May 2018

Outdoors-themed outreach boosts church’s witness

May 30 2018 by Laura Sikes, Florida Baptist Convention

On a Sunday in April, pastor Brooks Braswell encouraged worshipers to praise God for the many blessings He is showering down on the church.

Photo by Laura Sikes
Brooks Braswell, left, pastor of First Baptist Church in Umatilla, Fla., holds Blake Estes, 6, after baptizing him at nearby Lake Pearl as associate pastor Mike Ellis looks on.

“Last Sunday, in all of our morning services and in our baptismal service God brought the blessings,” said Braswell, pastor of First Baptist Church in the lake community of Umatilla, Fla. “He showed up in a big way.”
Braswell baptized 53 people between ages 6 and 87 at picturesque Lake Pearl just a mile down the road. The 53 who were baptized are among more than 200 people who have professed their faith in Christ as their Savior in the past several months at the church. About 200 well-wishers attended the afternoon baptism and were all smiles as they clapped for each participant.
With the many recent professions of faith, high church attendance and the sheer wonder of it all, Braswell exclaimed, “Isn’t this crazy, this is Umatilla!”
Umatilla, 40 miles northwest of Orlando, has a population of 2,900. The church averages 1,500 to 1,700 in attendance at its three services on Sunday, which are broadcast locally and streamed over the internet. Worshipers from all backgrounds come from Lake County as well as the greater Orlando area and beyond. The church has received 102 new members this year and has recorded some of its highest attendances. At Easter, the church totaled 2,240 people attending four services, including a sunrise service. The overflow crowd was seated in the church’s multi-purpose room when the sanctuary services became full.
But when the 38-year-old Braswell, who has led the church the last 10 years, tried to answer why all this is happening, he gives all the glory to God.

Photo by Laura Sikes
Pastor Brooks Braswell of First Baptist Church in Umatilla, Fla., preaches during “Camo Sunday” on April 15. Dressed in his camouflage shirt and boots, Braswell jokes and says, “We’ll do whatever it takes, within reason, to reach people.”

“It’s amazing. It’s the hand of God at work,” he said. “He is in charge and we serve Him.”
Braswell credits the church for coming together for God’s purposes as the body of Christ and for its “bond of unity that stands out right now.”
Longtime member John McCrary, a retired U.S. Navy master chief, said the church is welcoming and “just takes people right in.”
In addition to its regular classes and ministries, the church reaches out to the community through numerous events and special programs including summer youth camps and women’s conferences.
The church sponsored a Fishing League Worldwide event in which pro fishermen shared both their expertise and their testimonies with about 500 people including about 250 guests. Afterward, that Saturday evening at a church dinner, more than 100 people accepted Christ. Two weeks later an evangelistic group, The Power For Life Team, visited the church on three weeknights and more than 60 professions of faith were made.
The church creates opportunities for people to invite others to visit, Braswell said. Appealing to outdoorsmen, the church recently held a skeet shooting event, a wild game dinner and its popular “Camo Sunday” when members and visitors alike came dressed in camouflage gear.
Braswell wore a camouflage shirt and boots and carried a “camo” covered Bible and water bottle as he preached. Showing he is a good sport, Braswell is always willing to go the extra mile. Last year on “Camo Sunday,” he preached from a tree stand. He has fished from the stage, broken planks of wood with the “Power For Life” team and has donned various suits from “Superman” to “Woody” in Toy Story.
Braswell said people ask him why he would do all that. He answers them, “to reach people with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Sikes is a correspondent for the Florida Baptist Convention.)

5/30/2018 9:14:33 AM by Laura Sikes, Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments

Ancient biblical coins discovered

May 30 2018 by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends

They’re only 7 millimeters wide, but these coins appear to be a big find.
The Temple Mount Sifting Project recently discovered five rare coins dating from the 4th century B.C. This doubles the number unearthed so far and provides some of the earliest evidence of Jewish coin minting in Israel.
According to The Times of Israel, the coins come from around the period of time described in Ezra and Nehemiah.
The two biblical books record the Jewish people returning to Jerusalem and beginning the construction of the Second Temple by the decree of Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia.
The coins were minted when the Jews were allowed semiautonomous rule of a province called Yehud Medinata with Jerusalem as its capital under the Persian Empire.
“These were the first coins ever minted by Jews,” Zachi Dvira, co-director of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, told YNet. “They express the people’s return to their land after the Babylonian exile and their ability to hold and maintain diplomatic ties with the ruling empire.”
Three of the coins have visible markings, but two others have become too worn to read. The marked coins point to a Jewish culture heavily influenced by outside forces.
Drawing from the Athenian Oboi, the most popular coin of the time, these Jewish coins feature the same barn owl design, but change the Greek abbreviation of Athens to a Hebrew abbreviation of the province.
“The only Jewish symbol on these coins is the lily, characteristic of Jewish art in Jerusalem and a frequent design used in the Temple,” wrote Yaakov Meshorer, a now-deceased Israeli coin expert, in a 1978 Biblical Archaeology Review article about other similar coins.
The Times of Israel said there were five local coin mints in the land of Israel during the time of the Persian Empire – the Jerusalem, Philistian, Edomite, Samarian and Dor classes.
The newly discovered coins are part of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, which takes earth removed from the Temple Mount by Muslim administrators and combs through it looking for artifacts.
Work began in 2004 and close to 70 percent of the recovered dirt has been sifted. Dvira assumes the project will find more coins in the remaining earth.
The coins aren’t the only significant archaeological discovery made by the sifting project. Previously, researchers found what they contend is a seal belonging to a priest from the First Temple in Jerusalem.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is online editor of Facts & Trends,, where this article first appeared.)

