September 2017

Platt urges new missionaries to look to Jesus

September 18 2017 by Dianna L. Cagle,BR Production Editor

“He’s called your name,” David Platt told 51 new missionary appointees Sept. 13. “You are His.”

IMB photo by Chris Carter*
Danielle and David Flannery share about their call to the international mission field. The Flannerys are sent by Mountain View Baptist Church in Hamptonville, N.C., to share the gospel with European Peoples.

The appointees, along with friends and family and about 950 emeritus missionaries were part of a Sending Celebration at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Black Mountain, N.C.
Platt, the International Mission Board’s (IMB) president, shared from Hebrews 11-12, describing men and women of faith.
“God is saying to you: Never stop looking to Jesus” Platt said.
David Flannery, former student pastor at Mountain View Baptist Church in Hamptonville, N.C., credited his dad’s military career with opening his eyes “to the lostness in Europe.”
He and his wife, Danielle, plan to take their son, Kaleb, with them to Italy. Danielle said her time in France as an exchange student helped solidify her call to the international mission field.
“Through the outreach focus of our sending church, God has confirmed our call to European missions,” she said.
The couple, who is expecting their second child, will be serving in Milan.
North Carolina has three other appointee couples, all going to secure areas. Samuel and Hannah Lull,* Liam and Emily Halloway* and Thomas and Emma Parker* are going to three different areas: Northern Africa and Middle East, Central Asia and Southeast Asia, respectively.
Story after story was shared of how God gripped each appointee. While each has their own story, Platt emphasized that they are going out to share “the greatest news in all the world.”
He asked them to think back to the first time they knew of their sin before a holy God. “He’s the founder of your faith,” he said. “He’s the perfecter of your faith.”
While Hebrews shares quite a list of patriarchs, early fathers and mothers of faith, Platt warns not to “start to think those are giants of faith.”
“The Israelites?” Platt asked. “Would we call them giants of faith?
“They complained about everything, in spite of God’s faithfulness in bringing them out from under Pharaoh’s rule.
“Faith isn’t about what any one can do,” he said. “Faith is about what God can do through any one.
“The whole picture is, you’ve got people of faith just holding onto His promises.”
He reminded them to stay in God’s Word, resting on those promises.
“No matter what happens to you, He has your back,” Platt said.
Listing some missionaries who had died serving overseas, Platt shared that when the appointees go to field-personnel orientation in Virginia, “you’ll see a list of men and women who were living by faith when they died.”
“His power will strengthen you in your weakness,” he said. “His promises will never let you down. Never stop looking to Jesus.”
* Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dianna L. Cagle is production editor at the Biblical Recorder, Baptist news journal for North Carolina.)

9/18/2017 2:37:58 PM by Dianna L. Cagle,BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

Man charged with murder in church killing

September 18 2017 by Mark Maynard, Kentucky Today

Dwight Mitchell Bell confessed to robbing and killing a woman three weeks ago in a Kentucky church, according to police.
Bell, 41, was charged with robbery and murder in the death of Ruthie Carolyn New, 70, on Aug. 24 in Somerset.
Bell was taken into custody on Tuesday after Somerset police detectives, with the assistance of the Major Crimes Task Force and the Dandridge Police Department in Dandridge, Tenn., located him in the Dandridge area.

Somerset Police Department via Facebook
Dwight Bell has confessed to the murder of Carolyn New in Somerset.

Somerset police charged him with murder on Sept. 13.
Dandridge Police Officers arrested Bell without incident on charges stemming from the warrant for the theft of New’s automobile, which was found in Indianapolis. Police in Indianapolis had released surveillance images of Bell last week.
New was found dead in the activity center at Denham Street Baptist Church in Somerset, Ky.
She had been reported missing by family and pastor Jeff Griffith searched the church and found her, reportedly in a storage area. Authorities have not released any details about her death.
Somerset officers went to Tennessee and interviewed Bell, who confessed to the killing, according to Somerset Police Chief William Hunt.
She was the widow of the former pastor at the church. Her late husband, J.S. New, founded the church in January 1973 as a mission of Slate Branch Baptist Church. She remained an active member after her husband’s death in 2012.
New was a charter member of the church and “took pride in serving her Lord as she continued her support of the church and the new pastor,” according to her obituary.
As the church custodian, she often cleaned the church on Thursdays and was perhaps doing so when the murder occurred, according to media reports.
Bell was charged in 1999 with killing his father, Roger Bell, 49, of Wayne County, who was shot in the head. Dwight Bell pleaded to a lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Maynard writes for Kentucky Today,, where this article first appeared. Kentucky Today is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

Related article:
Late pastor’s widow found murdered in Kentucky church

9/18/2017 8:02:59 AM by Mark Maynard, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments

China tightens worship, Sunday school restrictions

September 18 2017 by Morning Star News, Editor

China startled Christians by tightening its “choke-hold” on churches there in September, banning Christian education for children and unregistered church worship “as if intending to eliminate all house churches at once,” China Aid told Morning Star News.
In Guangzhou, Guangdong Province in southern China, police visited members of unregistered churches at their homes to warn them not to attend worship services. Officers also summoned a large number of them for questioning, China Aid reported from one of its sources.
“The police called me again today and ordered me to stay away from church gatherings, which irritated me,” reported one Christian, who wished to remain unnamed. Authorities also ordered the Christian to write a letter guaranteeing not to attend church services.
“Today, people from the sub-district office went to take pictures of our two church buildings, using inspecting the fire systems as an excuse,” the source told China Aid this week. “People from the religious affairs bureau also called and summoned me for a talk on Friday [Sept. 7].”

