October 2013

Report: Church giving reaches Depression-era record lows

October 29 2013 by Katherine Burgess, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON – Collection plates are growing even lighter as Protestant church member giving reached new lows in 2011, and tithing probably will not recover from the recession, according to a new report by Empty Tomb, a Christian research group.

“Is the issue that the church is not providing an authentic alternative to the consumer mindset?” said Sylvia Ronsvalle, executive vice president of Empty Tomb. “Over a period of time, if the church isn’t providing more of an authentic alternative, the church will lose.”
The percentage of a church member’s income given to the church dropped to 2.3 percent in 2011 (the latest year for which numbers are available), down from 2.4 percent in 2010, according to the Empty Tomb study.

RNS photo by Sally Morrow
Collection plates are passed during the Sunday evening service at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection on July 15, 2012, in Leawood, Kan. The Church of the Resurrection is known as the largest Methodist church in the nation.

In 1968, church members gave an average of 3.1 percent of their income.
Giving has declined for four consecutive years, according to the report. The only other period of prolonged decline in giving per member was from 1928 through 1934, almost entirely during the Great Depression.
In 2011, the 23 denominations researched by Empty Tomb received $22.94 billion. In 2010 they received $22.88 billion.
The steepest monetary decline was in the area of “benevolences,” spending that does not apply to a local congregation’s needs but includes things like seminary support or missions work. Giving to benevolences was at 0.34 percent of a person’s income, a decrease of 48 percent since 1968 – its lowest level since that time period.
Altogether, the report found, churches had $87.2 million less to spend in 2011 on work beyond their congregations than in 2010.
Empty Tomb also reported that overall church membership has declined.
Empty Tomb examined data reported by congregations to their denominations and then compiled in the “Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.” In some cases, Empty Tomb obtained data directly from denominations.
The denominations included in the report encompassed more than 100,000 congregations across the U.S. and included denominations affiliated with both the National Association of Evangelicals and with the National Council of Churches, as well as unaffiliated denominations. Although Catholics were not included in the report, previous Empty Tomb research has found that Catholics generally give at comparable or slightly less rates than Protestants.
The decline could be attributed to a variety of reasons, including economic struggles, said Matt Branaugh, director of editorial and business development for the Church Law & Tax Group at Christianity Today. Christianity Today has conducted its own surveys on church tithing.
Another reason could be a decline in church member attendance, Branaugh said.
“I’ve heard some reference that phenomena as the ‘grazer effect’ – people are not going to church every week now, and the weeks they don’t go they’re listening to podcasts, doing worship on their own or fellowshipping with people in other ways,” Branaugh said. “They’re not there as much, and consequently they’re not giving as much.”
Other churches struggle with how to talk about finances, not realizing that churches must teach about how a relationship with God involves giving – “stewardship,” as churches would say, Branaugh said.
“As a result, if it’s not being talked about and it’s not really being taught, it may not necessarily grow into the culture of that congregation,” Branaugh said.
Churches need to embrace the idea that all money is God’s, not just a small tithe, said Rick Dunham, CEO of Dunham+Company, a consulting firm that assists ministries in fundraising. Dunham is also on the executive committee of the Giving Institute, an organization that seeks to advance philanthropy.

“I think the decline in giving is in part because the church hasn’t really embraced the biblical mandate around true giving, the idea of investment in eternity, in the stuff that matters most,” Dunham said. “Not just putting a little bit of money in the offering plate and thinking I’ve done my duty.”
Ronsvalle said part of the reason giving has declined is because churches still treat people as if they are living in “hard times” – even when they are not.
“They’re hard because people want to take better vacations,” Ronsvalle said. “They want to get more cars. They want to have more square footage.”
Churches and their members need to realize that if 100 million Christians gave an extra $50 a year, child deaths could be drastically reduced across the world, Ronsvalle said.
“The church doesn’t think that way,” Ronsvalle said. “It has not understood its potential power for good.”
10/29/2013 3:14:51 PM by Katherine Burgess, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Viral on Facebook: Christian movie trailer

October 29 2013 by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – “God’s Not Dead,” a film about the existence of God and defending one’s faith, is making waves on Facebook. The movie’s trailer, posted on the popular social networking site, has racked up 4.95 million views, 948,696 likes and has been shared 623,731 times.

“We’ve been told it’s the most successful movie trailer on Facebook this entire year,” said Jeremy Carlson, church engagement specialist for LifeWay Films. In addition to helping promote the movie, LifeWay Films is working with churches on how to engage the film.

