November 2017

Gardner-Webb announces new president

February 14 2019 by GWU Communications

The Gardner-Webb University (GWU) Board of Trustees announced Feb. 13 that William M. Downs has been named the institution’s 13th president. He currently serves at East Carolina University (ECU) as the dean of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences in Greenville, N.C.

Board members unanimously confirmed his appointment at a special meeting, capping a highly competitive one-year national search. His term as GWU president begins July 1.
According to David Royster III, GWU Board of Trustees member and chairman of the Presidential Search Committee, the new president has significant leadership experience and understands higher education on multiple levels. “He has served as a faculty member, department chair, program director and dean,” Royster noted. “The Board of Trustees has faith that Gardner-Webb will thrive and continue to provide transformative opportunities for students under his guidance.”
With more than two decades of service in higher education, Downs has been at ECU since 2014. He is the W. Keats Sparrow Distinguished Chair in the Liberal Arts and a professor of political science. He administers 16 academic departments and 17 interdisciplinary degree programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, which has more than 6,000 arts and sciences undergraduate majors and more than 730 graduate majors. Downs also ensures the quality of general education curriculum for more than 23,000 undergraduate students. Working with his colleagues, he has introduced several initiatives to improve undergraduate research and international study opportunities.
“I am truly honored by the privilege and opportunity of serving as Gardner-Webb University’s next president” Downs said. ”So many things have attracted me and brought me to this moment...GWU’s mission and underlying values, its people and programs, and its rich traditions of excellence.  Together, we will have the chance to write a new chapter in the history of one of North Carolina’s great universities.  I cannot wait to get started.” 
From 1997 to 2014, Downs served various roles at Georgia State University (Atlanta), including area dean, department chair, director and professor. He is an accomplished lecturer, research scholar and the author of Political Extremism in Democracies: Combating Intolerance. He has been a research fellow at Harvard University’s Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, a graduate research associate at the Carter Center’s African Governance Program and a Fulbright Research Fellow in Belgium.
The search committee worked in conjunction with the Charlotte-based executive search firm Coleman Lew + Associates, Inc. to help in the search process. Members of the Presidential Search Committee include trustees, GWU faculty and staff, and a student representative.
“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Downs to Gardner-Webb” said Jennifer Marion Mills, chair of the Board of Trustees. “He brings academic depth, significant leadership experience and vision to the position. We expect great things ahead.”
A Raleigh native, Downs earned his bachelor of arts in political science, with a minor in journalism, from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, in 1988, and his master of arts (‘90) and doctoral (‘94) degrees in political science from Emory University, Atlanta. Downs is married to Kimberly Harwood Downs and has two children, Rachel and Bradley.

2/14/2019 10:06:32 AM by GWU Communications | with 0 comments

Facebook expands church plant’s community connections

February 14 2019 by Rebecca Manry, SBC LIFE

Everyone craves connections – a truth that Living Stone Community Church has embraced by using Facebook to minister to their community.

Photo by Whitney Clayton
Building on their Facebook contacts, Ali and Whitney Clayton organize a block party for their neighborhood, assisted by a mission team from First Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn.

Facebook can be an important tool in getting to know neighbors and pointing them to Christ, said Ali Clayton, wife of church planter Whitney Clayton.
“We mainly use social media to get a pulse on our community,” she said. “People will put what they care about, what they’re going through, how they’re hurting on Facebook. So we’ve used it to connect personally to people.”
Sometimes, Facebook opens up opportunities for ministry.
Her husband met a man in their area of Mesa, Ariz., and made it a point to add him as a friend on Facebook. Later, he learned through Facebook that the man was going through some traumatic events – a death in the family and a car accident. The Claytons were able to take the family a meal, and as Whitney helped the man process his grief, he was able to share the gospel on three different occasions.
“I don’t know that [Whitney] would have known about all that was going on in that guy’s life had he not been friends with him on Facebook,” Ali said.
And Facebook can help start new relationships. Church members have used neighborhood pages and interest-based clubs on Facebook, such as fitness groups or book clubs, to meet people.
Ali joined a local mom’s group through Facebook when her family first moved to the area about three years ago. She built friendships during their weekly gatherings while their children played together and became especially close to one of the women in the group.
One day, the woman told Ali that her father had died, and her son was asking questions about heaven that she wasn’t prepared to answer. Knowing that Ali was a Christian, she asked if she could attend church with her. The woman subsequently became a follower of Christ and has remained active in their church.
Of course, using Facebook is not always a positive experience, with its potential to bring out some of the worst aspects of a person’s character, like narcissism, deception and jealousy.
Rather than using it as a platform for self-importance or broadcasting one’s feelings and opinions, Ali said, “I think that as believers on mission for God, Facebook can be used best when we have a posture of listening, and hearing from the lost people in our lives.”
Don’t just listen and be a “passive observer,” she counseled. If someone is struggling, reach out and offer Christ’s love to the person in need.
Ali said church members are always ready to deliver meals; whenever they hear about a family with a new baby, a death in the family or another life event, they are willing to step in and serve.
The Claytons make it a priority to open their home in order to build community with their neighbors and care for them. They host a weekly dinner that they regularly invite neighbors to attend. They also host a community Bible study open to anyone, which began after a suggestion on their neighborhood’s Facebook group.

Photo courtesy of Ali Clayton
Whitney and Ali Clayton, with their four children, reach out to their community through Facebook, a weekly dinner for neighbors and a community Bible study.

