March 2018

Disaster Relief ‘ready to respond’ after deadly nor’easter

March 6 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Three days after a strong nor’easter killed nine people and battered a coastal swath from Virginia to Maine, Southern Baptist disaster relief (DR) volunteers remain “ready to respond,” leaders told Baptist Press (BP) Mar. 5.
Government emergency management agencies and other first responders in the states have been able to respond to the storm that caused isolated wind damage, coastal flooding and massive power outages to as many as two million people. Hurricane-force wind gusts were reported at the storm’s height.

ABC News screen capture
A strong nor’easter knocked down power lines and blocked electrical power to as many as 2 million people as it ripped up the east coast from Virginia to Maine Friday and Saturday.

“Currently, we do not have any requests for assistance for feeding or any disaster relief at this time,” Michael Flannery, disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of New York (BCNY) that also serves New Jersey, told BP. “We’re monitoring the situation with the Red Cross. We did let them know that the Baptist Convention of New York is ready to respond to any requests that they would have need of.”
Neither have surrounding areas requested any assistance, Flannery said, after consultations with area emergency management agencies Mar. 3. “I’m not activating anyone at this time,” Flannery told BP.
Reports from other DR leaders mirrored Flannery’s.
Tim Buehner, disaster relief director for the multi-state Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE), said the warmer temperatures likely helped alleviate the need for a response.
“I’m praising the Lord,” Buehner told BP today. “Things are actually pretty calm. We haven’t had to respond thankfully.” Electrical power is being restored in the area, he said, and no homeowners have requested aide.
The BCNE serves communities in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as a small portion of New York.
Sam Taylor, director of missions for the Greater Boston Baptist Association, said power outages and coastal flooding in his area have necessitated no disaster relief response.
“Farther inland, some of our churches and many residences have been without power, but there has been minimal structural damage,” Taylor told BP in an email. “One of our churches had to cancel a rather large pastors conference because power is still out,” he said, but no other details were available.
In the storm that struck Mar. 2-3, a ninth death was reported Saturday when a man in Andover, N.J. was killed by downed power lines, the Washington Post reported. Other deaths were reported in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York and Rhode Island.
Amtrak service was interrupted between Washington and New York Friday but was restored Saturday, the Washington Post reported. Several governors declared states of emergency.
A second nor’easter is forecast for March 6-7, according to weather reports, as a winter storm in the Midwest moves east.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

3/6/2018 8:41:30 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Remembering the herald of American evangelicalism

March 5 2018 by BR staff

World renowned evangelist Billy Graham died Feb. 21 at 7:46 a.m. while sleeping peacefully in his home in Montreat, N.C. He was 99 years old. Graham’s doctor said, “He just wore out,” according to the Graham family’s spokesperson.
The decorated Southern Baptist and North Carolinian revivalist, who earned the nickname “America’s Pastor,” was buried March 2 beside his wife, Ruth, on the northeast side of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C.

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association photo
Billy Graham at home in Montreat, N.C., with his dogs surveying the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Graham was best known for spreading the word of Jesus Christ to untold crowds around the world through itinerant preaching and evangelistic crusades.
“My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ,” said Graham.
One in six adults in the U.S. have heard Graham preach in person, according to a 2005 Gallup poll.

Graham reportedly preached the gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history – nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. Hundreds of millions more were reached through radio, television, video, film and webcasts.
His ministry spanned seven decades. He launched several influential Christian organizations and initiatives, including the Billy Graham Crusades, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), the “Hour of Decision” radio program, Billy Graham Library and Christianity Today magazine. Graham also authored more than 30 books.
Two-thirds of Protestant churchgoers have come into contact with Graham’s ministry, according to a recent survey by Lifeway Research.

‘The Preacher’

Born Nov. 7, 1918, he spent his early life on a dairy farm in Charlotte. He became a Christian at age 15 under the preaching of Mordecai Ham, a traveling evangelist who visited North Carolina for a series of revival meetings. Graham signed a “decision card” handed out at the event that read, “I receive Him as my personal Savior,” on Nov. 1, 1934.
“I didn’t have any tears, I didn’t have any emotion, I didn’t hear any thunder, there was no lightning,” he told TIME magazine. “But right there, I made my decision for Christ. It was as simple as that and as conclusive.”

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association photo from Pittsburg, 1968
“Many times I have been driven to prayer,” Billy Graham once said. “When I was in Bible school I didn’t know what to do with my life. I used to walk the streets…and pray, sometimes for hours at a time. In His timing, God answered those prayers, and since then prayer has been an essential part of my life.”

He preached his first sermon in 1937 at Peniel Baptist Church in Palatka, Fla., and was ordained by that congregation two years later. Graham went on to graduate from Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College of Florida) in 1940 and receive a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., where he met Ruth and developed an acquaintance with a classmate who also became a notable evangelical, Carl F.H. Henry.
Ruth, the daughter of a missionary surgeon, spent her first 17 years in China. She and Graham were married shortly after their graduation on Aug. 13, 1943.
For two years Graham pastored in Illinois at The Village Church of Western Springs (now Western Springs Baptist Church), while also taking a post in 1944 as the first full-time evangelist with Youth for Christ. The organization was dedicated to youth and servicemen outreach during World War II.
The Grahams’ first child, Virginia, nicknamed “Gigi,” was born in 1945, the same year they moved to Montreat, N.C.
In 1947, Graham held his first evangelistic crusade in Grand Rapids, Mich., and quickly rose in popularity as a traveling preacher.
He burst onto the national stage in 1949 after a three-week tent revival in Los Angeles had to be extended due to overflowing crowds. Eager attendees filled the “Canvas Cathedral” each night for more than eight weeks.
Two more daughters were born into the Graham family around that time: Anne in 1948 and Ruth in 1950.

