May 2016

David Crosby Q&A for SBC president

May 19 2016 by Baptist Press staff

Louisiana pastor David Crosby, one of three pastors to be nominated for Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president in June, responded to six questions Baptist Press posed to each candidate.
Crosby’s nomination was announced March 24 by former SBC President Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.


David Crosby

Among Crosby’s leadership roles at the association, state convention and SBC levels, he has served as moderator of the New Orleans Baptist Association, Executive Board member of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and member of the SBC Committees on Committees and Resolutions. He is a trustee at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  

During the 20 years Crosby has pastored First Baptist Church in New Orleans, the congregation has given between 7 and 15 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program, Luter said in nominating Crosby. The church has averaged 658 in worship and 24 baptisms annually over the past five years, according to data from the SBC’s Annual Church Profile. Previously, Crosby pastored churches in Texas and Mississippi.
Crosby holds a doctor of philosophy degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and a master of divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
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 – Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines and North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear – also appeared on Baptist Press. BP requested each nominee to respond within 150 words to each question.

David Crosby’s 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?
CROSBY: I hope to renew a spirit of cooperation among our churches. We are all experiencing the reality of America as a mission field. Any true mission setting requires more cooperation, not less, to share an effective witness. On the mission field you must set aside your differences and rally around the true core of the gospel. That is where we are now in our nation and our world.
We have a wide-open door that will help us evangelize our nation and present the full wonder of the gospel – the love of our neighbors. This love may be expressed corporately in compassion ministries initiated by our churches to address local needs. I hope to help foster such ministries. This strategy of outreach will put us in touch with the many residents of our communities who are distant from us culturally and provide bridges for powerful witness.
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?
CROSBY: We communicate our true relationship with Jesus through love of neighbor. If we fail to love, we are just an annoying noise. Any future revival of the Great Commission will be linked to our keeping the Great Commandment. The notion that these two great commands of Jesus are in tension is a true absurdity. We will never faithfully represent the Savior without both the words and the deeds of the gospel. All of our churches have multiple ways to love neighbors in need. Let’s grab our bandages and go help them.
The Cooperative Program is suffering from the notion that designated giving to our individual entities is just as faithful to our cooperative work as supporting the unified giving plan. We will continue to see layoffs and the downsizing of our cooperative mission enterprise until and unless we have a revival of support for 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.
CROSBY: We have adopted an unreached people group in Africa in response to the challenge of the IMB. We have made 15 trips with many different individuals from our church.
We are fully engaged in the cooperative mission work in New Orleans. Our church sponsors a new church plant and is working on a second one. The North American Mission Board and the Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC) are our partners in serving the homeless population and children who come to school hungry. The LBC also partners with us in our ministry that recruits, trains and supports foster families in our region. We work hard to connect the words and deeds of the gospel in all compassion ministries. We have seen many people come to faith in Christ with this strategy.
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?
CROSBY: The greatest encouragement I could give as president to our entity heads is to be a cheerleader for the Cooperative Program. I will do this faithfully.
I am happy to represent a pastor’s perspective in meetings with our denominational leaders. For more than 40 years I have been the pastor of local churches that gave generously and faithfully to our unified giving plan. I have made more than 30 international trips to work with our missionaries. I have served at all levels of our work together. I am prepared to help us process the challenges that lie before us and develop creative strategies to address them.
I see much to admire in the new generation of young pastors and church planters. They are courageous and committed. We have the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit and heaven as our home. We have no reason to be fearful, angry or discouraged.
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?
CROSBY: The next generation will inherit from us a unified giving plan. I hope that they will support it and not let it languish. We have no proposals on the table that I know of that will keep our cooperative work healthy and whole apart from the Cooperative Program or something like it.
Our young leaders need to put their hands and their eyes on our cooperative work. We should develop scholarship programs that will help young pastors go overseas to work with our missionaries. When we get to know our missionaries, we love them and see them for who they are – faithful servants of Christ who represent us well around the world.
Our state conventions should be highly valued. I am a Southern Baptist because my father went to a Texas Baptist college. Our witness for Christ has been magnified through the various associations and conventions.
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?
CROSBY: The greatest moral issue is our flagging love for the lost and dying around us. We must get out of our houses of worship and into our communities. Unless we renew our love for our neighbors, we will never renew our witness.
Jesus introduced race in His story of the Good Samaritan in order to make it abundantly clear that love of neighbor involves loving people across ethnic, economic and cultural barriers. The tendency is universal in the human heart to pull into ourselves, into our own group and shut out the rest of the world. We must love the world enough to give of ourselves.
I am less concerned with the moral drift of the culture than I am with the moral drift of people who call themselves Christians. If we do not look like Jesus in our behavior, we will certainly not sound like Jesus nor represent Him faithfully in our world.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

Related Stories:

Steve Gaines Q&A for SBC president
J.D. Greear Q&A for SBC president

5/19/2016 10:59:52 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Couple donates to NCMO in lieu of wedding gifts

