March 2019

Cross & steeple of Franklin Ave. church grace skyline

March 27 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The near-150-foot glass steeple and solid cross mark the new home of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church led by Pastor Fred Luter Jr.

Photo from Facebook
The cross-topped steeple of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans East is visible from nearby Interstate 10.

“It is something that you just cannot miss,” Luter told Baptist Press. “It’s like being in St. Louis and seeing that big ‘ole arch. If you’re on the interstate, you’re going to see it. You just can’t miss it.”
The church relocated from its Ninth Ward location in New Orleans’ St. Roch neighborhood, where the vibrant congregation required three Sunday morning worship services and never had enough parking. But leaving was tough, said Luter, who was elected as the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention while leading his church at its former location.
“Our greatest growth through the years happened at the 2515 Franklin Ave. location,” Luter said. “We really hated to leave because we’re so much invested in the community, however we just couldn’t expand. We had no parking spaces and it started affecting our attendance.”
The new $35 million facility sits on 25 acres about six miles away. A 3,500-seat sanctuary allows Franklin Avenue Baptist Church (FABC) to accommodate members and guests in a single Sunday morning worship service. Separate worship areas are dedicated for children and youth, with the entire church family worshipping in the sanctuary for the Lord’s Supper each first Sunday.
Many are able to walk to the 125,000-square-foot complex from nearby neighborhoods. Luter baptized 14 new believers the fourth Sunday in March, he said, a high mark since the congregation relocated in December 2018. Each fourth Sunday is dedicated to baptisms.

Photo by Gary Mack
Franklin Avenue Baptist Church pastor Fred Luter reaches his congregation through a single worship service each Sunday in a sanctuary that seats 3,500.

“We will continue to do the things that made us who we are. Franklin Avenue is known across the city for our evangelism and for our discipleship of reaching the lost and also growing people once they come into the church,” Luter said. “And we do that by small groups, through new members’ classes and about 50 ministries that we have, geared to individuals from kids to adulthood.”
Three hours each Saturday morning, the church’s evangelism team evangelizes door to door, rotating among adjacent communities. Results are already evident, Luter said.
“People know Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. We have a good name in the city through our community outreach we’ve done for years,” Luter said, “and by God’s grace that will continue.”
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 interrupted the church, redirecting much of its outreach to Baton Rouge, La., and Houston after Katrina’s floodwaters rushed many to relocate. The storm struck when the membership exceeded 8,300, having grown from the 65 members FABC had when Luter began his pastorate in 1986.
First Baptist Church of New Orleans, under then-senior pastor David Crosby, integrated the church into First Baptist’s worship and activities, allowing FABC to recover and rebuild.

Photo by Gary Mack
Franklin Avenue Baptist Church worships in its 3,500-seat sanctuary in New Orleans East.

In 2008, Luter danced in the pulpit of the rebuilt sanctuary on its same Ninth Ward lot in the St. Roch community. New congregations born from Katrina continue to meet – Houston’s Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in Katy, Texas, led by S. Lachlin Verrett, and United Believers Baptist Church in Baton Rouge under the pastorate of Manuel Pigee III.
“The blessing of post-Katrina is that we’ve been able to touch lives that maybe pre-Katrina we couldn’t,” Luter said. “Our church will never be the same because of Hurricane Katrina.”
In FABC’s new home in New Orleans East, Luter still expects an overflow crowd this Easter. The new cross will serve as an apt object lesson amid concentrated community outreach in advance of Good Friday and Easter. Seven preachers will present the “Last Seven Words on the Cross” during Good Friday worship.
“Hopefully it will be a draw that people will want to continue to come,” Luter said of the weekend.
The church’s 6,000-plus members are excited to be in the new location, Luter said, despite the sadness over leaving their old neighborhood.
“The only thing difficult,” he said, “is trying to decide where they’re going to sit.”

3/27/2019 10:25:48 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

After Mozambique cyclone, Baptists ‘stepping up’

March 27 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Following a cyclone in Mozambique that killed at least 446 people, Baptist Global Response (BGR) and the International Mission Board (IMB) have begun disaster relief ministry in the southeast African nation and are preparing to broaden their response.

Screen capture from CNN
Cyclone Idai in Mozambique has left at least 446 people dead and nearly 110,000 in shelters.

