May 2013

Sharing a 'Jesus dream' in Salt Lake City

February 21 2019 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

Luis Soto traveled across South America with Wycliffe Global Alliance, teaching and mobilizing in eight nations during a seven-year span. His missionary journey eventually led him and his family to Salt Lake City where he launched a new church.

“We arrived here to preach at a conference for a week,” Soto said. While there, he observed the need in Utah, a state with a majority population of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) or Mormons. The need for Bible-believing and teaching churches overwhelmed Soto and his family.

NAMB photo by Daley Hake
Following a Sunday service, Luis Soto speaks with congregants. Soto planted Iglesia Bautista Gracia Eterna – Eternal Grace Baptist Church – in Salt Lake City with the vision of starting a church planting movement in the city and around the world.


“In Salt Lake City, ninety-seven percent of people are lost,” Soto said. “In this state, just two percent is Evangelical Christian.”

Soto, a former student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has lived in Salt Lake City since 2013 with his wife, Beatriz, and daughter, Eliana. He and Beatriz are 2019 Week of Prayer missionaries for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions.
 
“In a place where it seems like everyone is Mormon, it’s easy to feel alone,” and the city has been labeled a graveyard for missionary work, Soto said.
 
“When you come here to become a church planter,” Soto explained, “you need the call of God because it’s not easy. It’s a hard place.”
 
When he arrived in Salt Lake City, Soto became the pastor of an established church, Iglesia Bautista de Roca de los Siglos – Rock of the Centuries Baptist Church. He launched Iglesia Bautista Gracia Eterna – Eternal Grace Baptist Church – a few years later. In both congregations, he has engrained a vision of training disciples who engage in the mission of reaching Salt Lake City.
 
Rather than seeking to grow a large church, Soto aspires to see a church planting movement that spans across the metro area to reach the lost. As a Puerto Rican whose native tongue is Spanish, Soto focuses primarily on the Hispanic population in and around Salt Lake City.
 
“Hispanic people come from California and Mexico for the American dream,” said Soto. One of his goals is to show them their need for “the Jesus dream” and the need for salvation.
 
The difficulties facing the Hispanic community, however, can make evangelism and discipleship difficult. Many must work two or three jobs in order to make ends meet, leaving little time for other activity. So, Soto invests in their lives through one-on-one discipleship by meeting in coffee shops, at the park and in homes.
 
“I see the fruit for the Hispanics in this community,” Soto said. “There’s new leadership, new church planters and new teachers, but it is a sacrifice. This is a sacrificial work day after day after day.”
 
Soto has seen several families being changed by the power of the gospel. Entire families start to embrace the work of the church: children, youth and parents. People are developing a passion for disciple-making.
 
“People have the enthusiasm for going and making other disciples,” said Soto. “I see our church making more and more disciples.” That discipleship leads to starting new churches in a city that desperately needs more gospel-proclaiming, gospel-teaching congregations.
 
Despite his church members’ hectic schedules, Soto has managed to arrange an in-depth discipleship group that he operates like a college class. In that class, he trains church leaders and future church planting missionaries. They study the Bible and read books on theology and ministry together.
 
Now, men like Jose Castillo are prepared to be sent out as missionaries themselves. While it can be difficult to send out his co-laborers in the gospel, Soto knows that it is necessary.
 
“The sensation is joy, and you cry,” he said. “But you have a joy because this is the purpose for a church. This is the Great Commission, ‘Go and make disciples.’”
 
Soto is on his way to seeing several new churches planted in Salt Lake City. Gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering help to make that possible by providing resources to North American missionaries. Every penny given to the offering goes directly to support those in the field. Learn more at anniearmstrong.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)
 
2/21/2019 1:34:44 PM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments



His thanks to Graham: ‘One of those souls is mine’

February 21 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

A soldier stuck his head into the tent where Alfred Rawson was quartered during the Korean War with several other soldiers at an Air Force base in Japan.
 
It was in November 1952. The soldier asked if anybody wanted to go hear Billy Graham at another Air Force base about 30 miles away. A bus would take them there; Rawson and another soldier in the tent agreed to go.
 


Submitted photo
Alfred Rawson's 1952 profession of faith at a Billy Graham meeting in Japan during the Korean War yielded an Easter Sunday baptism three years later for him and his wife Ruth.

“I told ‘em I’d go see the show,” the Vermont native said with a laugh.
 
“I didn’t even know what the meeting was about. The guy’s going to give a speech – that’s all [the soldier] said. I don’t remember him saying it was a religious meeting or anything like that, just somebody that was going to speak to the troops.
 
“He spoke to us, alright,” Rawson, now 89, said at the one-year point of Graham’s death at age 99 at his home in North Carolina.
 
About a thousand troops, by Rawson’s recollection, were in a gymnasium-type facility on a cold night when Graham spoke.
 
“I got way up back as far as I could away from the meeting,” Rawson admitted.
 
But then: “Billy gave us a good lecture from the scriptures, from the Bible ... He got the Word across. I know everybody listened to him.”
 
Graham told the soldiers Jesus died for their sins.
 
