October 2015

The fate of abortion clinics lies in high court’s hands

October 14 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The fate of multiple abortion clinics awaits the consideration of the U.S. Supreme Court.
 
The high court will have the opportunity to decide this term, which opened Oct. 5, whether state governments may enact rules that result in shutting down most abortion clinics or even the only one remaining in the state. In addition to abortion, the justices also will consider such issues as the death penalty and affirmative action in their term, which will conclude early next summer.
 
The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether it will review rulings by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on abortion regulations enacted by Mississippi and Texas, but the uncertainty is expected to end soon. The high court is likely to make a decision about whether to accept appeals of the lower-court decisions during its conference Nov. 6, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
 
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told Baptist Press he is praying the justices will accept the cases and issue “a judgment consistent with life and human dignity.”
 
“The Supreme Court has an opportunity to defend the rights of millions of women and children against the predatory practices of the robber barons of the abortion industry,” Moore said in written comments. “These cases go beyond typical left vs. right boundaries and speak to the need to protect our neighbors from greed and exploitation.”
 
Steven Aden, ADF senior counsel, is “more hopeful that the Supreme Court will take these abortion cases, or at least one of them, than I have been in a while,” he told BP in an Oct. 12 phone interview. The justices’ interest has been signaled by the fact they have scheduled the Mississippi case for conference seven times beginning in the spring, Aden said. Also, it’s time for another ruling on abortion, he told BP.
 
The high court has not issued an opinion on abortion since 2007, when it upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. “[T]hat’s the longest dry spell I’m aware of for the Supreme Court not to have taken an abortion case,” said Aden, director of ADF’s Center for Life Alliances. “So it’s way overdue.”
 
The Mississippi law requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in case a woman needs emergency hospitalization. That rule would result in the state’s only remaining abortion facility, which is in Jackson, going out of business.
 
The Texas law has the same type of requirement for abortion doctors but also mandates abortion clinics must meet the health and safety standards of other walk-in surgical centers. That law would reduce the number of abortion facilities in the state from what had been about 40 to fewer than 10.
 
The Fifth Circuit Court agreed with a federal judge who ruled Mississippi’s law constituted an “undue burden” on a woman’s access to abortion because the last clinic in the state would have to close. The appeals court, however, upheld the Texas law. The Supreme Court blocked implementation of the Texas law while the appeal process continues.
 
The high court established the “undue burden” standard on abortion in its 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey opinion, which permitted state regulations if they did not encumber women excessively. That ruling also reaffirmed the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide.
 
The questions, Aden said, in the Mississippi case include: “Is it an automatic undue burden in violation of Casey for a state to apply health and safety regulations that leave no clinic standing? Or can Mississippi rely on the availability of nearby abortion facilities across state lines, like in Memphis; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; New Orleans; and say that women can access it there?”
 
Another question, he told BP, “is whether Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey should be revisited by the Supreme Court.”
 
The delay on the Mississippi case appears to indicate justices are determined to consider it with the Texas one, Aden said, leading some observers to think it is possible “one or more members of the court would like to have an opportunity to go after the whole enchilada, if you will – whether Roe and Casey are still viable or whether they should be overturned or revisited.”
 
A majority of the Supreme Court, Aden said, appears “open to reasonable and rational health and safety measures that protect women, because I think they recognize that a so-called right to access abortion has to be taken with or couched in the understanding that states have the responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect women citizens from unscrupulous medical providers.”
 
“I don’t think you’re going to see a case in which the Supreme Court elevates availability of abortion over state regulation for health and safety, because then that would be tantamount to the Supreme Court constitutionalizing back-alley abortion,” he told BP.
 
These “reasonable, common-sense measures” in Mississippi and Texas “apply to all other forms of outpatient surgery,” Aden said. “I think for that reason the Supreme Court will approve [the laws].”
 
The Weekly, the ERLC’s regular news summary and commentary, reported in its Oct. 9 edition the Supreme Court will rule on other social issues this term:
 
Capital punishment could be a topic in cases from Kansas involving sentencing requirements and jury instructions in a ruling by the state’s high court to rescind some death sentences. In the last term, two Supreme Court justices wrote it is time to reconsider the constitutionality of the death penalty. The high court heard oral arguments in the cases Oct. 7.
 
Affirmative action in college admissions will be considered when the justices hear oral arguments Dec. 9. The court will decide whether the University of Texas’ race-sensitive policy for applicants is constitutional.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/14/2015 2:10:17 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Counseling homosexuals: ‘Speak lovingly, winsomely’

October 14 2015 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS

Christian counselors should be able to speak lovingly and winsomely to people struggling with homosexual attraction, said evangelical leaders during a homosexuality conference at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS).
The conference, titled “Homosexuality: Compassion, Care, and Counseling for Struggling People,” was sponsored by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) on the seminary’s campus in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 5-7.

 
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SBTS photo by Emil Handke
Heath Lambert, executive director of ACBC and associate professor of biblical counseling, delivers an Oct. 5 plenary address on homosexuality.

 
“The integrity of our message is at stake in this, brothers and sisters,” said Heath Lambert, executive director of ACBC and associate professor of biblical counseling at SBTS and Boyce College. “If we believe that the Bible teaches homosexuality to be a sin, and if we believe that Jesus Christ changes people, but we don’t know how to help them, then ... we will make a mockery of the Word of God. If we don’t know how to lay hold of the grace of Jesus, we will slander the Word of God and the grace of Jesus.”
 
Using Ephesians 4:15 as his text, Lambert said believers should pay close attention to the way Christ modeled “speaking the truth in love,” because without Him they will speak truth without love. Any help Christians want to give should be motivated by genuine love for homosexuals, Lambert said, which does not apologize for biblical standards. The Bible has not changed, and neither should the convictions of believers, he said.
 
“The thing that haunts me about the culture we live in ... is that our arguments don’t change the mind of God,” he said. “Where is the love, where is the grace when we make sinners comfy on the way to hell? What seems so loving now will turn into great pain in a lifetime.”
 
While some teach that behavior is sinful but desire may not be, Lambert said desire cannot be divorced from one’s actions.
 
“The Bible teaches behavior flows from desire. The Bible teaches that you are not a behavioristic machine who just flies on autopilot. The Bible teaches that you do what you do because you want what you want,” he said. “If you do not repent at the level of desire, you will fail – sooner or later – at the level of behavior.”
 
