October 2018

Bibles, joy visible in schools across U.S. Oct. 4

October 8 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Students rallied behind the Bible and the joy of scripture in social media posts Oct. 4, as a projected half-million or more students participated in Bring Your Bible to School Day.

An elementary student in Clemson, S.C., shared her Bible with classmates in a Facebook photo reposted by Focus on the Family.

Focus on the Family’s (FOTF) fifth annual event drew smiles and encouragement from students and parents in a diversity of grade levels, schools and Christian communities on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, including public, private, parochial and trade schools as well as homeschool communities.
– “We shared goody bags with the class filled with bookmarks, scripture and candy. So thankful for the freedom we have to share our faith! This was our 4th year participating in this ministry by sharing the love of Jesus,” a member of First Baptist Church of Somerville, Tenn., said on Facebook of a local school.
– “In the warm, afternoon sunshine of their recess time, a group of middle schoolers gathered together and enjoyed an impromptu Bible study!” Spartanburg School District 4 in Woodruff, S.C., posted on Facebook.
– “Happy national Bring Your Bible to School Day,” a group of about 100 Catholic students tweeted in a video from West Palm Beach, Fla.
– “As homeschool families ... we took our Bibles out to lunch and shared Bible verse cards with others. And of course had a great playtime and wonderful fellowship!” a Concord, N.C., parent posted on Facebook.
Honorary chairperson and best-selling author Sadie Robertson, in an Instagram post encouraging participation, told students that with the Bible in hand, they “have no reason to be afraid.”
FOTF offered commemorative wristbands to participants who shared snapshots of their Bring Your Bible to School activities.
“What an amazing turnout for Bring Your Bible to School Day 2018,” FOTF said in an email Oct. 5 to participants who registered at BringYourBible.org. “It is truly overwhelming to see how God worked through so many courageous students boldly shining His light at their schools!
“There’s no question their actions are having an eternal impact that’s being celebrated in heaven! ‘I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God,’” FOTF said, quoting Luke 12:8.
Event founder Candi Cushman told Baptist Press this year’s event was on track for the largest participation since its 2014 inaugural participation of 8,000 students.
“We’ll definitely exceed half a million participants,” Cushman said Oct. 2. “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.

Photo from Twitter
This Riverside, Mo., Fellowship of Christian Athletes tweeted a photo proclaiming their Bibles as their "weapon of choice."

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, hailing the first year that Bible literacy classes are approved as an elective in Kentucky public schools, encouraged students to participate in the FOTF event.
“The Bible’s an amazing document with an incredible amount of history, knowledge, wisdom, guidance, things that our founders understood and took to heart as they set this entire nation in motion,” Bevin said Oct. 3 in a Facebook video. “I want to encourage you to take part in this day at your school. This is your constitutional right, not just on Oct. 4th, but every day.”
Kentucky’s course explores the Bible’s historical, cultural and political influences in the nation, Bevin said.
Cushman founded the FOTF 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 in advance of this year’s event. “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.”
Alliance Defending Freedom provided complimentary legal resources for the event.
(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.)

10/8/2018 11:00:10 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Rudy Fagan, 20-year SBC stewardship leader, dies

October 8 2018 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

A. Rudolph (Rudy) Fagan, who led the former Stewardship Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention for 20 years, died Wednesday (Oct. 3) in Murfreesboro, Tenn. He was 88.

