October 2018

S.C. church serves community in Florence aftermath

October 4 2018 by Laura Sikes, NAMB

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers came to bring help, healing and hope to Hurricane Florence survivors in Dillon, S.C. And they were met with overwhelming support and appreciation from the community and their host, First Baptist Church of Dillon.

Photo by Laura Sikes, NAMB
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention volunteer Monte Furrh, left, of Boyd Baptist Church in Bonham, Texas, talks with homeowner Jasper Greg Rogers, who attends First Baptist Church Dillon, S. C. Rogers lost all his belongings and was displaced when his home took on six feet of water from Hurricane Florence. A four-man mud-out team tore out sheetrock in some rooms up to the ceiling.

Dillon County, with a population of about 30,000, has suffered three major disasters from storms in the last four years. Flood waters in 2015 devastated much of the state from Columbia to the coastal areas. Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016 and Hurricane Florence followed in September this year with its heavy, unceasing rains, which caused much flooding that damaged homes and businesses, some for the second time since 2015.
Through it all, South Carolina Disaster Relief director Randy Creamer said the community is resilient and commends the church for its response. South Carolina has two other command sites, one at Living Water Baptist in North Myrtle Beach and the third at North Conway Baptist Church in Conway. Many individual churches are also serving.
FBC Dillon responded to the storm immediately, Creamer said, with some of its staff serving with first responders and helping with rescues.
“They have opened the doors of the church with open hearts,” Creamer said. “They don’t mind being disrupted or inconvenienced. They simply want to touch their community and share the gospel by living it out.”
Sam Porter, the North American Mission Board’s national director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, called the church “a great example for the whole nation.”
Mike Felker, an SBDR volunteer from Flint Baptist Church in Flint, Texas, said members of the community have been touched by the service volunteers are providing.
“A lady in a grocery store came up to me and just cried and thanked me for what volunteers are doing, asking me, ‘Can I give you a hug?’” Felker said. “‘The church has bent over backwards for anything we need.’”
FBC Dillon associate pastor Jamie Arnette worked alongside first responders for the first several days after the storm. He said the church started serving the community immediately, and multiple groups, including former members, sent everything from food, supplies, pumps and Blessing Buckets, which were filled with cleaning supplies and a Bible.

Photo by Laura Sikes, NAMB
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer David Carver of Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Cerro Gordo, N.C., shares a devotion with volunteers from South Carolina and Texas at First Baptist Church Dillon, S.C.

“Everyone I’ve come into contact with has been amazing,” Arnette said.
Flood waters rose two feet in the downtown area, but the church did not take on any water. The church did sustain roof damage to a utility building that housed a clothing closet. Members promptly cleared the closet and distributed the clothes from the parking lot. They also delivered meals in the community.
Jean Norris, a 30-year member of the church, said it is difficult to see all the devastation and especially the people who were hit twice. “We try to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” she said. “And Pastor Jamie has been trying to teach us how to be disciples.”
Norris and a few other women of the church help take care of Arnette’s wife Kathy, who has Huntington’s Disease and needs round-the-clock care. The women take shifts and stay with Kathy for three days a week. They have helped the Arnettes for the last eight years.
Norris said it is a joy to be with Kathy and she feels blessed to be able to do it.
“Looking back,” Arnette said, “God has used the church to minister to us in inexpressible ways.”

Photo by Laura Sikes, NAMB
Eighty-year-old Cluey Wallin, left, of Dillon, S.C. and his wife Maxine (not pictured) were away at a family reunion when their home took on four feet of flood waters from Hurricane Florence. Volunteers filled three dumpsters with ruined contents of the Wallins' home and gave Cluey a signed Bible. Jamie Arnette, right, is associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Dillon, S.C., which has hosted relief workers.

Senior Pastor Dickie Cullum, who has led the church for 23 years, will retire this fall.
“The Lord is really using the disaster relief ministry,” he said. “We’ve been twice blessed to be the recipients of the amazing response and the love and the grace of the volunteers. We can’t adequately express our appreciation. This has been such a blessing.”
A South Carolina mud-out team received two separate donations from homeowners totaling $5,500 given to The Pee Dee Baptist Association. The team leader said the owners were thankful for the volunteers’ work on their flooded-out homes.
As of Oct. 2, Southern Baptists have reported serving more than 1 million meals to survivors of Hurricane Florence and seen more than 80 professions of faith. SBDR teams have helped more than 1,000 homeowners through mudding out homes, cleaning up yards and providing temporary roofing.
As the response continues, Creamer said more trained mud-out crews are needed for the long-term. For more information on how you can help, contact your local Baptist associations and state Baptist disaster relief ministry. Or, visit namb.net/Florence to connect with state disaster relief teams.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Sikes is a freelance writer with the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/4/2018 2:29:52 PM by Laura Sikes, NAMB | with 0 comments

ERLC, BGEA back coach in appeal to Supreme Court

October 4 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other organizations have urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court decision they contend violates the First Amendment rights of public school teachers and coaches.