Christian counselors should seek to minister to gay people, not merely convict them of sin by pointing to the Bible’s ethical commands, Lambert said. Faithful Christian witness requires applying biblical teaching to motivate personal transformation by the Spirit’s power, he said.
 
“It is true that the Bible teaches homosexuality to be a sin, but there is more truth in your Bible than that,” he said. “The Bible also teaches Jesus changes people. The Bible also teaches us how Jesus changes people.”
 
For people struggling with homosexual attraction, following Jesus involves deep, internal transformation into Christ’s likeness, Lambert said, not just trading homosexuality for heterosexuality.
 
“Biblical change is not heterosexuality. Biblical change is when your life looks like Jesus Christ,” he said. “Every time you put off homosexual lust and put on righteousness and purity, that’s called change.
 
“When you say that you can’t change that says more about what you think about Jesus than what you think about the sin of homosexuality. People can change because Jesus changes people.”
 
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, walked through Romans 1:16-32, perhaps the most explicit text in the New Testament against homosexual behavior.
 
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SBTS photo by Emil Handke
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, addresses the challenges the church faces in homosexuality in an Oct. 5 plenary address.

“We have to go back to Romans chapter one because that really explains how this happened,” Mohler said. “We are told here that there is no one who has excuse. Everyone – to put it the way the Bible puts it – everyone is without excuse. No one is going to be able to say, ‘I did not know.’
 
“No one’s going to be able to say that I had no idea that I was a creature made by a creator.”
 
Biblical commands to condemn sin should not stop at homosexuality but include all forms of unrighteousness, Mohler said – including matters of birth control, divorce, assisted sexual reproduction, and pre-marital cohabitation. Each of these, as they went unaddressed from American pulpits, weakened the foundation for biblical marriage and made possible the moral revolution the church now faces.
 
“At every step we have to say that the church failed to be a prophetic voice to speak what needed to be spoken,” said Mohler, whose new book, “We Cannot Be Silent,” releases Oct. 27. “We failed in terms of church discipline. We failed in terms of biblical teaching from the pulpit. We failed in terms of speaking where we needed to speak.”
 
The church also has an obligation to speak into the lives of those struggling with homosexual feelings, he said. They cannot be expected to “figure it out” on their own, and there is no other message that can address their deepest needs.
 
“There’s only one way out and that’s through the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Mohler said.
 
Following Mohler’s address, Lambert presented Mohler the ACBC award for Biblical Counseling Excellence. It was only the second time a non-ACBC member received the award.
 
Sam Allberry, pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Maidenhead, United Kingdom, discussed how Christians can find hope and joy when personal change is slow. Speaking from his own experience as a single pastor who continues to struggle with same-sex attraction, Allberry encouraged believers to delight in Jesus Christ in the midst of gradual change.
 
“His Word doesn’t need to just ricochet off our lives; it needs to abide in us, to remain in us,” he said, appealing to Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches in John 15. “His Word needs to find a permanent home in our hearts.”
 
Just as every branch is cut in order to remain in the vineyard, so every Christian must be pruned in order to remain in Christ, Allberry said. This pruning, though painful, is intended to make us more fruitful, he said.
 
“When those divine cutters come into our life, the blades are very, very sharp. But we know that the person holding them is unfathomably good,” he said. “The result is that we bear more fruit.
 
“Friends, this is the change that matters. The Bible nowhere ... promises me that I will become just gradually more and more heterosexual as I go on in the Christian life. Nor does the Bible lift up marriage as being the goal of the Christian life. Marriage is not meant to fulfill us; marriage is meant to point to the thing that does fulfill us. No, the change the Bible does promise, the change that matters the most, is that we become more and more like Jesus.”
 
Remaining in Jesus includes remaining among the people of God, Allberry said, and Christians can only find full hope and joy in fellowship with community.
 
“We need Christian family, we need Christian community, Christian encouragement, Christian accountability – and through those things, there is great hope and joy to be found,” he said.
 
Also speaking at the conference were Rosaria Butterfield, author of “Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert” and “Openness Unhindered;” Stuart W. Scott, executive director of the One-Eighty Counseling and Education ministry and former associate professor of biblical counseling at SBTS; and Robert Jones, assistant professor biblical counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
 
Scott outlined the path of genuine sexual purity, which emerges from genuine heart transformation, while Jones offered practical guidelines for counseling families broken by homosexual sin. Butterfield gave her testimony as a former lesbian college professor who converted to Christianity.
 
In addition to six plenary sessions, the three-day conference included a preconference on transgenderism and 45 breakout sessions on various counseling matters. ACBC is an evangelical organization that has certified biblical counselors for nearly 40 years. Audio and video from the conference will soon be available on the ACBC website, biblicalcounseling.com.
10/14/2015 1:22:02 PM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS | with 0 comments



Climate change experts call for racketeering investigation

October 14 2015 by WORLD News Service & Baptist Press staff

Climate change is the focus of dueling calls for investigation in Washington.
 
The controversy began Sept. 1, when a consortium of 20 climate scientists urged the Obama administration in a letter to investigate researchers who don’t support man-made climate change theories.
 
In response, Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, suggested this month that he may investigate a nonprofit science organization whose president was the lead signatory of the letter urging President Barack Obama to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to investigate “corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change.”
 
Congress enacted the RICO Act in 1970 to fight organized crime syndicates. Those found guilty of racketeering – criminal activity designed to benefit an organization – may face prison sentences of up to 20 years and seizure of financial assets. The Justice Department used the RICO Act in 1999 to successfully prosecute major tobacco companies.
 
The Sept. 1 letter stated, “If corporations in the fossil fuel industry and their supporters are guilty of the misdeeds” alleged in books and journal articles by scientists who believe in human-induced climate change, “it is imperative that these misdeeds be stopped as soon as possible.”
 
The letter supported a proposal by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., to initiate a RICO investigation of fossil fuel corporations and their supporters. Whitehouse compared fossil fuel companies to those who promoted the tobacco industry and deceived the American public about the dangers of smoking.
 
“The parallels between what the tobacco industry did and what the fossil fuel industry is doing now are striking,” Whitehouse wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in May.
 
The last paragraph of Whitehouse’s op-ed, however, qualified his accusations.
 