“We have implemented a water and sanitation project in one of the displaced communities but are gearing up for some food and household goods distributions,” said Jeff Palmer, executive director of BGR, a Baptist relief and development organization.
“Food, water and shelter are the greatest needs at this time as well as the need for the [floodwater to recede] to allow response to the needy and displaced. We are currently distributing plastic sheeting/tarps to help with temporary shelter and privacy barriers in the makeshift camps.”
One challenge, Palmer told Baptist Press via email, “has been access to the [affected] areas due to the floods and damage to transportation.”
Cyclone Idai made landfall March 15 as a Category 2 storm with 110-mile-per-hour winds, according to media reports. The death toll is expected to rise as floodwaters recede and response teams can reach victims, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported March 25.
More than 1,500 people were injured by Idai, and nearly 110,000 are in shelters, according to the UN. One eyewitness reported seeing 300-400 dead bodies wash up on a flooded stretch of road, CNN reported.
Some $10,000 in BGR aid released thus far has gone toward buying the plastic sheeting used for latrines and temporary shelters, Palmer said. IMB workers have distributed nearly one mile of plastic sheeting in all – every bit of sheeting that could be purchased locally.
An additional $50,000 in BGR aid is expected to be released in the next two weeks, Palmer said. It will be used for “food and household goods such as cooking sets [and] hygiene kits.”
Located east of Zimbabwe along the Indian Ocean, Mozambique covers nearly twice the geographic area of California, according to the CIA World Factbook. Most Mozambicans speak one of several local languages. Only 10 percent speak Portuguese, the official language.
Mozambique’s population of approximately 30 million is 53 percent professing Christians, including 13 percent evangelicals, according to Joshua Project, a website that provides religion data on world nations.
Relief efforts in the weeks to come likely will rely heavily on Mozambican national Baptist partners, Palmer said, but there may be opportunities for U.S. volunteers.
“The center of our Baptist partners in Mozambique is in some of the hardest-hit areas,” Palmer said. “Pray for our churches and leaders there who are stepping up and seeing this as an opportunity to reach out to their neighbors with kindness, compassion and the love of Jesus.”

3/27/2019 10:22:40 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Darst appointed as N.C. Pastors’ Conf. VP

March 26 2019 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Ronnie Parrott, pastor of Christ Community Church in Huntersville, N.C., and president of the 2020 N.C. Pastors’ Conference, announced that he has appointed Clint Darst, pastor of King’s Cross Church in Greensboro, as vice president. Attendees of the 2018 N.C. Pastors’ Conference voted to enable Parrott to appoint a vice president since no nominations were made for the 2020 role. 

Parrott described Darst as a “proven church planter” and a “young leader in our cooperative Baptist work.”
Darst served as the lead pastor of Freedom Church in Lincolnton from 2013-17. Prior to that, he was a church planting intern and evangelism director at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh and director for Campus Outreach in the Piedmont-Triad area. 
He and his wife, Rachel, have three children. Freedom Church sent the Darsts and other families to start King’s Cross in the summer of 2017.
The church launched with a core team of 14 people but now averages 165 in Sunday worship. Darst described the church as multi-generational and multi-ethnic, reporting 16 baptisms since its founding. 
“Clint’s leadership in pastoral ministry and his commitment to the great commission gives him the credibility to serve in this important role,” said Parrott. “I’m grateful for Clint and his willingness to serve our convention in this way.”
Alongside Parrott and Darst, Zack Williams will help lead the N.C. Pastors’ Conference as the secretary-treasurer for 2019-2020. He was elected in 2018 to serve a two-year term.
Chip Hannah, pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Whiteville, is president of the 2019 N.C. Pastors’ Conference and Jonathan Blaylock, pastor of West Canton Baptist Church in Canton, is vice president. This year’s event will be held Nov. 10-11 in conjunction with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.

3/26/2019 12:20:07 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Ponds, lakes, oceans, pools: Baptism around the world

March 26 2019 by Rachel Cohen, IMB

A number of years ago, a man named Philip had an encounter with an official from Africa. After Philip shared the gospel with him, the official believed in Christ and desired to be baptized. The two men came to the only body of water at their disposal – presumably a stream or pond – and the official was baptized in front of an audience of One.
In 21st-century America, baptisms often look quite different. Although the outward demonstration of faith is the same, many are immersed in a baptistery situated at the front of our church, maybe even in heated water.

