September 2016

Impact: Q&A with David Platt

September 19 2016 by BSC Communications

David Platt was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board (IMB) in August 2014. He is deeply devoted to Christ and His Word, and he is passionate about disciple-making. Prior to becoming IMB president, Platt pastored The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. Platt has written several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me and Counter Culture. He is also the founder of Radical, a ministry devoted to disseminating disciple-making resources so the gospel might be made known to the ends of the earth.

David Platt

Platt will deliver the convention sermon during this year’s Baptist State Convention of North Carolina annual meeting, which is scheduled Nov. 14-15 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.
The theme of this year’s meeting is “Impact: Compelling the Lost to Come to Life” based Luke 14:23. Platt will preach during the special “Impact” worship service, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tues., Nov. 15.
Platt recently took some time to answer some questions in advance of the annual meeting.
Q: Why is healthy disciple-making critical to our missions effectiveness and getting the gospel to those who have never heard it?
A: In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded His followers to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
Consequently, disciple-making is critical to the accomplishment of the Great Commission.
Healthy disciples who are gathered together in churches for the purpose of evangelism, disciple-making and healthy church multiplication to the ends of the earth is God’s plan for the accomplishment of the Great Commission.
Therefore, we must be faithful to promote healthy disciple-making in churches across North Carolina with a view toward making disciples among the nations.
Q: Why is it important for local churches to engage in making disciples among unreached people groups both here and abroad?
A: Local churches are to make disciples locally, in their context, but also with a view to all nations as explicitly stated in the Great Commission in Matthew’s Gospel.
Today, God is sovereignly scattering unreached peoples around the world. Many unreached peoples are now living in “reached” contexts and places where they now have access to the gospel.
This provides a unique opportunity for local churches to engage unreached peoples with the gospel in their neighborhoods and communities.
As local churches make disciples of unreached peoples locally, this will only increase and fuel their desire to be involved in disciple-making among the unreached around the world. In summary, disciple-making among the unreached at home fuels disciple-making among the unreached abroad and vice versa.
Q: What role does missions involvement both here and abroad play in cultivating healthy churches?
A: Missions involvement is a necessary characteristic of health in any local church.
If a church is not intentionally working to make disciples of all nations with a view toward getting the gospel to people who have never heard it, then we are not obeying the command of Christ, and as a result, are not promoting health in the church. God’s design for every local church is to play a part in global mission, which necessarily involves making disciples right in our community and then doing the same wherever God may lead us far from our community.
Q: How can we as believers prioritize our lives and resources toward reaching the least reached, especially unreached people groups now living in North America?
A: As believers who are counted among the reached with the gospel, we must be very intentional when it comes to seeking out and engaging the unreached peoples around us. Our desire to reach the unreached with the gospel influences and impacts where we live, work, exercise, what sports leagues our kids play in, and how we spend our leisure and discretionary time.
Furthermore, our desire to share the good news with unreached peoples impacts how we steward and spend our financial resources.
We strive to live simply so that we can give sacrificially towards the spread of the gospel to the unreached in our communities and around the world.
Psalm 67:1-2 states that the people of God have been blessed “that your (God) way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” God has blessed us with the gospel, with the scripture, and with resources so that we can be in turn be a blessing to the nations.

(EDITOR’S NOTE –  Watch a special video invitation from David Platt to join him at this year’s N.C. Baptist Annual Meeting at


9/19/2016 2:51:54 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Original MBTS faculty member John Howell dies

September 19 2016 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

One of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (MBTS) original faculty members and longtime administrator, John C. Howell, died Sept. 6 at age 92 after a short illness.

