November 2015

Montana Baptists to sell site, downsize

November 25 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Montana Baptists are downsizing from their Billings headquarters for a building to better accommodate their smaller, less centralized staff, messengers voted at their 2015 annual meeting.
 

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MTSBC photo
Newly elected Montana Southern Baptist Convention (MTSBC) President Darren Hales, pastor of Big Sky Fellowship in Helena, listens to a message at the MTSBC annual meeting.

Fred Hewett, Montana Southern Baptist Convention (MTSBC) executive director, said the current site is too large, as the office staff has decreased from about 12 to three since 2008.
 
“Fewer jointly funded missionaries and then dispersing them around the state so they would be more accessible to the field is why the building is today too large for us,” Hewett told Baptist Press. “But to be good stewards of the building, we decided to sell it and reallocate those equity dollars to a smaller building and ... other mission endeavors here in Montana.”
 
The building is currently on the market and a new site will be chosen after the sale, Hewett said. The proposal to relocate specifies that the state office will remain in Billings.
 
“Beyond the Status Quo” was the theme for the meeting Oct. 6-7 at Crossroads Church in Bozeman, Mont. In his message, MTSBC President Bruce Speer encouraged pastors to become a “change agent” for church growth, rather than being stuck in complacency.
 
“The Bible defines faithfulness in John 15 as fruitfulness,” Speer told messengers. “Showing up is not faithfulness. Faithfulness is producing something. And the one thing God wants me to produce more than anything else is reaching lost people.”
 
In business sessions, messengers approved a 2016 budget of $1,353,000, anticipating $542,000 in Cooperative Program (CP) funds from participating churches. The state will forward 25 percent of CP receipts, or $135,000, to Southern Baptist Convention national and international causes, the same percentage forwarded in 2015.
 
The 2016 budget is slightly less than the $1,140,000 budget that messengers approved in 2015, but anticipates a growth in CP giving of about $19,000.
 
“Our CP giving in 2015 was the best CP year we’ve ever had,” Hewett said, “and it exceeded our CP giving of 2014, which had been our previous best year we’ve ever had.”
 
Newly elected officers are president Darren Hales, MTSBC church strategies team member and pastor of Big Sky Fellowship in Helena, and vice president Lee Merck from Church of The Rockies in Red Lodge.
 
Messengers approved a new MTSBC staff position for 2016, a next generation ministry director, to help churches reach and disciple teenagers and young adults.
 
“If we’re truly going to reach this state for the glory of God, we’ve got to do a better job of reaching the next generation,” Hewett said.
 
As the new MTSBC president, Hales hopes to energize Montana Southern Baptists.
 
“I just want to be a great cheerleader for our convention,” Hales said. “I just want to be an encouragement to our pastors, to our churches, to the people of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention ... to see how I can pray for them [and] walk alongside them.”
 
Outgoing president Speer accepted a plaque of appreciation from Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy Davis in commemoration of 10 years of partnership between the two state groups.
 
In addition to Speer, Davis and Hewett, annual meeting guest speakers included Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Theological Seminary; Frank Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee; Daniel Lambert, senior pastor of Easthaven Baptist Church in Kalispell; B.J. Hallmark, associational coordinator of the Triangle Baptist Association; and Darwin Payton, director of mission for Yellowstone Association and pastor of The Rock Church in Laurel.
 
Pastors and other church leaders said they left the meeting feeling encouraged, motivated and challenged.
 
“There’s such a spirit of harmony and a spirit of unity here,” Merck said, “and it’s a great atmosphere for worshipping the Lord, and a lot of encouragement.”
 
Jacob Oiler, in his first annual meeting, was encouraged by leaders’ willingness to share ideas.
 
“People here are so transparent in the way they talk about their experiences ... Each person goes up, goes to their Bible, and it all comes back to ‘we all do this because of the lost.’ So all of these meetings and all of these programs are all because of the lost -- and that’s so important,” Oiler said. “I love how it always comes back to that.”
 
All MTSBC annual meeting messages and business sessions are available to watch on the Montana E-quip website at Montana.e-quip.net.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.)
11/25/2015 10:54:15 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Meeting needs key to church’s ministry

November 25 2015 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

“Is this a Jesus thing?” a homeless man asked Charity Brown.
 
That day Brown and a team of volunteers from The Branch church in Corvallis, Ore., were making it their mission to serve those most in need in the community. And one of the ways the team was doing that was through washing feet.

 
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The Branch photo
Volunteers from a partner church in Texas helped The Branch church in Corvallis, Ore., host a community soccer camp, one of many ways the church plant engages families in the city.


While washing the feet of another person is a reminder for believers of Jesus’ example within the Gospels, its meaning can be particularly practical for a homeless man or woman. It can guard feet against the onset of infections and is a critical part of medically necessary hygiene. While washing one man’s feet, Brown had an opportunity to share with him why the church wanted to serve him in this way. The man then asked if he could wash the feet of the volunteers. Brown noted it was a transformational moment for her and the homeless man.
 
“I think it’s really important for those who aren’t believers to see that we’re not just trying to sell an idea of this person who we worship as God but isn’t relevant to our lives,” said Brown, who serves as the director of worship arts at The Branch. “I think when we can meet needs in our community of different people groups, it demonstrates the character of God in a way that might not be as prevalent in the world.”
 
In its three years of existence, The Branch has made serving the community a key part of how it shares the Gospel with its neighbors. Just a little more than an hour south of Portland, Corvallis is in a college town, home of Oregon State University.
 
The Branch, whose launch happened through partnerships with Southern Baptists and the Northwest Baptist Convention, has also been active in helping single moms in the community. Earlier this year the church gathered lists from 10 to 15 single moms and did their grocery shopping for them.
 
Josh Howeth, the church’s founding pastor, said his wife Elizabeth had an opportunity to lead one of the women to faith in Christ during the outreach. When Elizabeth arrived at the single mom’s home with the groceries, the lady wanted Elizabeth to pray with her. She then told Elizabeth that she had been reading through the Gospels, believed that Christianity was real and wanted to pray to receive Christ.
 