Fagan served as president of the Stewardship Commission from 1974 until his retirement in 1994.
The Stewardship Commission, which was closed in the SBC’s Covenant for a New Century restructuring in the mid-1990s, was the convention’s primary advocate for the Cooperative Program channel of support for state, national and international missions and ministry. It also assisted churches in capital campaigns as they built new facilities. The commission’s duties were moved to the SBC Executive Committee and LifeWay Christian Resources (then Sunday School Board) under the SBC restructuring.
In his 1976 book What the Bible Says About Stewardship, Fagan noted that ‘it is not a primary objective of mine to attempt to increase the amount of money given, but rather to lead those persons who have not done so to discover the joy of Bible stewardship.’
‘If only an additional few can have released through them the power of a Holy Spirit that has been ‘quenched by stinginess,’ along with the compelling and convincing witness of an abundant life, the effort and expense of this work will then be good stewardship,’ Fagan wrote.
Before being named to lead the Stewardship Commission, Fagan pastored churches in Kirbyville, Texas, and Boca Grande, Sebring, Orlando and Bradenton, Fla. He had served as president of the Florida Baptist Convention and chairman of its State Board of Missions and moderator of the Orange Blossom Baptist Association in central Florida.
The SBC Executive Committee, in a resolution of appreciation upon Fagan’s retirement, also noted his work in behalf of Bold Mission Thrust, the convention-wide initiative during the latter 1970s and first half of the 1980s to share the gospel worldwide by the year 2000. Fagan chaired a Stewardship Commission task force to set forth ways for Southern Baptists to support the global evangelistic effort.
He led evangelistic campaigns in South Africa, Brazil, Hong Kong, Spain, Panama, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, according to the EC resolution.
Fagan earned a divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1955 and a bachelor’s degree from Samford University (then Howard College) in Birmingham, Ala., in 1951.
He dated his conversion and baptism to age 8 in July 1938 under the preaching of his father, Lemuel, who was enrolled at Southwestern and serving as a student pastor at First Baptist Church in Grand Prairie. The family – with five children and one on the way – had moved to Fort Worth with a few clothes, their furniture and a milk cow, according to a 1998 article in The Baptist Program, formerly published by the Executive Committee.
In 1947, when Fagan voiced his call to the ministry, his father had him preach the following Sunday at the church where the elder Fagan was then serving, First Baptist in Arcadia, Fla.
‘I stumbled through my message based on Proverbs 11:30, ‘He that winneth souls is wise.’ My call was further confirmed when a woman in her 60s came forward and trusted Christ,’ Fagan recounted. He was licensed to preach that night.
During his college and seminary years, by one friend’s account, Fagan ‘missed no opportunities to preach, teach, sing, sponsor, supervise or counsel in any Southern Baptist church or association work.’
As a pastor, Fagan said, ‘Each church I ever served had financial problems. This was a topic every pulpit committee raised with me. In each case, the Lord helped me lead them to financial stability. ... I encouraged my churches to manage well what they did have. We paid bills promptly, and I encouraged the members to experience the joy of giving.
‘That was a real hurdle for me,’ he said, ‘for I grew up in a time when a dollar was so big that you thought twice before turning it loose.’
Fagan, as the Stewardship Commission’s president, noted on the 75th anniversary of the Cooperative Program, ‘The genius of this cooperative plan for supporting missions was it would enable individuals and churches to make one gift and thereby support all Southern Baptist causes.
‘Southern Baptist leaders took this step at great risk,’ Fagan wrote of the Cooperative Program’s creation in 1925. ‘Could individual Baptists and churches who had previously responded to personal appeals for each cause be relied upon to adequately support missions in general? Southern Baptists have responded with a clear ‘yes’ to that question.’
Fagan is survived by his wife of 64 years, Florrie; a son, Max; three daughters, Vicki, Myra and Amanda; 12 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.
His funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at Woodfin Memorial Chapel in Murfreesboro, with burial in Evergreen Cemetery.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/8/2018 10:59:53 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NOBTS names Kelley chancellor

October 8 2018 by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) trustees named Chuck Kelley as chancellor of the school through July 31, 2019, and approved the accelerated M.Div. program during their fall meeting Oct. 3.

Photo by Boyd Guy, NOBTS
The Big Fun Brass Band leads a jazz procession – that includes New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley and his wife Rhonda – from the seminary's chapel quad to the front of campus before the NOBTS officials unveiled a new historical marker.

Kelley announced his plans to retire from the school on July 31, 2019, during the Oct. 2 Founders’ Day chapel service. As a result, much of the board’s work at the fall meeting centered on helping Kelley finish his presidential tenure and beginning the search for the next president.
Naming Kelley chancellor was a required step in the initiation of the presidential search process. The bylaws state that the office of president must be vacant before the trustees can initiate the search. The role of chancellor clearly indicates the seminary will continue normal operations under Kelley’s leadership while the trustees seek the next leader.
Kelley expressed a strong desire to see a successor elected by the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year. This move makes this goal a possibility.
“The combination of a strong, healthy board, a planned transition, and a clear process is a great blessing for our seminary,” Kelley said. “We were able to work through all the issues and processes involved in the transitions of an unusually long-tenured team of senior leaders privately over a period of two or three years, making the public phase of handing the baton off as smooth as possible.” 
“It made the public announcements of each transition a bit surprising for most, but positioned the organization to function with minimal disruption,” he noted. “Thank you Southern Baptists for the trustees you sent to us.”
While Fairhope, Ala., will become the primary residence of Kelley and his wife Rhonda, in July, the trustees will provide the Kelleys the use of the presidential on-campus apartment. This tradition dates back to the days of former president Roland Q. Leavell and his wife Lillian.
Kelley’s predecessor Landrum P. Leavell II and his wife Jo Ann were also provided an on-campus apartment.
The trustees also voted to amend their bylaws concerning the presidential search team. The bylaws call for trustee chairman Frank 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. The board approved a bylaw amendment that added two trustee alternates. The alternates will attend all the meetings but will not have a vote unless another search committee member withdraws from the committee. If a search committee member withdraws, Cox will appoint one of the alternates to serve as a voting member.
Cox said he will announce the names of the search committee members on Oct. 11.

Photo by Boyd Guy, NOBTS
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustee chairman Frank Cox, left, unveils a new historical marker on the seminary campus along with Chuck and Rhonda Kelley. The unveiling marked the official end to the seminary year-long centennial celebration.