John Howell

Howell served at Midwestern from 1960-1999 in various roles, including professor of Christian ethics, dean of the faculty and vice president of academic affairs at the Kansas City, Mo., campus.
“The entire Midwestern Seminary community is saddened to hear of Dr. John Howell’s passing,” President Jason Allen said. “Dr. Howell was a dear friend to me and many others around this campus.
“As one of our institution’s original faculty members, Dr. Howell experienced the various workings of our Lord in the seminary’s life for more than five decades,” Allen said. “He was a valuable source of institutional knowledge and, in a number of conversations, I was grateful to obtain a great deal of insight from him about much of Midwestern Seminary’s history.”
Raised in Miami, Fla., Howell enjoyed studying journalism in high school and worked in the restaurant operated by his parents, Heman and Laura. According to a 1993 faculty feature in the MBTS campus publication The Spire, Howell made a profession of faith in Christ during a youth revival when he was 15 and began to sense God’s call to ministry at age 17.
Shortly thereafter, he was drafted and served a three-year term as a cook in the U.S. Army during World War II, stationed in England, Germany and the Pacific Theater. Upon returning to Miami, he met and subsequently married his wife of 66 years, Doris. Together, they raised two sons, Michael and Mark.
Mark Howell said his father “was a loving and supportive father and grandfather and dedicated husband. He was a man of rare calm, consistency and honor through challenging times. We will miss him so, but know that he is again with his cherished companion and in the place he had always believed in, the loving arms of God.”
In academic pursuits, Howell received an undergraduate degree from Stetson University in Deland, Fla., in 1949 and a doctorate in theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1960. During those years, he pastored churches in Crowley, Texas, and Bradenton, Fla. He later earned a master of arts degree in social psychology from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and a Ph.D. from SWBTS in 1975.
In 1960, Howell left his pastorate at West Bradenton Baptist Church to join the faculty at the newly-formed Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he spent 39 years on the faculty. In addition to his teaching and administrative work, he served as a part-time counselor at Midwest Christian Counseling Center for 11 years and then in private practice from 1982 forward.
During his career, Howell earned recognition as an “Outstanding Educator of America” and received the “Excellence in Family Ministry” award from the Baptist Sunday School Board. He authored nine books on the topic of marriage and family life and contributed to many others.
Other than time with his family, one of Howell’s most passionate hobbies began in 1969 when he started growing English roses. He developed an interest in the subject during a 1967-68 sabbatical to London. Each spring upon their blooming, Howell would adorn offices across campus with the flowers.
In a 1978 faculty feature in The Spire, it was said of Howell, "The thrill of his life at the seminary has always been the contact with students, helping them to prepare for their ministries, while ministering with his own teaching and counseling talents.... One need only to look to the roses he so freely shares to know John Howell. He gives them his time, works with them until they are on their own, then takes pleasure in watching them grow and unfold.”
Allen said the seminary community is “truly grateful for Dr. Howell’s dedicated service to the Lord, as well as his support and love for Midwestern Seminary,” Allen said. “Additionally, we will be praying for the Lord to provide comfort and peace to Dr. Howell’s family during this difficult season.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

9/19/2016 7:50:13 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments

Baptist flood recovery aid slated through 2017

September 19 2016 by Josie Rabbitt, NAMB

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) is facilitating a recovery effort to help Louisiana flood survivors rebuild and to assist churches and individuals who want to serve. The initiative, under NAMB’s Send Relief ministry, will begin Oct. 1 and continue at least through the end of 2017.

Photo by Carmen K. Sisson, NAMB
Unsalvageable household items line the curbs of Woodwick Avenue in August in Baton Rouge, La. Approximately 20 parishes in Louisiana experienced severe flooding after receiving torrential rain Aug. 12-15, which claimed 13 lives. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers have shared the gospel 1,345 times and seen 171 accept Christ as savior through the response.

“We’re developing a recovery plan to help Louisiana residents, pastors, churches and other buildings damaged by extreme flooding,” said Mickey Caison, NAMB’s Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) executive director. “The Send Relief plan includes a facility to house 300 volunteers as they aid those in crisis. Another part of what’s in the works concerning this year-long project [is] collegiate opportunities during students’ Christmas and spring breaks to help serve and rebuild Louisiana.”
The initiative, named Send Relief: Louisiana Flood, will entail a recovery and rebuild process similar to those NAMB facilitated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, Detroit flooding and the Colorado floods and wildfires. While mud-outs, clean-ups and feedings are ongoing now, the one-year recovery plan will move into the rebuild stage.
To be part of the effort, churches, groups and individuals can visit and click on the Louisiana Flood icon. From there they will be able to schedule the dates for their visit. While housing and meals are provided onsite, there is a $25-per-day fee for each participant.
So far in the response to the historic mid-August flooding in south Louisiana, SBDR team members and chaplains have made 1,345 gospel presentations and seen 171 people respond by placing their faith in Christ for salvation.
SBDR teams also have prepared more than 657,000 hot meals and will continue doing so, which continues to require tons of cans to be opened and beans to be stirred, burgers to be flipped and frozen food to be thawed and prepared for distribution. SBCR cleanup volunteers, meanwhile, continue to pull up tile and other damaged flooring, rip out contaminated sheetrock and insulation and treat for mold as well as salvaging furniture and discarding ruined appliances.
Send Relief: Louisiana Flood will give “every church, every group and every individual who wants to serve a chance to do so without having to figure out ‘Where will we sleep? Where will we eat?’ Who will we help?” said David Melber, NAMB’s vice president of Send Relief. “If you show up with your work clothes and some tools, we will take care of the rest.”
Caison said volunteers will be stepping into a disaster zone and a mission field.
“A lot of the residents are dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] from the flood. They’re resilient people who want to move on with their lives, again. Many escaped the flooding in New Orleans just to have it happen to them again here. It’s heartbreaking but we’ve got Southern Baptist chaplains as well as local pastors offering up spiritual and emotional support to those suffering from PTSD.”
Louisiana’s Tri County Southern Baptist Association director of missions, Philip Shuford, who weathered a flood while living in North Carolina a few years ago, said he understands what it’s like to think, “Why me?” He added that addressing the current need of disaster victims is key to faster recovery. Currently, Tri County volunteers – who have been trained on site – are working on houses damaged by flooding.
Caison said the call to provide relief comes straight from the Bible.
“We function off of 1 Chronicles 28:20, which says, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord, my God is with you. He won’t leave you or forsake you until the work for the service of the Lord’s house is finished.’ And because of that, we work hard in homes of strangers, always ready to bring hope to those we serve."
For registration information for volunteers arriving after Oct. 1, click here. Volunteers arriving prior to Oct. 1 should register through the Louisiana Baptist Convention website at
For registration information on the collegiate initiative of Send Relief: Louisiana Flood, click here for Christmas break opportunities. Spring break opportunity registration will open soon.
To donate to Louisiana flood victims through NAMB, visit All donations are tax deductible and 100 percent goes to aid flood survivors through Send Relief. Financial assistance also can be directed through the Louisiana convention at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Josie Rabbitt is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)

