May 2016

More details emerge in Liberty, DeMoss split

May 23 2016 by Jamie Dean, World News Service

Nearly a month after Mark DeMoss resigned as chairman of Liberty University’s executive committee and from the school’s board of trustees, DeMoss and school leaders have offered more details on the circumstances that led to the separation. DeMoss’ resignation came less than two months after he publicly expressed his disapproval of Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr.’s endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
On the eve of the Liberty board of trustees meeting in April, members of the executive committee asked DeMoss, a Liberty graduate and former chief of staff for Liberty founder Jerry Falwell Sr., to resign as chair of the committee at the evangelical university in Lynchburg, Va. DeMoss complied, and a few days later he decided to resign also from the board of trustees, where he had served for some 25 years.
DeMoss recently spoke with me about the split and the meetings that led to the formal end of his 36-year association with the school.
The turmoil began in late January when Falwell Jr. endorsed Trump days after the billionaire businessman spoke at a Liberty convocation. (Several other presidential candidates, including Democratic hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also have spoken at the school.)
Falwell said his endorsement of Trump was personal and not connected to his role as the university’s president. Still, some influential Liberty alumni expressed dismay over Falwell’s public support for Trump and worried it would reflect poorly on the school.
DeMoss, who also was concerned, said he told Falwell he disagreed with the endorsement. As Falwell appeared at campaign events with Trump, gave media interviews, and recorded a robocall for the candidate, DeMoss told The Washington Post, “Donald Trump is the only candidate who has dealt almost exclusively in the politics of personal insult.”
In the interview published on March 1, the day of the Super Tuesday presidential primaries, DeMoss added, “The bullying tactics of personal insult have no defense—and certainly not for anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. That’s what’s disturbing to so many people. It’s not Christ-like behavior that Liberty has spent 40 years promoting with its students.”
In response, Falwell told the Post that DeMoss’ comments disappointed him.
DeMoss told me he later apologized to Falwell for disappointing him but not for criticizing his endorsement. DeMoss said he also agreed to apologize to the full board if the article had created an awkward situation for them.
A few weeks later, DeMoss arrived in Lynchburg for two meetings: one with the executive committee on the evening of April 21 and another with the full board on April 22. DeMoss said he recused himself from the executive committee meeting while the members discussed his comments to the Post.
An hour later, according to DeMoss, the school’s general counsel (who was in the meeting) told him the committee wanted him to step down as chairman and to tell the full board the next morning he was resigning because he wanted a change of committee assignments. DeMoss said he told the attorney he was open to resigning “but I can’t give the reason you’re asking me to give because it’s not honest.”
In an email statement, a Liberty spokesman responded, saying, “No one was requesting that Mark DeMoss lie. The graceful exit suggested by the executive committee through counsel was that Mr. DeMoss simply report to the board that he desired to continue his service on the board on another committee. The executive committee thought it better for Mr. DeMoss to not have to say he was invited to resign or that he reached his decision about moving to a different committee because he had lost the support of the committee he chaired.”
The next morning, DeMoss said he told the board he was resigning from the committee because the members wanted him to step down, and he apologized if the Post article had put them in a difficult position. (He said he also apologized for telling the Post a Liberty graduate had returned his diploma to DeMoss over Falwell’s Trump endorsement. DeMoss said since the graduate reached out to him in his capacity as a board member, he shouldn’t have made the exchange public.) Three days later, DeMoss resigned from the board as well.
I asked a Liberty official why board members disapproved of DeMoss publicly disagreeing with Falwell over a public endorsement of Trump. A spokesman said DeMoss’ comments to the Post “went well beyond disagreeing about Donald Trump as the best candidate for president. Mark DeMoss publicly communicated his concerns about Liberty University as chairman of the board’s executive committee. He shared a negative evaluation of Jerry Falwell, not as an individual, but concerning his presidential stewardship … of Liberty University.”
DeMoss said he was surprised at the reaction, given Falwell’s vigorous public support for Trump: “I didn’t know why that would be OK, but it would not be OK for a board member to do one interview expressing disagreement with the endorsement.”
While Falwell emphasizes his support for Trump is personal and not Liberty-related, Trump hasn’t made that distinction. On Feb. 25, Trump told supporters, “And as you know Liberty University – do we love Liberty University? Huh? Jerry Falwell Jr., is an unbelievable guy and he has been with us from the beginning, and I want to thank Jerry and his family. It’s been amazing, the relationship.”
Back in Lynchburg, many Liberty students apparently don’t relish Trump. The results of the GOP primary in Virginia showed Trump came in fourth in Liberty’s voting precinct – with 8 percent of the vote.

5/23/2016 11:47:34 AM by Jamie Dean, World News Service | with 3 comments

Church ‘fills in the gaps’ for people dealing with hunger

May 23 2016 by Kristen Lowry, Kentucky Today

As she serves up oatmeal and sausage casserole, Susie Stivers sings an old gospel hymn in a strong voice.
It’s a bright Thursday morning; light streams in through the storefront windows of Victory Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Ky.
This is not your typical Southern Baptist Church. There are no stained glass windows, no baptismal, no steeple.
Instead, there are plastic tables with mustard bottles and Styrofoam bowls filled with onions.


Photo by Kristen Lowry/Kentucky Today
Pastor Marc Webb shares the gospel with people at Victory Baptist Church during a Sunday service in Shelbyville, Ky.