Cox and Kelley expressed great appreciation for Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear’s call to prayer and fasting on Oct. 8.
Greear called on Southern Baptists to pray for wisdom, boldness and lovingkindness as five SBC entities search for new presidents. Before adjourning the trustee meeting, Cox led a focused time of prayer with the board. They prayed for God’s blessing on the presidential search team and the Kelleys.
The trustees approved the new Accelerated M.Div. designed to help graduates of Baptist colleges (or colleges of like faith) save time and money while earning a master of divinity degree at NOBTS. Because the M.Div. is designed to prepare those with no previous theological or biblical studies, a number of the required courses are repetitive for many Baptist college graduates.
The plan allows these qualified students to receive credit for the undergraduate classes (up to 25 percent of the M.Div.) and move directly into more advanced courses. With the Accelerated M.Div. program, a student can earn the seminary standard M.Div. with only 63 credit hours. The standard M.Div. requires 84 credit hours for students who do not qualify for the Accelerated M.Div.
“We are excited about the Accelerated M.Div. program because it will allow students to build upon what they have already learned, save money, and complete their seminary training in a timely manner,” said NOBTS Provost Norris Grubbs. “The M.Div. is the gold standard in theological education. The Accelerated M.Div. program is going to allow students to get the most well-rounded degree we offer.”
The credit is not automatic. NOBTS will review the undergraduate content on a course-by-course basis to ensure that it is equivalent to the NOBTS course it replaces. Students must have earned at least a “B” in the course and students must start at NOBTS within five years of their baccalaureate graduation to qualify.
For a complete listing of the qualifying undergraduate courses and more information about the Accelerated M.Div., visit nobts.news/mdiv; call (504) 816-8171; or email acceleratedmdiv@nobts.edu.

Centennial celebration conclusion

Last April, the trustees voted to move their fall meeting to the first week in October in order to participate in the conclusion of the seminary’s year-long centennial celebration. Trustees attended the Founders’ Day chapel and a special chapel led by NOBTS alumnus David Platt Oct. 2.
The final centennial event took place midday Oct. 3. The trustees participated in a luncheon with representatives from the New Orleans city council, the New Orleans mayor’s office, the Orleans Parish sheriff’s department, and the Louisiana House of Representatives. Interim president of the SBC Executive Committee D. August “Augie” Boto also spoke at the event, encouraging continued evangelism efforts in the city.
After the luncheon, participants joined a jazz procession from the chapel quad through the historic campus gates to the front of the campus to unveil a new Louisiana historical marker. The trustees and dignitaries were joined at the historical marker by many NOBTS professors, students and staff members for the unveiling. Ken Weathersby, vice president for convention advancement at the Executive Committee, led the closing prayer. Weathersby was the first African American professor hired by NOBTS.
In other action, the trustees approved:

  • Minor adjustments to the master of music in church music and master of divinity degree with a specialization in church music. The moves are designed to streamline the degrees and better fit the current music faculty and the needs of students.

  • Adjustments to the doctor of philosophy degree in Christian education. The move aligned the foundational courses with foundational courses in the doctor of education degree.

  • A revision of the doctor of ministry (D.Min.) and doctor of educational ministry (D.Ed.Min.) degree specializations. Both degrees will now utilize the same 16 specializations which includes: apologetics, church revitalization, discipleship and spiritual formation, evangelistic, church growth, expository preaching, intercultural studies, next generation ministries and others.

  • Steve Echols, president of Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga., as visiting professor of leadership. Echols will primarily teach in the school’s doctor of philosophy in leadership program. He joins the list of visiting professors at NOBTS which includes Russell Moore and Gary Habermas.

(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.)

10/8/2018 10:59:43 AM by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS | with 0 comments

DR requests & salvations continue in Carolina relief

October 8 2018 by Laura Sikes, NAMB

When 89-year-old William Cunniff returned to his flood-damaged home in North Carolina, he found mold climbing the walls of every room, the remains of Hurricane Florence. Cunniff had evacuated and stayed out of the state with relatives until it was safe to return.

Photo by Laura Sikes
North Carolina Baptists on Mission volunteer Chuck Hale of Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount shows William Cunniff, 89, his old Marine Corps uniform that was soaked by floodwaters from Hurricane Florence. Hale and seven other volunteers helped Cunniff sort through items to salvage amid tear-out of his flood-damaged home of 20 years. "It's his stuff and you have to respect that," Hale said. "I told him I am here to help you."

The widower and U.S. Marine Corps veteran found that his home of 20 years in New Bern’s Fairfield Harbour community had taken on more than a foot of floodwater just as many other homes had in his neighborhood. Cunniff is staying with his next-door neighbor whose garage took on less than a foot of water.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers are helping Cunniff and many other survivors return to their homes and restore their lives. The job is a dirty one as volunteers tear out sheetrock, pull up flooring and often help owners sort through flood-damaged items.
Many homeowners in the area lost almost all the contents of their homes. Damaged furniture, appliances and personal effects lay in piles in front of homes along street after street.
North Carolina Baptists On Mission have been responding since Hurricane Florence hit in September, operating out of Temple Baptist Church in New Bern. The site is one of several posts serving in the state in hard-hit areas along the coast from Wilmington and west to Lumberton. Hundreds of SBDR volunteers from multiple states have come to help.
SBDR volunteers have served 1.1 million meals to Hurricane Florence survivors. They have cleared downed trees and debris from more than 900 yards and completed more than 170 flood cleanup jobs in North and South Carolina.
Nearly 100 people have professed faith in Christ since SBDR volunteers began ministering to local communities.

Photo by Laura Sikes
Jenna Hoffman (left) and Marissa Carraway, two employees from East Carolina University, sweep after tearing up flooring at William Cunniff’s flood-damaged home in New Bern, N.C. They worked alongside a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team for the day with two other volunteers from their university to help Cunniff, a Marine veteran, begin to restore his home.

