September 2018

N.C. churches helping, healing after hurricane

September 25 2018 by Biblical Recorder Staff

In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, many Baptist churches across North Carolina are discovering ways to serve their neighbors, even as they work to mend damage to their own homes and church buildings.
 

Facebook photo from Vertical Church
Vertical Church's Lumberton, N.C., campus was inundated with 30 inches of floodwater during Hurricane Florence, just one month after the congregation launched services in the newly renovated facility.

Temple Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., plans to use their facility as a collection site for disaster relief supplies, including food, clothing, baby care items, cleaning products and hygiene kits.
 
The effort, called “Operation Healing,” was set in motion by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, according to Kelly Bullard, pastor of Temple Baptist.
 
Todd Lamphere, pastor of global outreach for Paula White Ministries and liaison for the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, told the Biblical Recorder that Temple Baptist was “strategically located” and would become a hub where churches could receive supplies to distribute to their congregants.
 
“Pastor Kelly Bullard and Temple Baptist Church have teamed up with sister churches in the New South River Baptist Association to bring help and healing to hurting communities affected by Hurricane Florence,” Lamphere said.
 
“In the midst of their own struggles, they are reaching out to provide food, baby supplies and personal hygiene to families in need.”
 
Bullard is currently asking churches to collect items and recruit volunteers. The site will receive donated items from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on the following days: Sept. 26-28 and Oct. 1-5. Churches can call 910-485-8791 to coordinate supply drop-offs and schedule times for volunteer teams to serve.
 
Temple Baptist had previously scheduled a Christian music festival called “NextFest” to take place Oct. 6, but organizers have since revised the plan to use the time to collect items for Operation Healing. Churches and families can drop off supplies that day from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Lunch and dinner will be available for purchase, with all proceeds going to disaster relief efforts. In addition, there will be kids activities, a blood drive and serving opportunities to pack hygiene and cleaning kits.
 
Vertical Church, across its three locations in Pembroke, Lumberton and Elizabethtown, is serving nearby communities and recovering from complete inundation at one of its campuses.
 
Mike Pittman, pastor of Vertical Church, said the Lumberton campus launched services in its new facility only a month before it took on 30 inches of floodwater during Hurricane Florence.
 
Despite the extensive flooding at that location, Pittman said the vast majority of church members received little damage to their homes and were eager to help their neighbors.
 
“I'm so proud of our people,” he told the Recorder. “Everybody has some sort of damage – little things. But so many of them said we’ll take care of that later, let’s serve.”
 
Pittman described area residents as traumatized. Hurricane Matthew brought widespread flooding to the area in 2016, and many families still haven’t fully recovered.
 
“People are asking, ‘How can this happen twice, two-years apart?’” he said, but described the situation as an opportunity for churches to help.
 
Vertical Church’s campus in Elizabethtown – a former car dealership with multiple loading bays – is being used as a collection and distribution site for supplies, as well as a hub for multiple disaster relief organizations.
 
“We’re just trying to bring stability to this community,” Pittman said. “It’s a shining moment where people really see the value of God's church.”
 
Phil Addison, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Bunnlevel, said the church building sustained minor roof and water damage during Hurricane Florence, but he has been coordinating relief efforts in his region.
 
Addison, who is also a local firefighter, and members of Friendship Baptist have been working with the Little River Baptist Association, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Baptists on Mission (also called North Carolina Baptist Men) and other organizations to serve nearby residents.
 
“You know those things in life that just happen, and you go with it?” he said. “Everybody at church has this attitude. We didn’t sit down and look at the budget and weigh the costs. It has literally been, ‘This is the cost and what we’re supposed to be doing. OK preacher, what do we do next?’”
 
The church’s property has served as a FEMA registration site and hub for recovery teams, in addition to hosting meal preparation and distribution efforts.
 
Addison said Little River’s associational leader, Marty Dupree, has been a “vital resource” in coordinating disaster relief aid.
 
“The teamwork of churches makes it happen,” he said.
 
The Recorder has received additional reports from churches in North Carolina. This story will be updated as more information becomes available. Email editor@brnow.org with news and story tips.

9/25/2018 3:05:15 PM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments



Parrott to be nominated as Pastors’ Conference president

September 25 2018 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Ronnie Parrott, lead pastor of Christ Community Church in Huntersville, N.C., will be nominated for the 2020 N.C. Pastors’ Conference president when the group meets in Greensboro’s Koury Convention Center, November 4-5.
 