Stivers greets each person who walks in the door by name. She has served as co-director of God’s Kitchen in Shelbyville since the ministry reopened in August of 2015.
“People are hungry, and sometimes this is the only meal they get in a day,” Stivers said.
According to data compiled by the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, 19 percent of Kentuckians were “food insecure” in 2014, the last year of available data. That means they were limited in their ability to acquire adequate food and may have gone hungry because there wasn’t enough money for food.
God’s Kitchen provides free breakfast and lunch for people in the Shelbyville community three days a week. The ministry is a partnership between 12 area churches that work together to provide meals, as well as a short devotion, every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
The ministry, which serves an average of 30 to 40 people each day that it’s open, operates out of Victory Baptist Church, a storefront church on Main Street. With the help of the other churches, Victory also runs a clothes closet and food pantry.
Many of the people who drop in for a meal struggle with homelessness, mental disabilities or financial hardships. Many of them work, but can’t seem to make ends meet. Many of them are also members of Victory Baptist.
As people are finishing up their breakfast, a young preacher walks through the front door. Marc Webb is wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and he carries a well-worn Bible under his arm. He begins at the front of the room, greeting each person, taking time to chat about their lives.
When he reaches an unfamiliar face, he asks if he has a church home. He invites him to Sunday worship at Victory.
Webb has served as pastor of Victory Baptist Church for the last three-and-a-half years.
He says he is thankful for the opportunity to minister to many people who would otherwise never step into a church.
“With some that come in, it’s not only food needs,” he said. “There are physical needs, mental needs, emotional needs and spiritual needs.”
And the community at Victory Baptist is committed to meeting those needs.
Many of those who come for meals at God’s Kitchen receive government assistance. Others would qualify, but don’t receive benefits.
Webb estimates that as many as two-thirds of his own congregation receive some sort of government assistance.
The latest data from the Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services shows 697,056 Kentuckians received food stamps in 2015, with an average benefit about $250 a month.
Still, some people are going hungry.
“Victory Baptist is here to fill in the gaps,” Webb said.
Stivers recalls one of the regulars at God’s Kitchen.
“He never makes it through a whole month with groceries,” Stivers said.
“He’s so embarrassed. He will say, ‘I’m so sorry, I hate to bother you.’ It just really humiliates him to say anything.”
Stivers began giving him leftovers from the meals the church services. He had to eat them cold because he doesn’t have any way to heat them.
Now she’s hoping she can help him get a microwave.
“We’ve noticed in talking with people on food stamps that they will be fine at the first of the month, but the further into the month, the harder and harder it is,” Stivers said.
Many people who receive meals at God’s Kitchen don’t receive any government benefits – even though they could easily qualify.
Christopher Bollinger, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Kentucky, said a variety of reasons keep people who qualify from receiving food stamps.
“Sometimes it’s pride, sometimes its political views,” Bollinger said. “The second reason is often lack of knowledge of how to navigate the system.”
Getting – and keeping – food stamps can be a complicated process for many.
In order to qualify for food stamps, you have to prove you don’t make enough money or have enough assets.
“For some people it’s really a big burden to prove that you don’t have anything,” Bollinger said. “It can become onerous for those who legitimately need the help to sometimes get it.”
In 2013, the latest year with available data, only 88 percent of Kentuckians that were eligible for food stamps actually received them.
Webb says that often the church is the first place people will turn in a difficult situation.
“It really is a perfect example of people bearing each other’s burdens,” Webb said. “You could literally pick out any single person that comes and they are probably battling something pretty serious at the moment. There really is an atmosphere of people being there for each other, knowing that they are not alone in whatever they are struggling with. They can lean on, not only the leaders here, but the fellow believers as well.”
As the last of the visitors leave on Thursday afternoon, Stivers is still singing:
“As I climb this gospel ladder always heeding every sign, I know my Savior’s with me and He’s teaching me to climb. Every day that I’m climbing there’s a battle for me. Every step on this ladder is another victory.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kristen Lowry writes for the Frankfort bureau of Kentucky Today at, a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

5/23/2016 11:40:15 AM by Kristen Lowry, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments

Ezell refutes ‘gag order’ allegations

May 20 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), released a statement May 17 to refute allegations that he misused contractual agreements to exercise undue influence over state convention operations. The blog post did not identify critics or specific allegations, but it came amid calls for NAMB trustees to investigate claims made by former executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network (MABN) Will McRaney.
McRaney said in an open letter that Ezell “strong-armed” the MABN (also known as the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware) by abusing the power of a “Strategic Cooperation Agreement,” threatening to cut funds and issuing “gag orders.” He also claimed in an email to Southern Baptist news editors that Ezell used “bullying tactics” against convention leaders to remove him from office in June 2015.


NAMB photo by Susan Whitley
Kevin Ezell

McRaney uploaded a cache of documents to his website in early 2016. The material includes, among other things, event timelines leading up to his departure from MABN and statements about an alleged decline in cooperation between NAMB and state conventions. McRaney also penned multiple open letters to NAMB trustees and other Southern Baptists.
Both NAMB and MABN deny the claim that Ezell forced McRaney out of his position.
“[A]ny suggestion that the North American Mission Board (NAMB) or any of its officers influenced the separation of Dr. McRaney’s employment from the Network is false,” MABN said in a statement March 24. NAMB added the same day, “No one at NAMB forced or orchestrated the events leading up to [McRaney’s] decision to resign.”
In addition, no convention leaders have publicly substantiated McRaney’s accusations against Ezell.
A Southern Baptist blog site, SBC Today, recently announced a petition calling for NAMB trustees to investigate allegations. It contained 59 signatures at press time.
Ezell reassured Southern Baptists in a blog post, “It’s important for me to say that we are striving to ensure that NAMB’s partnerships are positive and working well. We have an enormous and important task, and we face an enemy that doesn’t play fair. It’s a privilege to work with state leaders who are passionate about reaching people for Christ and committed to pushing back lostness in North America. The overwhelming majority of state executives we work with are very competent and strategic leaders.”
The State Convention of Baptists in Indiana (SCBI) allowed Ezell to provide their agreement as an example. It includes clauses related to missionary employment and termination, employee conduct, cooperative budgets, entity relations and other operating procedures.
The documents establish terms of joint ministry and guidelines for managing financial resources, said Ezell. NAMB’s annual operating budget is approximately $120 million.
A number of state conventions requested that NAMB include confidentiality clauses in the contracts, said Ezell. For example, Indiana’s Strategic Cooperation Agreement stipulates that each party keep the terms of the contract private, unless both parties consent. Each party must also agree not to publicly criticize the other, resolving differences in private.
“The documents all include a line stating that each party agrees to settle disagreements privately and not speak negatively about each other publicly and so honor our biblical obligation to one another,” Ezell said. “It was never intended to be seen as a ‘gag order,’ but simply a commitment of charity and trust.”
NAMB partners with churches, local associations and state conventions to “reach North America for Christ,” said Ezell.
“The [Strategic Cooperation Agreement] is really just about the nuts and bolts of how we work together and stipulates that both parties will operate in ‘mutual respect’ and in a ‘peer-to-peer’ relationship.”
He concluded, “NAMB will stay focused on the task before us and not back up one inch on seeking excellence and accountability every step of the way when it comes to the stewardship of resources that God and Southern Baptists entrust to us.”
In a post on SCBI’s Facebook page, the state convention’s executive director, Cecil Seagle, said “My journey with NAMB president Kevin Ezell and [vice president] Steve Davis has proven them to be men of their word, utterly reliable, fully engaged at my request in every effort to reach the 6.5 million lost people in Indiana with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Milton Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), said, “I have worked extensively with Kevin Ezell since he became president of NAMB. As executive director-treasurer of the [BSC], I have negotiated covenant agreements and developed numerous annual partnership budgets with Ezell and Davis, in relation to NAMB's financial contribution for some of our work in North Carolina. These men have always exhibited integrity and fairness in our working relationship and they have always fulfilled their commitments in their partnership agreements with BSC.
“I believe that Ezell is passionate about reaching North America with the gospel and I believe he recognizes the necessity of working with state partners to achieve this. Ezell has never attempted to intrude in the business of our state convention or exert unwelcomed influence about any decision this state convention has made. I value the opportunity to work in partnership with him and NAMB, and I appreciate their desire to help North Carolina Baptists reach and disciple people that God has brought to live in North America.”