God’s Not Dead, a Pure Flix Entertainment release, follows Josh Wheaton, played by Shane Harper (Good Luck Charlie), through his first semester of college. Josh’s faith is tested by his relationships and a run-in with a hardened philosophy professor.

On the first day of class, Dr. Radisson, played by Kevin Sorbo (Hercules, Soul Surfer), demands all of his students sign a declaration “God is dead” in order to receive a passing grade. Josh refuses. In order to stay in the class, he accepts a challenge from his professor: Josh must defend his position that God is alive in a series of debates with Dr. Radisson.

The movie features special appearances by two stars from “Duck Dynasty,” Willie and Korie Robertson and the Newsboys. Also in the movie are Dean Cain (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) and David A.R. White (Evening Shade).

“God has done some amazing things via social media,” Carlson said of the number of the social media reach as of Oct. 28. “This trailer has been seen by so many more people than we could have imagined. The message of standing up for your beliefs is definitely resonating with people.”

God’s Not Dead comes to theaters spring 2014. To learn more about the movie, LifeWay.com/GodsNotDead.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carol Pipes is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. See movie trailer.)
10/29/2013 2:53:14 PM by Carol Pipes, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Native Americans expand missions engagement

October 29 2013 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – As Native American Baptists are playing a greater role in sending missionaries to evangelize the world’s native peoples, the International Mission Board (IMB) is helping train those missionaries for maximum effectiveness.

More than 50 Native American pastors and lay leaders gathered at Alameda Baptist Church in Albuquerque, N.M., for the New Mexico Native American Mobilization Conference. Hosted by the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, attendees represented the Navajo Nation and multiple Pueblo and Apache tribes.

Participants studied people group engagement and the role worldview plays in sharing Christ cross-culturally, in the first training of its kind by IMB for Native Americans.


Genesis Photo by Nick Layman
Native American Baptists close out a training session with prayer at the New Mexico Native American Mobilization Conference in Albuquerque. “This conference helped us in two ways: to be more effective in reaching our own peoples and also to be ready to be mobilized to go elsewhere in North America or overseas,” said Daniel Clymer, Native American strategist for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.

Daniel Clymer, Native American strategist for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, said the conference was part of an effort to mobilize Native American Baptists by building what he calls “Mission Response Team” churches. Such congregations become prepared for local and global missions through training in four key areas: prayer, evangelism and discipleship, leadership development, and missions and multiplying.

Understanding concepts such as worldview is critical for ministry in New Mexico, Clymer said, because the state isn’t a stereotypical North American mission field.

“I tell people who come here to New Mexico that we are international missions,” Clymer said. “We have so many different cultures and peoples, and they don’t think like mainstream America thinks; they think like their people group. To be able to effectively reach them, we’ve got to have a whole new set of tools on board.”

Those new tools will prove helpful as Native American believers increasingly travel outside the United States, Clymer said.

“There are requests coming in for Native American Baptist mission teams to come and help with other people groups elsewhere in the world,” he said, noting their ethnicity makes them uniquely effective at reaching other native tribes.

“Native American people have very much in common with other aboriginal peoples around the world,” Clymer said. “There is an instant connection.”

For Edna Romero of Taos, N.M., the Oct. 3-4 training was a confirmation of the new direction for Native American Baptists in New Mexico. Romero is the missions leader for the Native American Baptist Partnership of New Mexico; her husband, Bennie, is pastor of First Indian Baptist Church in Taos.

“Many times we’ve been taught, ‘Bring the people into the church.’ But the training emphasized ‘Go and tell,’” Romero said.

Many Native Americans don’t feel comfortable going to church, Romero said, evidenced at First Indian Baptist Church’s annual Vacation Bible School, which draws many children but few parents. Statistics show that as many as 95 percent of Native Americans in the U.S. don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Being equipped to share the gospel at home is the first step to sharing overseas, Romero said.

“We’re emphasizing to go beyond our own Jerusalem,” she said. “If you can’t go the first 12 miles, how can you go 12,000?

“I’ve been trying to encourage our churches to do local missions so that they get hands-on experience, and when the opportunity presents itself, they’re better equipped in reaching out to another community, another state or even outside of the United States.”

The type of training IMB offered is critical to effective cross-cultural witnessing, said Terry Sharp, who helped lead the event as director of urban strategies on IMB’s team of missional church strategists.

“We have to let Christ supersede culture,” Sharp said. “Without it, we may unintentionally be offensive, we may stereotype, and those things can get in the way of someone hearing the gospel.”