But in many places around the world, people are baptized under the same circumstances as the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 – in whatever water is available and at times in front of only a handful of people. Some do so in relative secrecy to avoid persecution by governments or their community.
Though baptisms can vary, the same God is glorified by the visible reminder that someone has gone from death to life and now lives in a restored relationship with their Lord.
Here’s a look at baptisms around the world in praise of God for His transformation of people’s hearts and lives.

Photo by Tim Shaw
Etsha, northern Botswana

Kirkwood Prison, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

When IMB missionaries Tim and Lee Shaw hosted volunteers from their home church in Georgia, they all decided to go to the village of Etsha in northern Botswana to evangelize among an unreached people. Three people came to faith and two were baptized. The only available body of water was swarming with crocodiles, so the Shaws had to come up with another plan. They found some cinder blocks and a tarp, built a makeshift tank and baptized the two new Christians. 


Photo by Wanne Dina
Quelimane, Mozambique

The Kirkwood Prison in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, doesn't have a tank suitable for baptizing inmates who come to faith. That doesn't stop IMB missionary Helmer Jenson and his South African national partner, who are involved in a prison ministry through a local church, from helping inmates follow Christ's example of baptism. They bring a deflated pool to the prison a week prior to a baptism observance and leave it with the prison chaplain. On the morning of the baptism, inmate leaders are given permission to inflate the pool and fill it with water in the prison yard. The yard is lined with cell windows, so the baptisms are a very public testimony of the man's choice to follow Jesus.

Photo by Hugh Johnson
South Asia

On the outskirts of a seaport neighborhood in Quelimane, Mozambique, a church leader helps people gathered to be baptized make their way down the muddy shore to a local pastor and IMB missionary Matthew Stauffer in the water. The church has grown quickly in recent years and desires to see the entire neighborhood soon baptized in these waters.

​Photo by John Dina

A local pastor and church elders in South Asia baptize new believers in a well outside a small rural church. New Christians in this country often ask to be baptized early in the morning and in less populated locations. Although it's not illegal to be a Christian here, the country's anti-conversion laws lead to intense scrutiny of existing Christians and new believers if a baptism has occurred.

Photo by Katlyn Pedroza

An IMB team in Mozambique incorporates the installation of fresh-water wells in their church planting efforts. One day when they were working to install a well, they shared the gospel with a man who came to observe them. The man believed, so they brought him to the static waters of a nearby pond where he was baptized by a Mozambican pastor.

Photo by Wanne Dina

In Germany, not every church has a baptistery, and some churches do not meet in traditional church buildings. Believers' baptisms can take place in various locations – in the church, at a lake or at the ocean, in swimming pools and even in bathtubs. The baptism service is not simply an add-on event to the Sunday morning church service. The entire service revolves around the individual or individuals getting baptized.

Photo by Katlyn Pedroza

A church in a tiny fishing village in Mozambique was started in 2010 by Jeremiah Johnson, a short-term IMB missionary who died in a motorcycle accident on the field in April of that year. At the time of Johnson's death, the church had only a few Christians. Nine years later, the church has grown tremendously and baptizes new believers off the shores of the village.

​Photo by Luke In

"I have decided to follow Jesus, and now I want to be baptized," said a missionary's daughter, whose family lives in Germany. Her parents asked her if she wanted to wait until they were back in the U.S., but she said, "No, I want to be baptized at our house during church next week. Two other people were baptized at our house in the bathtub; why can't I be, too?" After sharing her testimony with the group of believers and with her non-believing friends whom she invited to be a part of her baptism celebration, her father baptized her in the bathtub of their apartment.

Photo by Jo Schultz
West Africa

After a young woman in Cambodia decided to follow Jesus, the missionary from East Asia who led her to faith arranged for her baptism. He found an inflatable water tank – used to entertain kids on a hot day – and placed it in a bathroom where she was baptized.