Photo from First Liberty Institute
The ERLC joined the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and seven other groups in support of Washington state high school football coach Joseph Kennedy, who was suspended for kneeling and praying on the field after games.

The court has twice rescheduled a conference to consider whether to accept the appeal, according to First Liberty Institute, which represents a coach in the case.
The ERLC joined the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and seven other groups in support of a Washington state high school football coach who was suspended for kneeling and praying on the field after games. In their friend-of-the-court brief, the organizations requested the high court review a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against Joseph Kennedy and overturn that opinion.
The Ninth Circuit decision “sets a precedent that strikes at teachers’ fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly,” the ERLC and its allies said in the brief.
“Teachers and coaches are not required to leave their consciences at the door the moment they walk into a public school,” ERLC President Russell Moore said. “The idea that someone could be fired for having religious convictions is outrageous.
“Not only that, but school districts transforming campuses into zones where religious beliefs are hounded out of existence are engaging in something deeply destructive and un-American,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “Our schools must be the kind of place that accommodates people of faith and people of no faith.”
Beginning in 2008, Kennedy – an assistant coach with the Bremerton (Wash.) High School varsity team – would walk to the 50-yard line after each game, kneel and briefly pray, thanking God for the players. Players eventually began joining him, and Kennedy, who was also head coach of the junior varsity team, continued the practice for the next seven years. He also reportedly gave motivational speeches to players on both teams who gathered around him.
During the 2015 season, the school district superintendent sent a letter to Kennedy telling him to refrain from the post-game prayers and from religious expression in his motivational talks to players. The superintendent said Kennedy’s practices likely violated the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment clause prohibiting government establishment of religion. After abiding by the mandate for a few weeks, Kennedy returned to his former practice of praying at midfield and was joined by others.
The school district placed Kennedy on administrative leave as a result. The athletic director recommended the school not rehire him in 2016, and Kennedy declined to apply for a coaching position when a new head coach was hired for the next season.
After a federal judge dismissed Kennedy’s lawsuit against the school district, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco declined to grant him a preliminary injunction. The judges ruled that Kennedy knelt and prayed “as a public employee, not as a private citizen, and his speech therefore was constitutionally unprotected.”
In their brief, filed Aug. 1, the ERLC and others say it is obvious a public school teacher “wears two hats – that of a private citizen and that of a government worker.”
“No one is confused by that,” the brief says, adding “action taken by a teacher, even on school grounds and during school hours, that is personal in nature has the protection of the Free Exercise, Speech, and Assembly Clauses [of the First Amendment] and does not implicate the Establishment Clause.”
Such private actions by a teacher include, the brief contends, “wearing an armband protesting the death penalty for religious reasons, wearing a necklace with a crucifix, having a Bible at one’s desk, silently reading the Qur’an while proctoring a test, having a bumper sticker on one’s car on school grounds depicting church affiliation, bowing one’s head to say grace in the cafeteria, hanging a favorite Scripture verse on one’s wall, attending a student-led religious club, and explaining personal views on religious subject matter when asked.”
Kennedy acted by himself well after the game was over and practiced private speech, the brief says. “It turns the Constitution on its head to suggest that teachers may practice spoken or symbolic speech only as long as it does not involve prayer or other religious observance, when ‘the free exercise of’ religion is in the very text of the First Amendment.”
In addition to the ERLC and BGEA, other organizations signing onto the brief were Samaritan’s Purse, the National Association of Evangelicals, Concerned Women for America, Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, National Legal Foundation, Pacific Justice Institute and International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers.
Kelly Shackelford, First Liberty’s president, said of the case in written remarks, “Banning all coaches from praying just because they can be seen is wrong and contradicts the Constitution. We must protect the right of every American to engage in private religious expression, including praying in public, without fear of getting fired.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State argued before the Ninth Circuit Court in support of the school district and applauded its 2017 decision.
“Teachers and coaches don’t get to pressure students to pray,” Richard B. Katskee, Americans United’s legal director, said in a written statement. “Students and families have the right to decide whether and how to practice their faith. Public schools should be welcoming places for all students and families, and no student should feel like an outsider at his or her school.”
Bremerton is located west of Seattle across Puget Sound.
The case is Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/4/2018 2:29:16 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Jerry Brown veto sparks pro-life gratitude, relief

October 4 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Pro-lifers in California and across the country are celebrating a surprising win delivered by the state’s pro-abortion rights governor, Jerry Brown.