The training was the brainchild of Randy Carruth, who partnered with Clymer and IMB to organize the conference. Carruth leads I Am Able Ministries in Forest Hill, La., and has championed a vision for Native American Christians to take a greater role in fulfilling the Great Commission.

“All the way from Northwest Territories, Canada, to the Mayans in Chan Chen, Mexico, God is opening up the hearts of native people everywhere,” Carruth said. “Our vision is this: If we can get our native people trained, they are the one people group that is accepted almost anywhere in the world. And if we can encourage churches to get behind them and send them into the world, they’ll go.”

In 2011, Romero and her husband took their first international mission trip, sharing Christ among isolated native villages in Canada’s vast Northwest Territories. She learned firsthand that sharing the gospel with unreached, unengaged people groups usually means getting out of one’s “comfort zone.”

Temperatures of minus 30 Fahrenheit were a shock for the Romeros, who were used to New Mexico’s hot Southwestern climate. Despite the couple’s discomfort, God opened many doors among villages that previously were closed to non-native missionaries. The couple shared the gospel many times, often over traditional meals of dried fish or caribou stew.

Romero was particularly touched by the words of a village chief she met who lived next to a Catholic church. “I see my people coming and going,” he told her, “but they aren’t changed. What can I do to make a difference in their lives?”

It was a perfect opportunity for the Romeros to tell the chief about Jesus.

“We need to lift our horizons and look beyond our own local community,” Romero said. “The Lord loves all people of all races and colors. Someone reached out to us, and we need to return the love.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Don Graham is a senior writer for the International Mission Board.)
10/29/2013 2:43:27 PM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Clock is ticking to teach manhood

October 29 2013 by Aaron Earls, Baptist Press

SPRINGVILLE, Ala. – For John Croyle, the clock continues to tick. Whether on the football field or in the life of a child, the seconds slip away until the outcome is clear.

Playing on championship teams for legendary University of Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, the former All-American defensive end knows the value of every moment in a game. But mistakes are magnified when the clock starts winding down, which inspired the title of his book The Two-Minute Drill to Manhood: A Proven Game Plan for Raising Sons.

Football games often are determined in the final two minutes of a game and, often with teenagers, parents are coming down to their two-minute drill, Croyle said. “Before our sons leave our home, they have to know how to be a good man, a good husband and a good father.”

In addition to raising two biological children, Croyle has been a father figure to nearly 2,000 kids at Big Oak Ranch. Croyle began the boys’ ranch 40 years ago for abused, neglected and abandoned children. Big Oak Ranch, which has since added a girls’ ranch and a Christian school, will receive 100 percent of the author proceeds from The Two-Minute Drill.

The lessons learned from the hurting hearts of those who come to stay with “Mr. John,” along with experiences with his son and daughter, served as the foundation for the parenting book from B&H Publishing.

The book has garnered endorsements from sports legend Bo Jackson, Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban, NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bobby Allison and numerous other prominent men in sports and entertainment.

“We are raising a generation of boys who don’t know what real manhood looks like,” Croyle said. “Our girls have no idea what to look for in a husband.” He is driven to change that.

Years ago, in preparing for a trip with his then-13-year-old son Brodie, who would later become a quarterback at Alabama and in the NFL, Croyle felt God impress on his heart one question: “What do you want to teach your son about manhood?”

The last word of the question stayed at the forefront of his mind until he found an answer. Seven life principles based on the acrostic M-A-N-H-O-O-D became Croyle’s formula for training sons: Master, Ask and Listen, Never Compromise, Handle Responsibility, One Purpose, One Body, Don’t Ever, Ever, Ever Give Up.

Croyle expressed confidence in the wisdom gained from his parenting experience in summing up The Two-Minute Drill: “If you apply the seven aspects from this book, you will raise a thoroughbred.”

Croyle looks to the future for the rewards for his book. “Twenty years from now,” Croyle said, “I want young men to come up to me and say, ‘Thanks, my dad read your book and it changed our relationship and helped to make me who I am today.’“

From standing by one’s word to resisting the temptation to compromise morals, The Two-Minute Drill challenges parents, particularly fathers, to model the character they want to see in their children.

“If I ask your son who is the most godly man he knows, and he doesn’t say you, something is wrong,” Croyle said. “And you need to fix it.”

While the book emphasizes the need for parents to begin training their children for success as soon as possible, Croyle made it clear that time remains for those who feel discouraged.

It is never too late to be a great parent,” he said. “Unless you or your child is in the grave, you still have time.”

