May 2014

New paths for missionary sending considered

May 19 2014 by Don Graham, IMB/Don Graham

Sparked by the disconnect between burgeoning spiritual lostness and flatlined missions giving, International Mission Board’s (IMB) president is urging Southern Baptists to break from tradition and embrace new opportunities to send and support their global missionary force.

Speaking to trustees May 13-14 in Spartanburg, S.C., Tom Elliff warned that IMB “must come to grips” with the unsustainable demand placed on the organization’s resources from years of declining Cooperative Program (CP) receipts and sluggish Lottie Moon giving – revenue streams that provide the bulk of IMB’s annual budget. But even if CP and Lottie Moon giving remained steady or saw modest gains, Elliff said, IMB would still be hard-pressed to continue supporting the 4,900 Southern Baptist missionaries serving today, much less meet multiple field requests for hundreds of new personnel.

“We have not substantively addressed the issue of missionary support for 89 years,” Elliff said. “For all practical purposes, IMB’s only answer has been to encourage Southern Baptists to increase their giving. [It’s been] the same message – only louder – again and again.”

Elliff said that’s why he believes IMB must make significant changes, and soon. The issue isn’t about money, he told trustees, but about the billions who don’t know Jesus.

“The world is not waiting for Southern Baptists to ‘catch on and catch up,’” Elliff stressed. “The world is moving on while the ranks of hell are rapidly swelling with men and women, boys and girls, and their only hope is that their lives might be intercepted by people who are chasing the darkness.”

While Elliff stopped short of suggesting specific changes, deferring that responsibility to the International Mission Board’s next president, he chose instead to highlight areas where change is most critical – starting with an imperative to help missionaries better connect and communicate with Southern Baptist churches.

IMB photo by Thomas Graham
IMB President Tom Elliff talks with John Brady, vice president of global strategy, following the meeting of IMB’s board of trustees, May 13-14, in Spartanburg, S.C.

“I have heard individuals say that the beauty of working with IMB is that our missionaries don’t have to raise their own financial support ... [allowing them] to fully focus on the tasks of evangelism, discipleship and the planting of healthy, reproducing churches,” Elliff said.

“But our strength will become our weakness if at any time our support is taken for granted or when it breeds an air of ingratitude.”

The failure to connect sometimes works both ways, he added, lamenting some Southern Baptist churches send their members through IMB yet take minimal financial responsibility to keep them on the field.

“We know we can do more together than we can apart,” he said. “But it is a gross misunderstanding of the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to imagine that the Lord is honored when churches take advantage of others’ generosity by failing to be generous themselves.”

New avenues

Elliff also emphasized the need for IMB to “welcome new avenues” for sending Southern Baptist missionaries in greater partnership with churches. He said such avenues could include expansion of current sending models such as Great Commission Global Connect (known as GC2) or new categories of service falling in a spectrum of partially to fully funded personnel. GC2 missionaries are sent for two- to three-year terms, operating under the full financial support of their sending church and under the guidance of IMB field leadership. IMB partners with GC2 churches by providing missionary assessment and strategy consultation as well as administrative support and training. But Elliff believes avenues like GC2 have only begun to “scratch the surface” for the kinds of new and innovative approaches to partnership that could greatly multiply Southern Baptists’ presence overseas.

“This is a tactile, hands-on generation, with churches eager to play a personal, up-front role in missions,” he said. “Our Southern Baptist churches have within them some of the most passionate, creative and concerned pastors and lay men and women on the planet. We must hear them! ... We must be willing to loosen our grip and invite them to help us.”

Such challenges aren’t new to IMB, Elliff reassured trustees, citing the 169-year-old organization’s survival through the Civil War, the Great Depression and two World Wars. Neither is change.

“Our history is also one of constant change and adaptation,” Elliff said. “While none of us enjoy financial challenges … those very challenges have always seemed to bring out the best in IMB, its personnel and strategies.

“I believe by God’s grace the stage is once again set for IMB to enter into its most effective moment in history.”

Trailblazing lostness

Trustees heard a field report from John Brady, IMB vice president for global strategy, who shared about IMB workers in Southeast Asia who focus on about 40 unengaged, unreached people groups (UUPGs). During a survey of one of the UUPGs, the workers asked the people about their history.

“They said, ‘We are those who have been left as the survivors from a great flood. Have you ever heard of a great flood?’” Brady recounted.

The workers responded by telling the story of Noah from the Bible. To their excitement, the connection prompted the people to ask the workers to share more from God’s Word. Brady said such “divine appointments” shouldn’t come as a surprise because God is already at work even in the darkest, most remote corners of the earth. God is waiting for believers to join Him in His work.

“We as Southern Baptists are being given an incredibly unique opportunity unlike any other Christ-followers in the history of salvation to carry the gospel to places where it has never been,” Brady said. “We are trailblazing into lostness all over this world.”