New Bern site command leader Jimmy Lawrence of First Baptist Church in Mayodan said the storm’s damage across North Carolina has been devastating.
“The huge land mass affected and the potential for homelessness here may have an impact like nothing we’ve dealt with in North Carolina,” Lawrence said.
Recovery operations volunteer Ed Coltrane of Colonial Baptist Church in Trinity, N.C., said the site has taken 742 jobs with 340 completed. They are still taking requests every day, with about 80 percent of the work asked for being mud-out and chainsaw work.
An eight-member team worked two days to help Cunniff with his home. They ripped up flooring and emptied rooms full of damaged furniture.
North Carolina Baptist Men volunteer Chuck Hale of Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, helped Cunniff find items that could be salvaged.
“It’s his stuff and you have to respect that,” Hale said. “I told him, ‘I am here to help you.’”
Cunniff said he was appreciative of the volunteers’ work.
“I couldn’t have found a better group of people. It’s just like friends doing things for one another. That’s the Christian attitude,” he said.
Another volunteer group worked for six days on a complete tear out of the first floor and basement of a flood-damaged home in Trenton, N.C.

Photo by Laura Sikes
Tyler Newman and Ken Cruz of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. carry out damaged plywood from a flood-damaged home in Trenton, N.C. They worked for six days on a complete tear-out with four other members from their church alongside volunteers from North Carolina.

The home of a Temple Baptist Church member took on three to four feet of floodwater when the Trent River overflowed its banks.
Six volunteers from Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., worked alongside four volunteers from North Carolina.
Crystal Rose Alford of Saddleback Church said what she cherishes about serving is getting to interact with the homeowners.
“Our prayer and our hope is to get to love on the homeowner,” Alford said. “Pieces of our hearts are left here in the home that we have worked on. It’s an indelible mark.”
Team leader Anthony Cooper of Wilson, N.C., said the volunteers appreciate the New Bern community.
“We’ve been touched by a lot of the people here,” Cooper said.
Senior pastor Jim Pennington and associate pastor Bennett Holloway of Temple Baptist Church thanked the volunteers for all their hard work for the community during a dinner that the church gave the volunteers.
“Seeing what you guys do, words cannot express the appreciation we have for you,” Holloway said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Sikes is a freelance writer for the North American Mission Board.  Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/8/2018 10:59:33 AM by Laura Sikes, NAMB | with 0 comments

Record AAEO, new VPs top NAMB agenda

October 5 2018 by Mike Ebert, NAMB

North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustees meeting Oct. 1-2 in New York City were the first to hear that Southern Baptists gave an all-time record high to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO) for North American Missions in 2018. Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president, announced the record $61.1 million offering to the group Monday evening (Oct. 1).

Photo by Hayley Catt, NAMB
North American Mission Board trustees voted to make Dhati Lewis (right) vice president of Send Network, NAMB's church planting ministry arm. Lewis has served in Send Network for several years under the leadership of Jeff Christopherson, who is relocating to Canada to be closer to his ailing mother.

“We are so thankful to not only break $60 million but to break $61 million at the same time,” Ezell told trustees. “We are indebted to you and to your pastors and what an incredible thing that is.” See Biblical Recorder’s report on the record Annie Offering.
Since the Cooperative Program provides a substantive portion of NAMB’s overall budget, everything given to the offering goes directly to support missionaries on the field.
At their full board meeting Tuesday, trustees approved Johnny Hunt as NAMB’s new senior vice president of evangelism and leadership. Hunt is currently transitioning from his role as senior pastor of First Baptist Church Woodstock, Ga., and will begin serving at NAMB full time at the beginning of January 2019.
“I really feel like he is the person in the Southern Baptist Convention that can awaken us when it comes to evangelism,” Ezell said. “I am so thankful and honored that you were open to this, brother,” Ezell told Hunt.
Addressing trustees, Hunt said, “My heart has been evangelism. When you are saved out of the poolroom, basically, my friends just wanted to know what changed. So, before I had a course, I just had a heart to tell people what Jesus did.”
Hunt shared his vision and prayer for Southern Baptists when it comes to evangelism.
“I pray that God will recapture our heart,” he said. “That we would literally be a Great Commission denomination that shares the gospel with the intent of inviting people to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It will never happen without the grace of God.”

Photo by Hayley Catt, NAMB
During the North American Mission Board's celebration dinner in New York City, NAMB president Kevin Ezell, holding microphone, welcomed several New York City church planting missionaries and their families to introduce them to trustees.

Trustees also voted to make Dhati Lewis vice president of Send Network, NAMB’s church planting ministry arm. Lewis has served in Send Network for several years under the leadership of Jeff Christopherson, who is relocating to Canada to be closer to his ailing mother.
“Jeff will continue to be a vital part of NAMB as chief missiologist making sure that everything we do is missionally focused and part of the very center of our strategy,” Ezell said. Christopherson will also serve as co-executive director of Send Institute, NAMB’s partnership with Wheaton College that shares church planting resources across denominational and international lines.
In his comments to trustees, Lewis emphasized the key role of discipleship in the church planting process.
“We have often said you can plant churches and not make any disciples, but if you make disciples, you will ultimately plant churches,” Lewis said. “That has been the heartbeat from the very beginning, that we wanted to make disciples, and that’s part of my story, my journey.”
Lewis planted Blueprint Church in the midst of one of Atlanta’s urban centers in 2010. In that time, the church has planted five new churches.
“I had a heartbeat to create a place I could invite my friends to that was both culturally relevant, doctrinally sound but also missionally engaged and at the core was about discipleship,” Lewis said.
Also at the meeting trustees:

  • Approved Matt Smith as chief financial officer. Smith has been serving as controller. Carlos Ferrer continues to serve as executive vice president.