Graham’s itinerant ministry came under the umbrella of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association upon its founding in 1950. Originally headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., it was moved to Charlotte in 2005.
He also served as president of Northwestern Bible College (now University of Northwestern) from 1947-1952.
The BGEA’s “Hour of Decision” radio program was first broadcast across 150 stations in 1950 from a crusade in Atlanta. The show aired for 60 years, reaching a peak of nearly 1,000 radio stations across the globe in five languages.
“God called me to preach, and I will never do anything else as long as I live,” he once told CBS in an interview. “I believe I have a calling from God and a command from Christ to go to the whole world.”
As the African-American Civil Rights Movement began to wash over mid-century America, Graham used his ministry to support the effort. In 1953, he held his first racially integrated crusade in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Graham’s travel expanded internationally in 1954 with a crusade in London, England. He preached in a communist country, Yugoslavia, for the first time in 1967.
“All over the world I have been privileged to see people respond in faith to the simple yet profound message of God’s love in Jesus Christ. They have come from every conceivable social, racial, political and ideological background, for Christ transcends the boundaries that divide us,” he later wrote.
Evangelical magazine Christianity Today began publication in 1956 under Graham’s leadership, with Carl Henry as the first editor. Their stated purpose was to rally evangelical Christians against the heave of both fundamentalism and liberalism, according an editorial in the first issue. The publication continues into 2018 as evangelicalism’s flagship periodical.
Graham’s evangelistic call swelled to new heights in 1957 when he began broadcasting crusades on television. His longest running crusade – 16 weeks – occurred that year at one of the world’s premier venues, Madison Square Garden in New York City.
As Graham’s influence continued to grow, so did his family. The Grahams had two more children, sons William “Franklin” in 1952 and Nelson “Ned” in 1958, giving them five in all.
The BGEA started printing Decision Magazine in 1960 to solidify Graham’s evangelistic impact and inform readers about the organization’s outreach efforts.

‘America’s Pastor’

The following four decades of Graham’s ministry revealed the breadth of his fame.
He became a household name, appearing on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and earning a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. His friendship with country music’s “Man in Black,” Johnny Cash, added to the popularity of them both.
Graham walked the halls of power. He received the Presidential Medal of Honor from Ronald Reagan in 1983 and met Pope John Paul II in 1993. He collected numerous awards, acclamations and honorary doctorates from Christian and secular institutions.
One of Graham’s 31 published books, his Just As I Am autobiography, appeared on three top best-seller lists simultaneously.
He was selected for Gallup’s “Ten Most Admired Men in the World” list more than 60 times.
The Billy Graham Library was opened in 2007, two years after the BGEA headquarters were relocated to Charlotte.
The 40,000-square-foot multimedia complex was dedicated with remarks from three former U.S. presidents: George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
His wife, Ruth, died that same year. She was 87. They were married for nearly 64 years.
“Ruth was my life partner, and we were called by God as a team,” he said. “No one else could have borne the load that she carried. She was a vital and integral part of our ministry, and my work through the years would have been impossible without her encouragement and support.”
He preached at more than 400 crusades, simulcasts and evangelistic rallies in more than 185 countries.
From their three girls and two boys, they had 19 grandchildren and numerous great grandchildren.
Graham preached his final sermon in a video titled, “My Hope America,” shown at his 95th birthday celebration.
“Our country is in great need of a spiritual awakening,” he proclaimed.
A 2010 survey by LifeWay Research revealed that Graham was by far the most influential living preacher among Protestant pastors. “My legacy, I think, will just be as the Apostle Paul said, in the hearts of the people,” he once told the Charlotte Observer.
“I don’t think it will be some building or some organization or some place where my name is prominent. I think it’s going to be the hearts of people whose lives have been touched or changed as a result of the gospel that we were able to proclaim.”
Multiple commentators have called Graham’s death the end of an era.
“God raised up Billy Graham for a specific time and purpose in history,” said Milton Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
He was probably the last evangelical figure to marshal support from a broad swath of the American population, according to Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “He dominated 20th century American evangelicalism,” said Mohler, “and remained a major figure on the world stage throughout most of the 20th century in a way that we can envision no evangelical leader in our times.”
Billy Graham’s absence will be felt by many.

3/5/2018 3:31:11 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Carter: Disciple-making is a command, not a request

March 5 2018 by BR staff & BSC Communications

An oversized crowd of more than 550 attendees packed into the auditorium of Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemmons, N.C., for the two main teaching sessions of the 2018 Disciple-Making Conference on Feb. 27.
“One of the fundamental and primary callings on your life,” said Matt Carter, pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, “is to be a disciple-maker and to teach others around you to be disciple-makers.”

BSC photo by K Brown
Matt Carter stresses the importance of being “a disciple-maker and to teach others around you to be disciple-makers.”

