September 2017

Brewton-Parker athlete shot, killed at off-campus party

September 27 2017 by Joe Westbury, Christian Index

Brewton-Parker College is mourning the loss of a student who was shot and killed over the weekend in an off-campus party.

Photo by Facebook
Stevenson Derival, who updated his Facebook page in February 2016 with this unidentified image, was shot and killed at 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning in an off-campus party. He was a student at Brewton-Parker College.


Stevenson Derival, 20, was attending the house party near the campus in Mount Vernon, Ga., reported Southeastern Georgia television station WTOC. About 200 guests were at the gathering when Derival was killed around 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 24. One other person was reportedly injured.
 
The shooter fled the scene and was being sought by Mount Vernon Police and related law enforcement agencies as of Sept. 26. Police have labeled the death a homicide.
 
WSAV-TV from Savannah reports that witnesses say the college athlete from Decatur was shot several times during the incident. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Derival was on the college’s track and field team. The newspaper said Mount Vernon Police Chief Calvin Burns noted that with so many people at the party scattering and fleeing the scene, finding the shooter could be difficult.
 
On Sunday morning the college posted a note of condolence from President Steve Echols on its Facebook page. It read:
 
“Please pray for the family of Stevenson Derival who passed away early this morning in a tragic off-campus incident,” the statement said. “We are all shocked and broken-hearted to see a friend and student whose life held such promise to be cut short in such a devastating way.
 
“May we all seek strength and comfort from the Lord Jesus who can give us sustaining grace when we face the deepest loss and grief.”
 
Police are asking anyone with information on the shooting to contact them at (912) 583-2323.
 
Brewton-Parker College is one of three institutions of higher learning affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. Other schools include Shorter University in Rome and Truett McConnell University in Cleveland.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index, christianindex.org, the online news service of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)
 

9/27/2017 8:30:31 AM by Joe Westbury, Christian Index | with 0 comments



ERLC’s Moore urges persuasion to promote civility

September 27 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Americans, including conservative Christians, should seek to persuade others – not pigeonhole them by classifications – to promote civility in a religiously diverse culture, Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore said in a Washington, D.C., panel discussion.

Screen capture from YouTube
ERLC President Russell Moore, second from right, participates in a panel discussion on religious freedom and public civility Sept. 13 at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.


Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, spoke during a Sept. 13 event hosted by The Brookings Institution on the role of religious freedom in building public civility.
 
The American Charter Project (ACP) sponsored the program in an effort to offer guidance on how to overcome polarization in the United States along ideological and religious divides. ACP will release the “American Charter of Freedom of Religion and Conscience” later this year as part of its effort.
 
In his remarks, Moore pointed to the need for Americans to follow the example of the late pastor and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
 
King “was not speaking only to those who were already with him,” Moore said. “He was speaking to my grandfather in Mississippi that he never saw as being anything less than a potential convert to his cause and to his way of seeing things.
 
“[O]ne of the great problems that we have in American life across the board is that we don’t ultimately believe that we’re going to be able to persuade one another of anything,” Moore said. “And so we assume all we can do is push one another into their categories and to speak about them rather than to them.”
 
The panel addressed the reasons for the growing divide over religious liberty since the mid-1990s, with Moore citing the “loss of transcendence in American public life.”
 
“When there is not a sense of transcendent purpose and meaning, people are going to try to find substitutes for that,” he told the audience. “And what we have largely seen happening in American life is people finding tribal identities in political movements or cultural arguments in a way that often really isn’t about coming to a solution to those arguments but about identifying: ‘I am the sort of person who stands here as opposed to the sort of people who stand there.’”
 
This happens on both the left and right, Moore said.
 
He observed that progressives often assume “religion is going to go away, and so if there is just enough cultural or political pressure put upon religious believers of whatever stripe, we’re just going to nudge you along to where you’re going to be anyway,” Moore said.
 
Some people in his own tribe of conservative Christianity “have also acculturated to this sense of statecraft as ultimate,” he said, adding they assume the gospel “doesn’t matter as much as achieving some legislative wins. I think that’s been a loss in American life across the board.”
 
Religious freedom advocate Katrina Lantos Swett said progress for some in American life should not result in loss for others.
 
As America makes what many consider progress in areas “that have hitherto been untouchable that relate to bringing people who were previously marginalized, really left out and not included,” she said in an apparent reference to the expansion of rights to such groups as lesbians and gays, “we [must] find a way to embrace the good of that without disqualifying and putting on the margins and excluding as unacceptable the very deep and sincerely held religious convictions of a huge percentage of our country.”
 
Swett – president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice and a former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom – acknowledged she was “dismayed” “and “alarmed” when senators confronted a judicial nominee the week before with questions “that sounded uncomfortably close to a religious test for office.” Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Richard Durbin of Illinois seemed to question Amy Coney Barrett’s suitability to serve as an appeals court judge because of her Roman Catholic beliefs.
 
“It felt so wrong; it felt so troubling,” Swett said.
 
