July 2015

God and assisted suicide: What’s the answer?

July 31 2015 by Randy C. Davis, Baptist Press

The scenario plays itself out thousands of times a day. A family member or friend is racked with a terminal illness, suffering unbearably, and the question comes up: Should they have the right to physician-assisted suicide?
That question gained prominence 20-plus years ago with Dr. Jack Kevorkian being brought to trial for helping approximately 130 people end their lives. Right to die activists are back in the news with 84-year-old John Jay Hooker, a lawyer and former Tennessee democratic gubernatorial candidate who is suffering with terminal cancer, leading the charge. He is demanding that a state court declare he has a right to end his life on his terms. In truth what he’s looking for is an accomplice to share in the responsibility of his death.
Unbelievably, the demand for assisted suicide is aggressively on the march. Euthanasia is currently illegal in 45 states, but 25 of those states have seen bills filed during their respective 2015 legislative sessions to legalize assisted suicide. Tennessee is one of those states. But what Mr. Hooker, the courts, and other advocates of assisted suicide fail to recognize is God alone has the authority to give life and take it, not a human.
I do not make that statement lightly. I stood by my stepfather’s hospital bed last week as he faced brain surgery to remove a brain tumor and blood clot. I was there with my mom who is battling Parkinson’s disease. My grandfather – my hero – suffered greatly with lung cancer. I’ve stood by hundreds of bedsides of family and friends in 30-plus years of pastoral ministry and agonized in prayer over people I have loved dearly. I am more acquainted with death and suffering than I would have ever voluntarily chosen to be.
The conversation about assisted suicide is wrapped in emotion. Sometimes it is economic when looking at the cost of long-term care. I’ll be honest, some of the situations I’ve stood over have rocked me to the core of my theology. However, right theology must dictate responses to circumstances. We must not allow circumstances to compromise biblical teaching. I am categorically opposed to assisted suicide and here are the three theological pillars that brace me during soul-shattering moments at death’s door.

Suffering is unavoidable.

Look around. If you ever wanted a reason to hate sin, look at its effect on God’s creation. Jesus, Paul, Peter, James and John all address suffering in the New Testament and it isn’t exclusively related to persecution. Job in the Old Testament is where our minds immediately turn when we think of suffering. But look again at Jesus. He could have avoided suffering – He even asked the Father to “take this cup” from Him. But in the end He embraced the suffering for a higher purpose.
I had – and constantly have – to resolve that suffering is part of our Christian walk and we are called to persevere in faith, for the glory of God. We are told in I Peter 4 to embrace suffering, “so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world.”

God is good – all the time.

Job says it best when he asked, “Do we only accept the good from God and not the bad?” (Job 2:10). Think about this, scripture tells us “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). We also read in Romans 8:28 that God works all things for our good, but how can suffering be for our good? The answer is in how we direct our suffering for God’s glory. This anecdote explains.
Jeannie Elliff, wife of former International Mission Board (IMB) President Tom Elliff, fought cancer until she succumbed last week. It wasn’t an easy road.
In reflecting on her battle, Erich Bridges, global correspondent for the IMB, wrote, “While in the midst of her final struggle with cancer in recent months, she took the time to encourage my wife (who also has been dealing with cancer) and me. Jeannie encouraged and prayed for countless people over the years; cancer only expanded her ministry.”
God worked His goodness through Jeannie Elliff to deliver His grace, mercy and encouragement. No doubt she experienced, “the wonderful joy of seeing His glory” when she arrived in heaven.

God is sovereign, and we have no right to usurp that.

Isaiah 46 states, “I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” A few verses later we read, “For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” Jesus is the author of all life (Acts 2:10; Colossians 1). Psalm 139 tells us that God ordained the number of our days. Jeremiah 29 tells us He knows the plans He has for us. And on it goes.
The Bible comprehensively establishes God as the sole authority over creation, life and death. He does everything with the purpose of completing the good work He began in us at our salvation. He intends to receive glory through our journey. That is why every breath of life is precious, and exactly why it is not our place to determine our last breath.
Yes, it is sometimes a rough journey through this life, which is why we need to encourage each other’s faith all the way to the finish line.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Randy C. Davis is executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

7/31/2015 9:52:36 AM by Randy C. Davis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

A Millennial’s awakened hope for the SBC

July 30 2015 by Paul Dietzel II, Baptist Press

One of the most regrettable legacies of the Millennial generation will be the forfeiture of many of the great institutions and traditions bequeathed to us in trust.
To be sure, no man-made institution can emerge spotless from strict scrutiny. The institutions serving as agents or as a committee of the whole have been the mechanism whereby great advancements in history have taken flight. Yet, whether it was the Declaration of Independence drafted by perhaps one of the greatest subcommittees in world history (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston can hardly be described as “establishment”) or the means employed in the founding of many of our nation’s colleges and universities, institutions or funding mechanisms can wither over time and drift from their original purpose.