Separation of church and children

In Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province on the eastern coast, children were specifically prohibited from attending church services, with local officials ordering churches to cancel all activities involving teenagers. Elementary and middle school staff members told parents not to allow them to attend Sunday worship services or other church events, China Aid said.
“Many Sunday schools in Wenzhou were shut down,” a Wenzhou Christian identified only as Li told China Aid. “Many teachers sent messages to their colleagues in group chats in order to prevent children from attending religious gatherings.”
Similar bans occurred earlier in 2017, as China began enforcing laws forbidding adults to teach religion to Chinese children, according to China Aid. In Wenzhou, county government departments dispatched to more than 100 churches officials who verbally prohibited teenagers from attending church services, church-related summer camps or Sunday schools. The government assigned personnel to monitor the churches and their activities.
“Outraged, the Chinese Christians argued that the government had violated its own laws on protecting minors, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and China’s religious freedom regulations,” China Aid reported.
Article 36 of China’s Constitution stipulates that all Chinese citizens have freedom of belief, and its Regulations on Religious Affairs do not forbid children from attending worship services, according to China Aid.
“For a long time, teenagers and students have not been allowed to participate in religious activities,” a local Christian identified only as Zhang told China Aid, referring to the law that forbids children from attending religious events. “However, the [official, registered] Three-Self Churches and house churches would usually hold summer camps during the summer vacation.”
Now the government is emphasizing that even Sunday school classes are prohibited, he said, adding, “the government’s major intention is to shut down the Sunday schools.”
The crack-down comes in the wake of a recent order from the Henan Provincial Three-Self Patriotic Committee and the Henan Provincial China Christian Council forbidding churches from organizing summer camps for minors and students, citing high temperatures as a possible health risk. A Christian from Henan said such camps have been allowed in previous summers, and originally officials would interfere only if an informant told them of a specific event.
“The government is trying to control ideology,” Zhang told China Aid. “During [Chinese presidents] Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao’s time, the government was tolerant toward preaching and missionary work. After Xi Jinping came into power, the government’s grip on religion has strengthened.”
The Nanyang Municipal Religious Affairs Bureau in Henan ordered all 20,000 house-church members in the province to join the Three-Self Church, according to China Aid. Many Chinese Christians disagree with the Three-Self Church based on theological discrepancies and rampant government censorship, making the forced merging of these two branches a violation of religious freedom, the advocacy group asserted.
In Henan Province, Three-Self Churches must obtain government approval for all large-scale religious activities, China Aid reported.
In Ezhou, Hubei Province in eastern China, an almost weekly conflict between officials and members of a house church that met outdoors after the Communist Party confiscated its chairs and desks on Jan. 10 escalated when government-hired “thugs” beat five or six Christians on Aug. 22, China Aid reported. Previously those hired individuals had “shot firecrackers at the Christians, hurled mud at them and beaten a woman with high blood pressure unconscious, continuing to kick her even after she fainted.”
In the eastern province of Jiangsu, officials have launched a new investigation of key church leaders and members and their possible connections to Christians overseas, as well as any plans for future development. When a church leader asked why she was being made to fill out a form that included her personal information, an official replied that the Communist Party suspected “Christian imposters” were infiltrating churches and deceiving believers, China Aid said.
“The government often uses excuses in order to investigate churches, such as alleging that they need to perform fire-safety checks, and it is likely the government’s so-called suspicions are actually just ruses used in order to sanction the baseless persecution of Christians,” China Aid said.
A China Aid correspondent theorized that such actions are being carried out as “comprehensive stability maintenance” ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China meeting on Oct. 18.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Morning Star News is a California-based independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide.)

9/18/2017 8:02:23 AM by Morning Star News, Editor | with 0 comments

Gaines backs call to relocate Confederate statue

September 15 2017 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., signed a letter, along with more than 150 Memphis-area religious leaders, expressing support for a call to relocate a Confederate statue.
The memorial to Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader and Confederate general during the U.S. Civil War, is prominently displayed in a public park near downtown Memphis.