May 19 2016 by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications

Last summer, when her last name was still Hodges, Sarah Stalls addressed a letter to N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM)/Baptists on Mission with a check enclosed.
Such a donation would normally not be out of place, especially with the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) emphasis right around the corner.
But something set this particular gift apart for Richard Brunson, the executive director of NCBM: Sarah and her then-fiance, Bobby, had opted to make this donation to NCBM ministries instead of receiving gifts from guests at their upcoming wedding shower.
On their shower invitations, Sarah and Bobby had asked that in lieu of gifts, guests make a donation to one of three charities associated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina: Baptist Men Disaster Relief, Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina and Door of Hope.
“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” Brunson said. “This is a very unique gift, and we are very grateful.”
Sarah and Bobby Stalls were married last October, and it was their extensive and personal backgrounds with these organizations that led the couple to include them on their shower invitations.
Sarah’s father, John Manning Hodges, who passed away in 2011, gave much of his time to NCBM Disaster Relief after his retirement. He volunteered on the North Carolina coast, and Sarah wanted the donation to be a way to remember him and honor the legacy that he left.
Sarah, who currently serves as the public information officer for Beaufort County Schools and has worked in the communications industry for many years, also said that she saw NCBM Disaster Relief come to the aid of others while she worked in television and would cover natural disasters in eastern North Carolina.
“The (Baptist Men) Disaster Relief trucks were the first to arrive,” Sarah said. “I saw that pattern, and I believe other people did.”
Bobby also had some firsthand experience with Baptist Men Disaster Relief. He worked on the coast with Department of Transportation during Hurricane Irene and said the impact that the group made was tangible. Bobby recalled that the Baptist Men Disaster Relief tents were the only place to get a hot meal or wash clothes in the area.
The other two organizations that Sarah and Bobby listed – Door of Hope and Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina – also hold a special place in their hearts. Bobby was adopted as a child and encountered Door of Hope, an adoption ministry, on a short-term mission trip in South Africa.
The couple listed Baptist Children’s Homes on their invitations for a similar reason: they want to give children a chance to have a better future. “If someone hadn’t taken a chance on Bobby, we wouldn’t be here right now,” Sarah said.
The church that the two attend, Piney Grove Baptist Church in Williamston, has always taken a great interest in missions, the Stalls said. For them, the attitude of giving in their church was influential in their decision to include these organizations as options for their guests.
This isn’t the first time that the two have donated to NCBM, however. A year after Hurricane Irene hit, Bobby retired from the Department of Transportation. He knew he would receive a retirement gift from his coworkers, and he requested that they instead make a donation to NCBM Disaster Relief.
“People just want the opportunity to help,” Bobby said. “We just gave them an outlet to do that.”
“The only thing that would make this whole process better would be if someone was inspired to go out on a limb and do something similar,” Sarah added. “Don’t hesitate to go outside the box a little bit, even if it’s something small.”

5/19/2016 10:50:33 AM by Emily Rojas, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Bivocational pastors ‘not alone,’ Page says

May 18 2016 by Richard Nations, Missouri Pathway

“Bivocational pastors are my heroes,” said Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, as he addressed the annual session of the Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network, May 13-14, at Hannibal-LaGrange University.
“You are not alone,” Page told the 55 pastors and wives gathered at the auditorium of the university in Hannibal, Mo., repeating a message he often shares as he speaks around the nation.


Photo by Tyler Malone
Frank Page

But one day a bivocational pastor wrote Page a letter disputing that statement.
“I am alone,” the pastor wrote. He went on to describe his bleak ministry situation and said, “I doubt you will even read this letter because you probably have a secretary to read your mail.”
The pastor even pointed out that he was penning the letter by hand because he didn’t have a secretary or a computer. He closed with his phone number but said he didn’t expect a return call.
Page said he picked up the phone and called the surprised pastor to encourage him and let him know he was not alone. He listened to his hurts and arranged for the pastor’s state convention executive director and association director of missions to also reach out to the pastor.
“In bivocational ministry you will walk through valleys,” Page said. “There will be times when God will wrap his loving arms around you, and He will give you rest.”
In I Samuel 3, God called the young prophet Samuel and He called him by his name, Page said. “God calls and He knows your name,” he noted “Learn to rest in that call.”
Cliff Woodman, the conference coordinator, said the concept of the bivocational pastor being lonely and hurting is a common image.
“The term ‘bivocational’ is no longer a stigma,” he said. “We used to think that, if a man couldn’t afford to live on the salary of his ministry, he would have to get another job. Today there is more respect for the bivocational pastor. Men are intentionally going into bivocational ministry. Full-time ministry is not better than ‘bivo.’ There is no ‘move up.’”
Many “bivos,” he said, are highly educated, and they intend to serve a church and have another job most of their lives. Woodman is a pastor in Carlinville, Ill., and he serves as president of the Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network (BSCLN).
Ray Gilder, national coordinator of the BSCLN agreed the term “bivocational pastor” has been a “chokehold” for many. “Most people are no longer adverse to the term.”
With church attendances declining in many places, it is the only reality for some congregations running 75 or less.
Gary Mathes, pastoral ministry specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention, said he estimates 50 to 60 percent of Missouri Baptist congregations call a bivocational pastor. Mathes noted some rural associations may run as high as 70 to 80 percent.
Breakout sessions for the pastors and their wives rounded out the conference with session topics ranging from evangelism, finishing well, Christian worldview and leadership development. There were also free books, audio-video and printed resources available.
Dan Wilford, the pastor of First Baptist Church, Milan, attended the conference. As a bivocational pastor, he said, he always thought he had an advantage in his 56 years of ministry. “It put me out where people were rather than just being with the church people all the time,” he noted. “There was a sense of security of income. I could walk away from a church if I needed to and still had income.” Wilford serves as a mental health professional in the Trenton area.
Micah Fries, vice president of LifeWay Research, challenged the pastors to create a culture of multiplication and disciple-making in their churches.
“We need to find a way to maximize leaders,” Fries said. “There are not enough dollars available to employ all professional ministers. The biblical plan is to multiply and mentor leaders where you are.”
The conference is held annually in different locations around the nation. For more information, check the network’s website at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Richard Nations writes for the Missouri Baptist Convention's newsjournal The Pathway, on the Web at