  • Approved a financial report indicating that through the end of August, NAMB revenue ran 6.8 percent above expenses.

  • Voted to make George McCallum, NAMB’s general counsel, recording secretary for the board.

In his address to trustees, Ezell highlighted a partnership with retiring LifeWay Christian Resources president Thom Rainer’s new Revitalize Network that will benefit struggling churches outside the South. Ezell said NAMB’s Send Relief ministry is a sponsor of David Jeremiah’s current Overcomer Tour, an effort to introduce more people to the compassion ministry.
Ezell also provided an update on the construction of new worship and education buildings NAMB is providing for First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs, Texas, the church where a gunman killed 26 church members in November 2017.
While expressing gratitude and encouragement for the record Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, Ezell laid out the challenge NAMB faces in helping Southern Baptist increase the number of churches in North America.
Ezell reminded trustees that in order to start gaining ground in North America, Southern Baptists need to be planting 1,200 new churches each year.
“That means we need 1,200 church planting missionaries each year,” Ezell said. “By comparison, on average, the International Mission Board has commissioned 150 new missionary units to the field each year for the last five years. It’s an apples to oranges comparison, but it gives you an idea of the challenge we face.”
Only half of applicants who complete NAMB’s online church planter assessment score high enough to receive an invitation to one of NAMB’s assessment retreats. Of those who attend an assessment, 62 percent are approved for moving forward as a church planter.
“In order to end up with 1,200 church planting missionaries each year, we need 4,000 applicants,” Ezell said. “This is why we have to help our churches cultivate more missionaries.”
Ezell ended his address with an exhortation from Romans 12:9-21, a passage that outlines the marks of a true Christian and how one reacts to criticism.
“We have an incredible amount to celebrate,” Ezell said. “We cannot be distracted. God has His hand on what we are doing. We have to keep our hands on the plow, focused on the vision He has set before us and respond in a way that He would have us respond. I am incredibly grateful to serve you.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Ebert is the executive director of public relations for the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/5/2018 12:31:50 PM by Mike Ebert, NAMB | with 0 comments

Old Testament’s viability for preaching underscored

October 5 2018 by SBTS Communications

When the apostles preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, they used Old Testament texts. Preachers in the New Testament era possess the completed canon of scripture, but that shouldn’t mean they rely exclusively on the New Testament when preaching Christ, Philip Ryken stated during the 2018 E.Y. Mullins Lectures on Christian Preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Sept. 26-27.

Photo by Freddy Sinarahua, SBTS
Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, presented the annual E.Y. Mullins Lectures on Christian Preaching at Southern Seminary. His four lectures addressed the foundations for and applications of preaching Jesus Christ from the Old Testament.

