September 2015

Seminary team reaps eavesdropping harvest

September 25 2015 by Katie Coleman, SWBTS Communications

A university student in Thailand was eavesdropping.
“Are they talking about trusting Christ?” the young man whispered to fellow students who were interacting with a team from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In the university’s food court, the Thai student explained to the team’s translator that missionaries had visited his village several months earlier and shared the gospel with him. In the following months, he could not stop thinking about what the missionaries told him.
Chris Collier, a student at the College at Southwestern, the seminary’s undergraduate arm, recounted, “As we were talking to him, he expressed what we were considering a calling. God was calling him to Himself, but he did not know what to do or how to act upon it.”
Hoping that God would send Christians to help him, the student was excited to find the Southwestern mission team sharing the gospel during his first week on campus in Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand.
“I knew when the missionaries came to my village that I needed to make that decision,” the young man told the seminarians from Texas, “but I resisted. Today, I don’t want to resist anymore.”
After the Southwesterners walked the student through the gospel to ensure his understanding, he submitted his life to Christ with eagerness.
“After talking to us, there seemed to be a joy and a happiness about him that was not there before,” Collier noted.
“We were all just shouting that day, along with all the angels,” said Keith Eitel, dean of Southwestern’s school of evangelism and missions and leader of the mission trip.
“This young man had every way to avoid [the gospel]. But he intentionally stayed around to ask,” Eitel said. “It’s not every day that someone comes up to you and asks you how to be a Christian.”
The team of 18 Southwestern students and faculty traveled to Chiang Mai in Southeastern Asia to share the gospel for three weeks in July, during which 26 people came to faith in Christ and one believer reaffirmed his faith.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Katie Coleman writes for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

9/25/2015 11:55:44 AM by Katie Coleman, SWBTS Communications | with 0 comments

Billy Graham statue, stamp approved

September 24 2015 by M.H. Cavanaugh, Christian Action League

North Carolina lawmakers passed two measures this week to honor North Carolina native, Billy Graham. Now 96 years old, Graham has preached the gospel to more than 215 million people in more than 185 countries. Even millions more have been reached through his television, video, film and webcasts. His ministry is known around the globe.
Graham has written 33 books and counseled presidents in office since Harry Truman. In addition to the numerous honorary doctorates he has received, Graham has been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and presented with an honorary knighthood by the British Empire. The Gallup organization regularly lists him as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World.” In addition to his appearances on the covers of magazines such as Time, Newsweek, Life, U.S. News and World Report, Parade, he has also been the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine feature articles and books.
“He is one of the most important figures, not only in our time,” said Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, “but in the history of the church.”
Creech said he thought it was providential the two different measures honoring Graham took place on the same day and in both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly.


Billy Graham

The Senate approved a measure which passed the House back in April – a bill that would eventually place a statue of Graham inside the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
The legislation, HB 540 – Billy Graham/National Statuary Hall, was proposed in response to controversy surrounding the legacy of former governor Charles B. Aycock. Aycock’s statue along with a statue of Zebulon Vance, a Civil War era governor, currently resides in Statuary Hall representing the Tar Heel state. Aycock has come under fire recently for his white supremacist views, which resulted in the removal of his name from some college dormitories in the state, as well as from an annual state Democratic Party fundraising event. A statue of Graham would replace the one of Aycock first erected in the U.S. Capitol Building in 1932.
When the measure was first taken up on the House side Democrats complained that Republicans had circumvented the normal process for vetting legislation by not giving the bill a hearing in committee, but Republicans said the real issue was that Democrats didn’t like the choice to replace Aycock.
Some of the names put forward by Democrats during debate on the House floor as alternatives to Graham included furniture maker, Thomas Day, U.S. Army General William Lee, University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, civil rights leader, Julius Chambers, and former governors Jim Holshouser, Jim Hunt and Terry Sanford.
Rep. Bert Jones, (R-Rockingham), however, succinctly rebuffed the Democratic opposition, arguing most of the names put forward by Democrats would largely be unknown to the public. But, “[W]hen we stand up and say, Billy Graham, the vast, vast, vast, majority of people in this state would need no more explanation as to who Billy Graham is,” said Jones. He added that if most North Carolinians were given a vote on the matter he was certain that their choice would be Billy Graham.
The vote in the House on HB 540 was 71-28, and all “no” votes were cast by Democrats, which included:
Representative(s): Alexander; B. Richardson; Baskerville; Brockman; C. Graham; Carney; D. Hall; Earle; Farmer-Butterfield; Fisher; Floyd; G. Graham; G. Martin; Gill; Hamilton; Hanes; Harrison; Holley; L. Hall; Lucas; Luebke; Meyer; Michaux; Pierce; R. Johnson; R. Moore; Willingham; and Wray.
The irony of Democrats voting against the measure is that Graham is a Democrat.
The Senate’s debate of the proposal on Thursday was quite different. It was brief with essentially no debate and a unanimous bipartisan approval of 44-0.
Congressional guidelines require that a person’s statue for Statuary Hall may only be installed posthumously. A seven member panel will be created to pick a sculptor and secure the necessary funds.
The bill that passed on the House side was HR 944 – Billy Graham for Postage Stamp. The House resolution petitions the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee of the United States Postal Service and the Postmaster General of the United States to issue a commemorative stamp honoring the evangelist.
Rep. Chris Whitmire (R-Transylvania) explained that such resolutions by a legislative body were often “the tipping point” in getting the Stamp Advisory Committee to decide in favor of a commemorative stamp that recognizes a certain American’s achievements.
The House voted 104-0 in favor of the resolution.
After the vote, Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), recognized Roy Graham in the House Gallery. Roy Graham is the grandson of Billy Graham, and the son of Franklin Graham.
Roy Graham was present on behalf of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Graham family to show appreciation for passage of the resolution.
Unlike placing a statue in the United States Capitol Building, in 2011 postal officials ended the requirement that commemorative stamps cannot feature someone who is still alive.
Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said the measures recognizing Graham were critical to the times we live.
“The days are getting darker and it’s important that a statue of Graham be in the U.S. Capital Building. It’s important that a commemorative stamp honoring the great evangelist be circulated. The statue and the stamp, I believe, draw as much attention to Christ as they do to Graham,” said Creech. “We need that kind of witness in Washington and every city and hamlet in this country to remind us that this great nation was built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story first appeared at Used with permission.)