“I realized I had done a little sinning,” Rawson acknowledged.
 
“And if we didn’t accept Jesus Christ we were headed for hell. I didn’t like that message very well. So I knew I had to do something about it.”
 
Graham “gave us an invitation to come forward if we wanted to receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.” Rawson left his seat and made his way to the front. “There were about a hundred that went forward that night,” he recalled.
 
Rawson talked to one of the volunteers, saying, “Yes, I want the Lord to come into my heart.”
 
“I was a sinner,” he told Baptist Press in an interview, reiterating, “I needed to do something about it.”
 
He received a small New Testament, “and they told us we should all read the book of John because the message was in there about how God so loved the world and gave His only begotten Son.”
 
Back at the base where Rawson was one of the welders who repaired aircraft parts and later became a supervisor, Rawson read from the New Testament he had been given, later receiving a Scofield Study Bible from someone in his family back home.
 
Otherwise, he didn’t talk much about his profession of faith.

“They kept you pretty busy. We were working seven days a week. We got time off only when they wanted to give us some time because we were at war.
 
“I went to the chapel three or four times. I didn’t get much out of that because they kind of lean towards a little of everything,” he said.
 

Life on the farm

 
Rawson knew little about Christianity while growing up.
 
His father was a farmer who had several cows and a team of horses. “As a kid ... it didn’t give you much chance to try to go to church or anything like that because you were busy on Sundays doing chores.
 


Submitted photo
Alfred Rawson's deployment to Japan in August 1951 during the Korean War set the stage for him to turn to Christ during a Billy Graham meeting the following year.

“I went to church a couple times when my grandfather died and when my grandmother died. I went to their funerals,” he said, and he went to Sunday School a couple of times “but I don’t remember much about it.”
 
He heard about Noah and the ark and about David and Goliath from someone he described as a “lady missionary who was allowed in those days to come to the school and bring a story about the Bible.”
 
And he knew of a single missionary in town who had to leave China during World War II and was living with another single woman who was a doctor.
 
A few years ago he came across diaries his grandfather had kept, and Rawson learned that his grandparents were active in the local Baptist congregation.
 
“He was a man that would write down a diary every year, what he did, what the weather was, where they went and things like that,” including “how many people were in church sometimes, some of the dinners they had.”
 

Returning home

 
Rawson was deployed for the Korean War from August 1951 until January 1954. “That meant I had three birthdays, three Thanksgivings and three Christmases that I was tied up in Japan.”
 
When he returned to Vermont, he soon married his fiancé Ruth. “Any woman who waited for me two and a half years, I’d better marry her,” he said.
 
After Rawson was transferred to an air base in Cheyenne, Wyo., he and Ruth became active Christians.
 
“A lady asked my wife, ‘Would you mind going with me. My daughter is in the Christmas program at the Cheyenne Baptist Temple,’ just up the road. And my wife – she used to go to a Methodist church in Weston, Vt. – said, ‘Yeah, I’ll go with you.’
 


Submitted photo
Alfred Rawson served as a welder and, later, a welding supervisor and instructor during his 21-year Air Force career.

“When she came home she told me, ‘Boy, I never heard such preaching.’ She said we need to come back and visit that church come Sunday. So we did.”
 
Ruth subsequently made a profession of faith and Alfred rededicated his life to Christ – “I knew I hadn’t been living according to what I should have been” – and they were baptized on Easter in 1955.
 
Their faith grew as they trekked across the street “to discuss the Bible” from time to time with a man “who was from the South, a Southern Baptist ... a real strong Baptist believer,” and his wife. Discipleship also came at the home of a Temple Baptist deacon and his wife in visits for coffee or a meal. The Rawsons became regular in their church attendance and participated in home evangelism visitation.
 
The same occurred when Rawson was transferred to another air base in Rantoul, Ill., where they became involved in a fledgling Baptist church and began teaching Sunday School.
 
Over the years in four churches, Rawson also has been a deacon, choir member, youth worker and church bus driver.
 
It was in Rantoul when, in 1959, the Rawsons were invited to a home to meet Graham along with music leader Cliff Barrows and soloist George Beverly Shea.
 
“It was nice of [the hosts] to invite us over because I had told them I had been saved under Billy Graham years ago,” Rawson said of the brief visit.
 
For a year, Rawson was stationed in Iceland, where a small group met in the home of the chief of the Navy station each Sunday night for Bible reading, song, fellowship and a devotional which Rawson enlisted from someone from the group.
 
A young Navy man who “always had some tough questions about the Bible” was of the attendees. Years later, Rawson was surprised to see in a Baptist magazine that the man had received theological training, gotten married and was a missionary in the Philippines.
 

Gratitude to Graham

 
Rawson had been a welding supervisor and trainer when he retired from the Air Force in 1972 with 21 years of service. He wrote a thank you letter to Graham in 2008 on the occasion of the evangelist’s 90th birthday.
 
In the letter, he recounted his conversion during Graham’s preaching in Japan in 1952, noting, “This was the first time that I had ever heard about the salvation we can have through Jesus Christ.”
 