9/19/2016 7:49:47 AM by Josie Rabbitt, NAMB | with 0 comments

Former Soviet states heighten religious repression

September 19 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

As Uzbekistan prepares to elect a new president after the death of longtime dictatorial ruler Islam Karimov, Christians in the former Soviet state fear religious persecution will only worsen.
The Open Doors advocacy organization for persecuted Christians already ranks Uzbekistan as the most difficult Central Asian country in which to practice Christianity, but the change in leadership won’t help the estimated 210,000 Christians in the country of 30.4 million people, two pastors and a Protestant layman said in a World Watch Monitor report.
Current prime minister and acting president Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced Sept. 16 he will seek the presidency in December amid predictions of a sure victory, the French press agency AFP reported.
“If Mirziyoyev becomes the next president, the persecution of Christians will be even worse,” one pastor said before Mirziyoyev’s announcement, remaining anonymous. “Actually, as it seems, it was he who initiated or was at least involved in the persecution of the Uzbek Protestant church and converts from a Muslim background.”
In neighboring Turkmenistan, meanwhile, the estimated 95,000 Christians also face heightened oppression, with both countries operating under legalized suppression of religious practice among the mostly Muslim populations. Government suppression of radical Islam is said to work against all religious practice, including Christianity.
“It is not clear how, but unfortunately Christian believers fall into the category of potential religious extremists,” a Uzbek pastor said. “The attitude of the [Uzbek] government toward us will not change, no matter who becomes the new leader. Of course, we hope for a better scenario, but we have to be realistic. Our government is always afraid of any manifestation of dissidents.”
An Uzbek layman voiced a similar view. “I don’t expect drastic changes. Christians in Uzbekistan will continue to experience harassment by the government.”


Evangelism among non-believers is illegal in Uzbekistan, where Christians are mostly ethnic minorities. Open Doors ranks Uzbekistan at 15 on its World Watch List 2016 of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has deemed Uzbekistan a “Country of Particular Concern” since 2005.
According to Open Doors, religious practices of Protestants including Baptists, evangelicals and Pentecostals are considered illegal in Uzbekistan because the groups operate in non-registered buildings. No Christian church has registered in the past decade, Open Doors said, with Christians facing regular church raids, threats, arrests and fines.
In June, Uzbekistan strengthened existing restrictions and punishments against individuals exercising freedom of religion and freedom of expression, including Christians and Muslims, Forum 18 reported. Changes include longer jail terms; a ban on the production, storage or distribution of religious literature; and increased restrictions on the use of mass media, telecommunications and the internet, Forum 18 said.
Before the laws were strengthened, Uzbekistan already pressured churches and parents to prevent children under the age of 16 from attending religious services of any kind, Forum 18 said.
An unnamed Open Doors expert on Central Asia told World Watch Monitor it is “unlikely that there will be any major changes for the better for the persecuted Uzbek church. Do we want religious freedom to come? Many Uzbek Christians would surely say ‘Yes’! But [whether] the situation will improve, we don’t know.”


Turkmenistan has amended its constitution to lift any restrictions on the president’s length of service, World Watch Monitor reported Sept. 14. Previously, presidents had to retire at age 70. There, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has erected a golden statue of himself and is becoming known as “Arkadag” or protector of all Turkmens.
The country has about a dozen registered churches, Open Doors estimates, and the smaller population of only 5.4 million people makes it easier for the government to enforce religious restrictions, one Christian told World Watch Monitor. Imprisonment, brutality and fines are employed.
Most ethnic Turkmens refuse to associate with Russian Orthodox churches, leaving them few legal options to practice their faith.
“Non-registered religious activity is illegal. ... Even registered religious communities face regular check-up visits,” according to Open Doors 2016 World Watch List, which ranks Turkmenistan 19 among the 50 countries where it is most difficult to practice Christianity.
“There is strict control by the government and local authorities over the Turkmen population, and all communication is being monitored,” Open Doors said of the country. “Publishing and distributing religious literature is prohibited, and its import is monitored and censored. There is no Christian bookshop in the country.”
Other former Soviet states on the 2016 World Watch List are Tajikistan, ranked 31; Azerbaijan, ranked 34; and Kazakhstan, 42.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)


9/19/2016 7:43:14 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Graham issues protest letter to ACC over anti-HB 2 vote

September 16 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Franklin Graham sent a letter of protest to Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Commissioner John D. Swofford after the organization’s council of presidents voted to move sports championships out of North Carolina in reaction to House Bill 2 (HB 2). The sharp rebuke was also sent to presidents of the ACC’s 15 member schools.