Joshua DuBois – chief executive officer of Values Partnerships and former executive director of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships under President Barack Obama – said the lack of relationship between groups has made it difficult to navigate divisive issues. He cited the absence of a basis for relationship between the conservative Christian community and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
 
“[I]t’s hard to play catch-up when communities believe that the other side has denied their dignity for so long, and so why would they come to the table now?” DuBois said. “[A]t the time when relationship is needed perhaps more than ever, it doesn’t exist and the stakes are so high it’s hard to come together.”
 
CNN political analyst David Gregory told those attending, “Let’s allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Let’s remember to start out with love. Let’s remember humility. Let’s remember that everyone has something to give and to contribute in this, and then we can have a dialogue from there.”
 
In the keynote address before the panel discussion, John Dilulio – professor of politics, religion and civil society at the University of Pennsylvania and the first head of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives under President George W. Bush – said religion can be a “civic tonic” or a “civic toxin.”
 
Dilulio offered some suggestions, including:
– “Let’s try to be as fact-based about faith-based matters as we reasonably and feasibly can be, and let’s also try to be open ourselves to hearing each other and hearing each other out on each or all sides of given religious freedom and church-state issues.
– “Let’s celebrate how in a demographically dynamic and diverse representative democracy like ours the civic intersections of religion and politics ... are bound to be, and ought to be, busy and boisterous, not calm and quiet. But let’s also at the same time insist emphatically, unambiguously, non-negotiabl[y] that one and all always stop far short of the civic equivalent of road rage. There are lines that cannot be crossed and should not be crossed.”
 
William Galston, a senior fellow at Brookings, moderated the event.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
 

9/27/2017 8:25:54 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



U.S. doctors take official stance against euthanasia

September 27 2017 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

The American College of Physicians argues medicine’s goal is not to control the manner and timing of death.
 
Amid increasing attempts to legalize euthanasia at the state level, the nation’s second-largest network of physicians officially spoke out against it last week.
 
The American College of Physicians (ACP) wrote in a position statement published Sept. 19 in the Annals of Internal Medicine that the organization of 152,000 medical professionals stands against the legalization of physician-assisted suicide, “the practice of which raises ethical, clinical and other concerns.”
 
“Control over the manner and timing of a person’s death has not been and should not be a goal of medicine,” the group concluded. “However, through high-quality care, effective communication, compassionate support, and the right resources, physicians can help patients control many aspects of how they live out life’s last chapter.”
 
The position paper came in response to increasing public interest in legalizing euthanasia to promote patient autonomy at the end of life. The ACP said it remained “attentive to all voices” but decided to oppose legalization efforts.
 
John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, said the decision is “wonderful news.”
 
The ACP statement is “giving voice to the real need of compassionate and supportive care for people who may be considering requests for assisted suicide and protecting the role of physicians as healers, not killers,” he said.
 
The much larger American Medical Association (AMA) has for years discouraged physicians from being “involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life.”
 
Alex Schadenberg, director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said the ACP statement aligning with the AMA should help shatter the pro-euthanasia movement’s illusion of unstoppable momentum.
 
“The facts show otherwise, that there’s not really a massive turn toward assisted suicide going on,” he said. “Over and over again, almost every state is constantly defeating this. The doctors remain against it. The court decisions in the last couple of years have all gone against it, and yet there’s a perception that the opposite is true.”
 
Physician statements like the ACP’s carry a lot of weight with legislators “because when you legalize assisted suicide, you’re actually asking physicians to be directly and intentionally involved with giving lethal drugs to their patients,” Schadenberg said.
 
In Canada, where lawmakers legalized assisted suicide last year, advocates have pushed to expand the Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) law to include children and patients with dementia, Schadenberg noted. Some Canadian doctors have opted out of the law, but last week, the Montreal Gazette cited a recent Quebec study showing 91 percent of caregivers support expanding MAID to patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
 
The pro-euthanasia camp has yet to make such headway in the United States.
 
Since Oregon passed its Death with Dignity Act in 1994, lawmakers have filed 231 bills seeking to legalize euthanasia in state legislatures across the country, according to the Patients Rights Council. One-fifth – 43 bills – appeared this year, and every one of them failed before becoming law.
 
Some states have defeated dozens of proposals: Hawaii faced 30 previous attempts to legalize euthanasia before this year’s onslaught of five bills, and New York had 12 before this year’s three bills.
 
Lawmakers in only five states – Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California and Colorado – have legalized assisted suicide. The Council of the District of Columbia approved a law last year, but federal lawmakers could overturn that measure.
 
Meanwhile, Alabama adopted a ban on any form of aid in dying in June, and New York’s high court refused to legalize physician-assisted suicide earlier this month.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Gobba writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 

9/27/2017 8:21:05 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



Houston volunteers ‘put some legs’ on their faith

September 27 2017 by Carmen K. Sisson, NAMB

Hurricane Harvey’s impact will be felt in this flood-weary state for many months to come as homeowners struggle to put their lives back together. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) crews remain on the scene, even as others deploy to Florida for Hurricane Irma response.