“Ronnie represents the best of this young generation of leaders and will make a significant contribution to move our state convention forward,” said Clay Smith, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Matthews. “I trust his judgment to recruit quality preachers that will speak to the unique challenges of North Carolina pastors and wholeheartedly look forward to nominating him to serve as our future Pastors’ Conference president.”
 
Before coming to Christ Community Church in December 2016, Parrott served seven years as an executive leader with pastor Ronnie Floyd at Cross Church in Springdale, Arkansas, during Floyd’s two terms as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He previously held a variety of church staff roles, including one at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.
 
Smith said Parrott “played a key role in helping to execute the national annual meeting focusing on prayer, evangelism and revival,” when he worked with Floyd.
 
Parrott, 37, is a graduate of Boyce College and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., earning the masters of divinity degree in Great Commission studies and doctor of ministry in Executive Leadership.
 
Christ Community Church has an average worship attendance of 575 people. Parrott told the Biblical Recorder he has worked to strengthen the church’s partnership with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, significantly increasing Cooperative Program giving from $2,792 in 2016 to $10,000 in 2018. The church has baptized 49 people in his 22 months as pastor.
 
A statement from the church said Parrott “has a heart for multiplication that results in churches revitalized and planted. He’s committed to praying for God to awaken our churches to share the gospel and win souls for the name of Jesus Christ.”
 
“Ronnie has a heart for local church pastors,” Smith added, “and has served with me to initiate a relational network of young pastors in the Charlotte area.”
 
Parrott is the first announced candidate for president of the 2020 N.C. Pastors’ Conference.

9/25/2018 12:23:46 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Family ‘prosperity gospel’ addressed in Moore’s book

September 25 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Russell Moore decided to add to the many books on the family after he realized many Christians have adopted a version of the prosperity gospel when it comes to such issues as marriage and parenting.
 

The author of the new book The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home told Baptist Press (BP) he recognized a “common theme” in his conversations with people in different states of family crisis. In part, “many Christians have an implicit ‘prosperity gospel’ when it comes to the family,” said Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
 
“We falsely believe if we love Jesus and we follow the right steps that we will have nothing but peace and tranquility in family relationships,” Moore said in a Sept. 19 interview with Baptist Press. “That misunderstands what the Bible teaches about the family as an arena of spiritual warfare.”
 
It is a reason why, “when people are facing difficulties, they sometimes withdraw and assume that means that something is wrong with them rather than seeking the rest of the community of the body of Christ,” he said.
 
The Storm-Tossed Family, released Sept. 15 by B&H Publishing Group, offers guidance on the family in the context of the atoning death of Jesus, spiritual warfare and the church, while it addresses the topics of marriage, sexuality, divorce, children, parenting, household tensions and aging.
 
In the book, Moore writes the family comes with a “unique mixture  ...  of joy and terror, of beauty and brokenness.”
 
“The cross shows us how we can find beauty and brokenness, justice and mercy, peace and wrath, all in the same place,” he writes. “The pattern of the Christian life is crucified glory – this is as true for our lives in our families as in everything else.”
 
Moore told BP, “[I]t seems that every aspect of family life is ultimately humiliating in the sense that it tends to bring us to the end of our resources where we really need the Spirit, we need the church. And I think that’s intentional, and I think that as people of the cross we ought to see that God’s glory often shows up in places that seem to be the most difficult and broken.”
 
In the book, he writes, “The family is one of the pictures of the gospel that God has embedded in the world around us. Through a really dark glass, we can see flashes in the family of something at the core of the universe itself, of the Fatherhood of God, of the communion of a people with one another.”
 
It is not accidental that Satan “seeks, in every generation, to disrupt the peace of the marriage covenant, of the integrity of the sexual union, of the parent/child bond, of the unity of the church as the household of God,” he writes. “Family is spiritual warfare.
 
“Family humbles us,” Moore writes. “Family humiliates us. Family crucifies us. That’s because family is one of the ways God gets us small enough to fight the sort of battle that can’t be won by horses or chariots but by the Spirit of the Lord.”
 
Christians must realize family is important but not pre-eminent, Moore says.
 