Jerry Brown

Brown vetoed a bill Sept. 30 that would have required the state’s public universities to provide abortion drugs for students by Jan. 1, 2022. A longtime supporter of abortion rights, the governor said in his veto message that the legislation is unnecessary because such abortion services “are widely available off-campus.”
“What a refreshing thing, to see someone do the right thing, even if it means siding against one’s tribe,” Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said. “Governor Brown and I disagree on some important things – the right to life for unborn children being one of them. But I am thankful indeed to see him veto this measure that would put abortion-inducing drugs on campuses across the state of California.
“Governor Brown vetoed this bill because he thought it unnecessary, since these drugs are so widely available around the state,” Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in written comments for Baptist Press (BP). “I’m praying for a day when the abortion debate itself is similarly unnecessary, because the thought of snuffing out the life of unborn children would be deemed unthinkable throughout society.”
Jonathan Keller, president of the California Family Council (CFC), said his response to news of Brown’s veto was: “To be perfectly honest, a little bit of shock, a little bit of gratitude, and a whole lot of relief.
“It’s hard to really know the mind of Governor Brown,” Keller told BP in a phone interview. “He obviously is well known as a fairly pro-abortion governor, but in this case we’re just thanking the Lord that, whatever the reasoning was, we had a reprieve in this fight.”
The CFC is a partner organization of the California Southern Baptist Convention, and Keller is a member of a Southern Baptist church.
The vetoed legislation not only would have mandated that student health centers at University of California and California State University campuses make pills that cause abortions available to female students, but it would have established a public-private fund for the requirement. The bill would have required private donations of at least $9.6 million for the measure to be implemented. 
In his written veto message, Brown said, “Access to reproductive health services, including abortion, is a long-protected right in California.” A study sponsored by the bill’s supporters showed “the average distance to abortion providers in campus communities varies from five to seven miles, not an unreasonable distance,” he said.
“Because the services required by this bill are widely available off-campus, this bill is not necessary,” Brown said.
RU 486 or mifepristone, the best known abortion drug, is used as the first part in a two-step process. It causes the lining of the uterus to release the embryonic child, resulting in his or her death. A second drug, misoprostol, is taken two days after mifepristone and causes the uterus to contract, expelling the dead child.
The process is riskier to a woman’s health than surgical abortion and potentially traumatic when she delivers the body of her dead baby, pro-life physicians and others say.
“This reckless push to turn college campuses into dispensaries for dangerous abortion drugs was a bridge too far even for pro-abortion Governor Jerry Brown. He was right to veto it,” said Chuck Donovan, president of the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, in a written statement.
The vetoed bill “was a threat to women’s health and safety and an offense to taxpayers who subsidize the public university system,” Donovan said. “It’s encouraging that even in one of the nation’s most extreme pro-abortion states, common sense can prevail over the human indifference of the abortion lobby.”
Democratic Sen. Connie Leyva, the bill’s sponsor, promised to reintroduce the bill in the next session, The Sacramento Bee reported.
If her next attempt gains legislative approval, she is likely to have an ally in the governor’s office. A Democrat, Brown will complete his fourth non-consecutive term as governor in January.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, leads Republican John Cox by an average of more than 19 points in the gubernatorial race, according to Real Clear Politics. Newsom said Oct. 2 he would have signed the legislation, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Brown also offered a surprise in 2017 when he vetoed a bill that would have made it illegal for religious organizations to bar employees from having abortions.
Keller said it is not a foregone conclusion the proposal will become law in the next legislative session.
He anticipates the “aggressive pro-abortion forces in California will try to reintroduce something along these line,” Keller told BP. “But these things are unpredictable. I mean sometimes other legislators look at the defeat at the governor’s office, and sometimes it just gives them pause. Sometimes it really does make them reconsider why they’re pushing so aggressively for this.”
The Charlotte Lozier Institute is the research and education arm of the Susan B. Anthony List.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/4/2018 2:28:59 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

9Marks at SEBTS: Mobilizing a church on mission

October 3 2018 by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS

Understanding the purpose and practice of missions as well as creating a culture of generous support of missionaries were just a few of the many ways that 551 church leaders were challenged to lead their congregations toward being Great Commission focused at the 2018 9Marks conference, hosted at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) Sept. 28-29.