“To be clear,” Whitehouse wrote, “I don’t know whether the fossil fuel industry and its allies engaged in the same kind of racketeering activity as the tobacco industry. We don’t have enough information to make that conclusion. Perhaps it’s all smoke and no fire. But there’s an awful lot of smoke.”
 
In their letter, the 20 scientists said investigation of researchers with whom they disagree could help the world “get on with the critically important business of finding effective ways to restabilize the Earth’s climate, before even more lasting damage is done.”
 
Smith, R.-Texas, wrote an Oct. 1 letter to Jagadish Shukla, a climate scientist whose name appears first on the Sept. 1 letter, suggesting the Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES) – an organization directed by Shukla – may have behaved improperly by playing a role calling for investigation of climate change skeptics.
 
The Sept. 1 letter was posted on the IGES website and later removed, according to Smith’s letter, which was posted online.
 
“IGES appears to be almost fully funded by taxpayer money,” Smith wrote, “while simultaneously participating in partisan political activity by requesting a RICO investigation of companies and organizations that disagree with the Obama administration on climate change. In fact, IGES has reportedly received $63 million from taxpayers since 2001, comprising over 98 percent of its total revenue during that time.”
 
Smith directed IGES to preserve “all e-mail, electronic documents, and data created since January 1, 2009, that can be reasonably anticipated to be subject to a request for production by the Committee.”
 
Calvin Beisner, founder of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, said the call to investigate climate change skeptics represents a “direct attack on the rights to freedom of speech and the press guaranteed by the First Amendment” and is “horrifically bad for science.”
 
Vigorous debate is essential to the health of science, said Beisner, who has testified before Congress on the ethics and economics of climate policy. History includes many instances in which “overwhelming scientific consensus” was proved wrong. He pointed to 1 Thessalonians 5:21, where the Apostle Paul urged Christians to “test all things,” as a good model for scientific assessment as well as spiritual analysis.
 
“That’s really the key to science, and it includes testing ideas for which people claim scientific consensus,” Beisner said. “That testing can’t happen without freedom to debate.”
 
Judith Curry, a Georgia Institute of Technology climatologist, believes actions like the scientists’ letter and Whitehouse’s proposal are intended to make pariahs out of scientists who are doing their job: critically evaluate evidence, publish their work in the scientific literature and work with policy makers to assess the impacts and unintended consequences of policy options.
 
Curry wrote in a Fox News op-ed that she was investigated by Rep. Raul Grijalva, D.-Ariz., after she told Congress at a hearing that the “magnitude and impacts of expected warming could be less than generally believed.” Neither Curry nor six other climate scientists investigated by Grijalva for challenging human-induced climate change theories were “found to have engaged in wrongdoing of any sort, yet there have been significant career consequences for some,” she wrote.
 
In a democracy, political opponents or scientists with a different view should not be prosecuted, Curry wrote.
 
The demand to investigate those who disagree on scientific theories and public policy “represents a new low in the politicization of science,” Curry wrote.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Borg writes for WORLD News Service. Used with permission. With reporting by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/14/2015 1:17:21 PM by WORLD News Service & Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Many Yemenis losing hope amid violence

October 14 2015 by Brian Andrews, IMB

OBOCK, Djibouti – Yemenis tend to be laid back, gentle and peaceful, says Shellby Voss,* a Christian worker in the Middle East. She noted many of them seem to pride themselves on Yemen being one of the few Arab countries that had a nonviolent Arab Spring.

 
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Photo by Shellby Voss
Yemeni refugee children have nothing to do and nowhere to be, so they content themselves with wandering around the camp, looking for anything to entertain or distract them from the boredom they must face daily.

 
However, the Houthi rebels’ takeover of much of the country has been disillusioning for many Yemenis. When the Houthis first seized the capital city, Sanaa, in September of last year, the Yemeni people were confident they would be able to pull themselves together as a nation. But now, a year later, the Houthis have also taken the port city of Aden, President Hadi has fled to Saudi Arabia, and peace talks in Geneva have produced no positive movement. Many Yemenis are losing hope the fighting will end any time soon.
 
As the conflict carries on, more are looking to flee the violence. Djibouti is the most practical option for many refugees. Its borders remain open to them, and it has an airport for those with passports and money. Unfortunately, the sea provides the most reliable route to Djibouti, necessitating more than 13 hours on a barge.
 
Shellby and her husband Greg* recently visited Djibouti’s Obock refugee camp to see what immediate needs they could meet. They said conditions in the camp were dismal at best, with no electricity and little water. The refugees who lived near the front of the camp had a few foam mattresses, though not nearly enough for their large families. Rice and noodles had been distributed randomly, but most families had no fire or pots for cooking.
 
Husbands and fathers often make the trip to Obock alone to see if they should bring their families. Most decide it’s better to stay in Yemen.
 
“Everybody I talked to at the camp said, ‘We discovered this was not a place we wanted to bring our families.’ So, they were waiting on a way to get back,” Greg said.
 
Shellby said, “They’d rather die in Yemen quick than in Obock slow.”
 
Shellby and Greg met one refugee who was doing everything he could to help other refugees as they came to the camp. At first he handed out bottles of water to newly arrived refugees. Now he helps them find their way around the city and locate apartments or hotels where they can stay. Before Shellby and Greg left Djibouti, they gave the man some funds to help his efforts.
 
Over the next year, Shellby and Greg hope to find more ways to meet immediate needs of the refugees in Djibouti.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Andrews is a writer for the International Mission Board based in the Middle East. Learn more: email Christian workers Greg and Shellby Voss at mmstreet@pmbx.com to find out more about the Yemenis’ situation and how to pray for them.)
10/14/2015 1:07:46 PM by Brian Andrews, IMB | with 0 comments



More Canaanite evidence found by NOBTS dig team

October 14 2015 by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS

KARMEI YOSEF, Israel – Added evidence that an ancient water system at Tel Gezer in Israel could be the product of Middle Bronze Age Canaanites living between the time of Abraham and the Israelite conquest was uncovered by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s archaeology team during a challenging dig season this summer.

 
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Photo by Dan Warner
Light streams into the excavation of the Gezer water system in Israel as New Orleans Seminary volunteers take measurements of the tunnel.

 
The Bible provides a tantalizing parallel to the Gezer system in the accounts of King David. In 2 Samuel 5:6-9, David’s men utilized a “water shaft” to invade and conquer the fortress of Zion/Jerusalem. This rock-hewn system has been located in Jerusalem’s “City of David” area. Visitors can walk the entire length of that Canaanite system.
 