Before outlining three observations in the morning session, he presented a problem. More than 2,000 megachurches have been started in the United States over the last 20 years, but evangelicals do not seem to be reaching the world for Christ like they had hoped.
The current mission strategy in America is to build a nice facility, gather large crowds to hear a compelling preacher and develop trendy programs for kids, said Carter. But it’s not working.
Instead, he argued for a simple disciple-making method based on observations from Matthew 28:18-20, commonly called the Great Commission.
First, he said discipleship and evangelism are essential for all Christians.
“The call to reach the world through disciple-making is not a request, it is a command, and it is a command for every believer,” said Carter.
“We have relegated disciple-making to a small group of ‘super-Christians’ called pastors. ... That was never the plan of Jesus Christ to reach the world.”
Second, he emphasized that churches must understand the goal of their strategies.
Jesus did not say Christians should make “church attenders,” “good moral people” or “destiny chasers,” Carter said.
“Jesus clearly defined what it is we are to be making: disciples … people that look and act and think and speak like Jesus.”
Last, Carter encouraged pastors with Jesus’ promise to be with them, even when ministry feels difficult and thankless.
“All the hours, all the work and all the labor in obscurity might not have been noticed by anyone in your church,” Carter said, “but He sees it, He knows, He’s with you and He’s been applauding you all the way.”
In the afternoon session, he described some of the practical ways Austin Stone has implemented these principles, such as in-depth study programs, outreach-focused small groups and initiatives to mobilize church members into international mission fields.
Carter emphasized the need for pastors to prioritize the discipleship of their children and personal disciple-making habits. He also charged them to preach from the Bible, not motivational fads.
“‘Five steps to better time management’ is not going to make better disciples” he said. “The only guarantee your preaching will possess the power of God is when you’re preaching the Holy Spirit empowered word of God.”
The conference also featured a long lineup of equipping sessions.
Courtlandt Perkins, member of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh and staffer for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Kingdom Diversity Initiatives, led a group discussion on biblical interpretation and racial prejudice.
He explained how ethnic and cultural biases have led many people to misunderstand a passage from Genesis 9, often mislabeled “The Curse of Ham.” A false interpretation of the passage has been used historically to justify the oppression and enslavement of Blacks. Perkins also touched on topics related to other passages throughout the Bible.
Jay McGuirk, discipleship pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, spoke about how churches can develop unique methods for making disciples.
Churches looking to create a customized disciple-making pathway should explore three main areas – their ministry context, their current situation and the culture outside their church, said McGuirk. He challenged pastors and church leaders to have the courage to ask what should disciple-making look like in relationship to those three areas.
“The mission of the church given to us by Jesus in the Great Commission was never how do we preserve the institution,” McGuirk said. “Our mission … is to make disciples. That’s the question we should be asking.”
Jonathan Blaylock, pastor of West Canton Baptist Church, said a key principle for disciple-making is a rural context is consistency. That is, “Doing the same things at the same times,” he said.
Blaylock said he meets with different individuals and groups in different places throughout the week. It’s a coffee shop on Mondays and two different restaurants on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. The consistency has also helped Blaylock meet, build relationships and minister to customers and workers in those those establishments.
Ultimately making disciples in a rural context is the same as making disciples anywhere else, Blaylock said. “It’s teaching people to follow Jesus.”
Brian Upshaw, team leader for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Disciple-Making Team, joined more than 100 staff and volunteers to organize the event.
“We were thrilled with the whole day,” he said. “All of the equipping sessions were standing room only. The feedback on session leaders was incredibly positive. People were engaged and there was an energy throughout the day that I attribute to the Spirit’s presence in the place.
“Matt Carter was right on target with his message about disciple-making, providing specific examples of the ways they live out the Great Commission at Austin Stone. Center Grove was a fabulous host. We are grateful to N.C. Baptists for joining us as partners in the mission of God.”

3/5/2018 3:26:08 PM by BR staff & BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Chris Autry carries the gospel to Barre, Vermont

March 5 2018 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Part of a series
Spaulding High School’s quarterback takes the snap, sees he cannot make the pass, cuts to the right and – “Keep going! Run it out! Run it out!” coach Chris Autry shouts from the sidelines.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Sanford, N.C., native Chris Autry now serves as pastor of Faith Community Church in Barre (say BARRY), Vt. Part of his community outreach is to serve as an assistant football coach for the local Spaulding High School in Barre. Here, at an away game at Lyndon, about an hour’s drive from Barre, Spaulding played Lyndon Institute on Oct 14.

