March 2019

SBC Exec. Comm. names Floyd as presidential candidate

March 31 2019 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

The search committee of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee (EC) announced today (March 31) that Ronnie Floyd is their preferred candidate for president of the organization.
 
Floyd also made the announcement in a sermon today at Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, where he has served as pastor for more than three decades. He will resign from Cross Church next Sunday (April 7), pending an affirmative vote of the EC.
 

Image captured from Cross Church video
Ronnie Floyd

“The thought of parting from you has been gut-wrenching,” Floyd told Cross Church. “The sense of loss is undeniable, but the sense of calling at this point is greater.”
 
The EC search committee is chaired by Steve Swofford, pastor of First Baptist Church in Rockwall, Texas. The seven-member committee also included vice chair Adron Robinson of Illinois, secretary Carol Yarber of Texas, Joe Knott of North Carolina, Stephen Rummage of Oklahoma, Rolland Slade of California and Mike Stone of Georgia.
 
The EC will vote on his nomination in a meeting scheduled for April 2, following a year-long search for a new president in the wake of previous executive Frank Page’s resignation. D. August “Augie” Boto has served as the interim president.
 
Ronnie Parrott, pastor of Christ Community Church in Huntersville, N.C. and former executive leader at Cross Church, said he affirmed Floyd’s nomination with “great joy.”
 
“I have personally witnessed both Dr. Floyd’s public and private life and ministry,” Parrott said. “Dr. Floyd is a man who upholds personal integrity at all costs, provides visionary leadership at every turn, and lives prayerfully dependent in every decision.
 
“I believe his appointment will prove to be a pivotal moment among future generations of Southern Baptists. I’m excited for our cooperative present and future as a convention of churches under Dr. Floyd’s excellent leadership.”
 
Floyd has a long history of SBC leadership, serving as the convention’s president for two terms (2014-16), the SBC Pastors’ Conference president in 1997 and chairman of the EC from 1995-97. He also led the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force in 2009-10 and participated in the Program and Structure Committee of the SBC in the mid-1990s.

SBC President J.D. Greear, endorsed Floyd's nomination, saying, "Ronnie Floyd's passion for prayer and spiritual awakening, combined with his strong support for our cooperative mission, his tireless energy, and his demonstrated commitment to raising up the next generation make him a unique gift to the SBC at this hour of transition."

Knott, an attorney in Raleigh, N.C., told Baptist Press, "I join my fellow committee members in enthusiastically recommending Ronnie Floyd to serve as president of the Executive Committee. He loves the SBC. His church is number three of [47,000] churches in [Cooperative Program] giving. He has been chairman of the Executive Committee, president of the Convention, and is a mature man in his fifth decade of service. He is not uprooting and coming to the EC in order to go somewhere else. In my opinion, he is highly qualified and looks like the man God has uniquely prepared for this job."
 
Floyd is the author of more than 20 books, including The Power of Prayer and Fasting, 10 Things Every Minister Needs to Know, Our Last Great Hope: Awakening the Great Commission, and Living Fit: Make Your Life Count by Pursuing a Healthy You. He was also the general editor of LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum from 2013-17.
 
Floyd earned degrees from Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He has been married to his wife, Jeana, for more than 40 years. They have two sons and seven grandchildren. Floyd is also current president of the National Day of Prayer.

3/31/2019 12:39:34 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments



SBC Women’s Leadership Network to offer training, support

March 29 2019 by Biblical Recorder Staff

A new initiative to promote collaboration and provide resources for Southern Baptist leaders launched March 25 with a specific focus on training and supporting women in leadership. The SBC Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) developed as an “outgrowth” of relationships formed amid ongoing ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), said Amy Whitfield, a member of the group’s steering committee.
 

The WLN hosts a blog, a podcast called “At the Table,” a Facebook group and has an event scheduled during the 2019 SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., to provide an opportunity for women to connect with one another. In its first four days, the Facebook group garnered more than 500 members and thousands of interactions.
 
Whitfield said the response has been overwhelming.
 
“Women have always served and led in our churches and their respective communities,” she told the Biblical Recorder. “What we haven’t had is an easily accessible place where women can learn and grow from other practitioners.”
 
Whitfield is the director of marketing and communications at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest, N.C.
 
A small group of women met during the 2018 SBC annual meeting to discuss “the need for women leaders to connect with each other for mentoring, equipping and networking,” she said. A “virtual mentoring cohort” emerged from that meeting, which consisted of monthly, livestreamed teaching sessions led by various female leaders on a range of topics.
 
“The benefits were instantly seen,” said Whitfield, “and the desire to form a larger network grew.”
 
The purpose is to organize a group of women to support and help one another develop as leaders, she said, not gather a small circle of speakers and bloggers that others “come and watch.”
 
“Our ultimate goal is to strengthen the engagement of women across the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Whitfield.
 
The steering committee includes Whitfield; Joy Allmond, managing editor of Facts & Trends at LifeWay Christian Resources; Michelle “Missie” Branch, SEBTS assistant dean of students and director of graduate life; Donna Gaines, speaker, author and founder of ARISE2Read; Elizabeth Graham, director of events for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC); Susie Hawkins, speaker, author and board member for Baptist Global Response; Christine Hoover, author and ERLC trustee; Jacki King, speaker and women’s ministry leader; Kathy Litton, director of planter spouse development for the North American Mission Board; Julie Masson, ERLC marketing and social media manager; Katie McCoy, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Lori McDaniel, manager of church initiatives in mobilization at the International Mission Board; Carol Pipes, director of corporate communications at LifeWay; and Alicia Wong, associate professor of women’s ministry at Gateway Seminary.
 