SEBTS photo

The speaker lineup for this year’s gathering included some new and familiar names alike. Speakers included John Folmar, pastor of United Christian Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates; Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hills Baptist Church (CHBC) in Washington, D.C.; Andy Johnson, associate pastor of CHBC; Trip Lee, young adult pastor at Dallas Concord Church in Dallas, Texas; Chuck Lawless, dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at SEBTS; and Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington, D.C.
Folmar, the conference’s first keynote speaker, taught from Isaiah 2:1-5. Folmar described this as “the divine forecast of the modern missions movement.” He described the kingdom foreshadowed by Isaiah as “one international people of God” and a kingdom of peace, which is fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus, as Folmar noted in Hebrews 12:22-24.
Folmar gave two application points for the passage: that the church is God’s evangelistic plan and that healthy churches are launch pads for further missions outreach.
“Be part of making Christ known through the manifold wisdom of God that is the local church,” said Folmar.
The second keynote speaker was Dever who communicated to attendees on the understanding and practice of missions, noting that a biblical understanding of missions is a key aspect of church health. In regard to understanding missions, Dever explained that pastors need to both model and preach evangelism in creating a missions-minded church.
Dever said pastors need their congregations to understand that evangelism is not an option; it’s a command.
“Missions isn’t something occasional or optional; it’s an essential extension of what God has done to … bring glory to himself through us,” said Dever.
Using the text of 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Johnson pulled three questions that the text addresses: What does a faithful missionary do, how does a faithful missionary work and who does a faithful church support? Johnson helped pastors understand who to support on the mission field, explaining that it takes patience and discernment as churches look for and follow up with the missionaries they send out.
“One of the great truths of scripture is that the work of missions is the work of God, so our faithfulness will never be in vain,” he said.
Friday night’s session concluded with a message from Lee on Romans 10:14-17, noting that “gospel action is driven by gospel agony.”
Lee outlined three ideas in the text regarding lostness: A person cannot call on a savior [he or she has] never heard of, a person can hear the right message and respond the wrong way and faith comes through hearing God’s Word.
Saturday morning began with a message from Lawless on Ephesians 6:18-20 paralleled with Colossians 4:2-4, speaking on the importance of partnering in prayer for missionaries.
Both passages, Lawless noted, begin and end with a call to pray. Paul emphasizes in Ephesians the need for the church to be alert in prayer while also praying specifically for boldness to proclaim the gospel. In Colossians, Lawless noted how Paul calls the church to pray with urgency and persistence while also praying for doors to open for him to share the gospel and that he would proclaim it clearly.
Lawless said Paul is encouraging the church to pray “proactively,” not “reactively.”
“If we send them out, we better send them out with our prayers ongoing,” said Lawless.
The conference concluded with a message by Anyabwile on 3 John 1:5-12, discussing how churches should give and support missionaries in a manner that displays the worthiness of God. Anyabwile taught that churches must exemplify faithful hospitality when missionaries are home and faithful generosity when their missionaries depart.
“Let us beware in ourselves, and let us teach our people to watch in themselves, any tendency toward self-promotion and selfishness that would innervate the gospel mission,” he said.
Before the Saturday morning sessions took place, the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Ministry hosted a Pastor’s Roundtable breakfast in the Ledford Event Room. Jim Shaddix, director for the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership, moderated a panel discussion with Lawless, Johnson and Scott Hildreth, director of the Center for Great Commission Studies.
Questions from Shaddix included topics such as how new pastors can lead their congregations to be missions-minded and how the panelists have seen pastors lead in that way. A time of Q&A from the audience concluded the breakfast.
Speakers participated in panel discussions throughout the conference, which were moderated by Jonathan Leeman, editorial director for 9Marks.
In the 9Marks at Southeastern conference’s 10th year, missions was a continuation of the previous nine conferences, which specifically emphasized a different mark of Dever’s book, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. Dever announced at this year’s gathering that 9Marks at Southeastern will be emphasizing prayer at the Sept. 27-28 conference in 2019.
To view photos from the conference, click here. To view videos from the conference, click here.

10/3/2018 3:46:37 PM by Lauren Pratt, SEBTS | with 0 comments

NOBTS President Chuck Kelley announces retirement

October 3 2018 by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Charles S. “Chuck” Kelley Jr., announced his plan to retire at the end of the current academic year during Founders’ Day chapel Oct. 2.

Photo by Boyd Guy
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Charles S. "Chuck" Kelley Jr., announced his plan to retire at the end of the current academic year during Founders' Day chapel Oct. 2.

Kelley will continue to lead the seminary through July 31, 2019.
“This is the biggest decision of my life in a lot of ways,” Kelley said in an interview. “I have been a part of almost half of the 100-year existence of NOBTS; it is very much the fabric of my whole life, and it has been a joyful, wondrous journey.
“This is a happy decision for us,” Kelley noted. “We have served the seminary in a variety of ways and are thrilled to do so now in a completely different way.”
The public announcement came during Kelley’s Founders’ Day presentation called “A Walk through the Presidents.” During the chapel service, Kelley noted the highlights of the seven other presidents who have served since the seminary launched 100 years ago. He concluded with the story of his presidency and the announcement about his future.
After much prayer and several years of planning, Kelley said the conclusion of the centennial celebration offered a great opportunity to announce the transition. Kelley expressed his desire to see new leadership in place that will set the course for the next era of ministry.
“Why now?” Kelley asked rhetorically. “As I look back at how intertwined my life has been with nearly half of the first century of the school, it seems appropriate to let the next leader start fresh with the second century of NOBTS.”
Kelley notified trustee chairman Frank Cox, senior pastor of North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., of his retirement plans in a written statement on Sept. 24. Shortly before the chapel service, Kelley announced his plans to the executive committee of the NOBTS trustee board, which was on campus for its regular fall meeting.
“Dr. Kelley has been committed to training and equipping young ministerial students all of his life, first as a professor of evangelism and then serving as the longest-tenured president of our institution. We applaud him,” Cox said on behalf of the board. “I think the future is bright for him and Rhonda and the future is bright for our seminary.”
Cox praised Kelley’s leadership following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when the school faced its greatest challenge. The board has great appreciation for Kelley’s accomplishments at NOBTS, his commitment to evangelism, and for the many contributions he and his wife Rhonda made to the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole, Cox said.
In his retirement years, which will be spent primarily in Fairhope, Ala., Kelley plans to begin a renewed focus on research into the SBC’s evangelism issues. Kelley, who has studied evangelism practices and baptism statistics in the SBC since 1982, believes that the decline in baptisms represents a profound crisis for Southern Baptists. He intends to write and speak on evangelism and discipleship with a frequency and fervor that simply was not possible while leading the seminary.
“We know that he will be an ambassador for NOBTS and contributing to Southern Baptist life through his research and writing on evangelism,” Cox said.
The trustees will enact the seminary’s presidential search protocol during their fall meeting Oct. 3. The seminary bylaws call for Cox to appoint a committee with 11 voting members – including the board chairman, the immediate past chairman, one faculty member, one student, and seven other board members.
“By making the announcement now the trustees have a reasonable chance to have someone in place by the start of the next academic year,” Kelley said.

