November 2017

Tornado sends church members to elementary school

November 27 2017 by David Dawson, Baptist and Reflector

A mid-Tennessee church is trekking across the street to an elementary school for worship after sustaining damage from an EF-1 tornado, including a toppled steeple that left a hole in the roof above the sanctuary.

Photo by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector
Tornado damage at The Glade Church included a steeple, sanctuary roof and a portion of its brick structure, prompted worship services to move across the street to an elementary school.

Mark Marshall, pastor of The Glade Church in Mt. Juliet near Nashville, said he is thankful that Gladeville Elementary School is willing to lend its facilities.
“We have a phenomenal relationship with them,” Marshall said. “Over the years, this church has built a bridge with them.”
The school recently completed a large expansion, including a new gym. “We can seat at least 1,000 in there – in the bleachers alone,” Marshall said.
Via video, Marshall relayed word of Sunday services cancellation after the tornado on Saturday evening, Nov. 16. The storm system crossed several counties; damage at the church included a portion of its brick structure.
“It was just me and the camera,” Marshall said of relaying word to the congregation. “We had to make some pretty quick decisions on Saturday night about what we were going to do. And we’re still in the process of trying to piece it all back together.” Apart from worship services, other events and meetings are still being held at the church.
“If you would have been here Sunday [after the tornado], you’d understand it’s pretty miraculous that we are where we are right now,” Marshall said. “There were probably at least 150 church members here, working. There were chainsaws, trucks, trailers, bobcats, everything.
“And what we decided to do,” Marshall added, “was to let our people concentrate on our neighbors and our community and help them clean up.”
The Glade Church was engineered to withstand 90 mph winds but “the winds were somewhere around 100 mph that came through here,” Marshall said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Dawson writes for the Baptist and Reflector,, news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

11/27/2017 7:59:34 AM by David Dawson, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments

Greek NT edition commended for pastors, others

November 22 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A new edition of the Greek New Testament, biblical scholars say, may help pastors and other Bible students gain new insight on the way early manuscripts rendered scripture.

Released Nov. 15 by Crossway, the Tyndale House Greek New Testament (THGNT) aligns with the wording of previous Greek New Testament editions more than 90 percent of the time. But it utilizes unique spellings, book order and methods of indicating paragraph breaks that mirror the earliest available manuscripts and depart from the rendering of other modern editions.
The THGNT is the product 10 years’ work by the England-based Tyndale House study center for biblical scholarship. Editor Dirk Jongkind is Tyndale House vice principal.
“This is a solid edition of the Greek New Testament that deserves serious consideration when the text is being studied and the variant readings are being evaluated,” New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) professor Bill Warren told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments. “The entire field of New Testament studies is enriched by this additional resource.”
Each edition of the Greek New Testament produced by scholars is an attempt to accurately depict the wording of the original books written by biblical authors like Peter, Paul and John. Because none of those original documents still exist, scholars attempt to reconstruct what they must have said based on thousands of available manuscripts produced over the centuries by scribes, who at times changed minor details in the text either intentionally or unintentionally.
All editions of the Greek New Testament agree on about 94 percent of the text, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) professor Maurice Robinson said via email, with no major doctrine affected by the variants. Many variants have no effect on English translation.
Yet the THGNT has several unique features, according to the evangelical scholars contacted by BP:

  • Every reading in the THGNT must appear in at least two manuscripts, “one of which must be fifth century or older,” said Daniel Wallace, senior research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. That contrasts with the method of some popular Greek New Testaments, which, based on analysis of manuscripts, sometimes propose an original reading not contained in any known manuscript.
  • Paragraphs are not indented “but have the initial letter extending into the left margin – something that no other edition previously had done, but following the actual practice found among Greek manuscripts,” said Robinson, research professor of New Testament and Greek at SEBTS.
  • Paragraph breaks are based on “common divisions of the text in [early] Greek manuscripts” even if those divisions fall in the middle of verses, said Warren, professor of New Testament and Greek at NOTBS. Modern chapter and verse divisions did not appear until the 16th century.
  • The order of books, Robinson said, departs from the standard order in English Bibles and mirrors that “found in the early manuscripts and canonical books lists”: Gospels, Acts, General Epistles, Pauline Epistles and Revelation. The one exception to the THGNT’s adherence to early Greek book order is its placement of Hebrews at the end of the Pauline Epistles. Many early manuscripts placed Hebrews between Paul’s letters to churches and his letters to individuals, Robinson said.
  • At times, the same word is spelled differently in different parts of the THGNT, reflecting early manuscripts rather than standardizing spellings as in some modern Greek New Testament editions.
  • The so-called “critical apparatus” – a section at the bottom of each page noting points at which biblical manuscripts differ – is more limited in the THGNT than in some other editions. The only variants noted in the THGNT are those that may plausibly reflect the original wording, those that are significant for interpreting the text and those that illustrate common practices of scribes, Wallace said.

Robinson said he probably “will not make much use of” the THGNT because he favors a different type of Greek New Testament text and a larger critical apparatus. But Warren and Wallace both commended the THGNT as a potentially useful tool for pastors to include in their exegetical arsenals.
“Our [Protestant] heritage was born out of a recognition that the responsible pastor must work with the Greek text,” Wallace said in written comments. “There can be no substitute, nor must there be any excuses. Here is a text that is both innovative and yet carefully based on ancient witnesses.”
Martin Luther, Wallace said, “chided the pastors of his day, arguing that it was a sin to neglect the biblical languages ‘when God is offering and giving us men and books and every facility and inducement to this study.’ How much more – with a thousand times the books and tools available today – do we lack any excuse?”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

11/22/2017 10:32:13 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Brawler-turned-pastor transforms Montana church & town

November 22 2017 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

There was a petition circulating to remove violent brawler Jim Webley from town when God intervened and changed not just Webley’s life but, years later, the course of a church and a Montana community.

Photo courtesy of Jim Webley
Jim Webley, pastor of Baptist Mountain Church in Noxon, Mont., is an outdoorsman who, before being “taken aback by the Word of God,” was a notorious brawler and drug dealer before he drove by a little white Baptist church and “could feel God pulling me in that direction.”