He has seen it firsthand in the lives of children at Big Oak Ranch. Many who endured unspeakable pain and abuse but responded to the love and opportunity they found at the ranch have become successful men and women.

“One of our boys is going to work in an orphanage in South Africa,” he said. “He’s passing on what he got here.”

And what he got from Big Oak Ranch is what Croyle hopes every child receives from parents who read The Two-Minute Drill.

“This book is a tool – something to help you develop your children to become who God created them to be. But just like any tool, you have to use it. You still have to build on the foundation to establish the eternal home in the heart of your son or daughter.”

He couldn’t help but grin when he said, “There are some great lessons in the book, because I’ve had close to 2,000 great teachers.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls writes for LifeWay Christian Resources.)
10/29/2013 2:23:12 PM by Aaron Earls, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Whitson to host luncheon for Mark Harris

October 28 2013 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Mike Whitson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Indian Trail, is hosting a luncheon for Mark Harris during the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).

Whitson hopes 300 pastors will gather for the free luncheon on Tuesday, Nov. 12 in Imperial Room D of the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
Currently serving as pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte and BSC president, Harris is running for one of North Carolina’s two seats in the U.S. Senate as a Republican. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, currently holds the office.

Although the luncheon will be during the BSC annual meeting, Whitson said the state convention is not promoting or sponsoring the event. The luncheon is privately organized and supported.

BR photo by K. Allan Blume
Mark Harris, left, seen here talking with his wife Beth and son Matthew before Harris’ private announcement Sept. 12 of his candidacy. Harris made his official announcement Oct. 2 that he would run for Sen. Kay Hagan’s seat. Harris is currently president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte.

“Pastors have shied away from actively engaging in personal politics because they are not aware of what they can do and what they cannot do,” Whitson said.  “Basically we have become silent because of that.” 
He believes pastors and church leaders have more liberty to speak out on issues and to support candidates than they are currently using.
“Twenty-nine of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence were either ordained or received deep theological training,” he said. “It is time that we had a man in Washington who will seek the wisdom of God, stand on the convictions of the Word and not compromise his integrity and character.”
Whitson’s two-fold purpose for the luncheon is “... to expose Mark [Harris] as a godly leader who feels called to represent N.C. and to let pastors know what is available to them in the way of leading and encouraging others to vote.”
Harris officially announced his candidacy Oct. 2 in a statewide tour. Harris said he has learned that “people really do want a candidate they can believe in. They really do want a candidate who is marked by character – someone who does not have to get up in the morning and read the newspaper to figure out what they believe. Someone who does not have to turn on the news and hear what the latest poll is saying to determine how they are going to vote or how they are going to stand that day.”

Those interested in attending the noon luncheon on Nov. 12 should reserve a seat by emailing mikewhitson3@gmail.com.
10/28/2013 3:36:04 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Rogers to offer resolution on child abuse

October 28 2013 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Tim Rogers, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Indian Trail, plans to introduce a resolution on child abuse from the floor of the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Nov. 11-12. Since the resolution was not submitted to the resolutions committee, action by the convention will require a suspension of the rules by two-thirds majority vote.

According to Rogers’ blog, “Southern Baptist in NC,” the resolution he intends to introduce was approved June 10-12 by messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention’s meeting in Houston.

The BSC’s bylaws do not require resolutions to be published in the Biblical Recorder prior to being introduced on the floor of the annual session.
As rationale for his resolution, Rogers suggests four steps churches and ministries should take to minimize the problem of child abuse and inappropriate activities with children. He said, “The church must implement and maintain policies that protect their workers.”
His second suggestion is for churches to build a culture that is “child open.” The point is to insure visibility to children’s activities in church buildings where walls and doors prevent good sight lines.
“Third, there should be clear reporting policies and a process in place and voted on by the church,” according to Rogers. He acknowledges the difficulties associated with implementing new procedures in churches that don’t understand the need for policies or the dangers engendered by the absence of clear policies.
The fourth suggestion is for churches to develop policies that eliminate the potential of using workers who have “unresolved sexual abuse allegations.”
The full text of the resolution is posted on his blog.
10/28/2013 2:53:47 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Superstorm Sandy survivors buoyed by ongoing Baptist aid

October 28 2013 by Laura Sikes, Baptist Press

In the picturesque coastal village of Freeport on Long Island where Superstorm Sandy’s surge flooded homes with as much as eight feet of water, neighborhoods look back to normal – at least on the outside.
Eleven months after the storm, streets are clear of debris and most of the dumpsters that were filled with saltwater-soaked furniture, appliances and ruined contents of homes are gone. But pod storage containers still sit on driveways as homeowners work on the interiors of their homes.
One local refers to the sight as the “new normal.”
Freeport is among the many affected areas where volunteer teams are working in New York and New Jersey to help homeowners put their lives back together. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) is part of the effort.