9/24/2015 12:34:58 PM by M.H. Cavanaugh, Christian Action League | with 1 comments

EC wrap-up: Hawkins notes market correction

September 24 2015 by Baptist Press staff

When the Dow dropped to 15,400 last month, many pastors exited the stock market and “lost a lot” of money. The market’s volatility should prompt all ministers to carefully review their retirement accounts, GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins told the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC).
During the EC’s Sept. 21-22 meeting in Nashville, members also learned of a North American Mission Board (NAMB) proposal to provide funds to the International Mission Board (IMB) as it transitions hundreds of missionaries off the field, honored the Alaska Baptist Convention’s retiring executive director and celebrated Frank S. Page for five years of service as EC president.
Hawkins said an Aug. 24 stock market correction prompted him to spend an afternoon in GuideStone’s call center, where he heard “pastor after pastor” say, “I want out.”
“So many got out, and today [the Dow] is already up 1,100 points higher, and they lost a lot in that downturn,” Hawkins reported Sept. 21.
Individuals with GuideStone retirement accounts, he said, should use the tools available through GuideStone’s website to determine their time remaining until retirement along with their risk tolerance and adjust their investments accordingly. Doing so will help prevent hasty decisions that lead to financial loss, Hawkins said.


Photo by Morris Abernathy
O.S. Hawkin

He also reported on GuideStone’s lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraception/abortion mandate. After losing at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, GuideStone has appealed to the Supreme Court. Regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome, Hawkins said, GuideStone will not provide abortion-causing drugs as part of its health plans.
Hawkins concluded by noting the need for $7-8 million annually to fund Mission: Dignity, GuideStone’s ministry providing financial assistance to needy retired ministers and their widows.
“We’re on a mission still to bring dignity to some forgotten folks,” Hawkins said.

NAMB offers to aid IMB

Kevin Ezell, NAMB president, reported that a proposal to provide $4 million to the International Mission Board for each of the next two years will be on NAMB’s trustee agenda during their Oct. 6-7 meeting in Salt Lake City.
“It’s very expensive when you transition missionaries,” Ezell said, “when you’re trying to correct your budget and you’re trying to take care of people at the same time.
“We’re all in this together,” Ezell said of IMB’s planned reduction of 600-800 missionaries and staff members to correct its multi-million-dollar shortfall.
NAMB’s proposed allocation, which would require Executive Committee approval, does not mean NAMB has an excess of funds, Ezell said. Rather, he said, NAMB can provide the money because steps in the past five years have placed the mission board in a fiscally sound position to assist the IMB.

Alaska executive honored

The Executive Committee unanimously adopted a resolution of appreciation for Michael Procter for more than 30 years of denominational service with Alaska Baptists in advance of his May 1, 2016, retirement as executive director-treasurer of the Alaska Baptist Convention.
Procter has held his current position for nearly five years and previously held positions of pastor, church planter, associational director of missions and state director of missions and church planting.
The Executive Committee recognized Procter for leadership marked by “an evangelistic zeal and vision to reach Alaskans with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” and for encouraging cooperation at every level of Southern Baptist life, including the establishment of partnerships with four associations in the lower 48 states. Procter established the Upper Tanana Valley Regional Church Planting Center in Tok, Alaska, introduced the “938 Prayer Strategy,” and launched the “100 Village Challenge” to establish a Christian ministry in villages that have no ongoing Gospel witness.
Procter led the Alaska Baptist Convention to focus on reaching the state’s rich diversity of ethnic, racial and language groups, the resolution notes, and planted churches among numerous ethnic groups and native Alaskan populations. During his tenure, the number of cooperating churches in Alaska has grown from 81 to 121, a growth rate of 49 percent over five years.
Procter and his wife of nearly 40 years, Rebecca, have contributed to Southern Baptist life, the resolution concluded, in ways that have been “numerous and distinguished.”

Page honored for 5 years of service

Executive Committee members honored Frank S. Page and his wife Dayle for their five years with the Executive Committee during a reception Sept. 22.
Page, the EC’s sixth president, was president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 2006-08 and was serving as the North American Mission Board’s vice president of evangelization when he was elected as EC president in June 2010.
SBC President Ronnie Floyd told EC members, “The Lord began raising up Dr. Page in 2006 and He has verified again and again his place, his calling, his dynamic influence within the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Page has led the Executive Committee in a budget reduction stemming from a Great Commission Task Force recommendation to appropriate more than 50 percent of Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program gifts to the International Mission Board.
He has charted new ground in Southern Baptist relationships with ethnic constituencies, creating African American, Hispanic, Asian and Multi-ethnic advisory councils. Calvinism and mental health advisory councils also were initiated by Page.
He is the author of several books, including Melissa about the suicide of one of his three grown daughters.