In his early 20s, Webley was working in the gold mines of Nevada, entrenched in a rough lifestyle of drugs and alcohol, and through weekly fighting he had “put some people in the hospital,” he told Baptist Press (BP). People just wanted him to leave town.
One Sunday morning, Webley was driving his young daughter Sara to get milkshakes when they passed a little white Baptist church in the Nevada community.
“I absolutely never went to church down there, but I could feel God pulling me in that direction,” Webley recounted. “He was telling me I needed to get into church.”
Webley had an 8-inch jet lift on his ’78 Chevy, so he parked behind the church in hopes his buddies wouldn’t drive by and see his recognizable truck.
“I remember walking into church with Sara and every person in that congregation knew me, and I think they were flabbergasted to see me coming through those doors,” Webley said. “The pastor was probably 10 minutes into his sermon and he just kind of stopped preaching and stared at me.
“I was wearing an Ozzy Osbourne shirt with the sleeves cut off. On the front he’s holding a dove and on the back he’s got the dove’s head in his mouth.”
Webley and his daughter quickly sat down, and he remembers being disgusted with the pastor. “He’d be preaching and he’d be trying to be funny, but it just made me madder. But then he said, ‘The Word of God says,’ and he would read from the Bible, and I remember sitting there going, ‘There’s such power in that.’ I was taken aback by the Word of God.”
After the service, no one approached Webley to talk. When he got home, his wife, Melissa, didn’t believe he had been to church. But he went back the next Sunday, as well-dressed as he could manage.
Soon he acknowledged he needed to clean up his life – no more selling drugs, no more fighting. “I was going to try to be a better person,” Webley said. He moved his family up to Montana where he was raised, so he could escape the influence of his friends in Nevada.
The Webleys had lived there about six months when Melissa asked if they were going to look for a church. Webley replied, “Why would we go to church? We’re doing so good.” He had stopped selling drugs. There was very little fighting. And he was only “smoking pot and drinking.”
“I thought God would be pleased with me because I cleaned up my life so well,” Webley said. “I thought church was just where you learned to clean up.”

Photo courtesy of Jim Webley
One of the disciples Jim Webley is nurturing is his son, 14-year-old Jared. After Webley turned to God from a lifestyle of drugs, alcohol and fighting at age 28, he later found himself as a pastor changing the course of a church and a Montana community.

At Melissa’s insistence, they drove around and found Troy Community Baptist Church in Troy, Mont. There they heard the gospel for the first time, and Webley realized it wasn’t his works that mattered but what Christ did on the cross.
He went to church for a while and grilled the pastor, Cam Foote, with questions, but he still wasn’t convinced God even existed. A few months later that changed when he was sitting in church and became convinced God was real.
“I thought, ‘I’ve been fooling myself, pretending that I don’t understand or I don’t know,’” Webley said, having realized his options were to stop going to church, live the life he wanted and go to hell or give his life to Christ and serve Him.
“It was kind of a no brainer at that point,” so Webley went forward that Sunday and gave his life to Christ at the age of 28. When he went home, he went through his house and gathered up his heavy metal shirts and CDs – anything he thought God wouldn’t want in his house – threw them in a burn barrel in the backyard, dumped gas on it and lit it.
“I told God, ‘Whatever You want to do with my life, I’ll do it.’”
The pastor suggested Webley might be helped in his walk if he met with the youth on Sundays rather than the adults. One Sunday the teacher didn’t show up, and Foote asked Webley to teach the lesson. He had no idea what to do but simply went by the lesson plan. Before long he became the youth pastor.
Seven years later, Foote began nudging Webley toward leading a church plant in Noxon, about an hour south of Troy. But Noxon was the last place Webley wanted to go. When he passed Noxon on the interstate, he couldn’t even bear to look over toward the town because of bad memories.
He had lived in Noxon while in elementary school, but it’s where his parents’ marriage unraveled and a man intentionally burned their house down. Noxon had a bad reputation for being home to a militia and later a white supremacist group.
Webley had been teaching the youth to surrender to God’s call on their lives, and he knew he had to do it too. He agreed to speak with the pastor search committee at the church plant, Baptist Mountain Church.
At the end of the meeting, a woman said two things were particularly important to the church. First, they had a potluck every Sunday after church and wanted his assurance that the potlucks could continue. Second, they “didn’t want a lot of new people coming in.”
“She said, ‘There’s a bad element here in Noxon and these people that come in ruin the fellowship and ruin the unity of the church, and we just don’t want a whole lot of these people coming in,’” Webley said.
Webley told the search committee that he expected the church members to give up their seats for new people, and if they called him as pastor they would not have another potluck until the spiritual issue was cleared up. They called him as pastor, and the first Sunday, when he told them that would be their last potluck, “that pretty much destroyed the church.”
The congregation went from about 25 to six people in one week, Webley said, but he was going to preach to an empty room until God told him to stop. From there, God started adding families, and the church has seen a steady increase not only in numbers but in maturity.
During the summer months, the church averages more than 100 on Sundays and in the winter closer to 65, Webley said. The church was about $150,000 in debt with no congregation when Webley started as pastor, but they were debt-free within a few years. This summer they built a new worship center.
The community of about 300 people has changed as well. A few years ago there was a bad drug problem, “but we ended up getting that cleared up,” Webley said.
“That church has a tremendous impact on that town,” Foote told BP. “It has radically transformed that town, and Jim’s ministry there is phenomenal.”
Webley is a bivocational pastor, also working in carpentry and as a guide for deer and elk hunting.
Barrett Duke, executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention, told BP Webley is a perfect example of the Saul-to-Paul disciple.
“Before Christ, he fought with his fists against his fellow men with a terrifying ferocity,” Duke said. “Today, he fights with spiritual weapons for his fellow men with God-glorifying determination.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville.)

11/22/2017 10:32:00 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Tennessee Baptists adopt resolution against racism

November 22 2017 by Lonnie Wilkey & David Dawson, Baptist and Reflector

Messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s (TBC) annual meeting overwhelmingly spoke against racism during the Nov. 12-16 sessions of The Summit at First Baptist Church in Henderson.

Baptist and Reflector photo
Randy Davis, left, president of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, recognizes the convention’s new officers – David Leavell, right, president, and his wife Vicki and Todd Stinnett, vice president. Second vice president Brian Carmichael was not available.

David Leavell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Millington in West Tennessee, was elected president during the meeting, which drew 993 messengers from 422 churches.
The total did not include eight messengers from First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, as the convention voted overwhelmingly not to seat those from the church, which called a woman as senior pastor earlier this year. See related story.
Among other actions, messengers also adopted a reduced budget from last year and referred a motion to expand the definition of a cooperating Tennessee Baptist church back to the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
The annual meeting also focused on spiritual lostness in the state as reflected in the convention theme, “Rescue Now.”

Racism & the Great Commission

Tennessee Baptists adopted their resolution on “Racism and the Great Commission” during The Summit’s final session.
Citing numerous verses of scripture, the resolution noted that people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27); that salvation is available to all people regardless of race or ethnicity because Jesus Christ gave His life so that “whosoever would believe” might be saved (John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:4); and that people from every tribe, tongue and nation will be gathered before the throne of Jesus (Revelation 7:9).
The resolution noted that:

  • “God is bringing the nations to Tennessee and is making Tennessee home to more than 145 different global people groups” and that the TBC is “comprised of racially and ethnically diverse churches.”
  • The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 affirms “Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.”
  • Tennessee Baptists “are categorically opposed to all ideologies and movements of any race that diminish the dignity of any human being” and that they believe “one cannot be a devoted follower of Christ and harbor racism of any kind in one’s heart.”
  • Tennessee Baptists “embrace Tennessee as a diverse mission field that God has called to reach through the fervent preaching of the gospel and acts of service to others, regardless of race or ethnicity,” pledging to “intensify our efforts to pray, give, and advance the Great Commission across the street to our closest neighbors and to the ends of the earth.”