He told of his and Ruth’s baptism on Easter Sunday in 1955 and the churches where they had served in Wyoming, Illinois, Texas and Vermont.
 
He mentioned his two daughters, Susan, who became an elementary school teacher in Vermont and raised five children with her husband, two of whom were adopted, and Sharon, who taught English in China, married a Southern Baptist minister and now works at the SBC Executive Committee as an executive assistant.
 
“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your devotion and faithfulness to the ministry for which Jesus Christ called you to do,” Rawson wrote. “Your faithful preaching of the Word of God throughout the world has reached thousands of souls for Jesus Christ. One of those souls is mine!”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Feb. 21 marks one year since the death of evangelist Billy Graham at age 99.)

2/21/2019 1:12:57 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



10-year-old advances SBC ministry day

February 21 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Zak McCullar was 9 years old when he knocked on a stranger’s door in Black Mountain, N.C., eager to tell her about Jesus.
 

Photo by Morris Abernathy
In a rare invitation to address the SBC Executive Committee during its Feb. 18-19 meeting in Nashville, 10-year-old Zak McCullar spoke in support of his 2018 motion to add Children's Ministry Day to the SBC calendar of events.

“I said we’re from Walker County in Alabama and we’re with Oteen Baptist Church and we want to invite you to church, and if there’s any questions ask me.”
 
The trip was just a month after McCullar had stood among 9,000 messengers and guests at the Southern Baptist Convention 2018 Annual Meeting in Dallas, reading his motion to add a Children’s Ministry Day to the SBC official calendar of events.
 
With his motion referred to the SBC Executive Committee (EC) for consideration, McCullar promoted his cause to the EC during its closing plenary session Feb. 19 in Nashville.
 
“I think children’s ministry workers should be thanked by this day,” said McCullar, now 10. “And I want children to be recognized for the work we do to share Christ, even though we are young.”
 
McCullar, a member of First Baptist Church in Carbon Hill, Ala., told the EC of his family mission trip to Black Mountain, N.C., organized through the Walker Baptist Association in Jasper, Ala. On mission, he helped Oteen Baptist Church in Asheville evangelize nearby neighborhoods.
 
“Even though we kids could have enjoyed VBS (Vacation Bible School) at the church,” McCullar said, “instead most of us children went visiting the homes of Asheville to invite people to church. One of the church members who is 9 years old even chased down joggers to invite them to church. I hope you will pass my motion.”
 
The EC answered McCullar’s request, voting to recommend to 2019 SBC messengers in Birmingham, Ala., the addition of Children’s Ministry Day to the SBC calendar annually on the third Sunday in July through 2023.
 
McCullar traveled to Nashville with his parents, pastor Scott and Suzanne McCullar, and siblings Mackenzie and Nik.
 
Having accepted Christ at age 5, and having been baptized on Easter Sunday in 2016, the young McCullar expressed to Baptist Press (BP) a zeal for Jesus.
 
“He’s a very important part of my life,” he said. “Every time there’s an opportunity for me to go to church I take it.”
 
The 2018 mission trip was his first.
 
“I loved visiting the houses,” he said of the mission trip. “If they were home, we would invite them to church and try to tell them about the gospel.”
 
Everyone should know Jesus, Zak told BP.
 
“Jesus died for you on the cross, and He loves you, and He wants you to learn more about Him, and He wants you to be with Him someday in heaven,” is how Zak shares the gospel. “If they don’t know about Christ, how are they going to go to church and go to heaven? And how are they going to help tell other people about Christ?”
 
While he’s a pastor’s son, his father Scott said the move to add a children’s ministry day to the SBC calendar was all Zak’s idea. A homeschooled fifth grader, Zak himself wrote the 2018 motion and the speech he delivered in Nashville.
 
Last June in Dallas, Zak “looked at the (2018) Book of Reports, and he was looking through it, studying it. And he got to the calendar of activities,” pastor McCullar recounted to BP, “and he said Daddy there’s no Children’s Ministry Day. I said sure there is. And he said, ‘Daddy, there’s not one.’”
 
Zak asked whether he could make a motion to add the date to the calendar. His parents helped him research how motions are submitted. Zak filled out the form, got in line and waited his turn.
 
“He got in line and I just bit my fingernails,” his father said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. But he did fantastic. But it was all him ... We just let him do it.”
 
Zak hopes the calendar addition will not only encourage youth ministry leaders, but also inspire children to share the gospel.
 
“I would like them to know,” Zak told BP, “you’re never too young to be an evangelist.”

2/21/2019 1:10:42 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Immigration & pastor’s views spotlighted in study

February 21 2019 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

As U.S. lawmakers continue to debate the best approach to illegal immigration, most Protestant pastors say the solution should be multifaceted, according to a study released Feb. 20.
 
LifeWay Research surveyed 1,000 Protestants pastors Jan. 14-30 on their views on illegal immigration and how the church should view those in the country illegally.
 
Eighty percent say the government has the responsibility to stop illegal immigration, while 9 percent disagree and 11 percent are not sure.
 