SBC referrals

In response to motions referred from the 2015 SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, the Executive Committee:

  • declined to endorse a change in SBC Bylaws to require that nomination speeches include information on the Cooperative Program giving of a nominee’s church. The Executive Committee acknowledged “the generally recognized importance of various elements of church activity such as number of baptisms and Cooperative Program giving” and said it will “continue to provide such relevant information about announced candidates prior to each annual meeting through Baptist Press, and also via article compilations in the annual meeting phone app.” The EC added that messengers are “fully capable of using all publicly available information about any nominee to determine whether the content of any nominating speech is accurate, sufficient, and persuasive.”

  • declined to recommend an amendment to SBC Bylaws requiring nominees to publicly address the convention. The EC noted SBC Bylaw 10 “already allows a nominee to deliver his own nomination speech, and messengers may already become familiar with candidates prior to each annual meeting through Baptist Press, and also via story compilations available in the annual meeting phone app.”

  • responded to a motion calling for the Executive Committee and SBC entities to mount an initiative to repair the moral fabric of America by citing the EC’s “willing participation to continue conducting its SBC Bylaw 18.E assigned work.” Bylaw 18.E requires the EC, among other duties, to promote work already conducted to repair America’s moral fabric by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other SBC entities.

  • responded to a motion requesting shuttle service for SBC annual meeting attendees by stating that the EC “annually studies the costs and availability of transportation at each host city and will continue to evaluate and adjust shuttle service on an annual basis.”

Executive Committee member Jim Gregory of Mountain Home, Idaho, in a question unrelated to the shuttle service referral, asked EC chairman Michael Routt whether any SBC entity other than the International Mission Board is faced with making budget cuts to reverse years of financial shortfalls.
“In light of what we have learned about IMB’s financial [shortfall], in light of the fact that that amount of [shortfall] didn’t just happen overnight,” Gregory asked, “are there any other SBC entities facing a similar financial situation?”
“The answer is joyfully no,” Routt said. “God’s provided, and we need to continue to pray for IMB.”
Also during the meeting, Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, presented checks totaling more than $570,000 for the SBC’s two mission boards. The funds – $306,585 for the International Mission Board and $264,113 for the North American Mission Board – were mission offerings given this summer by participants in LifeWay’s Fuge, CentriKids and World Changers ministries.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston, general assignment writer/editor Diana Chandler and chief national correspondent David Roach.)

9/24/2015 12:28:49 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Army troop reduction: Churches can aid veterans

September 24 2015 by Joe Conway, NAMB

Churches have the potential to assist U.S. Army veterans who may find themselves retired prematurely within two years.
A reduction in force was announced by Brig. Gen. Randy George, the Army’s director of force management, at the Pentagon in a July 9 briefing. The downsizing may affect 40,000 troops by the end of 2017, the Army News Service reported.
“These are incredibly difficult choices,” George said. “The Army followed a long and deliberate process … to determine the best construct for the Army, based on the threats we face and the current fiscal environment we must operate in.” George said the Army hopes to draw down the active force gradually to “minimize the turbulence we have with soldiers and their families.”
Minimizing that turbulence is where churches can step in, said Doug Carver, a retired major general who served as the Army Chief of Chaplains and now is executive director of chaplaincy for the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Churches can be an integral part of re-entry into civilian life, he said.
“Military members are our neighbors,” Carver said. “Over 85 percent of our military members, veterans and their families live in our communities. Many of them are unchurched and remain unreached by local churches. Arguably, the military community represents one of the nation’s largest unreached people groups.”
NAMB’s chaplaincy team has resources available at the NAMB website to assist churches in reaching out to veterans, honoring them and serving them.
Awareness is the first step, Carver said.
“We must recognize the significant number of veterans living in the United States,” he said. “Members of the armed services – active, Reserve/National Guard and retired – are comprised of over 23 million Americans. Approximately 18 percent of this number is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention or other Gospel partners.
“Our veterans and their families have a growing need for a cure to their wounds of war that can only be found in the gospel. A recent study by Baylor University concluded that ‘clergy and the church – not psychologists or other mental health experts – are the most common source of help sought [by our troops] in times of psychological distress.’“
Carver said churches can take practical steps to assist veterans, including:

  • Maintain an awareness of the needs and sacrifices of our veterans and their families.

  • Create an environment of acceptance for those recovering from their war wounds and other associated trauma.

  • Provide pastoral care to deployed troops, veterans and their families.

  • Establish reintegration ministry for those returning from a deployment or retiring from the military.