5/30/2018 9:14:05 AM by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends | with 0 comments

Hollifield calls next SBC leader to advocate dignity of women

May 29 2018 by Biblical Recorder staff

North Carolina’s leading Baptist wants the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to demonstrate a commitment to the value and importance of women in churches and Christian organizations.
Milton Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, said, “We need a leader who shows that he understands there is equality between brothers and sisters in Christ in the family of God.”
He spoke to the Biblical Recorder in a wide-ranging interview May 24 about the upcoming presidential election at this year’s SBC annual meeting in Dallas, Texas.
While emphasizing that he believes the Bible reserves the role of pastor for men, Hollifield said females are not second-class citizens.
“Women should know and believe that if God has raised them up, they will be given the opportunity to serve on committees and certain places of leadership,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to prove, ‘I’m good enough for first string.’”
Hollifield lamented recent news stories about abuse and sexual misconduct, in addition to the way women sometimes encounter “condescending attitudes.”
“It’s wrong,” he said.
There are two announced candidates for SBC president this year: J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, and Ken Hemphill, former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and administrator at North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C.
Hollifield also said SBC leadership should lead the way in increasing the diversity of committees and leadership appointments – along the lines of ethnicity, gender, age and affiliated church size – by reviewing the procedures and expanding the publicity of the nominating process. He suggested new communication strategies and meeting schedules to enable more involvement from lay people with full-time jobs.
“We need to help people understand this is not a sewn up process and decision,” Hollifield said.
“… Somehow we’ve got to come up with a way of convincing Southern Baptists, whether they are in North Carolina or all across the Southern Baptist Convention, that your opinion really does matter. You know people that others serving on a committee do not know, and we really need help finding people who can serve in roles of leadership.”
When asked whether he thought this was a pivotal year in the life of the SBC, Hollifield said the candidates, in terms of their character and experience, were the type of high quality leaders that Southern Baptists have come to expect.
“However,” he continued, “I’m most concerned about the message this campaign – which has the appearance of a secular political campaign – is sending to the [younger] generation of pastors.
“... I’m afraid they are going to see this, not as just two men running for the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, but as a matter of whether their candidate wins or loses, and if they lose, they may question how much they are valued as future leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention. That makes it a pivotal campaign.”
Many Southern Baptists are focused on the amount of financial support each candidate’s church gives through the Cooperative Program (CP). Hollifield praised both The Summit Church, where Greear is pastor, and First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C., where Hemphill is a member.
“Under the leadership of Steve Scoggins, First Baptist Church in Hendersonville has done well in their support of the Cooperative Program,” he said, “and I wish we had more churches like The Summit. … I thank God for what both of them give.
“They’re both great churches.”
Asked about the high level of criticism endured by Greear during this year’s SBC presidential campaign, Hollifield defended Greear and attempted to correct apparent misunderstandings.
Some Southern Baptists believe Greear’s theological positions call into question his evangelistic fervor.
“I think they are misreading where J.D. Greear stands,” Hollifield said.
Greear said on social media recently, “For the record, I believe Jesus died for all people, that every person can and should be called to repent and believe, and that you haven’t fully preached the gospel if you haven’t called for that response.”
Hollifield said Greear had “demonstrated in his own personal lifestyle and in the church he pastors, that he very much believes in the importance of sharing the gospel with all people.”
Referring to The Summit’s partnership with the state convention, Hollifield said he was grateful for their participation and described them as an example for other churches.
“They work with us in evangelism. They share our ideas about church health and revitalization,” he said. “... I consider them to be a model church for how they practice discipleship. Disciple-making is at the heart of our strategy in this state convention. Not only are they doing it in wonderful ways through their church, but they are also willing to help us promote discipleship in other churches.”
Hollifield recounted how The Summit’s leadership had expressed a commitment to increase their involvement in Southern Baptist life, noting that Greear had served on the state convention’s board of directors as a “team player” and had planned to increase The Summit’s CP giving years before recent SBC elections.
“They have lived true to a commitment they made,” he said.
According to the state convention’s most recent data, The Summit is the highest CP-giving church in North Carolina.
For more SBC coverage, visit and follow the Biblical Recorder’s social media accounts during the annual meeting June 12-13.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – K. Allan Blume, editor, and Seth Brown, content editor, contributed to this report.)