BGEA photo
Franklin Graham said in a letter he was saddened by the “profound hypocrisy” of the ACC, NCAA and other organizations “who are making calculated business decisions disguised as moral outrage.”

Graham said he was saddened and outraged by the “profound hypocrisy” of the ACC, along with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and other organizations, “who are making calculated business decisions disguised as moral outrage.”
HB 2 requires state buildings and public schools to designate bathrooms and changing facilities for use according to the biological sex indicated on a person’s birth certificate. Legislators passed the controversial bill earlier this year in response to a Charlotte ordinance that opened all restrooms to people based on the gender identity of their choice.
Graham noted that ACC member schools compete in 25 sports divided by gender. “Yet, when a state like the one I live in,” he said, “seeks to make the same distinction with regard to use of public bathrooms in an effort to protect its citizens ..., the academic elites who comprise your conference fake a moral outrage that is frankly shameful.”
He also pointed out that the ACC’s championship football game carries Dr. Pepper as its title sponsor, a company that “proudly sells their products in countries where homosexuality is illegal.” Graham asked, “Can your conference continue to tolerate that?”
On a personal note, the native North Carolinian wrote, “I am a big sports fan. My only daughter married a college football star that went on to play in the NFL. But I would rather defend the biological definition of the two genders as created by the Creator of the universe than to attend – or even watch on TV – a football or basketball game to determine the ACC champion …
“Please don’t make political pawns of student-athletes who just want to play football or basketball in North Carolina, and don’t continue to offend millions of Americans who endorse thousands of years of gender-specific bathrooms while you continue to accept corporate sponsorship money from companies proudly conducting their business in countries that discriminate against homosexuals to the point of death.”

Click here to read the full text of the letter.
Graham also said in a Facebook post the same day, “Governor Pat McCrory, Lt. Governor Dan Forest, and N.C. state legislators are coming under extreme pressure about [HB 2] … Our state is being bullied by the NCAA, the ACC and some of corporate America who are influenced by LGBT activists.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Franklin Graham serves as president and CEO of nonprofit aid organization Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He is also the son of Billy Graham, a well-known Southern Baptist evangelist.)

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The breathtaking hypocrisy of the NCAA
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9/16/2016 11:20:24 AM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Kaine cites Genesis 1, pope to support gay marriage

September 16 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

In a speech to America’s largest pro-gay lobbying group, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said the Bible buttresses his support of same-sex marriage. And he predicted the Roman Catholic Church eventually will change its mind on the issue, like he has.

Screen capture from YouTube
Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine told the Human Rights Campaign Sept. 10 he advocates “full, complete, unconditional support for marriage equality.”

Evangelical theologians, however, said Kaine appeared to distort biblical teaching and Catholic doctrine in service of a political agenda.
Speaking Sept. 10 at the annual Human Rights Campaign (HRC) dinner in Washington, Kaine called himself a “devout Catholic” and acknowledged the Catholic Church is opposed to same-sex marriage, according to a video of the speech posted online.
Virginia’s junior senator said he formerly opposed legalizing same-sex marriage but recounted a personal conversion on the issue.
As a candidate for Virginia lieutenant governor in 2001, Kaine told the Associated Press he opposed same-sex marriage. Four years later, he opposed granting adoption rights to same-sex couples while running for governor, according to The Washington Post.
However, in 2006 he campaigned against Virginia’s state constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. Then during his Senate campaign six years later, he supported same-sex adoption when declared by a judge to be in a child’s best interest, The Post reported. Kaine’s Senate votes have garnered a 90 percent approval rating from the HRC.
On Saturday, Kaine told the HRC his change of mind on same-sex marriage stemmed in part from recognizing the dishonorable motives of some Virginia legislators who favored the commonwealth’s marriage amendment. Behind the scenes, some lawmakers admitted that amending the state constitution to protect marriage was “a really bad idea” advanced to score political points with conservative voters, Kaine alleged.
Moments later, Kaine discussed the relationship between his Catholic faith and his views on marriage.
“My full, complete, unconditional support for marriage equality is at odds with the current doctrine of the church I still attend,” Kaine said. “But I think that’s going to change too.”
Such change may occur “because my church also teaches me about a creator in the first chapter of Genesis, who surveys the entire world including mankind and [says], ‘It is very good,’” Kaine said, referencing Genesis 1:31. “Pope Francis famously said, ‘Who am I to judge?’ And to that I want to add: Who am I to challenge God for the beautiful diversity of the human family? I think we’re supposed to celebrate it, not challenge it.”