Other business

In other business, IMB trustees:
  • Welcomed 59 new missionaries, recognizing them in a special appointment service, May 14, at First Baptist Spartanburg.
  • Elected new officers. John Edie, a member of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., was unanimously chosen to replace outgoing trustee chairman David Uth. Doyle Pryor, senior pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., was named first vice chairman, replacing Edie. Sandie Anderson, a member of New Hope Church in Manhattan, Kan., was elected second vice chairman. Vickie Mascagni, a member of Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Miss., was selected for another term as recording secretary.
  • Honored the lives and service of IMB personnel who died in 2013. This included 59 emeritus missionaries, five retired staff and one active missionary, Josh Park, who served in Japan from 1993-2013.
  • Received a brief financial report from David Steverson, IMB treasurer and vice president of finance, who also provided preliminary news on the results of the 2013 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which closes May 31. Steverson said IMB is estimating a $3-5 million increase over the 2012 Lottie Moon offering of $149.3 million, but well short of the 2013 goal of $175 million. The final figure will be made public in early June.
  • Accepted and offered prayers of thanksgiving for three estate gifts totaling nearly $600,000.
  • Asked for continued prayer from Southern Baptists as the presidential search team seeks Elliff’s successor.
The next IMB trustee meeting will take place Aug. 26-27 in Richmond, Va.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham is an IMB senior writer.)
5/19/2014 10:10:06 AM by Don Graham, IMB/Don Graham | with 0 comments

C.J. Mahaney & Joshua Harris leave Gospel Coalition

May 19 2014 by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

Two pastors are no longer listed on a Reformed evangelical group’s leadership after a different pastor from their church confessed to covering up sex abuse claims. Pastors Joshua Harris and C.J. Mahaney have left the Gospel Coalition council after a trial involving child abuse in the church they have both overseen.
A criminal trial that concluded last week has raised questions about which pastors at Covenant Life Church, a megachurch in Gaithersburg, Md., knew what about the abuse in which years.
Nathaniel Morales, 56, was convicted Thursday (May 15) of sexually abusing three young boys between 1983 and 1991 when he was a youth leader.
Former Covenant Life pastor Grant Layman suggested while testifying about allegations against Morales that he withheld information from the police about the abuse.

C.J. Mahaney

“Did you have an obligation to report the alleged abuse?” public defender Alan Drew, who represented Morales, asked during cross-examination. “I believe so,” Layman said. “And you didn’t,” Drew responded. “No,” Layman said.
Layman, who is Mahaney’s brother-in-law, stepped down from his role at Covenant Life in March.
Mahaney founded Covenant Life in 1977 before passing the leadership of the church in 2004 to Harris, author of the once bestselling “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” book. Mahaney now leads Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville.
Mahaney and Harris are no longer listed on The Gospel Coalition (TGC) website, which boasts of leaders such as Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City; and Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
An employee of TGC said it will not be putting out a statement on the matter. Initial attempts to reach Mahaney and Harris were unsuccessful.
Harris, the current head pastor of Covenant Life, said in a tearful sermon Sunday (May 18) that he has asked the church’s board to consider placing him on administrative leave while the church continues to investigate the issue. “We have a zero tolerance policy of abuse of any kind,” Harris said, urging people to go to the police if they know of any abuse.
Harris said that because of a separate civil lawsuit, church leaders are unable to speak openly about what pastors who knew what when. “Right now, we’re still getting conflicting information,” Harris said. In a statement released last year, church leaders said they didn’t know about the abuse until “many years later.”
Nearly a year ago, several leading evangelical pastors and authors came to the defense of Mahaney who was accused in a lawsuit for covering up sexual abuse of children. Mahaney announced that he would pull out of a conference called Together 4 the Gospel due to ongoing lawsuits, though he was seated in the front of the audience with conference leaders.
Mahaney’s Covenant Life was the flagship for Sovereign Grace Ministries, an association of 80 Reformed evangelical churches, based in Louisville, Ky.
Mahaney took a leave of absence from the ministry in 2011 after other pastors in the Sovereign Grace network charged him with “expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hypocrisy.” Six months later, the group reinstated Mahaney, declaring full confidence in him.
The same month that a lawsuit was filed, Mahaney told the Sovereign Grace board that he would step down to focus on pastoral ministry. Two months later, Covenant Life voted to leave Sovereign Grace.
In a sermon a year ago, Harris acknowledged that he had been sexually abused as a child, telling the congregation amid the ongoing lawsuit, “Please don’t allow the circumstance to draw you away from faith in Jesus.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Pulliam Bailey joined RNS as a national correspondent in 2013. She has previously served as managing editor of Odyssey Networks and online editor for Christianity Today.)
5/19/2014 10:00:25 AM by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Rapping mom delivers on Baptist history

May 16 2014 by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press

While rap may not be the music style of choice in most Southern Baptist churches, some seminary instructors are pointing students to a rap video in their Baptist history classes.
Ashley Unzicker stars in a YouTube video featuring a rap song that combines the theme music from the popular ‘90s television show “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” with the outline to a Baptist history course she took at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

“I’ve been writing raps forever,” said Unzicker, a wife and mother of two children – with one on the way. Her husband Todd is a campus pastor for The Summit Church in the Raleigh/Durham area.

“I used to say I wanted to be the next Weird Al [Yankovic]; he was like who I wanted to be when I grew up,” joked Unzicker, who is taking a break from classes during her pregnancy and being a stay-at-home mom for now. When time allows, she hopes to earn a master of arts in Christian studies.

The video, released early last year, can be seen here or by searching for “Baptist History Rap” at


The Unzicker family. Facebook picture used with permission.

“Ashley’s rap is by far the most creative use of my course lectures I have ever seen,” said Unzicker’s professor, Nathan Finn, in a May 15 email interview with Baptist Press. “She summarized nearly all of the historical material I discussed. A little bit of her lyrics were taken directly from the lectures, though the vast majority of it was her summarizing the material.”