Paul Dietzel II

As I walked around the Greater Columbus Convention Center for the 2015 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), I was struck by the overall focus and unity of a multi-generational group of people determined to make an impact. I inhabit the technology and political sectors and, for better or worse, conventions or conferences are often the places where business is transacted. While the annual meeting of the SBC bears some strange similarities to those types of events, there was a pronounced difference that marked my memory. In the aftermath of the SBC, I have come to see both the heritage and hope of the denomination of my birth.
Southern Baptists are rightly concerned about the lack of young people involved in the overall structure of the denomination. Start speaking of “programs” and the eyes of young skeptics (even those friendly to the SBC) begin to roll. My generation is the recipient of expensive plans that either never took shape or failed miserably. The more distance between my local church and denominational festivities, the more certain we are to create a disconnect between the reality of what occurs on the street and the fantasy created by a rapidly evolving cyber world.
These days everyone seems to be eager to franchise out technological capacities to engage a generation raised with cellphones and the Internet. The technological subculture, while real and growing, is but the result of the human longing for community. To understand that is to begin to make sense of Millennials in a significant way. The most powerful relationship is not one fostered online.
What encouraged me as a “first-time” guest to the SBC was a realization that the Southern Baptist Convention exists for local Southern Baptist churches – not the other way around. Far too much time and talk have been expended on the necessity of maintaining the structure of the convention. Yet there seems to be a renewed focus on using the convention structure for the advancement of local church priorities. If this is indeed the case, the future is bright for the SBC. If, however, the structure becomes the priority, the SBC could be on life support all too soon.
The great challenge is to connect my generation (especially those of us who are not pastors, theologians or denominational employees) to the existing operational structure of the SBC. This depends on increasing the relational connection between Southern Baptist Christians and the SBC’s legacy funding streams like the Cooperative Program, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
In other words, there must be a real-world connection between money, mission investment, Christian doctrine, gospel culture and ultimately the worship of God. There must be a personal connection between giving money and mission involvement where one is not mutually exclusive of the other.
Here is where technology can play a vital role. Monetary investment in the SBC must be explained anew to a new generation of Southern Baptists. It is not simply a matter of marketing. It is a matter of transparency, simplicity and a confidence driven by a real-world understanding that participation in the Cooperative Program as well as the SBC’s annual mission offerings translates into direct engagement in mission work with real people.
Every institution or program tends to produce its exact opposite. Everything defined as “missions” isn’t “missions.” Enabling and expanding pathways for mission engagement with local congregations where a person can confidently trust the structure of the SBC is the path of advancement for a new generation of Southern Baptists to impact the world for Christ and His Kingdom.
You will search the Bible in vain for the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board or the SBC. What you will see are local churches where faithful Christians sacrifice for the truth of the gospel in the world. The ongoing renewal of the SBC will only be sustained by the reality that Jesus Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paul Dietzel II is the founder of Anedot, a Baton Rouge-based technology company. He is a former candidate for Congress from Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District and a member of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.)

7/30/2015 11:26:07 AM by Paul Dietzel II, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Planned Parenthood by the numbers