NAMB photo by Laura Sikes
Mike Whiteside and Ken Williams saw a board as their team from Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville, N.C., replaces a set of stairs at a flood-damaged home on Long Island. Team members (in background, from left) Richard Brevard, Ron Barratt, Daniel Jones, Cal Petticrew and Terry Gravely do their part for the project.

Many residents like Barbara and Brian Hindley, who are in their 80s, didn’t expect the magnitude of the surge and rode out the storm. Residents continue to live in their flooded-damaged homes, some with only partial power, while repairs are made.
“We watched the water coming up the stairs,” Barbara Hindley said. “We didn’t expect it. We sat in chairs with blankets in the dark and waited for the night to be over.”
SBDR teams from North Carolina and Maryland did a complete tear-out of the first floor, built new stairs and floors. The Hindleys continue to live upstairs amidst ongoing repairs.
Southern Baptists plan a two-year Sandy Rebuild effort, said Mickey Caison, SBDR recovery coordinator and overall director for the initiative. The partnership includes the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and North Carolina Baptist Men working in cooperation with the Baptist Convention of New York, Metro New York Baptist Association, New Jersey Net and local churches throughout North America to repair and help restore communities. Most of the work is on Long Island, where more than 60 percent of the state’s recovery needs are located, and on Staten Island and in Allenwood, N.J.

“Historically, SBDR is good at response with almost 90,000 trained volunteers and 1,600 mobile units,” Caison said. Now, he said, “Our goal is to build a robust system of rebuild and recovery like Southern Baptists already have for disaster response.
“Recovery can take two, three or more years,” Caison said. “We’ve brought the help in the past and started the healing, and there’s been a lot of times where we’ve shared the gospel so we’ve brought hope in unique places. But by going in now with the rebuild and the recovery aspects of things we can stay involved with that family sometimes for weeks or months.”
Robert Kennedy, mayor of the village of Freeport, said he’s thankful Southern Baptists and other groups are helping the community of 50,000 recover. Four thousand homes were damaged and 500 are still vacant. Sixty to 75 homes are tagged for demolition.
“We’re cautiously optimistic here,” Kennedy said, “but everyone is a little nervous about storms now.”
Sandy Rebuild project coordinator Bill Johnson said people from the effected area and beyond often ask him, “Why are you still here?” After the initial response and cleanup, most of the damage is now unseen and many think everything is OK, he said.
In Freeport, as in other coastal areas on Long Island’s south shore, the storm surge flooded every structure for almost one mile inland from the ocean. While the saltwater came in and went out within hours, it left plenty of destruction – corroding electrical boxes, HVAC units and plumbing systems. 
“There are many, many homes that need repair and that’s what we are doing,” said Johnson, a volunteer from Grayson, Ky. Even with damaged materials torn out, many homeowners do not have the resources to do necessary repairs. In the rebuild phase, Johnson said SBDR will keep its main presence on Long Island but also will have a presence on Staten Island.
Johnson said the community has “embraced Southern Baptists so readily and quickly” even though he was warned by one local that New Yorkers are skeptical and may feel you are “working an angle” when you work for free.
“Mickey and I keep saying that God is up to something powerful here,” Johnson said.
Long Island coordinator Tom Vannoy said the biggest need is for volunteers with sheetrock finishing and carpentry skills.
In the New York rebuild as of mid-September, 111 job requests are listed, with 27 completed, 29 in active rebuild and 65 open. Vannoy, a volunteer from Wilkes County, N.C., said 798 volunteers have served on teams from 16 states: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Calculated volunteer wages have reached $1.58 million with 56,290 hours logged. 
Vannoy, who works closely with homeowners and volunteers, said meeting physical as well as spiritual needs is why Southern Baptists serve. Lasting relationships are formed, and homeowners like the Hindleys remember the volunteers who serve them.
“Those relationships then grow into great opportunities to share Christ,” Caison said.
“They’re angels,” Barbara Hindley said of the volunteers. “I’ve got pictures of them on the mantel and still correspond with them. They keep us in their prayers. They were so lovely and so kind. They thanked me for letting them help, instead of me thanking them.”
To volunteer for or learn more about Sandy Rebuild visit http://www.namb.net/Sandy
Many N.C. volunteers also sign up through Baptists on Mission/North Carolina Baptist Men. Contact (800) 395-5102, ext. 5606. Tearout and rebuild efforts continue in New York and New Jersey. Visit baptistsonmission.org/projects/type/disaster-relief/hurricane-sandy.
(EDITOR’S NOTE –  Laura Sikes writes for the North American Mission Board. This is the first in a series of articles about the work of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers through their Sandy Rebuild initiative.  The one-year anniversary of the storm’s landfall is Oct. 29.)
10/28/2013 2:24:44 PM by Laura Sikes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