Unzicker’s historical journey kicks off with a reference to King Henry VIII and ends with Fred Luter being elected the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“I think it’s really interesting just how this all happened – how we [became] Baptists, why are we Baptists and why do we believe what we believe,” she said, “and all the different things that each person contributed throughout history.”

Unzicker acknowledges she wasn’t that interested in Baptist history when she first enrolled in Finn’s class in the fall of 2012. But he soon won her over.

“Wow, that’s why I believe what I believe,” said Unzicker, who recalled the moment Baptist history became more than a collection of dates and words in a textbook.

The class gave her a special appreciation for many influential Baptists of the past. Among her favorites: missionary Adoniram Judson, who served in Burma, and Martin Luther King Jr. and his impact on Southern Baptists during the civil rights movement.

Using the class outline, Unzicker wrote the lyrics one evening and she and her husband Todd filmed it a couple days later. While the video has garnered a modest 9,000 views since being released in January 2013, Unzicker has been contacted by Finn and other seminary instructors who have watched the video and asked to use it in their classes.

“I have shown the rap in a few classes, and I know some colleagues have as well,” Finn said. “I have not heard that it is required anywhere. However, I am 100 percent behind it being required everywhere!”

While most Baptist seminary students are Southern Baptist by the time they enroll in classes, “many have no idea what that means,” Finn said.

“It is important to teach them Baptist history and identity,” he said. “I want my Southern Baptist students to know the stories, the strengths and weaknesses, and the theological emphases of their tradition so that they can pass it on to the folks to whom they minister. I also want my non-SBC students to become Southern Baptists!”

Joe B. Kim, who is teaching a Baptist heritage and practice course at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., described Unzicker’s project as a “high quality entertaining video for Baptist studies.”

“[Unzicker] gives a bird’s-eye view of Baptist history with particular attention to the SBC perspective,” Kim said in an email interview with Baptist Press. “This resource is helpful for priming the pump before a lecture!”

Unfortunately for Unzicker, she wrote the rap after she finished her Baptist history class and was unable to receive extra credit. “People asked me, ‘Did you do that for points?’ I’m like ‘no reason. I just really liked doing it.’ I got an A, though. So I didn’t need the extra credit, thankfully.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Shawn Hendricks is managing editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
5/16/2014 10:59:10 AM by Shawn Hendricks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Boko Haram survivor exhorts Christians to ‘stand strong’

May 16 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A teenage Christian survivor of Boko Haram terrorism in 2011 talked openly May 13 for the first time about her ordeal, expressing hope that her story would encourage Christians to persevere in persecution.

Deborah Peters, 15, said in a panel discussion hosted by Hudson Institute in Washington that Boko Haram murdered her Christian father and brother and bound her between the corpses at her home near Chibok, the same town where the Islamic terror group kidnapped nearly 300 school girls in April.
“I hope if people hear my story, I think they will understand,” Peters said, “and they will know more and more of what God said and they will understand what it means to stand strong and have courage.”

Peters was joined on the panel by Emmanuel Ogebe, a human rights lawyer with the U.S. Nigeria Law Group and expert in U.S.-Nigerian relations, who helped Peters come to the U.S. through a program established after Sept. 11, 2001, to aid victims of terrorism.

While Peters’ father was Christian, her mother was Muslim and fled to safety a month before the murders after Boko Haram destroyed the church Peters’ father pastored.

Boko Haram terrorism survivor Deborah Peters, (right), 15, told her story in a panel discussion hosted by Hudson Institute. Peters was joined on the panel by Emmanuel Ogebe (center), an international human rights lawyer, and Nina Shea, Hudson Institute senior fellow.

“In November, they burned his church, but still, he didn’t give up and built the church again,” Peters said. “So they said OK, they’re gonna kill him. And they came to our house and killed him.”

On the night of Dec. 22, 2011, three Boko Haram militants entered the Peters home after knocking on the door. They pulled her father from the shower, demanded he renounce his faith and killed him when he refused, Peters recounted. Her father referenced Matthew 10:33 in holding fast to Christianity.

“He told them that he should rather die than go to hellfire,” Peters said of her father. “So, he then told them that [Jesus] said anyone that denied Him, He’s gonna deny them in the presence of his Dad in heaven. So my dad refused to deny his faith and they [shot] him three times in his chest.”

Surmising that her brother might become a Christian pastor if allowed to live, Peters said, the men shot him twice in the chest and, after his body convulsed, once in the mouth.

“I was in shock. I didn’t know what was happening,” Peters said. “So they put me in the middle of my dad and my brother. The next day the army came ... and [took] me to hospital.”

While Boko Haram in 2011 portrayed themselves as “gentlemen terrorists” and fostered a reputation of only killing men, Ogebe said, they have escalated in number and callousness.

“The point is Boko Haram says we don’t kill the elderly, we don’t kill the young and we don’t kill women. Those are the three exceptions they had. The Christians, the Jews, the Muslim apostates, they don’t count. We’ll kill them. And so her story from a couple of years ago is classic,” Ogebe said. “They came in. They killed the pastor and then they made a calculation that the son, who was an exception to the targets, should be killed because he might grow up and become a pastor. This was an example of Boko Haram shifting the goalpost of those it would not kill.

“The Christian response to this genocide was they would move the men out and leave the women behind ... because Boko Haram said we don’t kill women,” Ogebe said. “That changed last month. Boko Haram realized, you know, we’ve killed all the men or we’ve run them out of town....