5/20/2016 4:37:47 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

BSC Board approves alignment with strategy

May 20 2016 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

The board of directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) approved three motions aimed at aligning the structure of the board with the convention’s strategic emphasis on disciple-making.
The motions adopted by the board at its May meeting included:

  • Requesting that the board’s articles and bylaws committee draft proposals to change the meeting dates of the board from a Tuesday/Wednesday format to a Monday/Tuesday format.

  • Affirming the roles of the board president and executive director-treasurer to that ensure reports and presentations made at board meetings align with the convention’s strategy of “impacting lostness through disciple-making.”

  • Affirming the efforts of the board president and executive director-treasurer to shape committee meetings that reflect a move toward more engagement and involvement of board members in the work of the board.

The motions approved by the board were based on recommendations made by a special task force appointed by 2015 board president Perry Brindley to evaluate board meetings and explore ways to improve how the board conducts convention business.


John Mark Harrison

Board and executive committee member John Mark Harrison, pastor of Apex Baptist Church, served as chairman of the task force and presented the motions and other recommendations to the board on Tuesday, May 18 during the meeting held at Caraway Conference Center and Camp near Asheboro. The task force includes past and current board officers and members as well as the current convention officers.
“We have not adjusted the structure of our meetings in many, many years,” Harrison said. “Every other structure has been tweaked and aligned to the convention’s strategy for impacting lostness through disciple-making.”
The BSC’s “impacting lostness through disciple-making” strategy was approved by the board’s executive committee in April 2013 and endorsed by the full board in the next month. The strategy was announced to convention messengers at the November 2013 annual meeting, and implementation of the strategy began in January 2014.
Strategy implementation included a reorganization of the BSC’s staff into new groups and teams. The reorganization included the formation of the strategic focus team, which is comprised of strategy coordinators who work in and around eight population centers across the state that were identified as having the most concentrated populations of individuals who do not know Christ.
One of the goals in changing the meeting dates and agenda of the board is to give board members more opportunities to engage in deeper conversations about the strategy. The change in board meeting dates will allow changes in board meeting schedules that are limited by the current dates. In addition, the task force hopes that board members will also interact and build relationships with one another and convention staff. Harrison said the task force hopes the increased interactions and stronger relationships will result in more advocacy and engagement in implementing the strategy and developing a disciple-making culture across the state.
Harrison said the approved motion to change board meeting dates from Tuesday and Wednesday to Monday and Tuesday will now be sent to the articles and bylaws committee, which will draft amendments to the convention’s bylaws for consideration at the September board meeting. If approved, the proposed bylaws change will be presented to messengers at the BSC’s 2016 annual meeting in November.
The task force also made several other recommendations. These recommendations require additional study and input. Formal action on these items will not take place in 2016, but the task force anticipates that by 2017 recommendations for the following could be finalized:

  • Transitioning the Christian Higher Education Special Committee into another structure.

  • Restructuring the Christian Social Services Special Committee as part of a newly formed Convention Relations Committee. This committee will include the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, N.C. Baptist Hospital, the N.C. Baptist Foundation and the Biblical Recorder.

  • Assigning the four at-large members of the executive committee to the new Convention Relations Committee. Each of the four at-large members of the executive committee would also represent one of the same four convention institutions and agencies.

Harrison asked that feedback on these recommendations be shared with the task force, particularly from members of the committees and representatives from the institutions and agencies that would potentially be impacted by the recommended changes.
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of BSC, thanked Harrison and the task force for their work and the board members for their consideration of the proposed changes.
“This is still a work in progress,” Hollifield said. “We’ll see how this plays out and make modifications as they need to be made. These changes along with others that are to come in the future will further align the board with our strategy to impact lostness through disciple-making.
“The steps you have just taken related to these changes will help us fulfill the BSC’s vision of becoming the strongest force in the history of this convention to reaching people with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In other business, the board:

  • Voted to change the dates of the BSC 2018 annual meeting from Nov. 12-13 to Nov. 5-6 due to a scheduling conflict with the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.

  • Voted to authorize John Butler, executive leader for business services, to execute the necessary documents to assign BSC’s lease with Cullowhee Baptist Church for the property upon which the campus ministry building at Western Carolina University resides to the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina. The facility was constructed by the BSC in the 1960s but the property is leased by the convention from Cullowhee Baptist Church. The Baptist Children’s Homes plans to use the facility for a new ministry to college students who had previously been in foster care and to facilitate churches in the area in ministering to the campus community.

  • Voted to transfer 20 percent of the BSC’s 2015 income over operating expenses to the convention’s contingency reserve funds. The amount of the transfer will be $65,187.

  • Announced that the sale of the campus ministry property at Appalachian State University has closed. The sale price was $500,000 and proceeds from the sale have been placed in the reserve fund for collegiate partnerships.

Board president Brian Kinlaw also appointed three board members to serve on the nominating committee of Fruitland Baptist Bible College. They were Bob Garbett, Ken Jones and David Spray.
Beverly Volz, director of accounting services, informed the board that Cooperative Program giving from N.C. Baptist churches is slightly ahead of pace for this year’s $29.5 million budget. Volz said Cooperative Program giving receipts exceeded $9.75 million through April 30, which is a little more than 1 percent ahead of pace this year and nearly 4 percent more than was received through the same time period last year.
In addition, Volz noted that giving from N.C. Baptist churches to the Southern Baptist Convention’s two major missions offering were both up by close to $1 million when compared with the same time period last year.
So far in 2016, giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions is approximately $3.4 million, $961,000 more than the same time last year.
Giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions is approximately $9.3 million, reflecting an increase of more than $978,000 through the same time period in 2015.
Brian Davis, associate executive director-treasurer, reported that giving to the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) in 2016 equals more than $268,000 through April 30. NCMO supports the 17 ministries of N.C. Baptist Men, also known as Baptists on Mission, and it also provides a significant portion of the BSC’s church planting team’s budget. Davis encouraged board members to promote NCMO leading up to the offering emphasis in September.
Hollifield thanked N.C. Baptist churches and their members for their generosity in giving to missions.
“We praise the Lord for what He is doing, and we are grateful for what churches are contributing,” Hollifield said.