Maintaining a strong walk with the Lord is essential when ministering through hospitality, Ali said.
“I have four young kids – the oldest is 7 – so even keeping our house picked up and thinking about feeding our own family can be overwhelming at times,” she said.
“To think of inviting other people into that on a regular basis can be draining if I’m not connected to the Lord and really having Him fill me, so I can continue to pour out.”
Usually when a church is looking to establish a Facebook presence, or build up their existing presence, the advice centers around a few best practices: maintain a page with up-to-date information. Post content frequently that informs, inspires and encourages people in their walk with Christ. Promote major church events.
Yet Facebook has even more to offer to individuals interested in connecting more deeply with the people around them.
A good way to start making those connections, Ali said, is to see if your neighborhood has a Facebook group or page already established. If it does, join. If it doesn’t, start one. But don’t let your involvement stop there; keep in contact with the people in your community and if someone is in need, try to meet that need.
“I think we are all craving meaningful, deep relationships,” Ali said. “Taking [Facebook connections] a step further and meeting those people in person, and becoming friends with your neighbors, is the next step to bringing them into the family of God.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rebecca Manry is communications specialist for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE,, journal of the Executive Committee.)

2/14/2019 9:52:19 AM by Rebecca Manry, SBC LIFE | with 0 comments

Greear addresses SBC response to sexual abuse report

February 13 2019 by Scott Barkley, The Christian Index

In a broad-ranging talk with members of the Association of State Baptist Publications (ASBP), Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear urged Southern Baptists to be a people known for the gospel.

Christian Index photo by Scott Barkley
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear talks with members of the Association of State Baptist Publications Feb. 12.

The meeting, which lasted more than 40 minutes, took place at the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston during the ASBP’s annual meeting.
“This conversation is very complex,” he admitted, referring to a recent investigative report published in the Houston Chronicle about sex abuse in Southern Baptist churches. “… But I also understand this is a time for us to lament and to grieve. I do not believe you can in any way push this aside as an agenda-driven thing put out by the secular media to try to destroy us.”
And even if that were the case, said Greear, it doesn’t allow Southern Baptists to ignore the damage.
“There’s a problem. And we want to respond to this with humility … [and] by owning a wrong. If there is a time and a place to defend ourselves maybe that will come later, but it is not now. We’ll trust God to defend us; we’ll trust God to bring truth to light.”
He acknowledged that it’s likely most churches inadvertently create environments for predators through situations such as lack of training or education. Those environments, he added, become “safer for abusers than they are for victims.” In the cases exhibiting malicious intent to protect an abuser, Greear said Southern Baptists need to be unified on how to handle those situations.

Female-majority council to bring recommendations

Steps to address sexual abuse were developed by a diverse council made up mostly of women, said Greear, and which he will present at Monday’s Executive Committee meeting. He also noted this will be a culmination of meetings begun last July to address sexual abuse in the SBC.
“Nobody timed this,” he said. “The Houston Chronicle article was totally outside of our control. I am grateful that in the providence of God it’s coming around at the same time that we had already originally planned to say, ‘Here’s what we’re doing’ [regarding sexual abuse].”
Right now, he stressed, is a time to hear others out.
“We’ve got a lot more to learn. So let’s learn and listen to victims and advocates … and survivors … so that we can be a gospel witness in this time and reflect the gospel so our churches can be the safest places on the planet for somebody that’s vulnerable.”

‘A gospel people’

Responding to a question from The Index, Greear urged Southern Baptists to refrain from finding ways to explain away the Chronicle report’s findings. “This is not a time for sermonizing, virtue-signaling, posturing, or trying to point out where else it happens,” he said.
“The safety of victims is more important than the reputation of Southern Baptists.”

Greear began his time with the group emphasizing his desire for Southern Baptists to be known as a “gospel people.”
“When people think and talk about us they ought to think and talk about the gospel. That means there has to be some discipline and restraint at what we do because there are a lot of good and important things that can eat up [attention] and we aren’t talking about the thing (the gospel) we’re supposed to be talking about.”

Celebrate, not cause, diversity

Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., also reasserted his desire for the SBC to celebrate diversity “without causing it.”
“By God’s grace we’re one of the more diverse groups of churches in the nation. [Around] 20 percent of our membership is non-Anglo. The North American Mission Board … [President] Kevin Ezell told me that of all the churches they planted last year 62 percent were non-Anglo. I know in North Carolina that number is 65 percent. That’s amazing.”
Greear, however, expressed regret that SBC leadership hasn’t reflected that diversity. The Committee on Committees – to which the SBC president appoints members – is comprised of highly-qualified candidates regardless of ethnicity, he vowed.
“When you first look for someone to recommend for a job, you tend to go with people you know. I don’t think [anything] has been done with malicious intent. We decided to ask people who aren’t in the normal networks but fully-participating, cooperating Southern Baptists. Let’s get membership that reflects who Southern Baptists really are, where we want to go, and who we want to be.”
Leadership input from previously untapped areas, he stated, will make the SBC a stronger messenger for the gospel. His appointments for the Committee on Committees are made up of 45 men and 23 women. The average age is 43 with the youngest being 22 and oldest 73. Half are non-Anglo.
“We need the wisdom and leadership going forward of people who don’t look and think just like us,” Greear said. “We need different voices at the table.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was originally published at Used by permission.)