In his interview with BP, Moore said, “[W]e can love the family best when the family is second in our priorities. If we seek first the kingdom, then we don’t see our families as some ultimate expressions of ourselves, which means that we cannot pin all of our hopes and expectations on the family, which only leads to disappointment.
 
“I will often find husbands or wives, for instance, who are resentful of their spouses because they’re expecting a soul mate who can meet every expectation of their entire lives. That’s a ruinous path,” he told BP. “And I’ve seen many homes where parents have pinned all of their sense of the future on their children as being successes in the world or as valedictorians of their class ...  which also leads to disappointment on the part of the parents and often resentment on the part of the children.
 
“But if we know that Jesus has a kingdom waiting for us and my entire life is not dependent on having a picture-perfect presentation of my family, then I’m able to really love my family in all of its reality.”
 
The church is vital in considering the family, Moore writes in the book.
 
“The church is not a collection of families,” he writes. “The church is a family.
 
“That means no Christian lives alone, and no Christian dies alone. There’s no such thing as a ‘single’ Christian.”
 
Moore writes, “We must recognize the joys and responsibilities that come with being part of a family formed not by the blood of biology but the blood of crucifixion.”
 
He told BP, “The Bible speaks of the church as the household of God and speaks of our places in the church as being that of brothers and sisters and even spiritual fathers and mothers within the church. That sort of kinship and family is a counter-cultural act that really reveals the beauty and the newness of the gospel.”
 
It is “counter-productive” for Christians to be only with people who are in the same demographic or life season, and the church can help avoid that mistake, Moore said.
 
“We need people older than we are to help shepherd us through life changes that we don’t even see coming,” he said. “And we need to be pouring our lives out on those who are younger who will be facing issues they can’t see around the bend right now.”
 
The Storm-Tossed Family is available at LifeWay Christian Stores, among other booksellers, and Amazon.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/25/2018 12:23:27 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Vermont’s 251 townships get NEBC’s attentiveness

September 25 2018 by Northeastern Baptist College Staff

“I’ve never seen anything like that before!” a man with two friends exclaimed. While students from Northeastern Baptist College (NEBC) washed their car, the men watched as Mark Ballard, NEBC’s founding president, used an EvangeCube to share the gospel.
 

Photo submitted
Mark Ballard (second from right) joins a team from Northeastern Baptist College in a car wash as part of an outreach to Vermont's 251 townships. Ballard, NEBC's founding president, already has visited each township since the college's founding in 2013.

Using the small cube’s pictorial storytelling, Ballard explained Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. As the conversation unfolded, Ballard realized that the man had never heard the gospel.
 
The conversation occurred in a typical Vermont town in mid-September. Ironically, the town is just five miles north of the “Haystack Prayer Meeting” site where, in the midst of a rainstorm and a citywide spiritual awakening in 1806, five college students birthed the American foreign missions movement.
 
Today, Vermont is one of the least churched states in the U.S. where many adults have never heard a simple gospel presentation.
 
For Northeastern Baptist College, the car wash was part of its 251 Club outreach to Vermonters.
 
College librarian Jim Mancuso explained, “Vermont has 251 townships. One can join Vermont’s 251 Club and receive a certificate after visiting all 251 towns.” Mancuso and Ballard each have earned 251 Club certificates.
 
When Northeastern Baptist College launched in 2013, the college formed its own 251 Club. “From the first chapel service onward, we highlighted a different town,” Ballard recounted. “We checked websites and made phone calls. We discovered whether or not the towns had any gospel-preaching churches. Many towns had none. Upon finding a gospel-preaching church, we prayed for its witness. In five years we prayed through the entire state, one town per chapel.”
 
With the 2018 fall semester, NEBC has expanded its 251 Club initiative – “we’re adding shoe leather to our prayers,” Ballard said.
 
Each week, he said, “We learn about a town’s history, something interesting in the town, and we pray for the salvation of the lost and the revival of the saved. Each Friday afternoon, some NEBC students, staff and faculty visit the town.”
 
Lee Williams, NEBC academic vice president, said, “When there’s a Great Commission church, we help with an outreach project – for example, a free car wash. While some wash cars, others make friends and start conversations.”
 
When washing cars, they refuse all donations. “Most are surprised,” admissions director Joe Ferguson said. “We say, ‘We’re illustrating a fact: the greatest thing in life is free. May I tell you about it?’ If they agree, we share the gospel. It’s fun. Most are willing to listen.”
 