Litton said in a statement to the Recorder that women have always been “faithful leaders” in the SBC, but their engagement in church and denominational life is increasing.
 
“Previously we have had no environment to network with each other across the domains in which we lead and serve,” she said. “We want to change that.
 
“We long to collaborate and learn from each other, to be mentored by a leader who is two generations above us or to be challenged by innovative young thinkers and leaders. We have watched our brothers connect and strengthen each other – we would benefit from the same. This network allows us to sharpen each in order that we all flourish for the sake of the gospel.”
 
J.D. Greear, SBC president and pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., endorsed the WLN in a statement on the network’s website.
 
“Women are indispensable partners in God’s mission, and I am praying for a new era in the SBC, one in which all people – male and female – would exercise their God-given gifts for that mission,” he said. “The SBC Women’s Leadership Network is one more step along the way, and I’m excited to see where it takes us.”
 
The inaugural WLN event is scheduled for June 11 at 8:30 p.m. in Birmingham, Ala. Visit sbcwomen.net to find out more information as it becomes available.

3/29/2019 11:25:51 AM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments



Erwins unveil details of unprecedented film venture

March 29 2019 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

The filmmaking team behind “I Can Only Imagine” and “Woodlawn” launched a new faith-based movie studio March 27 – Kingdom Studios – and unveiled four new theatrical films in a first-of-its-kind venture within the Christian movie industry.
 

Photo by Van Payne, NRB
Kingdom Studios co-founder and film director Andrew Erwin speaks March 27 during Proclaim 19, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Anaheim, Calif.

Lionsgate, the Hollywood company that released such mainstream hits as “La La Land” and “The Hunger Games” series, will fund and distribute them.
 
“We’re not here to launch a movie. We’re here to launch a movie studio,” Christian filmmaker Jon Erwin told an audience at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) convention in Anaheim, Calif.
 
The partnership between Kingdom Studios and Lionsgate is unprecedented for two reasons: 1) It brings multiple Christian directors, producers and writers together under one umbrella, Kingdom Studios, to make theatrical films that have the backing of a major Hollywood company in Lionsgate, and 2) It involves multiple faith-based theatrical movies that are simultaneously in production under one roof. Major studios like Disney regularly unveil their future theatrical movie schedules. But until Wednesday, a faith studio had not done so.
 
The goal is to release two new theatrical movies each year.
 
Erwin told Baptist Press (BP) the new studio was born out of a desire to have a bigger impact on the culture than he and his filmmaking brother Andrew can have by themselves.
 
They directed “I Can Only Imagine.”
 
The Erwins have released four major movies since their first one, “October Baby,” in 2011. By comparison, Kingdom – at the pace of two films a year – would have released 16 films during that time if it had been in existence.
 
“What can we do together that none of us can do alone? I hope this is one of those moments for faith films that can be a leap forward,” Erwin told BP. “I hope that leap forward is a leap beyond ourselves to really change culture, to really engage culture.”
 
Erwin is the CEO of Kingdom Pictures, while Andrew Erwin is chief creative officer. Kevin Downes is chief of production and distribution and Tony Young is chairman. All four worked behind the scenes on “I Can Only Imagine” (2018). The Erwins and Downes also worked together on “Woodlawn” (2015) and “Moms’ Night Out” (2014).
 

Photo by Van Payne, NRB
“We’re not here to launch a movie. We’re here to launch a movie studio,” Kingdom Studios co-founder and film director Jon Erwin says at Proclaim 19, the NRB International Christian Media Convention in Anaheim, Calif.

Kingdom’s first four films will be:
 
– “I Still Believe” (March 2020), which will tell the romantic story of Christian musician Jeremy Camp and his first wife Melissa, who died of cancer in 2001. He wrote his popular song, “I Still Believe,” after her death. The Erwins will direct it.
 
– “Jesus Revolution” (2020), which will follow the youth-centric Jesus Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. A TIME magazine cover story dubbed it the “Jesus Revolution.” Jon Gunn (“The Case for Christ”) will direct it and pastor Greg Laurie will help produce it.
 
– “Apostles: Resurrection of Christ” (2021), a Bible-based, “Band of Brothers”-type movie that will tell the stories of the disciples who spread the Christian faith. The Erwins will direct it. The hope is for Apostles to be the first in a series of films about the disciples that Downes calls a “Bible cinematic universe.”
 
– “The Drummer Boy” (2021), a musical produced in association with the Christian band For King & Country. The Smallbone Brothers will direct it.
 
All four films will be wide releases in theaters, Jon Erwin said.
 
“What we dream of is by uniting talent under one banner we will have this sort of explosive growth in variety and Christian entertainment,” Erwin told BP. “Sort of like a trunk of a tree growing out into its individual branches, we’re all serving the same cause, but we’re serving them in diverse and unique ways.”
 

Photo by Van Payne, NRB
From left, Kevin Downes, Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin and Tony Young are the partners in a new faith-based movie studio, Kingdom Studios.

Joe Drake of Lionsgate said Kingdom Studios will have the “full resources” and “full platform” of Lionsgate behind it.
 
Said Erwin, “In my opinion, there’s never been a Hollywood movie studio more engaged [in faith films] and ... investing this kind of time and resources – partnering with us to create a new vision for faith-based entertainment.”
 