‘Biblically defenseless’

Stephen Andrews, professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press (BP) Kaine’s use of Genesis 1 in support of same-sex marriage is “inaccurate, misleading and inconsistent with the clear teaching of the rest of the Bible.”
While God’s statement that creation was “very good” included human sexuality, it was not focused on sexuality and certainly did not endorse same-sex sexual activity, Andrews said in written comments.
Genesis 1-2 states that “God’s plan for blessing is through the marriage of a man and a woman,” Andrews said. “God created humankind as male and female (Gen. 1:27), not as male and male or female and female. This is significant because humanity is to be ‘fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’ (Gen. 1:28). This creation mandate could not be accomplished through same-sex marriage.”
In addition, God’s affirmation of creation as “very good” occurred before the fall of humankind into sin and did not endorse any state of affairs that “came about because of man’s sinful rebellion.”
“The idea that Genesis 1:31 covers same-sex marriage or any other form of [sinful] sexual expression,” Andrews said, “assumes that God is responsible for whatever humanity has done in the past, present or future.” By this same logic, “rape, pedophilia, bestiality and other sexual behavior is ‘good.’ ... Following this logic, it would also be possible to call the murderous actions of a Hitler or Khmer Rouge ‘good.’”
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. made a similar point Sept. 14 in his podcast The Briefing, noting that from the fall forward, “we do see the glory of God revealed, but we also see, as the scripture makes equally clear, the reality of human sinfulness and its consequences made clear in the creation.”
“Kaine’s argument leaves him absolutely intellectually and morally – not to say biblically – defenseless against making any argument against polygamy or, for that matter, virtually anything else,” Mohler said. “It is absolute nonsense to look at the world as we see it and say that’s exactly what God intended and thus we must bless everything.
“Of course, Sen. Kaine won’t do that. He just has been selective when speaking to the Human Rights Campaign, selectively citing Genesis 1 where it is convenient for him,” Mohler said.

‘Far afield’ of Catholicism

Rex Butler, professor of church history and patristics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP that Kaine appeared to misrepresent the trajectory of the Catholic Church on homosexuality.
Kaine and certain other Catholic politicians appear to claim “the Catholic label when it suits them politically but [subvert] Catholic teachings when they contradict the politicians’ support for same-sex marriage and abortion.”
Pope Francis has explained, Butler said, that his 2013 comment quoted by Kaine was not intended to condone same-sex sexual activity.
“When questioned about his comment, ‘Who am I to judge?’, Pope Francis affirmed that he supports the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches that homosexual acts are ‘intrinsically disordered’ and contrary to natural law. Accordingly, homosexual acts cannot be approved,” Butler said in written comments.
“At the same time, the Catholic Church acknowledges that a number of men and women have ‘deep-seated homosexual tendencies,’ but the Church denies that such tendencies are inborn,” Butler said. “The Catechism goes on to instruct the Church to accept such men and women with ‘respect, compassion, and sensitivity’ and to avoid ‘unjust discrimination.’ Finally, ‘homosexual persons are called to chastity,’ with God’s support against temptation (1 Cor. 10:13).”
The pope’s comment “fits well within the Catholic doctrine on homosexuality,” Butler said. “Tim Kaine’s support of the [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community and its agenda falls far afield of the Catholic Church to which he claims allegiance.”
A full video of Kaine’s speech is available at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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9/16/2016 11:16:43 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Razor wire & steel door give way to layman’s heart

September 16 2016 by Chris Turner, Tennessee Baptist and Reflector

It is a familiar routine. First there is the sound of an obnoxious buzzer, then the sudden firing of a heavy deadbolt that unlocks the gray steel door separating freedom from incarceration. The closing slam reverberates down the gray cinderblock hall sending an authoritative reminder that freedom is not an option.

Photo by David LaMar
Dale Lusk leads Mohammed through a discipleship study. Last names are withheld since the boys are minors. Lusk and other volunteers from Swannsylvania Baptist Church and New Market Baptist Church in east Tennessee serve more than 180 hours a month in a nearby juvenile detention facility sharing the gospel.

Buzz. Fire. Open. Slam.
Buzz. Fire. Open. Slam.
All day. Buzz. Fire. Open. Slam.
The blast of the buzzer has no effect on Dale Lusk, however. The process is routine after hundreds of visits. Lusk’s focus lies beyond the door. Like the certainty of God’s own mercy, he knows there is a boy waiting for him to enter a world secured by the looping coils of concertina wire.
“The boys at this facility range from 13 to 18 years old,” Lusk said. “They are brought here after three felonies for whatever types of crimes they’ve done.”
The foreigner to this world can’t initially comprehend the reality of his statement. One hears the words while looking at pimple-faced teens who appear more like they ought to be at a dance in the school gymnasium after a football game working up enough nerve to awkwardly ask the cute girl standing by the punch bowl if she wants to dance.
“Look at them. They’re just boys,” a visitor whispers with disbelief. “Seriously. Felonies?”
Yes, felonies. Serious felonies, like murder and rape. Others not so serious, like being in the wrong place with the wrong people at the wrong time, but felonies nonetheless. So many of these boys don’t know their fathers, or maybe they do, but their fathers are incarcerated in an adult facility somewhere. Maybe they were bounced around foster care after being removed from a home where parents cooked crystal meth. Or maybe they are kids who come from good homes but who rebelled against their parents and then made some really bad decisions.
“Whatever the case, when they come in they are full of rage, full of anger, full of resentment,” Lusk said. “But no matter how tough they may seem, they’re scared. They are just boys.”