The Kelley presidency

The board of trustees unanimously elected Kelley as the eighth NOBTS president in 1996 following a 20-year tenure by Landrum P. Leavell II. A professor of evangelism at NOBTS since August 1983, Kelley assumed the office of president March 1, 1996.

Photo by Boyd Guy
The spring edition of NOBTS' Vision magazine will feature the many contributions Chuck Kelley and his wife Rhonda have made at the seminary and throughout the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Since his election, Kelley has led NOBTS through a rapidly changing academic and ecclesiastic landscape and rebuilt the campus twice – once due to extensive Formosan termite damage and a second time in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. His tenure will be remembered by many both for innovation and for faithfulness to God’s call in the face of stiff challenges.
Kelley set the tone of his presidency in 1997 by working with the faculty to identify the core competencies graduates needed to serve in a local church. They identified seven and restructured the entire curriculum around the needs of the local church ministry.
Another important local church initiative serves as a bookend for his tenure. In 2014, the seminary launched the Caskey Center for Church Excellence with the help of a multi-million-dollar anonymous gift. The center offers full scholarships and other assistance for bi-vocational and small church ministers. The program, which emphasizes personal evangelism, has reported 26,359 gospel conversations and 2,887 new believers.
Under his leadership in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, the seminary combined the use of educational technology and extension centers. Online technology and new instruction methods allowed professors to keep teaching and students to keep learning just weeks after the storm. Though enrollment declined in the initial aftermath of the hurricane, it rebounded to reach an all-time high enrollment of 3,955 students in 2015.
Distance learning has been another hallmark of the Kelley presidency.
Through the implementation of extension centers, internet and hybrid courses and non-residential doctoral studies, Kelley has helped the school offer God-called men and women the opportunity to pursue theological education that would otherwise have been unattainable. A new emphasis on mentoring is preparing the next generation of church leaders with real-world leadership opportunities in the local church. Non-traditional students have become what the seminary considers to be an NOBTS tradition.
Early in his tenure, Kelley was presented with the idea – to offer training at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La. Sensing God’s call, Kelley’s team launched an undergraduate program at Angola.
The effort led to a church-planting movement at the prison, with many coming to Christ resulting in a transformation of the prison’s culture. The idea spread quickly as NOBTS started similar programs at men’s prisons in three other states and at Louisiana’s prison for women. Other seminaries have followed the NOBTS lead by starting prison programs in their states.
More recently, NOBTS weathered the challenge of a national economic downturn and a sea-change in theological education. Having overcome many post-Katrina setbacks, the seminary adopted new operational and funding strategies better suited to today’s economic realities and the current generation of students. For Kelley, the key focus is to provide some form of theological education for anyone God calls, even if they can’t move to a residential campus.
NOBTS will devote the spring edition of the Vision magazine to the many contributions Kelley and his wife Rhonda have made at the seminary and throughout the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Click here to read Kelley’s retirement letter to trustee chairman Frank Cox.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary D. Myers is director of public relations for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/3/2018 11:24:29 AM by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS | with 0 comments

Sebastian Traeger to leave IMB VP post

October 3 2018 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Sebastian Traeger, executive vice president (EVP) of the International Mission Board (IMB), has announced he will resign Nov. 15 at the next meeting of IMB trustees.

Traeger tied his resignation to the departure of David Platt as IMB president to pastor a church in northern Virginia.
“I believe the primary role of an EVP is to lead alongside the president, and in light of David’s transition, I want to respect this opportunity to give our future president total freedom to choose the right person to serve alongside him in the future,” Traeger stated to missionaries in a Sept. 28 letter
Traeger became the IMB executive vice president in November 2014 after Platt’s election by IMB trustees in August of that year.
Traeger, according to the IMB website, “previously worked in business and technology where he started, led, and built several companies. Traeger credits his involvement in Cru and Athletes in Action while a student at Princeton University and his membership at Capitol Hill Baptist Church as significant in God growing him spiritually. He is the co-author of The Gospel at Work, which unpacks the powerful way that the gospel can transform a person’s work.”
In his Sept. 28 letter, Traeger wrote, “Four years ago, when David asked me to serve as EVP, it was an easy yes. As an active Southern Baptist, I already deeply loved the IMB and its mission, and I was driven by a desire to play my part in getting the gospel to people who have never heard it. Upon accepting this position, I soon came to love the people of the IMB in a way I could not have imagined. It has been a blessing, beyond measure, to work and serve alongside brothers and sisters who sacrifice daily for the sake of the gospel. I have learned so much from so many of you, my family has been extremely blessed by you in visits with you around the world, and we are altogether grateful for each of you.”
He voiced appreciation for the patience he had experienced “as we worked together through changes (large and small) to move our organization to a place of sound financial footing and to better position IMB to carry out the missionary task today and in years ahead. Most importantly, thank you for your passion to proclaim the gospel and plant churches in some of the hardest places in the world.”
Traeger stated he does not know what lies ahead, writing, “My heart’s desire is to remain and work alongside you all. At the same time, I am trusting God’s Word in Proverbs 16:9, which says: ‘The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston, with reporting from the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/3/2018 11:23:54 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