Another goal of Kingdom Studios, Erwin said, is to identify and nurture talent. In that vein, Kingdom Studios will mentor and use 23-year-old actress Madeline Carroll of “I Can Only Imagine” as a writer and director.
 
“We’re recruiting people,” he told BP. Referencing other rising talent he’s met, he said, “We’ve learned that all this talent has been just trying to survive in isolation, yearning for a chance to work on something bigger and work on something better.”
 
Kingdom Studios, he said, is “here to serve the church.” He compared the relationship between Kingdom Studios and the church to that of a volleyball player setting the ball for a teammate to spike. Kingdom Studios, he said, will make movies that churches can use to spread the gospel.
 
Kingdom’s films, Erwin said, will be entertaining, emotionally relatable, strategic and safe for families to watch. They also will be unique.
 
“We want to get the gospel to the world, but we feel like you can do that through films that are diverse – that are new and fresh – with filmmakers that have the potential to make films not only better than Andy and I can make, but different,” Erwin said. “We want to make [movies] where you don’t have to be a Christian to watch it. Hopefully you really want to be one afterwards.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is a freelance writer who has covered the intersection of faith and entertainment for more than a decade.)

3/29/2019 11:17:54 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



No tax relief yet from Congress for churches

March 29 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Congress has failed, to this point, to heed the latest urgent request from a coalition led by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) to rescind a provision in federal law requiring churches to file tax returns for the first time in American history.
 

Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina are among members of Congress seeking to halt a measure requiring churches to file tax returns.


In a March 1 letter, ERLC President Russell Moore and 11 other organizational leaders called on House of Representatives committee leadership to act quickly in this tax season to correct the controversial measure.
 
The provision – Section 512(a)(7) of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 – requires houses of worship and other nonprofits to pay a 21 percent tax on such employee benefits as parking and transportation. The measure, which took effect Jan. 1, 2018, will cost the charitable sector an estimated $1.7 billion over 10 years, the ERLC-led coalition said in the letter. Opponents of the provision also have said it will burden churches and others with accounting and compliance costs not previously required.
 
In November, the ERLC led a 33-member coalition that urged congressional leaders to repeal the section before the end of the year, but the effort fell short. The House voted 220-183 in December to reverse the provision, but the Senate did not have the votes to approve the measure.
 
“It has been months since we have raised this issue with legislators,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “There has been a great deal of rhetoric but no results. We now find ourselves weeks away from the tax deadline while many elected officials seem to hope this issue will get lost in the circus of the daily news cycle.
 
“The freedom of the church is too important of an issue to let unmotivated elected officials threaten it,” Moore said. “Uncle Sam is welcome in our churches. But we don’t work for him. And Congress should end this deeply un-American tax on churches immediately.”
 
The latest letter – which went to Reps. Richard Neal, D-Mass., and Kevin Brady, chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Ways and Means Committee – said the signers “are concerned about the troubling precedent this sets by entangling the [International Revenue Service] with houses of worship.”
 
Churches and other religious bodies and nonprofits “exist to serve the needs of their local communities,” Moore and others said in the March 1 letter. The cost is likely to increase beyond the predicted $1.7 billion in the next decade, they said, as churches and others “are forced to shift resources from serving their charitable mission to dealing with paying this burdensome federal tax.”
 
The Treasury Department released guidelines in December that provided some relief but still requires “a four-step process to determine the amount of tax owed, which could likely vary from month to month,” according to the coalition letter. “Houses of worship and nonprofits should not be faced with this type of administrative burden.”
 
The filing deadline for nonprofits is based on an organization’s financial year, and the due date for some will be this spring. A few churches have contacted the ERLC with requests for guidance, and the staff has directed them to its website and tax experts for the congregations, according to the entity’s Washington, D.C., office.
 
Two Southern Baptist members of Congress – Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C. – are helping lead the effort to repeal the provision.
 
Lankford reintroduced the Lessen Impediments From Taxes (LIFT) Act, S. 632, on Feb. 28, while Walker, R-N.C., reintroduced his companion bill, H.R. 1545, on March 5.
 
“Tax reform was designed to help simplify the tax code and reduce burdens on small businesses, not add burdens on nonprofits,” Lankford said in a news release upon the bill’s reintroduction. “Most nonprofits are not equipped to handle the additional compliance burden. The legislation introduced today would eliminate this problem once and for all.”
 
Walker said in a written statement, “Churches and charities serve on the front line of our battle against the generational cycles of poverty and the traps of government dependence. Washington should ensure their work in our communities is not restricted by unnecessary taxes and strenuous compliance processes.”
 
No committee action has been taken on either bill so far.
 
In addition to Moore, the March 1 letter’s signers included Leith Anderson, president, National Association of Evangelicals; Dan Busby, president, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability; Joseph Kurtz, archbishop of Louisville, Ky., and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for Religious Liberty; Chris Palusky, president, Bethany Christian Services; Shirley Hoogstra, president, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; and Daniel Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s North American Division.
3/29/2019 11:06:13 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



4th Chinese church raid could signal broad crackdown

March 29 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Beijing’s Shouwang Church has become the fourth major underground church raided by authorities in China during the past seven months. The raids have led some to speculate the Chinese government may be preparing for a broader crackdown against Christians.
 

ChinaAid photo from Twitter
Police monitored and interrogated members of Beijing’s Shouwang Church March 23 at a local school.