The resolution exhorted Tennessee Baptists “to pray for the salvation of our neighbors regardless of race or ethnicity” and to pray “for our leaders and all who are in authority” as they make policy decisions related to issues of race (1 Timothy 2:2).
And the resolution called for Tennessee Baptists “to earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through the redeemed fellowship in the kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.”

Elections & budget

David Leavell, who served as the TBC’s vice president in 2015, was unopposed for the presidency in a session moderated by the TBC’s outgoing president, Steve Freeman, senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Springfield.
Leavell currently serves on the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board; he was a member of the 2017 Committee on Resolutions for the Southern Baptist Convention; and he is a trustee of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where his late father, Landrum P. Leavell II, served as president from 1975-1994.
Also elected as officers were Todd Stinnett, vice president, and Brian Carmichael, second vice president. Stinnett, who served this past year as second vice president, is senior pastor at Black Oak Heights Baptist Church in Knoxville; Carmichael is senior pastor at Holy Temple Baptist Church in Memphis. Both were unopposed.
Messengers adopted a Cooperative Program allocation budget of $34.5 million for 2017-2018, $500,000 less than the 2016-2017 budget goal. It continues to move toward an equal distribution between TBC and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) causes but is a smaller step than originally planned due to a decline in Cooperative Program giving following an increase the previous year. The adopted budget will be distributed 53.36 percent to TBC causes and 46.64 percent to SBC causes; this year’s percentages have been TBC, 54.48 percent; SBC, 45.52 percent.
Messengers were to have considered a recommendation from the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board to expand the definition of a cooperating Baptist church to include those churches that give through the TBC portion of the Cooperative Program budget without restriction or designation.
The recommendation noted that “some churches across the state have expressed frustration with actions and activities occurring on the SBC level. Some of them wish to direct funds around those entities but want to continue to fully support the activities at the TBC level. Failure to contribute to the Cooperative Program without any restriction has prohibited churches from sending messengers to the annual meeting.”
The recommendation noted that “the change will allow churches to make the decision” of which SBC entities they wish to continue to support, “while supporting all ministries of the TBC and have full rights to participate in the governance of the TBC.”
Messenger Jim Cross, pastor of First Baptist Church in Donelson, spoke against the recommendation, noting that messengers need to send a clear message that “we are for the Cooperative Program.”
Larry Robertson, pastor of Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, introduced a motion to refer the recommendation back to the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB). He acknowledged that he had just rotated off the TBMB and had approved the recommendation earlier this year. “The more I thought about it, the more concerned I was,” he stated. “I want the board to reconsider the recommendation.”
Robertson expressed concern that adopting the recommendation could hurt one of the TBC’s key objectives, which is to realize an increase in annual local church giving through the Cooperative Program that reaches at least 10 percent by 2024. “I fear this amendment may not help our objective be accomplished. I think it needs more study.”
Robertson’s motion was seconded and during discussion on whether to refer back to the TBMB, messengers expressed opinions on both sides of the issue.
Steve Tiebout, pastor of The River Church in Cookeville, said it would be best to send the recommendation back for further study in order to develop a better plan. It goes against the fourth objective, he said, noting the recommendation has “some elements we need,” but not all.
Bill Seale, a messenger from First Baptist Church in Morristown, spoke against the referral, noting that it would have to be discussed again next year anyway because it takes two votes to change the constitution.
After others expressed opinions, messengers voted overwhelmingly to refer the recommendation back to the TBMB for further study.
Other actions:

  • The convention authorized the renewal of a missions partnership with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio in the area of Greater Cincinnati/Dayton and to expand it to include western Ohio beginning Jan. 1 and concluding Dec. 31, 2020. Messengers also recognized the ending of a missions partnership in Italy and signed a partnership agreement with Nashville Baptist Association for City Reach Nashville.
  • Messengers adopted a report from the Committee on Arrangements for Jordan Easley, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, to preach the 2018 convention sermon, with Clay Hallmark, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lexington, as the alternate.

The 2018 meeting will be Nov. 11-14 at West Jackson Baptist Church in Jackson. The dates of the 146th annual meeting set for Nov. 12-13, 2019, in Knoxville will be changed to Nov. 19-20 due to a conflict of dates with the Knoxville Convention Center where it will be held. Future meetings are: 2021, Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova, Nov. 9-10, and 2022, Chattanooga Convention Center, Chattanooga, Nov. 15-16.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor and David Dawson is a writer for the Baptist and Reflector, news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

11/22/2017 10:31:47 AM by Lonnie Wilkey & David Dawson, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments

Texas defends dismemberment abortion ban

November 22 2017 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

Should abortionists be allowed to end the life of an unborn baby by pulling it apart, or should they remove it piecemeal only after its heart has stopped beating?
The answer, at least in Texas, depends on the outcome of a five-day trial concluded Nov. 8 over a new state law banning dismemberment abortions. The law, passed in June, requires abortionists to use other methods besides dismemberment – such as clipping the umbilical cord or injecting digoxin or potassium chloride to stop the baby’s heart – before removing it from its mother’s womb.
Three pro-abortion groups, Planned Parenthood, Whole Woman’s Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights, sued the state over the law. They claim requiring a baby’s death before the dilation and extraction procedure heaps undue burdens on women and abortionists.
But during last week’s trial in federal district court, state attorneys emphasized the law’s “more humane” requirement.
“The state has legitimate interest ... in protecting the health of a woman and life of a fetus that may become a child,” said state lawyer Darren McCarty. The law “regulates the moment of death, the moment of fetal termination and nothing more. Whether ... the lethal act is going to be, for instance, grabbing the leg and pulling it off the fetus, or whether instead the lethal act is going to be a single injection or perhaps just a snip of the umbilical cord.”
According to a news release from Texas Right to Life, “To defend the Dismemberment Abortion Ban ... the state brought forward a wide array of compelling witnesses including abortionists, former abortionists, physicians, legal experts, bioethicists, public health experts and others. Former abortionist Anthony Levatino, M.D., gave the court a brutal step-by-step explanation of the abortion procedure and his gut-wrenching personal conversion story that caused him to become a pro-life activist.
“Other important witnesses were current abortionists or neutral medical experts in Texas who entirely contradicted claims by the plaintiffs [and] explained the straightforward and common-sense ways that the abortion clinics challenging the law could comply. Lastly, a public health expert and OB-GYN systematically and patiently went through a plethora of the relevant medical, scientific, peer-reviewed literature to read into the court record how claims being made by the abortion industry about dismemberment abortions and the alternative procedures were categorically false,” the news release stated.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called dismemberment abortion a “ghastly procedure.”
“I am hopeful the district court will find that Texas has an interest in protecting and fostering respect for human life, including unborn life, and that it will uphold the state’s lawful authority to protect the life and dignity of unborn children from barbaric dismemberment abortions,” Paxton said.
Pro-life groups remain hopeful the law will survive the legal challenge, despite presiding U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel’s past stance on abortion.
In 2014, Yeakel ruled against a previous Texas law that required abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges and mandated abortion centers meet ambulatory surgical center requirements. He ruled the law “burdens Texas women,” a decision upheld last year by the U.S. Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.
Ingrid Duran, director of state legislation at the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), said her group anticipates a decision by the end of the month.
“While it is true that U.S. District Judge Yeakel has a history of ruling against constitutional laws that protect unborn children, NRLC is hopeful that the attorney general will demonstrate why their state has a compelling state interest in protecting living unborn babies from horrifically being torn limb-from-limb in their mother’s womb,” Duran said.
Texas Values president Jonathan Saenz, who attended the trial, said in a statement that Paxton’s team did a good job making sure the state was “well represented.”
“It was hard to hear testimony about the brutal dismemberment abortion procedure in live court,” Saenz said. “One can only imagine how awful it is to subject a live human being to such a barbaric practice. We fully expect the court to put an end to this horror.”
Texas’ law isn’t the first dismemberment abortion ban to face a legal challenge. While West Virginia and Mississippi have laws that remain unchallenged, judges have either struck down or halted enforcement of similar laws in Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas and Kansas. Louisiana’s dismemberment ban also faces a legal challenge, and the state has agreed to delay enforcement.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Gobba writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine,, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)