Meanwhile, 70 percent of pastors say they are in favor of an immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for those who are currently in the country illegally. Seventeen percent disagree and 13 percent are not sure.
 
Three-quarters of pastors (76 percent) say Christians have a responsibility to assist immigrants even if they are in the country illegally, while 14 percent disagree and 10 percent are not sure.
 
Currently, nearly 3 in 10 pastors say their churches are involved locally in assisting immigrants. Seven in 10 say they are not currently involved.
 
“Lawmakers have left many of the bigger immigration questions unresolved often voicing ‘either-or’ positions,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Pastors don’t seem as conflicted desiring improvement in both border security and a path to citizenship for those here illegally.”
 

Stopping illegal immigration

 
While 80 percent of pastors today say the government has the responsibility to stop illegal immigration, that’s down from 87 percent in a 2014 LifeWay Research survey.
 
“Among these questions, stopping illegal immigration registers the strongest sentiment from pastors,” McConnell said. “But support for this is now more in line with caring for immigrants already in the country and establishing a path to citizenship.”
 

Today, African American pastors are more likely than white pastors to disagree that the government carries the responsibility to stop illegal immigration (21 percent to 8 percent).
 
Those in the Northeast (15 percent) and Midwest (12 percent) are more likely to disagree than pastors in the South (5 percent).
 
Education, age and denomination all factor into how likely a pastor is to say the government bears the responsibility to stop illegal immigration.
 
Pastors 65 and older are more likely to see that as the government’s job than pastors 44 and younger (85 percent to 75 percent).
 
Those with a bachelor’s degree or less (87 percent) are more likely than those with more education (77 percent).
 
Evangelical pastors (87 percent) are more likely to agree than mainline pastors (74 percent).
 
Pentecostals (94 percent) and Baptists (89 percent) are more likely to agree than Church of Christ pastors (79 percent), Lutherans (74 percent), Presbyterian or Reformed (74 percent), or Methodists (68 percent).
 

Path to citizenship

 
More pastors today favor immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for immigrants currently in the country illegally.
 
Since 2014, the percentage of pastors who favor a path to citizenship has grown 12 percentage points from 58 percent to 70 percent today. The percentage who disagreed was cut in half – 34 percent to 17 percent.
 
“For immigrants in the country illegally, there are no real options for redemption,” McConnell noted. “That doesn’t sit well with pastors – the majority of whom were ready for lawmakers to offer a means of making restitution and gaining legal status years ago.”
 
In 2019, African American pastors are the ethnicity most likely to agree (91 percent), while pastors 65 and older are the age range least likely to agree (62 percent).
 
Mainline pastors (80 percent) are more likely to back a path to citizenship than evangelical ones (66 percent).
 
Methodist (86 percent) and Presbyterian or Reformed (80 percent) pastors are more likely to agree than Church of Christ (65 percent), Baptist (60 percent) and Pentecostal (59 percent) pastors.
 

Support for immigrants

 
Compared to 2014, a similar number of pastors say Christians have a responsibility to assist immigrants even if they are here illegally – 76 percent today and 79 percent then.
 
Evangelical pastors are more likely to disagree than mainline pastors (16 percent to 10 percent).
 
Pastors 65 and older are least likely to agree (67 percent).
 
Those in the Northeast (85 percent) are more likely to agree than those in the South (74 percent) or Midwest (74 percent).
 
Holiness (88 percent) and Presbyterian or Reformed (87 percent) are more likely to agree than Lutherans (74 percent), Church of Christ pastors (73 percent), Baptists (70 percent), or Pentecostals (66 percent).
 
Nearly 3 in 10 pastors say their church is currently helping immigrants (29 percent), while 70 percent say they are not.
 
Mainline pastors (33 percent) are more likely to say they are assisting than evangelical ones (26 percent).
 
Lutheran (40 percent), Methodist (33 percent) and Presbyterian or Reformed pastors (35 percent) are more likely to say they are helping than Baptist pastors (23 percent).
 
Pastors of churches with 250 or more in attendance are more likely to say they are currently assisting immigrants than pastors of churches with less than 50 in attendance (37 percent to 23 percent).
 
“Pastors place just as much responsibility on their congregations as they do legislators,” McConnell said. “More than twice as many pastors say Christians should help immigrants than say their church is personally involved assisting local immigrant neighbors today.”
 

Methodology

 
The phone survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors was conducted Jan. 14-30. The calling list was a stratified random sample, drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
 
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
 
For more information on the study, visit LifeWayResearch.com or view the complete report.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

2/21/2019 1:00:23 PM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments



EC search committee found ‘God’s candidate’

February 20 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The search committee seeking the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) has “identified God’s candidate for such a time as this” and will announce the nominee “very soon,” search committee vice chairman Adron Robinson reported Feb. 19.
 

Photo by Morris Abernathy
The search committee seeking the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee has "identified God's candidate for such a time as this" and will announce the nominee "very soon," search committee vice chairman Adron Robinson reported today (Feb. 19).

The search committee also responded to criticism that has surfaced this month regarding its consideration of non-Anglo candidates.
 