Photo by David LaMar
Dale Lusk, right, baptizes Anthony (last name withheld) during a service at Swannsylvania Baptist Church in Dandridge, Tenn. Volunteers from Swannsylvania and New Market Baptist Church invest more than 180 hours per month ministering to boys at a nearby juvenile detention facility. Anthony and 30-plus other boys have been baptized in three years and more are scheduled for baptism this fall. Lonnie Cloninger, also a prison ministry team member, assists with the baptism.

Lusk isn’t a guard or a warden or even a counselor with the Department of Children’s Services evaluating the mental state of those incarcerated by the detention system. He’s not even a vocational minister. He’s actually retired after 33 years with Norfolk Southern Railroad managing its natural resources. These days he’s an active member at Swannsylvania Baptist Church in Dandridge, Tenn., where he and dozens of other volunteers from Swannsylvania and New Market Baptist churches spend about 180 ministry and mentoring hours per month serving the boys behind the gray doors.
“There wasn’t much ministry going on at the facility when we moved here,” Lusk said. He and his wife Judy settled in east Tennessee to be closer to family. “My pastor shared there was a good opportunity at the boys’ detention facility. I’ve always worked with the youth in my church and when I saw the need I just felt like that’s what God was calling me to do.”
Lusk never asks what the boys are “in for.” He says he doesn’t want to know. “I know me,” he said. “And I want to be able to share the love of Christ with these boys without judging them.”
Lusk slowly gained the trust of the boys and the staff. A Monday night Bible study began, and as boys came to Christ, Lusk added a Tuesday night discipleship training class. Three years later, 76 boys have been reached through the ministry, 30 have completed an 11-week discipleship training class and 30 have been baptized at Swannsylvania Baptist Church. Six more will be baptized in November.
Anthony is one of the boys who is glad that wave after wave of church members wash into the facility bearing a flood of Living Water. “When I wound up here I blamed God for everything,” Anthony said. Last names are withheld to protect the privacy of minors.
“I had real bad hate toward God. But when I started coming to the Bible study, Brother Dale and the others didn’t do anything but show me love. It wasn’t the kind of love you can explain. It was like a heavenly love. It was like God loved me all at once. He showed it through Dale.”

Photo by David LaMar
Jan Rag, a member at Swannsylvania Baptist Church in Dandridge, Tenn., leads the congregation in singing "Amazing Grace" during a baptismal service for a group of boys from a nearby juvenile detention facility who have been disciple in their newfound faith in Christ.

The ministry has gained significant traction in the past year. A need for Bibles and discipleship materials quickly emerged. Lusk was faced with the dilemma of rationing Bibles, having to decide who he thought genuinely needed one.
However, Tennessee Baptists’ giving through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions,, played a significant part in the ministry by providing funds for the Bibles and discipleship materials Lusk needed.
“As Tennessee Baptists give through the Golden Offering, we’re seeing lives changed,” said Joe Sorah, who heads up the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s compassion ministry. “Through their generosity, Tennessee Baptists are able to come alongside ministries like this and offer support that makes a tangible and eternal difference.”
Anthony is just one of several boys baptized this year, and he didn’t miss the symbolism of having his chains removed upon entering Swannsylvania Baptist Church the night of his baptism.
“Coming out of that water was something else,” Anthony said. “I didn’t feel like a human was lifting me up; I felt like God was. It was refreshing. I know God was there with me. The only way I know to describe it is that it was a holy moment – probably the best time in my life.”
But it isn’t all angels singing and comfortable Christian living when the boys return to the facility, return to their reality. There can be intense verbal and physical persecution. It is certainly a point of prayer for those ministering to the boys, which is why the ladies involved with Swannsylvania’s Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) pray for them. In fact, the WMU and others pray intensely and regularly for God’s protection of those who now belong to Him and for those who need an encounter with Christ. And they pray for each of them by name.
“We serve a God of second chances,” Lusk said. “And these boys need a second chance. God is amazingly wonderful and full of mercy. We just have to be willing to get beyond the walls of our churches and serve.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Turner is director of communications for the Tennessee Baptist Convention. This article first appeared in the Baptist and Reflector,, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

9/16/2016 11:04:53 AM by Chris Turner, Tennessee Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments

‘Insanity of God’ ticket sales top $1 million

September 16 2016 by Marty King, LifeWay

Ticket sales for an encore showing of The Insanity of God in theaters Tuesday, Sept. 13, pushed box office receipts to $1.1 million.