11/22/2017 10:31:29 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Minn.-Wis. Churches elevate CP giving from 22 to 32%

November 22 2017 by David Williams, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist

Minnesota Wisconsin Baptists took a leap forward in their goal of forwarding 50 percent of Cooperative Program (CP) receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), jumping from 22 percent this year to 32 percent next year.
With a theme of “Come to Life,” 98 messengers from 40 of the 188 churches in the Minnesota Wisconsin Baptist Convention (MWBC) gathered for the MWBC’s 34th annual meeting Oct. 27 28 at the new facilities of Layton Avenue Baptist Church in Greenfield, Wis.
It was in May 2010 that the MWBC Executive Board made the decision to increase the percentage of CP sent to SBC national and international missions and ministry by a half-percent a year until the 50 percent goal is reached.
The convention’s messengers have approved budgets each year that have kept that pledge, in good times and in bad, even increasing the pace four years ago:

  • 2011, from 13 to 13.5 percent of anticipated CP gifts of $496,303
  • 2012, from 13.5 to 14 percent of anticipated CP gifts of $534,162
  • 2013, from 14 to 14.5 percent of anticipated CP gifts of $475,000
  • 2014, from 14.5 to 15 percent of anticipated CP gifts of $461,500
  • 2015, from 15 to 17 percent of anticipated CP gifts of $440,000
  • 2016, from 17 to 20 percent of anticipated CP gifts of $468,000
  • 2017, from 20 to 22 percent of anticipated CP gifts of $470,000
  • 2018, from 22 to 32 percent of anticipated CP gifts of $544,000

Messengers approved the 2018 budget of $1,448,770, a 7 percent increase over 2017’s $1,352,291. The convention anticipates receiving about 37.5 percent of its budget – $544,000 – from the churches through the Cooperative Program. Other sources of income include the North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, special missions offerings and interest.

Photo by Kelly Jones, MWBC
Leo Endel, left, receives a plaque honoring his 15 years of service as the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention’s executive director from Jackie Hill, right, MWBC president, as Tony Gulbrandsen, MWBC first vice president, looks on.

Leo Endel was honored during the meeting for 15 years as MWBC executive director, while Bob Smith was honored for 30 years of work in the convention as “collegiate mentor, leader, friend, church planter and pastor.”
Endel, in addition to leading the MWBC, is senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, Minn., and teaches doctoral classes in leadership for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned his doctor of ministry degree in 2012 and was named alumnus of the year in 2014.
Before leading the Minnesota-Wisconsin convention, Endel was senior pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, from 1991-2002. He holds a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and an undergraduate finance and business management degree from Central Missouri State University. He and his wife Sarah have two daughters.
Smith, in his longstanding service within the convention, currently is the MWBC’s student ministry catalyst, associate director of missions for the Twin Cities Baptist Association and pastor of Jacob’s Well Church in Minneapolis.

Prayer & unity

Endel challenged the convention’s churches to begin 2018 together with 40 Days of Prayer and distributed 3,000 copies of a devotional prayer guide to be used during the emphasis.
He shared 10 “signs your church is in trouble” and encouraged churches that observe any of the signs to “get off the bench and get back into the game.”
Endel said MWBC would help churches follow the 40 Days of Prayer with a two-and-a-half-hour strategy planning process to help each church develop a plan for revitalization.
Roy Hopgood, pastor of Mt. Horeb Baptist Church in Milwaukee, preached the Friday evening keynote address, urging people of all backgrounds to work together.
“God created one humanity and watched as we divided ourselves by geography, socio-economically, culturally, by belief, race, nationality, age, career, even music,” Hopgood said. “Division is in our sin nature. We can’t get along so we divide. It seems easier to divide than to find common ground.”
Hopgood cautioned against judging others who do not speak evil of Christ and for Christians to be kind to other followers of Jesus Christ.
“I learned from the United States Marine Corps that working together, teamwork, is a matter of life and death,” Hopgood said. “As a state trooper, if I got in a tight situation, all I had to do was grab my radio and call out 1078 – officer needs assistance. Immediately troopers would come to my aid.”
Hopgood asked convention attendees, “Pastors, ministers, church planters, are you feeling all alone? If that’s you tonight, all you need to do is send out a text – 1078.”
Referring to the current controversy about athletes kneeling instead of standing during the national anthem, Hopgood said, “All of this talk over flags, standing and kneeling – I say to you as believers we must stand together and kneel together. Not in protest, but in prayer.”
Messengers approved a new five year partnership with the Missouri Baptist Convention to “promote the expansion of the Kingdom of God and the mutual encouragement of our people on mission.” As described to messengers, the partnership will provide opportunities for both state conventions and their churches to become intentionally and consistently involved in Kingdom work in another geographical area. And it is intended to be mutual and reciprocal, with both parties seeking ways to help each other more effectively reach people for Jesus.
All current officers were reelected: president, Jackie Hill, pastor of Roseville (Minn.) Baptist Church; vice president, Tony Gulbrandsen, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Racine, Wis.; second vice president, Chris Heng, pastor of TwinCity Hmong Baptist Church in St. Paul; recording secretary, Wes Shemwell, member of Brown Deer Baptist Church in Madison, Wis.; and assistant recording secretary, Jim Gress, member of Southtown Baptist Church in Bloomington, Minn.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 26-27, 2018, at Southtown Baptist Church in Bloomington, Minn.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Williams is editor of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist, news journal of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.)

11/22/2017 10:30:55 AM by David Williams, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist | with 0 comments

SBC Virginia decries racism in Charlottesville resolution

November 21 2017 by SBCV staff

Nearly 1,500 people traveled to the 2017 Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) Annual Homecoming with the theme “We Are Not Alone,” Nov. 12-14 at The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights.