​Photo by Luke In
East Asia

After a year of IMB missionaries and their national partners sharing the gospel in a rural West African town, the national partners finally saw two men come to Christ. They took the men to a nearby river that runs along the outskirts of town and baptized them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Photo by Mike Lazenby
Kaiserwasser, Vienna, Austria

Despite restrictions on religious freedom in this East Asian country, baptism in many places can be done in public. Most house churches don't have the means to baptize inside the house, so Christians often gather at lakes, springs or pool resorts to baptize new believers. The woman above, for instance, is being baptized at a local hot springs resort by members of her house church. The group of observers is usually small so as to not attract widespread attention, but generally, new Christians feel free to invite any close friends and family members, regardless of their beliefs.

Photo from IMB Library

People in Austria often associate baptism with the Catholic practice of sprinkling babies. Nearly a third of Austrians have been baptized as infants. But when Rodolpho Reynier Roale Martins was led to faith by his wife Anna, he felt he needed to be baptized as a new follower of Jesus. He was discipled for several weeks before he felt ready. He was baptized at the Kaiserwasser in Vienna, a section of the Danube River that runs next to offices of the United Nations.

Baptisms can be performed in Russia with government approval, but Christians participating in believer's baptism, specifically Baptists, are still met with suspicion from their fellow citizens. Baptism is viewed as a deviant practice from the traditional Orthodox Church, so social stigmas often accompany a person's decision to have a full immersion baptism. A leader in a Russian house church baptizes a youth at a lake early on a Sunday morning. Although some churches have pools or permanent baptisteries, others choose to baptize in natural bodies of water. Church members begin by playing praise songs and conclude with the Lord's Supper.
Learn more about how IMB trains and works alongside indigenous peoples for the spread of the gospel, and consider how to become part of that effort.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rachel Cohen is a content editor for who lives in South Asia with her husband and daughter.)
3/26/2019 11:49:24 AM by Rachel Cohen, IMB | with 0 comments

LifeWay store closures lamented as ‘a great loss’

March 26 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Sarah Beth Van Dyke shopped at LifeWay Christian Stores during her childhood when they were called Baptist Bookstores. She worked in a LifeWay store in graduate school, and now she takes her two children to LifeWay to spend their allowance money. Generally, she shops at a LifeWay store multiple times every month.

BP file photo
The closure of all 170 LifeWay Christian Stores will be “a great loss,” said LifeWay customer Sarah Beth Van Dyke of Gallatin, Tenn.

With all 170 LifeWay stores set to close this year, Van Dyke said Christians will lose “a unique chance to shop for Christian books, Bibles, studies, music and gifts with confidence, knowing that the [re]sources [have] been through a vetting process before making it onto the shelves for purchase.”
As LifeWay stores begin to disappear, LifeWay supporters and critics alike say the brick-and-mortar book market will lose an important means of theological quality control. They also wonder if another theologically trusted brick-and-mortar option will emerge.
“I enjoyed being able to take my children to LifeWay to participate in their summer reading program and various other children’s events, and they, too, have come to love the store as I do,” said Van Dyke, a member of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. “They look forward to going in LifeWay stores to spend their hard-earned allowance money, and I have been able to rest in the assurance that items my children pick are biblically sound.”
For Van Dyke, the physical LifeWay stores are important, especially when shopping for a Bible, because they allow her “to thumb through the Bible physically before purchasing to see the layout and flow of the study notes, etc. This same process cannot be achieved through online stores or with the limited selection of other brick and mortar stores.”
Rachel Held Evans, a Christian author who says LifeWay stores opted not to carry her 2012 book A Year of Biblical Womanhood tweeted March 20-21, “The average reader has no idea just how large LifeWay loomed over Christian publishing, and just how many voices and ideas it managed to stifle” with its “strict, fundamentalist standards” for the books sold in LifeWay stores.
Over the years, LifeWay has opted not to carry books on visiting heaven and books by Jen Hatmaker, Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald among other authors, Christianity Today reported.
Indiana pastor Tim Overton agreed LifeWay stores are known for their theological standards. But he sees that as a positive.
“In the information age, the difficulty is not finding material,” said Overton, pastor of Kingston Avenue Baptist Church in Anderson, Ind. “It’s finding quality material. I think one of the greatest competitive advantages LifeWay could have had, and had in some ways, was being trustworthy, where pastors could tell their congregations, ‘You can go into the store, and anything you buy is trustworthy.’”
Overton is among a group of pastors who have gone to microphones “numerous times” at Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings over the years, he said, to make motions and offer resolutions asking LifeWay to pull from its shelves material the pastors viewed as theologically suspect. While LifeWay has not always done what Overton wanted, “there’s no doubt LifeWay did a better job of [selling trustworthy resources] than other retailers.”
Because of its status as an SBC entity, LifeWay “was unique [among bookstores] in holding very high standards and not simply allowing a profit to motivate all choices,” Overton said.
In the end, however, profit margin was precisely the problem for LifeWay stores.
By late 2018, LifeWay leaders realized revenue declines at stores “had not reversed” despite efforts to revamp retail locations, former LifeWay President Thom Rainer told trustees in February. The closing of an unnamed number of LifeWay stores was announced in January, with the closure of all stores announced this month by acting president and CEO Brad Waggoner.
Rainer called LifeWay stores “the last man standing” among major Christian bookstore chains after Family Christian Stores closed two years ago.
Steve Christensen, owner of the independent bookstore Bibles Plus in Albuquerque, N.M., told Baptist Press “peak” sales for Christian bookstores came in 2002-2003. Bibles Plus has “been able to weather these 17 or 18 years of this kind of [industry] decline” by “maintaining a lower overhead.” Still, the store’s sales volume is 40 percent of what it was in 2002-2003.
Most Christian bookstore customers seem to be between ages 50 and 80, lack “tech savvy” and do not want to buy online, Christensen said, though “a few” younger customers still want to handle books before they purchase them.
As Christian bookstores inevitably close, Christensen said, a major loss is the ministry that occurs with customers. “You try to really see what their needs are,” he said. “ ... There are opportunities to pray with people that are going through crisis situations.”
Yet Rainer told LifeWay trustees in February even the volume of ministry testimonies from stores is shrinking as brick-and-mortar sales decline.
When LifeWay stores close and the SBC’s publishing entity shifts entirely to online sales, some customers see no alternate venue for the ministry and theological quality control offered by LifeWay stores.
“The closing of LifeWay stores will be a great loss to my family,” Van Dyke said. “While almost all of the products LifeWay offers can be purchased at other retailers or online, we have continued to shop at LifeWay Christian Stores exclusively and will not be taking our business to another retailer or to an online platform.”