5/18/2016 11:13:59 AM by Richard Nations, Missouri Pathway | with 0 comments

Transgender debate continues over Obama directive

May 18 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Legal, policy and pastoral responses are continuing regarding the transgender controversy that reached an apparent peak with the Obama administration’s directive to public schools.
Officials with the Departments of Education and Justice directed public school districts, as well as colleges and universities, May 13 to permit transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity instead of their biological sex. The guidance is not legally binding, but it implies noncompliance could result in the loss of federal aid.
The governors of Arkansas and Mississippi – Asa Hutchinson and Phil Bryant, respectively – told educators to ignore the directive. Gov. Greg Abbott announced Texas would fight the guidance, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the state was willing to forfeit billions of education dollars from the federal government.
Even before the directive, officials in eight states in the same week had called for a federal appeals court to reconsider a ruling that supported the administration’s position. Officeholders in Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief asking all the members of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., to rehear a case in which a three-judge panel sided with a Virginia transgender student who desired to use the boys’ restroom despite being a girl biologically.
The Fourth Circuit panel ruled 2-1 in April the ban on sex discrimination in the Title IX education amendments encompasses gender identity – a legal position rejected by conservatives.
The Gloucester County (Va.) School Board, which governs the district in which the transgender student prevailed, asked the appeals court for a rehearing May 3. In addition, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – representing 50 students, parents, grandparents and other citizens – urged the full court to take the case and overturn the panel’s ruling.
While the Obama administration called for protection for transgender students in its guidance, ADF and others pointed to the safety and privacy of other students in their opposition to government efforts to base restroom and locker room use on gender identity instead of biological sex.
Title IX does the opposite of what foes of the Gloucester County schools’ sex-segregated policy argue it does, according to ADF.
“Title IX specifically authorizes schools to have separate restrooms and locker rooms for boys and girls,” ADF legal counsel Matt Sharp said in written comments. “The policy accommodates students who aren’t comfortable using facilities designated for their biological sex without neglecting the established right of children to bodily privacy and safety.”
The Gloucester County school district provided a separate restroom for the transgender student who brought the legal challenge, but she said using the alternative restroom further stigmatized her. The Obama administration backed her position.
ADF also filed federal lawsuits in two states – on behalf of students and parents in Illinois May 4 and in North Carolina May 10 – against the Obama administration in opposition to its interpretation of Title IX.
On May 16, President Obama defended his administration’s position, saying it is society’s responsibility to protect vulnerable children.
“Anybody who has been in school, in high school, who has been a parent should realize that kids who are sometimes in the minority, kids who have a different sexual orientation or are transgender are subject to a lot of bullying, potentially,” Obama told BuzzFeed News. “They’re vulnerable.”
While legal challenges mount, leaders in Southern Baptist life also are offering policy and pastoral counsel.
Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in a May 13 blog post for the Southern Baptist entity, “[T]he restroom wars are merely a proxy debate for a larger conflict about what it means to be male and female. God made men and women as equal, but distinct. These distinctions are beautiful, good and a testament to God’s wisdom in creation.”
Walker recommended seven responses on the same day the administration directive was issued, including:
– “[S]tates should refuse to comply with the federal government’s overreach. ... This decree isn’t a law, and the threat of penalty doesn’t ensure a penalty....
– “[S]tate legislatures should pass laws that counteract this decree. These laws should regulate restroom usage on biological sex and not amorphously-defined ‘gender identity.’ ...
– “Christian parents need to evaluate what this means for them and their children. They need to establish a tipping point. ... What actions taken by your local school will be sufficient for you to re-evaluate public education? Is having a teacher reprimand your child for his or her belief about marriage, sex, and gender acceptable? ... Are you uncomfortable with a biological male having access to the restroom and locker room that your daughter uses? ... It is advisable that spouses have a candid conversation and establish a line in the sand.”
Southern Baptist pastor Sam Rainer offered counsel to pastors about the controversy in a May 15 blog post. After rejecting gender identity ideology, Rainer, senior pastor of West Bradenton (Fla.) Baptist Church and president of Rainer Research, included these among his recommendations:
– “Don’t ignore the issue. It’s not going away. Most of your people are paying attention to this issue. It affects everyone. ...
– “Teach with clarity, not nuance. Go right to the heart of the issue and address it biblically and clearly. ...
– “Display a genuine concern for people who identify as transgender. Jesus loves them, and so should you. Crude jokes and snarky sermon sound bites won’t solve the problem. We should care for anyone struggling with gender identity issues. You can put a stake in the ground on this issue while at the same time exhibiting love for hurting and confused people. Truth and love are two sides of the same coin. ...”
Messengers to the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution regarding transgender identity that “affirm[ed] God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception.” The resolution “regard[ed] our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God and therefore condemn[ed] acts of abuse or bullying committed against them.”
The resolution also said, “We invite all transgender persons to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the gospel.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