Photo courtesy of SBCV
Brian Autry, left, executive director of the SBC of Virginia, joins with the convention’s new officers, from Autrey’s left: Tim Ma, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Manasas, secretary; Emery Minton, pastor of Christian Life Fellowship in Jonesville, second vice president; Allen McFarland, pastor of Calvary Evangelical Baptist Church in Portsmouth, first vice president; and Eric Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk, president.

The three-day SBCV event, which drew 701 messengers and 738 guests, took aim at “every form of racism, including and specifically alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” in a resolution that voiced “love and compassion to those in Charlottesville” devastated by the loss of life at a white supremacist rally Aug. 12.
And the homecoming celebrated SBCV’s 15 years in disaster relief ministry, presenting the North American Mission Board (NAMB) with a $100,000 check for the Puerto Rico disaster relief initiative by NAMB’s Send Relief following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
Before the business meeting began, 418 volunteers from 24 churches and two colleges gathered in Petersburg for the SBC of Virginia crossover event, “Bless Petersburg,” a collaborative effort involving city and school officials for A.P. Hill Elementary and Robert E. Lee Elementary schools. Mission projects, which yielded more than 60 gospel conversations, included painting, landscaping, a soccer clinic and working with the local fire department and Red Cross to install 100 smoke detectors.
“We are ecstatic!” said Marcus Newsome, superintendent for Petersburg City Schools. “This has been an answer to prayer. It has been my hope since I arrived here just a little over a year ago to get the community involved in making a difference.”

‘Not alone’

Brian Autry, SBCV executive director, noted to the homecoming, “The power of churches not alone is seen as churches are strengthened and mobilized, planted and revitalized. This results in more disciples made, more locations and nations reached.”
Keynote speakers, who likewise reminded messengers and guests they are not alone in the Great Commission, included Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board; Alex Himaya, senior pastor of in Tulsa, Okla.; Don Wilton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C.; Bryan Carter, senior pastor of Concord Church in Dallas; and the SBCV’s outgoing president, Bryan Smith, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Roanoke, Va.
“The emphasis on biblical, gospel preaching and teaching brought by those who spoke in each session was yet another reminder why we’re truly thankful to be a part of the SBCV family,” Smith said after the meeting.

Photo courtesy of SBCV
Brian Autry, SBCV executive director, underscores the “We Are Not Alone” theme of the SBCV 2017 Annual Homecoming as “churches are strengthened and mobilized, planted and revitalized … more disciples made, more locations and nations reached.”

Ezell shared in his message Sunday night that SBCV churches through the Cooperative Program are part of aiding First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, after the shooting that killed 26 people on Nov. 5, with NAMB providing funds to take care of funeral expenses for families who were impacted. Ezell also thanked the SBCV for its partnership in disaster relief.
A special lunch reception was held in honor of the thousands of SBCV volunteers from nearly 200 churches who have served in disaster relief since the convention’s entry into disaster relief (DR) ministry 15 years ago. SBCV DR has provided well over 1 million meals to the hungry, worked in thousands of homes and helped lead hundreds to Jesus Christ. David Melber, vice president for Send Relief at NAMB, was the guest speaker. Autry, along with Mark Gauthier, SBCV Disaster Relief director, presented NAMB with a check for $100,000 for disaster relief in Puerto Rico.
“Words simply are not adequate to express our thankfulness for the SBCV as key partners with NAMB and Send Relief,” Melber said. “SBCV is a powerful leader for the [Southern Baptist Convention] in challenging us to be on mission and to demonstrate that as Southern Baptists we are not alone, but we are a part of a large family.”
“The dedication and passion with which these volunteers serve is incredible,” Gauthier said. “They give up time and comfort to sleep on air mattresses, work in extremely difficult conditions – heat, cold, wind and rain – all for the opportunity to share the love that Christ has for each one of us.”
For Eric Thomas, pastor of First Norfolk Baptist Church in Norfolk, “One of the most encouraging moments of our homecoming was the celebration of [SBCV] churches giving more than $500,000 for disaster relief to those devastated by hurricanes [in 2017]. We are truly known as belonging to Jesus by our love.”

‘Unified voice’ on racism

Seven resolutions were unanimously approved during the business meeting. A standing ovation from messengers took place after Resolution #7 was read, titled “On Charlottesville and the Sin of Racism,” to decry every form of racism and the need to share God’s love.
Rob Pochek, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlottesville and chairman of the Resolutions Committee, said he believed it “absolutely essential that our state convention denounce the deadly violence of white supremacists in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017.”
“It is something quite different for 718 churches to speak with a unified voice, not only to condemn what happened over the summer in Charlottesville, but to speak clearly and unequivocally about the sinful nature of racism and our repudiation of it,” Pochek said. “Because these events happened in Virginia, it was particularly important that we speak to them as a convention at our first opportunity. And that is what we did.”
“The unanimous support of the resolution on the evil of racism was a highlight of the meeting,” said Doug Echols, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Yorktown and SBCV Executive Board chairman. “[This] affirms our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ being shared with every man and woman regardless of their race, nationality or ethnicity.”
The resolution voiced sorrow over the Aug. 12 deaths of Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer and of two Virginia state troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, and noted that SBCV churches “denounce and repudiate every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil intended to bring suffering and division to our society.”
White supremacist movements and the alt-right are “influencing public discourse in America in ways that are contrary to Christian teaching,” the resolution stated. It acknowledged that “we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst and we repent for failing to do so sooner.”
Other SBCV resolutions called for prayer for the president, other elected leaders, the armed forces and the people of Sutherland Springs and voiced renewed commitment to the key doctrines of the Protestant Reformation, which marked its 500th anniversary on Oct. 31.

Budget & elections

The SBCV’s 2018 Ministry Investment Plan (MIP or budget) was approved at $9.704 million, an increase from the 2017 MIP of $9.675 million. Anticipated Cooperative Program (CP) gifts for 2018 are $9.3 million, an increase from the 2017 CP of $9.2 million, while the remaining $404,000 of the budget involve gifts from SBCV partners.
The SBCV continues to provide 51 percent of its total budget for Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program missions and ministries and 49 percent for Virginia Cooperative Program causes. Additionally, a budget provision of 3.26 percent for shared expenses was made for Cooperative Program resourcing.
In 2017, the SBCV received its largest Cooperative Program, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and Vision Virginia (SBCV missions) gifts in the 21-year history of the convention. To date, the SBCV Vision Virginia offering stands at more than $333,000, the highest total in its history.
Elected as SBCV officers for 2018 were Eric Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk, as president; Allen McFarland, pastor of Calvary Evangelical Baptist Church in Portsmouth, first vice president; Emery Minton, pastor of Christian Life Fellowship in Jonesville, second vice president; and Tim Ma, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Manassas, secretary.
Thomas said he is “honored to serve alongside such Christ-exalting, gospel-advancing, church-multiplying leaders such as Brian Autry and his team along with the family of churches in [SBCV].”
“It’s been one of the true highlights and privileges to have served as convention president,” Smith said as the outgoing president. “I wish every SBCV pastor had the joy of getting to know so many of our fellow SBCV pastors and convention staff as have I during my time of service. We are indeed truly blessed to belong to a very special ministry and mission family of faith as the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia!”