2/13/2019 10:26:14 AM by Scott Barkley, The Christian Index | with 0 comments

For sex abuse trauma, churches must be ‘trustworthy’

February 13 2019 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Attempted suicide, drug overdoses, hatred of God and ruined teenage years are among the effects of sexual abuse described in a Feb. 11 Houston Chronicle report on sexual abuse among Southern Baptists.
Two Southern Baptist mental health experts say the effects of sexual abuse against children and teenagers are actually worse than the Chronicle described. They also say churches and pastors can mitigate those effects with prompt, biblical and wise responses.
“There are many more” effects of abuse “than the ones listed in the article,” said Chuck Hannaford, a Memphis, Tenn., clinical psychologist. At times, abused children and teens “have fear of being touched. Some get into sexual promiscuity. They can have habit disorders – biting, rocking, pulling their hair out.
“They can be aggressive at times because they’re keeping this stuff in. Self-injuries, behavior [issues], sleep problems. You can go down the list. Everything that is within the diagnostic context of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder they will have,” Hannaford told Baptist Press. “It’s a very traumatic event that can make life-changing negative impacts.”
The Chronicle said its investigation of sexual abuse among Southern Baptists had revealed approximately 380 instances since 1998 – including more than 250 since 2008 – of “those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned.”
The crimes have left more than 700 victims, the newspaper stated.
Citing the Amplified Bible’s rendering of Matthew 18:1-6, Hannaford described children as “trusting, lowly, loving and forgiving.” Abusing children is horrific because it “changes the way they think about themselves, they think about God and they think about relationships. And often these children feel what we call the ‘damaged goods syndrome’ – they feel dirty.”
In the long term, childhood sexual abuse can result in the abused experiencing sexual difficulties in their own marriages, becoming overprotective as parents, keeping other people at arm’s length and even becoming abusers themselves, said Hannaford, who served on the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s Mental Health Advisory Group. At times, victims don’t realize their harmful behaviors stem from the abuse they suffered as children.
Dale Johnson, associate professor of biblical counseling at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated that “everyone” who has suffered abuse “endures some symptom or long-term effect that often takes a while to overcome, because when you’re talking about sexual abuse, it’s so intimate that it touches so many aspects of a person’s being.”
The first way to mitigate the effects of childhood sexual abuse is to report the abuse to law enforcement authorities, Johnson said. Hannaford noted the law in all 50 states requires pastors to report alleged abuse of children.
After proper reports have been made, Johnson said, churches must help victims understand the acts done to them were evil and not their fault. “If we’re condoning [the abuse], their world remains quite confused as to what’s good and what’s evil.”
Churches also must build networks around abuse victims comprising believers “who are supportive, who are caring, who are trustworthy so that we can begin to see true redemption occur for somebody who’s been so violated,” said Johnson, executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. The “ministry of presence” is vital.
Hannaford urged churches to create support groups for sexual abuse victims to communicate love and tell victims they don’t have to feel ashamed of what happened. Care from a local church also should include referral of victims to mental health care providers who can help identify unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Pastors without specialized training in the care of trauma victims should always refer sexual abuse victims to mental health care professionals and not try to provide all necessary care themselves, Hannaford said. Approaching abuse with a “hyper-spiritual focus” or lack of training can set back a victim’s recovery.
“Most of the time,” Hannaford said, individuals who were sexually abused as children or teens will require “months of regular counseling, sometimes years” depending on “the intensity of the treatment” that may be needed.
Above all, Johnson and Hannaford underscored, the most important way to help underage abuse victims is to report their allegations to the authorities. Churches also must put protective measures in place, including background checks, to prevent abuse in the first place.
“The church has to do everything it can to protect the children and offer some sort of help for members that have experienced [abuse],” Hannaford said. Church leaders “should be prosecuted if they know of allegations of abuse and do not report it” to legal authorities.

2/13/2019 10:22:21 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Chitwood: IMB must communicate with Southern Baptists

February 13 2019 by IMB Staff

International Mission Board President (IMB) Paul Chitwood has set forth his vision for Southern Baptists staying abreast of the work of the nearly 3,700 IMB missionaries taking the gospel to the nations.
“Stewarding the unique role of the IMB in the missionary call requires that we are able to communicate with Southern Baptists,” Chitwood told trustees in his recent report to the board.

Roger Alford, a career journalist who has served as director of communications for the Kentucky Baptist Convention the past five years, has been named vice president of communications for the IMB.

“In many ways the IMB symbolizes the Great Commission arm of the SBC as it extends to the nations,” he stated, noting, “When the Great Commission isn’t the focus of our work and relationships, peripheral issues, classroom debates and personal conflicts seem always to fill the void.”
Chitwood has named Roger Alford, a career journalist who has served as director of communications for the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) the past five years, as the IMB’s vice president of communications.
During their Feb. 6-7 meeting in Richmond, trustees affirmed Chitwood’s selection of Alford to fill the newly created vice president [of communications] role for the 173-year-old mission board. Chitwood said he is thankful the Lord is bringing Alford to help lead IMB efforts to mobilize Southern Baptists for international missions.
“To ensure that we, at the IMB, are doing our part in setting the Great Commission firmly in front of Southern Baptists, I’ve asked the best communications director I know of in Southern Baptist life to join our team,” Chitwood said. “Over the past five years, Roger Alford transformed communications efforts in Kentucky and helped the KBC create connection to Kentucky Baptists that had never before existed.”
The IMB vice president of communications role is designed to build and maintain a communications approach, operation and staff to best serve the needs of the IMB and the Southern Baptist Convention. As Alford begins serving alongside the existing IMB senior leadership team in March, he will spend his first season on the job evaluating the mission board’s current communications efforts and working with the senior leadership team to develop a comprehensive communications strategy for the organization.
“I look forward to seeing how God will use Roger to pull together and develop the gifted team members who are already on board to ensure that Southern Baptists know the IMB; that IMB knows Southern Baptists; and that all of us better know our missionary heroes and the lost world God has called us to reach,” Chitwood said.
Alford said he is thrilled that Chitwood and the IMB’s trustees have entrusted him with the privilege of telling the stories of IMB missionaries.
“These are truly modern-day heroes of the faith who have committed their lives to working in difficult and often dangerous places around the world,” Alford said.
After more than three decades as a newspaperman and an Associated Press correspondent, Alford joined the KBC in January 2014. In that role, Alford, 56, created the online newspaper Kentucky Today, wholly owned by the KBC, to expand the KBC’s ability to communicate with its 2,400 churches and 750,000 members.
“Roger Alford is an exceptionally gifted communications professional who will effectively tell the story of the ministry of IMB missionaries to Southern Baptists,” said Jim Donnell, co-interim executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, which saw the benefits of Alford’s leadership in communication.