Photo by Carmen K. Sisson
Rick Stever, a team leader with Texas Baptist Men Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, removes a Lazy Susan turntable from a flood-damaged cabinet, Sept. 12, 2017, in Katy, Texas. Homeowner Mike Glover’s house was flooded when Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 51 inches of rainfall in mid-August. Approximately 70 people died in the U.S. due to the hurricane and flooding.


Shady, tree-lined neighborhoods are a maze of mismatched dinette sets and children’s toys. Stores are de facto shelters, diners, and one-stop shops for donations and disaster assistance forms. Hotel rooms are at such a premium that displaced residents memorize front desk numbers and scour the Internet, hoping to catch an elusive, available room.
 
Times are hard, but one thing has emerged – a wave of community spirit and Christian servanthood as neighbors help neighbors and churches unleash armies of volunteers to lend hearts and hands to the cause.
 
“A lot of the homes have already been cleaned out,” said Monte Vincent, coastal plains area coordinator for Texas Baptist Men and a member of Kingsland Baptist Church in Katy, Texas. “The people of Texas are very resilient. They took the initiative to do a lot of these things on their own. These guys are making it happen.”
 
Kingsland Baptist Church, among others, partnered with SBDR after Hurricane Harvey, expanding both organizations’ work force and reach. Every hand is needed because the need is staggering.
 
Officials estimate more than 450,000 people need assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and more than 30,000 people were displaced when the tropical system dumped more than 51 inches of rain on the Lone Star state.
 
Vincent saw the flood damage after Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, Hurricane Ike in 2008, the Memorial Day flood in 2015, and the “Tax Day” flood in 2016. If you combine them, he said, you might get a better picture of the mess Texas now faces. His own home flooded three times, so he understands.
 
“Be patient,” he advised homeowners Tuesday as he slowly navigated around debris in a Katy neighborhood. “Put your faith in God. Take it step by step, and be willing to accept help.”
 
Homeowner Mike Glover was already pulling out drywall and flooring at his two-story home in Katy, but he was unsure how to handle the staircase and gas fireplace. He was relieved when SBDR volunteers arrived.
 
“They’ve been good,” he said, marveling at the steady stream of volunteers entering and exiting his house. “They’ve obviously done this many times. They all seem genuinely uplifted by helping.”

Photo by Carmen K. Sisson
Marvin Wade, of Kingsland Baptist Church, carries debris from a flood-damaged home, Sept. 12, 2017, in Katy, Texas. Kingsland is one of several local Southern Baptists churches that is sending volunteers to help flooded homeowners.


It wasn’t always easy to accept help, he said. Before he became a Christian, Glover led a rough life, mired in negativity and sin. When he finally came to Christ, he realized that his life was in God’s hands.
 
That clarity helped him the night that flood waters entered his house. He and his wife Kim intended to ride out the storm with their son Brendon and their two dogs. By the time rescuers arrived, the water in his foyer had reached his knees, and it was still rising.
 
“I said, ‘This is in God’s control, let’s roll with it,’” Glover recalled. “I’ve received so much, and it’s time for me to give back.”
 
That giving spirit is what led Kingsland Baptist Church member Steve Mullins to volunteer.
 
“How do you not get involved?” he asked as he pulled sheetrock from Glover’s living room wall. “I don’t think people understand the full scope of what’s going on. Every U.S. citizen needs to come in and do this at least once.”
 
Some even took time away from their jobs to volunteer. Larry Fischer, also a member of Kingsland Baptist, traded his Delta Airlines uniform for a tool belt and a hammer. He tried to recruit others to help, but many declined. The hardest part is not so much doing the work as it is fighting inertia long enough to begin. Last week, he was busy cleaning the muddy water out of his home. Now, he’s dedicating his time to others.
 
“It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Fischer said. “You just have to get up and do it. Once you do it, you don’t want to stop. Helping someone – boy, that’s a good feeling.”
 
Walking through Glover’s house is jarring. Family portraits are clustered above the water line – memories of better days. A sign above the kitchen door states, “In God we trust.” Upstairs, salvaged items jostle for space. Outside, volunteers search in vain for blank spaces to fill with never-ending loads of debris. The grass, once neatly manicured, is nearly hidden by waterlogged doors, wooden molding, insulation, sheetrock and furniture.
 
Flood waters came within 30 feet of Kingsland Baptist Church member Marvin Wade’s house, but some of his neighbors were less fortunate.
 
“You feel a little guilty,” he said. “You look at people like this, and you think, ‘Why? Why not me?’ You feel helpless. But there’s a plan and a reason. We talk about being Christians, well, put some legs on that and get out and help.”
 
There remains an urgent need for volunteers, and that need will increase as current volunteers slowly return to their jobs. Weekdays, in particular, are times of need. For information about North American Mission Board’s Send Relief efforts, visit sendrelief.net. Many state Baptist conventions are also participating in relief efforts and accepting donations.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Carmen K. Sisson writes for the North American Mission Board.)
 

9/27/2017 8:19:39 AM by Carmen K. Sisson, NAMB | with 0 comments



NOBTS Adrian Rogers center lifts expository preaching

September 27 2017 by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS

With a commitment to helping a new generation of preachers and pastors in the pulpit, the Adrian Rogers Center for Expository Preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) was dedicated in a Sept. 12 chapel service.