Based on all the available data, Dan Warner, co-director of the NOBTS Gezer dig, believes the City of David tunnel and the Gezer system are both products of the Middle Bronze Age.
 
The Gezer water system excavation is a joint project of the Moskau Institute for Archaeology at NOBTS and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA). The dig is co-directed by Dan Warner, an NOBTS professor, and INPA chief archaeologist Tsvika Tsuk. Jim Parker, NOBTS professor and executive director of the Moskau Institute, and Dennis Cole, professor and chairman of the division of biblical studies, also provide leadership for the three-week dig season in May and June.
 
Warner estimates that the Canaanites likely built the water system during the height of Gezer’s prominence as a Canaanite city-state. Though this would place construction approximately 600-700 years before the Israelite conquest of Canaan, the water system can shed light on the Canaanite people and their culture – a culture which plays a formidable role in the Old Testament.
 
Canaanite Gezer is mentioned multiple times in the Israelite conquest narrative recorded in the Old Testament book of Joshua. The most notable mention occurs in Joshua 10:33. When Joshua and his men attacked Lachish, approximately 20 miles south of Gezer, the army of Gezer came to that city’s aid. The Israelites defeated Lachish and the army of Gezer, killing King Horam of Gezer.
 
Another important reference to Canaanite Gezer is connected to the Israelite failure to take the entire land that God had given them. In Joshua 16:10, the biblical author notes that the Israelites “did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer.” And though the Israelites set aside Gezer as a “city of refuge,” the Bible indicates that the Canaanites controlled Gezer until the time of Solomon when they were finally defeated by an Egyptian pharaoh (1 Kings 9:15-17).
 
The Canaanites had experienced a time of cultural decline in the years before the conquest but were still a frightening foe with heavily fortified cities. The water system, along with the massive defensive walls and gate, illustrate an advanced society with great technical know-how, significant engineering skills and a desire to build things on a large scale, Warner said.
 

The 2015 Gezer dig

“The pottery retrieved from the system this past season appears to date either from the end of the Middle Bronze Age or the beginning of the Late Bronze Age,” Warner said. “Either way, the system had to be dug before the pottery was deposited, giving the earliest possible date in the Middle Bronze Age.”
 
The massive rock-hewn water system was created with flint and bronze tools as early as 2000 B.C, Warner noted. Already the largest known of its type, evidence suggests the Gezer system may be one of the oldest.
 
“We know of nothing this massive from the Middle Bronze Age anywhere in the Ancient Near East,” Warner said. “This system fits well with other [Canaanite] features in close proximity: to the south the massive gate and stone tower and to the northeast the large standing stones.”
 
The ancient water system, which provided a water source inside the walls of Gezer, consists of at least three parts: a keyhole-shaped entrance, a long diagonal shaft and a basin to collect water which may extend into a cavern located just beyond the basin. The massive water system measures 12 feet wide and 24 feet high at its opening, stretching 130 feet into the ground at a 38-degree slope. For the past six years, a team of archaeologists and volunteers has been investigating the site in an effort to determine who constructed the ancient water system and when it was constructed.
 
In previous years, the team encountered a highly concentrated area of Late Bronze Age (c. 1550-1200 B.C.) potsherds. This discovery led the dig leaders and Eli Yanni, who serves as the dig’s pottery expert, to speculate that the tunnel may have been used as a pottery dump after it was no longer used as water source. Why it ceased use as a water system remains a point of speculation. This year Yanni noticed a clear transition from Late Bronze Age pottery to Middle Bronze Age pottery dating between 1800 and 1500 B.C. under the “pottery dump.” The pottery finds make a 2000 B.C. construction date more likely, Warner said.
 

Gezer water system history

In the Middle Bronze Age, Gezer grew from a small village into a heavily fortified city-state. The Canaanites built high stone walls, massive towers and a mud-brick gate system to protect the city. According to Warner, the city met a violent end, most likely at the hands of Pharaoh Thutmose III, who lists Gezer as a conquered city on the walls of the Karnack temple.
 
King Solomon launched another construction boom in the Iron Age 1,000 years later. Solomon rebuilt and fortified Gezer and strengthened the defenses at Hazor, Jerusalem and Megiddo (1 Kings 9:15-17). Because of the dating of water systems at Hazor and Megiddo, many archaeologists argue that the Gezer water system was constructed after Solomon, during the reign of Ahab.
 
When Irish archaeologist R.A.S. Macalister excavated the system from 1906-08, he attributed it to Middle Bronze Age Canaanites. However, his primitive archaeology methods along with persistent theories about the systems in Hazor and Megiddo led many to dismiss his claims about the Gezer system. Recent evidence suggests that the Megiddo system also is a product of Middle Bronze Age Canaanites, providing additional evidence for an early dating of the Gezer system.
 
Shortly after Macalister’s excavation at Gezer, a retaining wall collapsed and refilled the water system with dirt rocks and debris. It remained untouched for 102 years.
 
During his dig, Macalister laid a “causeway” of stones across the muddy basin to reach the cavern. While the causeway helped Macalister’s team reach the cavern, it also protected materials resting in the basin from contamination following the retaining wall’s 1908 collapse. The NOBTS/INPA team discovered Macalister’s causeway during the 2012 dig season. For the past four seasons, the team has been removing datable pottery samples from the area Macalister left untouched.
 

Challenges & opportunities

As the dig has progressed, the NOBTS/INPA team faced a series of challenges related to the eventual plan to open the system to visitors. Workers cleared the remaining dirt layer covering the ancient steps in the spring of this year. The dig team constructed a massive, 130-foot plywood ramp to avoid damaging the exposed steps as debris was pulled from the bottom using an industrial winch. Planning, acquiring material and construction of the ramp consumed the first week of the dig.
 
Another challenge this year came in the form of water – lots of it, which would not be unusual for a water system. During the second week of the dig, progress slowed when the team encountered deep water in the basin area. One morning the team removed approximately 140 gallons of water using large jugs. The rest of the season was spent digging in ankle- and knee-deep water.
 
This season also brought new opportunities. The team received approval to dig in the storerooms located along the Canaanite wall near the mouth of the water system. It is Warner’s contention that clearing the debris between the entrance to the water system and the Canaanite gate and fortifications walls should reveal a connection between the two features. This is based on the fact that the entrance to the gate is at the same level as the entrance to the water system. Yanni is overseeing this effort. Good progress was made, but the team is still at least a meter above the system entrance.
 