Photo by Chris Carter, IMB
IMB trustee David Miller, right, from Tennessee greets Roger Alford, center, who will begin serving as IMB vice president of communication in March. In the role, Alford will build and maintain a communications approach, operation and staff to serve the needs of IMB and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Dan Summerlin, senior pastor of Lone Oak (Ky.) First Baptist Church and chairman of the KBC administrative committee, echoed Donnell’s sentiments.
“Roger Alford is one of the hardest-working men I know, and combining his work ethic with his communication skills, he revolutionized Kentucky Baptist Convention communications,” Summerlin said. “Through his efforts, people around the world visited the website Kentucky Today to receive news about Kentucky Baptists, Baptist life and news from a Christian perspective. What he accomplished here is amazing.
“Although we are saddened in our state convention [that] he is leaving, we are thrilled at the prospect of what he will do to communicate the missional message of the IMB worldwide,” Summerlin said. “The IMB and Southern Baptists will be blessed by his work.”
Analytics showed the online newspaper had 500,000 readers last year in communities across the state. The actual number of readers is even higher because the KBC newspaper also operates a wire service that provides articles to newspapers across the state and a radio network that provides up to 10 newscasts per day to radio stations across the state.
“Roger Alford, in his capacity as editor of Kentucky Today, provided a vital service to Kentucky Baptists and the broader community in our state,” said Tim Searcy, pastor of Allen Baptist Church in Prestonsburg, Ky., and president of the KBC. “He had a passionate desire to see the churches motivated to greater and greater service for the Lord. It is my belief that he will do the same for the International Mission Board and for the cause of Christ around the world. Roger has a heartfelt intention to do his part in seeing that the Great Commission is fulfilled. I count him as a dear friend and feel the loss to Kentucky, but our loss is the IMB’s gain. May God bless him in his work of communicating to us and enticing us to missions.”
Alford has broad experience in managing all aspects of communications, including writing and editing, all aspects of traditional and social media, web development, marketing strategies, media relations, graphic design and mass mailings.
He and his wife Susan are members First Baptist Church in Owenton, Ky. They have three grown children: Emily, a teacher; Joshua, a corrections officer; and Mary, a journalist.

2/13/2019 10:14:51 AM by IMB Staff | with 0 comments

Track captain, in newfound faith, begins Bible study

February 13 2019 by Chris Doyle, Baptist Messenger

Andrew Doherty is his formal name, but those who know him best call him “Adoh.”

Photo courtesy of OU Athletic Communications
"Adoh," track captain at the University of Oklahoma and a new follower of Christ, now sees his running as a way to "give Him glory."

Adoh (derived from his first and last names) transferred to the University of Oklahoma (OU) in 2017 after running track at Providence College, where he earned three all-conference honors as a distance runner. Adoh came to OU, thinking it would help him pursue a career in running.
Growing up in Boston, Adoh had no previous knowledge of what it meant to be a Christian. He found out later that less than three percent of the Boston population claimed Jesus as Lord and Savior. But once he came to Oklahoma, his exposure to Christianity increased extensively.
“There were multiple people who would talk to me about Jesus,” Adoh said. “I thought, ‘What is up with these southern people and Jesus?’”
A girl he met on the OU softball team invited him to church. A strength coach shared his testimony. “I felt like I had a sign on my forehead that said, ‘This kid needs Jesus,’” he said.
Adoh appreciated the many people who shared Christ with him, but he did not take what they were saying seriously. He became the captain of the OU track team, so running competitively and leading his teammates was all he was focused on.
That all changed last summer. While at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colo., he met a guy named Cheyton, a former athlete who introduced himself as a missionary. Discouraged after having a hard time in a training session, Adoh thought he would listen to what Cheyton had to say.
When Cheyton offered to buy him dinner, Adoh got more than a free meal. As Cheyton was talking to him about Jesus, Adoh started to become more interested. He still had a lot of questions, but Cheyton encouraged Adoh to begin to see Jesus in a clearer way.
At a second meeting, Cheyton brought a friend with him to talk to Adoh. They talked about giving up everything to live for Jesus, which was a bold concept for Adoh because all he had known in his life revolved around running. There was no way, he thought, he could give that up.
Cheyton and his friend encouraged Adoh to join in a time of prayer, when he prayed for the first time.
“I didn’t know what to say,” Adoh recalled. “I just started apologizing to God. But then I remembered saying, ‘God, if You are real, prove it to me.’”

Submitted photo
"Adoh," right, and Bronson Baker of the Baptist Campus Ministry at the University of Oklahoma started a Bible study last fall, inviting members of the OU track team, growing to more than 20 in attendance.