“And the next thing we have almost 300 young women abducted, taken to this camp, and they’ve become slave brides.”

Ogebe returned to the U.S. May 9 after spending three weeks in northeast Nigeria interviewing Boko Haram victims. Boko Haram is becoming tactically superior to Nigerian security forces, with more sophisticated weaponry than the Nigerian government, Ogebe said.

“What is most disturbing is that last week while we were in Cameroon, Boko Haram struck a village, killed close to 300 people, and then there was a population displacement and 3,000 people fled, again, across the borders,” Ogebe said. “We have this going on almost consistently for a year, and you began to wonder, ‘Where is the humanitarian response to this crisis?’”

Both military and humanitarian responses to the crisis have been ineffective, Ogebe noted.

“We’re at a point where the international community needs to respond effectively to what is going on in Nigeria,” he said.

Panel moderator Nina Shea, Hudson Institute senior fellow and director of the Center for Religious Freedom, pointed out the U.S. State Department’s two-year delay before designating Boko Haram an official terrorist organization in November 2013.

“Before that, the State Department had been saying that the Boko Haram had nothing to do with religion,” Shea said. “I remember I was dumbfounded.”

To watch the entire panel discussion, click here.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
5/16/2014 9:51:01 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Moore interview: Jeb Bush, talk radio

May 16 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Religious liberty, pro-life concerns and gay marriage have been among the topics discussed in Russell D. Moore’s meetings with Jeb Bush and other potential 2016 presidential candidates, Southern Baptists’ lead ethicist said in an interview with Baptist Press.

“I don’t endorse candidates. I’m not going to endorse a candidate. I’ll never endorse a candidate for president,” Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told BP. “I don’t think that’s my job. But I’m willing to meet with anyone who wants to talk about what Southern Baptists are about and what sorts of things are of concern to us.”

Also in the interview, Moore said he feels no need to apologize for comments he made in April regarding the quarrelsome tone of some Christian talk radio hosts.

Moore’s May 2 meeting in Miami with Bush – the former governor of Florida who many believe will run for president – was discussed in national media outlets after the Washington Post reported in April that the two planned to talk. Moore said the publicity was unusual because he has met with other potential presidential candidates with virtually no publicity.

He declined to identify the other possible candidates or say how many meetings have occurred, though he indicated that all have been Republicans.

Once presidential hopefuls announce their candidacy, Moore said he may be willing to reveal which ones have conversations with him. Until then, he wants to “meet with people and have frank discussions on their own terms,” he said, adding that some potential candidates prefer not to disclose the meetings.

“I think that’s fine,” Moore said of the private meetings, “because I want to be able to help people running for office get a perspective on the issues that are of concern to evangelicals, even if they don’t agree with us on those concerns.”

Russell Moore
Moore noted that religious liberty, the protection of innocent life and the defense of marriage are topics he typically addresses with prospective candidates.

Religious liberty was an important topic in his discussion with Bush. Moore said he “can’t remember the last time” he “had a conversation with anyone currently or potentially in government when I didn’t bring up the [Obama administration’s abortion/contraceptive] mandate as an example of what happens when government seeks to overtake the conscience.”

The abortion/contraceptive mandate requires employers to carry health insurance plans covering contraceptives that can cause chemical abortions – even if doing so runs contrary to the employers’ religious convictions.

Religious liberty concerns “are mobilizing a new coalition of religious people in this country,” Moore said. He added that when voting for a candidate, it is important to know whether he or she believes only in the freedom to hold private religious convictions or also in the freedom to live out those convictions in the public square.

An unexpected topic during the conversation with Bush was Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, a topic that Bush knows much about based on his experience helping Floridians recover from hurricanes, Moore said.

In addition to talking with presidential candidates, Moore said he plans to talk with Southern Baptists during the 2016 election cycle about how to determine which candidate to vote for. He said Christians should regard the defense of innocent human life, the family and religious liberty as the three most important issues.

“There are other issues,” Moore said. “But without those three issues ... everything else is in peril. So I think those issues have priority over many others.”

Voting for candidates who reflect biblical values is wise stewardship of a believer’s American citizenship, Moore said.

“Romans 13 says that God has given a sword of authority to Caesar. In a democratic republic, the ultimate accountability rests with the people, which means that the act of voting in our system is essentially the delegating of the use of the sword, which means we must have ... consciences that understand our responsibility for wisdom in seeking leaders to act on our behalf,” he said.

Christian Talk Radio

Despite calls for an apology by some radio executives and hosts, Moore said no apology is needed for statements he made about Christian talk radio programs that “condemn sinners” without offering “mercy in Christ.”

“I’m not taking any course of action except to reiterate what I said, which is to say we must be the people who hold both truth and grace together. And we must be the people who speak both of repentance from sin and of the invitation to mercy found in Jesus Christ,” Moore said.

In an April 22 address at the ERLC’s Leadership Summit in Nashville, Moore spoke of the need for Christians to carry out a dual ministry of speaking prophetically against sin and offering sinners reconciliation to God through Christ. In that context, he complained of Christian talk radio personalities who rail against sin without presenting Jesus as the solution.

“I listened on the way back up here from my hometown to some Christian talk radio this week, against my doctor’s orders,” Moore, a native of Mississippi, said in his address. “And honestly, if all that I knew of Christianity was what I heard on Christian talk radio, I’d hate it too. There are some people who believe that fidelity to the Gospel simply means speaking, ‘You kids get off my lawn.’ That is not the message that has been given to us. If the call to repentance does not end with the invitation that is grounded in the bloody cross and the empty tomb of Jesus, we are speaking a different word than the Word that we have been given.”