How the Canaanites could build such a system remains a mystery. Many have attributed the system to outside influences such as the Minoans, Egyptians or Mesopotamians. But the Middle Bronze Age dating removes that option. Warner maintains the possibility that the Canaanites developed the technology.
 
Next year’s dig at Gezer will run from May 22 to June 10 and is open to volunteers. For information about Gezer or for details regarding participation in the 2016 dig, contact Dan Warner (dwarner@nobts.edu) or Dennis Cole (rdcole@nobts.edu) at NOBTS. Those interested in the master of arts degree program in biblical archaeology may contact Warner or Cole for more information.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary who participated in the Tel Gezer dig the past five years.)

10/14/2015 1:02:45 PM by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS | with 0 comments



Former lesbian and LGBT activist offers unique perspective

October 13 2015 by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS Communications

While many speakers during the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) conference were evangelical counselors or longtime pastors, Rosaria Butterfield offered a unique perspective on homosexuality. The conference, titled “Homosexuality: Compassion, Care, and Counseling for Struggling People” and held at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), featured the popular author and speaker’s testimony during one of its plenary sessions, Oct. 6.
 
Butterfield – once a liberal, feminist, lesbian college professor at Syracuse University and now a pastor’s wife – offered the perspective of someone formerly a member of the gay lifestyle, but radically and supernaturally saved out of it through the ministry of a local pastor.
 
In 1997, after Butterfield wrote a scathing article about a nearby Promise Keepers conference, a Presbyterian pastor in town sent her a letter challenging her presuppositions and inviting her to dinner at his home. After initially throwing it away, she dug it back out and agreed to visit him. Their interaction grew into a friendly, and eventually redemptive, relationship.
 
“I felt that when Ken [Smith] extended his hand to me in friendship, it was safe for me to close mine in his,” she said. “I wasn’t Ken’s project; I was Ken’s neighbor. This wasn’t friendship evangelism; this was friendship.”

 
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SBTS photo by Emil Handke
Rosaria Butterfield, former lesbian and LGBT activist, gives her testimony during an Oct. 6 plenary session at the ACBC conference.

Through the consistent love and care from Pastor Ken Smith and his wife, Floy, Butterfield was gradually exposed to a holy God who hated sin but extended love and grace to broken people, she said. The Smiths never explained the gospel to her, nor did they invite her to church, but instead treated her as a friend and patiently encouraged her to read her Bible carefully.
 
“I actually started to read the Bible like I was trained to read a book,” she said. “I was a heathen reading the Bible. ... I read the way a glutton devours. And slowly and over time, the Bible started to take on a life and a meaning that startled me.”
 
Butterfield’s regular exposure to Word of God slowly changed her, and even her friends within the gay community began to notice. Butterfield found the structure of Romans 1 particularly gripping, with its unflinching condemnation of sin and its close literary relationship with the Fall narrative in Genesis 3.
 
“The two biblical frames, now – one in Genesis and one in Romans – stood out as bookends of my life,” she said. “But not just my life … if the Bible is, as its internal testimony purports, an eternal frame relevant for and responding to the needs for all humanity, then Genesis 3 and Romans 1 stood out as the table of contents for what ails the world.”
 
After she had read through the Bible seven times, Butterfield continued to wrestle with it spiritually. When Smith preached a sermon on Jesus feeding the 5,000, he paused to emphasize Jesus’ words to Peter and the disciples: “Do you still lack understanding?
 
“This startled me, because this was my question,” said the former literature professor. “I realized that question was for me. Do I still lack understanding? Then I wondered who was speaking here: that old man behind the pulpit or the God-man from before the foundations of the world? There was something about the hermeneutic of preaching that completely disarmed me, and truth be told, it still does.”
 
It was through deep, heartfelt repentance that Butterfield began to experience new life. Though her life has changed significantly since her conversion, that fundamental reality never changes, she said.
 
“Repentance is bittersweet business,” she said. “Repentance is not just some conversion exercise; it is the posture of a Christian. Repentance is our daily fruit, our hourly washing, our minute-by-minute wake-up call, our reminder of God’s creation, Jesus’ blood, and the Holy Spirit’s comfort. Repentance is the only no-shame solution to a renewed conscience, because it proves only the obvious: that God was right all along.”
 
Butterfield’s talk was followed by an hour-long question and answer session with Heath Lambert, executive director of ACBC and associate professor of biblical counseling at SBTS and Boyce College. Butterfield argued the moniker “gay Christian,” when used to affirm that both a Christian identity and a homosexual identity are compatible, is unhelpful.
 
“The problem with identifying as a gay Christian is that the Lord Jesus Christ wants our whole identity,” she said. “And we are not to use any adjectival modifier to modify our identity as Christian, especially if that is not going to survive to the new Jerusalem.
 
“Adjectives in terms of grammar are modifiers, their job is to tell me what kind of Christian you are. The problem with a term like ‘gay Christian’ is that it modifies Christian according to a category of the flesh.”
 
Butterfield has written two books, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert and Openness Unhindered. Audio and video from the conference will soon be available on the ACBC website biblicalcounseling.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andrew J.W. Smith writes for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky.)

10/13/2015 12:24:39 PM by Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Joining SBC draws focus in 2015

October 13 2015 by Roger S. Oldham, SBC Life

Becoming part of the Southern Baptist family, both as a church and as an individual, has been on display in 2015.
 
In his address to the Executive Committee during its February meeting, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd challenged the Convention to invite other churches “to come into our family and cooperate with us to finish the task of advancing the gospel to every person in the world.”
 
A few months later, Pastor James MacDonald announced at the SBC Pastors’ Conference in Columbus, Ohio, that Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago had made the commitment to become a cooperating church with the SBC.
 
On August 16, Barry McCarty, who has served as chief parliamentarian at the SBC annual meeting for 29 successive years, and his wife Pat were baptized into the membership of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga.

 
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Photo by Bill Bangham
James MacDonald announces at the SBC Pastors’ Conference, June 15, 2015, that Harvest Bible Chapel has become part of the Southern Baptist family.

The appeal of cooperation

In his remarks to the Executive Committee, Floyd observed that there are thousands of churches across the U.S. that affirm the doctrines articulated in The Baptist Faith and Message, admire the SBC’s methods of doing missions across the world, and would be willing to help finance that work.
 