Reporting to a meeting of the EC in Nashville, Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, Ill., said the search committee cannot announce the candidate’s name yet because they have not officially notified the person of their intent to nominate him. When the search committee is ready to announce the nominee’s name, it will be released first to the full EC and then through Baptist Press.
 
EC chairman Mike Stone, an ex officio member of the search committee, referenced “unfortunate” criticism the search committee has received, noting a letter it received from four individuals even though media reports only noted three of them. The fourth sender, Stone said, asked to remain anonymous.
 
“Every” candidate submitted “has been seriously considered, for every submission is a sacred trust from Southern Baptists,” said Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist church in Blackshear, Ga. “Your committee has been both unanimous and unified at every single turn.”
 
From the time the committee was elected in April, “God was guiding us,” Stone said. A secret ballot election yielded “the most diverse group that you could get from a group of six Baptists,” exhibiting diversity in age, ethnicity, gender and experience.
 
Stone became the seventh member of the committee when he was elected EC chairman in June and became an ex officio member of the search team.
 
A special called meeting of the EC is likely to take up the search committee’s nomination before the EC’s next scheduled meeting in June, Stone said.

2/20/2019 10:56:17 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



With ‘Gospel above all,’ Greear tackles sex abuse

February 20 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Maintaining his signature theme of the “Gospel Above All,” Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear detailed a prescription to battle sex abuse and its enablers at the SBC Executive Committee meeting Feb. 18 in Nashville.

 

Photo by Morris Abernathy
Maintaining his signature theme of the “Gospel Above All,” Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear detailed a prescription to battle sex abuse and its enablers at the SBC Executive Committee meeting Feb. 18 in Nashville.

“We serve a God who laid down His life to protect the vulnerable,” Greear said in his presidential address. “How dare we proclaim that gospel with our mouths and then turn a blind eye when the vulnerable in our midst cry out for help?”
 
In his one-hour address, Greear also noted progress in his core objectives of church planting, evangelism, unifying the SBC around the gospel, reaching the next generation, reflecting the SBC’s ethnic and gender diversity in leadership, and renewing an SBC-wide commitment to cooperative missions.
 
Greear’s wide-ranging plan against sex abuse includes education, proven sincerity and diligence, accountability and possibly a sex abuse database and congregational disfellowship. The recommendations stem from the work of the Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Study to date. Funded by the EC and initiated by Greear, the study includes male and female security, legal, medical and religious professionals.
 
“Our goal is to ensure maximum protection for those that God has put within our care,” Greear said. “Our goal is for our response to abuse to match the gospel that we proclaim with our mouth.”
 
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., focused on Matthew 18:6 to point out Southern Baptists’ overwhelming responsibility for the vulnerable.
 
“Didn’t Jesus say that for whomever causes one of those little ones who believe in me to stumble, to fall away, that it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea?” Greear asked. “Can you imagine anything that would make someone fall away from the gospel more than experiencing abuse at the hands of those who were charged to teach them with the gospel, who represented the gospel to them?”
 
See Baptist Press's detailed report on Greear’s plan of action crafted through the advisory study.
 

Gospel Above All

 
Gospel Above All, based on I Corinthians 15:3-4, is Greear’s chosen theme for the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting June 11-12 in Birmingham, Ala.
 
The gospel is the basis of the SBC’s identity, Greear said, and its proclamation should not be thwarted by doubtful things not expressly addressed in the Bible, such as issues like global warming.
 
“We want to be a people that are known for the gospel,” Greear said of the SBC. “I am afraid that’s not what people think about right now when they think about us, and we need to change that.”
 
Personal opinions should never obscure the gospel, he said.
 
“There is a certain restraint that I have to show when it comes to what I build my identity on and what I am able to put out to our community,” Greear said. “The gospel must be above all.”
 
Greear emphasized a renewed commitment to cooperative missions, but he did not limit cooperation to the SBC Cooperative Program of funding missions.
 
“We’ve got to look at all options in how we work together in cooperative mission,” Greear said. “That is the essence of the Southern Baptist Convention, is that we believe we can do more together than we can separately. And that we believe that the Cooperative Program is a great gift ... for propelling the mission.”
 
Greear discussed the importance of increased cooperation extensively with state and associational executives in 2018.
 

Diversity

 
Nearly a fifth of an estimated 15 million Southern Baptists are minorities of various ethnicities, Greear said, referencing North American Mission Board statistics that 62 percent of churches planted in 2018 were non-Anglo.
 
Reflecting such diversity in leadership is Greear’s aim. White males comprise only 32 percent of the 2019 Committee on Committees, Greear said, which he appointed this month.
 
Among all SBC committees, women comprise 34 percent of posts, non-Anglos comprise over half of all committee appointees, he said, and 51 percent of committee members are from churches with fewer than 250 Sunday attendees.
 
“They are not people that were chosen because of their demographic status. They were not chosen because of their gender,” Greear said. “They were chosen because they are qualified leaders who ought to be speaking their wisdom into our entities and boards. We don’t believe in tokenism.”
 