Right then, Adoh said he lost feeling in his legs. He, Cheyton and Cheyton’s friend were in a circle, and he had to grab hold of both of them not to fall.
Five minutes later, he was able to stand on his own, but it was enough to change his life. “I took a 180 in a matter of five minutes,” Adoh said.
In less than a week, Adoh was back at OU for move-in day for the fall semester when he met Bronson Baker, a campus missionary through the OU Baptist Collegiate Ministry.
“The first thing Adoh told me is ‘I’ve been a Christian for five days,’” Baker said about meeting Adoh. “He is fired up for the Lord.”
Baker and Adoh met over lunch and talked about the importance of discipleship. This is when Baker learned that Adoh was reading the Bible for the first time.
“I started explaining to him what Jesus did in investing in these 12 guys,” Baker recounted. “For three years, Jesus gave them everything He had. As a side note, I said, ‘Only 11 of those guys worked out.’ He replied, ‘No, no, no! I just read something about that. Two of them didn’t. That one guy denied Him three times.’ Then I realized he hasn’t even got to the point in John where Jesus restores Peter. So I told him, ‘Man, you’ve got to keep reading.’ And he’s been in the Word every day ever since and growing.”
Adoh told Baker he wanted to start a Bible study and invite others from the track team. “God was putting in my heart a passion to help other people,” Adoh said. “I told Bronson, ‘I want to start a Bible study, but I don’t even know the Bible,’ and he said to me, ‘If you get them there, I’ll help you lead it.’”
The first Bible study was in Adoh’s apartment with five others. Then he went to the track coach to see if they could use the track team room to have a Bible study.
“The track coach was blown away,” Baker said. “He knew how Adoh was when he first came to OU, and it totally caught him off-guard when Adoh asked to use the team room for a Bible study.”
Throughout the fall semester, Adoh and Baker led a weekly Bible study. When Adoh got up, as team captain, during the team meetings to talk, he ended his time inviting his teammates to the Bible study, which has grown to more than 20 people.
With the spring semester beginning, Adoh is looking forward to what new people will attend the Bible study.
“People come up to me, thanking me,” Adoh said. “‘You are helping me grow closer to Christ,’ they tell me. I tell them it’s not me, it’s the Lord.”
Adoh is still committed to pursuing his goals as a professional runner, but now his focus is different.
“I want to minister to as many people as possible,” he said. “My life is now totally devoted to Him. This gift of running is from Him for me to glorify Him. I recognize that this isn’t me doing the running. As long as He allows me to run, I will give Him glory.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Doyle is managing editor of the Baptist Messenger,, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.)

2/13/2019 10:09:10 AM by Chris Doyle, Baptist Messenger | with 0 comments

Macedonian Baptists awaken to church planting

February 13 2019 by IMB Staff

They realized they had been missing something.

IMB photo
A group of Macedonian Baptist leaders listens to a pastor from Mississippi share about beginning discussion-led small groups. IMB missionary Jeff Williams says he hopes every Baptist Macedonian can learn to start evangelistic Bible studies outside of church walls.

A group of Macedonian church leaders gathered in 2017 in the small nation’s capital, Skopje, to talk about evangelism and church planting. But when they discussed starting new groups as a method of outreach in the European nation of 2 million, no one had anything to contribute – they had never seriously talked about it before.
A few years earlier, International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries Jeff and Amy Williams had asked a local Baptist pastor to send out one of his best couples to join them in starting a new church. The pastor hesitantly agreed.
Wanting church planting to be at their group’s core, the Williamses felt the first step was to teach Christians to lead Bible studies outside the church’s walls.
“In an Orthodox setting they’re not going to come to the church building, but you could start a Bible study with them,” Jeff Williams said of the country’s primary religious tradition. “We want to make sure our Baptist believers are able to lead new evangelistic Bible studies.”

Last year, momentum began to emerge as local Baptists attended a training about discussion-led small groups. Additionally, the local leadership of CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) wants to help students start new groups. And Baptist leaders heard from Russian pastors who have started churches.

IMB photo
Macedonian church leaders join in a discussion about church planting after collectively realizing they had not previously been serious about starting new churches.

This openness, Williams said, is the result of decades of praying and talking about church planting in Macedonia, a Balkan nation to the north of Greece. It’s as if local Christians have suddenly awakened to the idea.
Pray that Macedonian Christians and ministry leaders will continue to catch the vision of church planting. Ask God to give them a passion for talking about scripture outside the church’s walls. Pray many Macedonians will follow Jesus as a result of this fresh awareness of church planting.
Gifts through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering support Southern Baptists who can live alongside Macedonian Christians to help them learn how to plant healthy churches and expand their gospel witness in Europe.

2/13/2019 10:01:52 AM by IMB Staff | with 0 comments

Greear addresses unreported victims of sexual abuse

February 12 2019 by J.D. Greear and Brad Hambrick, The Summit Church, Durham, N.C.

Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear has set forth counsel to victims of sexual abuse who have not yet sought help.
An article coauthored with biblical counselor Brad Hambrick has been posted at Greear’s website,, and is printed in full below.

BP file photo
J.D. Greear

Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., and Hambrick is the church’s pastor of counseling and an instructor of biblical counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
“Realize you did nothing wrong,” Greear and Hambrick write. “Abuse is never the fault of the abused.”
They acknowledge, “It is understandable to be afraid,” in providing encouragement to utilize channels to speak with someone “who can help you process the abuse and resulting trauma.”
Following is the full text of the article by Greear and Hambrick, titled “700 is not the total number: How to get help.”
On Feb. 10, the Houston Chronicle published an article titled, “Abuse of Faith: 20 Years, 700 Victims: Southern Baptist Sexual Abuse Spreads as Leaders Resist Reforms.” As I (J.D.) mentioned yesterday, what this article describes is heinous. There can simply be no ambiguity about the church’s responsibility to protect the abused and be a safe place for the vulnerable.
We completely agree with the words of ERLC President Russell Moore:
“Jesus does not cover up sin within the temple of his presence. He brings everything hidden to light. We should too. When we downplay or cover over what has happened in the name of Jesus to those he loves we are not ‘protecting’ Jesus’ reputation. We are instead fighting Jesus himself. No church should be frustrated by the Houston Chronicle’s reporting, but should thank God for it. The Judgment Seat of Christ will be far less reticent than a newspaper series to uncover what should never have been hidden.”
But anger and grief, while appropriate responses, are not sufficient to protect victims. What can easily be lost in the size of these numbers, which are grievously large, is the tragic fact that they cannot be the whole story.
More must be said and done in the coming days. But today, we want to provide some initial guidance to victims who have not yet come forward on how they can receive care.