5/18/2016 11:05:03 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

California church targets Silicon Valley

May 18 2016 by Karen L. Willoughby, California Southern Baptist

Community Christian is on-target with plans to replicate itself every 18-24 months throughout the Silicon Valley, reaching people in the 136 language groups who call the region home.
Once known as First Baptist Church in Morgan Hill, now more than 350 people gather for one of three worship services each weekend at Community Christian; more than 200 meet for one of two services at the campus in Campbell, started in 2012; and another 70 or more gather for one service at the campus in Gilroy, started last year.
The thrust of the Morgan Hill church morphed from inward to outward after Kyle Windsor was called as pastor in 2010.
“This isn’t about people’s belief (in the future of the church); it’s about God’s desire,” Windsor said. “Nothing gets in the way, because this is God’s church, not my church.”
Windsor, a San Jose native, first preached at First Baptist, Morgan Hill in February 2010. Don Fugate, senior pastor of Foxworthy Baptist Church in San Jose, had introduced Windsor to the Morgan Hill congregation, and was key to helping the church recapture its future.
On Mother’s Day that year Windsor was called as pastor of the church whose name was changed to Community Christian, and they officially “relaunched” in September 2010. Of the four people Windsor started with, one has died, another retired out of state and the other two remain as Community Christian members.
“I am committed to honoring the people who started this church, and have stayed true to that commitment as we have become a multi-site church,” Windsor noted. “Silicon Valley will be won to Christ with many smaller-sized churches. We want to breed campuses like rabbits, not elephants. ... Our goal is that no campus would be less than 250 or more than 500.”
Community Christian plans to start another two campuses somewhere in Silicon Valley by the end of 2017. The campus pastors meet at least weekly, and each preaches the same sermon, with the individual pastor’s illustrations augmenting the scriptural truth.
“We have a lot of collaboration,” said Windsor, the lead pastor, including Will Sawkins, Campbell campus pastor and Brad Schroer, Gilroy campus pastor, in his description. “This frees us to spend time with people and to plan for the future. Our name is ‘Community’ and we really believe not in programs but relationships with people and with God. Both equally.
“We find the strength of each other is one of the secret elements that help us grow,” Windsor continued. “We’re not isolated. Our campus pastors can focus on where they’re strong.”
Forty community groups serve as catalyst for Christ-followers gathering throughout the week. Occasionally all groups meet together, such as the annual Good Friday service and last October’s fifth anniversary celebration, where Community Christian’s 150th baptism took place.
“Living things grow,” Windsor asserted. “If God is in it, it will grow. Period.”
Community Christian’s stated mission is to change the spiritual landscape of Silicon Valley by having 5 percent of the population connected to a CC campus by 2030. Currently, only about 1 percent of area residents are in any church on Sunday morning.
“We do this by only focusing on helping people find their way back to God,” Windsor said, utilizing the church’s tag line.
When asked about people who had never found their way to God, the pastor said, “God created each of us, so all of us started with God. God knew us before the foundations of the world; He has dreams for us.”
Christians have the same need to find their way back to God, Windsor said, using himself as an illustration: “I need to find my way back to God every day, because I tend to wander.”
Community Christian’s discipleship pathway is through its “3Cs: Celebrate, Connect, Contribute,” the pastor explained. “We ‘Celebrate’ on Sunday mornings. We also celebrate daily as each individual has ‘alone time’ with God, as they read the Bible and pray.”
“Connect” takes place in the community groups Windsor said are a particularly significant facet of the church since in the groups “people are able to connect with each other and live out life with each other.”
“Contribute” is the outward focus in the use of people’s time, treasure and talent “to help people find their way back to God,” Windsor explained.
“Our plan is to plant campuses across Silicon Valley, ministering to each of the 136 language groups in the valley,” he noted. “As each campus is planted, it will replicate itself every 18 to 24 months, seeding and supporting a new campus site.
“One of the cool things we believe in and practice is community transformation,” Windsor continued. “The church exists for the world, not for ourselves. We are here to serve, bless and give of our time, treasure and talent.”
Among various community outreaches: a VBS-style after-school program attended by more than 50 elementary students in Morgan Hill; a free movie in the park in Campbell last summer that drew more than 400; and weekly Community Suppers that provide a free hot meal to anyone in the community in need.
Each leader at Community Christian is expected to have an apprentice because “the replication of leaders in cooperation with the Holy Spirit is key to achieving our dream,” Windsor explained.
That said, “The most important aspect of the church’s ministry is its focus on prayer.
“Prayer is a declaration of dependence on God; lack of prayer is a declaration of independence,” Windsor declared. In addition to other prayer emphases, Community Christian embraces 24-hour prayer links at least four times a year to listen to God’s direction.
“Our goal is to radically advance the Kingdom of God in Silicon Valley and in other specific places in the world,” Windsor said.
“This is God’s church and God’s dream. We have joined Him in His desire to simply help people find their way back to God.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article appeared in the California Southern Baptist, newsjournal of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Karen Willoughby is a freelance writer in Mapleton, Utah.)

5/18/2016 11:01:57 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, California Southern Baptist | with 0 comments