“Due to the success of the film’s two one-night theater showings,” Trey Reynolds, manager of LifeWay Films, said, “we are planning a church simulcast for the film the first or second week of November, with a consumer DVD and church license DVD to be released Nov. 21.”
The feature documentary film produced by the International Mission Board and Cooke Pictures and distributed by LifeWay Films tells the story of missionaries Nik and Ruth Ripkin. After the death of their son, the couple traveled to 72 countries, into the depths of the persecuted church, to find out if God actually makes a difference in difficult places.
The film is based on a best-selling book of the same name from B&H Publishing Group, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources.
“Whether an individual or local church watches this film – at a large event in their church or in the comfort of their homes – we believe God will use the testimonies to turn hearts and minds of believers to Him,” Reynolds said.
LifeWay has also released a six-session Bible study based on the documentary and Ripken’s book. The Insanity of Obedience Bible study book presents Ripken sharing true stories of people who are suffering for the name of Jesus.
Watch a trailer of the film at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marty King is director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

Related articles:
‘Insanity of God’ shows faith amid despair
2nd showing of ‘Insanity of God’ slated Sept. 13
‘Risen’ tells crucifixion from soldier’s eyes


9/16/2016 10:57:54 AM by Marty King, LifeWay | with 0 comments

Study: Radical Islam looming across African Sahel

September 16 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The poverty- and drought-stricken Sahel region spanning northern Africa is becoming a breeding ground for radical Islamic groups intent on persecuting Christians, according to a study conducted by World Watch Research.
The Sahel, a horizontal swath spanning parts of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, has become attractive to extremist groups that offer financial security to attract impoverished adherents facing uncertainties in the semi-arid land, reported World Watch Research, a division of the Open Doors International advocacy organization for persecuted Christians.
Boko Haram, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Ansar Dine and groups loyal to them are growing in the 10-country region with funding from oil-rich Gulf States like Saudi Arabia, the Aug. 25 report said, and will continue to spread across the African continent unless defeated.
“The instability and fear these groups create as well as the ideology they propagate are in considerable conflict with such human rights as freedom of religion,” the report said. “Even if these groups do not succeed in violently imposing Sharia law at a national level and establishing an Islamic caliphate, they contribute to the overall radicalization of the population and the spread of an extremist and intolerant version of Islam.”
While the Sahel is historically and predominantly Muslim, more puritanical and militant versions of Islam are now thriving in the region, in particular attracting young men. The groups attack not only Christians but moderate Muslims.
“This is a critical time for the future of Christianity in the region,” according to the report. “If the instability gets out of control and the militant groups have their way, Christians will be killed and exiled out of the entire region. A similar fate would await not just Christians but also Muslims who do not subscribe to the ideology of the militant Islamic groups.”
The report pointed to Mali and Niger as prime examples of breeding grounds for Islamic jihad in the region, with both countries facing high illiteracy and poverty.
“Niger has also been beset by ethnic rebellion and civil war just like Mali and its considerable mineral resources have also fueled conflict,” the report stated. “Just like the rest of the Sahel region, Niger has been affected by a rise in militancy and this development has had a very adverse effect on the freedom of religion of Christians in the country.”
The report cited a wave of arson attacks conducted by Islamic militants in January 2015 that destroyed 70 churches, a number of Christian orphanages, schools and homes.
Countries in the region should join hands militarily to defeat the groups, while also addressing socio-economic ills, the report recommended. “It is only when these underlying realities are improved that Christians and non-Christians will be able to enjoy security and freedom in the region.”
The full report is at
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

Related articles:
Boko Haram fractured & weakened, analysis says
Malnourished children doubling amid Boko Haram
Nigeria ‘worst’ humanitarian crisis, activists say
ISIS sends child slaves on suicide missions
Islamic State group kills priest in Western church attack
Censoring Islamic sermons new anti-jihad tactic

9/16/2016 10:40:50 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gaines: Election rhetoric can inhibit evangelism

September 15 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Conviction and kindness are the prescription of Southern Baptist leaders for the final eight weeks of the U.S. presidential campaign.
With early voting by mail having begun in North Carolina and in-person early voting slated to begin in three states next week, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines, Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and Cedarville University President Thomas White are among those to weigh in with ethical and spiritual advice for voters.

Steve Gaines

Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, told Baptist Press (BP) “biblical convictions” should guide Christians “in all areas of life, even the way they vote for a president.”
“The most pressing issues in our nation are moral not financial,” Gaines said in written comments. “Christians should analyze the candidates’ positions regarding moral issues and vote accordingly. In my opinion, the three key moral issues in America today are: a) the sanctity of human life, b) the sacredness of marriage and c) the significance of racial respect/reconciliation.”
Gaines’ specific counsel to voters included:

– “Christians should have a strong, biblical conviction to vote for pro-life candidates.”