5/29/2018 10:59:05 AM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 1 comments

Ride to Clyde raises record $55K for children’s homes

May 29 2018 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

Call it a noisy way to raise money, but more than 120 riders on 100 motorcycles rode nearly 500 miles across North Carolina over four days in the Third Annual Ride to Clyde and raised a record $55,000 for Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH).
Riders from across North Carolina and some from South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia took part in the Christ-focused trek which began at the N.C. Baptist Assembly, Fort Caswell, on Oak Island, then made stops at Camp Duncan for Girls near Aberdeen; Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro; the main BCH campus at Thomasville; a break stop at Fruitland Baptist College at Hendersonville; an overnight stop at Lake Junaluska before the final stop at Broyhill Home at Clyde, May 12.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

The oldest rider was 84 years old and younger riders rode along with their parents. One girl said it was the longest ride on the Harley-Davidson she had ever made and the first time she had ridden through rain.
The riders, including many Baptist ministers and laymen, thundered into the Broyhill campus with a police escort and passed cheering children fascinated with the big bikes.
Sat., May 12 Ride to Clyde riders presented an oversized printout of the $55,000 check at Broyhill Home at Clyde. J. Keith Henry, BCH chief operating officer, accepted the check.

Many communities for one mission

Ride to Clyde is not just a ride, but an event, Henry declared as onlookers applauded and cheered. Receiving the check was a high point in the May 12 festivities at Broyhill, which included a barbecue, car show, gospel music, clogging and other events.
This year’s total amount raised greatly topped the 2016 total of more than $19,000 and the 2017 total of $32,379.
Jerry and Juene Coffey led all other fundraisers in the Ride to Clyde with a whopping $7,545. The Coffeys joined the ride in 2016 and rode in 2017 Ride to Clyde. Jerry explained, “The Lord gave me and Juene a strong desire for the Ride to Clyde and we worked at it all year.”
But they did not work alone.
Jerry explained that their home church, Chase Baptist Church in Forest City, with just over 100 members, took up the cause as well.
A golf tournament and raffle helped raise part of the money and their Baptist Men group prepared and sold dinners one Sunday after the worship service to help raise the winning amount, Jerry said.
This year Jerry rode his Ultra Classic and Juene rode her Street Glide Classic, both Harley-Davidsons.
Other top fundraisers for the 2018 ride were:

  • Keith and Jody Austin ($6,373).
  • Elizabeth Baptist Church, Shelby ($4,500) Pastor Rit Varriale again rode his Ducati motorcycle in this year’s Ride to Clyde; he was one of the ride’s founders.
  • River Community Church, Fayetteville ($3,700) Pastor Todd Brady rode his Harley Davidson this year.
  • Ben Bonds ($3,369).
  • Freedom Biker Church, Monroe ($3,326).


More than a ride

Fundraising was just one part of Ride to Clyde; another emphasis was for the men and women riders to learn more about the Baptist Children’s Homes they were riding to support. Some of the biggest, burliest and most tattooed riders were seen wiping their eyes as they heard from some of the people the homes minister to.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

At Camp Duncan for Girls near Aberdeen, a girl told how she suffered at the hands of her drug-abusing mother and how happy she has been to live at Duncan for the past two years.
Girls walked with the riders out through the 700-acre site to show off the primitive campsites where groups of girls live in all kinds of weather, cook over open fires, work and study in the rugged, Christ-centered program.
At Caraway Conference Center riders heard from women who live in Asheboro in one of the nine shelter homes for developmentally handicapped adults operated by BCH.
The group sang two songs and one woman gave her testimony of how faith in Jesus Christ had helped her overcome her disabilities.
At the BCH campus at Thomasville, the bikers parked their motorcycles and let delighted children sit on them and even blow the horns, which they did with great enthusiasm.
During a program at Lake Junaluska, Roberta Edwards, now happily married with three children, told how she suffered during her childhood from her abusive mother before moving to the Broyhill Home. There she found faith in Christ to enable her to break the chain of abuse as she now raises her own children. Edwards said she was even able to forgive her mother before she passed away.
This year the 23 facilities of Baptist Children’s Homes in the state will minister to around 33,000 children and family members, BCH President Michael C. Blackwell told the riders during an overnight stay May 10 at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro.
Many of the Ride to Clyde participants expressed amazement at the many BCH ministries they were learning about for the first time.
Riders Robin and Tammy Ferguson of Candler said they were already making plans to take part in the 2019 Ride to Clyde after visiting the Duncan Camp for Girls. “It’s amazing what goes on here. It just blows me away – the program and what the kids do, it’s just wow,” he said. It was the first time he had heard about such a ministry. “It has been a good discovery trip. It opened my eyes to a lot of things.”
Only one accident marred the ride. Roger Harris, an experienced rider and member of Wrightsboro Baptist Church, Wilmington, fell on his motorcycle between Asheboro and Caraway Conference Center and was taken by ambulance to a nearby Greensboro hospital for treatment. While his injuries were extensive with broken ribs and a collarbone, he was back at home before the Ride to Clyde was completed.
Rider reports were positive. One rider said when he explained to a man at a gas station what the ride was about, the man spontaneously handed him a $20 contribution. One team was able to pray for a man recovering from a drug addiction.
Most riders expressed satisfaction with the ride, as far as the stops and the routes. Ride to Clyde coordinator Brian Davis, associate executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, coordinated the ride again. He and BSC staffer John Jones first rode the routes taken this year to find safe and enjoyable ways to get from point to point.
They had to take care of many details known only to motorcyclists, such as providing pucks for motorcycle kickstands to rest on, lest the heavy bikes might fall over from soft soil or even pavement. One Ride to Clyde rider, David Smith originally from Ohio, said he had organized a number of group motorcycle rides over the years and he said the Ride to Clyde was excellent in its planning and preparation.