Oklahoma reaching internationals to reach the nations

May 18 2016 by Tiffany Zylstra, Baptist Messenger

Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) and churches have a desire to reach the world with the gospel. Whether the world is the neighborhood down the street or thousands of miles away in a small Asian village, there are lost people far and wide.
April 8-10 brought more than 600 students, many of them internationals, together at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center for a Spring Retreat. Through the gracious giving of Oklahoma Baptists to the Edna McMillan State Missions Offering, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) collegiate ministry offered scholarships to international students, enabling them to attend the three-day event.
International students will fly into Los Angeles, New York or Houston, then ending in Oklahoma City, and many will not get other opportunities to travel. They want to see America and explore the culture. Through the Falls Creek Spring Retreat, many are able to get out of their college city and see a different part of Oklahoma.
Hailey Maddox is an Oklahoma City public school teacher with a passion for sharing the gospel with international students. When she was a sophomore in high school, she went on a mission trip to China and learned an evangelism method called Creation to Christ. Now, in her spare time, she teaches people how to utilize the method.
“I use Creation to Christ not with just international ministry. This is my tool for sharing the gospel now,” Maddox said. “Before I learned this, when I shared the gospel, I just talked about Jesus and what He did here on Earth, but now I have to go to back to Genesis 1 and start at the beginning.
“I love being around international students and getting to share the good news of Christ with them.”
Maddox was one of 11 breakout leaders at the Spring Retreat, sharing new skills for sharing the gospel. Other breakouts taught about world religions, articulating beliefs and how to have the difficult conversations without debating.
BCM ministries are intentional about reaching international students. The BCM ministry at Oklahoma City University (OCU) is one example of how effective this can be. They will pick them up from the airport, invite them to coffee and lunch, and start building a relationship with them. One way they do this is placing nearly 50 international students with Friendship Families. Friendship Families adopt a student for their time in America and share their lives with them. They have dinner together, attend events and church, and generally learn about American culture.
Shane Kammerer is the BCM director at OCU. He shares his excitement about Friendship Families because “this gives us the ability to train people from local churches on how to do international ministry. It also gives us the ability to follow up with the students and ask how their time with their Friendship Family is going. It gives us the opportunity to share with them and create relationships with them.”
Kammerer tells the story of Brian, a student from Taiwan.
“He came out of an atheistic background, and through relationships, church and then with (the BCM), it took a bunch of different people sharing with him. He went on a retreat with us to Colorado and gave his life to Christ. Then he was a baby Christian and didn’t know what to do. We met with him and started discipling him. Then he went home, and the last time I heard, more than 60 members of his family had come to Christ. There’s a huge idea of seeing international students come to Christ here and sending them out as missionaries because they are going to go back home.”
Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) professor Scott Pace was the general sessions keynote speaker at the Falls Creek Spring Retreat. Pace led those attending on how not to be of the world and then how to impact the world. He encouraged those attending to “let God use you, set aside your worldliness. The way you think, talk, act. Repenting of that, confessing that, turning from that. Through Christ it’s not your victory to win. Jesus has already won the victory.”
Young adults, ages 18-24, were able to get away from their local communities and experience fellowship, recreation and the opportunity to delve into the word of God.
Cris Lowery, collegiate ministry specialist at the BGCO said, “the vision for the Falls Creek Spring retreat is to bring college aged students from churches and campus ministries together in one setting where they can discover Jesus for the first time, be challenged spiritually and network with other young adults from across the state and around the world. One of the highlights of the retreats is seeing churches and campus ministries work together for a common goal of reaching students for Christ and helping others take the next step in their walk with Him.”
Through the Falls Creek Spring Retreat leaders, students and young adults are able to build relationships and hear more about the gospel. Thousands of international students come to Oklahoma colleges and universities each year. These students give Oklahoma churches opportunities to reach them with the gospel. When the gospel is shared, many will receive Christ and become missionaries when they travel back home.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article appeared in The Baptist Messenger,, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.)

5/18/2016 10:56:36 AM by Tiffany Zylstra, Baptist Messenger | with 0 comments

‘But seriously folks’: Humor’s role in pulpit assessed

May 18 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The legendary British preacher Charles Spurgeon was once rebuked by a woman in his congregation who felt he used too much humor in his sermons. As Baptist historian Michael Haykin recounts the story, Spurgeon replied, “Well, madam, if you knew the number of things that I refrain from saying, you would give me more credit.”
Humor abounds in the human mind, but the question for preachers is how often, if ever, to employ it in sermons.
Chris Osborne, a Texas pastor who is writing a Ph.D. dissertation at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on the use of humor in preaching, told Baptist Press there are three general views on the subject.
“One is you don’t use it at all ever, which is [the view of Baptist preacher and author] John Piper,” said Osborne, pastor of Central Baptist Church in College Station, Texas. “The other is that you use it ... all the time, which is [the view of Charismatic minister] Jesse Duplantis. My dissertation argues there is a judicious use. You use it in a way that’s appropriate – not overused, not underused.”

Humor for average pastors

Among Southern Baptists, humorists like Dennis Swanberg (“America’s minister of encouragement”) and the late Grady Nutt (“the prime minister of humor”) have made jokes and funny anecdotes a centerpiece of their ministries for a combined 50 years. At the same time, a study of 1,400 regular church attendees released this month by Christian Resources Exhibitions in London found just 1.6 percent of sermon listeners view humor as the most important element of a message while 44 percent view “biblical exposition” as most important, The Telegraph reported.
Amid that backdrop, Osborne counseled average pastors to chart a middle course.
He sees precedent for some homiletical humor in Scripture, arguing Jesus’ statement about having a plank in one’s eye and His habit of calling James and John the “sons of thunder” both were intended to be funny. Osborne also notes satire in the Old Testament prophets and says the account of Balaam’s talking donkey “is obviously a fairly humorous story.”
In his own preaching, Osborne said, humor is an important tool for connecting with a congregation and disarming skeptics.
“When a man speaks on the passage about women submitting to their husbands,” Osborne said by way of example, “a woman might take that well from a woman. She’s not going to take that well from a man. So you kind of have to use a little humor to grease the skids.”
Martin Luther, George Whitefield, Spurgeon and others established a precedent of using humor in preaching, Osborne said, though some historians disagree with his assessment of Whitefield. But Osborne warned that preachers should never feel more joy in making people laugh than in communicating truth. He also suggested pastors ask trusted friends to evaluate whether their use of humor in sermons is excessive.