Image captured from Google Street View
More than 150 religious leaders in the Memphis area, including Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, are calling for the relocation of a monument of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The group of clergy, which included leaders from a wide range of Christian and Jewish traditions, sent the document to the Tennessee Historical Commission Sept. 13 to show agreement with a waiver request submitted by Mayor Jim Strickland to have the statue removed, according to local news reports.
They celebrated the city as “a wonderful place made even better by our diversity” and emphasized the importance of understanding civic history in its “full context.”
The letter said, “this statue does not convey the complete story of our city’s rich history and could better serve the pursuit of understanding and educating the public as well as future generations in a more historically appropriate site.”
Read the full statement below:
To the members of the Tennessee Historical Commission:
We are Memphis clergy white and black, young and old, Christian and Jew, transcending every political party. We want you to know how much we support Mayor Jim Strickland’s request for a waiver under the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act to relocate the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest to a more historically appropriate site.
By no means are we seeking to erase history. It is imperative that we understand history; the foundations of our society, of our country, and our faith traditions are built on that. But it is also important that we understand historical figures and events in their full context. It was not until 1905  –  half a century after the Civil War and in the throes of the implementation of Jim Crow laws across the South  –  that the statue of Forrest was placed in a public square. This monument to Forrest belongs elsewhere, not in the center of our city’s hub. Beyond the historical inaccuracy and geographic irrelevancy of his monument, it does not represent who we are as people of faith.
Memphis is a wonderful place made even better by our diversity. Many have voiced concerns that this statue does not convey the complete story of our city’s rich history and could better serve the pursuit of understanding and educating the public as well as future generations in a more historically appropriate site.
We appreciate your service to Tennessee. Commemorating our state’s rich history is significant to all of us, thus we make our respectful plea. As leaders of the faith community in Memphis, representing every corner of the theological spectrum, we strongly urge you to grant Mayor Jim Strickland’s request for a waiver to relocate the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest that stands in the heart of our city.

9/15/2017 2:13:58 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

IMB celebrates missionaries, approves balanced budget

September 15 2017 by Julie McGowan, IMB

International Mission Board (IMB) trustees gathered at Ridgecrest Conference Center Sept. 11-13 to celebrate more than 25,000 years of service by emeritus missionaries while approving the appointment of 51 new personnel to take the gospel to unreached people and places.

Photo by Chris Carter, IMB
Danielle and David Flannery pray, surrounded by supporters, as they celebrate their appointment as Southern Baptist missionaries. The Flannerys are sent by Mountain View Baptist Church in Hamptonville, N.C., to share the gospel with European Peoples.

The fall meeting near Asheville, N.C., also included orientation for 11 new trustees; approval of a balanced budget for 2017-18; and concerted prayer for specific needs representing every region of the world.

New emeriti, missionaries, trustees

IMB traditionally hosts a celebration of new emeritus missionaries every five years. The 2017 celebration included appreciation for 31 new emeriti, with 950 emeriti able to attend the quinquennial reunion despite the inclement weather which hampered travel for some. In all, the group represented 25,297 years of Southern Baptist missionary service. Trustees participated in honoring their faithfulness to proclaim the gospel.
Trustees also approved 51 missionary personnel who will go to share the gospel in every region of the world. The new personnel, honored and challenged during a Sept. 13 Sending Celebration, represent churches in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.


During the Sept. 13 plenary session of the meeting, IMB President David Platt introduced the 2017-18 proposed budget, balanced with receipts and expenses both projected at $262 million.
Platt said the IMB’s priorities for the budget are to sustain an increasingly efficient and effective organization; undergird the existing mission force and staff; replenish the current mission force in response to natural attrition; and expand the future mission force with the remaining budget.
Rodney Freeman, vice president of support services and IMB treasurer, led trustees through a review of the 2017-18 budget during a WebEx session prior to the meeting, as well as in the Support Services committee meeting, and he recapped the budget proposal during the Sept. 13 plenary session. Freeman reiterated the budget reflects short-term financial responsibility and long-term organizational stability. The budget is based on a new fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2017-Sept. 30, 2018, which aligns IMB’s financial year with other Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entities. The new fiscal year was approved at SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.
Platt and Freeman reported the IMB budgeting process follows five core principles:

  • Uses realistic to conservative projections for receipts (projecting Lottie Moon Christmas Offering receipts at $153 million for 2017-18);
  • Maintains contingency reserves at an appropriate level (set at 5.5 months, which falls within SBC Executive Committee guidelines);
  • Excludes property sales from budget receipts or expenses;
  • Spends 100 percent of Lottie Moon Christmas Offering receipts on the mission field; and
  • Presents a balanced budget for approval each year ($262 million for 2017-18).

Platt thanked Southern Baptists for giving in a way that reaches people with the gospel.
“This is why we exist as a coalition of churches, for the accomplishment of the gospel,” he said, introducing the 2017 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering theme – compelled – based in 2 Corinthians 5:14 (“For Christ’s love compels us,” HCSB).
“Your giving in your churches, your praying in your churches, has eternal impact,” Platt said.
In addition to reports by the trustee standing committees, trustee chairman Hance Dilbeck presented two sets of minutes for approval: minutes from the June 12 trustee meeting held in conjunction with the SBC Annual Meeting; and minutes from an Aug. 24 IMB trustee executive committee meeting. During the August meeting, the executive committee of the IMB trustees agreed to evaluate Platt’s involvement as teaching pastor at McLean Bible Church in Northern Virginia during a provisional period over the coming months.