W.A. Criswell chair announced at Southern

October 28 2013 by RuthAnne Irvin, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In honor of the late W.A. Criswell, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) has announced a new academic chair in preaching named for the longtime pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Southern Baptist statesman and two-time Southern graduate.

Jack Pogue, a longtime friend of Criswell (1909-2002) who was present for the seminary announcement Oct. 17, funded the chair. After introducing Pogue, SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. thanked him for his generosity.

“It is my great privilege to announce today, at the great generosity of this friend, the funding of the W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching,” Mohler said.


SBTS photo by Emil Handke
Students and faculty view the 1985 sermon “Whether We Live or Die” by legendary Southern Baptist preacher W.A. Criswell during an Oct. 17 chapel at Southern Seminary when SBTS President R. Albert Mohler announced the establishment of the W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching. 

Commenting about Criswell’s gift of expository preaching, Mohler said, “He, in many ways, exemplified not only for Southern Baptists but for evangelicals at large a recovery of expository preaching.”

From the time of Charles Spurgeon to W.A. Criswell, Mohler said there are “very few prominent preachers who are actually committed to what we would call biblical exposition.”

Mohler introduced a video of Criswell’s 1985 address, “Whether We Live or Die,” which the seminary community viewed as part of the chapel service. Criswell preached the message, one of his most well-known sermons, at the Pastors’ Conference held before the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Dallas.

The sermon came at one of the most intense times of controversy over the inerrancy of the Bible in SBC life, with Criswell outlining how acquiescence to liberal theology leads to the death of denominations and institutions. As examples, Criswell pointed to Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s defense of the Bible in the “Downgrade Controversy” among English Baptists in the late 1800s and the University of Chicago’s fall into liberalism after its founding as a school to train ministers in historic Christianity.

Criswell illustrated the influence of liberalism within the Southern Baptist Convention with the story of professor Crawford H. Toy’s dismissal from Southern Seminary in 1879 due to his acceptance of German higher criticism. Criswell pointed to the seminary’s subsequent acceptance of Toy’s theology, citing a 1985 issue of seminary’s academic journal at the time, Review and Expositor. The issue – published shortly before Criswell’s address – included an article describing Toy’s beliefs as “perfectly acceptable, condoned, and defended,” were he to teach at the seminary then.

Later at the 1985 convention, messengers elected Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, as SBC president. Stanley’s presidency continued a line of conservative presidents and helped secure the success of the conservative movement, known as the “Conservative Resurgence.”

Concerning the context of Criswell’s sermon, Mohler said the legendary preacher and former SBC president delivered the sermon under “conditions of maximum warfare.” The 1985 SBC annual meeting, Mohler said, was one of the great turning points in the SBC.

“There is a line that runs very straight from that day in Dallas, Texas, to this day in Louisville, Ky.,” Mohler told seminary students and faculty. “We can look back at history and say, had not the convention voted as it did in the very day after Dr. Criswell preached that sermon, we would not be sitting in this chapel today. It would be a very different world and a very different institution.”

Pogue, a businessman from Dallas, also has funded the W.A. Criswell Sermon Library. The digital library provides free access to Criswell’s 4,100-plus sermons in digital format. At the conclusion of the service, Pogue provided each chapel attendee with a copy of “Criswell Classics: Centennial Edition,” a DVD collection of 12 of Criswell’s most important sermons.

Also at the service was Jerry Johnson, the current president of Criswell College in Dallas, a school Criswell himself helped establish, which later took his name. The National Religious Broadcasters recently named Johnson as their new president.

Audio and video of the service can be accessed here.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – RuthAnne Irvin writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
10/28/2013 2:15:14 PM by RuthAnne Irvin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Moore sets forth ‘priority’ not ‘pullback’

October 28 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore is not calling for a retreat but a different kind of evangelical Christian engagement with politics and the culture, he told a national television audience.