Rules of thumb

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board and a preacher noted for his humor, agreed humor can help preachers connect with their audiences. He offered several “rules of thumb” to help negotiate the proper use of lightheartedness.
– “When in doubt, leave it out.”
Ezell told BP, “In preaching, you roll the dice when you throw out a joke just to throw out a joke. If you throw it out early and it dies, you just feel the whole sermon headed toward a crash.”
– Never use the church’s leadership or your family as the brunt of a joke.
“Even though people may laugh,” Ezell said, “my experience is that they don’t like it.”
– You can use humor too much.
“There’s a tipping point where instead of trying to get a point across, you’re just trying to be funny,” Ezell said.
– Use humor “as a tool, not as the ultimate end.”
Hershael York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., and a preaching professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, offered a pragmatic reason not to tell jokes in sermons.
“Telling a joke requires a rhythm, a tone, a perfect setup, the right pause before the punch line, and precise phrasing,” York wrote on the website “If it weren’t hard to do, Johnny Carson would not have been unique. If a preacher spends three minutes of a 30-minute sermon telling a joke only to forget an important detail in the setup or to stutter on the punch line, he has wasted 10 percent of his time and made his audience pity him. He becomes the object of their attention rather the point he was trying to make.
“Humor, not jokes, is the way to go,” York continued. “Appropriate humor in a sermon is delightful and helpful. When telling funny stories about themselves – especially when they are self-deprecating – preachers do well. Amusing anecdotes relating events or the absurdity of life don’t hang on the flawless timing or tone of a single punch line. Wit endears listeners to a preacher but doesn’t entail the risks of a joke.”

Humor not required

Andy Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham, N.C., estimated he uses humor in 20 percent of his sermons. But he told BP the humor is never pre-planned. While not objecting to humor in sermons, Davis said preachers should bear in mind “the gravity” of their task and only use humor if doing so accords with their personality.
“Humor is not required for a good sermon,” Davis said. “As a matter of fact, you can go an entire life of preaching and never use humor in the pulpit and still be a very, very effective preacher.”
Davis, who holds a Ph.D. in church history, cited John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards as noted preachers who do not seem to have used humor in the pulpit. Twentieth-century pastor and evangelist Martyn Lloyd-Jones likewise was cautious about humor, Davis said, adding he is not sure whether some statements of Jesus often cited as humor were intended to be funny.
“Conversely, however, I would not say the use of humor in the pulpit is sinful or wrong,” Davis said. “You definitely see Martin Luther and Charles Spurgeon and others using humor very effectively.”
Still, Paul’s admonitions in 1 Corinthians 1-2 against using flashy rhetorical techniques in sermons can be applied to humor, Davis said. Paul “did not want the focus to be on him as a personality, as a man. He really wanted the focus to be on Christ and on the Word of God.”
Davis also cautioned that transitions can be awkward from humor to “the weighty issues of Christ crucified and resurrected, of eternity, of Judgment Day.” Pastors come across as “changing gears in a rough way” when their transitions seem reminiscent of a comedian’s saying, “But seriously folks ...”

Judicious use of humor

In the end, all the preachers interviewed by BP seemed to adopt Osborne’s philosophy of using humor “judiciously,” though there may be some difference over the definition of judicious.
Osborne expressed a common sentiment when he said, “If [listeners] remember your humor more than they remember the reason for the humor, then you’re probably overusing it.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.)

5/18/2016 10:49:45 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Reaching the scattered nations

May 17 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Desk globes simplify geography. A light spin brings distant nations into plain view. Remote lands lie at arm’s length, even for the youngest schoolchild. Boundaries are clearly marked for reference, along with major cities and natural features. Clarity and ease are what make the educational spheres commonplace in American classrooms.
It’s one thing to put a finger on national borders, but what about people groups? Can the catalog of worldwide populations – rather than lands – be charted so neatly?
The answer is no, according to a number of missions experts.
In fact, due to global migration patterns, a shaken snow globe would better resemble international people groups than a desk globe, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of reach.

Individuals, families and large clusters of people are scattering all across the world, and much like the floating white particles, they eventually settle. The United States happens to be one of the most popular locations for scattered peoples to land.

What is diaspora missions?

“More than 42 million foreign born residents now live in the U.S.,” said Keelan Cook, Urban Resource Coordinator for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. “Some of the fastest growing international populations in America are in our southern cities, right in the areas where so many local churches are within arm’s reach.”
Because of these population shifts, Cook said churches with nearby migrants have an evangelistic task before them. It is commonly called diaspora missions.
“Diaspora means ‘to scatter,’” said Cook, “a fancy word that refers to people who have moved away from their place of origin to another place in the world. … It’s easiest to think of diaspora peoples as migrants.”
Migrants come in four groups, he said, depending on their life situation: (1) Immigrants come through customary immigration programs; (2) international students move for educational pursuits; (3) refugees are people forced out of their homeland due to hardship, such as famine or religious persecution; and (4) undocumented migrants either overstay their visa or smuggle themselves into a country.
Cook emphasized that most migrants come to the U.S. legally, and it is unfair to assume a foreign born individual is undocumented.
Ministry to foreigners has been a typical practice throughout Christian history, according to Cook, but academic discussion about diaspora missions is a relatively new discipline.
“There are plenty of examples of diaspora missions right in the Bible,” he continued. “Israel was told to take care of the foreigners in their midst. Phillip shared the gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch, who was traveling through a foreign land. … much of Paul’s strategy was working with the Jewish diaspora spread across the Roman Empire.
“Yet, in the last generation, the world has seen a spike in global migration that is unprecedented. There are more people moving more places around the world than ever before.”
As a result, new demographic trends are stretching traditional missions categories.