“She has been attending our church ever since,” Howeth said. “Her commitment to Christ seems genuine.”
 
The Branch’s ministry to single moms didn’t end there. They’ve also taken the time to meet ongoing practical needs of the moms, such as yard and handyman work.
 
With the help of a partner church from Texas, the congregation reached out to families in the city by hosting a free soccer camp, plus feeding all the attendees breakfast and lunch. At one point during the week, 70 kids were attending the camp. The church ended the week with a barbecue for families. Howeth said he believes many of the children wouldn’t have been able to participate in the camp if there had been a cost.
 
More than 70 percent of the congregation consists of college students. During the school year the church averages around 140 people in attendance each week. Howeth acknowledged that the church hasn’t seen much numerical growth directly because of its community ministry work, but – he added – that’s not why they’re doing it.
 
“We want to see more families connect with our church,” said Howeth, speaking specifically about the soccer camp. “But at the same time I want my heart and our church’s heart to be that we want to do this even if people don’t come and be a part of our church. We don’t want to do a cost-benefit analysis on everything we do. We just want to bless our community and amplify Christ in the process.”
 
The church’s community ministry efforts, Howeth noted, are built into the church’s gospel-centered strategy to reach the community.
 
“When you look at Jesus’ life as He is changing ours, you see how He cares about physical needs,” Howeth said.
 
“Our biggest needs are spiritual need, and we need to be reconciled with God, but at the same time we see that God is redeeming the whole world. He’s desiring to transform it ultimately and make it new. So when we see people around us with needs, we’re called to meet their needs because He has met our needs.”
 
For more information about how to share the gospel by meeting community needs, visit namb.net/sendme.
11/25/2015 10:50:09 AM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Abortion, women’s views of church focus of study

November 24 2015 by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research

Many women with unplanned pregnancies go silently from the church pew to the abortion clinic, convinced the church would gossip rather than help, a study released Nov. 23 by LifeWay Research shows.

 
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More than 4 in 10 women who have had an abortion were churchgoers when they ended a pregnancy, researchers found in a survey sponsored by Care Net, a nonprofit organization supporting more than 1,100 pregnancy centers across North America. The study features data from a survey conducted May 6-13.
 
“That’s a huge opportunity for the church to have an impact on those decisions,” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research.
 
But only 7 percent of women discussed their abortion decision with anyone at church. Three-fourths (76 percent) say the church had no influence on their decision to terminate a pregnancy.
 
The results point to a church culture that often lacks grace, McConnell said. Among women who have had an abortion:

  • Two-thirds (65 percent) say church members judge single women who are pregnant.

  • A majority (54 percent) thinks churches oversimplify decisions about pregnancy options.

  • Fewer than half (41 percent) believe churches are prepared to help with decisions about unwanted pregnancies.

  • Only 3 in 10 think churches give accurate advice about pregnancy options.

“Women are perceiving judgment from the church, and that’s probably partly because there are clear teachings in the Bible including about how and why we make judgments,” McConnell said. “However, if they don’t start experiencing something different than what they’ve seen in the past, these numbers aren’t going to change.”

 

Christian connections

The church has connections with many women who choose abortion, Care Net and LifeWay Research found. In the survey of 1,038 women who have had abortions, 70 percent claim a Christian religious preference, and 43 percent report attending church monthly or more at the time of an abortion.

 
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But distrust of the church’s response is widespread, the survey shows. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) believe church members are more likely to gossip about a woman considering abortion than to help her understand options.
 
When weighing an abortion decision, women say they expected or experienced judgment (33 percent) or condemnation (26 percent) from a church far more than caring (16 percent) or helpfulness (14 percent).
 
Judgmental attitudes among even a few people in a church can discourage women from seeking help, McConnell said. “They’ll perceive everybody feels that way.”
 
Only 38 percent of women who have had an abortion consider church a safe place to discuss pregnancy options including parenting, abortion and adoption. And while 25 percent say they would recommend a friend or family member discuss an unplanned pregnancy with someone at church, more than twice as many (54 percent) say they would not recommend it.

 

Culture of silence

Women keep silent in church both before and after ending a pregnancy, the study found.
 
More than half of churchgoers who have had an abortion (52 percent) say no one at church knows it. Nearly half of women who have had an abortion (49 percent) say pastors’ teachings on forgiveness don’t seem to apply to terminated pregnancies.
 
“That tells you the environment of the church,” McConnell said. “You can’t say you’ve had an abortion, you can’t say you’re considering one – it’s completely taboo to discuss.
 
“But when a woman is willing to publicly acknowledge she’s had an abortion in the past, she will sometimes be approached by several other women in the church who’ve never been willing to share with anybody that they too have had an abortion,” he said. “It’s incredibly freeing for them.”

 

Church attendance makes a difference for many

Even among regular churchgoers, 52 percent of women who had abortions say the church had no influence on their decision. However, women attending church at least once a month were more likely to discuss their abortion decision with someone at church (16 percent) than those who rarely or never attend (2 percent).
 
Regular churchgoers who had an abortion are also much more likely than those who rarely or never attend to say they anticipated or experienced positive church responses such as caring (31 percent vs. 7 percent), helpfulness (28 percent vs. 7 percent) and love (25 percent vs. 6 percent).

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“While much work needs to be done to equip the church to help women and men with their pregnancy decisions, there are positive signs that many churches will be receptive to efforts to implement programming that addresses this need,” said Roland C. Warren, president and CEO of Care Net.
 

“The survey shows that frequent churchgoers – people who know the church best – were significantly more likely to believe the church is prepared to provide loving, compassionate support for those considering abortion, especially those attending evangelical churches,” Warren said.
 
Supportive responses from the church are key, McConnell said.
 
“For most women with an unwanted pregnancy, if nobody is willing to say, ‘We’re going to help you through this,’ it’s hard for them to rationally say they should keep the child.”
 
Methodology: A demographically balanced online panel was used for interviewing American women from May 6-13, 2015. Quotas and slight weights were used to ensure the sample matched national totals for ethnicity, age, income and region. This nationally balanced sample was screened to include only those women who indicated they had ever had a pregnancy termination/abortion medical procedure. The completed sample is 1,038 surveys.
 