Appearing Oct. 25 on C-SPAN, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said the headline on a recent profile in The Wall Street Journal was misleading about what he believes regarding evangelical involvement on cultural issues. Peter Slen, host of “Washington Journal,” quickly asked Moore if the headline – “Evangelical Leader Preaches Pullback From Politics, Culture Wars” – was accurate.

“I think that was an inaccurate headline,” Moore said, because it did not include “the word ‘against.’”

NAMB photo by Susan Whitley
Doug Carver, right, executive director of the North American Mission Board’s chaplaincy team, leads a discussion of religious freedom issues with 55 Southern Baptist senior military chaplains in August. NAMB President Kevin Ezell, second from right, participated in the conference call along with Russell Moore, far left, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Moore is calling Southern Baptists to different kind of involvement in politics and culture.

Instead, what it should have said, he told Slen, is: “Evangelical Leader Preaches Against Pullback ...”

“What I’m calling for is not a pullback but a priority,” Moore said. “What I’m concerned about is that I see a generation of evangelicals who are disaffected from political engagement. Many of them simply want to walk away from political engagement, which I think would be a terrible error. The reason they want to walk away from it is because they’ve lived in a secularized society and they understand the importance of the [g]ospel, what the [s]cripture says is of first importance....

“And so many of them want to say, ‘Let’s concentrate on that and not consume ourselves with politics.’ What I’m wanting to say to them is: ‘We can’t make that choice. We have to, if we love our neighbors, be engaged in the public process; we have to be concerned as citizens; we have to be fighting against injustice, including injustices such as abortion and sex trafficking and pornography and all of those things.’

“But we do it with an understanding of how the [g]ospel motivates that action,” Moore said, “and we do it as people who don’t see those who disagree with us as ultimately our enemies but as people that we wish to see reconciled to God, as people who are – like we are, [if] left to ourselves – in need of mercy and of reconciliation and of the grace that comes through the blood of Christ. So those two things must be held together – the mission of the church as ambassadors of reconciliation and our responsibility in standing in the public square and calling for justice and righteousness.”

When asked if the Oct. 22 article in The Journal was accurate, Moore told Slen, “I think the article didn’t quite capture what is really going on here. I think the article seemed to signal retreat when in fact what we’re calling for is not retreat but onward – and onward with a [g]ospel-centered focus.”

Slen read Moore a portion of an Oct. 22 column by Bryan Fischer criticizing the ERLC’s president based on The Journal article. The director of issues analysis for the American Family Association charged Moore with being co-opted by young evangelicals, as well as Republican Party elites “who want the GOP, in the Journal’s words, ‘to back off hot-button cultural issues.’“ Fischer said Moore “seems to have forgotten that Christ has not called us to be nice but to be good. Nice people never confront evil, but good people do.”

Moore responded by saying, “Christ has not called us to be nice people, but Christ has called us to be kind people. He’s called us to be convictional people and kind people who love those who are around us. And even when we are standing up for what we believe in, we’re standing up for what we believe in as those who are offering redemption and reconciliation and the mercy of Christ. 

“I think while it is necessary to stand strongly for conviction – and that’s exactly what I do; I am a pro-life, pro-marriage, homeschooling father of five who is devoted to religious liberty, combating the pornography culture, the divorce culture in the church and outside the church – I believe the ultimate goal that we have is not simply a more moral America,” Moore said. “We need a more moral America, but if that’s where we stop, we end up with hell. What we need is more than that. What we need is a [g]ospel of a crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ that welcomes sinners to be joined to His tribe and, I believe, that we need an optimistic, hopeful understanding of where the Kingdom of God is coming.”

This kind of dependence on the [g]ospel “changes the way in which we speak,” Moore said. “We’re not simply wishing to vent our outrage. We’re instead wishing to speak to our neighbors and say, ‘We really love you and we want to see you reconciled to God.’”

Christians should firmly engage cultural issues in the public arena but not in a way in which “we are pitted against [others] as mortal enemies and that we’re simply in an endless shouting match with one another,” Moore said. 

“That doesn’t mean that we don’t have spirited debates, because the issues at stake are very significant and important issues,” he said. “But we must always be connecting those issues back to that central theme that we have been given -– that God reconciles sinners to Himself through the blood of Jesus Christ.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
10/28/2013 1:57:05 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

NCBM involved in ministry and missions

October 25 2013 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

They are called the “poorest of the poor” and shunned by society, yet North Carolina Baptists are embracing the Roma people with compassion as they extend the love of Christ.
Through North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) volunteer teams, the Roma (or Gypsy people) in Romania and Hungary are receiving medical care, food, clothing and, most importantly, the gospel.