Blurred lines, clear vision

“The line of separation is now blurred between North American and international missions,” said J.D. Payne, pastor for church multiplication for The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. “Migration provides a kingdom opportunity to make disciples of some of the world’s unreached people groups.”
Sammy Joo, multiculturalist consultant for collegiate ministry at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said, “Colleges in the U.S. are becoming more ethnically diverse due to incoming international students and [American] students returning from overseas experience.”
He said the diversity of cultures on university campuses creates the “natural flavor” of international ministry.
“International people are like a 21st century Moses,” he said. “As God met Moses in the wilderness and sent him back to Egypt to bring his people to the Promised Land, God can meet international people in the U.S. and send them back to their people to lead them to Christ.”
Local church ministry in the U.S. is changing too, according to Alan Cross, executive director of Community Development Initiatives in Montgomery, Ala.
He said it is vitally important for local churches to engage international people in their cities and neighborhoods.
“How we treat them is directly related to how well we understand our own salvation and the God who saves,” said Cross. “If we do not see the immigrant as either currently or potentially a brother in Christ, then we are missing a major theme of scripture.”
Jenny Yang, vice president for advocacy and policy for World Relief, echoed Cross’s sincerity.
“Matthew 28:19 instructs us to ‘go and make disciples of all nations,’” she said. “If we take the Great Commission seriously then engaging international people is a non-negotiable. It’s critical that local churches see migration not as a threat but as an opportunity to share the gospel with people from all nations.”
Cross said, “… those who do not see it simply do not see what is already happening in their communities. America has 41 million first generation immigrants right now. Approximately 80 million first and second generation immigrants. That is 25 percent of our nation’s population.”
Yang added, “Some of the fastest growing churches in the United States are immigrant churches, and I believe the church has a critical opportunity to reach the nations without ever having to leave their own backyards.”

Reaching the scattered nations

Because of globalized demographic patterns in the U.S. and the biblical importance of diaspora missions, Cook, Yang, Cross, Payne, Joo and others are speaking at an upcoming event to equip Christians with “practical tools for engaging immigrants, refugees and international students.”


The conference is called Reaching the Nations, and it’s scheduled for Aug. 26-27 in Brentwood, Tenn.
Each of the speakers encouraged all Christians to consider attending.
“I hope attendees will be seized by what I believe to be a historic opportunity for the church and actively engage their local church in ministry for refugees and immigrants in their neighborhoods,” said Yang.
The scattered peoples of the world may be difficult to represent in simplified form – no desk globe for ethnicities anytime soon – but that does not make them inaccessible.
“We are standing at a critical moment in history,” Payne said. “The unreached peoples of the world are here, there and everywhere. Followers of Jesus are here, there and everywhere too. It is important for us to think about how to reach, equip, partner and send (in new ways) that all people will rejoice and shout for joy (Psalm 67:3-5).”
Cook concluded, “As Americans, we especially need to see the importance of this. … Instead of this being a point of fear for Christians, we need to tell a different story. We need to see that God is at work, and that he has given your local church and my local church unprecedented access to our mission field.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Emily Blake, BR editorial aide, contributed to this story.) 

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August event focuses on reaching the nations in the U.S.

5/17/2016 11:16:22 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Abortion mandate cases returned to lower courts

May 17 2016 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously voided multiple appeals court decisions against religious institutions that object to the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate in an opinion released May 16.
The justices returned to the lower courts for reconsideration a disagreement between religious objectors and the federal government over the mandate, which requires employers to make contraceptives available to their workers, including ones with mechanisms that can potentially induce abortions. The high court remanded the cases to the appeals courts of the Third, Fifth, 10th and District of Columbia districts in light of their brief opinion and blocked the administration from fining the objecting institutions.
The appeals acted on by the Supreme Court famously involve the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic order of nuns who serve the needy. The plaintiffs in the cases also include Southern Baptist organizations such as GuideStone Financial Resources and several universities, as well as other evangelical Christian institutions.
While they await a final determination, Southern Baptist and other religious freedom advocates applauded the high court’s latest action.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, expressed gratitude the Supreme Court “recognizes the problem and the right of these organizations not to be subject to a heavy-handed administrative state that tramples the most basic American freedoms.”
“On this day, we should be encouraged by this unanimous ruling which forbids the government to bully these organizations out of existence through crippling fines and penalties,” Moore said in a written statement. “On the other hand, the fact that these basic rights are in question shows that there is much work yet to be done, work in which we will engage, to ensure that organizations like GuideStone and the Little Sisters of the Poor are not abandoned in legal purgatory.”
GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said in written comments, “We are thankful, first and foremost, to the Lord for this decision. We appreciate the diligence of our legal teams in working through the legal and constitutional issues that were raised as well as for the men and women of the Supreme Court who took seriously their oaths of office.
“This is a good day for which we are thankful.”
The lengthy legal dispute – which arose from a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule related to the 2010 health-care law’s implementation – involves an accommodation to the controversial mandate that GuideStone, Little Sisters and many other religious nonprofits contend violates their religious freedom by forcing them to comply with providing potentially abortion-inducing drugs and devices.
The latest of nearly 10 accommodations proposed by the Obama administration requires the nonprofits to provide written notification they meet the requirements for an accommodation, which forces the nonprofit’s insurer or a third-party administrator to provide contraceptive coverage.
The justices’ May 16 opinion followed the unusual action of requesting supplemental briefs from both sides less than a week after hearing oral arguments in March. The justices directed both sides to address whether the coverage can be gained “in a way that does not require any involvement of petitioners beyond their own decision to provide health insurance without contraceptive coverage to their employees.”
Both sides filed supplemental and reply briefs in April. The religious nonprofits agreed there were other approaches they would accept that did not violate their consciences, and the administration admitted there were other ways to achieve contraceptive coverage than those it had proposed.
In its decision, the high court said it was not providing an opinion on how the lower courts should rule. It said, however, the federal government should accept the nonprofits’ suits as notification they qualify for an accommodation and “may not impose taxes or penalties on petitioners for failure to provide the relevant notice.” Previously, the administration had threatened millions of dollars in fines for those institutions that refused to abide by the requirement.
The justices said the appeals courts should give both parties “an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.’”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty – which is representing GuideStone, the Little Sisters and others – described the justices’ decision as a “win for religious liberty.”
“This is a game-changer,” Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund, said in a written release. “The Court has accepted the government’s concession that it can get drugs to people without using the Little Sisters. The Court has eliminated all of the bad decisions from the lower courts. And the Court has forbidden the government from fining the Little Sisters even though they are refusing to bow to the government’s will. It is only a matter of time before the lower courts make this victory permanent.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing some of the other challengers to the mandate, also welcomed the opinion.
“The Supreme Court was right to protect the Christian colleges and other groups from having to pay fines or fill out forms authorizing the objectionable coverage,” ADF senior counsel David Cortman said in written comments. “The government has many other ways to ensure women are able to obtain these drugs without forcing people of faith to participate in acts that violate their deepest convictions.”
GuideStone – the SBC’s health and financial benefits entity – is exempt from the mandate, but it serves ministries that are required to obey the requirement. Two of those ministries – Truett-McConnell College, a Baptist school in Cleveland, Ga., and Oklahoma City-based Reaching Souls International – joined GuideStone in challenging the accommodation. Other Baptist institutions involved in the cases are East Texas Baptist University, Houston Baptist University and Oklahoma Baptist University.
The federally approved contraceptives for which coverage is required include the intrauterine device (IUD) and such drugs as Plan B, the “morning-after” pill. Both the IUD and “morning-after” pill possess post-fertilization mechanisms that potentially can cause abortions by preventing implantation of tiny embryos. The rule also covers “ella,” which – in a fashion similar to the abortion drug RU 486 – can act even after implantation to end the life of the child.
HHS provided an exemption to the mandate for churches and their auxiliaries but did not extend it to non-church-related, nonprofit organizations that object.
The ERLC and two other SBC entities – the International Mission Board and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as Southern’s president, R. Albert Mohler Jr. – filed a friend-of-the-court brief in January that urged the high court to rule the accommodation violates religious freedom.
In the consolidated cases, the Supreme Court sought to determine if the HHS accommodation violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which bars the federal government from substantially burdening free exercise of religion unless it can demonstrate it has a “compelling interest” and is using the “least restrictive means” to further that interest.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