July 29 2015 by Joe Carter, ERLC

With the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood over the sale of fetal tissue from abortions at their affiliated clinics, here are 10 facts about the organization’s practices, scope and finances.
Unless otherwise noted, all figures come from Planned Parenthood’s 2013-2014 annual report.
3% – Planned Parenthood (PP) often claims that abortions account for only 3 percent of the services they provide. While this may be technically true, it is a highly misleading statistic. PP considers an “activity” any separate action, exam or test they do for a patient. If a patient comes in for an abortion, they may also give her an HIV test, a STI test, a pap test, medication to prevent a urinary tract infection and some oral contraceptives. PP counts each as an “activity.” Even if a pregnant woman came to a PP clinic specifically for an abortion, the actual abortion would only count, in this example, as 16 percent (1 of 6) of the “activities” for that particular woman.
77 – Number of years Planned Parenthood Federation of America, commonly shortened to Planned Parenthood, has been in existence. The precursor of the organization, the American Birth Control League, was started in 1921. That group became PP in 1942.
700 – Approximate number of “health centers” connected to PP in America. PP works on a franchise model, so each of the centers is part of a network of 66 independently incorporated affiliates.
327,653 – Number of abortions PP performed in 2013.
$495 – Median charge for a surgical abortion at 10 weeks’ gestation in 2011 and 2012, according to a study published in the journal Women’s Health Issues in December 2013.
$523,616 – Compensation PP’s CEO Cecile Richards earned for the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2013.
$60,319 – Average amount American taxpayers (at the local, state and federal level) give PP every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
$528,400,000 – Amount of revenue PP received from government health services, grants and reimbursements in 2014.
$1,303,400,000 – Total revenue PP earned in 2014.
$3,123,963 – Total domestic gross of Obvious Child, an “abortion comedy” released in 2014. PP brags that it “worked for years with the film’s writer, director, and producers to shape the story, helped them film it in a Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic health center [in the New York City area], and oversaw its release to widespread critical and commercial success.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Carter is a communications specialist with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. This article first appeared at the ERLC’s website, www.erlc.com.)

7/29/2015 11:21:54 AM by Joe Carter, ERLC | with 0 comments

Churches should not fear court action

July 28 2015 by Brian K. Davis, Guest Column

Following the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States on June 26, I have been inundated with calls from pastors and church leaders regarding the impact of this decision upon churches. The scriptures record Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (KJV).
This verse is the basis for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) response to the action of the Court as I conduct seminars across the state to assist pastors and their congregations to respond appropriately. This is the first in a series of articles to assist churches in their response to the actions of the Court. In this article, I want to address the matter of “fear.”
I remind readers that God did not for one millisecond shudder or recoil at the Court’s decision to validate same-sex marriage across the nation. God is still sovereign, still on the throne and still in control. We can have confidence in our God, His truth and the expectations He has established through scripture for marriage.
Regardless of the validation of same- sex marriage by the Court, the fact remains that God has not validated any marriage outside of that which He ordained in scripture. Marriage is and shall forever remain between one man and one woman; specifically between a man as created by God and a woman as created by God.
However, fear abounds among Christians, and there are groups that wish to exploit that fear. For example, a web-based fake news site promoted a false news story regarding the supposed arrest of a minister in Vermont due to his refusal to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. The story took on a level of credibility it did not deserve as it was circulated and cited as an example of “the beginning of the end.”
Sadly, few people read the story before they posted, repeated and shared the story. If the story had been read, the lack of credibility would have been easily recognized. First, the story was posted by a website masquerading as a credible site; the URL for the site was a giveaway. Second, the story indicated that the minister in question was pastor of a for-profit church; an entity that simply does not exist.
Finally, a number of fake news sites on the web circulated false reports and these sites often use the same names in their stories over and over again. The story in question identified the minister as Paul Horner, one of the names so often used by these fake news outlets in their false stories.
It is imperative that pastors and church members exercise discernment regarding stories of this nature. The church needs – and the gospel deserves – Christian statesmen that will discern truth from lies. It is also important for pastors to understand that prior to the Court’s verdict, the government of this nation could not force a minister to baptize, extend the Lord’s Supper, bury or marry anyone. The June 26 action of the Court has not changed this protection enjoyed by pastors across our land.
Some Christians are afraid that the redefinition of marriage will result in the eventual closure of churches across the land. I do foresee many churches closing in the future, but this will not come as a result of the validation of same-sex marriage. The closures will be due to the failure of churches to make disciples.
I am of the opinion that another recession or depression is in the foreseeable future. For the economy to rebound from the next recession, municipalities that are starving for revenue will consider every untapped source of tax dollars. The result will be that municipalities will turn to non-profits, including churches, and revoke the exemption on property tax. Contributions to churches will remain tax deductible, for a while, but churches will be called upon to pay tax on their properties.
The reality is that so many churches operate on such slim budgets that the addition of property tax will result in their inability to stay financially solvent. Why is the addition of property tax going to be so burdensome? Simply stated: church members are not practicing Biblical stewardship; which is part of the disciple-making process. The statistics are alarming.
Few give financially to the church and even fewer actually tithe. It will be to our shame that churches will not be able to pay their property tax. Jesus said the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church, but it appears that His people will allow property tax to do so.
The church should not fear the recent action of the Court nor the potential actions of municipalities in days to come. Rather, the church, led by the Holy Spirit, should boldly engage in disciple making. Most importantly, the church must intentionally disciple each and every member on her rolls and equip these members to engage each person in their community with the gospel. We must develop a culture of disciple-making in our churches. Far too many will slip into a culture of survival if disciple-making does not become the priority. The church must, as the early church did, see disciple-making as its reason for existence.
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power. In the next article I want to explore that power God has given us, which is recognized – in part – even by our government. There is no challenge presently before the church that God has not given His people to the power to withstand.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian K. Davis is associate executive director-treasurer at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