“They are so persecuted and despised, but God is working among them in a great way,” said Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director-treasurer. “They show their emotions so much; their church services are so vibrant.”
This year has been a banner year for NCBM (men, women, students), with thousands of volunteers involved in missions and ministry. Outreach among the Roma people expanded with the launch of the Roma Bible School in January.
Craig Hamlin, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, directs the school, which completed its third semester in September.

BSC photo
Working with the Roma, along with other ministry opportunities, through North Carolina Baptist Men gets N.C. Baptists out of the pews and onto the mission field.

“I got involved with the school simply by taking a mission trip to serve among the Roma people,” Hamlin said. “Through that, God just opened my heart to the need for these pastors to be educated.”
About 30 pastors from Romania, Hungary and Ukraine have committed to completing the three-year course of study.
Hamlin and other North Carolina Baptist pastors are volunteering their time to travel and teach courses such as Old Testament, pastoral ministry, biblical interpretation, church history and apologetics.
“These pastors are taking everything we are teaching them and taking it back to their people and teaching them. Most of the people in the Gypsy camps can’t read or write very well, so the pastors are the primary leaders in their village or camp,” Hamlin said. “They live very difficult, mundane lives. This school gives the pastor something to look forward to; something to hope in.”
Romania is just one of many opportunities to serve internationally through NCBM. Paul Langston, director of missions for Eastern Baptist Association, has participated in four mission trips to Haiti in the last three years following the January 2010 earthquake.
“What caught my attention is the tremendous poverty in Haiti, and the awareness the earthquake created …,” he said. “The Haitians are reaching and grasping for hope, and we can help. We can help make an eternal impact.”
Langston’s work in Haiti led Brunson to ask him to lead a new ministry team called “Least of These,” focusing on providing financial support for ministries led by locals in Haiti, Kenya, India, Armenia and Gaza.
“We want to support nationals as they do ministry and encourage them,” Langston said.
Internationally, NCBM volunteers also served this year in Honduras, Cuba and Guatemala.
Teams led Vacation Bible Schools, sports camps and medical/dental clinics; helped with construction projects; and shared the gospel door-to-door in villages. In Guatemala, teams are helping build a community health clinic and leadership training center, and renovating a children’s home.
From January 2010 through the end of September, NCBM volunteers have served 187,854 patients in medical clinics in Haiti. The more than 1,400 volunteers have seen 1,752 people profess faith in Jesus Christ.
This year volunteers continued helping with disaster relief needs in Pamlico County related to Hurricane Irene. Since 2011, 122 homes have been rebuilt.
Although North Carolina Baptists stepped up to serve New York and New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy, volunteers are still needed to help with construction projects such as installing insulation and sheetrock, painting and trim work.
In addition to serving through disaster relief, men, women and student volunteers participated in 13 ministries sponsored by NCBM, including medical/dental, aviation, church renewal and agricultural ministry.
A popular ministry opportunity each year is Deep Impact – a weeklong mission camp for middle and high school students.
This year 1,606 students and adult leaders served in mission projects in 13 locations, from Cuba and Honduras to New York and Charlotte.
Tracey Ford, a leader with Good News Baptist Church in Greensboro, has served four years with Deep Impact.
“To see the students’ excitement is incredible,” she said. “They could be doing anything else in the summer, but they come year after year. You can tell that some are being stretched outside their comfort zones. It’s inspirational.”
Through Transform122, about 150 college students served in missions this year.
Students served across the state and internationally in Cuba and Ethiopia.
College students also served in the communities surrounding Red Springs and Shelby, where NCBM sponsor mission camps.
“The purpose of the camps is to reach others through Christ through missions and to get the churches involved in missions,” said Eddie Williams, Shelby camp coordinator. 
In addition to local and international missions, NCBM volunteers served this year in national ministry efforts in Vermont, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, the Appalachian Coalfields and the Rocky Mountain region.
Brunson said he is grateful for the support of North Carolina Baptists this year in ministry projects, and he prays that individuals and churches will begin thinking about involvement in 2014.
“I pray that more people would be willing to go and to step out of their comfort zone; to take a risk for God,” he said.
“There are so many people in the pew who don’t think they can do anything. We want them to see that they have things in their hands God can use. We pray that they will be open to release what they have so God can take it and use it.”
To learn more about NCBM, visit www.baptistsonmission.org or contact Richard Brunson at rbrunson@ncbaptist.org or (800) 395-5102 ext. 5597. NCBM ministries are supported through the North Carolina Missions Offering.
10/25/2013 2:34:29 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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