Asked if critics seemed to misunderstand his remarks, Moore, who has hosted and appeared on Christian talk radio, replied, “No one in the room misunderstood at all what I was saying contextually. And really, as I’ve heard from people who actually listened to the message, I don’t find any misunderstanding.”

Following the comments, Richard P. Bott II, president of the Bott Radio Network, wrote a letter to Moore and copied more than 70 evangelical leaders, the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Pathway journal reported. In the letter Bott called for Moore to apologize. Christian talk show hosts Janet Mefferd and Brian Fischer also challenged Moore’s remarks, according to the Pathway.

“Assuming you spoke from ignorance,” Bott wrote, “I am eager to offer you an opportunity to apologize for this serious and inexplicable misstatement, with our BRN Christian Talk Radio platform of 95 radio stations plus multiple digital new media outlets with worldwide reach.”

Moore told BP that many of his friends in talk radio agreed with his critique. He appeared on the programs of Chris Fabry and Erick Erickson to clarify his comments during the first part of May.

On the Erick Erickson Show May 9, Moore said he was talking specifically about talk radio where “venting of the spleen” isn’t accompanied by the Good News of the Gospel. He added that “a ton of people” in Christian talk radio “are doing really good, Gospel-centered work.” He identified Jim Daly, Dennis Rainey and John Stonestreet as examples.

Critics should recognize that he wasn’t referencing every Christian talk radio program, Moore said.

“I have said in other venues, ‘If all I knew about Christianity was from television evangelism, I might suppose that Christianity is all about prosperity devoid of the cross.’ No one assumes I’m talking about Billy Graham,” Moore told BP.

Even John the Baptist and the Old Testament prophets, who were known for their harsh rebukes of sinners, also spoke of the opportunity to be reconciled with God – a model that radio hosts and all other Christians should follow, Moore said.

“Every conversation is going to be different in terms of how you’re addressing a specific issue,” he said. “But the question is: Is the ultimate framework that I’m operating out of one that wants to see people come to faith in Christ and wants to see people reconciled with God? Or is my ultimate goal simply to express my anger and condemnation?”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
5/16/2014 9:41:54 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Boko Haram offer of girls’ release may be ploy

May 15 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

CHIBOK, Nigeria – Boko Haram’s call for the release of imprisoned Islamic terrorists in exchange for the return of some of the 223 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls is only a ploy to bide time to strategize, a U.S.-based expert on Nigerian relations told Baptist Press.

Boko Haram is more concerned with avoiding prosecution than the safety of their imprisoned members, believed to number hundreds, said Adeniyi Ojutiku, a Southern Baptist and co-founder of Lift Up Now, a Christian-based grassroots organization addressing political, economic and social challenges in his homeland Nigeria.

“The reason why they [Boko Haram] are probably just [now] wanting to negotiate … is because they have been cornered,” Ojutiku told Baptist Press. “… They just want to play for time, begin to work the system and … get feedback from the Nigerian government side so they know how to strategize.”

Boko Haram released a 17-minute video May 12 offering to release about 100 of the Christian girls, portrayed as Muslim converts, in exchange for the release of Boko Haram prisoners in Nigeria.

“It is now four or five years that you arrested our brethren and they are still in prison. You are doing many things [to them] and now you are talking about these girls,” Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is translated as saying in the video released through French news agency AFP and reportedly deemed genuine by the U.S.

“These girls have become Muslims,” Shekau said. “We will never release them until after you release our brethren.” The girls are in Muslim dress, seated and praying Muslim prayers.

Ojutiku began tracking Boko Haram and Islamic jihadist killings in Nigeria in 2000. At the time, the terrorists were only loosely organized. Ojutiku joined other concerned groups in lobbying successfully for the U.S. State Department to declare Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, a designation made in November of 2013 and intended to greater empower the U.S. to weaken the group’s activities.

Boko Haram – whose name translates into English as “Western education is sinful” – started in 2003 as the “Nigerian Taliban,” but has resurged since 2009, killing thousands of mostly Christian Nigerians in hundreds of attacks across the country, according to the U.S. State Department.

“They have wiped out families. They have killed generations of people, even infants,” Ojutiku said. “They have maimed people for life. They have killed hundreds and thousands of people. And then to conceive that you would negotiate with such very, very despicable ... people who commit such heinous crimes, it is unthinkable to me.

“These people must be prosecuted,” Ojutiku said. “There cannot be sustainable peace without justice.”

The U.S. is among a growing list of countries offering aid to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in locating and freeing the girls who were kidnapped a month ago from the Government Girls State School in Chibok, a town believed to be almost entirely Christian.

Ojutiku has arranged for donations to be made to The Lift Up Now Fund #1395781, through the National Christian Foundation, based in Atlanta with several offices across the U.S.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.)
5/15/2014 10:44:00 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Marathoner & mother keeps ministry focus

May 15 2014 by Roger Alford, KBC/Baptist Press

A Baptist marathon runner who has raised more than $50,000 during the past year for an African mission has set an ambitious new goal. She plans to run eight marathons in eight months in eight states in what promises to be a grueling fundraising initiative.

Amy Compston, a member of Unity Baptist Church in Ashland, Ky., wants to raise an additional $45,000 this year for a ministry serving people in the small town of Moyo, Uganda.