“What if we begin to call forth churches aggressively and outwardly, ‘Come and be a part of who we are and cooperate in reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ?’“ Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., asked.
 
“I believe there are churches all over America who have an interest in becoming a part of our network of churches called Southern Baptists,” he said.
 
MacDonald, founder of the multi-site Harvest Bible Chapel in the greater Chicago area, prefaced his June 15 announcement by noting he was a “Baptist kid who grew up in Canada” and that he had been ordained there in a Baptist church.
 
“In our desire to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth and our sense of the way God honors broader partnerships,” he said, “and the fact, frankly, that we’ve been treated like family here [at the Pastors’ Conference] for more than a decade, I’m just thrilled and truly honestly humbled to announce that the board of our church, Harvest Bible Chapel, voted unanimously about a month ago for us to join the Southern Baptist Convention.”
 
MacDonald’s announcement was greeted with applause and shouts of joy across the convention hall.
 
Serving 16 SBC presidents as chief parliamentarian afforded McCarty more platform time at SBC annual meetings than any other individual over a 29- year span and gave him a unique perspective.
 
“I immersed myself in the content of The Baptist Faith and Message and grew to love the way it summarized the Christian faith,” he told the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Christian Index.
 
“I especially appreciated its clear statement on salvation by grace through faith, while also affirming believer’s baptism as the biblical testimony of a saving faith in the work of Christ,” he said.
 
McCarty cited three primary reasons for his decision to become a Southern Baptist. “First,” he noted, “while Southern Baptists are not a creedal people, they are a confessional people. And at this point in history The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is the best statement of faith I know of.
 
“Second, right now no one is speaking to our culture on the great moral issues with as much clarity or biblical integrity as Southern Baptists.
 
“Third, at this point in history no one is doing more to penetrate lostness around the world than Southern Baptists,” he said.
 

The Meaning of Cooperation

The term “cooperation” has a specialized meaning in Southern Baptist life. It refers to a set of cooperative relationships at the local, state, and national level, creating a synergy among and between sister churches committed to the same broad missional purposes. These ministry statements are spelled out in the SBC Organization Manual.
 
Southern Baptists value such cooperation as a core commitment, believing it enables churches more effectively to accomplish Kingdom purposes. Using the Acts 1:8 missions mandate, the Southern Baptist family provides a structure for each church to network with other churches locally and regionally to reach their respective “Jerusalems and Judeas” with the gospel, and with the ministry initiatives of the SBC to reach out to their “Samarias and the uttermost parts” of the lost world.
 
A Southern Baptist church is an autonomous Baptist church that,

  • Missionally identifies itself as part of the Southern Baptist fellowship of churches;

  • Cooperatively affirms its willing cooperation with the Convention’s purposes, missions, ministries and processes;

  • Doctrinally embraces the biblical faith and practice with which Southern Baptists do and have historically identified themselves; and

  • Financially provides regular financial support for the Convention’s work as part of the church’s adopted budget.

 

Choosing to Cooperate

More than one thousand existing churches have begun to cooperate with the Convention since 2010, according to data provided by the North American Mission Board in the 2015 Book of Reports.
 
Many inquiring churches make their initial contact with the Southern Baptist family through a local Baptist association, a Southern Baptist ethnic or racial fellowship, or a cooperating state Baptist Convention.
 
Others begin the process of becoming Southern Baptist by contacting the SBC Executive Committee office of Convention communications and relations. Working with associational leaders, state convention staff, and SBC entity staff, this office has produced resources to assist inquiring churches as they pray through becoming openly identified as cooperating Southern Baptist churches.
 

Three Levels of Cooperation

The vast majority of Southern Baptist churches are part of three independent, but interrelated, sets of ministries a local Baptist association, a state Baptist convention, and the SBC. This has been true historically; it remains the case in the 21st Century.
 
Being a “non-connectional” organization, the SBC recognizes three principles relative to these sets of relationships.
 
First, the SBC is independent and sovereign in its own sphere, setting its own parameters for participation in its missions and ministries.
 
Second, each local church is fully independent and autonomous over its own matters, selecting and ordaining its own leaders, establishing its own bylaws and other governing documents, adopting its own budget, and choosing to participate in Convention causes at its own will.
 
Third, each local Baptist association and state Baptist convention is independent and sovereign in its own sphere and sets its guidelines for local church participation in their respective ministries.
 

Benefits of cooperation

The most important benefits of cooperating with the SBC are spiritual and intangible. Scattered across the U.S. are thousands of like-minded churches and millions of like-minded believers working together to accomplish Kingdom-sized initiatives in missions, evangelism, church planting, education, ethics and religious liberty. A special synergy and camaraderie exists when local churches band together in a network of high impact ministries at home and abroad.
 
Further, members of cooperating local churches become part of the leadership pool from which leaders are drawn for multiple facets of Southern Baptist life. They also become the volunteer base for numerous ministries supported by the Convention. Being informed of SBC initiatives, they give of their time, talents and resources to the various ministry initiatives of the Convention and its entities.
 
Financial contributions through the Convention’s plan of giving called the Cooperative Program, coupled with special missions offerings, help underwrite the Convention’s missions sending agencies, ministerial training through the Convention’s seminaries, and the godly influence brought to the public square and halls of justice across the nation through the Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
 
The networking and fellowship of the members of cooperating churches promotes a sense of accomplishment that this national ministering family is making a difference in people’s lives.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger S. Oldham is vice president for Convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee. He serves as executive editor of SBC LIFE, where this article first appeared.)

10/13/2015 12:20:12 PM by Roger S. Oldham, SBC Life | with 0 comments



In Ukraine: He lifts church’s resolve to stay open

October 13 2015 by Tom Long, IMB Connecting

Life along the road to the war front seemed normal – gardens surrounding every home, villagers taking their cows out to pasture, huge sunflower fields dotting the landscape nearby. It didn’t look like we were less than 13 miles from the war front.
 
I met Victor* last summer. At that time, the 30-something believer was helping evacuate people from Ukrainian towns and villages where the war was raging. Now he works with a ministry that assists internally displaced people.

 
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Photo by Tom Long
For 30-something Victor, spending time with children is a highlight of his ministry trips to a Baptist church near Ukraine’s war front.

Two to three times a week, Victor visits the war front to deliver food and hope to those most in need.
 