Photo by Chris Carter, IMB
Hance Dilbeck, right, chairman of the International Mission Board trustees, pauses to talk to IMB President David Platt before the trustees’ plenary session Sept. 13 in Ridgecrest, N.C. Dilbeck is senior pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.

“Our president, Dr. David Platt, has expressed a deep sense of calling to serve as teaching pastor of McLean Bible Church while also continuing to lead the International Mission Board,” Dilbeck, senior pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, said. “We respect Dr. Platt and his sense of the Lord’s leading; and we recognize our responsibility to hold him accountable for his work leading the International Mission Board. Over the coming months, while Dr. Platt serves as teaching pastor for McLean Bible Church, the trustees of the International Mission Board will evaluate Dr. Platt’s fulfillment of his responsibilities as IMB president. Trustees also will evaluate McLean’s level of partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention. We plan to revisit this matter in our February trustee meeting.”
For more information about this topic and other frequently asked questions, visit


The week also included orientation for 11 trustees elected in June during the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Phoenix.
The new IMB trustees are Joel Bundick, pastor of Community of Grace church in Aurora, Colo.; Jim Crockett, president of R1 Ministries and member of First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, Tenn.; Jordan Easley, senior pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn.; Keith Evans, senior pastor of Pathway Church in Troutdale, Ore.; Will Gatling, associate pastor of missions of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C.; Nathan Gunter, pastor of Lansing (Kan.) First Southern Baptist Church; Kirra Kelly, an educator and member of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla.; Gary Mathena, a professor and member of First Baptist Church in Roanoke, Va.; Cliff Mayton, senior pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Spring, Texas; Trent Snyder, associate pastor of missions and evangelism of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.; and Brian Zunigha, a campus minister and member of Redeemer Baptist Church in Riverside, Calif.
IMB trustees will meet via video conference Nov. 14 to approve new missionary appointees, with a Livestream Sending Celebration honoring the appointees and their sending churches slated for Nov. 16, at 2 p.m. EST.
The official launch date for the 2017 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is Oct. 1. For more information, go to to find the new resources for your church’s mission offering.
Watch a video from David Platt:

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julie McGowan is Public Relations Manager for the International Mission Board.)

9/15/2017 11:45:18 AM by Julie McGowan, IMB | with 0 comments

As evacuees headed north, Georgia Baptists gave shelter

September 15 2017 by Joe Westbury, Georgia Christian Index

As Hurricane Irma evacuees streamed north, Baptists in Georgia welcomed Floridians fleeing the storm’s looming wrath.
One church even turned some of its 16 acres into a makeshift RV campground.

Photo from Tim Sizemore
Lighthouse Baptist Church at Interstate 75’s Sardis Road exit near Macon, Ga.

At Lighthouse Baptist, just off Interstate 75 in Macon, Ga., pastor Tim Sizemore and church leaders decided they could offer evacuees more than their small sanctuary.
They ran electricity and limited water and septic to the site of Lighthouse’s future growth and converted it into a temporary campground.
When word got out, families with RVs, campers and just cars began pulling into the pastoral setting for rest.
News of the unique venue spread through word of mouth and Facebook, which Sizemore said registered 650 shares, and through the websites of Rehoboth Baptist Association and nearby Robbins Air Force Base. He also occasionally trekked over to the Love’s Truck Stop to invite strangers who looked tired and in need of a place to spend the night.
Lighthouse members provided dinners to the evacuees, “just a traditional Southern Baptist covered dish meal, whatever they have at home or in their freezers ... everything from barbecue to cubed venison,” Sizemore said.
The church coffee shop became a meet-and-greet place for evacuees, with a flat-screen television streaming live coverage of Hurricane Irma’s onslaught on their home state.
One Lighthouse member who operates a bakery provided various food items to the guests while a friend of the church who operates a roastery provided coffee.

Evacuees’ influx into Georgia

Photo from Tim Sizemore
Hurricane Irma evacuees at a temporary RV campground hosted by Lighthouse Baptist Church in Macon, Ga., relax in the church’s coffee shop.