5/20/2016 1:26:30 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Trump’s Supreme Court list draws mixed reaction

May 20 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Donald Trump’s list for the U.S. Supreme Court gained approval from many social conservatives but apparently was unable to convince all to support his presidential candidacy.
On May 18 the presumptive Republican Party nominee named 11 candidates he would consider as replacements for the late Antonin Scalia on the high court. Trump offered the list as a self-acknowledged effort to reassure conservatives, saying later in a television interview he released the names “to quell any fears that people may have.”
The brash billionaire faces the challenge of convincing many conservatives they should vote for him after a divisive primary campaign marked by his inconsistent and sometimes harsh policy positions, autocratic inclinations and uncivil, insult-laden rhetoric. His candidacy produced strong resistance from some conservatives and evangelical Christians. Using the hashtag #NeverTrump on Twitter, objectors have made no-vote promises – even in the general election.
With his list, Trump sought to address one of the most significant issues in the campaign – the makeup of the Supreme Court for years to come. Some social conservatives who opposed Trump in the primaries have used the court as a reason for supporting him in the general election. They have said they will vote for him because the Democratic nominee – almost certainly Hillary Clinton – is sure to select nominees who support abortion and LGBT rights and likely not be champions of religious freedom.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, called it “an exceptionally strong list of jurists.”
“We are encouraged by Mr. Trump’s repeated pledges to appoint constitutionalists, which stands in sharp contrast to Hillary Clinton’s position,” Dannenfelser said in written comments. “There is no question Clinton would only nominate judges who stand in lock-step with the abortion lobby and would strike down even the most modest abortion limits.”
Hannah Smith, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and a former clerk for Supreme Court Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, said the list “includes judges who take seriously the religious liberty of all Americans and who would apply the law fairly to preserve this crucial constitutional right.”
“All of the potential nominees on the list have records of principled judicial philosophies and have demonstrated their commitment to interpreting the constitution and laws as written, even under pressure,” Smith said. Neither Smith nor the Becket Fund endorses candidates.
Southern Baptist cultural commentator Denny Burk, however, said the list “does not alleviate the concerns that many of us have about his candidacy.”
Trump did not promise “to pick anyone from the list. ... So the list means nothing. ... And we are again being asked to trust the judgment of a man who changes his positions daily and who is a liar,” said Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Trump’s “character, temperament and authoritarian tendencies suggest that he would be a menace to our Constitutional order,” Burk wrote in a May 19 blog post.
Conservative blogger Erick Erickson said there is no guarantee Trump would name anyone on the list.
“This list is a limited time offer, subject to change, and may vary from sentence to sentence,” Erickson said. “Therein lies the ultimate problem with the Trump candidacy.”
Trump acknowledged to Fox News television host Sean Hannity he would not be bound to the 11 names on the list.
“I thought what I would do is put this forward and this would be the list that I would either choose from or pick people very close in terms of the spirit and the meaning of what they represent,” he said.
He will choose “most likely” from the list, Trump told Hannity. “But, at a minimum, we will keep people within this general realm.”
Among the social conservatives who are supporting Trump after strongly opposing him in the primaries are Dannenfelser and Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, The New York Times reported May 15.
“He’s not my first choice. He’s not my second choice,” Nance told The Times. “But any concerns I have about him pale in contrast to Hillary Clinton.”
Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees consists of:

  • Steven Collton, a judge on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2003 and clerked for the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

  • Allison Eid, an associate justice of the Colorado Supreme Court who clerked for Thomas on the Supreme Court.

  • Raymond Gruender, also a judge on the Eighth Circuit Court who was appointed by Bush in 2004.

  • Thomas Hardiman, a judge on the Third Circuit Court who was appointed by Bush in 2006.

  • Raymond Kethledge, a judge on the Sixth Circuit Court in Cincinnati who was appointed by Bush in 2007 and clerked for Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.

  • Joan Larsen, an associate justice of the Michigan Supreme Court who clerked for Scalia.

  • Thomas Lee, an associate justice of the Utah Supreme Court who clerked for Thomas and is the brother of Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.

  • William Pryor, a judge on the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta who was appointed by Bush in 2004.

  • David Stras, an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court who clerked for Thomas.

  • Diane Sykes, a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court in Chicago who was appointed by Bush in 2003

  • Don Willett, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court who has been a critic of Trump on Twitter.

Many conservatives have regarded Sykes and Pryor as among the leading judges in the federal system.
On Hannity’s Wednesday evening show, Trump said the Federalist Society – an organization of conservative and libertarian lawyers – vetted the judges on his list and the conservative Heritage Foundation reviewed it.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/20/2016 11:49:46 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Nurturing theological connections in the Americas

May 20 2016 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS

As a youth pastor, Billy Hurst went on a two-week mission trip to Haiti. Because his wife Debbie taught school, she had to remain in the U.S. In their separation, she feared for her husband’s well-being in a foreign country.
“So I spent a lot of time in the Word and just praying for his safety,” Debbie said. “And while I was having my quiet times, the Lord very clearly revealed to me that I needed to prepare myself because He was calling me to the foreign mission field.”


IMB missionary Debbie Hurst has used her gifting in education to open neighbors' hearts to hear biblical truth in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Mexico.