5/29/2018 10:54:37 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Do you have open hands?

May 29 2018 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Do you have open hands to show and share the love of Jesus Christ with others?
“Open Hands” is the theme of this year’s North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO), the annual offering that supports a variety of ministries that seek to meet physical and spiritual needs in North Carolina and beyond.

Generally received in September of each year, the NCMO supports Baptists on Mission (also known as N.C. Baptist Men), church planting, mission camps, local Baptist associations and missions mobilization projects. The goal for this year’s offering is $2.1 million.
The theme of “Open Hands” is based upon Psalm 145:16 which reads, “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (NKJV).
“This verse is a reminder that God has opened His hands to us so that we may open our hands to others,” said Richard Brunson, executive director of Baptists on Mission.
Baptists on Mission is comprised of 18 different ministries, several of which share the love of Christ by meeting the physical needs of individuals.
“Helping meet people’s physical needs is a great way to build bridges to the gospel,” Brunson said.

Disaster relief is one of the most visible ministries of Baptists on Mission. The 2017 hurricane season was the most expensive in U.S. history. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria all ranked among the top-five costliest storms in U.S. history.
Yet in the aftermath of those events, N.C. Baptist disaster relief volunteers came alongside hurting individuals in places like Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico to help them put their lives back together and point them to Christ. That’s in addition to assisting with the ongoing long-term relief efforts related to Hurricane Matthew, which struck North Carolina in the fall of 2016.

Including the hurricanes, N.C. Baptists respond to a total of 18 different disasters in 2017, totaling more than 29,000 total volunteer service days. Volunteers repaired hundreds of homes and provided more than 500,000 meals to those in need. Through those and other efforts, thousands of seeds have been planted and more than 90 individuals made a first-time commitment to Jesus Christ through the Baptists on Mission disaster relief ministry.
“The generous support provided to the North Carolina Missions Offering makes all of this possible,” Brunson said.
In addition to disaster relief, the ministries of Baptists on Mission also help involve individuals and churches in short-term missions projects through a number of missions partnerships. Two mission camps located in the N.C. communities of Red Springs and Shelby offer local churches the opportunity to participate in a variety of local missions projects.
In addition, thousands of volunteers participate in short-term missions trips across the country and around the globe through one of Baptists on Mission’s many missions partnerships. Locations served in the United States include the Appalachian coalfields, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, the Rocky Mountain states and New England. Globally, volunteers serve in Armenia, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, Romania and South Africa.
The NCMO also provides support to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s efforts related to church planting.
The convention’s team of church planting consultants provides training, coaching and additional support to church planters, equipping them to reach their communities for Christ. By giving to the NCMO, you help plant churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ.
In 2017, the Baptist state convention worked with 101 new churches – 71 new church plants and 30 new affiliate churches. These new churches reported a total of more than 6,700 professions of faith and more than 5,400 in worship attendance.
The NCMO also supports missions on the local level across North Carolina. Each year, a portion of the offering is designated for local Baptist associations throughout North Carolina for a variety of missions and ministry efforts.
For more information about the North Carolina Missions Offering, visit