Intentional steps to ensure diversity should include outreach not only to state conventions, but to various entities and networks within the SBC.
 
“We desperately need their wisdom going forward into the United States that God has called us to reach,” Greear said, “and the mission He has for us around the world.... We need them more than they need us.”
 
Engaging the next generation of Southern Baptists is a key aim, Greear said, while emphasizing the important contributions of established leaders and voices.
 
“I love and am so grateful for my Southern Baptist forefathers,” Greear said. “But we know it is time to include a new generation, a rising generation that is not just the church for tomorrow, but they are the church for today.”
 

Who’s Your One?

 
Evangelism and church planting are needed to fulfill the Great Commission, Greear said, emphasizing the evangelistic mission of “Who’s Your One?”
 
Under the initiative, Greear encourages each Southern Baptist to engage at least one lost person for a time, being hospitable toward them, sharing the gospel with them and praying for their salvation.
 
“In the core of everything I do, making disciples and reaching the lost has got to be paramount,” Greear said. “This is the core of the Great Commission.
 
“Church planting without evangelism is just reshuffling sheep around in the new folds,” Greear said. “Community ministry without evangelism is just making more people comfortable on their way to hell.”
 
As a result of the evangelism initiative at Greear’s pastorate, he said, he recorded 132 professions of faith at all campuses the week prior to his address.
 
Greear encouraged each church to directly become involved in church planting. At his pastorate, he has encouraged college students to give the first two years of their professional careers to living near a Southern Baptist church plant either in the U.S. or abroad.
 
“We’ve always told them you’ve got to get a job somewhere,” Greear said. “Why not get a job where God is doing something strategic?”
 
Under the emphasis, Greear’s church has sent out 1,100 missionaries, he said, including youth and retirees. He has created the Go2 initiative in cooperation with NAMB and the International Mission Board.
 
Information on Greear’s evangelistic and church planting initiatives are available at GospelAboveAll.com.
 
2/20/2019 10:56:03 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ruling affirmed in Missouri Baptist Home, university cases

February 20 2019 by Missouri Pathway staff

Missouri Baptists are one step closer to restoring The Baptist Home and Missouri Baptist University (MBU) to the “MBC family.” On Feb. 19, the state’s Appeals Court in Kansas City affirmed a lower-court ruling ordering The Baptist Home and MBU to seat trustees elected by the Missouri Baptist Convention.
 

Unless the Missouri Supreme Court agrees to hear an appeal and then overturns the ruling, the two organizations would resume operating under convention-approved charters and duly elected Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) boards for the first time since 2001. The Baptist Home and MBU have until March 6 to file an application for rehearing in the Court of Appeals en banc or for transfer to the Missouri Supreme Court.
 
The three-judge Appeals Court panel upheld a Sept. 27, 2017, opinion by Special Judge Karl DeMarce in Cole County Circuit Court. In that ruling, DeMarce held that trustees of the home and university violated Missouri law when they cut off the MBC’s rights in 2000 and 2001, respectively. The charters of both institutions require MBC messengers to approve changes.
 
“The Appeals Court’s ruling is very encouraging – and not just for Missouri Baptists,” said John Yeats, the MBC’s executive director.
 
“Churches, conventions and ministries across the country will benefit from the ruling, which sets a precedent for non-profit corporate law,” he said. “In response to biblical principles, Missouri Baptists want to be faithful stewards of the ministries entrusted to us, which were grown with generations of Cooperative Program giving.”
 
Yeats continued, “Missouri Baptists should rejoice that these agencies are restored to lawful boards, lawful documents, and brotherly fellowship with the Missouri Baptist Convention. We are eager to welcome Missouri Baptist University and The Baptist Home back into the MBC family, and we look forward to the same kind of smooth transition we experienced with the Missouri Baptist Foundation.”
 

A mirror of the Foundation case

 
The Appeals Court’s remedy mirrors the result in the Missouri Baptist Foundation case, which the Missouri Supreme Court resolved in September of 2016. The Foundation charter also contained a crucial “consent clause,” which requires approval of MBC messengers for charter changes, and resulted in a court order transitioning the board to MBC-elected trustees.
 
That transition has occurred smoothly over the past several years, the MBC reports, with no disruption of services to clients and with good cooperation between the former trustees and the new trustees.
 
“Foundation President Neil Franks and his leadership team are doing a marvelous job of serving Missouri Baptists, and we are grateful to all of them for a smooth transition and a shared vision of the future,” Yeats said.
 
The core issue is governance, Yeats noted. “The question always has been, ‘Who has the legal right and fiduciary responsibility to govern the entities?’ We have argued that it is a board of trustees duly elected by Missouri Baptists – and the courts have affirmed that position.”
 

Last resort

 
The home and university are among five MBC entities that changed their charters in 2000-2001 to become “self-perpetuating boards,” rejecting the right of MBC to approve charter amendments, to elect trustee boards, etc. Estimates at the time put the value of combined assets of the breakaway entities at more than $250 million.
 