Many of the shelters operated by the Red Cross and by churches were opened along the Interstate 75 corridor which runs up the spine of Georgia from Valdosta to Atlanta; other sites were along the Interstate 16 corridor from Savannah to Macon.
Shelters in Georgia were in high demand due to congested northbound interstate traffic as many weary evacuees were unable to travel as far as they expected. Traffic also forced evacuees to stop for fuel more often than they had planned.
An additional factor: hotels as far north as Atlanta had been sold out for days, so a free cot in a church or school gym seemed like a good deal. Some evacuees were content to stay in a shelter until the storm passed but many wanted to leave the next morning to reach relatives or friends as far north as possible.
CrossPointe Church in Valdosta, one of the first options for evacuees entering Georgia, hosted a Red Cross shelter with full service from the health department, an onsite nurse and 24/7 clinic, security from the sheriff’s office and representatives from the Division of Family and Children Services (DFACS).
“We were unable to have our regular services this morning [Sept. 10] because of all the activity,” pastor David Rogers said, “but what is interesting is last week I began a series on being salt and light in the world. I never expected that we would be called on the very next week to live that out in such a powerful way.
“There has been a lot of gospel sharing going on through a one-to-one basis, even with some of the local Red Cross workers,” Rogers reported.
CrossPointe housed several hundred evacuees in its new building which was dedicated on Easter Sunday. It has a sleeping capacity of 750 through use of its 1,400-seat sanctuary with moveable chairs along with its youth center and other rooms.
Brewton-Parker College located south of I-16 in Mount Vernon, Ga., was an early option for evacuees from coastal Georgia. Within four hours of its noon opening on Sunday, 45 of its 100 beds in Gill Gymnasium were already filled.
The college, which is affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention, welcomed both Florida evacuees and a number of individuals from the local community, since law enforcement agencies in Georgia were encouraging residents in less sturdy dwellings such as manufactured housing to seek better protection from the strong winds and heavy rain.

A long trek

Photo by Ben Crowdis
An evacuee family from coastal Georgia find safe haven from Hurricane Irma at a Red Cross shelter hosted by First Baptist Church in Cuthbert, Ga.

At Iglesia Bautista Hispanoamericana in the Atlanta-area community of Lilburn, more than 100 members of a Savannah congregation under mandatory evacuation orders began arriving in the middle of the night on Thursday. Samuel Rodriguez, pastor of the Savannah congregation – Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana – then received a call in Lilburn about a Florida church with 50 members who were seeking shelter.
The church caravan had fled St. Petersburg and driven to North Carolina seeking shelter but when nothing was found, they drove back down the coast to Savannah. That’s when they searched online for local Hispanic churches and found contact information for the Hispanic church there.
Rolando Ruiz, pastor of the Lilburn congregation, extended a welcome to the group, who then drove another six hours to the church. By the time the caravan arrived, they had been on the road for 24 hours.
The Savannah church had been hosted in Lilburn last October when Hurricane Matthew struck coastal Georgia, with the two pastors, Rodriguez and Ruiz, having a long time ministry relationship.
Further up the state, Beech Haven Baptist Church in Athens opened the doors of its family life center to 73 evacuees. Pastor David Mills said “about 29 are from Primeria Inglesia Bautista Hispano de Indiantown, Fla., a church we visited this summer for a mission trip.”
“An additional 44 are from Inglesia Baustista Latinoamericano from Savannah,” Mills said. “We have the pastor’s son as an intern. This church helped in 2015 with a sports camp here in Athens.”
Near Americus, evacuees found a safe haven at Friendship Camp, a ministry of Friendship Baptist Association, with 125 volunteers and donors providing their time or supplies to keep the camp running.
Camp director Lance Fendley and Friendship director of missions Charles Stoop thanked the association’s churches for preparing and serving meals and for their outpouring of diapers and other resources. Thanks to word of mouth through emergency services and local media, evacuees found their way the 47 miles off I-75 to the camp, which was sheltering 80 evacuees Sunday afternoon, with more arrivals expected.
Evacuees also made their way to First Baptist Church in Cuthbert and its Red Cross shelter at the crossroads of Highway 82, a main evacuation route from the Florida Panhandle, and Highway 27 which runs nearly all the way to Miami.
Evacuees were being housed in the church’s family life center with its 50-cot capacity and two sets of showers. In addition to preparing meals at the church, First Baptist volunteers sent 42 bagged lunches over to the Methodist church which had been called into service to shelter clients moved from a nearby drug rehabilitation center.
Churches in the Laurens Baptist Association, meanwhile, were working with health agencies to support Red Cross shelters for 1,000-plus evacuees at four local schools near the I-16 corridor in Dublin, with the association’s office serving as the collection point for the variety of items needed by evacuees who fled their Florida homes with limited time to pack.
“If the evacuees need it – toothbrush or toothpaste, food, water, pillows or blankets – we sent runners to the location where it is needed,” director of missions Bobby Jones said. The churches and community have been extremely helpful in donating the needed items, he added.
At Arabi Baptist Church, just west of I-75 between Valdosta and Tifton, pastor Johnny Evans said 20 evacuees had been directed to the church for shelter by the Crisp County sheriff’s department and other local law enforcement as they encountered families and individuals needing help.
What is interesting, Evans said, is that last year the church provided solace to a woman fleeing Hurricane Matthew’s storm surge in Savannah. And this year when the warning went out, the first place she thought of was Arabi Baptist Church.
“We’ve adopted her,” Evans said with a smile.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index,, the online news service of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

9/15/2017 11:45:04 AM by Joe Westbury, Georgia Christian Index | with 0 comments

Anthony Jordan to retire after ‘journey of a lifetime’

September 15 2017 by Brian Hobbs, Baptist Messenger

Anthony L. Jordan, who has served as executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) since April 1996, announced Sept. 12 his plans to retire next year.
Jordan’s nearly 22-year tenure stands as the longest of any to hold that role in Oklahoma. He announced his decision to retire during the BGCO Board of Directors meeting.