Photo by Boyd Guy
Steve Rogers, right, son of the late Adrian Rogers, talks with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary student Michael Pogue after the dedication service for the Adrian Rogers Center for Expository Preaching Sept. 12.


In partnership with the late Adrian Rogers’ proclamation ministry Love Worth Finding, the NOBTS center will provide resources and present conferences and lectureships to encourage and equip students and pastors.
 
The center’s inaugural “Empowering the Pulpit” preaching conference, Jan. 29-31, will feature leading expository preachers Jim Shaddix and Robert Smith Jr.
 
The dedication took place on Rogers’ birthday; he died in 2005 at the age of 74.
 
Chuck Kelley, NOBTS president in opening remarks, noted the significance of naming the center after Rogers, an NOBTS alumnus.
 
“Adrian Rogers went on from [this] seminary to become one of the greatest pastors in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention, a defining pastor of his generation,” Kelley said. “We are very excited about starting something that will take new students to the heart of what made this man so impactful and so influential – and this is his preaching ministry, a ministry of God’s Word.”
 
A three-term SBC president, Rogers led the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church from 9,000 members to 29,000 during his 33 years as pastor. Love Worth Finding Ministries, founded by Rogers in 1987, provides sermon outlines, podcasts, articles and other resources for preaching.
 
Steve Rogers, son of Adrian Rogers, was present for a portion of the dedication service and the luncheon that followed despite flight scheduling complications due to Hurricane Irma.
 
“We’re excited about this; we’re behind it,” Rogers told NOBTS administrators and faculty on behalf of the Rogers family. “What we’re interested in is ongoing ministry and the next generation of pastors, worship leaders and youth ministers.”
 
Rogers spoke of the “thousands and thousands of hours” he and his brother David spent reviewing 4,000 of his father’s recorded sermons – originally preserved on cassette tapes and now digitized – and how it underscored for them their father’s commitment to expository preaching.
 
“For 12 years I’ve immersed myself in my dad’s pastor training curriculum,” Steve Rogers said. “It’s an incredible laboratory for anybody that wants to study expository preaching.”

Photo by Boyd Guy
Cary Vaughn, right, CEO of the Love Worth Finding radio ministry that airs the late Adrian Rogers’ sermons , talks with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley, center, and Leavell College professor Jeff Farmer after the dedication service for the Adrian Rogers Center for Expository Preaching Sept. 12.


Adam Hughes, director of the center and NOBTS dean of the chapel, said Rogers modeled faithfulness to God’s Word, a love for the church and a heart for reaching the lost.
 
“Our mission ... is preparing a rising generation of men who are answering God’s call for excellence in expository preaching,” Hughes said. “We want to make sure students are trained and resourced to serve the church. We want to resource and equip pastors already on the field.”
 
In an expository sermon, Hughes said, the God-intended meaning, structure and emphasis of the biblical text drives the main points as well as the outline and thrust of the sermon, which is then proclaimed to hearers.
 
Hughes said Rogers’ passion for the lost and his understanding of the sufficiency and infallibility of God’s Word is “desperately needed today,” adding that the center’s work would complement the classroom.
 
Bob Sorrell, chairman of the board of Love Worth Finding, recounted that the ministry grew out of a demand for Rogers’ sermons.
 
“Adrian never wanted to be a TV preacher,” Sorrell said. “But he permitted his sermons to be recorded on cassette and kept at a closet in the church where members could pick them up. ... It continued to grow from there and grew into an organization.”
 
Cary Vaughn, chief executive officer of Love Worth Finding, said Rogers’ insistence that a gospel invitation be given at every church event taught him to model that commitment in his own ministry. Rogers’ deepest desire, Vaughn said, was to see others come to faith in Christ.
 
“Let the one takeaway be that if Adrian Rogers were here today, he would say ... ‘Come to Jesus.’”
 
Vaughn said Love Worth Finding broadcasts in 196 countries and is tied to 3,000 radio outlets, 10,500 TV outlets and has the potential to broadcast into 700 million homes worldwide.
 
In chapel, Kelley recounted Rogers’ beginnings as an NOBTS student and tied Rogers’ accomplishments and influence, including his pivotal role in the Conservative Resurgence, to his commitment to scripture.
 
“Everything good that happened in Adrian Rogers’ life flowed out of his commitment to teach his people the Word of God,” Kelley said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

9/27/2017 8:17:43 AM by Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS | with 0 comments



Prayer vigils held after church shooting

September 26 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Prayer services continued Sept. 25 as Nashville mourns yesterday’s mass shooting at an area church that killed one and injured eight others including the pastor at the close of morning worship.

Nashville Tennessean video screen capture
About 100 community members prayed and sang hymns at Ezell-Harding Christian school after a mass shooting at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ near Nashville.


Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, the site of the shooting, hosted a prayer vigil Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. on the outskirts of its front lawn in Antioch, the church said on its Facebook page. The church noted its sanctuary is still an active crime scene.
 