U.S. students urged to take Bibles to school Oct. 4

October 3 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The freedom to distribute Bibles in schools and discuss scripture openly with fellow students is being celebrated nationwide Oct. 4 at the fifth annual Bring Your Bible to School Day.

The Focus on the Family (FOTF) event founded in 2014 is on track for its largest participation to date, founder Candi Cushman told Baptist Press Oct. 2.
“We’ll definitely exceed half a million participants, but it’s hard to measure and predict exact numbers because lots of kids wait until the last moment to sign up and join the movement,” said Cushman, FOTF director of education issues. “In addition to public school students in every state in the nation, we also have involvement from many kids in private schools and homeschooling communities who choose to do special events or distribute Bibles in their communities as a way of showing support. We welcome all of them.”
Nearly half a million participated in 2017, up from 8,000 in the event’s first year, FOTF said of the event open to kindergarteners through college students, with downloadable free resources for churches, pastors, parents and students at BringYourBible.org.
FOTF President Jim Daly said many students appreciate scripture but are afraid of it in school.
“When it comes to sharing the joy and peace they find through reading the Bible, some young people fear the consequences of doing so at school,” Daly said in a press release. “Fortunately, our founding fathers foresaw the need to guarantee individuals the ability to express their beliefs, and that’s exactly what students who participate in Bring Your Bible to School Day every year are celebrating.”
Sadie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame is the 2018 honorary chairperson.
“This could be a huge redemptive story for schools all around your community,” Robertson said on the event website, “and you could be a part of doing this.” Students who register at BringYourBible.org will be entered in a drawing to win a chance for a family of four to meet Robertson.
In 2017, “Hailey” distributed 60 My Little Bible scripture books at the dual language elementary school she attended in California.
“Some of the kids, they didn’t have a Bible, and they were different religions, but they still wanted to learn about it,” Hailey said on the event website BringYourBible.org, “and I think this was a great idea to share with other kids ... that Jesus loves them. I feel more open about talking about Jesus at school because of that event and just talking about the Bible.”
For high school student Ethan, the event allowed him to share his faith in what he described as his school’s “non-Christian environment.”
“I really shouldn’t be ashamed of who I am and I really shouldn’t be ashamed of what I believe,” Ethan said in an online video. “You have to be rooted in your Word. You have to have that subconscious thought of those Bible verses in the back of your head, especially when you’re attacked.... (Bible verses) give you courage, and they give you strength. They give you the will to carry on.”
Best-selling Christian author Lee Strobel is among many the event lists on its website.
“I’d like to encourage students to be strong and courageous, to bring your Bible to school,” Strobel said. “Remember the Bible says don’t be ashamed by the gospel, it is the power of salvation.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is providing complimentary legal resources for the event.
“God works through these students when they are brave enough to stand up for Him at school, and students across the country have noticed God at work through this event,” ADF spokesperson Sarah Kramer wrote at adflegal.org. A student’s First Amendment guide and a legal handbook are both downloadable at adflegal.org.
Cushman founded the event to educate and encourage students to operate in the religious freedom the U.S. affords.
“We were hearing from students and their families about how kids were told they couldn’t read their Bible during free time at school, or that they should hide their Bible away in a locker because it might offend someone,” Cushman told BP. “We were also seeing that same sentiment echoed in the national headlines.
“We wanted to create a fun, empowering way to remind students of their basic religious-freedom rights and let them know that they don’t have to hide their faith, or be ashamed of it, when they walk in the school doors,” Cushman said. “I think it resonates because it is something that’s an easy, proactive and positive way for students to express their faith and start conversations.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/3/2018 11:23:11 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

National CP ends fiscal year 2.63% over goal

October 3 2018 by Baptist Press Staff

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) ended its fiscal year $5,044,828.14 over its 2017–2018 budgeted goal and $101,902.94 under the previous year’s Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget gifts, according D. August Boto, SBC Executive Committee interim president and executive vice president for convention policy.