This particular morning, we loaded 300-plus loaves of bread directly from a bakery into a van and headed toward the front at 5:30 a.m. After six checkpoints in more than two hours on the road, we finally arrived.
 
Two hundred yards from the church stood three buildings that had been heavily damaged by mortar shells the other day. Fortunately, the church building did not sustain any damage.
 
We were greeted by Sasha*, a young man in his 20s whose age disguises his maturity and his heart for the people who have endured more than a year of war.
 
Sasha is not the pastor of this church, but he finds himself in that position now that the pastor and another leader have left. Someone suggested they lock up the church building and all of them leave.
 
“I was against the idea,” Sasha said. “The church, like Christians, must stand in the most difficult times. We must be here to minister.”

 
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Photo by Tom Long
Victor, a Ukrainian involved in ministry to people displaced by war, prepares to load bread into his vehicle for delivery to a Baptist church for distribution to its war-battered community.

The church is doing just that. Every day they prepare a hot meal and deliver it by bicycle to more than 40 people unable to leave their homes due to physical immobility. They started distributing food back in February when temperatures were below freezing, and they have continued to deliver meals no matter the weather.
 
“Ministry isn’t just singing songs and preaching on Sundays,” Sasha said. “During this time, we need to go to the people and help deliver food and water,” he said, commenting on full scope of “true ministry.”
 
Someone donated a generator to the church, so now they are able to provide a charging place for phones and computers when the electricity doesn’t work.
 
Covering windows and roofs damaged by shelling is another ministry of the church. With winter not too far away, they hope to purchase particleboard to cover broken windows.
 
Funds also are needed for a vehicle to deliver food to the homebound and for medicine and other supplies that are in demand because no shops are open in the city.
 
When Victor and others come to town, they take food packets to families with children. Victor and his ministry receive some support from Global Hunger Fund gifts from Southern Baptists distributed by Baptist Global Response to provide the packets. To help bring a smile to the numerous kids waiting for him, Victor also brings Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes of school and hygiene supplies and small toys.

 
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Photo by Tom Long
Three days before a food delivery team arrived, the force of the mortar shells that hit this building near a Baptist church blew out every window.

“Before the war, few people knew there was a Baptist church. Now, everyone knows there is a Baptist church,” Sasha remarked about the role the church now plays in the community.
 
Sasha’s sister, who started attending the church again after the war began, said her life has been changed.
 
“I know that without God, I’m no one,” she said.
 
She commented that she has a small child and there isn’t any place to buy food or diapers.
 
“I was praying how to feed my baby,” she said. After a moment of silence and tears streaming down her face, she said the body of Christ “is living up to its name.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Long is a Christian worker in Ukraine.)
 
*Names changed.
 
Learn more – If you or your church would like more information about how IMB is working with churches inside the Ukrainian war zone, contact rebirtheasternukraine@gmail.com.
 
Give – To help families replace windows, doors and roofs that have been damaged in areas around the conflict zone where the war has stopped, go to netcommunity.imb.org/giving-search-page; in the “Find projects by keywords” search box, type “Rebirth” for more information on how to give. To give to Global Hunger Relief, go to globalhungerrelief.com; to assist the work of Baptist Global Response, go to gobgr.org.

10/13/2015 12:12:12 PM by Tom Long, IMB Connecting | with 0 comments



From Zen Buddhism to church planting

October 13 2015 by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Witness

Aldo Leon, a self-described Cuban-American Miami boy, recently moved back to Miami from Los Angeles to plant Reconcile Church Miami with the purpose of reaching the lost in south Dade County.
 
Leon, 33, married and a father of two, wasn’t always so passionate about the gospel. He says that he grew up in a home that was very “unreligious,” and in college he had very liberal professors who fed his dislike for religion – Christianity in particular.
 
“I was taking criminal justice courses, and the professors would attack Christianity, and I would swallow it all,” Leon said.
 
In his 20s, Leon had a girlfriend – now his wife – who is a Christian. Every time she invited him to church or talked about God, he said, they would fight.

 
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Photo courtesy of Aldo Leon
Aldo Leon and family

“That was the extent of our conversations about religion,” he said.
 
Leon became involved in boxing and as he trained and became more serious about the sport, his trainers suggested he read up on Zen Buddhism because some of its aspects would be beneficial to his boxing.
 
“I wanted to be this great fighter, and I really got into this religion,” Leon said.
 
He bought all the books, read all the articles, watched videos and really delved into Zen Buddhism. In the midst of his studies he came upon a chapter that suggested to Westerners to get familiarized with Jesus. For Buddhists, Jesus is another enlightened being.
 
Leon got his hands on a New King James New Testament to learn about Jesus like his book suggested.
 
“Not because I was looking for the Jesus of the Bible, but the idolatrous Jesus of Buddhism,” he said.
 
Everything changed after that.
 
“Something happened to me that I haven’t gotten over since,” Leon said. “I began to believe what was written about Christ. It was very strange for me because I wasn’t really looking for Jesus, but He was finding me.
 
“One month prior I was arguing with my wife and ripping her away from her faith, and the next I’m battling to stand on biblical truths and morals.”
 
That all happened in 2007.
 
After completing his ministry education at The Master’s Seminary in Los Angeles, Leon came back to Miami with the desire to plant a church.
 
“I felt a need to attack areas of great [gospel] need and do it with passion,” he said.
 
Conversations with Al Fernandez, a regional catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, and Jose Abella, lead pastor of Providence Road Church in Miami, confirmed God’s calling for Leon to plant in Miami. Reconcile Church Miami is set to launch in October.
 
Gary Johnson, director of missions for the Miami Baptist Association, heard Leon’s story during a new works meeting in July. He felt that it was one of those stories that just had to be shared. Johnson, however, was more interested in seeing Leon join the Miami Baptist Association – like many other millennial pastors are doing.
 
Leon said joining the Miami Baptist Association makes sense because church planting is not something that can be done alone. Not only that, but being part of the association makes him and his church a part of something much bigger than themselves, and that is important to him.
 
Leon noted he’s often thought about the similarities between his conversion story and the apostle Paul’s. While the Zen Buddhism aspect of his conversion story is an interesting one, he says that what really drives him to share the gospel is his realization about how lost he once was and how miraculously he was saved – much like Paul.
 
“I’ve never gotten over the fact that I was a person who was lost and is now saved,” Leon said. “When I converse with lost people, there is an empathy and understanding of where they are at.
 