“We are beyond grateful for the enormous outpouring of love and compassion we have received from so many after the tragic event that took place yesterday,” the church said. “We ask for your continued prayers and support during the coming days and months, especially for the family of our sweet and dear sister Melanie L. Crow, who lost her life. God’s blessings to you all.”
 
Area pastors and leaders including Nashville Mayor Megan Barry are expected to attend a vigil today at 3 p.m. at Woodmont Hills Church of Christ, pastor Jeff Brown told Baptist Press (BP).
 
Sunday just after 11:15 a.m., 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson allegedly shot a worshipper dead outside the church before entering the sanctuary and firing his handgun indiscriminately, Nashville police reported. The rampage ended after Samson was shot during a struggle for the gun with church usher Caleb Engle, police said. With Samson wounded and Engle bleeding from being pistol whipped, the usher managed to retrieve his own handgun from his car and hold Samson at gunpoint until police arrived.
 
“I pray that through all of this that people will come to know Christ,” Engle said in a press release after being treated at Skyline Medical Center. “And I ask our nation to reflect on Romans 8:31: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?
 
“I’ve been going to this church my whole life, since I was a small child,” Engle said. “I would have never, ever thought something like this would have happened.”
 
Police identified the murder victim as longtime Burnette Chapel member Melanie Crow Smith, a 39-year-old mother of two. She died at the church. Police charged Samson with one count of murder, with other charges pending, after he was treated and released Sunday from Vanderbilt Medical Center.
 
Burnette Chapel pastor David Spann, 66, was in stable condition today at Vanderbilt, according to its news and communications office. Also recovering at Vanderbilt in stable condition were Spann’s wife Peggy, 65; 83-year-old William “Don” Jenkins and his 84-year-old wife Marlene, and 68-year-old Linda Bush, police said. Katherine Dickerson, 64, was discharged from Skyline Medical Center this morning; Engle was released Sunday night, police said.
 
Samson, a Sudan native who reportedly lives in the U.S. as a legal resident, himself attended the church several times about two years ago, members said. While the 50 or so members of the congregation include several ethnicities, federal authorities are investigating the incident as a possible civil rights crime, police said. No motive had been established.
 
Hours after the shooting, a prayer vigil attracted many community members to Nashville Christian School in the Bellevue community where pastor Spann teaches Bible and coaches basketball, WSMV-TV reported. Across town in southeast Nashville, about 100 community members gathered for a one-hour prayer vigil at Ezell-Harding Christian School where Spann formerly taught and coached, Upper School Principal Rachel Goode told BP. Don Jenkins, who Goode said owns a paper company, served 10 years as chairman of Ezell-Harding’s board of directors.
 
“Our community was hurting yesterday,” Goode told BP, “and so we wanted to offer a time and a place for everyone to just come together and lean on one another and bring these things to God. We had a good turnout and we feel like it was definitely something that was beneficial for everybody.”
 
Frank S. Page, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee president and CEO, expressed prayers and sympathy for the victims and survivors Sunday.
 
“Sadly, the violence that is rampant in our society has manifested its ugly head once again and, once again, this violence is combined with cowardice by targeting innocent people,” Page told BP. “Our prayers go out to this pastor, his wife and their congregation.”
 
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore tweeted a prayer request: “Please pray for this church and for my city.”
 
Community members gathered near Burnette Chapel Sunday as police investigated the crime scene. Among them was Davida Roper, a member of the nearby Faith, Hope and Love Fellowship.
 
“What we came to do is pray, get as close as possible … (and) pray for these people, pray for the community, pray for this country, because it’s too much stuff going on these days,” she said in a video posted on the Nashville Tennessean’s website. “And it’s like now, you can’t even go into a church and praise God without something happening. It’s sad, and we just came to just offer our condolences, and just to lift up some prayers and just pray.”
 
The Nashville Tennessean described the tragedy as the largest mass shooting in the city’s history.
 
Samson, a body builder, has a history of domestic disturbances and suicide attempts, the Tennessean said. He was reported as the aggressor in two domestic disturbances this year, although no charges were filed, the newspaper said. On June 27, Samson threatened suicide in a text to his father, police told the Tennessean.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

9/26/2017 8:39:56 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Mohler’s The Briefing tackles cultural questions

September 26 2017 by Zachary Ball and RuthAnne Irvin, SBTS

He could just as likely be in Louisville, Ky., or somewhere in Germany. But no matter the time or place, setting up a recording studio in hotel rooms, or using his in-office studio, R. Albert Mohler Jr. records The Briefing five days a week.
 
And that reliability has paid off for the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Contributed photo
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, records an episode of The Briefing.


With its eighth season well underway, the daily podcast has reached a record number of listeners. Since he launched The Briefing in 2010, people have downloaded the podcast more than 27,028,453 times. And the show just completed Sept. 25 1,621 episodes.
 
From the beginning, Mohler wanted to present cultural and religious issues in a way that benefits Christians as they strive to better understand the world around them. He believes The Briefing accomplishes this, in part, as he helps Christians navigate cultural questions from a biblical worldview.
 