Cooperative ministry

Autry, in his report on Monday evening, noted that through biblical truth and SBCV resources, churches are not alone.
“This is not cooperation for cooperation sake,” Autry said. “This is cooperation because souls depend on it.”
“Messengers and guests were able to witness multiple stories of God at work and the gospel being proclaimed through the Great Commission coalition of churches known as the [SBCV],” Autrey said. “The one true God, empowering His people to proclaim the only name by which one can be saved – the name of Jesus.”
Messengers approved 18 new affiliations that brought the total of SBCV churches to 718. Phil Stevens, pastor of one of the new affiliations, Winfall Baptist Church in Gladys, said, “Today we were officially voted in as the newest member of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. This is a big win for all of us. As we now give money to our association we now give money to organizations, groups, missionaries around the world that believe as we do. Every single dollar that we send out now reflects the values of our congregation.”
Other opportunities at the 2017 Annual Homecoming included 11 breakout seminars; a women’s ministry dinner featuring author Annie B. Garman; a Great Commission-focused dinner with Chuck Lawless, vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers and dean of doctoral studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; and multiple dessert fellowships, including one focused on church planting.
Avalon, three-time Grammy-nominated, American Music Award and Dove Award winning Christian group, performed Sunday night in a special concert. Their well-known song “Testify to Love” brought a standing ovation at the end of their performance.
“The SBCV Annual Homecoming was a refreshing time of encouragement, challenge and commitment to the mission of God in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the world,” Echols said. “The theme of ‘Not Alone’ is a great reminder that in our partnership of churches, we can do more together than we can ever do alone. I am thankful for the unity and passion of the SBCV leadership, pastors and churches to impact the state of Virginia and the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In a time when our country seems to be more divided than ever, it was refreshing to be in a meeting with such unity and common purpose.”
“The [SBCV] churches experience the power of not alone because Jesus does not leave us or forsake us,” Autry said. “He has empowered His church with His Spirit to proclaim the gospel of Christ.”
Resources from the 2017 SBCV Annual Homecoming can be found at
The 2018 Annual Homecoming, with the theme “They Are Not Alone,” is scheduled for Nov. 11-13 at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by Ishmael LaBiosa, director of communications for the SBCV, and Brandon Pickett, the convention’s associate executive director.)

11/21/2017 8:23:43 AM by SBCV staff | with 0 comments

400 S.C. Baptists ‘Unite’ for citywide evangelism

November 21 2017 by Butch Blume, The Baptist Courier

Gathering under the banner of “Unite,” messengers to the 197th annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC) sang, prayed, conducted business and fanned out across the city of Columbia for a “One Day” missions and evangelism effort.

Photo by Burnie Flake, Baptist Courier
Volunteers mobilize for an evangelistic initiative across Columbia, S.C., during the state convention’s annual meeting, prayerwalking the South Carolina statehouse as well as multiple college campuses, handing out Bibles, visiting patients at a V.A. hospital, distributing coats to the needy, leading evangelistic block parties for children and singing at a men’s prison, among other projects.

Keith Shorter, SCBC president and pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley, opened the Tuesday morning session of the Nov. 7-8 meeting by encouraging Christ’s followers to unite as one “so that … a lost and divided world may believe that God sent [Jesus].”
“Serving is not easy or convenient,” Shorter said at the conclusion of the morning session. “But just ask the people you serve if it matters. Go love people like God loves them. You’re going to get your hands dirty, but you’re going to make a difference in somebody’s life.”
More than 400 messengers and other volunteers then exited the auditorium of Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia and filed out to the parking lot where they reconstituted in small groups around handheld blue signs designating their assignments.
After lunching on Chick-fil-A meals, the volunteers dispersed to 24 service sites where they prayerwalked the South Carolina statehouse as well as multiple college campuses, handed out Bibles, visited patients at a V.A. hospital, distributed coats to the needy, led evangelistic block parties for children and sang at a men’s prison, among other projects.
On Tuesday evening, volunteers returned to Shandon Baptist for an evening of worship and celebration. Shorter grew emotional while reporting that eight people (a number that grew to 11 by the next day) accepted Christ as part of the One Day outreach.
In all, 457 South Carolina Baptists participated in One Day. As a result, “11 people stepped over from death into life,” Shorter told messengers on Wednesday.

Budget, resolutions & elections

Messengers approved a $28 million Cooperative Program budget for 2018, down $500,000 from last year’s spending plan. Talmadge Tobias, chairman of the convention’s budget, finance & audit committee, noted to messengers that the last time receipts exceeded budgeted needs was 2012. Income has ranged from $27.3 million to $27.5 million over the last five years at a time when the SCBC annual budget was $28.5 million. “This is a more realistic budget,” Tobias said.
Messengers adopted the 2018 budget without debate. Forty-one percent of projected receipts will be forwarded to Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries; 4.5 percent will go directly to the International Mission Board; and 54.5 percent will remain in South Carolina to support SCBC ministries and the convention’s seven institution ministry partners. The distribution of SCBC funds remains unchanged from last year.
Messengers adopted a slate of resolutions, including expressing opposition to all expressions of hatred; approval for the work of South Carolina Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers and staff members; opposition to the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana; commitment to repentance and fervent prayer for revival and spiritual awakening; and appreciation to Shandon Baptist Church and those involved in planning the annual meeting.

Photo by Burnie Flake, Baptist Courier
Elected as officers of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, front row from left: David Dinkins, registration secretary; Marshall Blalock, president; Frances Miller, recording secretary, and, back row from left, Mike Runion, first vice president; Josh McClendon, second vice president; and Bryant Sims, president-elect.