  • Initiate an intentional trauma ministry strategy for military families.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell echoed Carver’s suggestions and concern.
“This is an important time for churches to be aware of the needs of our military families,” Ezell said. “These transitions might also mean that many military members can play a greater role in ministry within our churches where their leadership and experience is much needed.”
By the close of fiscal year 2018, the Army expects to have reduced in size from 490,000 to 450,000, according to the Army News Service. The Army also plans to cut 17,000 civilian employees. The reductions will come from some 30 Army installations.
To learn more about assisting veterans or about Southern Baptist chaplaincy, visit
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)

9/24/2015 12:06:27 PM by Joe Conway, NAMB | with 0 comments

Engage24: a day of gospel conversations

September 24 2015 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President

According to research by the Barna Group, only 52 percent of evangelicals shared their faith with someone in the past year. In a recent LifeWay Research study, 48 percent said that spiritual matters do not tend to come up in their everyday conversations.
It’s not a lack of conviction. Overwhelmingly, Christians believe they should be sharing their faith.
It’s not a lack of understanding. If we’ve trusted Christ, it should be easy enough to tell someone else what we’ve done.


Perhaps it’s just a lack of intentionality. Perhaps it’s just a lack of focus.
Just think what could happen if 16 million Southern Baptists awakened Oct. 15 and prayed that the Holy Spirit would provide an encounter with someone who doesn’t know Christ. Then, they hit the streets, the classroom, the marketplace, the campus, the office or wherever God has placed them to live on mission with the intention of having at least one gospel conversation. It could be the beginning of something big.
The great 19th-century evangelist D.L. Moody made a commitment to God that he would never let 24 hours pass that he didn’t tell someone of the Savior. It is said that he saw more than a million souls come to Christ during his ministry. That’s one man telling someone every day about Jesus.
What if millions of Christians took one day and had a gospel conversation with one person?

Collegiate students are asking churches to join with them

Over the last three years, Southern Baptist collegiate ministries nationwide have set aside a day to call every one of their students to share the gospel with someone in their sphere of influence.
They’ve seen thousands of students share the gospel for the first time as a part of the challenge, and now collegiate leaders are inviting churches to participate in what they call Engage24 on Thursday, Oct. 15.
God often sparks awakening fires among college students. In the 1800s, from the Cambridge Seven and their influencing the world to engage China with the gospel to the birth of the Student Volunteer Movement ignited by the 250 students gathering at Mount Hermon, Mass., there is no doubt that when students are committed and focused to a vision for gospel expansion, magnificent things happen.
Here’s an example from Drew Landry, senior pastor at Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Va.: “At Spotswood we are not trying to simply champion people participating in evangelism for a moment. By God’s grace, we are trying to develop a culture of evangelism that produces a movement amongst our members. We believe that participating in Engage helps us to accomplish that purpose. One of the most surprising effects of participating in Engage is that many of our members have become more missionally minded throughout the year, especially around times when people are more spiritually open, such as Christmas and Easter. For example, this past Easter, Spotswood members identified, prayed for and attempted to engage over 600 of their neighbors. We believe these actions at Easter are directly related to the fall focus we had on evangelism during Engage24. Results like this are how we recognize the difference between a moment and a movement.”

 Imagine what God would do if churches did this

Just imagine what it would be like if several thousand churches determined they would lead the way in participating in sharing the gospel on Oct. 15. Imagine what it would look like if churches across Southern Baptist life would learn how to articulate the gospel clearly and with passion, then with intentionality, share the gospel regularly.
Perhaps if a specific day was targeted, like Oct. 15, it could become a beginning point for many people. Again, imagine what it would look like to see every Southern Baptist sharing the gospel with just one person during Engage24.
The North American Mission Board has set up a website with some practical tips on promoting Engage24 in your church. Check it out at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, urges Baptists to participate Oct. 15 in the Engage24 day of one-on-one gospel conversations. Additionally in the Southern Baptist Convention, Personal Evangelism Commitment Day is Oct. 4. This article first appeared at Ronnie Floyd’s website,

9/24/2015 12:01:26 PM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President | with 0 comments

NOBTS report highlights God’s grace during tragedy

September 24 2015 by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS Communication

With the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina fresh on his mind, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) President Chuck Kelley offered a testimony of God’s grace and mercy during his report to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee.
“We serve an awesome God who delights in expressing His character through amazing works He does on behalf of His churches, His people and the lost of the world,” Kelley said Sept. 21 in Nashville.
God’s sufficient grace, Kelley said, sustained the seminary through the Katrina recovery effort and provides hope for current challenges at NOBTS. God’s grace also provides a framework of hope for denominational challenges such as the funding crisis at the International Mission Board, he noted.
“Ten years ago at this meeting I stood before you homeless,” Kelley said. “The clothes I was wearing were purchased for me by Dr. John Sullivan of the Florida Baptist Convention. This little storm called Katrina had come ashore near New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”


