day two of his lecture series, Köstenberger provided practical application for studying biblical theology – offering four general guidelines for engaging biblical theology:

  1. Read through the book multiple times and take notes or mark up your Bible as you try to identify significant themes and emphases.
  2. In doing so, identify key passages where the biblical theology of a given book or corpus is most prominently enunciated, such as a preface, prologue, summary or conclusion.
  3. Identify prominent themes and distinctive theological emphases: In so doing, consider also important literary features such as strategic placement, repetition, structure and/or emphasis.
  4. Develop a hierarchy of themes: determine which of the prominent themes you identified in the previous step are major overarching themes and which are sub-themes.

 
Köstenberger then applied these steps to two case studies: the biblical theology of the letters to Timothy and Titus as well as a biblical theology of the Holy Spirit.
 
Ultimately, in differentiating between biblical theology and systematic theology, Köstenberger said, “If done well, biblical theology can give us an independent set of legs to stand on that allows us to get closer to the Bible and enables us to critique, and at times even correct, standard systematic theology treatments, especially when looking at a given Old Testament or New Testament book or corpus.
 
“Systematic theology endeavors to bring scripture closer to our day by trying to find answers to questions we have today. By contrast, biblical theology tries to bring us closer to scripture by helping us see what the biblical writers themselves believed so we can conform our beliefs to theirs.
 
“In this way, we submit to the authority of scripture and allow it to set the agenda for us rather than domesticating scripture and conforming it to our agenda, ideology or culture.”
 
Köstenberger concluded by saying, “If we come to the Bible prepared to submit to its authority, even where this is countercultural, we will be challenged to make changes to align our lives with God’s will for our lives. Rather than imposing our own views, and those of our culture, onto scripture, we will be changed by the ‘living and active Word of God.’”
 
MBTS’s Sizemore Lecture series was established in 1978 in memory of Dr. Burlan A. Sizemore Jr., professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at MBTS from 1968-1976. This annual lecture series brings noted biblical scholars to MBTS’s campus as a way of continuing Sizemore’s legacy of theological and biblical commitment.
 
To view the lecture series, visit player.vimeo.com/video/259943521?title=0 and player.vimeo.com/video/259943521?title=0.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

3/28/2018 10:58:54 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments



GuideStone, ministries gain win against HHS mandate

March 28 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press & Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources

GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and the ministries it serves have gained a vital, legal victory against the Barack Obama-era abortion/contraception mandate, marking a seven-year religious liberty battle.


A federal court in Oklahoma issued a permanent injunction March 15 that bars the U.S. government from enforcing a 2011 rule that helped implement a controversial health care law enacted the previous year. The regulation by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requires employers to provide their workers with coverage for contraceptives, including those that can potentially induce abortions, or face potentially devastating fines.
 
The Donald Trump administration released new HHS rules in October that exempt those employers that object to the mandate based on their religious beliefs or moral convictions. A federal court in Philadelphia, however, blocked enforcement of the new regulations with a preliminary injunction in December that applies to the entire country.
 
The nationwide injunction appeared to confirm the wisdom of efforts by GuideStone and other objectors to the abortion/contraception mandate to gain longstanding protection in federal court for freedom of conscience.
 
The Oklahoma court’s permanent injunction safeguards GuideStone and its fellow plaintiffs in the case – Truett McConnell University, a Georgia Baptist institution and Reaching Souls International, an Oklahoma mission-sending entity. The injunction notes that it also protects “all current and future participating employers in the GuideStone Plan, and any third-party administrators acting on behalf of these entities with respect to the GuideStone Plan.”
 
Southern Baptist leaders applauded the court’s relief for GuideStone and its partners.
 
“This permanent injunction provides clarity and certainty in the health care regulation arena for the ministries we serve, which have had little of both over the last decade,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said.
 
“For 100 years, we’ve committed to serving those who serve the Lord with the integrity of our hearts and skillfulness of our hands,” Hawkins said. “One way we are able to do that is through working with legislators and regulators on behalf of our participants. This case required a deep, long-term commitment from GuideStone, which took us all the way to the Supreme Court, but it bears much fruit today for those we serve.”
 
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called the injunction “an important victory for religious liberty.”
 
“The only sad thing about it is the notion that such basic freedoms would ever be called into question in the United States,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “After such a long and difficult struggle, I’m grateful that GuideStone and the other organizations are protected by the injunction so that they can continue to serve pastors with excellence and faithfulness.”
 