She wrote a two-page letter to Billy explaining how God had been talking to her about going to the mission field at some point in their married life.
“I wrote it out,” she said with a laugh, “because I knew he wouldn’t believe me.”
When Billy returned to First Baptist Church in Clover, S.C., he was surprised by his wife’s news, but not for the reason she expected. While Billy was on mission in Haiti, God had extended to him the same call to cross-cultural missions.
“What a surprise to be reunited after two weeks and learn that God had spoken to both of us concerning this matter,” Billy said.
Since then, the Hursts have served in Mexico, Costa Rica and, for the last two years, Guatemala. Billy is a professor and director of the master’s program at the Guatemala Baptist Theological Seminary in Guatemala City while Debbie teaches at a local grade school.
Their vision in all they have done has been to see a new generation of pastor-theologians in Latin America reach the nations by teaching truth and transforming lives.
In the couple’s first step toward the mission field, Billy pursued a master of divinity degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, graduating in 1997 (and currently working toward his Ph.D.).
“A strong burden was put on my heart while in seminary for missions,” he said. “It was not until I got to seminary that I began to realize the meaning of Romans 1:18-21, which says that people are without excuse in terms of knowing God. I had always assumed that people who had never heard of God would go to heaven.
“At that point, God began to burden my heart concerning those who have not had the opportunity to hear the gospel message proclaimed.”
A year before graduating, Billy participated in a mission trip to Guatemala. Though he signed up at the invitation of a friend who later dropped out, Billy nevertheless experienced a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit while worshipping at a local church, sensing God telling him that Guatemala eventually would be his permanent place of service.


IMB missionary Billy Hurst, in teaching at the Guatemala Baptist Seminary, aims to see a new generation of pastor-theologians reach the nations by teaching truth that transforms lives.

Billy said he wept that day out of fear over leaving his comfortable surroundings in the States, Billy said. But he also “wept for joy knowing that God was using the Holy Spirit to guide me and my wife into future ministry.”
The Hursts first went to Guatemala in 1998 and served there two years, followed by placements in Costa Rica and Mexico. Then, in 2014, the Lord brought them back to Guatemala.
The couple is now part of the International Mission Board’s theological education connector team for the American peoples affinity group (that is, the people of Latin America). The team’s mission is to connect the needs of Baptist seminaries and partner institutions in the Americas to resources within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
“As ‘theological educators,’ the men and women who constitute this team have as their primary calling the task of training and equipping a new generation of Baptist national leaders for Great Commission deployment,” Billy said. “This is done formally in academic and local church settings and informally as they interact with students and the seminary community.”
And, as “connectors,” Billy continued, team members are tasked with connecting the Americas’ theological education needs with “unprecedented opportunities for service and resources found within the SBC – including Baptist seminaries, Baptist universities, and volunteers from Baptist churches and associations.”
In addition, team members strive to be actively involved in local church life, from evangelism and missions to small-group multiplication as a component of church planting.
The Hursts work specifically with the Baptist seminary in Guatemala where Billy teaches classes on missions, evangelism and discipleship as well as other classes as needed on the main campus or one of its extensions. Thanks in part to its partnership with Southwestern’s Global Theological Innovation, the Guatemala seminary has extensions in the interior of the country as well as in neighboring Honduras and Belize.
Billy also leads a Friday morning staff devotional on the seminary campus and a Tuesday evening discipleship group for young men. On Sundays, he visits various churches throughout the country in order to promote the seminary and encourage his students.
Debbie, meanwhile, has been involved in children’s ministry throughout the couple’s missionary career. When their own two children were young, for example, she invited children from the community to their home for birthdays and holidays, and their parents often would tag along out of curiosity. Questions typically were asked why the Hursts were in the country, opening the door for them to explain that they are ministers of the gospel, which often led to the formation of Bible studies.
“Doing the children’s ministry gave us the connection with our neighborhood in Costa Rica that allowed us to start a church there by God’s grace,” Billy said. “Her ministry and love for the women in Guatemala helped us as we developed a church here as well.”
In his work with the seminary and its students, Billy said the most rewarding parts of his ministry are watching students walk across the stage at graduation and seeing their passion for the lost, obedience to the Word and their spiritual growth.
“God continues to raise up students with a passion for His Word,” Billy said. “Mardo, a second-year student, came to the seminary with little Bible knowledge but with a desire to learn and be obedient to the Word. Over time, he has matured in his faith and grown in wisdom. His passion for the lost serves as an example to all on campus.”
In the years since Billy and Debbie Hurst received the call to cross-cultural missions independently of one another, their vision has remained steady: Many have come to know the Lord and have been trained to share the message of Christ; the truth is being taught and, little by little, the world is being touched.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is the senior writer/copy editor for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

5/20/2016 11:43:25 AM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS | with 0 comments

Hobbyist's auto restorations nurture young men

May 20 2016 by Scott Barkley, The Christian Index

For seven days, up to 12 hours a day, several Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) students took the rough places and made them new, fashioning what began as junk into something special.
Working under the watchful eye of John Albrycht, the group restored a 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle, winning Best in Class at the Classics in the Country Car Show in Watkinsville, Ga., on April 23. The like-new VW will be sold to raise money for SendMeNow missions for BCM students at Georgia College in Milledgeville to share the gospel in the U.S. and throughout the world.


Bugs 4 Christ photo
John Albrycht, who leads the nonprofit Bugs 4 Christ ministry, sits in the 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle that he and others, including BCM students from Georgia College, were in the process of restoring. It won Best in Class at the Classics in the Country Car Show in Watkinsville.

Two of Albrycht’s daughters served through SendMeNow, so the program is close to his heart. Though this is the first time the hobbyist has guided the restoration of a car to directly benefit missions, he’s been using an auto shop environment to build up young men for years, going back to his youth minister days at Plentitude Baptist Church in Jones County, Ga.
“We had quite a few junior and senior guys involved in the program,” Albrycht recalled. “A volunteer, Jeff Weeks, suggested we find a way to develop relationships with them outside of the church before they headed off to college.”
They determined the shop was the best place, where spiritual applications come easier than you’d think. In the end, it’s just guys talking while they work. Their first project was a ‘71 Volkswagen Super Beetle that had been shut up in a student’s barn.
It’s been 10 years since Albrycht and others began restoring cars for high school students, migrating toward college students, as a mentoring ministry. As word got out, more men wanted to be involved; today more than a dozen men from 30-60 years old and stretching across denominations serve as mentors. Although projects often take place in a group setting, growth occurs in the one-on-one conversations sure to follow.
“I like to apply scripture [while we work] and ask guys how they’re going to use truths in the Bible in everyday life,” Albrycht said. “Before establishing the ministry, he had noticed how his students were having trouble applying the scriptural truths taught at church to their lives. “Follow-up was missing,” he realized.


Bugs 4 Christ photo
Enjoying a lunch of fried catfish brought by a volunteer, a Bugs 4 Christ group, including BCM members from Georgia College, take a break from restoring a ‘74 Volkswagen Super Beetle.