The rest of the week, Autry, a North Carolina native, is pastor of Faith Community Church in Barre, Vt., but this Saturday afternoon, he is one of the assistant coaches for Spaulding, a high school in Barre, as the team plays in Lyndon, a town about an hour’s drive north and east of Barre.
He screams, pleads, plots and sketches plays onto a notepad in quick huddles with players, striding back and forth along the visitor’s sidelines as he follows the moving scrimmage line.
After the game, Autry heads down the winding two-lane road that leads back to Barre. He stops at a farm store so out-of-state visitors can buy samples of Vermont-made maple syrup and the special desserts called “creemees,” soft-serve ice cream heavy with maple syrup.
Later he slows as he passes through the rural community of Plainfield and points to an empty Baptist church building.
The sign out front says “Macedonia Baptist Church,” but it might say more properly, “Rest in Peace,” for this is only an empty church building – the people who were the church have gone.
“We want to do all we can to replant a healthy, vibrant, growing church that for years to come will carry the gospel,” Autry said, gesturing glumly to the building.
Fortunately, that will be possible, because ownership of the building went to Green Mountain Baptist Association after the last members left and turned out the lights for the last time early in 2017.
Autry’s own church, Faith Community, has already been working in this area. As missions teams have come from North Carolina and elsewhere, he made sure they spent time in Plainfield, visiting people and just making contacts.
“When a church planting team gets here, they can hit the ground running because they will already have some people to build on,” Autry said.   
Faith Community had also lost some members by the time Autry arrived but growth has been slow and steady upward since then.
Church member John Pellegrini, a native of Vermont, likes how Autry has worked with the church.
“Chris was realistic. He knows how to relate to Vermonters,” he said. “He’s patient, and he understands that it’s important to develop a relationship with people before he talks to them about Jesus. He’s doing very well.”
On a stop by the Faith building in Barre, Autry points out the bookshelves in his office. “North Carolina Baptists built those,” he said, and he reviews the other construction work they did, such as the house he, his wife, Becca, and son live in, plus the mission house that’s available for volunteers to stay in while they work in the area.
It’s unlikely Autry will cut ties with North Carolina Baptists: His mother works in the convention’s technical support division at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina building in Cary, N.C.
While Baptists know about the ministry teams from North Carolina, Autry said many unchurched Vermonters know that N.C. Baptists on Mission (NCBM), also known as Baptist Men, sent hundreds of volunteers for disaster relief after Sandy hit New Jersey and New York.
“That reputation helps planters and pastors like myself from North Carolina who have moved here to share the gospel in the neighborhood,” Autry said.
“That reputation helps immediately create a bridge for us.”
Originally from Sanford, N.C., Autry and Becca served three years with the North American Mission Board planting a new church in Pittsburgh, Pa., before heading back to North Carolina for a time and then moving to Vermont.
“We feel called to a place where the gospel is not common,” Autry said.
Autry understands that it’s not enough just to be a pastor in Vermont. This is a place that pleads for all hands to be on deck and busy, and he understands that church planting is part of his job description.

While he readily acknowledges that living in Vermont is tough and the winters are brutal, Autry says he is excited to be a part of what God is doing in New England.
“For us, living in New England is pure joy,” Autry said.
“The labor is so worth it. Whether we are here two years or 20 years, we will look back and see how every one of those days God has done something totally miraculous.
“We don’t take this time for granted. We want to make the most of every day we are here.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Vermont is a unique mission field, but North Carolina Baptists are helping increase the gospel influence in this New England state. Visit for more stories and look for stories in our Biblical Recorder print edition.)
Related articles:
Battling darkness in southeastern Vermont
N.C. Baptists make a difference in Vermont
A ‘strong and healthy church’ in Pownal, Vt.
Men with N.C. roots bond in Vermont

3/5/2018 3:21:55 PM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Huckabee resigns from CMA Foundation following criticism

March 5 2018 by Carol Pipes, Facts & Trends

Former Arkansas Gov. and Southern Baptist pastor Mike Huckabee resigned March 1 from the Country Music Association (CMA) Foundation board following criticism of his stance against same-sex marriage from multiple members of the country music industry, reported The Tennessean.

File photo from Icon Media Group
Mike Huckabee, left, interviewed by Diana Chandler of Baptist Press in 2017, resigned from the Country Music Association Foundation March 1 after criticism of his stance against same-sex marriage from multiple members of the country music industry.

Huckabee’s resignation came less than a day after his appointment to the board of the charitable arm of the CMA. The CMA Foundation is devoted to growing and supporting music education programs across the country.
“My sincere thanks to the CMA Foundation for believing I had something to contribute,” wrote Huckabee in his letter of resignation.
“I regret that my presence caused controversy and threats to vital support for deserving kids. Kids wanting to learn music shouldn’t be victims of adults who demand that only certain people can be in the room or be heard.
“I wish you nothing but good will and success at reaching students across America who need music as much as I did. At the end of the day, I’m not worth the fight, but the kids are. Never stop fighting for THEM!”
Following Huckabee’s appointment to the board, the association and foundation began fielding complaints from industry leaders and fans, many saying they would pull their support.
Complaints reportedly included Huckabee’s beliefs about biblical marriage and his involvement with the National Rifle Association.
CMA board member Joe Galante told The Tennessean in a statement that Huckabee was elected to the position because they felt the CMA Foundation could benefit from Huckabee’s political knowledge and experience.
“Gov. Huckabee led an impressive administration while serving the state of Arkansas and his policy experience with education reform is something we are fortunate to be able to learn from,” Galante told The Tennessean.
According to The Tennessean, Huckabee wrote, “I genuinely regret that some in the industry were so outraged by my appointment that they bullied the CMA and the Foundation with economic threats and vowed to withhold support for the programs for students if I remained.”
In his resignation letter, Huckabee wrote that music changed his life and helped him build confidence when he was a kid.
He noted that during his time as governor, he personally shepherded legislation mandating music and the arts programs in grades 1-12.
He said he hopes “the music and entertainment industry will become more tolerant and inclusive and recognize that a true love for kids having access to the arts is more important than a dislike for someone or a group of people because of who they are or what they believe.”
Huckabee, a longtime country music fan, records his talk show “Huckabee” at TBN’s studios in the Nashville area. See related story.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carol Pipes is director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources and writes for LifeWay’s Facts & Trends,

3/5/2018 8:46:14 AM by Carol Pipes, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments

National CP 6.59% ahead of projection

March 5 2018 by Baptist Press staff

Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee are 6.59 percent above the year-to-date budgeted projection, and are 3.27 percent above contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page. The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2017-18 SBC Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget.