Harold R. Loftin Jr., GuideStone’s chief legal officer, said the permanent injunction “ensures that no ministry GuideStone serves is forced to choose between following its conscience or facing fines that may put its very existence at risk. This is the very heart of why we have the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), to insist that the government accomplish its goals without unduly forcing people of faith to violate their deeply held beliefs.”
 
RFRA, a 1993 federal law, requires the government to have a compelling interest and use the narrowest possible means to burden a person’s religious free exercise.
 
The 2011 abortion/contraception mandate resulted in legal challenges from more than 90 religious nonprofits, including GuideStone and several Baptist universities. Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic order that serves the elderly poor, became the face of the objecting institutions.
 
In May 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court nullified multiple federal appeals court decisions against the religious nonprofits and blocked the Obama administration from imposing fines on them. The justices told the appeals courts involved to give the parties an opportunity to reach a solution “that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.” No agreement was reached before Obama left office in January 2017.
 
GuideStone gained a favorable ruling in its suit Oct. 23, when the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver dismissed an HHS appeal filed during the Obama administration. The HHS under President Trump had filed a voluntary motion to dismiss the appeal after it issued new rules Oct. 6. The 10th Circuit’s action returned the case to an Oklahoma federal court.
 
Among other cases involving Southern Baptist challenges to the HHS mandate:

  • East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) in Marshall and Houston Baptist University (HBU) continue in negotiations with the Department of Justice to reach a final resolution, according to Becket, a legal nonprofit representing the schools. A permanent federal court injunction has protected them from the mandate since December 2013, Becket reported.
  • Two other Baptist schools – Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee and Louisiana College in Pineville – have lawsuits that apparently are still active, though the latter gained a summary judgment in federal court in 2014. Information on the status of the cases was not available from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) before the deadline for this article. ADF represents both schools.
  • Union University in Jackson, Tenn., reached a settlement in its lawsuit against the HHS, the university announced in November. The federal government agreed the mandate had substantially burdened Union’s religious free exercise and permanently exempted it from the requirement.

 
In cases involving other Baptist institutions, a federal judge dismissed a suit by Criswell College in Dallas in 2013 on the grounds HHS was addressing the school’s concerns. Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., dropped its challenge after a 2013 loss at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. The school gained an exemption from the mandate through protection under a grandfather clause, according to Liberty Counsel, which represented the school.
 
While GuideStone was exempt from the mandate, it serves ministries that were forced to obey the requirement, including Truett-McConnell and Reaching Souls International. GuideStone had gained a temporary injunction against the mandate from an Oklahoma federal judge in 2013, but a panel of the Tenth Circuit Court struck down the injunction in 2015.
 
Hawkins expressed gratitude to Becket and GuideStone’s legal team for its work on the suit.
 
When HHS issued new rules in early October, the federal department said the regulations would have no effect on government programs that offer free or subsidized contraceptive coverage to low-income women and would have no effect on more than 99.9 percent of American women.
 
When it issued the abortion/contraception mandate in August 2011, HHS provided an exemption for churches and their auxiliaries but did not extend it to non-church-related, nonprofit organizations that object. HHS proposed nearly 10 accommodations for the objecting institutions, but none proved satisfactory to the organizations’ conscience concerns.
 
The federally approved contraceptives for which coverage is required by the mandate 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 act even after implantation to end the life of the child.
 
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s conscience-based challenge to the abortion/contraception mandate. In its 5-4 opinion in that case, the justices upheld objections to the requirement by “closely held,” for-profit companies, such as family owned businesses.
 
Messengers to the 2012 SBC meeting adopted a resolution calling for an exemption from the mandate for “all religious organizations and people of faith ... who declare a religious objection to such coverage.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press; Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
 

3/28/2018 10:58:35 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press & Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments



Church security draws 1,000-plus for training in Kentucky

March 28 2018 by Kentucky Today & Western Recorder staff

Concern for church safety drew more than 1,000 leaders for training offered at the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s (KBC) Church Security Conference on March 24.

Photo courtsey of Steve Rice, KBC
Active shooter situations, assessing vulnerabilities within the church, legal issues related to church security and safety in children’s ministry were among the topics discussed during the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Church Security Conference.


“While I grieve that a conference like this one is needed,” KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood said, “I’m thankful we could offer it.
 