Photo by Morris Abernathy
Chuck Kelley

Early in the storm recovery, prospects for New Orleans Seminary looked bleak. The entire main campus family – faculty, staff and student body – was homeless. The faculty was scattered over nine states and the student body had evacuated to 29 different states, Kelley said. The campus was unusable for nearly a year.
But Southern Baptists took on the challenge of rebuilding the campus and restoring the seminary to its mission of training gospel ministers. The special $6 million gift from the Cooperative Program surplus that year played a key role in the school’s recovery.
“It was an overwhelming, incredible task,” Kelley said. “I am here tonight to say ‘thank you, thank you, thank you,’ to the Executive Committee and to Southern Baptists and to Southern Baptist churches for an overwhelming response of grace to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and to the people of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
Southern Baptist volunteers made a profound impression on the people of the Gulf Coast region, Kelley said.
“I simply want to express on behalf of all of those whom you helped, to whom you extended grace and say 10 years after the storm thank you, for you did indeed stand in the gap as the grace of God expressed to our seminary, to our city and to the people of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” he said. “Thank you so very, very much.”
Kelley shifted to the news that greeted the campus late this summer – a record enrollment and several large donations to establish new scholarships and to assist with the seminary’s annual giving program.
Things were going so well that Kelley telephoned the trustee chairman days before the start of school. The two men spoke for an hour about the different gifts – a $1 million gift to the Providence Fund; a gift to strengthen the seminary’s African-American student scholarship program; a gift designated for scholarships at the school’s North Georgia Hub; and a scholarship program offering a limited number of full-tuition scholarships for pastors in Wyoming to study online.
Shortly after Kelley hung up the telephone, he was flooded with bad news. Multiple calls came informing Kelley that an NOBTS faculty member’s name had been listed in connection with the Ashley Madison adultery website.
The faculty member, John Gibson, “made some sad and very unfortunate choices,” Kelley said. “More and more information came in through the weekend and on that Monday morning we sat down with Gibson and talked with him about where he was and what he had done – a great, great tragedy.
“My last words to John before he left my office were, ‘John, right now you are feeling absolutely, completely, entirely alone, but you are not,” Kelley said. “You are surrounded by people who love you dearly, who want to walk with you and help you through this. You just have to let us in so we can help you get on the other side of this.’”
When Gibson’s wife returned home from work that day, Aug. 24, she found him unresponsive in the garage. A Sept. 9 Baptist Press story reported Gibson’s family had spoken openly about his death, calling it a suicide.
“What we have been doing for the last two or three weeks on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is not celebrating the wonderful, amazing things that God had done,” Kelley said. “We have been talking about the reality of spiritual warfare, that we are all capable of becoming someone we never intended to be, and that we have been designed by God to need one another.”
Kelley stressed the importance of accountability in the Christian life. Believers must find someone or a group of close friends with whom they can be open and honest about their walk with Christ and any area of failure in their lives, he said.
Kelley quoted from 1 Peter 5:8-11 in which the apostle compared Satan to a roaring lion intent on devouring believers. Peter encouraged his readers to be alert and to resist the adversary. The temporal sufferings brought on by these attacks will bring a response from God, whom the scripture says will “perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish” the believer.
To close his report, Kelley commended David Platt for making the tough decision to reduce the number of IMB missionaries and staff to balance the budget. The solution to the current funding crisis for overseas missions, Kelley said, is for Southern Baptist churches to get serious about evangelism and discipleship.
Kelley highlighted concerns about SBC decline back in 2008 in a presentation called “The New Methodists.” In the presentation, Kelley connected the decline among Methodists to decreased emphasis on evangelism and discipleship and warned that Southern Baptists seemed moving toward a similar path to decline.
The baptism rate among Southern Baptists is the same as it was in the 1940s despite the growing U.S. population, Kelley said. Southern Baptist churches have fewer people in attendance at worship and Bible study. Per capita giving, the primary source of mission funding, has decreased dramatically among Southern Baptists over the years, Kelley said.
“Our world mission enterprise is based upon the premise that our churches are going to continually reach their communities and disciple the people that they reach. Out of those disciples will come the financial resources to do the work of the Kingdom of God,” Kelley said. “What happens in your church really does matter.”
The good news, Kelley said, is God’s grace is sufficient for the challenge.
“Lest you think that our God is nervous or worried about this, please remember, 10 years ago I stood in front of you homeless in clothes purchased by a friend … and I stand before you now and say, ‘Wow! Our God is a redeemer who allowed me to get in a circumstance that was far worse than anything I could ever conceive and along the way back showed me the sufficiency of His grace and His mercy.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Gary Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

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9/24/2015 11:55:42 AM by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS Communication | with 0 comments

Moore: Senate fails to protect ‘unborn neighbors’

September 23 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The U.S. Senate’s refusal to protect unborn children in the last half of pregnancy brought contempt upon America, said Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore.
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, decried the failure “to protect our unborn neighbors” after senators rejected legislation Sept. 22 to prohibit abortions of babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization. The 20-week time frame is based on scientific evidence a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation.
The Senate voted 54-42 to bring the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act to the floor, leaving supporters six votes short of the requirement. Though a majority of senators favored consideration of the proposal, the attempt to invoke cloture, as it is known, needed 60 votes to open debate on the legislation and establish a path to its passage.
The House of Representatives had passed the same bill, H.R. 36, in May by a 242-184 margin.
“This is to our national shame,” Moore said after the Senate vote. “The fact that 20-week-old citizens are denied protection of their human rights is a grievous failure of courage and moral leadership in our country. This vote is a reminder that the cause of life and human dignity for our most vulnerable and defenseless people still has a long way to go.”