3/26/2019 11:46:14 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Credentials Committee chair, vice chair named

March 26 2019 by Baptist Press Staff

Betsy Gomez of Irving, Texas, has been named to chair the Credentials Committee for the June 11-12 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., SBC President J.D. Greear announced March 25.
Muche Ukegbu of Miami will serve as vice chair.

Photos submitted
Betsy Gomez and Muche Ukegbu

“The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention exists for the messengers from our churches to meet together for the sake of our shared mission, and the Credentials Committee plays a vital role in facilitating that,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area. “I could not be more excited to have Betsy as chair and Muche as vice chair of the Credentials Committee this year.
“They are both incredibly sharp leaders who will bring the experience, wisdom and integrity needed to give us a gospel-focused meeting in Birmingham,” Greear said.
Gomez is part of Aviva Nuestros Corazones, the Hispanic outreach of the Revive Our Hearts women’s ministry. Her husband Moises serves as the Spanish pastor at First Irving (Texas) Church.
Gomez is pursuing a master’s degree in women’s ministries through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Originally from the Dominican Republic, she is the mother of two boys and is expecting her first daughter.
“I am grateful to serve with the members of the Credentials Committee in order to help provide a smooth and organized experience to all the attendees,” Gomez said. “It is my prayer that during that week the Lord will stir our hearts with great love and passion to make the gospel known in our areas of influence and to the end of the earth.”
Ukegbu is lead pastor of The Brook Church in Miami. He is married to Diamone and has three children.
“I am honored to be appointed to serve with humble and authentic leadership desiring to see a move of God in our generation,” Ukegbu said.
The full Credentials Committee is set to be announced by Greear in the days ahead.

3/26/2019 11:43:16 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments

Will Brazil honor Jerusalem as Israeli capital?

March 26 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Newly elected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro may withhold recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel during his upcoming visit to the Middle East, possibly reneging on a campaign pledge.

BP file photo
Brazil is among a handful of nations considering following U.S. President Donald Trump’s lead in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in diplomatic relations.