LifeWay Research, based in Nashville, is an evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect the church.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine.)

11/24/2015 11:54:23 AM by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments



Jewish evangelism: Conference spawns reflections

November 24 2015 by Benjamin Hawkins, The Pathway

An international conference on Jewish evangelism provided an occasion for Christians to reflect on why they should share the gospel with ethnic Jews.
 
Convening in Jerusalem, the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism’s 10th International Conference on Jewish Evangelism included some 200 Jewish evangelists from six continents. Participants strategized about the best methods for communicating the gospel to Jews.
 
Jim Sibley, a former professor at Criswell College and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, argued in a presentation at the conference that Jewish evangelism must continue because scripture presents the gospel as “especially for Jewish people.”

 
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IMB Photo by Walter Donaldson
One of the most sacred sites in all of Judaism is the Western Wall – part of the ruins of the second Jewish temple. Above the wall is the disputed area known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary with its Dome of the Rock.

“My thesis is a simple one,” Sibley, a professor of biblical studies at Israel College of the Bible in Netanya, Israel, wrote in the paper he presented. “It is that scripture teaches that the Jewish people should not only be a continuing priority in evangelism and missions, but that this priority is intrinsic to the gospel itself. ...Ultimately, this is the case, because it is rooted in the promise of the fathers, as recorded first in Genesis 12:3b: ‘In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’“
 
Paul’s statement in Romans 1:16 that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” doesn’t mean simply that the Jews heard the gospel first, Sibley argued. Rather, it means the gospel was intended first and foremost as a message for Jewish people.
 
“The gospel itself requires that we maintain a particular concern for the Jewish people,” Sibley wrote in his paper for the Aug. 16-21 conference, “for if the gospel is not especially for the Jewish people, can it really be for anyone else? This priority should have an impact on the church’s strategies of missions and evangelism, as well as its prayer life.”
 
In a related article, published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Sibley challenged those who believe ethnic Israel has been rejected by God and replaced by the church as God’s people – even if only temporarily. This theme is reflected in the article’s title: “Has the Church Put Israel on the Shelf? The Evidence from Romans 11:15.”
 
Speaking of ethnic Israel, Paul writes in Romans 11:15, “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” Sibley disagreed with many biblical scholars – including some conservative evangelicals – who suggest Paul is speaking about God’s temporary rejection of ethnic Israel. On the contrary, Sibley argued, Paul is talking about the Jews’ rejection of the gospel.
 
“The rejection of the salvation which was offered through Jesus the Messiah by the majority of Israel has meant that salvation could be offered to the nations, even as the Abrahamic covenant had promised,” Sibley wrote. “In verse 15, Paul argues that if their rejection of salvation has brought such blessing to so many, how much greater the blessing when they accept that salvation.”
 
Even though many Jews have rejected the gospel message, their acceptance of it would mean the spiritual rebirth of Israel, Sibley wrote. He said this should drive Southern Baptists to share the gospel with Jews.
 
“Romans 11:15, far from teaching that God has rejected the Jewish people, actually provides the church with a rationale for Jewish evangelism and missions in the present,” Sibley wrote.
 
Other Southern Baptists take a different view. Sibley challenged, in particular, the views of Tom Schreiner, a professor of New Testament interpretation and biblical theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
 
Although Schreiner affirms that Christians should carry the gospel to ethnic Jews, he has expressed a different interpretation of Romans 11:15 in his commentary on Romans (Baker Academic).
 
When Paul says in Romans 1:16 the gospel is the power for salvation “to the Jew first,” Schreiner wrote, the apostle “may be reflecting on his missionary practice of using the synagogue as a starting point for the preaching of the gospel” and his “theological conviction that the Jews were specially elected to be God’s people.”
 
Yet while Jews maintain a “crucial” role “in the outworking of salvation history,” Schreiner argued, Romans 11:15 references God’s temporary rejection of “some Jews.” The church – consisting of both Jews and Gentiles – has received the blessing once promised to the nation of Israel.
 
But, Schreiner argued in his commentary, a time will come, after the fullness of the Gentiles has been gathered into the church, when a great ingathering of Jews will occur, and they will place their faith in Jesus as their Messiah (Romans 11:26).
 

Consensus on Jewish evangelism

Despite disagreement on some issues related to Israel, Southern Baptists agree Jewish evangelism is urgent.
 
Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s 1996 annual meeting in New Orleans expressed this consensus view in a resolution “on Jewish evangelism.” The statement included a commitment to pray “for the salvation of the Jewish people” and to “direct our energies and resources toward the proclamation of the gospel to the Jewish people.”
 
In recent years, Southern Baptists have increased their efforts to reach people from every ethnic group, including Jews, the president of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship (SBMF) told Baptist Press. Since 2014, the SBMF has been an organizational member of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism.
 
Southern Baptists are “the most evangelical of just about everybody. We share with everybody,” SBMF President Ric Worshill said, adding that Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank S. Page especially encouraged outreach among ethnic groups when he established a Multi-Ethnic Advisory Council that completed its work last year.
 
Thanks in part to the advisory council’s work, Worshill said, “slowly and surely, our ethnic groups” – like the SBMF – “are being supported by local Southern Baptist churches.” But the work isn’t finished, and Worshill urged Southern Baptists not only to support Jewish evangelism, but also to practice it.
 
“Jews also need to hear the gospel,” Worshill said. “All people need to hear the gospel. We need to plant seeds in abundance, so that many people will come to the Lord.”
 
Matt Queen, associate professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he is “convinced” that a “consensus affirming the importance for Jews to be evangelized exists among Southern Baptists” despite disagreement on some theological matters related to the Jewish people.
 
“We must not only care about Jewish evangelism, we must practice Jewish evangelism,” Queen said. “In addition to offering himself to be accursed by Christ if only his ethnically Jewish brothers would be saved (Romans 9:2-3), Paul desired and prayed for their salvation (Romans 10:1). How can Southern Baptists be anything but passionate about Jewish evangelism?”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Benjamin Hawkins is the associate editor for The Pathway, the newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)

11/24/2015 11:49:24 AM by Benjamin Hawkins, The Pathway | with 0 comments



Swedish court rules midwives must perform abortions

November 24 2015 by Sarah Padbury, WORLD News Service

A district court in Sweden recently ruled against midwife Ellinor Grimmark, who was denied employment at four hospitals because she refuses to participate in abortions.
 