“One Friday around midnight a guy showed up at my house and said, ‘Mr. John, I need to go work on the car.’ At church, we’d been talking about sex and marriage. After 20 minutes he admitted to me he’d had sex with his girlfriend that night. Now, he wanted to know what he should do.
“I’d been involved in youth ministry for 20 years at that point and I’d never had a question with that much honesty. It’s not a question you get at church. Working on the car had created an environment where he felt safe to ask. It really opened my eyes that we’re not doing cross-generational ministry like we should.”
That openness isn’t confined to the younger crowd either. “Older guys, especially those saved later in life, are honest about their scars,” said Albrycht, now a member of Northside Baptist Church in Milledgeville who works as a real estate appraiser, negotiator and project manager.
A father of five, Albrycht speaks in churches on the importance of men being the spiritual leader in the family. At last count he’s been part of restoring/rebuilding 26 cars and giving them to young men and women in need. He sees a direct spiritual association with the process.
“Restoring cars is like restoring lives through Christ,” Albrycht said. “I’ll use the repair manual of the car to show how when we live apart from the Bible we mess things up. To rebuild and repair the car, we need to be familiar with the manual. We have to be ready and understand it, the same way we study and apply scripture.”


Bugs 4 Christ photo
Discipleship, not just physical labor, was involved in the restoration of this car to be sold to support missions outreach by the Baptist Campus Ministry at Georgia College.

Though Albrycht is partial to Volkswagen Beetles, as shown by his Bugs 4 Christ nonprofit ministry, various models have been rebuilt over the years. Currently he’s overseeing a restoration for Jay’s Hope, a Macon-based organization devoted to fighting childhood cancer. Funding for each project is largely attained through donations of materials, time, even food brought to workers. For the Georgia College BCM rebuild, meals were provided by Haddock, Gray and Northridge Baptist churches, among others.
Though the mentoring is geared toward the young, older generations get just as much out of it, Albrycht noted.
“The enthusiasm and zest for life from these young guys is passed along to the others. The guys from Georgia College were such strong Christians they helped us live at a ‘younger level’ that week.”
And that generational highway goes both ways.
“If the goal is for kids to not just be hearers of the Word, but do what it says, then we have to provide relational support,” Albrycht said. “Older men have to pass on a positive spiritual heritage.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is web content developer for The Christian Index at, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

5/20/2016 11:32:32 AM by Scott Barkley, The Christian Index | with 0 comments

Chibok girl found alive in Nigerian forest

May 20 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

One of the 219 missing Chibok schoolgirls Boko Haram kidnapped has been found alive in Nigeria’s remote Sambisa Forest, the French press agency AFP reported May 18.
The schoolgirl, now 19, was found May 17 at night by civilians assisting the military and was reunited with family members before being transported to a military base in Damboa, the AFP quoted a Chibok community leader.
The schoolgirl’s recovery ignited hopes for the safe return of more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls who remain missing, many of whom were Christians when Boko Haram kidnapped them and destroyed their boarding school more than two years ago. Many had been feared forced into chattel “marriages” with Muslims or killed as suicide bombers.
The girl told community members that other Chibok schoolgirls were in the Sambisa Forest, but “six were already dead,” the AFP reported.


Screen capture from

Her escape occurred just a month after UNICEF released the report, “Beyond Chibok: Over 1.3 million children uprooted by Boko Haram violence,” which indicated the use of suicide bombers had increased 11-fold in 2015 from the previous year in Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Niger, where the terrorists have been most active. The report estimated 44 children, 75 percent of them girls, died as suicide bombers in 2015, compared to four in 2014.
The recovered girl’s name differed among news reports which identified her variously as Amina Ali, Amina Ali Nkeki or Falmata Mbalala, but her identity as a Chibok schoolgirl was deemed certain. It is not uncommon for girls to use different names at least between home and school, a Chibok school leader told the AFP.
Also varying were news reports of her condition, although all said she was at least physically well. Sources told AFP she appeared to have given birth recently, while the Associated Press reported that the girl’s uncle described her as pregnant and traumatized. CNN reported that the girl was accompanied by a baby and a man who described himself as her husband and said he also had been kidnapped by Boko Haram.
“Their bodies didn’t look good,” CNN quoted a witness identified as Aboku Gaji, a member of the Civilian Joint Task Force assisting the military. “They had had no bath and were in a dirty condition.”
The recovered girl was among 276 girls Boko Haram kidnapped on April 14, 2014. Nearly 60 of the girls managed to escape from the backs of trucks either during the kidnapping, or shortly afterwards as Boko Haram camped.
As recently as the second anniversary of the kidnapping, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari told parents and activists working for the girls’ release that he believed they could still be freed and was working “diligently to ensure that the girls are returned home unharmed.” Buhari made the comments after a Boko Haram video surfaced that the terrorists reportedly gave Buhari’s administration as a “show of good faith” that the girls were alive. The video included 15 girls and reportedly had been taken on Christmas 2015.
At that time, the girls were believed to have been divided in groups perhaps as small as 10 and dispersed among various Boko Haram cells, This Day reported in April.
Months after Buhari claimed a “technical defeat” of Boko Haram in December 2015, a regional multinational military force of 8,700 fighters from Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger continues to report successes against the jihadists while suicide bombings still occur.
In its report, UNICEF described Boko Haram’s displacement of children as the “fastest growing humanitarian crisis in Africa.” The number of displaced children increased by more than 60 percent since May 2013, rising from 800,000 to 1.3 million, the report said. Including children and adults, more than 2.3 million people were considered displaced in Nigeria (1.9 million), Cameroon (211,000), Niger (157,000) and Chad (55,000).
“Hit-and-run attacks and suicide bombings are depriving people of essential services, destroying vital infrastructure and sowing fear,” the report said. “In North-East Nigeria, about 90 percent of displaced families are sheltered by some of the world’s poorest communities, placing additional strain on already limited resources.”
Working to establish strict Sharia law across Nigeria, Boko Haram has been most active in northeastern Nigeria where many of the 20,000 deaths occurred that the terrorists are blamed for since 2009. Boko Haram originally targeted Christians, but has also killed moderate Muslims.
Killings of Nigerian Christians increased 62 percent in the past year, according to the February report “Crushed But Not Defeated,” from the Open Doors religious freedom ministry and the Christian Association of Nigeria. Northern Nigerian Christian communities suffered at least 4,028 murders and 198 church attacks in 2015 from Boko Haram, Muslim Fulani herdsmen and others, compared to 2,484 killings and 108 church attacks the previous year, the Open Doors report said.
Between 2006 and 2014, Open Doors estimated, 11,500 Christians were killed in northern Nigeria; and at least 13,000 churches have been attacked, destroyed or abandoned since 2000. The report ranks Nigeria as 12th on the Open Doors 2016 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian, and estimates 30 million Christians live in the region.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

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5/20/2016 11:10:02 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

J.D. Greear Q&A for SBC president

May 19 2016 by Baptist Press

North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear, one of three pastors to be nominated for Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president in June, responded to six questions Baptist Press (BP) posed to each candidate.
Greear’s nomination was announced March 2 by Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla.
During the 14 years Greear has pastored The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., worship attendance has grown from 350 to just under 10,000, Scroggins said in announcing the nomination. The Summit’s total baptisms increased from 19 in 2002 to 928 in 2014, the last year for which statistics are available through the SBC’s Annual Church Profile.