A team of 11 from NEBC went to a town of just over 800 in early September. “We were unable to identify a gospel-preaching church,” Ballard said. “We couldn’t assist with an outreach project, but we could prayer walk through three neighborhoods. After our prayer walks, we gathered at the town’s general store. An employee gave a short talk about the town’s history and answered questions. The conversation led into a gospel presentation. Curious workers and customers paused to listen; two listened the entire time. Other gospel conversations developed naturally.”
 
“The 251 Club is one way NEBC helps students integrate classroom learning with life experience,” Timothy K. Christian, professor of theology and director of communications, noted in an NEBC news release. “In the classroom, students develop a ‘Scholar’s Mind.’ Through special events like 251 Club evangelism projects, they cultivate a ‘Shepherd’s Heart.’ Ultimately, they gain a ‘Soldier’s Perseverance,’” he said, citing the college’s key aims.
 
Northeastern Baptist College in Bennington, Vt., now has an enrollment of 45 students, having earned Vermont accreditation and degree-granting authority from the State Board of Education in a unanimous vote in 2014. The college offers four bachelor’s degrees – in biblical studies, music, Christian counseling and business – and three associate’s degrees.

9/25/2018 12:23:11 PM by Northeastern Baptist College Staff | with 0 comments



Boy’s ‘miraculous’ survival prompts gospel witness

September 25 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Xavier Cunningham, 10, was climbing into a treehouse when he encountered a massive wasp nest. As he tried to swat a wasp away, he lost his balance, fell to the ground face-first and impaled his head on a foot-long meat skewer he and his friends had found and stuck in the ground.
 

Screen capture from USA Today
Xavier Cunningham, 10, fell from a tree house onto a meat skewer, which pierced his face, traveled into his skull and penetrated to the back of his head.

The next two days brought brushes with death and a survival story one neurosurgeon called “miraculous.”
 
The rural congregation where Cunningham and his family worship – The Church at Pleasant Ridge in Harrisonville, Mo. – says God’s supernatural protection and the international media coverage it drew spawned opportunities for worship and evangelism.
 
A “Miracle Sunday” service at the church Sept. 23 drew nearly 150 attendees for a gospel presentation and testimonies by Cunningham’s family. At least two dozen people prayed at the altar for the miracle of a loved one’s salvation. The service also included a written message from Missouri Gov. Mike Parson celebrating God’s work to save Cunningham’s life.
 
The service focused “not on the miracle, but the God of the miracle,” Malachi O’Brien, pastor of The Church at Pleasant Ridge, told Baptist Press. Miracle Sunday was an opportunity to share Christ with “people that wouldn’t normally come to church. But because of the viralness of the story and the globalness of the story,” they were willing to attend.
 
In addition to the special service, O’Brien, a former Southern Baptist Convention second vice president, has used Cunningham’s story at least a dozen times as a springboard to evangelism in personal conversations.
 
Following Cunningham’s Sept. 8 accident, he was rushed to a local hospital and eventually found himself at the University of Kansas hospital in Kansas City, Kan. The skewer had pierced his face, traveled into his skull and penetrated to the back of his head.
 
Doctors determined the skewer had spared Cunningham’s eye, brain and spinal cord along with all major arteries. It had punctured one of Cunningham’s jugular veins, but it had sealed off the wound and kept him from bleeding, according to media reports. With Cunningham’s agreement, the medical team decided to wait until the next morning to remove the skewer.
 
That made for a difficult night, The Washington Post reported, as Cunningham awoke multiple times, asking, “Am I dead? Am I still alive?”
 
Meanwhile, O’Brien and other members of The Church at Pleasant Ridge prayed with the family and asked other believers around the world to join them in prayer.
 

Screen capture from USA Today
Xavier Cunningham, 10, has been the subject of international media coverage since surviving a serious head injury Sept. 8.

The next day, surgeons removed the skewer without causing any additional damage and predicted a complete or nearly complete recovery, according to media reports. Two weeks later, Cunningham “was running around after church,” O’Brien said.
 
University of Kansas neurosurgeon Koji Ebersole told The Kansas City Star the skewer’s placement was “miraculous.”
 
“You couldn’t draw it up any better,” Ebersole said. “It was one in a million for it to pass five or six inches through the front of the face to the back and not have hit” any major organs.
 