If you have been victimized by a church leader (or anyone else for that matter) and the Houston Chronicle story rekindled fear and doubt about how you could receive care, please hear us: we are profoundly sorry. It is an unjust tragedy that you experienced abuse in the past. And it is unjust and tragic that you feel fear in the present.
We, the church, have failed you, but we do not want you to forgo care or counsel. To that end, here are some options to consider:
1. Realize you did nothing wrong. Abuse is never the fault of the abused. The appropriate response of anyone who is representing Jesus to you should be care and compassion.
2. It is understandable to be afraid. When people who should be trusted (like church leaders) violate that trust, it can make an already fearful situation (like abuse) even more disorienting.
3. Speak with someone who can help you process the abuse and resulting trauma.
– For immediate guidance, here are three numbers where you can reach trained professionals who are available 24/7:
* The National Hotline for Domestic Violence, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
* The National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-422-4453.
* The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
– For ongoing care, identify a counselor near you who is experienced in working with abuse and trauma. If you need help finding a counselor, here is guidance on finding a trusted Christian counselor near you with experience in your area of need:
* How to Find a Good Counselor in [Name of City]? –
* Christian Care Connect –
If you are not ready to speak with someone yet, consider reading On the Threshold of Hope by Diane Langberg or The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick. Both of these books do an excellent job of describing the healing process after abuse and would provide a taste of the benefits you would receive from working with a Christian counselor.
4. If you were abused as a child, then a report to Child Protective Services (or your state’s equivalent) will need to be made. If you are fearful to take this step alone, the counselor you speak with can help you do that.
5. If you are an adult who has been abused, the offense against you is no less wrong. Know that you have a choice about when in the process of your recovery that you choose to seek justice.
Taking the steps in #4 or #5 ensures that the crime (not just sin) your abuser committed against you shows up on a background check. This helps protect others. Reporting a crime is not just a matter of protecting others, though. It can also be an important step in restoring your voice.
6. When you are ready, involve your current church in your recovery journey. This assumes you are not in the same church where your abuser is in leadership. It is understandable if you do not take this step for a while. Don’t feel rushed. Your first step in this direction might be inviting a Christian friend to be an advocate in your counseling sessions. God is a patient Shepherd who walks at the pace of His sheep (Psalm 23:4).
Before we close, let us say something directly to pastors and church leaders:

The Summit Church photo
Brad Hambrick

Please share the resources above through your personal and church’s social media accounts. It is easy for church leaders to become self-centered and self-protective when news of churches’ failures come to light. But it would be another tragedy and a reinforcement of the problem if we allow that to happen.
People in our churches and community need to know that we are concerned about their safety, not about our reputation. Until that confidence is restored, no one who has been abused will feel safe in our churches. The way we respond in this moment – either in protecting and caring for victims, or defending ourselves and our institutions – will either obscure or adorn the Gospel we claim to preach.
Pastors, let us also remember to be patient with those who are understandably slow to trust. Even if we are not individually guilty of the things being discussed, people in our roles who said the kind of things we say are guilty of these very things. For those who have been abused or are close to a survivor, trust will come slowly.
As leaders, we need to remember that trust should not be an assumed entitlement for those who hold positions of authority. When situations are suspicious, then mistrust is not a sin. It is, in fact, wisdom rather than vice. For those who have suffered injustice and great harm from ministry leaders, their mistrust is something to be honored, not rushed.
Imagine it this way, if your child was abused by a teacher, wouldn’t you want your child’s next teacher to be patient with your child’s fear? Sure, the teacher could easily personalize that fear as mistrust and respond defensively. But the only appropriate response – the one you would want for your child – is one of patience.
If you want to learn about the impact of abuse, we would recommend this series of podcasts from Diane Langberg entitled Church as Refuge, online at Dr. Langberg will be giving similar lectures in the Washington, D.C., area on Feb. 15-16. We encourage as many ministry leaders as possible to attend.
And one final word, this time to everyone: while it is not enough to “just pray,” we absolutely should be praying for those who have been abused. Praying for the 700 people in the Houston Chronicle article. Praying for the many, many other victims who have not yet come forward. Praying for the abused in our very churches.
In addition to grieving and praying, we need to make sure, to the best of our ability, that those who are hurting in silence are cared for. What we have described here can help us toward that end.
There is more to be done. More will be coming out from our Sexual Abuse Advisory Group in the coming days.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C. Brad Hambrick is pastor of counseling at The Summit Church and an instructor of biblical counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

2/12/2019 11:09:18 AM by J.D. Greear and Brad Hambrick, The Summit Church, Durham, N.C. | with 0 comments

Greear names, summarizes Committee on Committees makeup

February 12 2019 by Baptist Press Staff

J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has announced the names of individuals who will serve on the Committee on Committees for the June 11-12 SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