J.D. Greear

Among Greear’s work in the SBC, he has led The Summit to plant more than 20 churches in North America in conjunction with the North American Mission Board (NAMB). When Greear’s nomination was announced, The Summit had more International Mission Board missionaries on the field than any other congregation in the convention – a statistic the church told BP the IMB had confirmed. Greear himself served two years with the IMB before being called to The Summit.
Greear holds doctor of philosophy and master of divinity degrees from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
The new SBC president will succeed Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, who was elected to the first of two one-year presidential terms in 2014.
Q&As with each of the other two nominees – Louisiana pastor David Crosby and Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines – also appeared on Baptist Press. BP requested each nominee to respond within 150 words to each question.

J.D. Greear’s answer to BP questions

BP: What influence on the Southern Baptist Convention do you pray to have during the two consecutive one-year terms that an SBC president typically serves?
GREEAR: First, we need a continued re-awakening to the gospel. Revival begins not with the world awakening to Christ, but the church getting “re-awakened” to the gospel. Times in our country may be dark, but – based on past history – that actually means conditions are incredibly ripe for revival.
Second, we need to bring a new generation of Southern Baptists to the table, partnering with older generations in the cooperative missions of the SBC. There is a new wave of excitement about the SBC, but many are still sitting on the sidelines. We’ve been given a rich legacy, and it’s time we, the rising generations, pick up that torch, taking personal responsibility for the mission.
Third, we need to see diversification in the SBC’s leadership. About one in five Southern Baptist churches are now predominantly non-Anglo, and we want to see our brothers and sisters from these non-Anglo backgrounds join us in leadership.
BP: If elected as SBC president, in what ways do you envision calling Southern Baptists forward in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission and undergirding the Cooperative Program (CP)?
GREEAR: To the churches who choose to affiliate with the SBC, I would say that we must take ownership of our entities and mission. More than 1,000 missionaries coming off the field isn’t “the SBC’s problem.” It’s our problem. We need to respond with intentional, sacrificial generosity, giving away more than we feel we can spare. We must rest on the promise that as we seek the Kingdom of God first, He’ll supply the rest of what we need (Matthew 6:33).
The CP should remain our best and primary means of giving, but we should encourage other cooperative ways to give, too. God is doing new things in the coming days, and we must respect the autonomy of Southern Baptist churches in responding to that. The entities of the convention exist for one reason – the Great Commission. We must constantly re-evaluate everything we do in light of that. Mission above all.
BP: Describe ways you have led your church to be involved in Great Commission outreach through Southern Baptist cooperative missions and the Cooperative Program.
GREEAR: Currently, we have 150 of our members serving overseas through the IMB. We’ve also, by God’s grace, planted 26 Southern Baptist churches through NAMB here in the U.S., sending out over 400 members, all in the past 5 years. We have a God-sized goal of planting 1,000 churches by 2050 through the entities of the SBC, and our people have rallied behind that vision.
Over the same period, we’ve also tried to demonstrate the kind of increased, sacrificial giving the hour demands. Three years ago, our church voted to increase our CP giving by 230 percent over the course of five years, and we were able to complete that two years early. On January 1, we took our 2016 giving to $390,000 for the year. Our “Great Commission Giving” has remained consistent at 10 percent for four years, and our total missions giving has remained between 15-20 percent of undesignated receipts.
BP: In what ways do you see the SBC president coming alongside leaders of the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, GuideStone Financial Resources and the convention’s six seminaries to undergird and encourage their respective ministries?
GREEAR: God has given us tremendous leaders – men and women of God raised up for the hour – in these entities. He sent us a Conservative Resurgence, then a Great Commission Resurgence, and the leadership of our entities reflects those great movements. Here’s what excites me: past grace is evidence that God intends to bestow future grace. These are exciting days for Southern Baptists. God didn’t act to preserve institutions, but to advance the mission.
These entities exist to assist local churches in the work of the ministry, not to do ministry for them. The local church is God’s “Plan A.” Churches plant churches, raise up leaders, send out missionaries and evangelize their cities. I’ve been encouraged to see these entities begin asking how they can better serve the churches. I hope to represent Southern Baptist churches of all shapes and sizes well to these entities, pressing in on that very question.
BP: If elected as SBC president, how do you foresee speaking to the next generation of Southern Baptist leaders to be involved in expanding the convention’s Great Commission work?
GREEAR: Those of us in the younger generation “stand on the shoulders” of faithful, older generations. We should honor them, learn from them and unite with them. We need to humbly ask lots of questions. (As my mentor Paige Patterson told me, “Never tear a wall down before you know why it exists!”) And we must continue supporting the mission structures that have made Southern Baptists the most prolific church planting people on the planet. We must own our convention.
Again: great days are ahead. Why would the Holy Spirit have been so gracious in the Conservative Resurgence if not to give us an unprecedented effectiveness among the nations? The SBC’s best days are before us. They have to be: more than 6,000 people groups remain unreached, and history cannot end until that changes. It is time again to expect great things of God, and then attempt great things for God.
BP: What do you see as the key moral issues of our day, and how can the SBC president represent Southern Baptists as America increasingly moves away from Judeo-Christian values?
GREEAR: Antagonism toward Christianity is growing, but this is no time to despair. The early Church didn’t grow exponentially because the government was behind them, but because they trusted the Spirit and proclaimed the gospel boldly. Thus, while we will continue to advocate for religious liberty, we must also live as the counter-cultural people of God, a unique community where the fragrance of Christ is sweet and distinct. The darker our culture becomes, the brighter the light of the gospel shines forth.
We must aim for the same paradox Jesus embodied – “full of grace and truth” (John 1:17). Truth without grace is fundamentalism. Grace without truth is vapid sentimentality. The Great Commission is that we proclaim the Gospel; the second Great Commandment is that we love our neighbors. Both should be evident among Southern Baptists. We must not only speak the truth of Christ; we must do so with the spirit of Christ.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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5/19/2016 11:12:37 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Steve Gaines Q&A for SBC president

May 19 2016 by Baptist Press

Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines, one of three pastors to be nominated for Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president in June, responded to six questions Baptist Press (BP) posed to each candidate.
Gaines’ nomination was announced March 9 by former SBC President Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.
Among Gaines’s leadership roles in the SBC, he has served as a member of the SBC Committee on Nominations, a trustee of LifeWay Christian Resources, a member of the committee that proposed a revision of the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000 and chairman of the SBC Resolutions Committee. He preached the SBC convention sermon in 2004 and served as SBC Pastors’ Conference president in 2005.