5/29/2018 10:51:10 AM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

FACT CHECK: SBC presidential candidates counter claims

May 29 2018 by Biblical Recorder staff

The lead-up to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) 2018 presidential election has generated much discussion and a fair amount of controversy. As more people have published news and opinions online, in addition to social media commentary, the number of concerns about misinformation and misrepresentation has increased. So, the Biblical Recorder asked each of the announced candidates, Ken Hemphill and J.D. Greear, to itemize and respond to any on-record statements or claims they believe to be false or misleading.
Hemphill, former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and administrator for North Greenville University, said he is not aware of any factual errors in publication. However, he noted that some Southern Baptists have told him personally that by running for SBC president, he was “dividing our convention.” Hemphill responded, “I love this family and have always sought to build bridges of cooperation. I believe in our congregational polity and the presence of two or more candidates gives people the opportunity to listen to the various platforms, pray for discernment and vote their convictions.”
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., outlined three claims others have made about him that he believes are untrue. What follows has been edited for clarity and length.
CLAIM #1: Referring to a tweet by Greear on May 5, a blog post at recently said, “Greear has argued that the Bible teaches the tearing down of all hierarchy,” and called the tweet “sloppy theology.”
Greear: This is the tweet Capstone Report is referring to: “Thank you, Beth [Moore]! Hoping that we are entering a new era where we in the complementarian world take all the Word of God seriously – not just the parts about distinction of roles but also re: the tearing down of all hierarchy & his gracious distribution of gifts to all his children!”
That statement was part of a larger social media conversation about women in ministry. Following the accusation, which majored on my use of the word “hierarchy,” I released a follow-up statement expanding the ideas of the original tweet that included this point:
“The bottom line is that a commitment to biblical complementarianism does not preclude a commitment to development, empowerment and advancement of women in ministry or the unleashing of their gifting in the church. We can do this while respecting the order laid out in 1 Timothy 2-3 and Ephesians 5:22-33.”
CLAIM #2: A blog post at called an evangelistic strategy to Muslims that Greear affirms “alarmingly unorthodox” and said it could lead to universalist or pluralist beliefs that all people will be saved.
Greear: When I was a missionary in a predominantly Muslim country, my goal there was to present the gospel as effectively as possible without watering down its truth or removing its scandal at all. As every missionary will attest, this is one of the most challenging theological tasks a Christian will ever undertake. Muslims claim to worship the God of Noah, Abraham and Moses. My job was, and is, to show them their view of this God is altogether different from the God of the Bible, and that salvation is found only in the name of our Lord Jesus (Acts 4:12). There is, after all, only one God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, known only through faith in him.
Thus, if by the question, “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” one means, “Are there multiple ways to God?” or “Do Muslims and Christians believe the same basic things about God?” then the answer is a definitive no. Islam and Christianity take their followers down two fundamentally different paths, toward two radically different understandings of who God is and what he wants, and ultimately to two different destinations.
CLAIM #3: David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, said on his personal blog that Greear believes state conventions should be either “dismantled” or receive no more than 25 percent of Cooperative Program receipts.
Greear: When I read David Hankins’ claim, I immediately called him to ask him where he heard or read this, because I’ve never made such a statement. Hankins couldn’t remember where this came from. Other people have said things similar to this.
For instance, former SBC president Bryant Wright reached out to let me know that he was the one pushing for 25 percent. But I’ve never made any recommendations along those lines.
As for the state conventions’ usefulness, I’ve often written about how much good they do. Recently, for instance, I wrote an article praising them for their invaluable work in providing disaster relief and running children’s homes. I want to see greater involvement in the state conventions from our younger generation, not less.

5/29/2018 10:48:39 AM by Biblical Recorder staff | with 0 comments

DOM title change among report’s recommendations

May 29 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Your local Baptist association’s DOM (director of missions) soon could be the AMS (associational mission strategist) if the association takes the title-change recommendation of a report to be presented next month at a gathering of associational leaders.

Photo by Roger S. Oldham
A study team commissioned by the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders discussed its findings at a March 1 meeting in Atlanta.

A 12-member study team commissioned at the 2017 Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL) meeting in Phoenix surveyed more than 400 Southern Baptists online about their views of associations, interviewed leaders of about two dozen effective associations and wrote a report on the title and role of associational leaders – often known as DOMs.
The report, released May 15, will be presented at SBCAL’s June 10-11 meeting in Dallas in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) June 12-13 meeting there. SBCAL meeting attendees will consider a motion to adopt the report, though its recommendations are not binding for the more than 1,100 autonomous associations in Southern Baptist life.
“It’s important for us to get it right as Southern Baptists at the local level,” study team leader Rick Wheeler told Baptist Press. “If we ever intend to be effective at the national and international level in collaborative mission work, we cannot be nationally and internationally who we are not being locally.”
The study team – which comprises associational leaders, state convention leaders, a pastor and a representative of the SBC Executive Committee staff – hopes its report will catalyze “some renewal of appreciation and focus on Baptist work at the local level,” said Wheeler, lead missional strategist for the Jacksonville (Fla.) Baptist Association.
After explaining the team’s research process, the 17-page report outlines 17 “leader proficiencies” deemed important for associational leaders in the 21st century.
The proficiencies, Wheeler said, are “the most important thing” in the report.
“Foundational proficiencies” for associational leaders include personal character and a calling to associational leadership, according to the report. “Relational proficiencies” include emotional intelligence and the ability to be a “supportive coach” for churches and pastors. “Strategic proficiencies” include the ability to cast vision and train future associational leaders.
The study team developed their recommended title change for associational leaders, Wheeler said, in light of the proficiencies necessary for the position.
The title “director of missions” accurately described the work of associational leaders during a previous era of SBC life “when all of the various levels of the denomination tended to work like cogs in a wheel. There were structured programs that connected our work” and needed directing on a local level, said Wheeler, a member of the SBC Executive Committee.
“To a great degree,” such coordinated programs “no longer exist,” he said. The recommended title “associational mission strategist” is not an attempt “to move away from something,” but to “address how it is working now and what would be the way to describe the way it’s working now.”
According to the report, some associations may want to refer to their leaders as simply “mission strategists.” For associations with multiple staff in the office, “lead mission strategist” may be an appropriate title for the primary leader.
The report concludes by recommending that Southern Baptists establish a “professional development process” for associational leaders, plan more extensively for leadership succession within associations, maintain SBCAL as “a strong voice for associational missions” and engage in more effective associational mission work.
According to the report, “The relevance of local associations is not just a thing of the past, but is the current way most SBC churches are partnering with sister churches to engage their local mission field. By God’s grace we see a bright future of thriving local associations served by proficient leaders comprised of churches united by their faith and surrendered to Jesus Christ and His mission in the world.”
The full report is available at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/29/2018 8:44:57 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Billy Graham’s last will and testament revealed