In addition to The Post, numerous media outlets have picked up the story, including CNN, The New York Times, NBC News and the BBC.
 
O’Brien agrees Cunningham’s survival was both miraculous and newsworthy.
 
“A miracle is when God does something, whether it’s big or small, that something inside us knows ... there’s nothing that can explain what happened apart from God Himself,” O’Brien said.
 
Miracles “happen every day,” O’Brien said. “The reason we don’t see them is God usually encounters us at the level of our expectation. If we don’t really expect Him to do miracles, then we probably shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t see Him do the miraculous.”
 
O’Brien stressed that God is all-wise and does not always grant believers’ requests for miracles, even when those requests are made in faith. But when He does, it should be an occasion for pointing to Jesus and His miraculous saving power.
 
“The miracles are great,” O’Brien said. “But the greatest miracle is the gospel that can transform lives.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/25/2018 12:22:43 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Greear’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Study underway

September 24 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President J.D. Greear’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Study is now “actively involved” in phase one of its two-year process, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission announced Sept. 19 following appropriation of $250,000 for the study by the SBC Executive Committee (EC).
 

Photo by Morris Abernathy
SBC President J.D. Greear's Sexual Abuse Advisory Study is now "actively involved" in phase one of its two-year process, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission announced following appropriation of $250,000 for the study by the SBC Executive Committee.

The study will receive the first $250,000 of overage for the 2017-2018 Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget, according to a Sept. 18 EC vote. Expenditures for the study will be administered by the ERLC, a partner with Greear in the initiative, and reimbursed by the EC on a quarterly basis.
 
The budgeted goal of $192 million for the SBC portion of the CP allocation budget was surpassed Sept. 21 and the first $250,000 overage will be available for distribution beginning next week, said Bill Townes, EC vice president for convention finance.
 
ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press in written comments, “It was a joy to see on display this week at Executive Committee meetings such generosity and unity in mission. I am deeply thankful that the SBC Executive Committee showed their commitment to the Sexual Abuse Advisory Study by providing these resources.
 
“Southern Baptists have made it clear that we must address this crisis with the gospel and for the sake of the gospel,” Moore said. “And these funds will make it possible for this study group to provide the very best resources and recommendations possible for our churches. I’m thankful for the opportunity to partner with this study group in order to serve our churches every way possible.”
 
ERLC executive vice president Phillip Bethancourt wrote in a Sept. 19 update on the ERLC website, “The study group is already actively involved in the assessment phase. The purpose of this phase is to review existing organizations, strategies, experts, and resources in order to better understand the landscape of needs and opportunities when it comes to sexual abuse.”
 
Next, the “development phase” will “develop recommendations, resources, strategies, and partnerships that will address the needs and opportunities that have been identified.” Then an “implementation phase” will “launch a wide-scale, comprehensive effort to educate, saturate, and motivate Southern Baptist churches, entities, and leaders to embrace and incorporate the recommendations and findings of the study group,” Bethancourt wrote.
 
Unlike previous task forces in SBC life, the Sexual Abuse Advisory Study will not be limited to one “representative group of leaders and experts,” Bethancourt wrote. Rather, the study will comprise “a constellation of various work groups specializing in particular areas like orbits in a solar system. As the study group progresses, various orbits will be identified and addressed such as resources, church-based strategies, seminary and higher education, state convention and association initiatives, and more.”
 
One “orbit” in the study, Bethancourt wrote, will involve “a collaborative effort among the [six SBC] seminaries in order to identify common principles and outcomes that can be appropriately implemented in each unique seminary context.”
 
EC interim president D. August Boto thanked CP-funded convention entities for sacrificing funds for the study and non-CP-funded entities for “offering to contribute needed support and resources.”
 
“Of course, behind the national ministry demonstration of willingness is the fact that the funding originates at the local church level where believers contribute their tithes and offerings, and then vote to support ministry through the Cooperative Program,” Boto said in written comments. “In other words, this effort is truly one supported by all Southern Baptists.
 
“Joining together sacrificially, collaboratively and voluntarily to address evil, human failure and the consequences of sin is a Southern Baptist characteristic,” Boto said. “More importantly, it is biblical (as passages such as Matthew 22:36-40 and John 4:23-24 indicate) and as ‘people of the Book,’ Southern Baptists can do no less.”
 