Contributed photo
Anthony Jordan addresses a packed house at Falls Creek campground and conference center, a 100-year-old ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, from which Jordan is set to retire as executive director.

“This has been the journey of a lifetime,” Jordan shared in his remarks to the board.

“I could never have imagined the remarkable opportunities afforded me in this leadership role,” he said. “Without question, it has been both humbling and exhilarating. Oklahoma Baptists are the finest and most generous people on earth. No man could have a more rewarding experience than to lead such a great people.”
During the meeting, Joe Ligon, pastor of First Baptist Church, Marlow, who serves as the BGCO president, led the board to elect an executive search committee, in accordance with BGCO bylaws, to search for a candidate to fulfill Jordan’s role upon his official retirement on April 15, 2018.
Jordan’s announcement was met with expressions of heaviness of heart from board members, along with words of appreciation for Jordan’s life and work through the years.
“Dr. Jordan is a great friend and a great leader,” Ligon said. “He has led this convention capably, and the Lord has used this amazing servant leader to move Oklahoma Baptists forward in more ways than we can count.
“The gospel has been at the heart of all of Dr. Jordan’s ministry at the BGCO,” he said. “From evangelism to partnership missions to Falls Creek, the gospel is central in Dr. Jordan’s life and work.”
Hance Dilbeck, pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, where Jordan and his wife Polla are members, noted, “Dr. Jordan is a close friend whom I admire greatly. From his passion for reaching the lost, to his passion for protecting the unborn, the effects of his leadership are felt across this state and across the Southern Baptist Convention. Everywhere I go, I continually meet people who say to me, ‘You have a great state convention.’ That’s because of Dr. Jordan’s leadership.”
Dilbeck also pointed to Jordan’s leadership at Falls Creek.
“His legacy, in my mind and in many people’s mind, will be Falls Creek,” he said. “The work at Falls Creek has been phenomenal. The facilities, $60 million plus, that he has raised to bring the facilities to the 21st Century, where we have seen thousands come to Christ and be called to vocational ministry and missions.”
Nick Garland, pastor of First Baptist Church Broken Arrow, said, “Since the day he stepped into this role, my good friend Dr. Jordan has poured his life into Oklahoma Baptists, leading us to be used by God to advance the gospel in this state in mighty ways.
“No one across the Southern Baptist Convention has provided such consistent leadership as he has,” Garland said. “He is a man of deep prayer who has a passionate heart for the people of Oklahoma. As his friend, I have been honored and humbled to spend time with him often, as we seek to serve advance God’s Kingdom in this state and throughout the world. I want to congratulate him and Polla on this forthcoming retirement and tell them how much we will miss his leadership as executive director.”