Steve Gaines

During the 11 years Gaines has pastored the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., the congregation has averaged 481 baptisms per year, according to the SBC’s Annual Church Profile. Previously, he pastored churches in Alabama, Tennessee and Texas.
Gaines holds doctor of philosophy and master of divinity degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
The new SBC president will succeed Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, who was elected to the first of two one-year presidential terms in 2014.
Q&As with each of the other two nominees – Louisiana pastor David Crosby and North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear – also appeared on Baptist Press. BP requested each nominee to respond within 150 words to each question.


Steve Gaines’ answers to BP questions

BP: What influence on the Southern Baptist Convention do you pray to have during the two consecutive one-year terms that an SBC president typically serves?
GAINES: I want to build on the wonderful foundation that has been laid by our current president, Ronnie Floyd, by being a catalyst for spiritual awakening and revival. The SBC needs fresh fire and wind from heaven. It will come through fervent prayer and seeking God. I also want to emphasize soul winning. The SBC is currently in a 15-year downward nosedive in baptisms. In 2014, we baptized 100,000 less than we did in 1999. Pastors must lead their churches to verbally share the gospel with lost people, and also extend evangelistic invitations when they preach. I also will focus on stewardship. Individual Christians must give more to their churches so our churches can give more to the Cooperative Program (CP) so we can send more missionaries overseas. We need to put 1,100 missionaries back on the foreign fields instead of calling them home.
BP: If elected as SBC president, in what ways do you envision calling Southern Baptists forward in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission and undergirding the Cooperative Program?
GAINES: We must emphasize the Great Commission, which is: “making disciples, baptizing disciples, and teaching disciples.” Making disciples includes winning lost people to Jesus. If not, then there is no evangelism in the Great Commission. I will call Southern Baptists back to our historic roots of being soul winners – people who proactively, intentionally and verbally share the gospel to win people to Jesus. Each person we win to Christ must then be baptized. We do NOT need to deemphasize baptisms as a valid metric to measure our evangelistic effectiveness. Baptisms are a biblical metric. Every person who was saved in the New Testament was baptized! Once a person is saved and baptized, he should be taught and discipled so he can grow in Christlikeness. Financial stewardship is part of being a disciple. Christians must give more to their churches so churches can give more to the Cooperative Program.
BP: Describe ways you have led your church to be involved in Great Commission outreach through Southern Baptist cooperative missions and the Cooperative Program.
GAINES: At Bellevue Baptist Church, over the past six years we have increased our Cooperative Program giving from $250,000 per year to $1 million per year. We have been the top giver to the CP in our state for several years now. We have annually increased both the amount given and also the percentage. Since Great Commission outreach should be done at the local church level, the associational level, the state convention level and the national convention level, we believe in supporting each of these financially and with our participation.
We win people to Christ in Memphis through personal soul winning and also through multiple evangelistic ministries. On the national level, we are planting churches in the Seattle area through the Send North America emphasis. Bellevue also serves overseas in evangelistic outreach and church planting efforts in partnership with our International Mission Board (IMB). We believe in cooperating with other Southern Baptist churches.
BP: In what ways do you see the SBC president coming alongside leaders of the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board (NAMB), LifeWay Christian Resources, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, GuideStone Financial Resources and the convention’s six seminaries to undergird and encourage their respective ministries?
GAINES: I will emphasize the need for all of our national entities to work in cooperation with one another and also with our state conventions and local associations to fulfill the Great Commission. Southern Baptist churches do not need to digress to a societal form of giving to support our various agencies at various levels. State conventions must not be pressured into giving such high percentages to the national entities that they are unable to evangelize their own states. We must seek to have a unified way of funding all levels of SBC missional work, and that is the Cooperative Program.
We must discourage a spirit of competition between the national entities and the state conventions and local associations. All of these levels of SBC activity are vital to our success in carrying out the Great Commission. Southern Baptists will advance if we focus on cooperating instead of competing against one another.
BP: If elected as SBC president, how do you foresee speaking to the next generation of Southern Baptist leaders to be involved in expanding the convention’s Great Commission work?
GAINES: Our son is a 33-year-old pastor of a Southern Baptist church here in Tennessee. I encourage him and all the next generation of Southern Baptists to get involved in SBC life at every level. Local associations provide fellowship and ministry opportunities that are encouraging. State conventions allow younger Southern Baptists unique opportunities to reach lost people in their states. God has brought the world to our cities and states. There are over 3 million lost people in Tennessee and 18 million in Texas. We can reach the world by reaching the lost people in our states! I also encourage the next generation to support the national SBC by being involved in church planting through NAMB and a variety of worldwide missional opportunities through the IMB.
No other gospel preaching fellowship has greater potential for providing comprehensive involvement for the next generation than the SBC at all its various levels of ministry.
BP: What do you see as the key moral issues of our day, and how can the SBC president represent Southern Baptists as America increasingly moves away from Judeo-Christian values?
GAINES: The three key moral issues in our day are abortion, sexual immorality and racism.
The SBC, including the president, must continue to be a champion for the unborn and their right to life. We must never waver regarding the fact that the Bible teaches that life begins at conception. Every unborn child is an eternal soul.
We must also continue to provide a prophetic voice crying out in the wilderness of a morally confused culture regarding sexuality. We must advocate for biblical marriage. The only marriage Jesus affirmed was heterosexual, monogamous marriage – one man married to one woman for life. God created males to be males and females to be females. Gender is biological, not psychological.
Regarding race, all people are created in God’s image. Thus there is only one race – the human race. Christians must lead by example by loving everyone, regardless of skin color.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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5/19/2016 11:06:44 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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