Opposition from military officers in Brazil’s cabinet may hinder Bolsonaro from relocating Brazil’s Israeli embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, has reported.
Bolsonaro, supported by evangelicals who comprise about 27 percent of Brazil’s population, is among a small list of nations who have pledged to honor the Israeli capital of Jerusalem in diplomatic relations, although some have stopped short of relocating their embassies there.
Bolsonaro will visit Israel March 31-April 2 in the last leg of his first official international travel as president. He met with U.S. President Donald Trump, whom he has praised, at the White House March 19 before visiting Chile.
Brazil is the world’s ninth-largest economy and, according to the U.S. State Department, the U.S. is Brazil’s second-largest trading partner.
In May 2018, Trump relocated the U.S. Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, drawing criticism from the United Nations but praise from evangelicals in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Guatemala followed Trump’s example just two days later, becoming the second nation to desert the widely held consensus in international law that Jerusalem’s status must be settled in negotiations between Israel and Palestinians, both of whom claim ownership of the holy city.
Jerusalem is the God-given capital of Israel, evangelicals widely believe, but Israel has existed as a modern state only since 1948. Modern Israel has occupied the entire city of Jerusalem since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez verbally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference March 24 in Washington. Hernandez will open a trade office in Jerusalem, he said at AIPAC, but will retain the Honduran Israeli embassy in Tel Aviv.
Romania is studying the possibility of moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila said at AIPAC, but Romanian President Klaus Iohannis opposes the move. Dancila’s announcement “shows complete ignorance regarding foreign affairs,” the French news agency AFP quoted Iohannis March 25 as saying.
Moldova President Igor Dodon said in December 2018 he would “very seriously consider” moving the nation’s embassy to Jerusalem, AFP reported.
As many as a dozen nations are considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said.

3/26/2019 11:40:19 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Seth Brown to lead the Biblical Recorder

March 25 2019 by Biblical Recorder Staff

The Biblical Recorder’s board of directors has elected Seth Brown to lead the news journal following the retirement of current editor-president, Allan Blume. Brown is currently the organization’s content editor.

Seth Brown

Gerald Hodges, chairman of the search committee, presented Brown as the committee’s candidate in the board’s semi-annual meeting today (March 25).
“Early in our conversations with Seth we were very impressed with his passion for the ministry of the Biblical Recorder, his perspective of the current landscape of Baptist journalism, as well as his wisdom and insights concerning changes and innovations that are needed for the Biblical Recorder to move ahead,” Hodges said.
The search committee also expressed appreciation for Brown’s spiritual maturity, according to Hodges. “There was a clear consensus within our committee that Seth is the man to take the helm as the leader of the Biblical Recorder. He has a passion to see the Recorder not just survive, but thrive in the mission and ministry it has provided since 1833.”
Brown, 33, and his wife, Lauren, are natives of Mississippi. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in religion from William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss., and a master of arts in Christian studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest. Brown also serves on the pastoral leadership team at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh.
Before joining the Recorder’s staff in 2015, he was a writer and researcher for Docent Research Group and owned a graphic design business.
“Southern Baptist news outlets are important,” Brown told the search committee. “They play a vital role in Southern Baptist life by providing reliable information – something that is essential to our cooperative effort. We live in an era of #FakeNews, and confidence in media is low. In that context, the Biblical Recorder has made trust a key value. We promote truth and clarity. Our goal is to be a light shining in darkness.”
In a statement to the Recorder, Danny Akin, president of SEBTS said, “I believe North Carolina has the finest state paper in the Southern Baptist Convention. Under the leadership of Allan Blume, it has achieved a reputation for journalistic excellence second to none.
“With Allan’s retirement, I am excited that the Biblical Recorder will now be led by Seth Brown. What a superb choice! I believe he will provide the same outstanding leadership we have come to expect in the BR. I see continued bright days on the horizon for North Carolina Baptists under Seth’s direction.”
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina said he values the Recorder’s mission to keep “North Carolina Baptists and others informed about missions and ministry endeavors taking place in North Carolina, across the country and around the world.”
“The Recorder is one of the oldest news journals in Southern Baptist life, and it continues to be a valuable and reliable source of information for its readers,” he said in an email statement.
“During his tenure as editor, Allan Blume has raised the Recorder's profile as a trusted news source through its quality printed edition while expanding its online presence. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina enjoys its partnership with the Recorder, and we look forward to continuing our work together in advancing God’s Kingdom as Seth Brown leads the publication into the future,” said Hollifield.
Nate Jones, chairman of the Recorder’s board of directors said, “I support the unanimous vote of the board to elect Seth Brown as the next editor of the Biblical Recorder. I believe it is a great day when we elect someone to take the Recorder to the next level.”
Todd Unzicker is a former sports editor and journalist who now serves in pastoral leadership at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham. “There has not been a more effective and honest investigative Baptist reporter the last several years than Seth Brown,” Unzicker said in an email to the Recorder.
“In an age of ‘fake news’ and high levels of media distrust, Baptists can rest assured that Seth will present the full truth. He has earned great respect from his peers and approaches stories with pastoral care while diligently seeking the truth at all times. … it is hard to find a more trustworthy person than Seth Brown.”
At the October 2018 board of directors’ meeting Blume announced his retirement effective May 31. Brown will assume the lead role on June 1.