“China’s oppression against house churches will not be loosened,” ChinaAid President Bob Fu said, according to International Christian Concern (ICC), an organization that monitors persecution of believers worldwide. “A systematic, in-the-name-of-law crackdown will continue to take place,” Fu said.
 
More than 20 police officers raided a Bible school class at one Shouwang Church location March 23, ICC reported. Attendees were taken to a nearby school, questioned and asked to sign a letter pledging not to attend the church anymore. They refused to sign.
 
Meanwhile, believers from another Shouwang location also were detained and brought to the school for questioning, according to ICC.
 
All the church members were released, but authorities changed the locks at the locations of both raids, according to media reports. Shouwang – which has about 1,000 worship attendees – and all its subsidiary organizations were closed, reported ChinaAid, a group that promotes religious freedom in China.
 
The church said in a statement it will change its venue and continue to meet, according to ICC.
 
Shouwang founding Pastor Jin Tianming and two other of the church’s pastors have been under house arrest since 2011, ICC reported. The church has been accused of failing to register with the government as a “social organization.” As a result, according to ChinaAid, Shouwang has had its “multi-million dollar property” confiscated and been forced to meet outdoors – even during inclement weather.
 
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) “condemns Saturday’s raid of Shouwang Church by Chinese police officers, part of #China’s continuing and escalating crackdown on house churches,” USCIRF tweeted March 26. “Shouwang Church has regularly faced persecution for refusing to join the state-sanctioned church.”
 
An estimated 93-115 million Protestant Christians live in China, with fewer than 30 million attending churches registered with the government, according to data reported by the Council on Foreign Relations.
 
Shouwang is among a group of underground Chinese churches that have become what a March 25 New York Times report called “public megachurches.” These churches still are known as “underground” or “house” churches because of their illegal, unregistered status even though they conduct their ministries largely in public and have hundreds of members.
 
“Run by well-educated, white-collar professionals in China’s biggest cities, the churches own property and have nationwide alliances – something anathema to the [Chinese Communist] party, which tightly regulates nongovernmental organizations,” The Times reported.
 
Another such church, Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, was raided in December. Its pastor and 10 other members remain jailed. A church of at least 500 members, according to The Times, Early Rain helps the families of political prisoners, founded a homeless shelter and protests China’s use of abortion for family planning – all in addition to its evangelism and discipleship ministries.
 
Following the March 23 raid of Shouwang, Early Rain said in a statement its members “kneeled down to pray to give thanks and praises to our God, because we are delighted that the bride of Christ is closely following her husband.”
 
Two other large Chinese underground churches were raided in recent months as well: the 1,500-member Zion Church of Beijing in September and Rongguili Church of Guangzhou in December, which had some 5,000 attendees, according to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.
 
Christianity Today reported raids of larger Chinese churches suggest “the government may be ‘testing’ crackdown measures before more widespread implementation.”

3/29/2019 11:01:02 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ethnic churches add English for 2nd & 3rd generations

March 28 2019 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

Ethnic churches nationwide have realized they need to utilize English-language worship services to reach their second and third generations.
 
For some, that has meant starting independent English-speaking churches or, for others, welcoming English speakers as a subgroup of the larger congregation.
 

Submitted photo
Celebrating the Chinese New Year is among the cultural expressions retained by the English-language ministry of Chinese Southern Baptist Church in Seattle. The church is one of many in the U.S. navigating the transition from first-generation immigrants to their second and third generations.

Randy Adams, executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention, highlighted this in a blog post in March, noting, “The Northwest has Korean, Russian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Romanian, Burmese and Spanish majority churches that have strong English-language ministries.”
 
Adams told Baptist Press (BP) he has observed this for a long time “to one degree or another” among ethnic churches across the country.
 
“It depends on the language group, and it depends on when they immigrated,” Adams said. “The longer an immigrant group has been here, the more they are moving toward English. Sometimes the kids will have English almost from the beginning in Sunday School classes.”
 
Parents at ethnic churches generally want their children to speak English, Adams said, because it’s the language of the U.S. economy, but as the children grow more distant from the mother tongue, they’re less likely to attend worship services in that language.
 
“A means of keeping them in the faith and in the church is to adapt the church to the English language,” Adams said. “It probably is a similar story to what happened with German and Italian immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries. We’re just seeing it now in the Northwest mostly among Asian and Hispanic immigrants.”
 
Chinese Southern Baptist Church in Seattle, the only Cantonese-speaking church in the Northwest convention, was founded in 1984 and has become a leader in Cooperative Program giving, Adams said.

Submitted photo
The English congregation at Chinese Southern Baptist Church in Seattle initially consisted of the children of its Cantonese-speaking members, English pastor Matthew Zwitt said. “As they began to get older and get into the youth group and college, the Chinese congregation realized that this is the future of the church and it would be wise to invest in them.”


“Under the wise leadership of Pastor [Andrew] Ng, the church came to understand that as it ages, and the children grow, English would become the preferred language of second- and third-generation immigrants,” Adams wrote at randyadams.org March 11. “Also, an English-language ministry has enabled them to reach people beyond the Chinese community.”
 
Matthew Zwitt, who has led the English congregation at Chinese Southern Baptist Church for eight years, told BP they average 60 people per week in the 15-35-year-old age range. Most are young professionals and young marrieds just starting families, hailing from about 15 different ethnicities.
 