In the resolution on hatred, messengers opposed “any and all forms of hatred, declaring such displays as unchristian,” noting the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
South Carolina Baptists resolved “to be leaders in their respective communities through practicing love, respect, and a Christ-like attitude in order to approach all hurting individuals with the life-giving hope found only in a personal relationship with the Son of God.”
The full text of the resolutions is available at
Messengers elected officers by acclamation and without opposition on Wednesday morning during the annual meeting’s final session. Marshall Blalock, pastor of Charleston First Baptist Church, who was chosen as president-elect at last year’s meeting, will serve as SCBC president during the coming year under the theme of “Building Bridges.”
Bryant Sims, pastor of First Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Greenwood, was elected as president-elect.
Other newly elected officers for 2018 are: first vice president, Mike Runion, pastor of City View First Baptist Church in Greenville; second vice president, Josh McClendon, pastor of Philippi Baptist Church in Johnston; recording secretary, Frances Miller, member of Hulon Baptist Church in Batesburg; and registration secretary, David Dinkins, pastor of Center Baptist Church in Hemingway.
John Goudelock, chairman of the SCBC’s Executive Board, updated messengers on the status of the proposed sale of the convention’s White Oak Conference Center in Fairfield County. He reported that the Executive Board has signed an intent-to-sell contract with a group of investors seeking to purchase White Oak for $5.4 million for the purpose of establishing a charter school. The group has 24 months to secure funding through grants and other sources. Goudelock said the convention’s summer programs, including SummerSalt and KidsSalt, will be held at White Oak in 2018 without interruption.
Messengers heard the first reading of a proposed bylaw change to require all nominees for Executive Board membership or trusteeship of the convention’s seven institutions to “affirm [in writing] and reflect in practice” the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the mission and vision of the state convention and “sacrificial support” for Great Commission Giving, including the Cooperative Program. The second reading of the proposed change and a vote will be next year.
The convention’s Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee presented awards to Spartanburg First Baptist Church; South Carolina Law Enforcement Division chief Mark Keel; and former SCBC director of public policy Mark Hendrick.
Messengers heard detailed reports from SCBC executive director-treasurer Gary Hollingsworth and convention staff as well as reports from leaders of the seven SCBC-affiliated institutions.
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, delivered the keynote address on Tuesday night of the annual meeting. “Living on mission is about gospel conversations,” Ezell told messengers in a sermon based on the parable of the sower in Mark 4. “The seed is God’s Word – the gospel we are to share,” he said. “Sharing the gospel is not always convenient, but we must always be obedient.”
The messenger count for this year’s annual meeting was 611, down from last year’s 756 and the lowest-attended meeting since 1944. Messengers represented 311 of the SCBC’s more than 2,100 churches.
Next year’s annual meeting will be held Nov. 13-14 at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, a historically African American fellowship.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Butch Blume is managing editor of The Baptist Courier, news journal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)

11/21/2017 8:20:24 AM by Butch Blume, The Baptist Courier | with 0 comments

SBTC messengers encouraged in wake of Harvey, tragedy

November 21 2017 by Southern Baptist Texan staff

Gathering Nov. 13-14 in Dallas around the Ephesians 4-inspired theme of “Belong,” the messenger count for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s (SBTC) annual meeting was its largest since 2008.

Photo courtesy of Southern Baptist TEXAN
Tony Evans, popular author and pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, took the stage Nov. 14 for the final sermon of SBTC’s annual meeting. Photo courtesy of Southern Baptist TEXAN.

Officers set out to design an environment of encouragement for pastors. And it couldn’t have come at a better time than in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the most deadly church shooting in American history a week prior in Sutherland Springs.
A series of eight sermons preached sequentially through Ephesians 4 and part of chapter five featured Juan Sanchez of Austin, Nathan Lino of Humble, Andrew Hebert of Amarillo, J. R. Vassar of Grapevine, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards of Keller, Criswell College President Barry Creamer of Dallas and Josh Smith of Irving.
SBTC officers crafted breakout sessions that gathered pastors and laypeople in small groups based on their location in Texas and the size of their churches. Before leaving each discussion, participants exchanged contact information with at least one other person in order to develop a supportive relationship for future ministry.
“We wanted our pastors to go home invigorated and re-inspired, believing that the Holy Spirit is for them and with them,” said Lino, who served as SBTC president the past two years.
Messengers and guests packed Ruth Chapel on the campus of Criswell College for worship led by musicians from Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble and Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano and a series of expositional sermons from Ephesians. They also handled the business of electing new officers and approved a budget, committee recommendations, nine resolutions and a few other matters.
Couples offered scripture readings and prayer during each of the sessions, including Shanon and Sophia Thomas of Rockwall Friendship Baptist Church in Royse City, Pete and Niha Raiborde from The Lighthouse Church International Ministries in Coppell, Donald and Lisa Tittle from First Baptist Church of Flower Mound and Ryan and Heather Fontenot from The Mount in Keller.
In addition to worship through music, the reading of scripture and expository preaching, messengers and guests took part in auxiliary meetings, alumni gatherings and after-hours fellowships. They also heard reports from the ministries churches support all year through their gifts to the Cooperative Program, the funding mechanism Southern Baptist churches use to accomplish missions and ministries in the state and around the world.
The Nov. 14 afternoon session compresses the business that is indispensable to the work of the convention as messengers set the future course for their cooperative ministries.


Photo courtesy of Southern Baptist TEXAN
Mike Gonzales, SBTC director of Hispanic Ministries, left to right, discusses pastoral ministry with pastor Jerry Vincent of Elmcrest Baptist Church, Abilene, and pastor Michael Cooper of Grace Community Church, Mabank during a Nov. 14 “Belong Group” breakout session at the SBTC annual meeting.

Resolutions addressed prayer for First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, gender identity, sexual harassment, the ministerial housing allowance, adoption tax credit, the centrality of scripture and Hurricane Harvey, while also expressing appreciation for Lino’s leadership and the hospitality and generosity of Criswell College and others whom God used “to bring about a meeting characterized by evangelism, worship and true Christian fellowship.”


Messengers approved a 2018 budget of $28,880,178, a 2.56 percent increase from the current year. This budget is funded by $28,528,178 in Cooperative Program gifts and $352,000 from partnerships with the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources.
The convention continues to send 55 percent of its budget for Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program ministries – the highest percentage of any Baptist state convention – while designating 45 percent for Cooperative Program ministries in Texas.


Tellers accounted for 1,040 messengers and 225 guests with several hundred more in attendance who did not register.
Forty-three Southern Baptists from small, medium and large churches were approved as new members of the Executive Board, committees addressing missions, evangelism, church ministries, ethics and religious liberty, pastor/church relations, credentials and order of business, or on boards of Criswell College, Jacksonville College, Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation and Texas Baptist Home for Children. In total, 150 pastors and laypeople from affiliated churches serve throughout the year on SBTC committees and related boards, and another 39 serve on committees that function during the annual meeting.