Ryken, president of Wheaton College in Illinois, presented four lectures covering the foundations for and applications of preaching Jesus Christ from the Old Testament. The Mullins Lectures, named in honor of Southern Seminary’s fourth president, represent one of the oldest endowed preaching lectureships in the United States, second only to Yale University’s Lyman Beecher Lectureship on Preaching.
To start, Ryken laid foundations for his lectures by enumerating 31 reasons to preach and teach from the Old Testament, including theological assumptions such as “the Old Testament is the Word of God”; interpretive observations such as “the Old Testament is Christ’s method of preaching the gospel”; and historical precedent such as preaching Christ from the Old Testament as “strongly vindicated by the history of the church.”
The 31 reasons are not exhaustive, Ryken said, but are meant to encourage curiosity and excitement about preaching Christ from the Old Testament scriptures.
Ryken moved from foundations into an exposition of Exodus 1:22-2:10, the passage that details the birth of Moses and his mother sending him in a basket into the Nile River. From the passage, Ryken observed that God works in human history, that He is overcoming evil and that His work culminates in Jesus Christ. He noted parallels between Moses’ story and the birth of Jesus, another Jewish baby who fled a murderous king and grew up to rescue His people.
Ryken traced the theme of salvation throughout the book of Exodus, spanning Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and the Red Sea to God’s presence with His people during their wilderness wanderings to the tabernacle. Each of these stories entails a narrative of redemption that carries significance even 2,000 years later, Ryken said. Approaching the text this way, “the salvation God has accomplished in history becomes the story of your own salvation,” he said.
The preacher’s job is not just to understand the Old Testament but also to apply it to daily life, starting with the preacher himself, Ryken said during a subsequent session of his lectures. He used Ezra, the Jewish priest who reintroduced the returned Israelite exiles to the scriptures, as an example of faithful application of biblical teaching.
According to Ezra 7:10, the teacher “set his heart to the study of the Law of the Lord, to do it and teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Ryken noted that Ezra, according to Jewish tradition, was considered the greatest student of scripture after Moses. Though Ezra knew the scripture well, he also applied it to his life before he taught it, Ryken said, describing Ezra as having a holy ambition to teach the Bible to the people of Israel that emerged from his personal devotion to God’s Word.
This same kind of conviction should motivate seminary students preparing for ministry, Ryken said.
“What have you set your heart on?” he asked. “I’m sure your commitment when you started to study here was to understand as much about the scriptures as you could. What about your commitment to growing in personal holiness – was that right up to the level of your commitment to studying biblical truth? Are you still leaning into it and are you still intent to grow in the Christian life? Are you nurturing through prayer a desire to serve others through what you’re learning through God’s Word?”
It is dangerous to understand biblical truth without experiencing it, Ryken said, commenting that seminary students usually are ambitious to understand theology and doctrine on a deeper level, but their personal growth and spiritual discipline often lags behind. This not only hampers their ministry, he said, but also damages their souls. He encouraged students to lean into their prayer lives and to nurture a desire to serve others through what they are learning in class.
To know God in a biblical sense, Ryken said, believers must trust, obey and be like Him. “A seminary like this is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be,” he said, “because of the accountability you will have for what you are learning from God’s Word. If all you’re doing is taking [information] in without putting it into practice or sharing it with others, it’s going to be unhealthy. What Ezra describes here is the healthy life for a seminary student.”
Ryken also highlighted the importance of practical application in sermons, which is a natural extension of this personal application. The Puritans, he pointed out, spent half of their sermon on application; they didn’t just teach on doctrine, but also its “use” in daily life.
Pastors should work as hard on application as they do on exposition, Ryken said.
“Different people in a congregation need God’s truth in different ways, depending on who they are and depending on their life’s circumstances,” he said, recounting that he likes to pray before preaching that the Holy Spirit would use the sermon in unique ways for each person in his congregation.
This kind of application also is apparent in the Pauline epistles, Ryken said, describing the apostle Paul’s exhortations as specific, dealing not only with behavior, but instead into deeper motivations, desires and matters of the heart.
“Paul doesn’t just tell you, ‘Do this; don’t do that,’ which is pretty easy to fall into as a preacher,” Ryken said. “The gospel doesn’t tell us to do a better job so that we can measure up more closely to God’s standards. The gospel assumes that we don’t measure up to those standards, which is why we need God’s grace.
“The law says, ‘Do this and you will live.’ The gospel pronounces a resurrection word to us and says, ‘Live!’ and then the scripture says, ‘Now, do this’ as a way of living out the life that God has put into us by the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit.”
Ezra’s ambition ultimately reaches its fulfillment in the New Covenant era, Ryken said, in which preachers have a full knowledge of God’s redemptive purposes and can teach the full revelation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ezra would have given “anything and everything” to know the completion of God’s plan and to teach not only rules and statutes but also gospel and grace, Ryken said. Yet the means of faithful teaching remain the same: personal application of scripture to the preacher’s soul before public application of scripture in the lives of the congregation.
“God needs to do a work in us before He can use us to do His work in others,” Ryken said. “And that’s not a one-and-done, either. It’s not as if you study for a while, then apply it, then teach. You’re continuing to study the Word of God, you’re continuing to strive after new obedience and new areas of repentance. So there’s continuously a fruit of God’s work in your life to share with others.”
As for public application, pastors need to remember the gospel, Ryken said. They shouldn’t give people a list of right and wrong but instead call them to a more intimate knowledge of the Father.
“When we’re talking about applying God’s truth, we’re not just giving people a ‘to-do’ list,” Ryken said. “We are actually helping them come to a deeper knowledge of God, and a knowledge of God in a comprehensive way – not just knowing about God, but a personal knowledge and encounter with the living God for life and eternity.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the communications staff of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Audio and video of the Mullins Lectures will be available online at equip.sbts.edu. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/5/2018 12:31:26 PM by SBTS Communications | with 0 comments

Nobel winner’s evolution claims stir response

October 5 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

The winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry have been hailed by the body to award the prize as demonstrating “the power of evolution.”
But scientists with Answers in Genesis (AiG) and the Discovery Institute say the Nobel laureates have made no such demonstration and, in fact, have illustrated the necessity of an intelligent designer for the existence of life.
This year’s Nobel-winning research “really has nothing to do with evolution in the sense of Darwin and the sense of going from molecules to man,” said Georgia Purdom, a molecular geneticist with AiG, a young-earth creationist organization based in Petersburg, Ky.
The 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry, announced Oct. 3, was awarded to three scientists. American Frances Arnold earned half the prize for her work with “directed evolution” of enzymes, proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. American George Smith and Englishman Gregory Winter shared the other half of the prize for their use of a virus called a bacteriophage to yield proteins.
In announcing the winners, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated in a press release, “This year’s Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have been inspired by the power of evolution and used the same principles – genetic change and selection – to develop proteins that solve mankind’s chemical problems.”
Arnold in particular, a professor of chemical engineering at the California Institute of Technology, has been noted in media reports for supposedly showing evolution’s power.
After unsuccessfully trying to build new enzymes through a process called “rational design,” Arnold inserted into a rapidly reproducing bacteria a gene that produces the enzyme she wanted to study. As the bacteria reproduced, it yielded different variations of the enzyme – like reproduction of two humans yields different children from the same genetic material. Arnold then chose the enzyme that worked best and repeated the process with its genetic material until she refined the enzyme for her specific purposes.
Arnold’s method has been used to produce biofuels and stain-removing enzymes in laundry detergent.
“I copied nature’s inventions, this wonderful process of evolution, to breed molecules like you breed dogs and cats,” Arnold said according to The New York Times.
Purdom, however, told Baptist Press that Arnold’s scientific process is decidedly different from the process through which Darwinists say life emerged.
“For evolution – if you’re going to go from one kind of organism to another – you have to not just make a protein work a little bit better or a little bit differently,” Purdom said. “You’ve got to make entirely new proteins. ... Her work doesn’t show that at all.”
In contrast to Darwinian evolution, Purdom said, Arnold’s research “has nothing to do with random chance. She’s the one shifting around the parts of the DNA and making these proteins better.” Additionally, for Arnold’s process to work, as with development of life, “you have to have an intelligent designer.”
Douglas Axe, a molecular biologist with the Discovery Institute, wrote in an Oct. 3 blog post that all three of this year’s chemistry Nobel laureates deserve the prize. The Discovery Institute advocates the theory of intelligent design, which claims the universe is the product of intelligence rather than chance.
“It’s also fitting that words like ‘design’ and ‘directed’ be attached to their work,” wrote Axe, who knew Arnold when he was a graduate student at Cal Tech and Winter when he worked in Cambridge, England. “The truth is that by much hard work and careful thought, they accomplished what accidental processes would never accomplish on their own.”
Arnold, Axe wrote, demonstrated “admirable candor” in a 2011 article for the journal Current Opinion in Chemical Biology, when she noted human efforts to generate “novel” enzymes “have primarily demonstrated that we are getting good at making bad enzymes. Making good enzymes will require a whole new level of insight, or new methodologies altogether.”
Axe concluded, “The problem these efforts face in the lab is exactly the problem faced by Darwin’s evolutionary mechanism in the wild: nothing can be selected until it already exists. The fact that some clever thing would be enormously beneficial if it existed has no power to make that thing exist.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/5/2018 12:29:48 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Nehemiah Code: ‘Never too late’ for new beginning