Anthony Jordan

Kevin Baker, pastor of Martha Road Baptist Church, Altus, said, “Dr. Jordan cares deeply about every church, regardless of location and size, in this state. His love for God’s Word, for evangelism and for the local church have had a major impact on my life and the life of our church family in Altus.”
Board members spent time in prayer for Jordan, and numerous others in attendance voiced thanks to God for Jordan.
Jordan expressed gratitude to those he has served through the years. “Our staff is the finest to be found among state conventions in the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said. “We are blessed with wise leaders and board members, and this convention is unified and focused. We enjoy a relationship between the convention and her affiliate entities that is unexcelled in the Southern Baptist Convention, and is built on the foundation of a mutual mission and by an inseparable bond of trust.
“God has providentially guided this great convention throughout our 111-year history,” he said. “He holds us in the palms of His hands. I have no doubt God has been preparing a man to step into this role and to lead us to greater heights of missions and ministry than ever before. I join you in praying for God to reveal to us that person. Thank you for your support through the years and for giving me this remarkable privilege of serving Oklahoma Baptists.”
Prior to his election as executive director-treasurer of the BGCO, Jordan had served as a pastor for more than 28 years in Oklahoma and other states. He had served in numerous leadership roles in Missouri, Oklahoma and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In Missouri, he served on the Resolutions Committee, the Board of Trustees of Southwest Baptist University, and the Board of Managers, Missouri Baptist Children’s Home.
Area-wide, he chaired the Oklahoma City Crisis Pregnancy Board and the Oklahoma City ACTS Board. BGCO committees and boards he has served include the Resolutions Committee, the Program Committee, the Board of Directors, and the Strategic Planning Committee; he chaired the Rally for Life Committee, the Nominating Committee, the Administrative Committee, the Board Restructuring Study Committee and the Crisis Pregnancy Task Force.
Jordan was elected to serve on the SBC Executive Committee and the SBC Resolutions Committee, and he chaired the SBC Committee on Committees (1996). Elected offices he has fulfilled in Oklahoma include president, Oklahoma Alumni, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1984; president, Oklahoma Baptist Pastors Conference, 1987; first vice president, BGCO, 1988-90; and president, BGCO, 1990-92.
Jordan served on the SBC’s Task Force on Cooperation and the SBC’s Encouraging Kingdom Growth Committee. He chaired the Faith Sector for the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative; the Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee (1998, SBC); and the SBC Stewardship/Cooperative Program Ad Hoc Committee (2004-06). In 2007 he served as president of the Southern Baptist Association of State Convention Executive Directors.
Jordan is a graduate of Southwest Baptist University, where he gained the bachelor of arts degree. He earned master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
In 2010, Jordan was presented with an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU). He also has been the recipient of numerous other awards, including a distinguished alumni award from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the Spirit Award from Oklahoma Prison & Jail Ministries.
On Sept. 3, OBU also presented Jordan with the Herschel H. Hobbs Award for Distinguished Denominational Service during the Falls Creek 100th anniversary celebration in Davis, Okla. OBU President David W. Whitlock presented the award.
During the 2017 BGCO Annual Meeting, on Monday evening, November 13, a special reception will be held to recognize Jordan and as a fellowship for Oklahoma Baptists. A special retirement celebration event to take place sometime in 2018 will be announced in the near future.
Jordan and his wife, Polla, have a son, Adrian, and daughter, Alisha, and one grandchild.
The elected executive search committee members include: Nick Garland, chairman, pastor of First Baptist Church, Broken Arrow; Kevin Baker, pastor of Martha Road Baptist Church, Altus; Blake Gideon, pastor of First Baptist Church, Edmond; Shane Hall, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City; Mike Keahbone, pastor of Cherokee Hills Baptist Church, Oklahoma City; Rusty McMullen, pastor of First Baptist Church, Sayre; and Doug Melton, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. BGCO President Joe Ligon, pastor of First Baptist Church, Marlow, serves as ex officio on all BGCO convention committees.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Hobbs is editor of The Baptist Messenger,, news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and communications director of the BGCO.)

9/15/2017 11:44:47 AM by Brian Hobbs, Baptist Messenger | with 0 comments

Harvey-battered churches sue for FEMA funds

September 15 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Three small churches damaged in Hurricane Harvey’s unprecedented Texas deluge are jointly suing a U.S. government agency for access to public recovery funds.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) religiously discriminates against churches by preventing them from seeking disaster recovery funding available to other nonprofits, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty alleges in the suit filed Sept. 5 in Houston federal court.

Contributed photo
Damaged in Hurricane Harvey, Rockport First Assembly of God in Rockport, Texas is one of three churches suing the Federal Emergency Management Agency for access to government funds for disaster relief.

The churches, Rockport First Assembly of God in Rockport, and Houston-area Harvest Family Church and Hi-Way Tabernacle, augment their case with a June U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming a church’s right to participate in generally available programs on equal footing with secular organizations. None of the churches are Southern Baptist.
FEMA summarily bars churches from seeking emergency aid because churches primarily use their buildings for religious purposes, Becket said in its press release announcing the case.
“FEMA’s policy violates the Constitution, as the Supreme Court recently ruled 7-2 in Trinity Lutheran,” the law firm said.
In Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, the court said Missouri violated the church’s right to exercise its faith freely by barring it from participating in a government-run, playground resurfacing program. The exclusion “from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious” to the U.S. Constitution, the court said in its June 26 opinion.
President Donald Trump supported the Texas churches’ case in a Sept. 8 tweet. “Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others),” the president tweeted.
FEMA regularly uses houses of worship as relief shelters as it used Hi-Way Tabernacle after Harvey, Becket said. Three feet of flood water accumulated in Hi-Way Tabernacle’s sanctuary.
“After the costliest and most devastating natural disaster in U.S. history, the government should come to the aid of all, not leave important parts of the community underwater,” Becket counsel Diana Verm said in the release. “Hurricane Harvey didn’t cherry-pick its victims; FEMA shouldn’t cherry-pick who it helps.”
Repeatedly, FEMA has denied aid to houses of worship after such disasters as 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy in 2012, turning down a Jewish Chabad, a homeless shelter church ministry and a Unitarian Universalist congregation, the law firm said.
“Houses of worship are playing a vital role in helping Texans recover from this horrible storm,” Verm said. “It’s time for FEMA to start helping the helpers, not continue a policy of irrational discrimination against churches.”
The suit, Harvest Family Church v. Federal Emergency Management Agency, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Becket describes itself as a non-profit, public-interest legal and educational institute working “to defend the free exercise of all faiths, from Anglican to Zoroastrian.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

9/15/2017 11:44:12 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

LifeWay, Gaines partner to create prayer resource

September 15 2017 by Joy Allmond, LifeWay Christian Resources

LifeWay Christian Resources has partnered with Southern Baptist Convention president Steve Gaines to create a six-session Bible study, Pray Like This: Living the Lord’s Prayer, scheduled for release Oct. 1.