The Senate’s refusal to consider the late-term ban came four days after the House approved two other abortion-related measures: One to cut off federal funds to Planned Parenthood during a congressional investigation and the other to protect babies who survive abortions.
Sen. James Lankford, R.-Okla., initiated Sept. 21 a fast-track process to bring the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, H.R. 3134, directly to the Senate floor without committee consideration, The Hill reported. GOP members also began the fast-track process for floor action on the Born-alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, H.R. 3504, according to the political news website.
The defunding proposal would place a one-year moratorium on federal money for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates while Congress investigates evidence of trafficking in baby body parts. Since mid-July, the Center for Medical Progress has released 10 undercover videos that show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs from aborted children and acknowledging their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve body parts for sale and use. The videos also provided evidence of the dissection of live babies to remove organs.
The Senate already has failed this year in an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. In August, the effort to invoke cloture fell short in a 53-46 vote.
The born-alive survivors bill would require appropriate care and hospital admission for a child who lives through an abortion or attempted abortion.
The demise of the pain-capable abortion ban demonstrates the difficulty pro-life measures face in gaining Senate approval. Though the Democratic Party, which overwhelmingly favors abortion rights, is in the minority, it is able to block passage of even the least restrictive of pro-life bills under Senate rules.
Only three Democrats – Sens. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – voted for the pain-capable abortion ban. Two Republicans – Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois – opposed the legislation.
Of the senators’ vote, Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., the sponsor of the House-approved bill, said on Facebook he is “very disappointed and heartbroken that they cowered away from protecting the most innocent and vulnerable among us.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.-S.C., sponsor of the Senate version, said in a written statement, “There are only seven countries that allow wholesale abortions at the 20-week period including China and North Korea. We should no longer be part of that club.”
Abortion-rights advocates, meanwhile, applauded the Senate rejection of the ban.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-choice America, said the vote had “nothing to do with women’s health and everything to do with pandering to a politically extreme base in a presidential cycle.”
Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, disagreed, saying in a written release, “The extremists on this issue are Big Abortion and its political allies who are pushing abortion through all nine months,” as well as “fighting health and safety standards that protect women’s lives.”
The White House had announced its strong opposition to all three pro-life measures. It threatened a veto by President Barack Obama of the pain-capable ban and promised vetoes of the Planned Parenthood defunding bill and the born-alive survivors proposal.
In Sept. 18 votes, the House approved the defunding of PPFA by 241-187 and protection for born-alive abortion survivors by 248-177.
In its latest financial report (2013-14), PPFA said it received more than $528 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements. As the country’s No. 1 abortion provider, its affiliates performed 327,653 of the lethal procedures during 2013.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

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EC calls for increased CP to remedy IMB shortfall

September 23 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

In response to the International Mission Board’s (IMB) announcement of a personnel reduction, the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) has adopted a resolution urging Southern Baptist churches to give “more than ever before” through the Cooperative Program.
The resolution, which was adopted without opposition, stated, “At this urgent hour of desperate need in our nation and around the world, we, the members of the SBC Executive Committee, pledge to encourage and lead our churches to give more than ever before through the Cooperative Program in 2015 and beyond. We also call upon all cooperating Southern Baptist churches prayerfully to join us in doing more than ever before.”
The resolution was adopted during the Executive Committee’s Sept. 21-22 meeting in Nashville, where President David Platt and other IMB leaders addressed questions from EC members. The IMB had announced previously that it would reduce its total number of missionaries and staff by 600-800 in light of expenditures that exceeded revenues by $210 million over the past six years.
Platt’s extended report to the EC Sept. 21 preceded 10 minutes of questions and answers. EC President Frank S. Page then led in prayer for Platt and the IMB. Earlier that day, IMB chief financial officer David Steverson answered questions in an EC workgroup meeting.


Photo by Morris Abernathy
A resolution adopted by the SBC Executive Committee urged CP giving “more than ever” in response to the IMB’s personnel reduction.

SBC President Ronnie Floyd proposed adoption of the resolution during a Sept. 22 meeting of the body’s administrative committee.
“We are not backing up on getting the gospel to the world,” Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, told the full EC. “And that is what this body must resolve and clearly send across the Southern Baptist Convention. We are not backing up on pushing back the lostness in this world.”
According to printed EC background materials, Floyd cited reaffirmation of giving through CP as “the most effective means to provide both long-term sustainability and financial flexibility to address pressing crises as they emerge.” One-time gifts, including gifts through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, “may allay IMB’s present need to keep a larger number of its missionary force on the field,” but they do not “address the full range of both IMB and other SBC entities’ needs to maintain long-term sustainability,” the background materials noted.
EC chairman Mike Routt promised to urge the congregation he pastors, Circle Drive Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., to increase its giving through Southern Baptists’ unified program of supporting missions and ministries across North America and around the globe.
Circle Drive “has adjusted our Cooperative Program giving three times in the last six years,” Routt said. “As a result of what I have experienced this week, these two days, I’m going back, and we’re raising it again.”
Routt urged EC members to “lead by example” and “be upset that we’re keeping 90-95 percent of our income in our buildings.”
In light of the IMB financial situation, the EC’s business and finance committee discussed its process of reviewing the financial audits presented to SBC entities. No EC member questioned the integrity of the IMB’s reporting of financial data, and Steverson said the IMB’s audits are “clean.”