As of February 28, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget through the first five months of the convention’s fiscal year totaled $85,272,312.02. This total is $5,272,312.02 above the $80,000,000.00 year-to-date budgeted amount to support SBC ministries globally and across North America and is $2,696,390.21 above the $82,575,921.81 received through the end of February 2017.
Designated giving of $88,962,385.00 for the same year-to-date period is 1.15 percent, or $1,015,041.91, above gifts of $87,947,343.09 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities.
February’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $18,704,576.16. Designated gifts received last month, meanwhile, amounted to $52,269,239.83.
The CP Allocation Budget goal of $192 million dollars adopted by the SBC at its June 2017 annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., is distributed 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board (IMB), 22.79 percent to North American missions through North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education through the convention’s six seminaries, 2.99 percent to the Executive Committee and SBC operating budget, and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. If the convention exceeds its budget goal, IMB’s share will go to 53.4 percent of any overage in CP Allocation Budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts and the Executive Committee and SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 0.0 percent of any overage. GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay Christian Resources are self-sustaining and do not receive CP funding.
The Cooperative Program is a unified plan of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the ministries of its state or regional Baptist convention and to the missions and ministries of the SBC with a single contribution. State and regional Baptist conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to SBC national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget. The totals in this press release reflect only the SBC portion of Cooperative Program receipts.
CP allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state offices, to the denominational papers and are posted online at
The end-of-month total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of each month. Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions and the timing of when state conventions forward the national portion of their CP contributions to the Executive Committee.

3/5/2018 8:40:09 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

IMB trustees name presidential search committee

March 2 2018 by Julie McGowan, IMB

The International Mission Board (IMB) began the search for a successor to David Platt to lead the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entity during their Feb. 28-March 1 meeting in the Richmond, Va., area.
Platt, the mission board’s president, reiterated his desire that the 173-year-old Southern Baptist entity stay on course for taking the gospel to the world’s darkest, hardest-to-reach places. To that end, IMB trustees approved the appointment of 20 new full-time, fully funded missionaries.

IMB Photo
Rick Dunbar, right, IMB trustee chairman, announces the 16 members of the IMB’s presidential search committee during the trustees’ March 1 plenary session. The committee’s first meeting was planned to follow the session.

Trustee chairman Rick Dunbar named a 16-person committee to find Platt’s replacement.
The trustees’ presidential search committee will be led by Chuck Pourciau, senior pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., as committee chair and Andy Davis, senior pastor/elder of First Baptist Church in Durham, N.C., as committee vice-chair.
Other members include Dunbar, a physician and member of First Baptist Church Madison, Miss.; David Sills, professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, president of Reaching & Teaching International Ministries and member of Ninth & O Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.; Lisa Lovell, physical therapist and member of First Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ark.; Ken McLemore, missions pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Va.; Nancy Patrick, licensed school psychologist and professor of special education and member of Living Legacy Church in Hershey, Pa.; Will Payne, Fellowship of Christian Athletes campus director at Syracuse University and member of Central Baptist Church in Syracuse; and Seth Polk, lead pastor of Cross Lanes Baptist Church in Cross Lanes, W.Va.
Completing the committee’s 16 members are Bill Ricketts, retired pastor and member of Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Ga.; Tim Simpson, pastor of Greenridge Baptist Church in Clarksburg, Md.; Cindy Snead, clinical laboratory scientist and member of North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix; Derek Spain, executive pastor of Hebron Church in Dacula, Ga.; Susan Bryant, Kentucky Woman’s Missionary Union president and member of Graefenburg Baptist Church in Waddy; and Robert Welch, senior pastor of Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro, Texas. Duane Ostrem, an IMB field leader, will serve as a non-voting member to provide perspective from the mission field.
The search committee is receiving names for consideration at
In prayer, Pourciau thanked God for His grace – how that grace has worked through Platt to reach more people in the nations and to position the IMB to further expand the gospel’s reach.
“Thank You for the time that has been given to us with him and the time that remains,” Pourciau prayed. “We ask that not only the time between now and when a successor is named not be a pause, but that it be an acceleration. May your grace pour through him so that the time remaining here will be the best time he has, and that it will not only prepare us for the next leader, but that it will prepare him even better for where he’s headed.”
Platt called for IMB trustee officers to begin the search for his successor on Monday, Feb. 12. He informed IMB field leaders, missionaries and staff of his decision that morning via WebEx call, email and in person during staff meetings in the Monument Avenue office in Richmond and at the mission board’s training facility in nearby Rockville.

What matters most

In commenting on the upcoming transition, Platt said, “Together, we’ve discussed continual improvements that we are making in the foundations, systems and structures of the IMB. But the IMB is not ultimately about systems and structures.
“The IMB is ultimately about the gospel of Jesus Christ and a coalition of over 47,000 churches working together to support thousands of missionaries right now who are working for the spread of that gospel around the world. The IMB is about a new group of missionaries last night who will leave soon for the spread of this gospel, and I pray thousands more Southern Baptists who will join them in the days ahead.
“Spreading the gospel among people who have never heard it is what the IMB – and I would argue, the SBC – is all about,” Platt said. “It is incumbent upon us never to lose this perspective because this is what matters most. This is what has mattered most in the IMB in the past, this is what matters most in the present, and this is what will matter most for all of eternity.”