In November 2013, Höglandssjukhuset Women’s Clinic in Jönköping County rescinded its job offer to Grimmark after she said she could not perform abortions because of her conscientious objection and her Christian faith.
 
The head of the maternity ward left a voicemail saying “she was no longer welcome to work with them” and questioned “whether a person with such views actually can become a midwife,” according to Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers (SHRL), an NGO representing Grimmark. Swedish midwives are similar to nurses in other countries.

 
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Grimmark filed a religious discrimination complaint with Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman. While waiting for a ruling, two other employers also refused to hire her because of her pro-life stance. A fourth potential employer, Värnamo Hospital, offered to hire Grimmark as a temporary employee, but withdrew the offer after her complaint went public. The head of the hospital told Grimmark no employee was allowed to publicly take a stand against abortion, according to SHRL.
 
“As a midwife, I want to exercise a profession which defends life and saves lives at all cost,” Grimmark said in a statement printed in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. “Are healthcare practitioners in Sweden to be forced to take part in procedures that extinguish life, at its beginning or final stages? Somebody has to take the little children’s side, somebody has to fight for their right to life.”
 
In April 2014, the Equality Ombudsman ruled Grimmark did not have a case because the hospital refused her the position “not because of her religion, but because she was not prepared to perform duties that were part of the job description,” bosnewslife.com reported at the time.
 
But Sweden is a member of the European Union, which obligates the country to follow international laws defined by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In 2010, the Assembly passed a medical care law declaring “no person, hospital, or institution shall be coerced, held liable, or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist, or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia, or any act which could cause the death of a human fetus or embryo, for any reason.” In addition, the ratified European Convention on Human Rights states in Section 1 Article 9, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion ….”
 
Grimmark appealed the ruling and enlisted the help of Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF). ADF filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the district court on Grimmark’s behalf.
 
“Willingness to commit an abortion cannot be a litmus test for employment,” ADF legal counsel Paul Coleman said in a press release.
 
But on Nov. 12, the court ruled against Grimmark, stating employers have the right to define job descriptions and expect applicants to be willing to fulfill all the duties listed. It also found it was appropriate and necessary to require midwives to perform abortions because “the region has an obligation to ensure that women have effective access to abortion.”
 
Grimmark’s husband noted the court loss in a Facebook post and pleaded for financial help. The court ordered Grimmark to pay the county’s legal fees – about $109,000.
 
After the ruling, SHRL announced Grimmark, currently working as a midwife in Norway, will appeal the decision to Sweden’s Göta Court of Appeal.
 
“Freedom of conscience is a fundamental human right,” said SHRL attorney Jörgen Olson. “To deny freedom of conscience to all healthcare workers in Sweden cannot be considered a measure necessary in a democratic society.
 
Sweden has not shown in what way the country’s healthcare system is so unique compared to the rest of Europe and neighboring countries that it is impossible to grant Ellinor Grimmark a right to conscience.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Padbury writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine at worldmag.com based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

11/24/2015 11:44:54 AM by Sarah Padbury, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



‘God’s got it,’ retirees say of Mission:Dignity

November 24 2015 by John Ambra, GuideStone Financial Resources

Kathie Mansell needed a side dish to go with her meatloaf. Her father, a missionary pilot from Brazil, was in town and coming for dinner with a friend, but Kathie was a newlywed college student and didn’t have any other food on hand.
 
Then she remembered the rice.
 
Kathie knew at age 13 she would be a pastor’s wife one day. It just seemed natural since she grew up as a “missionary kid” – and missionary grandkid – in Brazil. It was at Hardin-Simmons University in Texas that Kathie met Johnny and they married in December 1969. Their wedding would be the foundation for a long marriage and fruitful ministry together.
 
The wedding also provided the side dish for her father’s visit years ago.

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Retired pastor Johnny Mansell and his wife Kathie faced lean times but found help through Southern Baptists’ gifts to Mission:Dignity, a ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources.

 

Kathie looked in the closet and noticed plenty of leftover mesh bags of rice from the wedding – neatly packaged with a colorful ribbon on each, but never touched and never thrown. It didn’t take long for Kathie to gather up that rice to complete her meal. She was also reminded that even though she and Johnny had very little income or resources, it didn’t matter to God. He knew their needs and how to provide.
 
It was as if she heard a voice whispering, “I’ve got it.”
 
The Mansells would lean into God’s promises over the next four decades of pastoral ministry in New Mexico and Texas, but especially when health issues resulted in an early retirement in 2012.
 
On the advice of a friend, Johnny had opted out of Social Security when he began ministry. (As the Mansells later discovered, opting out of Social Security is generally not recommended by most financial experts.) Medical bills ate up all of the Mansells’ retirement savings. That just left Kathie’s teacher’s pension to meet their monthly expenses.
 
But God wasn’t taken by surprise. So this summer, about the time the Mansells’ money ran out, Mission:Dignity stepped in.
 
GuideStone Financial Resources’ ministry to pastors and their widows in need extended a monthly grant to the Mansells and also paid for some much-needed dental work they would never have been able to afford.
 
We’d just like to say what a blessing Mission:Dignity is in our lives,” Johnny said. “We’ve faced some very difficult times with expenses related to health issues the last several years. It’s made such a difference because it’s enabled us to purchase our medications. We’ve had to make some choices in the past to pay for food, utilities or medicine, and now we’re able to take care of these expenses thanks to Mission:Dignity.”
 
Kathie added, “It’s given peace of mind because we were always wondering, next month, how are we going to do this? We’d have to go to God in prayer and ask forgiveness for the anxiety about it all, but He always came through every month to help us.”
 
Mission:Dignity assists nearly 2,000 retirees each month, providing a measure of security and dignity in their retirement years. For some, it means being able to stay in the familiar surroundings of their own home. For others, it covers the cost of groceries, utilities, prescriptions and other necessities. But for each of them, it’s an expression of the love and care of their Southern Baptist family.
 