BP file photo

Greear announced the committee’s chairman on Feb. 4, Sky Pratt, associate pastor for mobilization at Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Ga., and vice chair, Ashlyn Portero, executive director at City Church in Tallahassee, Fla.
The Committee on Committees will assemble in Birmingham, Ala., just prior to the SBC annual meeting to nominate members of the Committee on Nominations who will, in 2020, nominate trustees for the boards of SBC entities.
The Committee on Committees has 68 members, two from each of the 34 states and regions qualified for representation on boards of SBC entities.
Greear issued a 250-word statement about the full committee:
“I am pleased to announce this outstanding group of Southern Baptists. We began last August when I first asked state executives and associational missions strategists for input. These individuals all desire to keep the ‘Gospel Above All’ of our differences and be a unifying group around Jesus’ work and his mission.
“This diverse group of Southern Baptists believe completely that we must continue to work to be a convention that reflects the coming kingdom, that keeps evangelism as our priority, emphasizes church planting as God’s plan ‘A,’ and engages the next generation in cooperative mission. All of these marks are what I believed the Holy Spirit was leading me to by allowing my name to be nominated by Ken Whitten last year and what this group believes as well.
“Many of the members of the Committee on Committees are in churches that were started in the past decade. It’s critical that we engage those new to our processes early in the life of their churches so that they develop a clear understanding of the importance of cooperation toward our common mission as Southern Baptists. This committee represents churches of all sizes, ethnicities and theological persuasions involved in the Southern Baptist Convention.
“It was my goal to select Southern Baptists who would represent their fellow Southern Baptists well, and while Cooperative Program (CP) giving wasn’t used as a measure for these appointments, the average CP giving percentage of this group is higher than the average Southern Baptist church.”
Greear said Pratt and Portero are “two dynamic Southern Baptist leaders, and they will lead this committee well.”
Pratt described the committee as “truly a reflection of Christ’s kingdom. We are thrilled to have such a diverse representation of Southern Baptists serving. Our prayer is that this committee with help our churches reach all nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Greear said the composition of the committee is:
– Male: 45 people, 63 percent of the total; female: 23 people, 34 percent
– Average age: 43
– Youngest: 22
– Oldest: 73
– Nationalities/Ethnicities:
* Non-white males: 46 people, 68 percent
* White: 34 people, 50 percent
* African Americans: 16 people, 24 percent
* Hispanic: 10 people, 15 percent
* Asian:  5 people, 7 percent
* Other/multi-ethnic: 3 people, 4 percent
– Church size:
* Less than 250: 51 percent (less than 100: 24 percent)
* More than 250: 49 percent
* Average baptisms: 26
* Average attendance: 597
– Average Cooperative Program percentage: 7.66
– Number of members’ churches started in the last decade: at least 11
Members of the Committee on Committees listed by state are:
ALABAMA: Terrence Jones, Strong Tower, Montgomery; Whitney Alexander, First, Gadsden.
ALASKA: Dinna Natcher, Filipino Bible, Anchorage; Brian Hicks, True North, Girdwood.
ARIZONA: Delia Comon, North Phoenix, Phoenix; Shannon Jennings, Aletheia, Sedona.
ARKANSAS: Matt Hubbard, Immanuel, Little Rock; Courtney Reissig, Midtown, Little Rock.
CALIFORNIA: PJ Tibayan, Bethany, Bellflower; Shirley Pugh, Reach for the Son, Poway.
COLORADO: Kathy Routt, Redemption Hill, Colorado Springs; Kenna Moreland, Denver Christian Bible, Denver.
FLORIDA: Jose Abella, Providence Road, Miami; Ashlyn Portero, vice chair, City Church, Tallahassee.
GEORGIA: Sky Pratt, chair, Prince Avenue, Bogart; Milton Campbell, Midtown Bridge, Atlanta.
HAWAII: Arjay Gruspe, Pawa’a Community, Honolulu; Sterling Lee, First, Pearl City.
ILLINOIS: Michael Allen, Uptown, Chicago; David Sutton, Bread of Life Missionary, Chicago.
INDIANA: Reginald Fletcher, Living Word, Indianapolis; Alan Scott, Oakhill, Evansville.
KANSAS/NEBRASKA: Jonathan Castillo, First Southern, Topeka, Kan.; Diane Ravenstein, CrossPoint, Hutchinson, Kan.
KENTUCKY: Beth Holmes, Yellow Creek, Owensboro; Todd Linn, First, Henderson.
LOUISIANA: Ryan Rice, Connect Church of Algiers, New Orleans; Michael Wood, First, West Monroe.
MARYLAND/DELAWARE/DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Dan Hyun, The Village, Baltimore, Md.; Ken Fentress, Montrose, Rockville, Md.
MICHIGAN: Josh Tovey, Redemption, Grandville; Eric Stewart, ONElife, Flint.
MISSISSIPPI: Dawson Zhang, Hattiesburg Chinese Christian, Hattiesburg; Reid Guy, Carterville, Petal.
MISSOURI: Sam Bierig, Liberty, Liberty; Kyle Hubbard, The Gate, University City.
NEVADA: Heiden Ratner, WALK, Las Vegas; Danny Reyes-Escobar, Hope, Las Vegas.
NEW ENGLAND: Kaleigh Adams, Harbor, Hyannis, Mass.; Itamar Elizalde, Iglesia Casa De Oracion, Worcester, Mass.
NEW MEXICO: Kyle Bueermann, First, Alamogordo; Amber Celoria, Bethel Baptist, Alamogordo.
NEW YORK: Roscoe Lilly, Starpoint, Clifton Park; James Roberson, The Bridge, Brooklyn.
NORTH CAROLINA: Kallie Wade, Mercy Church, Charlotte; Betsy Bolick, Perkinsville, Boone.
NORTHWEST: Audrey Evans, Pathway, Gresham, Ore.; Matthew Savage, Journey, Everett, Wash.
OHIO: Peyton Hill, Highland, Grove City; Robin Smalley, Lakota Hills, West Chester.
OKLAHOMA: Vanda Wall, Henderson Hills, Edmond; Sophia Geiger, First, Snyder.
PENNSYLVANIA/SOUTH JERSEY: Carlos Pacheco, Iglesia Central Hispana, Morris Plains, N.J.; Venus Sanders, Ezekiel, Philadelphia, Pa.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Philip Pinckney, Radiant, North Charleston; Stephanie Powell, The Mill, Moore.
TENNESSEE: Damon Conley, Brown Missionary, Southaven, Miss.; Bruce Raley, First, Hendersonville.
TEXAS: Alexandra Canales, High Pointe, Austin; Michael Criner, First, Bellville.
UTAH/IDAHO: Bryan Catherman, Redeeming Life, Salt Lake City, Utah; Daniel Savage, Redemption, Ogden, Utah.
VIRGINIA: Vernig Suarez, First, Norfolk; James Ford, Remnant, Richmond.
WEST VIRGINIA: Mason Ballard, Resurrection, Charleston; Timothy Marr, North Charleston, Charleston.
WYOMING: David Grace, Trinity, Laramie; Don Rushing, First Southern, Powell.