“The English side initially was the kids of the Cantonese-speaking side,” Zwitt, a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary graduate from Mobile, Ala., said. “As they began to get older and get into the youth group and college, the Chinese congregation realized that this is the future of the church, and it would be wise to invest in them.”
 
In the English-speaking congregation, “they embrace the American culture in a lot of ways, and in some ways they embrace both cultures,” Zwitt said. “For most people in our congregation, English is their primary language.... It’s really important to have an English service so that they can understand, because that’s going to be the primary culture in which they experience Christianity.”
 
Zwitt urges Southern Baptists to continue investing not just in ethnic churches but in multiethnic churches so that the church can reflect what happened at Pentecost with people from every tribe and tongue as well as what heaven will be like when all different languages of people worship God together.
 
Paul Kim, Asian American relations consultant for the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee, told BP he has been planting English-language multiethnic churches in university communities for nearly 40 years, in part because English is the language immigrant youth speak.
 
In Korean culture, for example, parents sacrifice for their children’s education – to get them into top-notch universities to study medicine, law and engineering. Kim is pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., one of the churches he founded to reach ethnic college students who speak English.
 

Submitted photo
Members of the English-language congregation at Chinese Southern Baptist Church in Seattle are mainly young professionals and young marrieds just starting families, Matthew Zwitt, the congregation’s pastor, said. “They embrace the American culture in a lot of ways, and in some ways they embrace both cultures.”

A South Korean immigrant, Kim was saved in 1968 while serving in the U.S. Army. He went on to graduate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and English was a language he felt comfortable using at his church plants.
 
In 1981, Kim and his wife Rebekah launched Berkland Baptist Church in Berkeley, Calif., to reach students at the University of California-Berkeley, and that congregation has since planted 40 churches worldwide, all in the English language.
 
Kim estimates that among the 850 Korean churches in the SBC, fewer than 25 are independent English-speaking congregations. Most churches that have English-language ministries are still under the original ethnic congregation, but Kim said he would like to see more Asian churches let their youth pastors or other leaders start an independent English language church with the support of the mother church.
 
Gary Floyd, a church planting catalyst with the Northwest Baptist Convention who has worked with English as a Second Language ministries, said ethnic churches moving toward English “is just a natural evolution.”
 
“They immigrate here, establish in the context of the culture that they came from and then begin to adapt to the culture that they are now a part of, and the ministry challenge becomes how to make that transition,” Floyd told BP.
 
Ethnic churches want to retain their culture, Floyd said, but they also feel a strong need to integrate with the culture around them.
 
Adams said Southern Baptists can pray for ethnic churches as they navigate these transitions, and they can pray for immigrants who are still coming to the United States.
 
“A lot of them are coming from places that are not very Christian,” Adams said. “We need to reach them.”

3/28/2019 2:25:48 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



U.S. expands ban on overseas abortion funding

March 28 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The U.S. will strengthen and expand a policy withholding federal funds from overseas groups that offer or promote abortions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said March 26.
 

Screen capture from C-Span via CNS News
The U.S. will strengthen and expand a policy withholding federal funds from overseas groups that offer or promote abortions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said March 26.

Called the Mexico City Policy, it was crafted during the Reagan administration and renewed under President Donald Trump requiring nongovernmental overseas aid and health organizations to abandon abortion procedures and counseling in order to receive U.S. funds designated for family planning.
 
“The American people should rest assured that this administration – and this State Department and our USAID – will do all we can to safeguard U.S. taxpayer dollars and protect and respect the sanctity of life for people all around the globe,” Pompeo said in press briefing at the White House. “This is decent; this is right.... American taxpayer dollars will not be used to underwrite abortions.”
 
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is among organizations applauding Pompeo’s efforts.
 
“It is a national disgrace for a single penny of federal monies to be used in funding abortion,” ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press (BP). “One important stopgap in this assault on the vulnerable has been the Mexico City Policy. I was pleased to see this policy reinstated by President Trump in 2017 and am thankful again to see Secretary Pompeo supplement the Mexico City Policy with additional restrictions at the State Department.”
 
Under Pompeo’s expanded enforcement of the Mexico City Policy, the U.S. will refuse assistance not only to health and aid groups supporting or offering abortions, but also to foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that fund such groups. Pompeo described such NGO funding as “backdoor funding schemes and end-runs” around the Mexico City Policy.
 
Pompeo said the U.S. also will strengthen enforcement of the Siljander Amendment, a federal law that prohibits the use of federal funding, including foreign assistance, to cover the cost of lobbying for or against abortion.
 
“In light of recent evidence of abortion-related advocacy by an organ of the Organization of American States (OAS),” Pompeo said, “I directed my team to include a provision in foreign assistance agreements with the OAS that explicitly prohibits the use of funds to lobby for or against abortion.”
 
The U.S. will reduce funding to the OAS, he said, to equal “the estimated U.S. share of possible OAS expenditures on these abortion-related activities.” The reduction would total $210,000, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino told CNN.
 
Moore described Pompeo’s announcement as “a major move in the right direction.”
 
“What is most needed is legislation permanently ending the morally repugnant practice of federally-sponsored predation,” Moore said. “Until we get there, though, every public official should do everything in his or her power to see that taxpayer dollars never subsidize the exploitation of the vulnerable.”
 
National Right to Life also welcomed the move.
 