“Headlines reveal that school children and churchgoers are the regular victims of deranged mass murders looking for high-profile targets that will get the world’s attention. Stopping a shooter from taking innocent life is nearly impossible, but stopping a shooter from taking everyone’s life, especially in the Lord’s house, isn’t that difficult.”
 
Chitwood described the response to the event “overwhelming. I’m encouraged that so many church leaders recognize the need to be prepared.”
 
A broad range of advice was relayed during the conference, including:

– Watch for warning signs to potentially prevent shootings, which are often preceded by visible signs of mental or emotional disturbance.

– Identify potential security weaknesses in facilities and make improvements.

– Create a response plan and conduct drills to maintain a state of readiness.
 
Breakout sessions dealt with active shooter situations, assessing vulnerabilities within the church, legal issues related to church security, safety in children’s ministry, communication and first steps.
 
“Every church must think about church security in today’s world,” said Steve Rice, the Kentucky convention’s team leader who organized the training event at Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort. “Every church should have a comprehensive church security plan and a church security team in place,” both of which would go largely unnoticed by members of a congregation.
 
“Having a church that is warm and accessible doesn’t have to mean being vulnerable to people who want to do harm,” Rice said. “There is strength in being prepared. Churches have long preached about spiritual attacks, but now, more than ever, churches need to be prepared for an outside, physical attack.”
 
Security experts with backgrounds in law enforcement and the military trained provided the training including the E:33 Group from Bowling Green, Ky.; Oasis Safety from Louisville; and Triple Counter Measure from Shelbyville.
 
During a plenary session, Brian Coyt of E:33 shared the story of the recent stabbing at Hillvue Heights Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., and how members of the security team there responded to the situation. Although, “we had a good safety team,” after this incident the church further fortified their security protocol, he recounted.
 
Because emergency situations require, “split-second decisions that are life altering, you have to select people who can react under stress,” Coyt stated.
 
Understanding that the three responses in high-stress situations are “fight, flight or freeze,” “the time to learn how to do something is not when you’re in the middle of it,” he said, stressing the need for preparation.
 
Other keys to preventing violent situations and being prepared to respond to them include communication and psychological deterrents such as a police car presence and a uniformed officer on the campus.
 
Ron Aguiar with Oasis Safety relayed several case studies of church shootings and what can be learned from them. He emphasized the importance of training not only church staff or a security team but also training ushers, greeters and parking lot volunteers.
 
Pastors in attendance voiced appreciation for the sessions.
 
Frank Benton, pastor of Temple Hill Baptist Church in Glasgow, said a retired state patrolman in his congregation led his church to set up a security plan last October. However, information on children’s ministry security from the conference will assist Temple Hill in making their children’s area more secure, Benton said.
 
“Being at the conference encouraged me and affirmed that what we have in place is in line with what was recommended in the sessions,” Benton said.
 
“The potential of active shooter on our church property is a sobering thought,” he said. “The scripture shared in the conference from Matthew 10:16 to be ‘wise as serpents and harmless as doves’ reminded me of the importance of doing everything we can to make our church as safe as possible.”
 
Larry Rowell, pastor of Beech Grove Baptist Church in Campbellsville, voiced appreciation for the sessions with “experienced leaders addressing the potential of life-threatening situations in the church.”
 
“This is the world we’re living in,” Rowell said, “and I’m thankful the Kentucky Baptist Convention saw church safety as a priority issue and addressed it.”
 
Hershael York, pastor of host church, Buck Run Baptist, said, “Everyone who attended learned helpful strategies to protect their congregations, but without creating a climate of fear. Churches can be safe without being scared. Safety is more about awareness than weapons.”
 
York continued, “Prevention is always better than reaction. Churches who intentionally think through awareness, prevention, protection and education are in a much better position to keep their congregations safe from tragedy and terror. Training like this gives churches concrete steps to take to get the process started and create a safe space for worship.”
 
Buck Run was honored to host the conference, York said, due to its central location as well as the capacity of its new facility. “When we were building, we realized how much security and safety has to be included in design and detail,” he said. “We think about it a lot and have invested heavily in it, so this event was a natural fit for us.”
 
Recordings from the conference as well as other resources will be made available at kybaptist.org/security.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kentucky Today, kentuckytoday.com, is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)
 

3/28/2018 10:58:16 AM by Kentucky Today & Western Recorder staff | with 0 comments



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