October 5 2018 by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources

Whether it’s revitalizing a church, dealing with a broken relationship or wrestling with one’s own self-confidence, most ministry workers and other Christians will spend at least some of the next year trying to restore something.

Nehemiah provides a key example for how to approach a rebuilding task, says GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins. Hawkins explores the example found in the Old Testament book in the latest installment of his Code series, The Nehemiah Code: It’s Never Too Late for a New Beginning.
As with all of Hawkins’ books, all author’s royalties and proceeds benefit the Mission:Dignity ministry, which provides financial assistance to retired pastors, Southern Baptist workers and their widows in financial need.
“Nehemiah was not a prophet, priest or politician,” Hawkins said in an interview. “He was a civil servant – the cupbearer to the King. He had a God-sized vision to restore the walls of Jerusalem. They were broken down and the gates were burned. He had an enormous task; the wall had been lying in rubble for decades. This was no time to merely bark orders; nor was it time to abdicate and leave the work for someone else to finish later. It had to be done.”
In The Nehemiah Code’s pages, Hawkins explores key leadership lessons Nehemiah demonstrated as he led the rebuilding of the walls and the gates – a task he completed in only 52 days. It’s a lesson anyone undertaking a rebuilding process can consider.
“Many of our churches are in the process of revitalizing or rebuilding,” Hawkins noted. “The six broad principles the book outlines from the pages of scripture are key to the revitalization process.”
The six principles include: Rebuilders Get Started Right, Rebuilders Build a Team Spirit, Rebuilders Let Go Without Letting Up, Rebuilders Understand “YAC” (Yards After Contact) Is What Really Matters, Rebuilders Never Cut What They Can Untie, and Rebuilders Finish Strong.
The individual sections explore each of the six broad themes.
“In the first section on getting started right, we see from Nehemiah how we must make an honest evaluation,” Hawkins said. “If you’re trying to rebuild a church, you must know the facts – what’s the spiritual health, the fiscal health, the physical health of any property. If you’re rebuilding a marriage, you have to know where the weaknesses and the challenges are. An honest assessment, which often requires outside points of view, is a must for a first step.”
Nehemiah – an outsider to the people of Jerusalem – was able to offer such an assessment.
“We will never get started right until we make our own honest evaluation of the situation,” Hawkins said.
In getting started right, Hawkins also notes that rebuilders must identify the need, take personal responsibility and move out of their comfort zones.
These steps are vitally important if a rebuilding task ever is to start right.
“As I talk to pastors each week, as I visit with businessmen in my travels, it is vividly evident that almost everyone – at some point – must take on a rebuilding task,” Hawkins said. “It is true of every race, of every culture, both men and women, young and old. The steps – the code, if you will – are drawn straight from the pages of scripture. They are as relevant in the 21st century in America as they were in the 4th century B.C. in Palestine.”
The Nehemiah Code is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBook.com and LifeWay Christian Stores. Discounted bulk orders are available by visiting ChurchSource.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations at GuideStone. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/5/2018 12:28:17 PM by Roy Hayhurst, GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments

Blume to retire from Biblical Recorder

October 4 2018 by Biblical Recorder Staff

Allan Blume announced Oct. 1 his plans to retire as editor-president of the Biblical Recorder after completing eight years with the North Carolina Baptist news journal. He will continue to lead the organization through May 2019, he told the Recorder’s board of directors in its fall meeting.

File photo
K. Allan Blume will retire as editor-president of the Biblical Recorder on May 31, 2019, after serving the historic news journal for eight years.