To share a gift or for more information, visit MissionDignity.org. Gifts of any amount also can be made from a mobile device via credit card by texting MDGIVE to 77977. See details below.
 
Johnny said he and Kathie have “a little deal between the two of us. When we get worried about something we hold three fingers up. That means, ‘God’s got it.’ Through Mission:Dignity, God’s got it, and we’re so thankful.”
 
**********
 
Mission:Dignity gifts from a mobile device can be made by texting MDGIVE to 77977; a one-time reply will contain a link to give to Mission:Dignity. Message and data rates may apply. For full terms and conditions, visit pushpay.com/terms. For the privacy policy, visit pushpay.com/privacy. For help, reply HELP or STOP to cancel.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – John Ambra is director of development for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

11/24/2015 11:39:43 AM by John Ambra, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments



Pennsylvania/South Jersey marks 45 years, staff retirements

November 24 2015 by Brodie Smith, West Chester University

Pennsylvania/South Jersey Baptists marked at their annual meeting 45 years of service and the retirement of several long-term employees, including Executive Director-Treasurer David Waltz.
 
The 330 messengers and guests were the largest number of attendees at a Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey (BRN) annual meeting in eight years. Just over 100 of the BRN’s 321 churches were represented.
 
Waltz, completing 23 years as the BRN’s top executive, announced his retirement effective March 2016. He has served longer than any other active state executive within the Southern Baptist Convention, according to the BRN, and his tenure is longer than all previous BRN executive directors combined.

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Submitted photo
Pennsylvania/South Jersey Baptists honored David Waltz for 23 years of service as the group’s executive director and treasurer. Pictured are, from right, president Brian King, Waltz, Waltz’s wife Janice and son Jonathan.

 

Stan Smith, BRN associate executive director and state director of missions, will transition to executive director on an interim basis upon Waltz’s retirement. Smith is expected to serve until the BRN can select a new leader.
 
Retiring at the end of 2015 are Doug Pilot, who has spent nearly 40 years in Pennsylvania in positions including a church planting catalyst and a youth pastor; Iva Fox, marking nearly 30 years of employment at the BRN office; and Karlene Campbell, who has led Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in Pennsylvania/South Jersey for about 20 years.
 
Other major developments at the Nov. 4-5 meeting at the Red Lion Hotel in Harrisburg included an increase in Cooperative Program giving, the election of officers and several recognitions for Waltz and other retirees.
 
Messengers approved a $2,852,693 budget, about the same as the 2015 allocation, based on an anticipated $866,693 in Cooperative Program gifts from BRN churches. The BRN will forward 26 percent of Cooperative Program gifts to national and international Southern Baptist Convention causes, an increase of 0.3 percent over the current allocation.
 
Brian King, pastor of Ezekiel Baptist Church in Philadelphia, was elected to his second term as BRN president. Other officers elected are first vice president Kevin Roberts, second vice president George Tynes, recording secretary Ryan Knepp, assistant recording secretary Antoinette Buie, historian Fred Boehlke and parliamentarian Jeff Slagle.
 
King, in his remarks to messengers, noted the diversity inherent across Pennsylvania and South Jersey, and the importance of unity to the BRN’s success in advancing the gospel.
 
“The apostle Paul encouraged the Ephesian church to be diligent to work at oneness,” he said. “Oneness comes because multiple people with different backgrounds have decided, ‘We are going to be one.’ Oneness is a choice.”
 
The BRN’s strategic development across cultural lines is noted as one of the hallmarks of Waltz’s leadership. More than 52 percent of the BRN’s cooperating churches are predominantly African American or ethnic.
 
In Waltz’s final address as executive director, he challenged the BRN to continue to champion diversity through a strategic emphasis on church planting encompassing ethnic populations, while recognizing the strong representation of churches from rural communities.
 
“Predominately African American churches comprise 30 percent of our cooperating churches. Another 22 percent are language groups,” Waltz said. “What a blessing that they have been willing to come and be part of our family.”
 
Unity in diversity is at the heart of all the BRN hopes to accomplish and reflects well on the cooperative, inclusive spirit Jesus displayed in His ministry and calls churches to demonstrate, Waltz said.
 
“In Christ, we can be one,” he said. “That is no small thing. Thank you for being part of us. We are a better people because of you.”
 
Messengers passed individual resolutions in appreciation of the ministry of Waltz and his wife Janice, as well as that of retirees Pilot and his wife Jeanne, Campbell and her husband Craig, and Fox.
 
“Well done thou good and faithful servant” closed each resolution.
 
The annual meeting theme, “Fostering Spiritual Transformation: Together,” was based on Nehemiah 4:6 and encouraged churches to continue to partner in reaching the more than 16 million people who live within the BRN’s coverage area.
 
Messengers scheduled the 2016 BRN meeting for Nov. 3-4 at the Antiochian Village and Conference Center in Bolivar, Pa.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brodie Smith is the director of CrossSeekers Campus Ministry at West Chester University and executive pastor of the Journey Church in West Chester, Pa.)

11/24/2015 11:30:00 AM by Brodie Smith, West Chester University | with 0 comments



Boko Haram exceeds ISIS in terrorism deaths

November 23 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Boko Haram has become the most deadly terrorist group in the world, killing more people in terrorist attacks in 2014 than Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index (GTI).
 
The GTI attributed more than 6,644 deaths to Boko Haram in 2014, with most attacks occurring in northeastern Nigeria. ISIS killed 6,073 in terrorist attacks in the same year, according to the report.
 
The GTI noted a 317 percent increase of terrorism deaths in Nigeria, the largest increase ever recorded by any country, where newly elected president Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to contain Boko Haram by the end of 2015.
 
Boko Haram has countered Buhari’s efforts by concentrating on suicide bomb attacks as opposed to the capture of entire villages, a tactic the group had used while Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan was in office.

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Wikipedia Photo
Parents of the 276 children were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria, on the night of 14–15 April 2014. Responsibility for the kidnappings was claimed by Boko Haram, an Islamic Jihadist and terrorist organization based in northeast Nigeria.