In memoriam

In his report to trustees, Platt recognized, with names and photos, the lives of 75 emeritus missionaries and 10 retired staff who died during the past year. The field personnel’s lives totaled 2,176 years of service through the IMB, with an average age of 88 and an average of 27 years of service.
“Every year, during our first trustee meeting of the calendar year, we always look back and remember brothers and sisters who have gone before us and who have now gone to be with the Lord,” Platt said of the missionaries “sent out from Southern Baptist churches who have worked for the spread of the gospel around the world. Their lives – and their deaths – remind us what matters most.”
Platt gave the example of Betty Butcher, the visionary founder of Thai Country Trim, a ministry for battered women to hear the gospel of God’s grace while receiving emotional and financial support. Today, hundreds of women work in Thai Country Trim centers around Thailand because of God’s grace in Betty Butcher.
“That’s just a small glimpse into the effect of one life, and we’re about to remember 75 such lives,” Platt said. “So as I read off each of these names and you see their pictures, just let your heart rise in praise to God for how His grace in these brothers and sisters has resounded to His glory around the world in ways that only heaven can measure.”
Platt also noted the death of Billy Graham, who served as an IMB (then Foreign Mission Board) trustee from 1957-1963, noting Graham’s unmistakable impact on the spread of the gospel in the world.
“Billy Graham’s legacy lives on in the IMB, and in the lives of multitudes of men and women throughout the IMB who are doing today what Billy Graham did all of this life: sharing the simple gospel of Jesus Christ and inviting people to believe in Him for eternal life,” Platt said. “That is what matters most. That is what the IMB is all about all around the world. That is what the IMB has been about for 173 years, that is what the IMB is about today, and that is what the IMB must be about in the days to come. May God make it so.”

Other business

“This is God’s work that we’re about to do, this is God at work all around the world,” Dunbar said as the trustees moved from the memoriam into a time of business. “We just see these people, and may the Lord count us faithful.”
During the plenary session, Kristy Carr, senior manager for National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU), presented a check for $19,752.50 from the WMU Foundation for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions, the MK Educational Endowment and the MK Spiritual Endowment funds. WMU partners with IMB in a multitude of ways, including fostering missions education, promoting the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, helping missionary kids as they transition to the U.S. for college, and providing water filters for all overseas personnel.
The trustee administration committee, chaired by Michael Cloer of North Carolina, recommended:

  • adopting a new trustee travel policy to request IMB trustees make an annual trip to the mission field;
  • affirming a schedule of three board of trustee meetings per year plus one international mission trip for each board member. In researching locations of trustee meetings, the committee reported that when board meetings are conducted in Richmond, the cost for trustees, missionaries and staff is about $61,500. If the meetings are moved to a “hub” city such as Atlanta for convenience, the costs expand to $173,000 per meeting. Therefore, the committee recommended continuing to conduct as many meetings in Richmond as possible.

“We as the committee felt that it’s just not right for us to ask people all across the IMB, ‘Let’s cut, let’s be good stewards,’ and then the trustees not be the best stewards,” Cloer said during the committee’s final recommendation. “So I think we need to be the one to set the precedent. We’re going to say as trustees, ‘Convenience is not the priority. If we can save costs and use that money to put more people on the [mission] field, that’s the priority.’”
The next IMB trustee meeting will be June 10-11 in Dallas in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie McGowan is the International Mission Board’s public relations manager.)

3/2/2018 11:08:12 AM by Julie McGowan, IMB | with 0 comments

Thousands pay respect to Billy Graham in U.S. Capitol

March 2 2018 by Shannon Baker, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware

On an uncharacteristically beautiful spring day, the calm before a Nor’easter storm, thousands of people waited patiently to pay respects to Billy Graham, “America’s pastor,” whose remains were brought to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda Feb. 28 and March 1.

Photo by Shannon Baker
Thousands of people who visited the U.S. Capitol to honor Billy Graham were given the opportunity to write out their thoughts and prayers in memorial notebooks and cards for the Graham family.

The international evangelist, 99, died at his home in North Carolina on Feb. 21.
Though the public viewing would start at 1 p.m., the earliest guests arrived around 5:30 a.m., U.S. Park Police reported, and began assembling between the Supreme Court building and the Capitol.
Underneath the blowing flags poised at half-mast, people from across the nation shared with each other their individual memories of Billy Graham, whose funeral is March 2 in Charlotte, N.C.
“Billy Graham was instrumental in my life,” said Glenn Swanson, who remembered when his parents brought him to a Billy Graham crusade in the nation’s capital. “I can remember ... being there as a teenager, just waiting and seeing thousands of people come to know the Lord.”
Swanson, now pastor of Bayside Baptist Church in Chesapeake Beach, Md., said, “Like any pastor, he was instrumental in my call and my ministry, just seeing what God has called him to do – to reach people for the Lord. That’s just a reminder for all of us.”
Swanson brought along 14 others from the church to “pay our respects” to Graham and “thank him for a job well done.”
“He’s always stuck to the gospel. That has been the greatest thing with me. Just sticking to the gospel and pointing people to the cross, that’s been such a blessing,” he said.
His wife Sherri agreed, “I think his life in general is what has touched me the most. You hear so many positives and negatives [in the media] – and it was only positives with Billy Graham.”
Graham is the first religious leader and only the fourth private citizen to receive the honor of lying in the Capitol’s Rotunda, which traditionally accommodated military officers or elected public officials, including 11 U.S. presidents. Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks last lay in honor in the Capitol in October 2005.
In the center of the domed Rotunda, Graham lay in a closed casket, crafted by Baptist inmates from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. The modest pine plywood casket, overlaid with a simple wooden cross at its head, sat atop a pine platform said to have been constructed hastily after the death of Abraham Lincoln.