“By ensuring enforcement and compliance with existing pro-life policies,” National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said in a press release, “Secretary of State Pompeo and the Trump Administration reaffirm their commitment to protecting innocent human life at home and abroad.”
 
Tobias applauded Pompeo “for his dedicated pro-life leadership and for his efforts to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund or promote abortion overseas.”
 
Americans United for Life (AUL) and the Family Research Council issued similar statements.
 
“For too long, the Organization of American States and pro-abortion extremist organizations like International Planned Parenthood Federation have bullied member states into accepting abortion on demand as an international norm, in spite of their dearly held cultural and religious convictions against destroying human life,” AUL President and CEO Catherine Glenn Foster said. “Today’s announcement that the State Department will strictly enforce the Mexico City Policy and the Siljander Amendment is a tremendous victory for international women’s health and the rule of law.”
 
Pompeo disagreed with data that the Mexico City Policy has led to more abortions in certain foreign markets because the reduction in funding has hampered economically disadvantaged women from receiving birth control to prevent unplanned pregnancies.
 
“They’re just wrong about that,” Pompeo said at the White House. “This argument has been presented for an awfully long time, and they’re just factually wrong about that. The moneys that this administration is providing for global health remain.
 
“We’re working alongside those NGOs that do some phenomenal work,” Pompeo said, “and the theory that somehow not protecting every human life is destroying human life is perverse on its face.”
 
Enacted in 1984, the Mexico City Policy was rescinded by presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, but reenacted by presidents George W. Bush and Trump.
 
In related news, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demanded that Aid Access, a Dutch abortion group founded in 2018, stop mailing abortion-inducing drugs to women in the U.S., WORLD Magazine reported March 25. The FDA accused Aid Access of selling “misbranded and unapproved new drugs” online.
 
“FDA requests that you immediately cease causing the introduction of these violative drugs into U.S. commerce,” WORLD quoted from the FDA’s letter to Aid Access. “Failure to correct these violations may result in FDA regulatory action, including seizure or injunction, without further notice.”

3/28/2019 2:22:20 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Greear: Ordinary people called to spread the gospel

March 28 2019 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

The gospel needs to spread throughout the world by ordinary people, just like it did in the book of Acts, J.D. Greear said during The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s chapel March 26.

SBTS photo
J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, speaks on the role of “ordinary people” in spreading the gospel.


Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, used the example of Stephen in Acts 6-7 to bring this point home, describing the blueprint for the spread of Christianity as more like Stephen’s dramatic sermon before the Sanhedrin than the Sermon on the Mount.
 
“Jesus’ plan for reaching the world is not gathering large groups of people to bask in the anointing of one prophetic teacher,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area, who once worked for the International Mission Board.
 
“His Plan A is raising up ordinary people in the power of the Spirit and sending them out,” Greear said.
 
Stephen was not an apostle or elder in the early church. In fact, before he was appointed as a deacon in Acts 6, he was an “ordinary guy,” Greear said. Even his deaconship was a supporting role as one of several men selected to help deliver food to widows so the apostles could focus on prayer and teaching the Word. He was the “Meals on Wheels” of the early church, Greear said.
 
But Stephen’s story marked a turning point in the book of Acts and all redemptive history, Greear noted.
 
Stephen did his job so well that it got the attention of the angry Jewish religious establishment, who began to discredit him, Greear recounted. In Acts 7, Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin for questioning, where he delivered the longest and most comprehensive sermon in Acts, tracing Israel’s history in great detail and showing from the scriptures how the entire Hebrew Bible is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Even more angry than before, the Jewish leaders took him outside and stoned him to death.
 
This moment inspired a brand-new age in the expansion of the gospel message, Greear said. Whereas before Acts 7 the gospel had not yet left Jerusalem, after Acts 7 it expands to Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth just as Jesus commanded in Acts 1:8.
 
Stephen – an ordinary man – would be the springboard for global transformation, Greear said, noting that God wants to use ordinary people today like He used Stephen in Acts.
 
“Not a single apostle is involved in the story. Not one,” Greear said. “It is Stephen’s witness that provokes the riot, and of those who leave preaching the Word, Luke, the author of Acts, seems to go out of his way to show you that not a single apostle was included.
 
“For those reasons, I believe Stephen’s story is given to us as an example of how the gospel is supposed to spread globally. In Acts, Stephen is a picture of what ordinary Christians in the church are supposed to look like, and what will happen in the world when they do.”
 
The thing that makes ordinary Christians such extraordinary servants for the Kingdom, Greear said, is not self-confidence or positive thinking, but the presence and empowerment of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
 
One of the most surprising verses in the New Testament, Greear said, is John 16:7, in which Jesus tells His disciples that it is to their “advantage” that He would leave earth and send the Holy Spirit instead. It is hard to imagine that the presence of the Spirit is better for Christian ministry than the presence of Christ, Greear said, but that reality highlights the central role of the Spirit in the Christian life.
 
Anyone can do anything, even the “least of the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 11:11) if they experience the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, Greear said.
 
“What makes Stephen remarkable is his confidence – a confidence he apparently gained from an awareness of the fullness of the Spirit within him,” Greear said. “The most common characteristic repeated about Stephen was that he was ‘filled with the Spirit.’ What gives ordinary people such extraordinary confidence and effectiveness is the knowledge of the power of the Spirit within them.”
 