5/17/2016 11:13:46 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ed Stetzer to join Wheaton College faculty

May 17 2016 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research and executive editor of The Gospel Project curriculum published by LifeWay, has been named to the faculty of Wheaton College and as executive director of Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.
Stetzer, 49, will begin his new roles at Wheaton July 1, which also will include publisher of Evangelical Missions Quarterly, founded nearly 50 years ago, and chair of the Wheaton College Graduate School’s evangelism and leadership program.


Photo by Thomas Graham
Ed Stetzer

Wheaton College President Philip Ryken, in a news release May 16, said Stetzer is “a dynamic communicator and brilliant researcher who brings a genuine knowledge of the gospel and a deep understanding of contemporary culture to his new place of service.”
Stetzer will “help raise up a new generation of passionate, generous-hearted evangelists who make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ” and “help Wheaton build stronger networks with churches across America and around the world.”
“It is a distinct privilege,” Stetzer said, “to be part of the Wheaton team.” In the new endowed academic post named The Billy Graham Distinguished Endowed Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism and through the Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center, Stetzer said he looks forward to “a unique opportunity to serve the church, helping Christians know and engage their culture in the name of Christ.”
LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer voiced appreciation that Stetzer, in nine years with the Southern Baptist Convention entity, “made a significant contribution to our ministry. We are excited for the impact Dr. Stetzer will make in his new role, and also grateful LifeWay will have a continued consulting relationship with him.”
Stetzer said he has been “blessed to work at LifeWay with men and women of character, driven by a burning desire to serve the church in her mission. I look forward to continued opportunities to work with LifeWay in new ways in the days ahead, because I believe in LifeWay, its leadership, its people and its mission.”
LifeWay Research has become a frequently quoted source of original research on the church and the culture in recent years while The Gospel Project, a multi-age-level Bible study resource, has grown to more than 1 million users each week.
Stetzer, while with LifeWay, also has served as executive editor of its Facts & Trends journal and authored or coauthored 10 books, most recently “Transformational Groups: Creating a New Scorecard for Groups” with Eric Geiger. Before joining LifeWay, he had written five other books.
He also is the lead pastor of Grace Church in Hendersonville and Gallatin, Tenn., which he founded in 2011.
Last year, Stetzer became co-host for the “BreakPoint This Week” half-hour radio broadcast with John Stonestreet. His blog and webcast are titled “The Exchange,” where he wrote May 16 about his move to Wheaton, and he is on Twitter as @edstetzer.
A New York native, Stetzer holds a doctorate in missions and evangelism from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003; a doctor of ministry degree in pastoral leadership from Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in 1998; a master of arts degree in church growth/planting from Liberty University Divinity School in 1995; an M.Div. from Southern Seminary in 1994; and an undergraduate degree from Shorter College in Georgia in 1988.
Stetzer was named as a senior fellow with Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center in July 2015. He also has been a visiting professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois.
Bruce Ashford, provost and dean of the faculty at Southeastern, said Stetzer will continue with the seminary as a visiting professor of missional research, specifically in the doctoral program in missiology.
Among Stetzer’s various roles in Southern Baptist life, he was a staff member at the North American Mission Board from 2001-2007, including roles as a missiologist and director of its Center for Missional Research; assistant professor of missions and church planting at Southern Seminary; and a church planter in Cumming, Ga., Erie, Pa., and Buffalo, N.Y., and a teaching pastor in Jeffersonville, Ind.
Stetzer and his wife Donna have three daughters.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

5/17/2016 11:09:56 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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