Photo by Shannon Baker
Thousands of people waited patiently to honor Billy Graham, who laid in honor at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 28 and March 1. Graham is the first religious leader and only the fourth private citizen to be granted the Capitol Rotunda honor, which traditionally accommodated military officers or elected public officials.

Prior to the public viewings, Graham was honored in a special service organized by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. President Donald Trump, with his wife Melania, Vice President Mike Pence and other invited guests from government joined the Graham family in remembering the evangelist.
In his remarks, President Trump recalled how Americans came in droves to “hear that great young preacher. Fred Trump was a big fan. Fred Trump was my father.
“In London, Tokyo, Seoul, Bogota, Moscow, New Delhi, Saigon, Johannesburg and scores of other places all over the world, Rev. Graham shared the power of God’s Word with more than 200 million people, in person, and countless others through television and radio where people loved to watch and listen,” Trump said.
Recognizing that Graham’s fame was not “a manmade success story for the ages,” McConnell said, “At first blush, the life of Rev. Billy Graham sounds like a personal success story par excellence ... but the most remarkable thing about Billy Graham is that this isn’t his story.”
McConnell continued in Graham’s own words, “‘The secret of my work,’ he explained, ‘is God. I would be nothing without Him.’ That is what made Billy Graham America’s pastor.”
Ryan noted how Graham ministered to “all walks, from some of the greats whose statues line this very hall – Eisenhower, King, Ford and Reagan – to everyday citizens lining up to pay their respects. No matter how long the lines grew, no matter how much the times changed, his message never diminished.”
Graham was known for meeting and counseling with 12 U.S. presidents during his career.
After the remarks, Christian recording artist Michael W. Smith poignantly sang “Just as I Am,” a hymn Graham characteristically used during his crusade altar calls.
At the close of the service, Trump, Ryan and McConnell presented three wreaths of red and white flowers adorned with ribbons indicating their area of responsibility, the executive branch, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
Members of the Graham family, including Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, received the visitors throughout the day.
It was a historic day that Swanson was glad he didn’t miss.
“Billy Graham would be the first one to tell you that he’s only one, and God has called all of us to do what Billy Graham has done: to go share the gospel, which is our Great Commission,” Swanson said. “I am thankful for his faithfulness for that. It’s all about reaching the ends of the earth.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware and editor of the convention’s BaptistLIFE quarterly magazine.)

3/2/2018 11:00:06 AM by Shannon Baker, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware | with 0 comments

‘I Can Only Imagine’ reveals truth of MercyMe ballad

March 2 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Everyone needs a Mrs. Fincher in their lives, says Priscilla Shirer of her character who stirs up the gift in MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard in the upcoming movie “I Can Only Imagine.”

“She’s like a Moses who calls out Joshua and says ‘This is what you are capable of doing. You don’t know it, and you don’t see it, but there’s a gift there, and I’m going to make you use it whether you like it or not,’” Shirer told Baptist Press (BP).
Shirer portrays a light in Millard’s childhood hardened by a mother’s desertion and a father’s abuse that inspired Christian band MercyMe’s crossover megahit “I Can Only Imagine,” the subject of the movie opening in theaters March 16.
“Everybody needs someone who sees in them what they do not see in themselves,” Shirer said, “and gives them an opportunity to operate in that gifting, even when they would prefer to sulk in their devastated dreams.”
The movie benefits from the popularity of the song that, according to movie presenters Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, is the most-played radio single in Christian music history. It is the fourth feature film of co-directors and brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin of “October Baby” and “Woodlawn” fame, and in addition to Shirer, casts movie heavyweights Dennis Quaid and Cloris Leachman. J. Michael Finley, who debuted on Broadway in “Les Miserables” plays Millard, with country music star Trace Adkins as a music industry professional.
The faith-based movie is an important tool in spreading the hope of the gospel, said Shirer, a Bible teacher through her international Going Beyond Ministries and award-winning author of New York Times best sellers The Resolution for Women and Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer. She also starred as Elizabeth in the 2015 box-office hit and Christian film “War Room.”
I Can Only Imagine “reminds you of the power of God to transform the worst of circumstances into something that can bring glory to Him and can actually transform many, many people for the Kingdom of God,” Shirer said. Viewers should leave the theater knowing “that anything is possible; that the power of God can change the worst circumstances in your home.”
The daughter of megachurch pastor and best-selling author Tony Evans and his wife Lois did not experience the childhood tragedies Millard shares in the movie, but Shirer said the movie’s messages of forgiveness, love and triumph still personally resonate.

Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions photo
Priscilla Shirer portrays Mrs. Fincher, who encourages a teenage Bart Millard in the theatrical story behind his crossover Christian megahit “I Can Only Imagine.”

“Just that sense of redemption, that sense of forgiveness that’s possible, even when someone’s hurt you, when you’ve been devastated by the people you trust the most,” are what resonate with Shirer, she told BP. “While that’s not my story, while I had parents very much that walked in integrity, still do, loved us and raised us well, that does not say that there haven’t been in my life other people who I trusted, people who betrayed or who talked about, or who did what to me amounted to the worst of abuses.”
Millard’s story displays the redemptive possibilities that exist for everyone struggling with forgiveness, Shirer said.
“We can either live in that callousness, we can live in that resentment, we can refuse to forgive and carry that with us,” she said, “or allow the healing power of God’s grace ... to be an illustration of how we need to treat others.
“So when we see that displayed in this story on screen through ‘I Can Only Imagine’, it’s going to remind us in our own lives,” she said, “and it reminds me in my own life of the times when the Lord has reminded me of His grace towards me, and continues to encourage me to dispense that grace to others.”
The movie offers church and personal resources at, including a Bible study and companion journal, sermons, videos and church campaign materials.
The movie can reach those who don’t regularly attend church, Shirer said.
“I Can Only Imagine, the song, has touched so many people,” Shirer said. “Folks that don’t know left from right in the scriptures, Old Testament from New Testament, maybe they’ve never been to church. They have heard the song. ... They know it moves them. Bart Millard wrote a song that moves people.
“Because they’ve heard the song and they love the song, they’ll be drawn to know why the guy wrote the song,” Shirer told BP. “If you ask Bart Millard, ‘How do you know God is real?’ he says, ‘Because if my daddy could go from being the monster he was ... to the man he became during the last two years of his life when he gave his life to Jesus, then I know there must be a God somewhere.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