– “Christians should vote for candidates that uphold” marriage as “exclusively monogamous and heterosexual.”

– “Christians should vote for candidates that promote racial respect and reconciliation.”

Gaines said he is troubled by “hateful comments” he has heard “regarding political candidates and how people should vote.”
“Many voices, even among Southern Baptists, have been less than wise, and sometimes downright ill-mannered,” Gaines said. “Christians must at times be prophetic. But we never have a license to be pejorative or denigrating.
“If any Christian, especially a Christian leader, castigates and attacks a political candidate, that Christian has crossed a line and has sinned. The litmus test should be, ‘Would that person be open to me sharing the gospel with him/her after I make this comment?’ If the answer is no, then keep silent, even if it sounds ‘prophetic,’” Gaines said.
Some purveyors of “harsh statements toward candidates” attempt to justify their comments as in the tradition of John the Baptist, who rebuked King Herod for marrying his brother’s wife, Gaines said, citing Mark 6. Yet Scripture suggests John did not behave rudely because Herod “respected him, protected him and enjoyed listening to him” – even while recognizing the clear rebuke of his message.
In the end, hope should characterize believers’ actions this political season, Gaines said.
“The White House cannot send revival, nor can it stop revival,” he said. “Stop looking around and start looking up. The Lord is the source of your help and strength.”
Gaines added, “We should be good citizens and participate in the presidential election. We should also realize that we are part of a greater Kingdom than America – the Kingdom of God. Today is a great day in America to share the gospel with lost people and win them to Jesus. Today is a great time for God to rend the heavens and come down in revival in His churches.”

Supreme Court justices

Robert Jeffress

In a Sept. 9 appearance on Fox News, Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, cited as paramount for Christians this election season “the appointment of conservative Supreme Court justices” who will protect “religious liberty and the sanctity of life.” Of the two major party candidates, only Republican nominee Donald Trump will appoint such justices, Jeffress said.
“I am getting sick and tired of these namby-pamby, pantywaisted, weak-kneed Christians who say they’re going to stay at home in November out of moral principle,” Jeffress said on Fox’s “Hannity.” “Will you please tell me what great moral principle there is in the universe that would allow a [pro-abortion], anti-religious liberty candidate like Hillary Clinton to become the president? I believe any conservative Christian who refuses to vote or throws away his vote in November is nothing but a hypocrite and a fool.”
Jeffress later clarified to BP, “I never said people who don’t vote for Trump are this or that. That wasn’t my comment.”
Jeffress explained, “It’s hypocritical for conservative Christians to say they believe in the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage and religious liberty then sit at home and not vote or throw away their vote on a third-party candidate and not elect a candidate like Donald Trump who has said he’ll appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court, a candidate who says he’s pro-life, a candidate who says he believes Christians are being marginalized in society today.”
While Jeffress admits he is not certain Trump will keep his campaign promises, he said he is confident Clinton will “nominate liberal, activist judges to the Supreme Court.”
Despite Jeffress’ public political statements this year, he said his beliefs are not necessarily the beliefs of the members at First Baptist Dallas and the congregation’s Democrats “are just as welcome as Republicans are.” At church, “the only leader we’re going to talk about is Jesus Christ.”
He estimated that “the vast, vast, vast majority” of First Baptist members support Trump now that there is a “binary” choice between two candidates in the general election.
Falwell appeared on “Hannity” with Jeffress and praised Trump’s stated desire to repeal the Johnson Amendment, 1954 legislation that prevents churches and other nonprofit groups from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
Some conservative nonprofit organizations are “in silence” regarding political matters, Falwell said, “because they’re afraid of what’s going to happen to them” if their leaders speak out.

Post-election witness

Thomas White

Cedarville hosted a Q&A session Sept. 13 on the presidential election in which White told students that voting is part of a Christian citizen’s responsibility to promote “human flourishing” in America.
Supreme Court nominees, White told BP in an email after the Q&A, should be an important consideration for voters.
“Obviously Supreme Court appointees matter greatly,” White said, “and in fact all presidential appointees, like those in the Department of Education, affect the work of Christian universities like Cedarville. In one candidate we reasonably know the appointees will oppose a biblical worldview. In the other candidate, we expect friendlier appointees to a biblical worldview but have no guarantee.”
White emphasized that the gospel, and not politics, is the nation’s ultimate hope.
“While Supreme Court appointees matter, what matters most is that believers conduct ourselves as good ambassadors for Christ,” White said. “Our hope lies not in courts or political systems but in the gospel as the power of God to salvation. We must speak and act consistently with our biblical worldview so that we do not harm our witness to the world after this election has passed.”
By a show of hands at the Q&A, about a third of the Cedarville student body said they would vote for Trump were the election held that day. Two-thirds did not indicate support for either major party candidate.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)


9/15/2016 9:22:39 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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