After months of seeking private reconciliation and even binding Christian arbitration – all of which the self-perpetuating boards reportedly rejected – Missouri Baptists directed the MBC to seek a legal remedy as a last resort. The MBC then asked the Cole County Circuit Court for a declaratory judgment, seeking a judge’s interpretation of the law and corporate documents. This led to more than a decade of lower-court rulings that ended mostly in the MBC’s favor.
 
Judge Frank Conley ruled for the MBC and against the foundation in Cole County Circuit Court, and the Appeals Court in Kansas City affirmed that decision. When the Missouri Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal late in 2016, the foundation returned to the MBC.
 
MBC attorneys then filed two motions for summary judgment as to The Baptist Home and MBU. Special Judge Karl DeMarce signed his “final judgment” on Sept. 27, 2017, ordering the return of both entities to the MBC and resolving all remaining claims in the cases.
 

‘Welcoming the Home and MBU back’

 
Randy Comer, chairman of the MBC’s Agency Restoration Group, expressed his thanks to Missouri Baptists for their prayers, patience and steadfast support.
 
“We joyfully look forward to welcoming the Home and MBU back into the MBC family,” he said. “We care deeply about our students at MBU and our seniors on each Baptist Home campus, and our duly elected MBC trustees are committed to providing excellent services to them. We ask the Lord to continue to show us His favor in the days ahead.”
 
MBC’s legal team has included Michael and Jonathan Whitehead, a father-son duo practicing in suburban Kansas City, and James F. Freeman III with the Swanson Midgley law firm, also in Kansas City. The Whiteheads are members of Fellowship of Greenwood and Abundant Life, Lee’s Summit, respectively. Freeman is a member of Country Meadows Baptist Church, Lee’s Summit.
 
The Baptist Home provides retirement communities and residential care for senior adults on three campuses in Arcadia Valley, Chillicothe, and Ozark, and with headquarters in Ironton. Independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care are available on each campus. A new campus is under construction in Ashland.
 
Missouri Baptist University’s main campus is located in St. Louis and has reported total enrollment of more than 5,000 students, including extensions and online learning.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was reported by The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

2/20/2019 10:55:53 AM by Missouri Pathway staff | with 0 comments



Gateway to offer all master’s degrees online

February 20 2019 by Kathie Chute, Gateway Seminary

Gateway Seminary will become the first Southern Baptist seminary to offer all its master’s degrees completely online in the fall of 2019.
 

Approval to offer the final two degree programs online came from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) on Feb. 15.

“Having all of our master’s degrees online means that more than ever before, Gateway students have optimum flexibility to hone their ministry skills as they expand God’s Kingdom around the world,” said Kristen Ferguson, Gateway’s director of online education. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to offer this flexibility to them.”
 
Ferguson said professors teaching online adhere to the best practices found in the field of online education, including:

  • Weekly interaction between students and professor as they engage the content of the course.

  • Timely feedback on assignments so that students grow each week.

  • High quality videos intentionally recorded for the online platform and for the online student.

  • Contextual assignments integrated in many classes so that students learn on the field and in their own context, then bring that learning experience back to the classroom for guidance and critique.

  • Class sizes limited to 24-28 students so that each professor has ample time to invest personally into the lives of each student.

 
“As a seminary intentionally designed for the 21st century, we are already well equipped to serve students from a distance through our library services, student support and administrative guidance,” Ferguson said.
 
She added that Gateway faculty members approve course templates that require the same learning objectives and signature assignments to be achieved in every course, no matter the delivery system.
 
“Gateway Seminary holds the online program to the same standards of excellent theological education and ministry training that a student receives on campus,” she said. “We measure the quality of Gateway’s online classes per semester and on an annual basis and consistently see that the quality is the same according to student evaluations and quality of coursework submitted by students.”
 
Besides all master’s degrees, selected certificates and concentrations also will be available online. The online master of divinity degree program will include concentrations in biblical studies, Christian counseling, educational leadership, global missiology, women’s ministry and youth ministry. Other online master’s programs include the master of theological studies, the master of arts in Christian counseling, the master of arts in educational leadership, the master of arts in intercultural studies and the master of arts in missiology.
 
The seminary taught its first online class in 1995 and in 2006 began offering the maximum number of programs allowed under ATS accreditation. In 2013, the institution became one of the first to offer a fully online master of divinity degree.
 
“Our hope is to not only help students gain the necessary competency in biblical knowledge and ministry skill,” Ferguson said, “but to foster a learning environment as students are actively engaged in ministry all over the world.”
 
For more information, contact enrollment@gs.edu or call 888-442-8701.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kathie Chute is director of communications for Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

2/20/2019 10:54:23 AM by Kathie Chute, Gateway Seminary | with 0 comments



Greear on CNN: Abusers ‘have no place’ in SBC

February 19 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear told CNN he is calling the convention to disfellowship churches “that show a wanton disregard that allows abuse.”
 
Appearing Feb. 18 on CNN’s “New Day,” Greear also said he will call tonight at an SBC Executive Committee meeting in Nashville for “enhanced language” in SBC documents to underscore the convention’s longstanding belief abuse “is out of step with” The Baptist Faith and Message.
 