The 29-year-old founder of Amy for Africa ran the first of those marathons in April during the Boston Marathon, where she and her family and friends also distributed Christian literature to runners and spectators.

“It’s really amazing how God has blessed,” Compston said. “It’s been truly amazing watching Him work.”


With Bible in hand, Amy Compston shares the story of how she used running to overcome a former life of drug and alcohol abuse.

The African town that benefits from the money happens to be where former Unity Baptist Church Pastor Floyd Paris serves as a missionary.

Compston, a nurse in Ashland, has been a runner most of her life. But she didn’t envision it as more than a pastime until last year after she finished the Boston Marathon, overshadowed by a bomb that killed three spectators and injured 264 others.

Compston finished the race around 2:20 p.m. – about 30 minutes before two bombs detonated along the route. Finishing in the top 15 percent of female finishers, Compston was drained and exhausted.

She and her husband Chris, together in an area where runners go after the race, called their family – a group of 11 adults and 11 children – and arranged to meet them at a subway station, instead of the spot where they had been most of the day. It turned out to be a potentially life-saving decision.

A short time later, Compston’s family heard the explosions near the finish line where they had been standing. Compston and her husband were waiting for their family at the station when a passerby told them about the bombing.

“It was a moment of disbelief and shock,” Compston said. Her first concern was to make sure her family was OK. Dialing her cell phone, she quickly learned all of them were safe.

“When we saw on TV where the bombs went off, we were like, ‘... That’s exactly where we were at,’” Compston said. “God did protect us.”

Compston, who had helped hand out more than 1,200 Bible tracts in Boston with her family during their stay, said it was that week that stirred her to run for missions.

Compston followed last year’s Boston Marathon with a 50-mile Ultra Marathon in Nashville, Tenn., last November. She finished second among female runners.

Her athleticism is generating funding to care for Ugandan children as well as to provide medical supplies to several clinics and the hospital in Moyo.

“Amy is one of the many Kentucky Baptists who are using the gifts and talents God blessed them with to help spread the gospel at home and around the world,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention. “Amy truly is putting sweat equity into the kingdom’s work with these marathons. Hers is an unusual initiative and a wonderful example of the imaginative and creative ways Kentucky Baptists are supporting missions.”

Chitwood said every member of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) engages in missions with their tithes and offerings in their local churches, a portion of which goes to the KBC’s Cooperative Program that funds a wide variety of ministries and programs. Those initiatives include summer camps where 794 teenagers came to Christ last summer, campus initiatives in which 300 Kentucky college students were saved, and the work of missionaries throughout the world that resulted in more than 300,000 new believers being baptized overseas.

Between marathons, Compston, her husband Chris and co-founder Mark Maynard speak to church congregations and other organizations to help raise funds for the mission project. She shares with them about a time in her life she was running from the Lord. For about 14 years, she was involved with drug and alcohol abuse, despite being a regular churchgoer.

“I was just going through the motions,” she said. “I didn’t really understand what it was to be a true follower of Christ.”

Now running for the Lord, Compston, a mother of four, finished this year’s Boston Marathon in 3 hours and 39 minutes, far from a personal best because of pain in her right hip and hamstring. She still finished in the top 22 percent of women runners.

The slower pace, Compston said, allowed her to interact with other runners and the crowd that lined the streets.

“I think God slowed me down on purpose,” she said. “I was able to share my testimony and share this mission with hundreds of people.”

Amy’s husband Chris will join her on the remaining marathon runs to come between now and November.

To schedule Amy and Chris Compston to speak at your church or organization, call (606) 571-1031. Her website is

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger Alford is communications director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)
5/15/2014 10:21:42 AM by Roger Alford, KBC/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

SBTS seminary prof. named CBMW president

May 14 2014 by Baptist Press

Owen Strachan, newly appointed president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, says CBMW will be “positive” and “transformation-driven” in the days ahead as it confronts distortions of God’s plan for gender and sexuality.

CBMW announced May 12 that Strachan would succeed Ligon Duncan, chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, as president. Serving as the organization’s executive director since 2012, Strachan led the launch of a new CBMW website with a tenfold increase in traffic, held the council’s largest event ever in April and helped double giving between 2012 and 2013, according to a CBMW news release. In addition to his duties at CBMW, Strachan will continue to serve as assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“As one who has learned a tremendous amount from the work of this outfit, I can scarcely believe that I’m in this role,” Strachan said in a blog post. “God is kind to us unprofitable workers.”


The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood announced May 12 that Owen Strachan would succeed Ligon Duncan as president. Strachan is the youngest president in the council’s history. 

Founded in 1987 by John Piper and Wayne Grudem, CBMW advocates “complementarianism,” the teaching that men and women are of equal worth but have different roles in the church and the home. Council members include Duncan; Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary; and Dorothy Patterson, wife of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson.

At age 32, Strachan is the youngest president in the council’s history.

In an address at the CBMW National Conference last month, Strachan laid out his vision for the organization. “I did not know at the time I gave that message that I would soon be appointed president of CBMW, and therefore be responsible for the vision and direction of the organization,” Strachan wrote in his blog post.

In his vision address, Strachan said CBMW has renewed relevance in light of secular culture’s push for homosexual marriage, transgendered restrooms and other manifestations of gender confusion.

“I am here for life transformation,” Strachan said. “That is why CBMW was founded, and that is why it continues to exist.”