 

Terrorism in Nigeria has increased not only at the hands of Boko Haram, but also because of a militant group of Fulani herdsmen, which the GTI blamed for 1,229 deaths in 2014. The herdsmen were blamed for 63 deaths in 2013, the GTI said.
 
While Boko Haram and ISIS have largely attacked Christians and other religious groups, the number of religious figures and worshippers killed in terrorism attacks decreased by 11 percent in 2014, according to the GTI. But the decrease in religious victims was offset by a 172 percent increase in the deaths of private citizens, the GTI indicates.
 
Unlike Boko Haram, ISIS does not limit its attacks to terrorism strikes, the index noted, because ISIS is also involved in the Syrian civil war. As such, ISIS engages in combat with forces loyal to Assad, the al-Nusra front, Kurdish forces and the international coalition against ISIS. The deaths attributed to ISIS in combat, at least 20,000, are not included in the terrorism count.
 
The GTI was released just as ISIS captured the world’s attention by killing at least 130 and injuring more than 300 others in a string of attacks in Paris Nov. 13, and claiming credit for a bomb that brought down a Russian jet Oct. 31 over Egypt, killing all 224 aboard. The U.S. State Department is considering declaring ISIS guilty of genocide in the group’s attacks on the Yazidi sect in Iraq.
 
Worldwide, the total number of deaths from terrorism increased by 80 percent in 2014 over the previous year, the GTI found, marking the largest annual increase in the last 15 years. Not only that, but deaths from terrorism have risen 900 percent in the 21st century, from 3,329 in 2000 to 32,658 in 2014, according to the index.
 
Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria were listed as the countries suffering the most attacks of terrorism in 2014, accounting for 78 percent of terrorism deaths, with the bulk occurring in Syria, Iraq and Nigeria. Still, terrorism is spreading to other countries, the report found, with the number of countries suffering more than 500 deaths increasing from five to 11. Somalia, Ukraine, Yemen, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Cameroon suffered more than 500 terrorism deaths for the first time, the report said.
 
The majority of terrorism deaths do not occur in the West, including the U.S., Canada, Australia and European countries, the report noted, and deaths from homicide far exceed those from terrorism. Excluding September 11, only 0.5 percent of all terrorism-related deaths have occurred in Western countries in the last 15 years. But at least 437,000 people in these countries are murdered each year, more than 13 times the number of terrorism victims.
 
The GTI relies heavily on the Global Terrorism Database, which the report describes as the most comprehensive dataset on terrorist activity globally.
 
Among the GTI’s other findings:

  • Iraq and Syria continued to recruit fighters from foreign countries, totaling as many as 30,000 foreigners since 2011 and including 7,000 in the first six months of 2015;

  • The major perpetrators of terrorism in the West are independent, lone-wolf attackers, accounting for 70 percent of such incidents;

  • The economic cost of terrorism increased by 61 percent in 2014 over 2013, totaling $52.9 billion, a 1000 percent increase over 2000;

  • The cost of containing global terrorism is $117 billion;

  • Terrorism mostly occurs in countries involved in violent conflicts. These countries suffered 88 percent of all terrorist attacks in the last 25 years.

The 2014 report is the GTI’s third edition. The full report is available at economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2015.pdf.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

11/23/2015 12:19:38 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



In cowboy country, pastor accepts shepherd role

November 23 2015 by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS

Cowboys roam in middle-of-nowhere West Texas. Not the city-slicking “rhinestone” kind in Dallas, but cowboys riding on horseback and corralling cattle into a pen. In these small towns, community life is a picture of a bygone era in American culture, where pastors are well-respected and everyone’s life is on public display.
 
When John Powell left The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in 2012 to become the pastor of First Baptist Church, Hamlin, Texas, he tried to corral his congregation like a cowboy into a pen of spiritual and theological maturity. But a period of despair fell upon Powell when he realized the loneliness of the pastoral calling and the reality that, in the breakneck pace of church ministry, “God didn’t call us cowboys; he called us shepherds.”
 
“Shepherds don’t push from behind, they lead from the front,” Powell said in a 9-minute mini-documentary released online by SBTS in Louisville, Ky. “I came just wanting to ride a horse fast and have that bandana blow in the wind, but what I realized is I need to foster a tenderness and gentleness and leadership in a way that cowboys don’t.”

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SBTS photo
John Powell (right), pastor of First Baptist Church in Hamlin, Texas, often spends time with church members on their farms and businesses. 

 

Powell, who is from Kansas City, Mo., said studying at the seminary for a master of divinity degree reaffirmed the call to ministry he first sensed at the age of 14. Although he spent most of his life as a “suburban kid,” Powell said his family’s deep roots in West Texas agrarian society attracted him to the pleasures of rural life when he made summer visits to his grandfather’s farm.
 
He freely admits he is not a true cowboy like many of his church members, but Powell enjoys outdoor excursions like the solitude of riding a horse and often wears a cowboy hat and boots. Powell certainly looks the part of a small-town pastor, but he said it took him nearly two years before he embraced the harsh realities of rural ministry.
 
Before moving to Hamlin, a town of 2,100 people, Powell said he could roam freely in Louisville without running into people he knew. But in a small town, a pastor’s life is on public display, and Powell said he soon recognized his pastoral responsibility even when he went to the grocery store or relaxed in his own home.
 
“There’s an accountability mechanism in a small town where everybody knows everyone, but there’s also a great opportunity for the gospel to be proclaimed through just the simple everyday life of a man living in a small town,” Powell said. “I’ve always got to be on my game.”  

Powell has since become an advocate for pastors not only to serve rural communities but to dedicate their lives to these areas. He said young pastors often marginalize rural churches by using them merely as a stepping stone for future ministry opportunities. While Powell recognizes the priority to reach the urban centers of the world, he insists shrinking rural communities also are the “ends of the earth” and need Great Commission faithfulness from ministers.

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SBTS photo
Drawing an analogy to corralling cattle into a pen, pastor John Powell says he learned successful rural ministry is not being like a cowboy but rather demonstrating the gentleness of a shepherd. 