Photo by Morris Abernathy
David Platt

Platt told EC members the “voluntary retirement incentive” offered to all IMB personnel at least 50 years old with at least five years of service is truly voluntary. It represents a way of discerning God’s work in employees’ lives, he said.
Those who opt to accept the retirement incentive must indicate their choice by Nov. 2.
Phase two of the IMB’s plan, to be implemented after Jan. 1, will involve asking all other employees to discern whether God is leading them to another ministry opportunity, Platt said. Phase two will occur regardless of how many people accept the voluntary retirement incentive, he said.
“That entire plan is based on the premise that God knows what He is doing and He’s sovereign over even this,” Platt said. “And so we wanted to start by putting all decisions in the hands of men and women who are seeking Him.”
During his Q&A with EC members, Platt was asked about the possibility of a “less voluntary” process of reducing employees in the future. He responded that is a “bridge” the IMB hopes it does not need to cross, trusting God to direct through voluntary means those He is calling to other service.
Platt said in an interview the IMB has neither announced publicly how many people were offered the retirement incentive nor stated specific projections regarding what percentage is likely to accept. Platt cited “pastoral reasons” for keeping that information confidential, noting the IMB does not want to exert undue pressure on employees considering the offer.
Presently, the IMB has approximately 4,780 missionaries, Steverson said. He added the board has committed to send 300 new missionaries in 2016 and anticipates resignations and retirements of approximately 300 missionaries in an average year.
In total, the 5,250 missionaries and stateside staff members must be reduced by 600-800, Platt said, an approximate decrease of between 11 and 15 percent.
Platt and Steverson both said IMB leaders did not begin to formulate their two-phase plan until after the SBC’s June annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
Platt told EC members about a letter he received claiming the IMB is “letting Satan win” by reducing its number of fully funded missionaries. That claim, he said, is wrong.
“I want to be clear: Satan does not win,” Platt said. “... If Romans 8:28 is true, Satan never wins. God works together all things for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.”
He continued, “Brothers and sisters, let’s be aware Satan is at work. But let us also be assured that even he cannot prevent God from using all these things for good. So we do not fear. In God’s sovereign plan to make the gospel known among the nations, He saw even this coming. And so we rest assured, brothers and sisters, our God wins always.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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Great Commission Advance ‘imperative,’ Page says

September 23 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

The needs are “glaringly obvious in our 21st-century world,” Frank S. Page said in setting forth a Great Commission Advance 10-year initiative among Southern Baptists.
“The need for a larger mission force, not a smaller one, is greater than ever,” Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC), said during the opening session of the EC’s Sept. 21-22 meeting in Nashville.
The Great Commission Advance, Page noted, will focus on the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ channel for national, international and state-by-state missions and ministries.
“The need for evangelistic church plants … is greater than ever, as our own continent is more lost than ever before,” said Page, speaking at the five-year point of his service as EC president.
“The need for excellent theological education is more necessary now than ever before. The need for an ethical voice in our society and our culture is certainly more crucial than ever before,” Page said. “The need for missions education, the need for godly resources and assistance to our churches and our pastors is absolutely imperative. …


Photo by Morris Abernathy
Frank S. Page

“We need to have a Great Commission Advance, and the best way to fund it is through the Cooperative Program,” Page said.
The 10-year emphasis, now in development with SBC entity and state convention partners, will culminate with the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Program’s founding in 1925.
The Great Commission Advance, Page said, will provide pastors and churches with ongoing encouragement “to look at the wisdom of supporting missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program. We’re always seeking ways to improve it, to review it. However, its underlying principles, we believe, are sound.
“Through the Cooperative Program, we definitely are not alone,” Page stated. “That is the theme of this emphasis: We are not alone. I truly believe that often-quoted phrase: We can go more together than we can do separately.”
Several thousand churches have embraced the 1% CP Challenge to increase their giving to Southern Baptist causes by 1 percentage point of their yearly budgets, Page reported.
“But I think it’s also time to call our churches to a 1% increase in baptisms and a 1% increase in stewardship,” he said. “We’re seeing less money given to the Cooperative Program because we have less people in our churches. And those that are in the churches are giving less than ever before.
“We must approach these issues with great, great purposefulness.”
Page said seven key objectives will undergird the Great Commission Advance:

  • Prayer: “We must undergird a renewed commitment to Cooperative Program missions with coordinated prayer that invites God’s blessing and unites our churches and our entities in a Great Commission Advance,” he said.

SBC President Ronnie Floyd of Arkansas has “beaten this drum over and over, and exemplified it for us and encouraged us in perhaps more ways than we’ve ever seen before,” Page said. “The need is greater than ever, and a Great Commission Advance will only occur when people are praying to our great Lord.”

  • Vision: “We must communicate a renewed, clear and compelling vision of what the Cooperative Program is and what it is not for both present and future generations,” Page said.

“We cannot scream a tired announcement louder and louder over and over,” he said, recounting that he challenges young pastors “to study the Cooperative Program and if, at the end of the day, you don’t like it, do something else. I believe if you study it thoroughly and accurately, you’ll find it is still, even with all its weaknesses, the most efficient and effective way to do missions and ministries around the world.”

  • Responsibility: “We must teach every willing Southern Baptist in every Southern Baptist church to embrace a personal responsibility for the Great Commission, to a balanced Acts 1:8 strategy that values cooperation with multiple SBC mission partners,” Page said, referencing Jesus’ call in Acts 1:8 for His followers to witness to their faith in their local communities and regions as well the continent and world in which they live.

  • Positioning: “We must effectively position the Cooperative Program as the foundational means for SBC churches to implement that intentional Acts 1:8 strategy,” Page said.

“There are many other great missions opportunities out there,” he said. Yet, the decline in support of the Cooperative Program over the years “is often due to a church’s involvement in its own mission work. We’re not against that. Every church I’ve ever pastored did its own mission work,” he said. “We believe the issue is balance, and we believe God can provide for both.”