Well-known among N.C. churches, the longtime pastor and Baptist statesman was selected for the position in 2011 after leading Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone for 16 years. He previously held leadership positions with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) and Southern Baptist Convention. Blume also served as pastor of Statesville Avenue Baptist Church in Charlotte for 12 years and executive pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte for five years.
“It was a great day when God led Allan Blume to the Biblical Recorder,” said Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. “The tone and content of the paper immediately changed for the better. For the first time, I was proud to call the Biblical Recorder my Baptist state paper. Allan will be greatly missed, but he has laid a great foundation for the future of the BR.”
Blume led the historic news outlet through rebranding and the launch of a new website in his first year. Today, the Recorder reaches farther than ever, offering multiple news formats, including an e-newsletter and digital edition. The website, BRnow.org, draws nearly 1 million unique visitors each month.
“He did not lose his heart for missions or church ministry when he became editor of the BR,” said Milton Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer. “Much to the contrary, Allan continued to challenge Baptist people to engage in missions through the content of his newspaper as stories are published in each edition about international and North American mission work.
“Under the leadership and guidance of Allan Blume, the BR has become one of the most popular Christian news sources in our country,” Hollifield said.
Blume said he is “incredibly grateful” for the support of Hollifield and state convention staff, adding the news agency could not thrive without their partnership.
“I am so honored to have served North Carolina Baptists as the Biblical Recorder’s editor,” said Blume. “I strongly believe in the Biblical Recorder’s unique mission, and I value our Great Commission partnerships with all N.C. Baptist organizations and ministries, as well as those tied to the Southern Baptist Convention. I’ve learned that no other organization in our state or in the Southern Baptist Convention has the exact assignment God has given us. It’s a calling that must keep moving forward.”
Blume said he made the retirement announcement eight months before his departure with the news outlet’s best interest in mind.
“The board of directors deserves ample time to pray for God’s next steps and strategically plan for a productive future,” he said.
In a statement, the board of directors expressed appreciation for Blume’s leadership and said it plans to “start the process of searching for and identifying the next editor of the Biblical Recorder.”
“I and my fellow Board of Directors members have had the privilege of working with Allan as Editor and President of the Biblical Recorder for almost 8 years,” wrote Nate Jones Jr., board chairman and member of Cross Culture Church in Raleigh. “Through his dedication and hard work, we’ve witnessed remarkable achievements and found a brother and a friend along the way. We wish him well in this next chapter of life and look forward to working with Allan through a period of transition for the Biblical Recorder.”
Blume plans to continue living in Cary, N.C., and make himself available for preaching and interim pastorate opportunities across the state.
He and his wife, Pam, are members of First Baptist Church in Cary. They have one adult son who lives in Atlanta, Ga.

10/4/2018 4:05:33 PM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 5 comments

Annie Armstrong Easter Offering tops $61 million

October 4 2018 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), announced to trustees during their meeting that the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions broke the $60 million mark for the first time ever in 2018, with Southern Baptists giving $61.1 million.

Photo by Hayley Catt, NAMB
On Monday, Oct. 1, Kevin Ezell announced a record-breaking Annie Armstrong Easter Offering during a celebration dinner with trustees of the North American Mission Board. This year's offering eclipsed $60 million for the first time, coming in at $61.1 million.

“We are so thankful to not only break $60 million but to break $61 million at the same time,” Ezell told trustees. “We are indebted to you and to your pastors and what an incredible thing that is.”
Ezell, delivered the announcement to trustees at a dinner during their Oct. 1-2 meeting in New York City. Church planting missionaries, some NAMB staff and special guests were also in attendance. Ezell walked through previous record-setting years, recounting the victories Southern Baptists have shared through the years.
Last year’s record-breaking offering eclipsed a pre-recession high that had not been surpassed since 2007.
Current Southern Baptist Convention president J.D. Greear also expressed his excitement and gratitude to Southern Baptists.
“Wow – thank you Southern Baptists for showing what we can do together by your record-setting generosity to the North American Mission Board,” said Greear, upon learning the news. “Kevin Ezell and his team at NAMB have given us clear direction in reaching the least churched areas of our nation.”
The North American missions offering began in 1895 as a result of an initiative of the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU). In 1934, the offering was renamed for Annie Armstrong, an ardent missions advocate who invested her life leading the charge to reach difficult places with the gospel. WMU continues to promote the offering while partnering with NAMB.
“We celebrate this milestone with the North American Mission Board,” said Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director-treasurer of the national WMU. “We want everyone to have access to the gospel. God’s provision through this significant offering will enable Southern Baptists to faithfully tell the story of Jesus in North America.”
Since the missions offering began, Southern Baptists have contributed more than $1 billion, and the offering represents half of NAMB’s ministry budget. Since the Cooperative Program provides a substantive portion of NAMB’s overall budget, every dollar donated to the offering goes directly to the field to support NAMB missionaries who bring the hope of the gospel to the United States, Canada and other territories.
“Southern Baptists have demonstrated through their generosity that church planting and evangelism continues to be the heart of our unified mission,” Greear said. “I celebrate this record-giving offering and praise God for it. May God make us abound more and more in our generosity to the Great Commission!”
Every year around Easter, churches collect the offering and send those funds to NAMB by way of their state conventions. Individuals can give online at AnnieArmstrong.com or by mailing checks to North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

10/4/2018 2:30:52 PM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

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