May 29 2018 by Joy Allmond, LifeWay Christian Resources

When Billy Graham died at age 99 in his North Carolina home on February 21, he left behind a legacy of service to his Lord through preaching the gospel. But according to his will, recently made public, that’s not all there is to his legacy.
Graham left some parting words and assets to his family – and some financial backing for his ministry, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).

Billy Graham

The 16-page document begins with a charge to his family members who remain.
“I ask my children and grandchildren to maintain and defend at all hazards and at any cost of personal sacrifice the blessed doctrine of complete atonement through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ once offered, and through that alone,” he wrote.
“I urge all of you to walk with the Lord in a life of separation from the world and to keep eternal values in view.”
As a comfort to his family, he wrote: “When you read this I will be safely with Jesus in Paradise. I will be awaiting the reunion of our family in Heaven.”
Throughout the next section of the will, Graham chronicled the major points of his life – non-material blessings, such as his simple childhood on a Charlotte, N.C., dairy farm, marriage to Ruth Bell Graham and love for their five children.
“From the beginning of our marriage, we determined that we would be tithers,” wrote Graham of his and Ruth’s financial commitment to God’s kingdom. “We determined not to be preoccupied with material things, which leads to covetousness and which the Scriptures call idolatry.”
In keeping with his commitment on earth, Graham willed 10 percent of his residuary estate – that which is left after debts, funeral expenses, death taxes and all other claims are satisfied – to BGEA “to be used for the purposes of the Billy Graham Library Endowment.”
After the posthumous BGEA contribution, all remaining assets will be distributed equally among his five children: Virginia (“Gigi”) Graham, Anne Graham Lotz, Ruth (“Bunny”) Graham, Franklin Graham and Nelson (“Ned”) Graham.
Another beneficiary included in Graham’s will is his literary trust, which will hold the copyrights to his works.
But Graham left more than just parting words and material assets to his family and his ministry. He left behind one last charge – one last “invitation” – to anyone who has access to this public will.
“I urge all who shall read this document to read and study the Scriptures daily and to trust only in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation,” he wrote.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joy Allmond is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. This story first appeared at the Facts&Trends website

5/29/2018 8:36:05 AM by Joy Allmond, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

SWBTS interim president Bingham ‘humbled’ to serve

May 25 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Historical theologian Jeffrey Bingham has accepted the interim presidency of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS). The position was offered to him May 23 in a 3 a.m. phone call from trustee chairman Kevin Ueckert after trustees named former president Paige Patterson as president emeritus.
Meanwhile, reaction to trustees’ decision about Patterson has come from a range of Southern Baptists, including Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines and both announced candidates for next month’s SBC presidential election in Dallas.