CNN screen capture from YouTube
SBC President J.D. Greear told CNN Feb. 18 there is “no place in our convention” for “churches that show a wanton disregard that allows abuse.”

“Churches that show a wanton disregard that allows abuse, that allows it to happen, that protects the abuser – they have no place in our convention,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Southern Baptist churches, “because of the God that we believe in and that we worship, ought to be safe places for the vulnerable, and predators ought to have no place in our midst.
 
“If that means that we are going to disfellowship churches that show this wanton disregard or show a criminal negligence when it comes to these issues, then that’s what we’re going to do,” Greear said.
 
Greear’s appearance on CNN was his first live interview, according to CNN, since the Houston Chronicle published a three-part series of articles on sexual abuse among Southern Baptists. The Chronicle claimed approximately 380 instances among Southern Baptists since 1998 – including more than 250 since 2008 – of “those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned.” The crimes have left more than 700 victims, the newspaper stated.
 
“Absolute horror” at such instances of abuse was Greear’s first response when he read the Chronicle’s reporting, he said.
 
The SBC already had condemned abuse in a 2018 resolution among other statements, and Greear launched a Sexual Abuse Advisory Study in July. But the Chronicle’s articles “made the urgency” of a report about the study to the EC “all the more pressing,” he said.
 
Greear delivered such a report the evening of Feb. 18.
 
Participants in the study, Greear said, have included Andrea Munford, the lead detective on the sexual abuse investigation of former U.S.A. gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, and Rachael Denhollander, an attorney and former gymnast who accused Nassar of abuse.
 
Greear turned to scripture to support his stance against abuse and churches that fail to act against abusers. He cited Jesus’ statement recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke that it would be better for someone to have a millstone hung around his neck and be drowned than to cause a child to “stumble.”
 
“What would make them stumble more than [for] the ones that they’re hearing about God from to be people that also are allowing them to be in situations where they can experience some of the worst kind of abuse ever known to mankind?” Greear asked.
 
When pressed by CNN anchor John Berman about taking more action against abuse than past SBC presidents, Greear noted the president lacks power to disfellowship churches. Only messengers to the SBC annual meeting, or the EC acting on their behalf between annual meetings, have that power. Yet Greear said he is confident Southern Baptists possess “a readiness to deal with this issue.”
 
Southern Baptists must be vigilant about preventing abuse, Greear said, and take care not to create, “intentionally or unintentionally, safe spaces for abusers.”
 
Some Southern Baptists, Greear said, seem to have assumed abuse is “not something that can happen to us.” However, abuse can occur “anywhere there are people.”

2/19/2019 3:35:45 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Cuba’s proposed constitution cuts religious freedom

February 19 2019 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Cuban pastors are resisting pressure to support a Feb. 24 constitutional referendum that further limits religious freedoms in the Communist nation, international religious liberty advocates said.
 
The referendum comes amid a growth in Christianity in Cuba, Southern Baptists active there have said, including a reported 43,072 professions of faith among Eastern Cuban Baptists in 2017.
 
Cuban Communist Party (CCP) officials have gathered religious leaders, including Christian pastors in several cities, to confirm that religious leaders and their congregations would support the referendum, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported Feb. 15. At a recent meeting held Feb 12 in Santiago, the CCP only wanted to intimidate pastors, a church leader told CSW.
 
The proposed constitution significantly reduces religious freedom and removes language in the current constitution regarding freedom of conscience, religious liberty advocates have said. Also absent in the proposed constitution is language protecting religious freedom as stated in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Cuba signed in 2008.
 
“Church leaders have exercised their right to share their views on the content of the new constitution, and have publicly stated that they will not tell their members how to vote,” said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of CSW-United Kingdom.
 
“Religious groups in Cuba, who represent the largest portion of independent civil society in the country, attempted to feed into the public consultation process around the new constitution,” Thomas said, “but their concerns were largely ignored, including those regarding weakened language on freedom of religion or belief and freedom of conscience.”
 
Thomas called on the Cuban government to cease its pressure and intimidation tactics, just as the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urged in December 2018, according to a USCIRF press release.
 
“We urge the Cuban government to immediately cease all intimidation tactics and to fully consider the proposals put forth by religious organizations,” USCIRF vice Chair Kristina Arriaga said as early as Dec. 11, “to ensure freedom of religion and conscience for Cubans of all faiths or none.”
 
Cuba is already a USCIRF Tier 2 “country of particular concern” for religious liberty violations noted in the USCIRF 2018 Annual Report. The CCP threatened to confiscate church property, repeatedly interrogated and detained religious leaders, prohibited Sunday worship and controlled religious activity, USCIRF noted.
 
Only 5 percent of Cuba’s 11.147 million people are Protestant, according to the U.S. Department of State. As many as 70 percent are Roman Catholic, mixed with traditional African religions including Santeria, the State Department said. A quarter of Cubans are religiously unaffiliated.
 
Cuba’s current constitution has been in effect since 1976.

2/19/2019 3:35:30 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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