Questions, comments and suggestions regarding the study can be emailed to studygroup@erlc.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/24/2018 11:26:38 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



LifeWay workers ‘fine’ after bullet destroys window

September 24 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

“Employees are fine” after a bullet destroyed a fifth-floor window at LifeWay Christian Resources’ downtown Nashville complex, company spokesperson Carol Pipes told Baptist Press.
 

LifeWay photo
No employees were injured when a bullet of unknown origin shattered a large fifth-floor window Sept. 20 at LifeWay Christian Resources' new downtown Nashville complex.

“We’re just really thankful no one was hurt,” said Pipes, LifeWay director of corporate communications, who noted police are investigating the incident. The window, destroyed by the shot, is nearly level to nearby Interstates 40 and 65.
 
LifeWay President Thom Rainer praised employees Sept. 21 for their response to the event.
 
“Our employees were naturally shaken by the event, but many continued to work in the office while others exercised the flexibility to work off-site the rest of the day,” Rainer said. “I am always amazed at the resilience of our employees. We are certainly thankful for God’s grace and protection.”
 
Employees were informed of the incident in an email, Pipes said, after police were called to the office at 11:45 a.m. Thursday (Sept. 20).
 
According to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department’s incident report, a LifeWay employee called police and said he heard a “loud pop” coming from outside the building. “When he walked to the window he noticed a bullet hole in the window and the remains of that bullet resting on the ground beside a filing cabinet,” the report said.
 
“He stated that no one working in the office at this time was injured,” investigating officers wrote, “nor did anyone see who was responsible for the damage.” No other areas of the building were damaged and no injuries were discovered, police said. The remains of the bullet were collected as evidence.
 
No hate crime, terrorism nor gang activity is suspected, police said, but no suspect has been named. The large glass window had an estimated value of $5,000.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/24/2018 11:26:21 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



FBC Woodstock looks to Morton as Hunt successor

September 24 2018 by Christian Index, LifeWay & Baptist Press Staff

Members of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., voted overwhelmingly Sept. 16 for Atlanta-area pastor Jeremy Morton to serve alongside Johnny Hunt as co-pastor.
 

Jeremy Morton

Morton, 37, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Cartersville, preached in both Sunday morning services Sept. 16 in view of a call to serve alongside Hunt, who has been named as senior vice president for evangelism and leadership for the North American Mission Board.
 
“Jeremy will ultimately become the senior pastor,” according to an FBC Woodstock news release, “but not until he and Pastor Johnny feel the timing is best for the church.”
 
“Since I was a teen pastor Johnny Hunt has been one of my heroes,” Morton told The Christian Index of the Georgia Baptist Convention. “Now, to work at his side as co-pastor is an honor more meaningful than I can describe.”
 
Hunt, in praying through the time of transition, said, “I asked the Lord to show me His man. I feel that Jeremy fits every quality I felt needed to lead FBCW to its best days. He’s a great family man, a great Bible preacher, a personal soul-winner, and tremendous at building relationships with God’s people.
 
“I’m elated that he will pastor my children, grandchildren and my wife Janet and me,” Hunt, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said.
 
Morton, a native of Warner Robins, Ga., has led First Baptist Church in Cartersville the past five years, previously serving 13 years as the founding pastor/church planter of Cross Point Baptist Church in the central Georgia town of Perry. A graduate of Brewton-Parker College in Mt. Vernon, Ga., and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Morton is currently working on his doctor of ministry degree in expository preaching through Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.
 
He and his wife Carrie have three children, Zeke, Madie and Abe.
 
Since Hunt arrived at FBC Woodstock in 1986, worship attendance has grown from 200 to more than 6,000 and small group attendance has grown from 100 on Sundays to more than 5,500 weekly. In missions, under Hunt’s leadership First Baptist has planted 130 churches, taken hundreds of members on short-term mission trips annually, and supported 45 families commissioned from its congregation. This year the church reported giving $2.1 million toward missions causes.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston from reporting by Scott Barkley of The Christian Index of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/24/2018 11:25:54 AM by Christian Index, LifeWay & Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments



Rainer, at MBTS, assesses SBC & church transition

September 24 2018 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

Hopefulness for the future of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in a season of denominational transition was voiced by Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, in a discussion Sept. 19 with Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS).
 