“The radio program, the podcasts and other media work I’ve done have seemed to be natural outworkings of the sense of calling and service to the church that I knew since the time I was a teenager,” Mohler said in a recent interview.
 
This “outworking of the sense of calling” allowed Mohler to work the last several years in various roles within evangelical circles, analyzing national and world events. The Briefing serves as a way believers can engage with cultural issues without hostility.
 
Before he started the podcast, he hosted The Albert Mohler Program, a nationally syndicated radio show aired each afternoon on Salem Radio.
 
Salem Radio Network is a United States-based network, featuring Christian talk shows, music, news programming and more. Salem Radio broadcasts more than 2,000 radio stations around the country, and hosts nine live, daily and weekend talk shows, including the Eric Metaxas show and Lou Dobbs Financial Report.
 
Listeners tuned in at the same time every afternoon to hear commentary about cultural issues from a biblical perspective. The audience often called in with questions about politics, theology, church polity, cultural and ethical issues and current events. Mohler addressed each question as many have come to know him: with honesty and from a Christian worldview, analyzing each question against scripture and with charity toward difficult topics.
 
“My sense of calling from the very beginning, as a theologian and a pastor, has been to help Christians to understand the full implications of a worldview,” Mohler said. “The world in which we are now living throws an avalanche at us on a daily basis. I found with radio that I could deal with a number of issues on any given day with many other issues of equal importance simply being left behind.”
 
After nearly nine years, the daily routine of a live radio show did not work as well with scheduling and reaching a wider audience. As the show grew, so did the world of podcasts.
 
From news and cultural events to storytelling shows like This American Life with National Public Radio, the podcast movement expanded to include a wide variety of topics, outlets and hosts. The advancement of technology allowed for flexibility in recording and scheduling the show, and Mohler and his team realized a podcast created more freedom to plan and record on his own time.
 
“The more targeted we understood the podcast could be, we actually came to believe it could have a wider reach than live radio,” Mohler said. “With live radio, it was not just that I had to be behind the microphone at the same time every day, but that the listeners had to be by a radio as well. The podcast opened up an entire new universe of possibility.”
 
Even though he would miss the experience of live radio, the opportunity of hosting a podcast attracted Mohler. In fact, his love for radio drives his regular appearances on other programs and his ongoing Ask Anything Live broadcast, where listeners submit questions, giving the show a live radio feel.
 
Mohler believes one Christian responsibility is to work in secular professions, including areas like journalism, the marketplace and radio. When Christians engage these areas, he said, it presents an opportunity for passion and calling to merge with mission. However, the lack of influence in these spheres also can hurt the church.
 
“The Christian church is harmed when Christians, especially those who have ability and calling, do not enter those professions and exercise their gifts responsibly and faithfully,” he said.
 
Sending Christians into those fields with both a hardworking attitude and the truth of the gospel is imperative, which is part of why he produces The Briefing. Mohler views secular fields as opportunity for the outworking of the Great Commission, in order “to be a light that otherwise would not be present,” he said. “A voice that otherwise would not be heard.”
 
Mohler’s goal for the podcast remains the same: To discuss news in a way that challenges Christians’ thinking and brings clarity to world events.
 
“This is not a part of some grand strategy to take over the digital world,” he said. “This is a strategy to try to help Christians to think through the issues of the day and to develop patterns and the discipline of thinking that are rigorously Christian and relentlessly biblical. I hope we get better and better over time. I hope that it is more useful. I hope that we learn over time the experience – how to be more helpful, more faithful in this.”
 
More information about The Briefing is available at albertmohler.com/thebriefing.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Zachary Ball and RuthAnne Irvin write for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

9/26/2017 8:35:44 AM by Zachary Ball and RuthAnne Irvin, SBTS | with 0 comments



Rick Warren counsels Texas pastors amid Harvey relief

September 26 2017 by Erin Roach, Southern Baptist TEXAN

The losses that are going to hurt the longest after Hurricane Harvey are the invisible ones, pastor Rick Warren told a group of Southeast Texas pastors at Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont as he counseled them on how to help people recover in what could be “the church’s finest hour.”
 
“If unbelievers like what they see in the mud-outs and all the stuff we’re doing, then they will listen to what we say,” Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., said Sept. 18. “Many times outreach to people starts with a hand and then moves to the heart and the head.”

Rick Warren


Southeast Texas holds a special place in his heart, Warren said, because First Baptist Church in Lufkin was the first sponsor of Saddleback when it began. Warren also spoke to the pastors from his experience ministering in the aftermath of more than 30 different natural and man-caused disasters throughout the world and over the years.
 
Life is filled with loss, and the Book of James says not to be surprised when it happens, Warren reminded the pastors. “This is not heaven. This is earth, and everything on this planet is broken because of sin. The weather’s broken, the economy’s broken, our bodies are broken, our minds are broken, our relationships are broken.”
 
People want to look at a natural disaster such as Hurricane Harvey and pronounce God’s judgment, but Warren said, “Never use a disaster to make political or theological points. Just help people!”
 
The hardest part, he said, “is going to be what happens in the minds and the hearts of people after we’re already cleaning up the property and the possessions.”
 