When God cursed the world as a consequence of Adam’s sin, it was a “gendered curse” with distinct penalties of Adam and Eve, Strachan said. As a result, the Gospel is integrally related to gender, overturning the curse and freeing men and women to live as God intended, he said.

“We’re not sad and long-faced about being complementarians,” Strachan said. “... We think that we are living the most joyful existence one can live as a man or woman, because God has saved us and has transformed us and has allowed us to become once more who we were made to be.”

Duncan said he is “thrilled” with Strachan’s election.

“Owen’s leadership as executive director has breathed new life and energy into the organization,” Duncan said. “If you were at our recent CBMW National Conference (or have seen the videos) you will have seen a glimpse of this. I look forward to working with him in the future as I transition to the post of CBMW senior fellow and back onto the board. I will relish encouraging him and supporting his leadership as he commends complementarianism to the coming generations.”

Akin, a CBMW board member, said Strachan “has led CBMW in a stellar fashion since he took the helm as executive director. Growth and expansion of ministries make this move to president necessary and timely. The future of CBMW is bright and desperately needed. Owen is the right man to lead us. This appointment has my full and enthusiastic support.”

Later this year, CBMW will publish an e-book with Piper’s Desiring God Ministries, expand its staff and begin a church partnership program intended to strengthen the international complementarian movement.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent of Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
5/14/2014 10:44:41 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Nettles retiring from full-time teaching

May 14 2014 by Jeff Robinson & James A. Smith Sr.

Thomas J. Nettles, professor of historical theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary since 1997, is retiring from full-time teaching after 38 years in the classroom.

Nettles’ teaching has involved “areas which I have thought are important and even critical for the health of Christianity and for the health of Baptist churches,” he told Southern Seminary Magazine as the spring semester comes to an end.

“I have sought to help students become better pastors by helping them to understand the critical truths that churches have been built upon in the past.”

Before joining the faculty at Southern nearly 17 years ago, Nettles spent 21 years at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mid-American Baptist Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Donald S. Whitney, now a fellow professor at Southern Seminary who was among Nettles’ students at Southwestern, has since developed a decades-long relationship with him.

“Tom has shepherded me countless times, both when I was pastoring and during the past 19 years as a professor,” Whitney said. “On so many occasions when I was burdened, I made my way to Tom’s office, where he always welcomed me, listened as long as I needed to talk, offered counsel and prayed with me.”

SBTS photo by Emil Handke
Tom Nettles, professor of historical theology at Southern Seminary since 1997, teaches his final class as a full-time faculty member. Nettles has taught for more than 38 years, including at two Southern Baptist seminaries.

Nettles’ students can attest that his classroom is a place of joy and song. A gifted singer, he often breaks spontaneously into a song or hymn.

He is renowned for a particular song, Whitney said, recounting, “No matter how many classes you have had with Tom Nettles, you’ve never really had him as a professor until he has sung in class ‘Ya Got Trouble’ from ‘The Music Man,’ a musical in which he played the lead when he was in college.”

Whitney is but one of many for whom Nettles has served as a spiritual father during his decades in the classroom.

Tom Hicks, pastor of discipleship at Morningview Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., studied under Nettles as both a master’s and doctoral student in the early to late 2000s at Southern. Hicks and Nettles have developed a deep friendship over the years.

“Dr. Nettles has been faithful to shepherd students both inside and outside of the classroom,” Hicks said. “I remember that he often began classes by reading Scripture and having prayer. He would then sometimes lead the class in singing an old hymn. After singing, he would show how rich theology and worship had been tightly interwoven.”

Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., was a student at Southwestern in 1979 when he first met Nettles. Their families have since developed a deep friendship. Nettles nearly took a pastoral position at Grace in 2007 but decided to remain at Southern.

“Tom has a pastor’s heart and considers his teaching ministry to be pastoral work,” said Ascol, who is also chairman of Founders Ministries. “He has encouraged me countless times through the years by giving me biblical counsel, offering needed but at times unwanted rebuke and correction, and challenging me to think more biblically and carefully about knotty pastoral issues.”

Nettles, however, never planned on being a seminary professor.

He attended Mississippi College, a Baptist school, and then moved on to Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Nettles entered seminary during a tumultuous time in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) over the question of the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture. The Lord would eventually insert Nettles and a fellow Southwestern student, Russ Bush, into the front lines of the denominational battle.

During his second year as a master of divinity student, Nettles accepted the challenge of a moderate professor to defend biblical inerrancy in a class session. The experience was pivotal to his ministry future.

Nettles eventually completed a doctor of philosophy degree in historical theology, still at least partly convinced that his future lay in the pulpit of a local church.

But in 1976, Southwestern hired him to a teaching position in the history department. In 1980, Moody Press published the landmark study by Nettles and Bush on the historic Baptist view of Scripture, Baptists and the Bible. The book crystallized and strengthened the case for inerrancy as they showed how thoroughly Baptists had adhered to that fundamental doctrine in the past.

Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Nettles is a legendary Southern Baptist professor, citing his crucial role to the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence.

“When he and Russ Bush penned Baptists and the Bible, they put to rest the argument that Baptists had ever held historically to anything other than the total truthfulness and trustworthiness of the Word of God,” Mohler said.

“At decisive moments in Southern Baptist history,” Mohler said, “[Nettles] has stood for the faith of those who founded our Southern Baptist Convention, and he has been a winsome and deeply convictional advocate for those beliefs.”