3/25/2019 4:31:52 PM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments

Former IMB missionary leader Steve Smith, 57, dies

March 25 2019 by Mary Jane Welch, Baptist Press

Steve Smith, who filled key leadership roles in Asia with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board (IMB), died March 13 after a long illness. He was 57.

Photo from

Smith and his wife Laura served with IMB for 18 years, always focused on parts of the world where the gospel was little known. He began his service in East Asia and was later named to direct work among Southeast Asian peoples. He also served as a consultant on church-planting movements for other areas.
Smith was involved in a church-planting movement in East Asia. He and colleague Ying Kai wrote T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution. The book detailed the biblical principles behind church-planting movements and a process developed by Kai and his wife Grace to pursue such movements.
T4T, short for “Training for Trainers,” integrates evangelism, discipleship, church planting and leadership development and is now used around the world, including in the United States.
John Brady, IMB vice president for global engagement, said of Smith: “Steve was a man who really wanted to delight the Lord with his life. He actually valued that more than personal success.”
“When we seek to delight the Lord, we are truly successful,” Brady said. “I’ve seen Steve take some pretty tough situations where he appeared to pay a bit of a price, but it was because he wanted to delight God more than to appear successful.”
During the time he has known Steve and Laura, Brady said, he has come to know them as godly people, “loving the Lord, loving getting to the lost and making quite a difference with their lives.”
Brady shared a statement Smith had written to family and friends six months earlier as he struggled with the pain of his cancer: “After two hours of lying awake, reading and praying, God summarized the truth as it relates to my life in three phrases:

  • Amazing past (Ephesians 2:10)

  • Blessed and purposeful present (Ephesians 1:3ff)

  • Unimaginably good future (2 Corinthians 4:17)”

“Lying in bed,” Smith continued, “a smile crossed my face and I began singing a song of praise quietly while Laura slept on the fold-out chair. In my mind, no one could have asked for a more amazing past. I am thrilled to have tried to live for God’s purposes most of my life. It fills my heart with gratitude. Second, every breath I breathe is marked by blessing from God so that I can live purposefully here on earth. There is no more noble mission than the one I participate in. And finally, whenever the day is to step over into the next part of eternal life, I have no way to imagine how glorious that will be.
“Each of us has an opportunity to live by these truths. You may not have an amazing past, but you can have a redeemed past that God uses to help you live a blessed and purposeful present. And no matter what the future holds, for God’s children – those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ – the future is unimaginably good. It may not turn out the way we want, but it always turns out the way that is better.”
After officially retiring from IMB in 2016, Smith continued his commitment to multiplying disciples, churches, leaders and movements as vice president of multiplication for East-West Ministries, global movement catalyst for Beyond, and co-lead facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition.
Smith, born on Hamilton Air Force Base in California, grew up in Lafayette, La., where his family was active in First Baptist Church. The summer after his senior year in high school, Smith wrote when applying to serve with IMB, he realized God wanted him in full-time Christian ministry. “I surrendered all of myself,” Smith said. “From that point on I have desired to follow His will wholeheartedly.”

Photo by Kathy Spetter
Steve Smith, center left, former leader of International Mission Board work in Southeast Asia, died March 13. He’s shown here with his family, from left: Cris, Josh (holding Jim), Steve, Laura, David and Caroline (holding Jack).