3/2/2018 10:55:41 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

IMB appoints 20 new missionaries to the nations

March 2 2018 by Julie McGowan, IMB

Omar Loza accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior in his home country of Peru, and then he shared the gospel with his friends and family. A few years after reading that God wants believers to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, he visited an Andean town.

IMB Photo
Omar and Tia Loza share a moment of testimony about how God is calling them as International Mission Board missionaries to take the gospel to the people of South America. The Lozas, who are being sent by La Respuesta-Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., were appointed Feb. 28.

“I saw Aymara people worshipping God in their own language and culture,” he said. “God put in my heart a desire to see many different people groups worshiping Him.”
Omar’s wife Tia said she also has known she wanted to make Christ known to others since she surrendered her own life to the Lord’s leadership. The Lozas of La Respuesta-Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., plan to serve God in the Americas. They are among 20 new full-time, fully funded missionaries appointed by International Mission Board (IMB) trustees Feb. 28 and recognized during a Sending Celebration near Richmond, Va.

Good news

“God reconciling all peoples of the earth to Himself and to one another was good news to two kids raised in broken homes,” said Stephanie Roth, who was born in Alaska, “met Jesus” at age 3, and moved to Kansas at age 10. “Reading about and meeting missionaries in person drew me to dedicate my life to missions as a teen.”
Her husband Christian said he learned the realities of a culture far from God while spending summers with his unbelieving father in Sweden. Christian said it broke his heart.
“Redeemer Church has been a flame for us, a place of warmth and comfort, burning refinement, and an igniter to see God’s glory made known,” said Christian of his church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Roths plan to serve in Scandinavia, where they will share the gospel among the European peoples.

Encountering God

IMB President David Platt challenged the new missionaries with a message from the Book of Exodus, beginning with the story of the Israelites in slavery in Egypt and then God’s plan to deliver His people.
“Moses was simply minding his own business, but you never know when your life might be changed forever by an encounter with God,” Platt said.
In an encounter with God, Moses asks two questions: “Who am I? Who am I, God, that you would send me, a stammering shepherd?” (Exodus 3:11) and “Who are you?” (Exodus 3:13). God’s answer: I AM – Yahweh – translated “The LORD.”
“The same God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush is the same God who is sending you,” Platt told the new missionaries. “Remember when you are God’s servant in God’s presence doing God’s work, you are on holy ground. You are in the presence of the holy God of the universe.”
He said the Name of God also reveals that God is merciful, He is ever-present, He is all-powerful, He is self-existent, He is self-sufficient, He is eternal, He is immutable, He is faithful and He is sovereign. Therefore, Platt said, the missionaries must remember to find their rest and refuge in The LORD, and live so the nations might be glad in Him.
“You are stepping out on the absolutely true promises of God,” Platt said. “There is no safer place to be.”


IMB Photo
New International Mission Board missionary Christian Roth, right, celebrates his appointment with Zane Pratt, IMB’s vice president of training, following a Sending Celebration Feb. 28 near Richmond, Va. Roth and his wife Stephanie are sent by Redeemer Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to take the Gospel to European peoples.

Just as Moses obeyed God and trusted His faithfulness, the new missionaries are following God’s leadership in their lives. For Mark and Aimee Phillips from First Baptist Church, McAllen, Texas, exposure to God’s work through the years has led to their joining Him on mission. They are being sent to serve in Sub-Saharan Africa among the peoples of Madagascar.
“Through the testimonies of missionaries at church camp, I became burdened for those that don’t know Jesus, and it was there that I surrendered my life to share the gospel with the nations,” Aimee shared during the celebration.
“In Romans 15 it says, ‘those who have never heard will understand,” Mark said. “This same call to take the gospel to the nations was confirmed in my heart during a summer volunteering with the IMB in Uganda. Through multiple short-term mission trips and International Service Corps terms, God has continued to reaffirm His call on our lives to share the gospel where Christ has never been named.”

Who will go?

Luke and Lilly Price* attend a church in North Carolina that highlights a people group every Sunday that has no access to the gospel and no known believers.
“As one of the pastors, I would encourage our people to pray that God would send believers to take the gospel to these people groups,” Luke said. “One day I realized that I couldn’t keep praying that God would send other people to take the gospel. We needed to be willing to go.”
Lilly said they are excited to be going to a part of the world – South Asia – that is home to hundreds of unreached people groups. They are joining more than 3,500 other full-time workers sent by Southern Baptists, cooperating with the vision of a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshiping our Lord Jesus Christ.
For more information about IMB, go to
*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie McGowan is public relations manager for IMB.)

3/2/2018 10:50:17 AM by Julie McGowan, IMB | with 0 comments

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