With the devastation leading up to the SBTC annual convention – a hurricane that destroyed communities and a horrific shooting that devastated a congregation – Lino in his message as SBTC president called pastors to remember the purpose of preaching.
Drawing from Ephesians 4:7-16, he said God’s gifts to believers, when used in concert, are designed to build up the body and mature a congregation into the fullness of Christ. And a pastor’s preaching is among those gifts.
“The greatest gift is to become more and more like Jesus Christ – not one day when we die and go to heaven, but here and now in this world that is under the curse of sin,” Lino said.
Referencing Numbers 22, Lino said it should amaze no one that the God who chose to speak through Balaam’s donkey also chose to speak through weak and sinful humans.
“God wants to display His glory in this world,” he said. “He wants to maximize His glory in this world and He says in His word His glory is most maximized when He displays it through the weakest creatures. And He chose us to preach,” Lino said. “Just think about that.”
Tony Evans, popular author and pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, took the stage Nov. 14 for the annual meeting’s final sermon. Evans praised Southern Baptists for continuing to hold “the torch high for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and staying “tethered tightly to the truths of the text of scripture.”
Calling ecclesiology – the doctrine of the church – his “passion,” he characterized Ephesians as “an ecclesiological document,” applicable to personal life yet dealing with the church, noting the apostle Paul’s frequent use of the word “church” or its synonyms throughout the letter.
The church is first mentioned by Jesus, “its head and creator,” in Matthew 16, Evans said, referencing Jesus’ conversation with his disciples by calling them the “Galilean Baptist Convention.”
“Who do y’all say the Son of man is?” Evans loosely translated verse 13, noting the plural form of the Greek word for “you” to explain that both question and answer, “upon this rock I will build my church,” were directed to the whole group, not just Peter, who received a name change and promotion from Simon (“pebble”) to Petros (“rock”).
Jesus did not imply that he would build his church upon one man, Evans said, but a “collection of stones minted together to form a larger cliff, rock or slab.”
Basing his message on Ephesians 4:25, J. R. Vassar, pastor of Church at the Cross in Grapevine, challenged listeners to view the church as a place of truth, restoration and generosity as he delivered the convention sermon.
“Christianity is not primarily about a new start; it’s actually about a new self,” not experienced from the “outside-in,” but “from the inside-out,” Vassar said.
In the “new community” formed by the God of Jews and Gentiles, regardless of race, socioeconomic status or geography, “the church stands as a sign to the world of the truth of the gospel,” Vassar said.
“It’s not enough to simply stop sinning,” Vassar said, adding that Christians must “grow in virtue,” seeing people as Jesus sees them.
For example, the tongue can “bring righteousness to life” when instead of gossiping, it spreads news of Jesus.

2018 meeting

Next year’s SBTC annual meeting celebrates the 20th anniversary of the founding of SBTC by returning to Houston Nov. 12-13 to meet at Second Baptist Church North. Messengers at this year’s meeting approved Jordan Rogers, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Nederland,to deliver the convention sermon, with Jacob Fitzgerald, pastor of Denman Avenue Baptist Church in Lufkin, as the alternate.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tammi Ledbetter, Bonnie Pritchett, Jane Rogers and Bill Bumpas contributed to this report for the Southern Baptist TEXAN,, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

11/21/2017 8:16:48 AM by Southern Baptist Texan staff | with 0 comments

Atonement sparks discussion at NOBTS forum

November 21 2017 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

New Testament scholars N.T. Wright and Simon Gathercole addressed the meaning of the atonement at the 14th annual Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum, Nov. 10-11, at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS).

Photo by Chandler McCall
N.T. Wright, left, and Simon Gathercole discuss the meaning of the atonement during the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Nov. 10.

The question considered was whether substitution – the view that Christ died in the place of sinners – is enough to communicate the full meaning of atonement.
In a departure from previous Greer-Heard forums, this year’s event featured conservative Christian speakers who agree on the doctrines that all Christians, Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox affirm.
Wright, former Bishop of Durham for the Church of England and a leading New Testament theologian, cautioned against reducing the atonement to a single summary statement such as Christ’s death means believers “can go to heaven.”
Wright called for seeing the atonement as “shorthand” for the full biblical story of redemption history and new creation. Wright noted the gospels are primary witnesses to the meaning of Jesus’ death; any model of atonement that stands alone becomes “wooden and disjointed;” Jesus’ death during Passover is key and showed that the Last Supper replaced the temple sacrificial system and was Jesus’ final interpretation of his death; and that understanding these points should change how atonement is depicted.
Affirming that Jesus’ death broke sin’s power, defeated the powers of darkness and reconciled the world to God, Wright cautioned that reducing the atonement to “God needed to kill someone and it happened to be his own son” is a pagan idea imported into today’s thinking.
“When we look back at the long history of atonement theology, especially in the west, we find three things: we have Platonized our eschatology; moralized our anthropology; and therefore we have paganized our soteriology,” Wright said.
Paul’s argument is instead about how God rescues and renews His creation, Wright said, adding that “the ‘getting to heaven’ narrative, which is still massively popular and influential, is the teaching of middle Platonism, not the Bible; you’ll find it in Plutarch, not in Paul.”
Wright warned that today’s culture thinks Christianity teaches that an angry God had to be assuaged, a teaching Wright called “a lurch toward … pagan narratives in which an angry God demands an innocent victim.”
Instead, a “robust Trinitarian theology” is needed to show that Jesus’ death radically changed the world and restored the vocation assigned to humans in Genesis 1, 2 and 3, Wright explained.
Disavowing any theology that teaches only “what people would like to hear,” Wright concluded, “The scandal of the cross remains a scandal, but at least let’s get the scandal right.”
Wright is author of the recent work on the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began.

A defense of substitution

Substitution is integral to the gospel, Gathercole contended in his response.
Gathercole, Cambridge University New Testament scholar and author of Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul, drew first from Ezekiel chapters 33 and 34 as examples of scripture’s consistent witness regarding God’s saving activity – “liberation and on the other side, forgiveness of sins.”
The two themes cannot be separated, Gathercole said.
Gathercole pointed to the phrase “according to scriptures” in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, then returned to the Old Testament to show that scripture also links disobedience and death.
Drawing from 1 Kings 16:8-19, Gathercole noted that the “formula” describing King Zimri’s sin in the Greek Septuagint is similar to the formula Paul used in writing to the Corinthians. In the passage, King Zimri usurps Israel’s King Asa’s throne.
“King Zimri died for his owns sins,” Gathercole noted. “That’s the link between sin and death. The miracle of the gospel is that this link between sin and death has been broken. Christ died for our sins.
Substitution is at the heart of the gospel. Christ died so that we don’t have to.”
Paul tapped into the substitutionary language of Isaiah 53 in his Corinthians letter and provided a link between substitution and forgiveness, Gathercole said. He explained that the Suffering Servant died both “in consequence of [others’] sins and in order to deal with them,” adding “The Corinthians don’t have to die because Jesus did.”
Gathercole noted the stark contrast between examples of substitutionary death for “worthy” persons in pagan literature and Paul’s emphasis in Romans 5 of Christ dying for the “unworthy.”
Paul touches on a “life for life exchange,” Gathercole said, adding that Romans 5 points to the main tenets of the gospel: “justification through Christ’s blood, salvation and reconciliation.”
In the concluding exchange, Gathercole praised Wright for providing a comprehensive framework for the atonement, but questioned whether Wright gave a restored “vocation” for humans and a “restoration of the cosmos” too central a focus.
Wright answered by appealing to Revelation 5 to where the redeemed are made “kings and priests” and to Romans 8 to show that now that the power of sin is broken, humans are free to be as God’s image-bearers, as God intended.
“The doctrine of the atonement stands at the center of Christianity,” said Robert Stewart, Greer-Heard Forum director. “N. T. Wright’s expansive book on the doctrine says that we have made too little of this doctrine. Not everyone will agree with him but everyone must take him seriously. He affirms a substitutionary atonement but not necessarily in the traditional way, and brings to our attention other things to see in the death of Christ. In short, Wright declares that this world really is a different sort of place, a better place, because Christ died for sinners.”
Second-day forum speakers included Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary; Douglas Moo of Wheaton College; Edith Humphrey of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary; and Kevin Vanhoozer of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Event material is available at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

11/21/2017 8:14:24 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments

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