Smith completed his undergraduate degree in New Testament Greek at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and his master of divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He received his master and doctorate of theology from the University of South Africa.
During his university and seminary training, Smith sought out opportunities to learn ministry through a variety of churches, including rural Vaughan Baptist Church, where he was pastor, and Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, where he taught Sunday school.
After seminary he and Laura moved to the inner city of Los Angeles for 10 years where they planted and pastored North University Park Church under the tutelage of Thom Wolf, then pastor of Church on Brady (now known as Mosaic).
Besides T4T, Smith has written Spirit Walk: The Extraordinary Power of Acts for Ordinary People and the No Place Left saga comprised of two novels, Hastening and Rebirth, a missions thriller for people who would otherwise be uninterested in missions literature ( Smith also wrote a regular column in Mission Frontiers magazine.
Smith is survived by his wife Laura and three grown sons: Cris, David, Josh and his wife Caroline and twin grandsons.
A memorial service was held March 16 at WoodsEdge Community Church in Spring, Texas.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mary Jane Welch has long written about missions and edited missions publications and websites.)

3/25/2019 9:45:12 AM by Mary Jane Welch, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Greenway lays out ‘big-tent vision’ for Southwestern

March 25 2019 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS

“I believe Southwestern Seminary historically has been at its best when it’s been known as the big-tent seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Adam W. Greenway said in his first chapel sermon as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, March 21.

Adam Greenway, in his first chapel sermon as Southern Seminary president, said he intends “to help reinvigorate and to retell the great legacy of our seminary for a new generation.”

Evoking the imagery of big-tent revival meetings, Greenway laid out his vision for the seminary’s future, explaining that just as a tent has four pegs, so Southwestern Seminary holds to four points of conviction and commitment – a high view of scripture, the Baptist Faith and Message, the Great Commission, and cooperation.
Greenway, who holds an master of divinity degree from Southwestern, was unanimously elected as the seminary’s ninth president during a Feb. 26-27 called trustee meeting at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus.
“I think it’s important to say even in the midst of uncertain, changing, transitional times, some things ought never to change,” Greenway told the chapel audience. “I don’t come in with some radical new vision and complete discontinuity from the glorious 111-year history of the crown jewel seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“If anything, I believe the Lord called me here to help reinvigorate and to retell the great legacy of our seminary for a new generation. That is my passion and my desire as a Southwesterner.”
Addressing the seminary family as well as prospective bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral students attending Experience Scarborough, Experience Southwestern and Research Southwestern events, respectively, Greenway assured the audience that if they find themselves in alignment with these four pegs – a commitment to the inerrancy and authority of scripture; the convictions laid out in the Baptist Faith and Message; preaching, teaching, evangelism and missions; and a spirit of cooperation with one another and especially with the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention – then Southwestern is “a home for your heart. This is the seminary for you.”
“As much as it depends upon me,” Greenway said, “I want to lead in such a way here that when people come to Southwestern Seminary, even as they’re driving up James Avenue or they’re driving down Seminary Drive, the closer they get to this sacred 200 acres, they sense the power of the Spirit of God. They sense a community of people who love one another.”
Greenway acknowledged that the seminary family does not agree on every matter, but they agree on “the main things,” such as the inspiration of scripture and the necessity of personal evangelism.
Furthermore, he said, Southwesterners recognize that “there is a beautiful level of diversity on the nonessential matters that is a reflection and a reminder of what it’s going to look like one day when we stand in the very presence of God in heaven and we sing that new song together – believers from every tribe, every tongue, every nation, every language, every people group singing, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.’”
Greenway emphasized that a big-tent vision is neither new nor novel; on the contrary, he said, it is the founding vision of the seminary. “I believe that was the heart of B.H. Carroll and L.R. Scarborough,” Greenway said in reference to the seminary’s founder and second president. “I believe it’s the heart of the New Testament.
“As much as it depends upon me, this is where we’re going to stand,” Greenway said. “And any way that our seminary can serve you, can help you, can equip you, that’s what I desire for our seminary to be....
“Our seventh president, Dr. [Ken] Hemphill, said that together, we can touch the world and we can impact eternity. That is my prayer. May God bless us, may God use us, may He find us faithful, and may He make us fruitful for His Kingdom’s work.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is associate director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

3/25/2019 9:41:37 AM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS | with 0 comments

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