Greear acknowledged that Stephen’s story does not end happily from a worldly perspective. After telling the Sanhedrin that he could see Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father in heaven, the Jewish leaders stoned him to death. In his dying moments, Stephen alluded to Jesus’ final words and made it clear that he saw himself as a sacrifice for others. Even if ministry doesn’t call us to give our lives, it often does require similar sacrifices, which is a difficult lesson to learn in comfortable American culture, Greear said.
 
“We like to talk a lot about how coming to Jesus brings peace and fulfillment into our lives, and that’s all true,” Greear said. “But at some point, if people are serious about following Jesus, obedience to Him goes the opposite way of fulfillment, happiness and peace. At some point, coming to Jesus is going to take you 180 degrees opposite of the direction you want to go. And in that moment, there is only one thing that is going to propel you forward: a vision of Jesus being absolutely and totally worth it.”
 
Greear’s chapel sermon can be viewed at http://equip.sbts.edu.

3/28/2019 2:16:41 PM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments



Brownback: Christian media key to religious freedom

March 28 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Christian communicators play a key role in combatting persecution in foreign countries and defending religious freedom in the United States, speakers said in a public policy session March 26 during the National Religious Broadcasters’ (NRB) International Christian Media Convention, Proclaim 19.

NRB photo
Sam Brownback, addressing the NRB, said America “is in a unique spot to advocate for the persecuted around the world.”


Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom, said a movement fueled by NRB members is required.
 
“We need a grassroots uprising saying, ‘No more to religious persecution. No more.’” Brownback noted how the grassroots [members] will learn about the oppression of Christians and other religious adherents overseas: “It’s through the reporting and storytelling that you do, of organizations like yours that can serve as catalysts for advocacy.”
 
Brownback said a partnership between NRB and his office is seeking to achieve this goal. At least once a month, NRB hosts a teleconference in which Brownback shares recent developments regarding persecution and accounts of those who have suffered for their faith.
 
Brownback – governor of Kansas and a U.S. senator and representative from the same state before his selection to the ambassadorship by President Trump – told the NRB audience, “Religious freedom is a top foreign policy priority for this administration. We believe this is a universal and natural right.
 
“Every day, I get to work on behalf of the persecuted around the world,” he said, adding that America “is in a unique spot to advocate for the persecuted around the world.”
 
For now, China is particularly an egregious, systematic persecutor, Brownback said, citing China’s oppression of Christianity and other faiths, including the destruction of churches and the arrest of pastors and religious adherents.
 
The United States is “one of the few countries willing to stand up to China,” Brownback said. “We need more allies to stand up to them, particularly on these issues of human rights and religious persecution.”
 
The State Department will host its second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom July 16-18 in Washington, D.C., Brownback said. Delegations from more than 80 foreign governments met last summer for the inaugural gathering of government officials, civil society representatives and faith leaders to promote the freedom of all people to practice their beliefs.
 
Aaron Mercer, NRB’s vice president of government relations, asked Brownback in a question-and-answer session after the ambassador’s speech how NRB members could pray. Brownback asked for prayer for himself and others “to have wisdom and discernment” regarding which battles to join and for “favor with God and man to be able to push these [initiatives] on forward.”
 
Also during the NRB session, leaders of two advocacy organizations expressed optimism about the state of religious liberty in the United States.
 
The attacks are increasing, but “the good news” is religious freedom advocates are winning the cases, said Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute.
 
Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, told attendees that religious liberty is winning court battles involving land use and zoning restrictions on houses of worship, property taxes levied against churches, bans on Bible studies, prohibitions on public preaching, discrimination against people of faith in higher education and coercive requirements of ministries.
 
Shackelford told the audience, “Basically, we’re at the hinge point of history where gains for religious freedom are beginning to happen that I never thought were possible.”
 
It appears the Supreme Court may be ready to revise its tests for determining the constitutionality of laws under both the Establishment Clause and Free-Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, Shackelford said.
 
The nearly 50-year-old Lemon test – which requires that a law have a secular purpose, not primarily promote or restrict religion and “not foster an excessive entanglement with religion” to avoid government establishment of religion – has “created chaos and made the government somewhat hostile to religion,” he said.
 
Regarding religious free exercise, the 1990 Employment Division v. Smith decision means “you only get protected if they’re real specific in aiming for your religion,” Shackelford said. “If they just happen to wipe out your religious freedom by accident, then you just don’t have any ability to do anything about that.
 
“This country is about to change in a positive way for religious freedom under both of our religion clauses in ways I think we’ve never experienced, those of us who are alive today, and I think it’s going to be a great thing for our country,” he said of the Supreme Court’s posture in cases either before it or at hand.
 
The speakers encouraged attendees to be gracious while standing strongly for religious freedom.
 
When dealing with gender-confused people, Christians should “reach out respectfully and [lovingly]” while not compromising what [they] believe,” Dacus said.
 
Michael LeMay – general manager of a station in Wisconsin that challenged a sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) ordinance that failed to protect religious freedom – told the audience that Christian radio has a great opportunity to advocate for religious liberty. (NRB’s board of directors unanimously adopted a resolution on Tuesday, March 26, opposing such SOGI laws and a so-called “Fairness for All” alternative supported by some evangelical groups.)
 
“This is a chance for us as Christian radio professionals to shine brightly for Jesus Christ and to stand in the gap against the repressive part of our society that is trying to silence churches,” LeMay said.
 
LeMay said his colleagues at Q90 FM Christian Radio in De Pere, Wis., and he determined “to speak the truth full of graciousness and love.” He said he has had the opportunity during this time to share the gospel with seven people who expressed confusion about their gender identity. The radio station and five churches won in their lawsuit.
 