Jeffrey Bingham

Patterson’s shift to president emeritus occurred amid controversy surrounding statements he has made about domestic violence and the physical appearance of women.
Bingham, dean of SWBTS’s School of Theology since 2016, said he is “humbled and honored to be asked to serve SWBTS Seminary in the capacity of interim president,” according to a May 23 seminary news release.
“May I please request that the Southwestern Seminary family and the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention faithfully pray for Dr. and Mrs. Patterson, Southwestern’s administration, the trustee transition committee and me in the months ahead as we collectively work together in unity and love during this transition period,” Bingham said. “Jesus remains on His throne, and Southwestern Seminary remains faithful to its commitment to Preach the Word and Reach the World.”
Bingham has served in a variety of academic roles at Wheaton College, Dallas Theological Seminary, Criswell College and SWBTS.
Patristics – the study of the first several centuries of church history following the New Testament era – is among Bingham’s academic specialties; his 2017-2018 term as president of the North American Patristics Society concludes at the society’s May 24-26 meeting in Chicago. Bingham’s presidential address Friday will address second-century Christianity.
Gaines, pastor of Memphis, Tenn.-area Bellevue Baptist Church, expressed trust in SWBTS’s trustees.
“The Southern Baptist Convention elects trustees to govern our entities and to provide accountability for our entity heads,” Gaines said in written comments to Baptist Press. “Southwestern’s trustees have prayerfully analyzed the situation surrounding Dr. Patterson and have made their decisions. I trust the trustees at SWBTS and I am confident that they did due diligence regarding all the related issues. I love and appreciate Dr. and Mrs. Patterson, even though, as I have stated previously, I disagree with some of the counsel he has given and some of the comments he has made in the past. I pray for SWBTS daily and I believe God will bless the school in the years to come.”
Both announced candidates for the June 12 SBC presidential election – J.D. Greear and Ken Hemphill – have commented on social media since the SWBTS trustee meeting.
Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., said in a statement released via Twitter, “Dr. Patterson was very influential in my early ministry, which has made this whole situation heartbreaking for me.” Patterson was Greear’s doctor of philosophy supervisor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“I am grateful that the trustees at Southwestern desired to respond with accountability,” Greear continued. “However, there can be no ambiguity about the church’s responsibility to protect the abused and to be a safe place for the vulnerable. Abuse can never be tolerated, minimized, hidden, or ‘handled internally.’ Those in leadership who turn a blind eye toward abuse are complicit with it and must be held accountable.
“I hope that in the days to come, Southern Baptists will make that clear and act accordingly,” Greear said.
Hemphill, Southwestern’s president from 1994-2003, tweeted his opposition to an inappropriate social media post by one of his supporters concerning the Patterson controversy. Then he added in a separate tweet, “I am glad ‘everything’ in Romans 8:28 includes the challenges we are facing in SBC life. The ‘good’ that God desires to accomplish is that of conforming us to the image of His Son. Let’s humble ourselves, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways. Oh Lord, heal our land!”
Immediate past SBC president Ronnie Floyd said in a statement released on Twitter, “We are in difficult days in the Southern Baptist Convention. It is the duty of all pastors and leaders in our convention to ensure the safety of all women and uphold them as sisters made in the image of God. I would like to ask the 2018 resolutions committee of the SBC to bring a strong and clear resolution on the value and dignity of women, as well as their unique role, contribution, and representation within our convention of churches.”
Wheaton professor Ed Stetzer, who called for Patterson to retire from SWBTS in an April 30 blog post, said in a May 23 post “there is still more to do” for both the SBC and SWBTS’s trustees.
“Moving forward, hard questions had to be asked about accountability, transparency, and misogyny in the Southern Baptist Convention,” wrote Stetzer, executive director of Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center. Patterson “should not (and must not) preach the SBC annual meeting sermon, and I will speak up again if he does.”
Patterson was elected in 2017 as preacher of the 2018 SBC annual meeting sermon. Gaines stated previously the only ways Patterson will not preach are if he voluntarily withdraws or if messengers in Dallas vote to replace him with alternate preacher Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/25/2018 10:49:43 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Mohler confronts SBC’s ‘horrifying #MeToo moment’

May 25 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

R. Albert Mohler Jr. has labeled turmoil in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) the SBC’s “own horrifying #MeToo moment” and said it stems from “an unorganized conspiracy of silence” about sexual misconduct and abuse.
“Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote in a May 23 internet commentary. “The terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance. There can be no doubt the story is not over.”