Nettles also has written important books on Baptist ecclesiology, catechisms and the place of Calvinism in Baptist history.

“Tom Nettles is a formidable scholar,” said historian Gregory A. Wills, dean of Southern Seminary’s school of theology. “His Baptists and the Bible, co-authored with Russ Bush, and By His Grace and for His Glory have had wide influence and established him as a Baptist scholar of the front rank.” By His Grace and for His Glory argues exhaustively that Baptists are theological heirs of the Protestant Reformation.

Wills also commended Nettles’ recent biographies of James P. Boyce and Charles Spurgeon as “remarkable achievements.”

“The breadth of his command of the historical documents of the church across 2,000 years has amazed me many times,” Wills said. “Most impressive, however, is the fact that his scholarship has always been in the service of the church’s gospel mission.”

Describing Nettles as a “masterful classroom teacher,” Mohler said the full reach of his classroom “will never be known in this life, for there will be many people around the world who will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ because of his influence on the lives of those who will take the Gospel to the nations.”

“I have always wanted what I’ve done to be serviceable to the church,” Nettles said. “I’ve wanted it to be something that can be taken by our students who are going into the pastoral ministry and be used for the glory of God and the clarity of the Gospel and the good of their churches.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Robinson is a freelance writer who earned a doctorate in historical theology under Nettles in 2008. James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor and chief spokesman at Southern Seminary.)
5/14/2014 10:30:25 AM by Jeff Robinson & James A. Smith Sr. | with 0 comments

Couple drawn instantly to plant church

May 14 2014 by Joe Conway, NAMB/Baptist Press

God can change hearts in a flash. In one instant a person’s reality is altered – their drive, desire, vision. When Derek and Lindsay Allen felt called to move to Miami, their family left behind everything they knew of life before.

It happened at a church planting conference the couple attended.

“We went with open minds but thought we were gaining information to help equip others,” Derek Allen, who served at the time as executive pastor at Smoke Rise Baptist Church, Warrior, Ala., said. “As I was sitting through one of the sessions, I had an instantaneous call to church planting. It was as if one second I was a church administrator, and the next instant I was a church planter. I knew I could do nothing else.”

There was only one problem – how would he tell Lindsay?


Florida Baptist Convention photo by Ken Touchton
Church planter Derek Allen (center) is surrounded by his family and members of Christ Centered Church from the Florida Baptist Convention. Derek and his wife Lindsay and their three children Jackson, Meredith and Sawyer moved to Miami from Alabama to plant Christ Centered Church.

At lunch she sat at a table full of church planter wives. She was the only non-church planter wife in the group. After hearing their stories, Lindsay felt God confirm that this is what they needed to do. But how would she tell Derek?

The couple met after lunch to attend the next session together. Each had something they wanted to share.

“As I am praying, asking God how I tell my wife I am now a church planter, she slid a piece of paper over to me,” Allen recalled. “It read, ‘I’m sold.’ It was the first of 1,000 confirmations.”

As the couple began to explore cities where they might plant a church, Miami was near the top of their short list.

“We contacted the North American Mission Board (NAMB) about church planting and the Send North America strategy,” Allen said. “I was connected with mobilizer Tim Wolfe. I asked him to tell me what church planting looked like in the cities. He said it was so different in each city. He asked, ‘How about Miami?’

Though Miami has been described by some as a place where church plants go to die, the Allens were not intimidated.

“That’s what we wanted,” he said. “We wanted a hard place. Our attitude was to lay it all out there. We flew down for a vision tour and knew it was where God wanted us.”

Moving to Miami without knowing anyone, the Allens worked quickly to introduce themselves to 75,714 people. At least that is how many they contacted prior to launch Sunday.

“We had volunteers and mission teams assist us,” Allen said. “They were great. They helped us put out 10,000 door hangers. We did mailings to 60,000 people. We printed business cards with our launch date and put them out everywhere.”

Christ Centered Church – C2 for short – launched on Feb. 9 with 170 in attendance and two baptisms already on the books. C2 meets on the north campus of Florida International University. The plant has experienced at least one profession of faith each week since it launched and has just started small group meetings.

C2 has a broad support network, including Christ Fellowship in Miami and those connected with NAMB’s Send North America effort. C2 has already hosted seven mission teams.

“Our first goal is to become a self-sustaining church,” Allen said. “We want to reach the under-resourced and under-served areas. We want to be involved in training church planters and supporting them financially. We are already praying for a specific area and the planter who will lead there. We hope to plant a new church within a year.”

Joey Wood is C2’s bivocational multiplying pastor. Wood and Allen served together in Alabama. Wood and his wife Brooke had served in Great Britain, but recently returned to the United States and were exploring their next ministry step when they reconnected with Allen.

“Joey and Brooke are wonderful,” Allen said. “They sacrifice without complaining. They are a huge part of our team. Joey lives to disciple people. He moved here specifically to work with us, knowing he would have to be bivocational. He got a job at a carwash right after moving to the city.”

One of C2’s first baptisms was Daniel, a young man who had come to faith earlier, but had never followed in believer’s baptism. The connection with Daniel came through Wood who met Daniel the first day on the job for both men. Wood began to disciple him.

“Daniel was so happy when we baptized him,” Allen said. “It was great. He was our first baptism in the bay.”

Connect with Send North America: Miami at Learn more about Christ Centered Church at

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)
5/14/2014 10:14:46 AM by Joe Conway, NAMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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