“The People of the Cross” – an exhibit by the organization Save the Persecuted Christians – is on display during the NRB convention. The organization’s president, Frank Gaffney, also was among those who spoke during the public policy session.
 
Brothers David and Jason Benham emceed the session while Fox News host Todd Starnes moderated the panel discussion.

3/28/2019 2:11:10 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



BSC sponsoring public forums to evaluate strategy

March 27 2019 by BSC Communications

(Updated April 1, 8:45 a.m.)

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) is sponsoring a series of public forums across the state for N.C. Baptists to provide feedback on the state convention’s “impacting lostness through disciple-making” strategy as part of the convention’s formal evaluation of the strategy.
 
The public forums are open to all N.C. Baptists and will be moderated by trained facilitators who are not employees of the BSC.
 
Public forums have been confirmed for the following dates and locations.
 
Tuesday, April 2, 7-8:30 p.m.
West Asheville Baptist Church
926 Haywood Road
Asheville, NC 28806

Monday, April 8, 7-8:30 p.m.
West Chowan Association
335 NC Hwy. 42 West
Ahoskie, NC 27910

Tuesday, April 9, 7-8:30 p.m.
Trinity Baptist Church
730 W. Wilson Street
Tarboro, NC 27886

Tuesday, April 9, 7-8:30 p.m.
Pitts Baptist Church
140 Pitts School Road NW
Concord, NC 28027

Saturday, April 13, 10-11:30 a.m.
Truett Conference Center and Camp
346 Truett Camp Road
Hayesville, NC 28904

Monday, April 15, 7-8:30 p.m.
Woodlawn Baptist Church
440 7th Street Pl SW
Conover, NC 28613

Tuesday, April 16, 2019, 7-8:30 p.m.
Ridgecrest Baptist Church
1104 Milton Rd
Durham, NC 27712

Tuesday, April 23, 7-8:30 p.m.
College Acres Baptist Church
702 Eastwood Road
Wilmington, NC 28403

Tuesday, April 23, 7-8:30 p.m.
Wilkesboro Baptist Church
300 West Main Street
Wilkesboro, NC 28697

Thursday, April 25, 7-8:30 p.m.
Berea Baptist Church
2033 North Road Street
Elizabeth City, NC 27909

Thursday, April 25, 7-8:30 p.m.
Pleasant Garden Baptist Church
1415 Neelley Road
Pleasant Garden, NC 27313

Monday, April 29, 7-8:30 p.m.
Hope Mills First Baptist Church
4621 Cameron Rd
Hope Mills, NC 28348

Tuesday, April 30, 7-8:30 p.m.
Freedom Baptist Church
987 US Highway 1 North
Rockingham, NC 28379

Tuesday, April 30, 7-8:30 p.m.
West Burnsville Baptist Church
222 W Burnsville Church Road
Burnsville, NC 28714
 
“The public forums are not the traditional ‘listening sessions’ that many folks are accustomed to attending,” said Brian Davis, BSC associate executive director-treasurer. “Rather, participants are asked to come to the forums prepared to provide feedback on seven specific questions.”
 
Following are the questions that will be discussed during the forums:

  1. How are the members of your church sharing the gospel differently now compared to five years ago?

  2. How has the BSC’s strategy emphasis on pockets of lostness helped members of your church identify the lost people living in your community?

  3. How has the BSC strategy helped members of your church share the gospel with people from different ethnic and cultural groups with the gospel?

  4. How has the BSC strategy emphasis on disciple-making helped members of your church become more intentional in fulfillment of the Great Commission?

  5. How has the BSC helped your congregation develop a disciple-making culture during the last five years?

  6. How has the BSC been effective in the fulfillment of its strategy titled, “Impacting Lostness through Disciple-making” in your area?

  7. What do you suggest the BSC do to become more effective in the fulfillment of its strategy titled, “Impacting Lostness through Disciple-making”?

 
“The facilitators will not be answering questions about the strategy, nor defending the strategy, but simply guiding the conversation in order that responses to these seven questions may be received,” Davis said.
 
The public forums are one of three methods the convention is using to evaluate the strategy. The evaluation also includes surveys being sent to all pastors and associational mission strategists across the state and personal interviews with associational mission strategists serving in the eight population centers across the state where the top 100 most concentrated pockets of lostness are located.
 
Those population centers are the Blue Ridge, Coastal, Fayetteville, Greenville, Metro Charlotte, Triad, Triangle and Unifour regions.
 
If N.C. Baptists are unable to attend one of the scheduled public forums, they may send their responses to the questions to the convention at a special email address designated for the strategy evaluation at strategyevaluation@ncbaptist.org.
 
A formal report based on data and information collected from the strategy evaluation will be made to the BSC’s Board of Directors this fall and to messengers attending the BSC’s annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C. this November.
 
The “impacting lostness through disciple-making” strategy was approved by the BSC’s Board of Directors in 2013 and implementation began in January 2014. When approved in 2013, the Board of Directors instructed convention staff to conduct a formal evaluation of the strategy after five years to determine its effectiveness.
 
The complete strategy is available at ncbaptist.org/strategy.
 
Questions about the strategy or the evaluation may be directed to Brian Davis by email at bdavis@ncbaptist.org or by calling 1-800-395-5102 ext. 5506.

3/27/2019 10:30:12 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments



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