2/12/2019 11:05:40 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments

Jobs program shows women ‘who they are in God’s eyes’

February 12 2019 by Trennis Henderson, WMU

Intent on living up to its name, Future & Hope Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) typically equips 10 to 12 women during in-depth 10-week sessions on such practical life skills as computer skills, money management, parenting and healthy relationships blended with weekly Bible studies and mentoring.

WMU photo by Pam Henderson
Keyboarding instructor Rhonda Davis interacts with participants in the Faith & Hope Christian Women’s Job Corps program as they learn practical life skills and grow spiritually through 10-week in-depth sessions.

Amanda*, a Future & Hope CWJC participant who has been on her own since age 15, is now a 24-year-old mom with three young sons who currently live in foster care. Candidly sharing her motivation for joining the program in Paragould, Ark., she said, “I came here to try to get my kids back … but I need a foundation before I can get them back.”
Pursuing her CWJC certificate and gaining related life skills, Amanda said, “is going to better my life and my kids’ lives and give me something solid to start with.”
Christian Women’s Job Corps and Christian Men’s Job Corps, ministries of national Woman’s Missionary Union, include nearly 200 certified sites throughout the country. The ministry sites are designed to equip participants in a Christian context for life and employment.
Pursuing the vision of “women helping women change their future and find hope,” the Paragould ministry echoes Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”
“Oh my goodness, we have seen God work such miracles in these women,” said Carol Foster, site coordinator for Future & Hope. “I think what strikes me the most is just how they feel about themselves and how they begin to understand who they are in God’s eyes.
“We always talk about, You are who God says you are regardless of what other people have said about you or to you,” Foster said. “They begin to get a little sense of that. I see them learning about God through the teachers here, not just in the material but in the way that they’re accepted and loved on throughout the program. It allows us to treat them like they’re special because we know that they are but they just haven’t seen it so often.”

WMU photo by Pam Henderson
Carol Foster is founder and site coordinator for Future & Hope Christian Women’s Job Corps, housed in a former parsonage provided by First Baptist Church in Paragould, Ark.

Just a few weeks into the program, Amanda commented, “I have come to the realization that God is my outlet and He’s going to provide my every need – and that’s never been something that’s ever went through my mind before. My faith has grown so much and I know that no matter what, I don’t have to turn to drugs because I’m not alone. God is going to provide my every need.”
Acknowledging that “I have always depended on men who were not good for me or for my kids,” Amanda added, “Now I depend on God. I feel better, I feel more content, more happy than I’ve ever felt. … I’m excited for my kids to have a mom, not a teenager or not a friend. It’s what I’ve always wanted to be. I just didn’t know how to do it.”
Such results are what Foster had hoped for when she sensed God’s guidance to establish Future & Hope several years ago, since enlisting numerous individuals, churches and area businesses to help support the ministry.
With a background in school counseling and prison ministry, Foster said she realized there were so many unmet needs among women and families struggling with difficult issues. “When I first heard of Christian Women’s Job Corps, it was just like God said, ‘That’s what I want you to do.’”
After completing CWJC’s Level 1 National Certification Training for Site Coordinators, Foster approached First Baptist in Paragould about using the church’s former parsonage as a ministry site.

They agreed on a trial basis to “see how it went and reevaluate it at the end of six months,” she recalled. “It’s been six years and we’ve never done a reevaluation. They just allow us to use it and we try to take the best care of it that we can.”

Future & Hope CWJC operates with a team of volunteer teachers as well as a board of directors and an advisory council who provide ministry ideas, personal support and resources to help the ministry succeed.
Jeff Boone, an insurance agent and member of Reynolds Baptist Church, serves as advisory council chairman. Describing the ministry as “a hand up, not just a handout,” he noted, “It actually makes a difference in people’s lives.”

WMU photo by Pam Henderson
Participants in the Future & Hope Christian Women’s Job Corps gather for lunch and fellowship as part of the ministry in Paragould, Ark. Area individuals, churches and organizations volunteer to provide the meals for each 10-week session.

With the program’s focus on personal spiritual growth, strengthened relationships and job skills, Boone said participants “can learn to take care of themselves as well as their family and then be able to take care of others in the future in our community.”
Kathy Mitchell, a longtime women’s Bible study leader, was recruited by Foster for the program’s weekly Bible study.

“I liked the idea of being able to reach women that would not normally walk through the door of a church, women that are in crisis,” Mitchell said. “I hope that I can maybe clear up some misconceptions they have about God and that they’ll realize He really does love them, that He’s a loving Father.
“So many of the women that come through the job corps have very difficult relationships so they feel kind of beaten down and I want them to know that God is for them, not against them,” she said. “I always hope they fall in love with the Bible and want to seek and learn for themselves.”
Recounting a recent example, Mitchell said, “I was teaching on Psalm 23 and one of them jumped up in the middle of class and goes, ‘I finally get it!’ And she was so excited that God was her shepherd. She had never understood that before. It made her glow with excitement because she realized He really was watching out for her and caring for her and guiding her.”
For Amanda – and dozens of other women who have gone through the program – Future & Hope Christian Women’s Job Corps already has made an impact.
“I’m learning things that I probably should have learned a long time ago as far as making good choices and decisions,” she said. “Just having someone teach me the right thing, having this guidance is absolutely amazing.
“I’m so grateful for what these women do here. They are not just volunteers, they are angels,” Amanda said. “Christian Women’s Job Corps gave me my faith and my hope.”
*Name changed to protect participant’s privacy.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trennis Henderson is the national correspondent for WMU and former editor of the Western Recorder of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Arkansas Baptist News state convention news journal.)

2/12/2019 10:53:40 AM by Trennis Henderson, WMU | with 0 comments

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