 

“Rural church ministry involves being with people when they are at their places of worth,” Powell said, describing how he often spends time with church members at their farms, hunting trips or businesses rather than the privacy of his church office. “Rural church ministry is a ministry of presence.”
 
After nearly two years in Hamlin, Powell said he contemplated leaving the ministry. Despite his efforts in evangelism and expository preaching, Powell said he felt discouraged when his membership declined and no new converts joined the church. At that time, several close friends at SBTS, including Provost Randy Stinson and former admissions director Ben Dockery, intervened and encouraged Powell. Stinson recommended Powell read Paul David Tripp’s Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, which Powell credits with exposing the pride that “infiltrated” his ministry in Hamlin.
 
Contrary to some church growth strategies, Powell said his understanding of a successful ministry could not rely on instant results, increased membership and an expanded budget. Part of the reason he now encourages young pastors to commit their lives to rural church ministry is because it may take “10 years to see people catching on” to spiritual truths and exhortations.
 
“My paradigm for success has had to become sanctified,” Powell said. “I had to realize success was not more people, it may mean less people. Success was not more money, it may mean less money. ... Success is faithfulness, even when it’s hard, even when you want to give up.”
 
A key to perseverance in rural ministry, Powell notes, is finding like-minded pastors in the area for mutual encouragement and friendship during times of loneliness. He said SBTS has provided him with a network of alumni in rural parts of Texas with whom he can identify and share in the labors of ministry.
 
“I’m a product of Southern. It’s part of my DNA now,” Powell said. “The school has helped to craft me into the man that I am. I would not be the pastor that I am without the education that I received and the people I befriended.”
 
Powell is married to Katherine and they have three children: Gunner, Bennett and Ada Kate. In addition to his role at First Baptist Church, Hamlin, Powell serves on the leadership council for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – S. Craig Sanders is manager of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

11/23/2015 12:07:49 PM by S. Craig Sanders, SBTS | with 0 comments



Alabama Baptists continue move toward parity

November 23 2015 by The Alabama Baptist staff

Messengers to the Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting approved a 2016 Cooperative Program (CP) budget that brought state and national ministry allocations closer to parity. They also adopted a new offering aimed at helping fund Baptist missions work in state and expanded the role of the State Board of Missions (SBOM) executive committee.
 
The 193rd annual meeting of Alabama Baptists was held at Eastern Shore Baptist Church, Daphne, Nov. 17-18 with the theme “PRAY” – Pardon us for our sin, Renew a right spirit within us, Adoration and praise to God, Yoke us together in sacrifice and service.
 
State convention president Travis Coleman, pastor of First Baptist Church, Prattville, was re-elected without opposition. The same was true for first vice president John Thweatt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Pell City, and second vice president Tim Cox, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, Chelsea.
 
The 748 registered messengers from 362 churches also adopted six resolutions and heard from Southern Baptist Convention president Ronnie Floyd.  

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Photo by Neisha Roberts
Alabama Baptist State Convention officers include, from left: John Thweatt, first vice president; Travis Coleman, president and Tim Cox, second vice president.

 

The $40 million Alabama Baptist Cooperative Program budget, 53 percent of which is appropriated to state missions and ministries and 47 percent to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) causes, is a $500,000 reduction from 2015.
 
The $500,000 reduction for Alabama Baptist ministries in the 2016 budget recommendation will come from an across-the-board cut of State Board of Missions and convention entities’ budgets.
 
The increase in SBC ministries in the 2016 budget recommendation will come from the allocations for Samford University in Birmingham, The Baptist Foundation of Alabama and SBOM. SBOM also previously absorbed a $700,000 reduction from the North American Mission Board.
 
The goal in Alabama will be to increase the SBC allocation by 1 percentage point annually, assuming CP receipts coming into the state office hit the $40 million budget mark. Any amount over the budgeted amount will go to SBC until the equitable distribution is met.
 
State convention leaders have a goal of parity with the SBC and began moving that direction about five years ago, SBOM Executive Director Rick Lance reported in August.
 
The Alabama Baptist State Convention is currently at a 45-45-10 split when ministries that are shared between the national and state conventions are considered.
 
And while shared ministries are supported at all levels of Southern Baptist life, Lance explained, the phrase itself and the concept in general are no longer communicating the allocation of funds clearly.
 
So going forward, the budget language in Alabama will deal only with state and national percentages.
 
State convention ministries include all SBOM ministries, state convention entities – the colleges, The Alabama Baptist, Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries, Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center, TBFA, etc. – as well as Alabama Woman’s Missionary Union and Alabama Citizens Action Program.
 
National convention ministries include all SBC ministries – International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, the six seminaries, etc. – as well as the SBC Executive Committee, GuideStone Financial Resources and SBC CP Advance.
 
The new offering – the Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering – takes the existing Kathleen Mallory State Mission Offering, which helped fund the ministry of Alabama Woman’s Missionary Union and expands it to include other aspects of Alabama Baptist work.
 
“The offering will be an effort to foster annual financial support for Alabama WMU, disaster relief, missions partnerships and church planting and church revitalization ministries,” said Mike McLemore, executive director of missions of Birmingham Baptist Association, who presented the recommendation to convention messengers.
 
The expansion also allows for a new namesake – Martha Myers, an Alabama missionary doctor who was killed by an extremist in Yemen in 2002.
 
She joins the legacy of namesake Selma native Kathleen Mallory, who served as leader of Alabama WMU in the early 1900s and then head of national WMU for 36 years (1912-1948).
 
“It’s a legacy that honestly inspires Alabama Baptists decades later to live devotedly and pray intentionally and give sacrificially,” said Candace McIntosh, executive director of Alabama WMU.
 
Another way Alabama Baptists voted to redirect their missions money was to stop resourcing new mobile chapels for disaster relief and church planting purposes starting Jan. 1.
 
The growing expense of new mobile chapels became cost prohibitive, said Rex Kent, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jemison, who presented the recommendation. So instead of purchasing new chapels, the SBOM will instead provide monthly stipends for disaster-affected congregations and new church plants to rent nearby facilities.
 