Baptist Press file photo

Mohler made his comments the same day Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustees moved former president Paige Patterson to president emeritus status amid controversy surrounding Patterson’s statements on domestic violence and women’s physical appearance.
The previous day, The Washington Post published a report claiming Patterson told a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in 2003, when he was president there, not to report an alleged rape to the police. Current SEBTS President Danny Akin has stated he was “only recently made aware of” the alleged rape, has “consulted with law enforcement” and is committed to “a zero-tolerance policy on campus regarding rape.”
Yet Mohler wrote the SBC’s “issues are far deeper and wider” than the controversy surrounding Patterson. The issues do not stem, Mohler stated, from the SBC’s conservative theology generally or its specific commitment to the Bible’s teaching that God places men and women in different and complementary roles in the home and church.
Mohler’s commentary included a call for “an independent, third-party investigation” whenever there is a “public accusation” of a pattern of mishandling claims of abuse or sexual misconduct.
Akin and at least four other SBC entity leaders have affirmed Mohler’s commentary via social media: Jason Allen, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president; Kevin Ezell, North American Mission Board president; Russell Moore, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president; and Thom Rainer, LifeWay Christian Resources president.
See the full text of Mohler’s commentary below.
The Wrath of God Poured Out – The Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention
By R. Albert Mohler Jr.
May 23, 2018
The last few weeks have been excruciating for the Southern Baptist Convention and for the larger evangelical movement. It is as if bombs are dropping and God alone knows how many will fall and where they will land.
America’s largest evangelical denomination has been in the headlines day after day. The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment.
At one of our seminaries, controversy has centered on a president (now former president) whose sermon illustration from years ago included advice that a battered wife remain in the home and the marriage in hope of the conversion of her abusive husband. Other comments represented the objectification of a teenage girl. The issues only grew more urgent with the sense that the dated statements represented ongoing advice and counsel.
But the issues are far deeper and wider.
Sexual misconduct is as old as sin, but the avalanche of sexual misconduct that has come to light in recent weeks is almost too much to bear. These grievous revelations of sin have occurred in churches, in denominational ministries, and even in our seminaries.
We thought this was a Roman Catholic problem. The unbiblical requirement of priestly celibacy and the organized conspiracy of silence within the hierarchy helped to explain the cesspool of child sex abuse that has robbed the Roman Catholic Church of so much of its moral authority. When people said that Evangelicals had a similar crisis coming, it didn’t seem plausible – even to me. I have been president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twenty-five years. I did not see this coming.
I was wrong. The judgment of God has come.
Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention. The terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance. There can be no doubt that this story is not over.
We cannot blame a requirement of priestly celibacy. We cannot even point to an organized conspiracy of silence within the denominational hierarchy. No, our humiliation comes as a result of an unorganized conspiracy of silence. Sadly, the unorganized nature of our problem may make recovery and correction even more difficult and the silence even more dangerous.
Is the problem theological? Has the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention come to this? Is this what thousands of Southern Baptists were hoping for when they worked so hard to see this denomination returned to its theological convictions, its seminaries return to teaching the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, its ministries solidly established on the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Did we win confessional integrity only to sacrifice our moral integrity?
This is exactly what those who opposed the Conservative Resurgence warned would happen. They claimed that the effort to recover the denomination theologically was just a disguised move to capture the denomination for a new set of power-hungry leaders. I know that was not true. I must insist that this was not true. But, it sure looks like their prophecies had some merit after all. As I recently said with lament to a long-time leader among the more liberal faction that left the Southern Baptist Convention, each side has become the fulfillment of what the other side warned. The liberals who left have kept marching to the Left, in theology and moral teaching. The SBC, solidly conservative theologically, has been revealed to be morally compromised.
Among the issues of hottest theological debate was the role of women in the home and in the church. The SBC has affirmed complementarianism – the belief that the Bible reveals that men and women are equally made in God’s image, but that men and women were also created to be complements to each other, men and women bearing distinct and different roles. This means obeying the Bible’s very clear teachings on male leadership in the home and in the church. By the year 2000, complementarian teachings were formally included within the Baptist Faith & Message, the denomination’s confession of faith.
Is complementarianism the problem? Is it just camouflage for abusive males and permission for the abuse and mistreatment of women? We can see how that argument would seem plausible to so many looking to conservative evangelicals and wondering if we have gone mad.
But the same Bible that reveals the complementarian pattern of male leadership in the home and the church also reveals God’s steadfast and unyielding concern for the abused, the threatened, the suffering, and the fearful. There is no excuse whatsoever for abuse of any form, verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual or sexual. The Bible warns so clearly of those who would abuse power and weaponize authority. Every Christian church and every pastor and every church member must be ready to protect any of God’s children threatened by abuse and must hold every abuser fully accountable. The church and any institution or ministry serving the church must be ready to assure safety and support to any woman or child or vulnerable one threatened by abuse.
The church must make every appropriate call to law enforcement and recognize the rightful God-ordained responsibility of civil government to protect, to investigate, and to prosecute.
A church, denomination, or Christian ministry must look outside of itself when confronted with a pattern of mishandling such responsibilities, or merely of being charged with such a pattern. We cannot vindicate ourselves. That is the advice I have given consistently for many years. I now must make this judgment a matter of public commitment. I believe that any public accusation concerning such a pattern requires an independent, third-party investigation. In making this judgment, I make public what I want to be held to do should, God forbid, such a responsibility arise.
I believe that the pattern of God’s pleasure and design in the family and in the church is essential to human flourishing. I believe that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible verbally inspired Word of God. I believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the great news that any sinner who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. I believe that theology rooted unapologetically in Scripture is the only sure foundation for the home, the church, and the Christian life. And I also believe that the fruit of the Spirit “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Where this fruit is not present and visible, Christ is not present.
The #MeToo moment has come to American evangelicals. This moment has come to some of my friends and brothers in Christ. This moment has come to me, and I am called to deal with it as a Christian, as a minister of the Gospel, as a seminary and college president, and as a public leader. I pray that I will lead rightly.
In Romans 1:18 we are told: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
This is just a foretaste of the wrath of God poured out. This moment requires the very best of us. The Southern Baptist Convention is on trial and our public credibility is at stake. May God have mercy on us all.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

5/25/2018 10:39:50 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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