“Some Christians don’t know how to have a conversation with a lost person, and they can kind of say these cookie-cutter things but not really connect. When [lost] people ask questions and say the difficult things that some [lost] people say, I’m able to respond to that.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keila Diaz is a reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness, news source of the Florida Baptist Convention.)

10/13/2015 12:07:16 PM by Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Witness | with 0 comments



Floyd: Awakening will cause ‘strategic reinvention’

October 12 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Merging the International Mission Board (IMB) and North American Mission Board (NAMB) is a key question Southern Baptists must address if a much-prayed-for spiritual awakening comes to their network of churches.
 
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Ronnie Floyd raised the question during his address at a symposium on “The SBC & the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal & Recommitment” Sept. 28-29 at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
 
“Spiritual renewal leads to strategic reinvention,” Floyd said in an address titled “Kindling Afresh the Gift of God: Spiritual Renewal, Strategic Reinvention and the Southern Baptist Convention.”
 
“Structure and systems flow from the work of God; they do not create the work of God,” said Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas who was among the symposium’s seven featured speakers.
 
“I do not speak as one who does not understand our history nor as one who is a newcomer asking questions that are not truly relevant,” Floyd said, citing numerous ways he has been involved in Southern Baptist life since the late 1980s. Among them: chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, president of the Pastors’ Conference and, most recently, chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.

 
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Spiritual awakening will cause “strategic reinvention” in the Southern Baptist Convention, SBC President Ronnie Floyd notes at a symposium on "The SBC & the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal & Recommitment."

“Yet, I have always been one who has never been afraid to challenge us in what we are doing, why we are doing it, and even the way we may still be doing it,” Floyd said, noting, “We do not need to demonize any of our people who ask questions in the right spirit.”
 
Floyd set forth several “challenging questions” that Southern Baptists will face “as we kindle afresh the gift of God and experience moments of renewal.”
 
“I will propose more questions than my opinion, even though I do have a view on probably most of them,” Floyd said. “Most of these questions people have heard already, but some may never have made it to a public arena,” he continued. “I believe it would be negligent of me in dealing with my assigned topic if I chose not to share some of these important questions for this generation of Baptists to consider.”
 
Among Floyd’s questions:

  • “Do we exist to preserve our present brand, structure and systems, or do we exist to advance the gospel together regionally, statewide, nationally and internationally?”

The Southern Baptist Convention, founded in 1845, could drift into a focus on structures, budgets and competing projects “rather than keeping our focus on our mission to reach the world,” Floyd said. If, over time, Southern Baptists lose “our identity and our reason for being … this leads to people and leaders leaving us and taking their support and vision to other places and ministries,” he said.

  • “For the sake of gospel advancement, should the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board become one mission board, the Global Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention?”

One reason why a single mission board has never been created, Floyd said, stems from the specific roles of IMB and NAMB. But he pondered whether the dual roles are needed “within the global culture we experience daily and with the reality that ethnicities live everywhere across the world. ... [W]ith an undeniable global mindset in America today, is this still the right strategy?”
 
The future of the SBC’s two mission boards, Floyd said, will involve a decision on how best to “fast-forward the mission of our churches” to advance the Gospel among the ethnicities of the world.

  • “Do state conventions and associations have a future in Southern Baptist life?”

There is a need for “boots on the ground” to help churches fulfill their mission, Floyd said, suggesting that state conventions and local Baptist associations will have relevance by optimizing their mission to “serve our churches in reaching their God-assigned responsibility of going, baptizing and making disciples of all the nations.”
 
State conventions, associations and SBC entities, he added, “must find a way to cease duplication and triplication locally, statewide and nationally.”

  • “How will we finance our work together in the future in the most effective way?”

Floyd noted that Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program for missions and ministry support in each state and across the nation and world was founded 90 years ago. “I don’t think our forefathers would fear churches asking serious questions about our financial future and the gospel work we do together,” he said. “If they had not asked the question … there would be no Cooperative Program today.”
 
To strengthen the Cooperative Program, Floyd called for “a renewal in teaching biblical stewardship to our people, calling them boldly to 10 percent giving through their church”; for churches “to give more sacrificially than ever before through our Cooperative Program annually, beginning as soon as possible”; and for state conventions to “consider going 50-50 [in budgeting for their state and the SBC] by the end of the year 2020 or even before.”
 
“If we did these specific things simultaneously … we would see a mission explosion statewide, nationally and internationally,” Floyd said. “What God has given to us biblically and missionally we must refuse to lose financially.”
 
Floyd added a call for “an intentional strategy to enlist other churches in America to join our convention” because many churches “have the capacity for us to become their home.”
 
“If they agree with us biblically by adhering to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, agree with us missiologically in the way we advance the gospel regionally, statewide, nationally and internationally, and agree with us cooperatively in the way we support our work financially and are willing to join us in this grand task, then we need to open our doors to them,” Floyd said.
 
“I would even suggest that we go online with this strategy, creating a ‘Join the Southern Baptist Convention’ website and place a link on the websites of each of our state conventions and our [Southern Baptist Convention] website,” Floyd said. He also suggested that state convention and SBC websites “create online giving for our churches … in this online world.”

  • “Is there anything new we need to create for today and for the future that will help our churches in their mission of going, baptizing and making disciples of all the nations?”

Baptists must not be thwarted by “How much will it cost?” but focus on “Who will it reach?” Floyd said.
 
“What if we had a compassion arm in our convention that brings all we do presently and all we could do in the future into one entity?” he asked in reference to disaster relief, hunger relief and other Southern Baptist initiatives. “I submit to you, if done effectively, it may have the capacity long-term to pay for itself sufficiently. Why? Because Baptists are supporting some of this now through what we are doing already, and they are helping pay for it through others that are non-Baptist ministries.
 
“Additionally, it would place our powerful Gospel message into this Christless culture that is usually open to appreciating ministries of compassion,” Floyd said.
 
In his conclusion, Floyd noted that Southern Baptists gave “just over $7 billion over the past decade” through the Cooperative Program and the annual mission offerings for IMB and NAMB.
 
“Knowing what we know about our past and present, as well as having the resources of churches, people, influence, reach and dollars,” Floyd asked, “how can we leverage all for the purpose of advancing the Gospel in an unprecedented manner into places where the gospel has never been before regionally, statewide, nationally and globally?”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/12/2015 12:57:23 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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