The recommendations related to the executive committee authorize its members to serve as representatives of the convention in declaring when a church is no longer in like-minded fellowship and friendly cooperation with the convention, and as the bylaws review committee of the state convention.
 
Messengers also passed the following recommendations:

  • That convention messengers agree with the decision of Madison Baptist Association to dis-fellowship Weatherly Heights Baptist Church, Huntsville, and consider them no longer in friendly cooperation with the ABSC.

  • To approve the printed 2014 SBOM audit prepared by Jackson Thornton & Co. PC.

Messengers passed a resolution that urges Alabama Baptists to commit to “pray that Planned Parenthood will reverse their inhumane position and practice regarding abortion.”
John Killian, pastor of Maytown Baptist Church, also proposed that Alabama Baptists “resolve that we support efforts to end all public funding of Planned Parenthood.”
 
Resolutions committee members judged the proposed amendment “friendly” and incorporated the wording into the original resolution.
 
In addition to opposing Planned Parenthood, the resolution called on Alabama Baptists to pray for and show compassion to “those who have been victims of or participants in the abortion industry.”
 
In other resolutions, messengers:

  • Expressed appreciation for University of Mobile (UMobile) President Mark Foley. Foley, who has announced his retirement after more than 17 years at the helm of UMobile, received a standing ovation from messengers in appreciation for his dedicated guidance of the university. He also was honored for his emphasis on the core values of faith, learning, conviction, integrity, stewardship and leadership.

  • Opposed alcohol sales in Alabama saying that “privatizing liquor sales in Alabama would likely result in stores being open late at night and on Sundays” thus expanding “liquor sales through increased availability.” This increased availability would likely lead to increases in underage drinking, problem drinking and alcoholism, the resolution stated.

  • Reiterated support for the historic and constitutional right to exercise religious liberty and committed Alabama Baptists to “teach, preach and practice religious freedom in acts of worship and in freely and publicly expressing deeply held religious convictions.”

  • Expressed appreciation for the Alabama Baptists who contributed to the organization of the annual meeting, including Baldwin Baptist Association, host church Eastern Shore Baptist and the 2015 ABSC officers.

  • Affirmed appreciation and prayer for International Mission Board missionaries, including those returning from overseas service as part of IMB’s reduction in force. The resolution also urged Southern Baptist churches to participate in the Week of Prayer and Mission Study “as a way of understanding the importance of praying for missionaries and how the gospel will continue to be shared around the world through IMB.”

Lance also noted the IMB missionaries in his report earlier in the meeting. As several missionaries begin their transition off the field, “there will be a welcome mat here in Alabama,” he said. “We want to make sure these individuals come back to a place they once called home and make it home again. For the children, we will do our best to make it their home as well.”
 
In other news, messengers voted to set the following special offering goals for 2016:

  • Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, $12 million

  • Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, $6.1 million

  • Children’s Homes & Family Ministries, $2,814,700

  • World Hunger Offering, $800,000

  • Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering, $750,000

The state convention’s top three Cooperative Program giving churches also were honored at the annual meeting:
 
Largest amount given per resident member
Benton Baptist Church in Selma Baptist Association gave $414.20 per person. Lee Tate is pastor.
 
Highest percentage of undesignated receipts
Poplar Springs Baptist Church, Webb, Columbia Baptist Association, gave 26.4 percent. Jeff Ross is interim pastor.
 
Largest amount given overall
Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, Birmingham Baptist Association, gave $760,800. Danny Wood is pastor.
 
As the featured preacher during the Tuesday evening session of the annual meeting, SBC President Ronnie Floyd shared with Alabama Baptists that they have one great need – the power of God – and they have one great struggle – to remember why it’s life-or-death important.
 
“We have too many pastors, too many Christian leaders who are content to live life and do ministry without the power of God,” Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said. “We’ve gone long enough where this world has seen what we can do. It’s time the world sees what our God can do instead.”
 
Floyd said we live in a world where billions are still unreached with the Gospel, and “sadly and regrettably Satan has convinced us that it’s more about the songs we sing and the clothes we wear and the personal liberty that gives us the right to express ourselves in church” than it is about seeing the lost saved, Floyd said.
 
“We tend to drift away from the mission of God, and when you drift away from the mission, you drift away from the power of God and the heart of God,” he noted. It means Christians are drifting away from devoted prayer.
 
And when that happens, revival can’t take place, Floyd declared.
 
The church needs a generation that’s not okay with drifting away from the power of God, Floyd said. “The field is the world. And we can do this if we will stay connected to God’s power.”
 
Buddy Champion, pastor of First Baptist Church, Trussville, addressed what to do when God doesn’t seem to answer prayers the way one desires during the convention sermon at the close of the annual meeting.
 
“Our whole theme (of the Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting) has been about prayer,” he said, noting the Scripture for his sermon as being Matthew 7:7-12. “‘Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find and the door will be opened for you.’ It’s simple enough. You ask, you seek and you knock and it just happens. It unfolds in our lives.”
 
But what about when “I ask and I seek and I knock and nothing happens?”
 
God is a God who does not give stones or snakes but what is needed, Champion said, noting Matthew 7:9-10.
 
“He loves us so much,” Champion said, pointing to John 15:13-14. “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness and he was called God’s friend. What a great name. What a great privilege to be called the friend of God and God’s friend. To know we had a friend who laid down His life for us.
 
“When the wheels fall off and we are asking God and we are praying and we are trying to be faithful through difficulty, we find a God who wraps His arms around us and loves us.”
 
God’s grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness, Champion said.
 
“Even in those dark days, even in those confusing days, pray for God’s grace that will give you power in your weakness,” Champion said. “We will find a God that will wrap His arms around us and sustain us and give us mercy in our times of need,” he noted, pointing to Hebrews 4:16.
 
The 2016 annual meeting will be held at Eastmont Baptist Church, Montgomery, Nov. 15-16.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was compiled by correspondent Grace Thornton, executive editor Jennifer Davis Rash and editor Bob Terry of The Alabama Baptist newspaper.)

11/23/2015 11:57:08 AM by The Alabama Baptist staff | with 0 comments



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