  • Partnership: “We must renew full trust and collaborative Cooperative Program partnership among national SBC entities and state conventions,” Page said.

“We have begun an aggressive foundational strategy with a national consultant and our state partners … for improvement, enlistment and retention of churches” in support of the Cooperative Program, he said. “Our North American Mission Board, our International Mission Board have joined with us in this process.... We are not alone and we need to work together.”

  • Customization: “We must translate and customize cooperative missions in the convention to key audiences, sustaining positive relationships and dialogue with each of those audiences,” Page said.

  • Stewardship: “We must challenge every Southern Baptist to a biblical standard of stewardship and a renewed culture of generosity,” Page said.

SBC leaders are “calling on every Southern Baptist, every Southern Baptist church, every Southern Baptist entity and partner to be a part of a Great Commission Advance, so that we can do more evangelism, more in church planting, more in church strengthening, more in missions,” he said. “We want to see every man, woman, boy and girl hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Once Southern Baptists launched the Cooperative Program 90 years ago, “God has used it to do things that no other denomination has ever seen,” Page said. “As we approach that 100-year mark, may it be stronger than it has ever been before, may there truly be a Great Commission Advance.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

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CCCU accepts resignations of Goshen, EMU

September 23 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) announced resignations Sept. 21 of two schools that have sparked dissension – and prompted other schools to withdraw from the council – after expanding their hiring and benefits policies to embrace same-sex marriage.
The CCCU Board of Directors announced the resignations of Goshen College in Goshen, Ind., and Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Harrisonburg, Va., after a CCCU board meeting. The board also appointed a task force to review CCCU categories of association to accommodate the changing face of religious liberty, CCCU President Shirley Hoogstra said in a press teleconference following the board’s announcement.
“What we know is we need new categories of collaboration,” Hoogstra said. “We’re looking to 2015 and beyond, looking around issues of religious liberty, and we think having strong collaborations is the way forward. … What we found is the affiliate category is widely confusing for our association.”
Tennessee Baptist Convention affiliate Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, Okla., weeks ago cancelled their CCCU membership in protest of EMU and Goshen being allowed to retain their membership in CCCU as Christian colleges that allow the employment of homosexuals engaged in same-sex marriages.


While there was no immediate indication whether the resignation of EMU and Goshen would entice Union and Oklahoma Wesleyan to return to the council, Hoogstra said she would welcome such a move.
“We are in conversation with anybody,” Hoogstra said. “We’re a voluntary membership, so we would of course be in conversation with them again,” she said of Union and Oklahoma Wesleyan.
A statement on the CCCU website further clarifies the need for new categories of collaboration.
“It has become evident that a lack of clarity, purpose and common understanding exists about the various associational categories within the CCCU,” the statement reads. “Therefore, the Board appointed a task force … to review the CCCU’s categories of association, and to explore how the Council will remain rooted in historic Christianity while also fruitfully engaging with other institutions seeking to advance the cause of Christian higher education or religious freedom.”
EMU and Goshen submitted resignation letters Sept. 15 in the midst of CCCU board discussions to consider downgrading the two schools’ status to affiliate membership and robbing them of CCCU voting rights. In contacting the presidents of more than 120 CCCU membership schools, the CCCU found that 25 percent of its members did not support EMU and Goshen having CCCU membership of any kind.
Hoogstra said the two schools were “sacrificial” in resigning to avoid confusion within the CCCU membership.
“EMU and Goshen said we don’t want to be the cause of 25 percent feeling this sort of disease. … We are going to withdraw. So it was a very generous sacrificial move on EMU and Goshen’s part,” Hoogstra said. “It allows our task force now to look at categories that might actually fit better for 2015 and beyond.”
The CCCU clarified its purpose in the statement posted on its website, specifying its advocacy “for the right of each member school to practice its sincerely held religious beliefs in the public square.”
The CCCU “has not changed in mission, purpose or commitment since its founding in 1976. For nearly four decades, the Council has encompassed distinctively Christian institutions of higher education in a common cause and commitment to Christ-centered, faith-integrating teaching, scholarship and service,” the statement reads. “The association provides a strong presence in Washington, D.C., for advocacy, strengthening academic excellence and offering students domestic and international off-campus semester programs. The CCCU is an effective and respected advocate for Christ-centered higher education.”
The CCCU also affirmed its biblical stance on marriage.
“As a broad and diverse association, the CCCU has never adopted specific creedal or doctrinal tests for its members and affiliates. Nevertheless, the Council has been and remains dedicated to the advancement of Christian higher education that is aligned with the historic Christian faith,” the group said. “Accordingly, the CCCU has maintained the historic Christian view of marriage, defined as a union of one man and one woman, in its employment policies and student academic program conduct codes.
“As it relates to this topic, therefore, the CCCU only advocates for ‘principles of religious freedom, which allow Christian colleges to hire based on religion and to only employ individuals who practice sexual relations within the boundaries of marriage between a man and a woman” (Board Policies Manual, section 11.2.1).’ Until recently, there had been alignment of hiring policies within the CCCU membership.”
Barry H. Corey, president of Biola University, and Phil G. Ryken, president of Wheaten College, are task force co-chairs, joined by members of the CCCU board, and presidents of member and non-member affiliate schools.
The board is expected to submit its recommendation regarding the task force’s review at CCCU’s January 2016 meeting.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

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9/23/2015 11:52:59 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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