MBTS photo
Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, interacts with Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Seminary, during a discussion titled “The State of the SBC” on Sept. 19.

Titled “The State of the SBC,” the discussion during Midwestern’s chapel hour focused on the many significant changes facing the denomination. Among these is the need to fill four entity leadership positions within the SBC and to address a generational transition as well.
 
Rainer, who announced Aug. 28 his impending retirement from LifeWay, said while presidential vacancies are significant at the SBC Executive Committee, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, International Mission Board and LifeWay, there’s also a great transition at the local church level.
 
“We are in disruption due to massive transition in denominational leadership, but we’re also in disruption because of local church struggles,” Rainer said. “In the history of our denomination, by any metric, everything we see in the numbers tells us that we’re in a massive transition time at the local church level as well. Sixty-five percent of our churches are declining and 90 percent of our churches are in need of significant revitalization.”
 
Rainer warned that an inward focus and lack of outward focus is causing dissension at the local church level in many places.
 
“We’re fighting over so many things at the denominational level, and that is a reflection of what’s happening at the local congregational level. We’re spending our resources inwardly in dissension instead of outwardly in the community, and we’re missing the idea of thinking, ‘What can I do for the Kingdom?’”
 
Asked what his biggest concerns are for the SBC in 2018, Rainer bluntly stated that the denomination is no longer primarily a Great Commission organization and has lost its first love – Christ and sharing Him.
 
He noted that this answer didn’t come without personal accountability as well. “This is a reflection on me and all of our leaders. I frequently ask myself how often, during the course of a week, I am intentionally and prayerfully seeking to share the gospel. I can point to a few times when I am, but I can point to a lot more times when I am not.
 
“So I can begin to point a finger at the denomination or at local church pastors and leaders, but then I feel the inward conviction of whether I’m personally doing enough, and no, I am not.”
 
The conversation turned to a brighter forecast for the future of the denomination when Allen asked Rainer about his thoughts on J.D. Greear’s election as SBC president.
 
“J.D. Greear is and will be a great SBC president,” Rainer responded. “His heartbeat is, first of all, the gospel and it’s not a slogan to him – it is reality. He is a leader that loves church planting, and he will be about the task of starting new churches. He is also one who will be singularly focused upon his primary objectives, and he will not be distracted by the tertiary things mentioned earlier.
 
“There is also a generational shift there. ... [T]o have a 45-year-old youthful president who isn’t aligned with a political camp and is just aligned for the gospel and for the church is just incredible. This gives me great hope and joy and portends well for our denomination into the future.”
 
Allen noted a coming generation of believers who possess an ambition to truly give their lives to something more. He added that he would never encourage them to do that toward propping up a tired denomination, rather that they give their lives to the church, to the Word of God, to the Great Commission, and the convictions Baptists hold dear.
 
“If our hearts are right, our beliefs are right, and our mission is right, inasmuch as we need a denomination, those denominational aspects we need will take care of themselves,” Allen said.
 
Rainer concurred, praising aspects of ministry as seen among millennials and the next generation. While not as many millennials are attending church, he described them as a different kind of believer.
 
“They don’t do church as usual,” Rainer said. “They don’t do ‘church-ianity.’ They want to make a difference. One of the greatest hopes I have for our denomination and greater evangelicalism is this and the next generation. They may be fewer in number, but the possibility and potency for the gospel is immeasurable.”
 
While there is much work to be done within the SBC, Rainer said it all begins by staying focused on mission.
 
“If we aren’t driven by mission, we don’t just have a missiological problem, we have doctrinal aberration,” he said. “That may be one of the greatest shrouds we’re not looking under right now. Faithfulness to the Great Commission and sharing His Word is all about truth, because what are you sharing anyway?”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/24/2018 11:25:22 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments



Both Kavanaugh, accuser need to be heard, Moore says

September 21 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A pivotal Supreme Court seat hangs in the balance while the U.S. Senate and America wait to learn if Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser will testify regarding her sexual assault allegation against President Trump’s nominee.
 

Screen capture from C-Span
Brett Kavanaugh

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said it is important to hear from both Kavanaugh and his accuser regarding a charge he thinks would make the nominee unfit if true.
 
“Obviously, if this did happen, that would be disqualifying,” Moore said in a Sept. 18 appearance on CNN. “And obviously if this did not happen, it would be a horrible thing to wrongfully accuse someone of doing.”
 