“We can see the devastation of property and we can see the devastation of possessions, but what is not seen is, for instance, the loss of the glue that was holding a marriage together that was very fragile and about ready to come apart,” Warren said. “A crisis often doesn’t cause a problem in a relationship, but it reveals a problem.”
 
Some people will not get over Hurricane Harvey; they will only get through it, he said. “Right now all you can think about is surviving, but at one point you will be thriving. You’re not going to stay in survival mode. The surviving will become thriving over time.”
 
The problem with grief, Warren said, is people get in a hurry with it.
 
“We don’t like grief, so we often try to resume without reflecting. That’s a mistake,” he said, adding that there is no expiration date on grief and life may never be the same for many people.
 
“Recovery takes time,” Warren said. “It’s different for every disaster and it’s different for every person in that disaster.”
 
Warren has been asked thousands of times how to find the strength to go on, he said, and he points to Romans 8:28.
 
“Anybody can bring good out of good. God specializes in bringing good out of bad,” Warren said. “He loves to turn crucifixions into resurrections. That’s the kind of God we serve.”
 
The apostle Paul said in Romans, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” Warren noted.
 
Nathan Cothen, pastor of Calvary Baptist in Beaumont, thanked Warren for being there to “stand with us in our hour of need.”
 
Warren reported that Saddleback has already given about $1 million in disaster relief funds for Texas, and he wanted pastors at the gathering to fill out forms letting him know what their churches needed. He also is making available to them six months’ worth of crisis-related sermons because “when you’re doing mud-out you don’t have time to do sermon prep.”
 
Jeremy Bradshaw, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Bridge City, told the TEXAN he watched Warren walk around the room giving hugs and handshakes to pastors who have been laboring in disaster relief. Bradshaw said what Warren shared with them was good for his soul and helped him think through how to help his congregation.
 
“For a lot of us pastors that know each other, it was the first time we were able to sit down and catch up,” Bradshaw said. “It was a good break.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville. This article was first published by the Southern Baptist TEXAN, texanonline.net, news journal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

9/26/2017 8:12:20 AM by Erin Roach, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments



Russia remains formidable challenge for evangelism

September 26 2017 by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press

Thirteen photos – a wide palette of Russian faces – hang on the walls of Marc Ira Hooks’ office.

Photo by Marc Ira Hooks
A young officer on horseback patrols the area around the Kremlin in one of the honored positions in the Moscow Police Department – the First Operational Regiment, mounted police, with about 1,000 officers and 255 horses.


One is an elderly man in Sochi, the Russian city that hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics. Another is a young boy more than 5,700 miles away in eastern Siberia, face wrapped in fur. And there are more faces, covering the miles, cities and people groups in between.
 
They’re the faces of the vast need for Christ in Russia, said Hooks, associate director of missions for the Dallas-area Collin Baptist Association/CBA Church Network as well as a photographer and former missionary to Eastern Europe.
 
“I wanted people to be able to look at the people of Russia as individuals,” said Hooks, who first created the photo gallery for Community North Baptist Church in McKinney, Texas. “This allowed them to look into the eyes of the lost.”
 
Those eyes represent a huge number – of Russia’s 145 million people, only 1.2 percent are evangelical Christians, according to Operation World. The nation encompasses more than 100 unreached people groups speaking 90-plus languages.
 
“With Russia being mentioned in the news every day, and usually not a positive light, it is easy to forget this country is made up of people whose everyday lives and experiences are not that much different from our own,” Hooks said.
 
“When we put aside the rhetoric of government and look into the eyes of the people, we discover they are girls, boys, women and men who are in need of exposure to a living witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
 
But getting the gospel to them has been even more of a challenge, he noted, since the Russian government enacted amendments to its religious extremism law in mid-2016.

Photo by Marc Ira Hooks
Fishermen like this one can be found around the seaport in Sochi, Russia, bringing in their latest catch, tending to their boats or even fishing with a line and pole from the sea wall. Sochi is Russia’s only subtropical resort city, located on the northeast coast of the Black Sea.


The comments of one Russian pastor reflect the new environment, noting that “there are no easy times in Russia right now for evangelical churches. We started to have ‘invisible’ persecutions on Christians. I can’t describe all the situation, since the emails can be observed.”
 
The amendments limit the religious freedoms of both citizens and tourists, with the exception of the state-approved Russian Orthodox Church.
 
Perhaps most notably, the law turns evangelism, preaching or praying into a punishable crime if a person engages in those activities outside of designated areas such as government-sanctioned churches. It also requires telephone and internet companies to record activity and report to the government.
 
The punishment for unsanctioned activities could range from a fine to a prison term up to eight years.
 
Hooks said the law “really wasn’t targeting evangelical Christians; it was a measure to curb the violence and terrorism that is often associated with some of the more radical world religions.” Russia is a big country – half the world wide, he said – and the law’s application has seen a wide variety of interpretations in different areas over the miles.
 
“The law was written in such a way that all religions that are not Russian Orthodox are lumped into the same category, and we are suffering the unintended consequences,” he said. “You could have a government official who interprets the law very strictly in one place, but in another you could have one who leaves Christians alone. It’s really kind of a mixed bag.”
 