The total includes CP receipts from state conventions and gifts from churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2017-18 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
The year-to-year comparison includes a one-time $3.1 million gift of from the Florida Baptist Convention in the SBC’s 2016–2017 fiscal year following the sale of the state convention’s building. See story here.
“We are grateful to God for the faithfulness of Southern Baptists who give regularly to support their church ministries,” Boto said. “We are also grateful for each church that allocates a percentage of its annual budget for the Cooperative Program. Their collective gifts fuel the entire enterprise of missions and ministries that enable the state conventions and the SBC to engage in missions and ministries across the United States and around the world.”
The SBC received $197,044,828.14 in CP allocation gifts for the year. This amount is 0.05 percent less than it received during the last fiscal year, and is 2.63 percent more than its budgeted goal of $192 million.
The Executive Committee, acting on behalf of the convention at its Sept. 17-18 meeting, allocated the first $250,000 of the projected CP Allocation Budget overage to provide funding for the SBC president’s initiative to study ways to address sexual abuse and related issues in a church or ministry context. See related stories here and here. The funds will be administered by the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). The Executive Committee will provide reimbursement to the ERLC on a quarterly basis for documented expenses.
After the first $250,000 CP overage was set aside for the presidential study, the remaining overage was allocated in accordance with the 2017-18 budget adopted by the SBC at its June 2017 annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., as follows: 53.4 percent to the International Mission Board (IMB); 22.79 percent to the North American Mission Board (NAMB); 22.16 percent to the seminaries; and 1.65 percent to the ERLC.
The total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of September and includes receipts from state conventions, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2017–2018 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget, with the overage distributed as amended by the Executive Committee.
In designated giving, the fiscal year’s total of $194,785,535.14 is 1.77 percent above the previous year’s $191,403,752.79. Of this designated amount, $134,979,844.89 was disbursed to IMB and $58,832,309.98 to NAMB through the seasonal missions offerings (Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions) and Global Hunger Relief. The balance was designated for other SBC entities and the Executive Committee and SBC Operating Budget.
September’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $16,492,360.22. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $4,785,086.69.
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the ministries of its state convention and to the missions and ministries of the SBC with a single contribution to its state convention. State and regional Baptist conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective states and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget. The totals in this report reflect only the SBC portion of Cooperative Program receipts.
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted and the timing of when the state conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee.
CP allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at sbc.net/cp/budgetreports.asp.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/3/2018 11:22:45 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments

Greear calls for prayer and fasting amid SBC transitions

October 2 2018 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

J.D. Greear believes something big is happening in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and he is calling for a “Day of Prayer and Fasting” on Monday, Oct. 8.
Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, announced his upcoming retirement today (Oct. 2), bringing the total number of national Southern Baptist entities in search of new executives up to five.
Other SBC organizations in leadership transition include the International Mission Board, the SBC Executive Committee, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and LifeWay Christian Resources.
In a letter to the executive directors of state conventions, Greear said the moment seems “unprecedented,” and asked for help in calling Southern Baptists to pray for the active search committees.

“I believe God is up to something that – if we are humble and faithful – can prepare us for greater days of effectiveness for the Great Commission,” he said. Greear serves as SBC president and pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

Milton Hollifield Jr., executive director-treasurer for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, expressed support for the prayer emphasis.

“I wholeheartedly support SBC President J.D. Greear’s call to all Southern Baptists to pray and fast on Monday, Oct. 8 for all of the leadership decisions that need to be made within our denomination,” Hollifield said. “I can’t remember a time in Southern Baptist life when there has been this many top leadership transitions taking place across our SBC entities at the same time.

“I hope Southern Baptists in North Carolina and beyond will join me in this concerted prayer effort for God to raise up godly leaders who will help guide key areas of our convention for years to come.”
Greear urged prayer for each individual search team on these topics:

• “For wisdom for the search committee in assessing what is needed most for effective ministry in the 21st century;

• “For boldness for the search committee in asking the difficult questions;

• “For loving-kindness for the search committee as they interact with one another;

• “For favor, that God’s face would shine upon us as a people – not for our sake, but that Jesus’ name would be known to the ends of the earth.”

10/2/2018 6:49:14 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 1 comments

Caraway children’s camps expand family involvement

October 2 2018 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

For more than 50 years, Caraway Conference Center and Camp operated a boy’s program in the summer and offered a year-round retreat and conference destination for Baptist churches. Six years ago, Caraway staff began discussing the decreasing summer attendance at the 1,100-acre facility near Asheboro, N.C.

Caraway Conference Center photo
Children celebrate during a game at Caraway’s summer coed camps. The N.C. Baptist conference center and camp near Asheboro once limited summer camps to boys, but has seen growing success after expanding its programs to include all children.