Kavanaugh, 53, appeared headed toward confirmation by the Senate to the high court until an allegation surfaced that he had sexually assaulted a girl when both were teenagers. Christine Blasey Ford, 51, identified herself and went public with her story in a Sept. 16 account in The Washington Post. Kavanaugh denied Ford’s accusation.
 
On Sept. 17, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Ford “deserves to be heard” and announced a public hearing for Sept. 24 at which both Ford and Kavanaugh would appear. Ford’s lawyers wrote Grassley Sept. 18 to say an FBI investigation of the charge should take place first, although one of them had said earlier Ford was ready to testify to the committee.
 
Grassley said Wednesday (Sept. 19) he has set a deadline of 10 a.m. Friday (Sept. 21) for Ford’s lawyers to respond to the invitation to testify Sept. 24, according to news reports. He told Democrats on the committee in a letter the same day he has offered to Ford “a public hearing, a private hearing, a public staff interview, or a private staff interview.”
 
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said both Ford and Kavanaugh should be respected as the truth is sought in a confusing, serious time.
 
“[T]he problem is we are living in a time when everyone wants to have every situation immediately adjudicated in time to put a post on Facebook,” he said. “The charges here are so serious and the implications are so serious for abused women and girls either to ignore it or to trivialize it would be a mistake.”
 
Moore noted he deals nearly daily with young women who are assault or abuse victims.
 
“I don’t want them to hear from whatever political debate’s going on, ‘Don’t come forward. Don’t tell your story,’” he said. “And I’m often dealing with people in the criminal justice system who have been wrongfully accused of doing things they haven’t done. And so I don’t want us to simply rush to judgment immediately ... on the basis of where our political convictions lie.”
 
Ford – a professor at Palo Alto (Calif.) University who teaches clinical psychology to graduate students – told The Post that Kavanaugh and a friend, both drunk, took her into a bedroom during a party in the early 1980s in a suburb of Washington, D.C., Kavanaugh allegedly restrained her on the bed, groped her, tried to remove her clothes and placed a hand over her mouth when she sought to scream.
 
In a statement sent from the White House to The Post, Kavanaugh said, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”
 
Before Ford’s allegation became public, it appeared Kavanaugh, a judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, would gain all 51 Republican votes and maybe some Democratic votes in the 100-member chamber before the new Supreme Court term opens Oct. 1. The Judiciary Committee hearing on his confirmation Sept. 4-7 was tumultuous but seemed to do nothing to block his path to approval.
 
Some Republican senators – such as Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine – called for a delay in a confirmation vote until Ford had an opportunity to speak to the committee. Flake and Collins have seemed to indicate they would vote for confirmation if Ford refuses to testify.
 
Opponents of Kavanaugh – considered an originalist who interprets the Constitution based on its initial meaning – fear his confirmation would move the high court in a more conservative direction. Trump nominated him to replace Anthony Kennedy, often a swing vote between factions on the bench.
 
Democrat and pro-choice Republican senators are particularly concerned he could be a fifth vote to reverse the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Kavanaugh’s record as an appellate judge has received favorable reviews from nearly all pro-life and religious freedom advocates.
 
When Trump announced his nomination of Kavanaugh in July, a statement signed by Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear, both vice presidents, several former presidents and SBC entity heads was released in support of the judge. The ERLC sponsored the document.
 
Later, Greear – speaking on behalf of first vice president A.B. Vines and second vice president Felix Cabrera – said, “All three of us have a desire to keep the SBC out of politics, but we also want to speak with clarity in those places we feel like there is clarity. And when it came to potential justice Kavanaugh, here’s somebody who has a history of standing for the sanctity of life and religious liberty.”
 
If Kavanaugh is confirmed, Trump will have been able to nominate two of the members of the high court in his first two years in the White House. He nominated Neil Gorsuch in January 2017, and the Senate confirmed the federal appeals court judge in a 54-45 vote.
 
A judge on the D.C. Circuit Court for 12 years, Kavanaugh was approved 57-36 by the Senate in 2006 after a three-year delay following his nomination. Previously, his experience included time as a senior associate counsel and staff secretary for President George W. Bush, as well as a Supreme Court clerk for Kennedy.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

9/21/2018 10:40:51 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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