And it’s seen mixed results too, Hooks said.
 
“Part of what has happened has driven the church to be a little stronger,” he said, noting that often happens in the face of persecution. “But it has hurt the work as well.”
 
Evangelical overseas workers have been turned away and denied visas, Hooks said. The result? A net loss in short-term and long-term missionaries.
 
“Volunteer groups have sometimes been denied entry,” he said. “Other times, they’ve come and gone without difficulty. Other times, after they left, their Russian hosts had problems with the government.”

Photo by Marc Ira Hooks
In Russia’s Far East, a summer day is a perfect day to celebrate a wedding on the main square of Khabarovska. Traditionally, following the civil ceremony, newlyweds, and a host of close friends, travel around the city in a limousine where they will drink toasts to the couple and pose for photographs in front of the city’s historical sites and monuments.


Randy Covington, executive director of the Alaska Baptist Convention, said he sees the same problems, but he clings to the glimmer of hope that the church will see growth as a result. When he moved to the far eastern side of Russia as a missionary in the early 1990s, he found believers who had learned grit in the face of persecution under communism.
 
“When we arrived, the cloud of communism was still hanging over Russia, and we saw some amazing commitment to the gospel in the face of personal cost and sacrifice,” he said. “They were very well grounded in their faith, and they were willing to stand up to local officials and not bend on their beliefs.”
 
Although Americans see Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, as the face of its people, Covington said they are “stoic, very private individuals” – but that’s just a public persona. When he lived in Russia, he found that the people didn’t know who to trust, so they didn’t talk to anyone.
 
“But once you got them in their homes, it was like they were a whole different person,” Covington said. “They were gracious, hospitable, joyful and extremely self-sacrificing.”
 
In the years of freedom since, the Russian church – at least some of it – has slid into apathy, Covington said. So he prays that believers will grow hearty of heart, not retreat from who they are, and he encourages others to pray the same.
 
“Pray for them to remain firm in their faith – that’s what allowed the underground church to keep going under 70 years of persecution,” he said. “Pray for them to remain true to their faith and willing to sacrifice all.”
 
Covington said he has a passion to see Russian Americans take the gospel back to their homeland, as they wouldn’t face the barriers that non-Russian evangelicals might.
 
“What I would like to see happen is for Russians in America to find ways to mobilize and stand alongside Russian believers in proclaiming the gospel,” Covington said. “It’s the perfect opportunity for them to come in and encourage the local brothers and sisters.”
 
Hooks agreed that local believers could use all the encouragement they could get in staying strong for Christ.
 
“I think really we need to pray for the believers there to be bold in their faith, not to shrink away just because the government decides to be intimidating,” he said.
 
Some churches have become bold, evangelistic witnesses since the fall of communism, and Hooks said he is concerned that those who haven’t might become even quieter.
 
The law is written in such a way that if “somebody really wanted to cause trouble,” the church could be fined for trying to convert someone if a nonbeliever is present when an evangelistic message is preached, even if it’s within the walls of the church, Hooks said.
 
“Believers know full well that there may be consequences for sharing their faith,” he said. “Pray for them to be bold and faithful anyway.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Grace Thornton is a freelance writer in Birmingham, Ala.)
 

9/26/2017 8:10:54 AM by Grace Thornton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Scientists poke holes in natural selection

September 26 2017 by Julie Borg, WORLD News Service

The Darwinian concept of natural selection seems pretty straightforward: The most fit survive and pass their genes to their offspring, while unfit organisms die off. But new research, published in the Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, shows survival is a lot more complicated, and natural selection is neither clear-cut nor provable.
 
The researchers, who study natural selection as it relates to infectious diseases, explained the theory does not account for environmental changes.
 
For example, some weeds in a vacant lot may carry a gene variation that helps them thrive in hot sunshine while others favor cool shade. Weather patterns could change over time, or builders might erect or tear down structures around the lot, changing the sunny and shady areas. Such a change would also alter the survival benefit of sun-loving or shade-thriving genes.
 
Cooperative gene variations also exist that seem to provide no survival benefit for individual organisms, such as insects with genes that cause some to destroy the eggs of mere workers in order to protect the predominance of the queen. Such a gene variation would do nothing to help the individual insect survive, though it certainly would benefit the queen.
 
Randy Guliuzza, an engineer, physician and science expert with the Institute for Creation Research, said natural selection cannot deal with the complexities of how organisms adjust to their environment because the concept has the whole process backward.
 
Natural selection makes the environment the active agent and all living things just passive modeling clay. But, nature doesn’t possess a brain – it can’t select, Guliuzza said. Organisms can self-adjust only because God designed them with innate internal systems that continuously track environmental changes and make appropriate adjustments.
 
“Natural selection says we have to be adaptable in order to adapt and evolve, but how do we become adaptable unless we have the internal systems to do so?” Guliuzza said. “It is like the chicken and the egg riddle in which everything has to show up at once.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie Borg writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 

9/26/2017 8:09:29 AM by Julie Borg, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



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