Royal Ambassadors (RAs), the boys mission program of the Southern Baptist Convention, once provided a steady stream of summer campers. But a decline in RA programs resulted in a significant drop in the number of camp attendees. That prompted Caraway’s leadership to convert the summer program to a children’s camp for boys and girls.
“The demand for boy’s week was just not there like it was in our heyday in the ‘80s,” said Jimmy Huffman, Caraway’s director.
“There was a time when we ran 1,600 boys during the summer, but it dropped to a low of 400,” he said. “We’ve had a tremendous run with our boy’s camp in partnership with N.C. Baptist Men. It’s been very successful. Almost 70,000 boys have attended in those 56 years.”
Two members of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s board of directors asked why there was not a convention sponsored coed Baptist camp for children in the state, according to Huffman.
“They were taking their children to a non-Baptist camp. That triggered us to do something new,” he said.
The coed camp for first grade through sixth grade children has seen “phenomenal success” according to Huffman, comparing the new children’s program to Fort Caswell’s camp for youth.
Mark Moore, children’s program director at Caraway, said Caraway still operates a one-week “boys only” camp, in addition to five weeks of children’s camps and a two-night camp around July 4th.
Caraway also offers specialty “parent-child” retreats, Moore said, pointing out how they are unique.
“There are none that exist that do what we do in the recreational programming where the mother-daughter, mother-son and father-daughter can do those things together in a camp setting, yet stay in a private, hotel style bedroom,” he said.
Parent-child retreats and coed camps drew approximately 1,000 children this summer, Moore said, estimating the overall boy-girl ratio to be about 50-50, with girls slightly outnumbering boys during the coed weeks.
“We started ‘Grand Camp’ in 2014, and it has doubled every year,” said Jeff Kohns, Caraway’s associate director.
Grand Camp allows grandparents and their grandchildren or great-grandchildren, ages 6-12, to enjoy activities and Bible study time together. Some come with one grandchild, but one brought six grandchildren to the camp, Kohns said.
Twelve family units of 37 people attended the first year. This year more than 50 family groups of 154 participants came.
“When we started the camp, I thought this might be a ‘one and done’ thing,” said Kohns, “but it’s really become a legacy that grandparents want to leave to their grandchildren.”
In 2019 Caraway plans to offer two sessions of Grand Camp – one will run Sunday through Tuesday, with a second camp from Thursday through Saturday.
“We’ve found that some grandparents are raising their grandchildren,” Huffman said, “so this gives them something different to do together, something they don’t have to plan – just show up and enjoy it.”
Moore sees the camps as Caraway’s way of fulfilling the convention’s vision of impacting lostness through disciple-making.
“All of our programs are very intentional to share the gospel of Jesus Christ verbally and practically, but also equip children and the chaperones with how to share their faith,” he said.
“All of our summer programs have an emphasis on missions and sharing their faith.”
Dan Kiefer, student pastor at Concord Baptist Church in Granite Falls, N.C., has taken boys and girls to Camp Caraway for the last four summers.
“Our kids love going to Camp Caraway,” he told the Biblical Recorder.

Caraway Conference Center photo
There are many recreational activities for children and adults, including water-based slides and canoes, as well as ropes courses. Caraway Conference Center offers “Grand Camp,” too. Grandparents are encouraged to bring children or great-grandchildren.

“The children are outdoors swimming in the lake or the pool, going on hikes, playing Gaga ball, learning about archery and air rifles, playing bazooka ball, fishing, carving wood, going down the zip lines, climbing the rock wall and even throwing tomahawks. There is just so much to do at Camp Caraway,” Kiefer said.
The spiritual focus of the camp is important to Kiefer.
“In devotions the kids learn to read and apply God’s Word on their own,” he said.
Adult leaders show children how to have a deep and meaningful daily devotion.
The camp pastor leads worship and a career missionary tells the children how God is working in different parts of the world.
“Camp Caraway is a well-balanced camp that teaches kids how to be followers of Jesus while also providing an awesome camp experience. It reminds me of what camp was like when I was a kid – except the cabins are air conditioned,” Kiefer said.
Arvil Pennington, associate pastor of preschool and children’s ministries at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro, said their boys and girls “love their experience” at Caraway.
“It allows them to get away from their electronic devices and enjoy and interact with nature. Children need to be learning interactive life skills by socializing with their peers, problem solving and learning to be resourceful,” Pennington said.
“I especially appreciate the attention to detail that is given by Mark Moore and his staff. 
College students on the staff show genuine interest in the boys and girls. The meals are child friendly, but well planned and nutritious. The facilities that North Carolina Baptists have provided are excellent.
“Our families are already asking for the 2019 dates for Camp Caraway. They want to protect that week on their family calendars,” said Pennington.
Kohns said a year-long Bible study called, “Keys for Kids,” goes home with each camper. He recently received an email from a grandfather who said he and his grandson individually work through the devotional book, then discuss it together by phone.
Sandra Montague, minister to children at First Baptist Church in Matthews, said the church decided to take their rising fifth and sixth-graders to Caraway the first year that coed camps launched.
“The awesome outdoor experiences coupled with the excellent staff, great worship and solid Bible study made Camp Caraway the real camp experience we were looking for!” she said.
A participant with the Matthews camp group, Connor Woodman, said the counselors were “extremely nice to all the campers and were fair when it came to the games.
“Camp Caraway is extremely fun because every day is packed full of different things to do. The skill and recreation classes are stellar. In everything you do, they still find a way to make it point to God.
“Whenever I go there, I always feel much closer to God because of the people I’m surrounded by. This past summer when I was on the lake, I canoed over to a cross by the road and asked Jesus into my heart,” he said.
Visit caraway.org for camp schedules and more information.

10/2/2018 1:21:10 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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