This Bible study is designed to bring a deep understanding of the text, theology and application of the Lord’s Prayer. It is a follow-up to the SBC’s 2017 annual meeting, themed “Pray! For Such a Time as This.”
“Nothing is more vital to the advancement of the gospel than rallying God’s people to pray,” said Gaines, who served as general editor of the study. “Prayer changes everything. When we pray, God does things that He would not have done had we not prayed. When God’s people agree in prayer ... there is spiritual synergy. The power of our prayers multiplies exponentially.”
Small groups or individuals will see video interview segments with leaders like J.D. Greear, Kelly Minter, H.B. Charles, Ronnie Floyd, Lisa Harper and Robby Gallaty.
Participants will walk through Jesus’ model prayer from Matthew 6 and will have personal study aids to help them dive deeper into the scriptures and understand the importance of prayer. The study will also cover critical prayer topics, such as intercession, praise, confession and spiritual warfare and will emphasize recognition of God as Father and Provider.
Greear, one of the featured leaders in the series of videos, said it is especially important for the church to be in prayer now.
“Prayer has preceded every great move of God in history,” said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh/Durham, N.C. “Of Acts’ 28 chapters, we find the church praying corporately in 26 (of the chapters). If we want power like theirs, we need prayer like theirs. Prayer doesn’t bring the awakening – it is the awakening.”
Pastor and contributor H.B. Charles said he believes Pray Like This is an important resource for churches and Bible study groups.
“It is both biblical – focusing on the Lord’s Prayer – and practical,” said Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. “It does not merely teach what prayer is. It motivates us to pray!”
Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., said he hopes to see a movement of God reminiscent of that in the early church.
“What would happen if Christians across America and around the world became committed to prayer?” he asked. “Only God knows, but I believe it would be similar to what happened in the Book of Acts. May God use Pray Like This: Living the Lord’s Prayer to such a glorious end, and may it serve as a catalyst for spiritual awakening in our day!”
For more information, or to pre-order the leader kit and Bible study book, visit
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joy Allmond is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

9/15/2017 11:43:55 AM by Joy Allmond, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Edith Windsor, same-sex marriage pioneer, dies at 88

September 15 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Edith Windsor, a homosexual rights activist whose lawsuit prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), died Sept. 12 in New York. She was 88.
The Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in U.S. v. Windsor granted states the ability to legalize same-sex marriage and paved the way for nationwide legalization of the practice two years later in Obergefell v. Hodges. A National Public Radio (NPR) obituary called Windsor, whose cause of death has not been announced, “an octogenarian rock star in the gay rights community.”

Screen capture from CNN
Edith Windsor

Among homosexual rights advocates to mourn her death on Twitter were Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama, who said in a statement he spoke with Windsor “a few days” before her death “to tell her one more time what a difference she made to this country.”
Windsor emerged in the national spotlight after her 40-year same-sex partner Thea Spyer, who had legally married Windsor in Canada, died in 2009 and Windsor inherited her estate. Because U.S. law only exempted married heterosexual spouses from estate taxes, Windsor had to pay more than $363,000 in taxes, The New York Times reported.
She sued, and the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately sided with her, holding by a 5-4 majority that DOMA violated “equal protection” under the Constitution by refusing to recognize same-sex marriages. The ruling granted same-sex couples tax and other benefits previously limited to marriages between a man and a woman.
Though the decision did not assert a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, evangelicals said it was “wrong” and a “subversion” of marriage.
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore said at the time, “Same-sex marriage is headed for your community. This is no time for fear or outrage or politicizing. It’s a time for forgiven sinners, like us, to do what the people of Christ have always done. It’s time for us to point beyond our family values and our culture wars to the cross of Christ as we say: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’”
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. told CNN the ruling marked a “stand-out, red-letter” day in American constitutional history.
The decision, Mohler predicted, “will be very devastating for our country for the long term, because what it means is the inevitable marginalization of marriage and the subversion of the most essential institution of human existence.”
Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank S. Page called the ruling “a wrong decision with far-reaching moral and religious liberty implications.”
Born in 1929, Windsor – her married name from a brief heterosexual marriage – held a master’s degree in applied mathematics from New York University and worked as a computer programmer at IBM from 1958-1975. She then became a homosexual-rights activist.
Windsor once told NPR “marriage is this magic thing” in the battle for homosexual rights. “I mean, forget all the financial stuff. Marriage ... symbolizes commitment and love like nothing else in the world.”
She is survived by her second same-sex spouse Judith Kasen-Windsor.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

9/15/2017 11:43:33 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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