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7/28/2015 9:50:13 AM by Brian K. Davis, Guest Column | with 0 comments

Chattanooga killings & radical Islamism

July 24 2015 by Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today

The West is at the front end of what will almost certainly be a multi-decadal war against radical Islamism. We saw so again in the killing of five servicemen in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Others, better informed than I, can report on the details and debates around the July 16 tragedy. Yet it is increasingly clear that this will be a global war for many years, often made up by lone-wolf attacks in the West, wars against religious minorities in the Middle East and various terror attacks around the world.
Many thoughts come to mind, and many more issues should be considered. However, in this brief space I simply would like to suggest three things we might want to consider, uniquely for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus in light of His words about our neighbors, enemies and government.
First, we must love our neighbors, including our Muslim ones.
The fact is, the vast majority of Muslims in this country want to live peaceful lives. They are our neighbors and often our friends.
As I wrote in a USA Today a couple of years ago: On the day before the Tsarnaev brothers were identified as Chechen Muslims, I drove by my Muslim neighbor’s home on the way out of our neighborhood. His trash can had spilled into the street, so I stopped, picked everything up and put it back on his curb. Why? Because I know him. He is my neighbor. Because our kids play together. And he more realistically represents his religion to me than terrorists do....
As an evangelical leader and researcher, I have no vested interest in – and receive no personal benefit from – speaking out for my Muslim neighbors and friends. Yet, while it is irresponsible not to see the link between radical Islam and terrorism, it is the height of ignorance to assume that all (or most or even many) Muslims are terrorists.
Most of the Muslims we know are kind people who love their families, their communities and their country. Our proper response to them is to listen to the simple words of Jesus, “Love your neighbor” (Mark 12:31).
Second, we must pray for and love our enemies, even our radical Islamist ones.
Yes, that’s what Jesus taught and it sure sounds unrealistic or even offensive today. To some, the words “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) must not apply to us today – it’s too unrealistic.
But they do.
While that’s not the only thing on the subject that matters, it does matter.
Hence, I am praying for Islamists and other Muslims around the world. I am praying that the hatred in their hearts, the blinders from their religious ideology and the hardness of their hearts will be removed.
I also know God has ordained governments that will oppose the violent efforts of these radical Islamists – and I am also praying for them.
I am praying that my nation, and others nations, will move beyond the naivety and speak to what this reality is – and to publicly acknowledge we are in a multi-decadal war with radical Islamists.
I have even prayed that President Obama will join with France’s prime minister and call this what it is, a war with radical Islam. And, even if President Obama won’t acknowledge we are at war with radical Islamists, they are still at war with us.
Islamism, and that’s a technical term and related to a view of Islam and how it governs a society, can (and often has) combined with radicalism. The result is a globally dangerous and a far too prevalent reality. Not all Muslims are Islamists, but Islamists are Muslims and are too often radicalized.
The percent of Muslims who are Islamists is debated, but though it is a minority, that minority includes many millions of people. Also, although there are radical Muslims who are not Islamists, both al-Qaeda and ISIS are radical Islamist groups.
So, I pray for all Muslims and love those who are my neighbor and those who are my enemies, but I also pray for the wisdom of our leaders to have the courage, will and wisdom to respond to this generational war with radical Islamism.
Third, we must recognize the major concerns of religious liberty and violence, and they are overwhelmingly concentrated in majority Muslim countries.
In a cover story I wrote for Christianity Today (CT), I advocated for the rights of all people, including those of other faiths, to share their faith – to proselytize. Yet, that right is indeed restricted in so many Muslim countries.
This is why, perhaps, about half of Americans see Islam as a threat to religious freedom, both in the United States and around the world, according to recently published LifeWay Research data.
As I wrote in the article for CT, based on a speech I gave in front of Christian pastors, Jewish rabbis and Muslim imams: In the spirit of mutual respect and tolerance, Muslims should be free to build a masjid where they live, and Christians should defend their religious freedom to do so. At the same time, Christians should be free to plant churches in places like Bhutan, the Maldives, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia. No matter where we live or what religion we follow, we should not demand for ourselves that which we are unwilling to grant others – freedom from compulsion, freedom from discrimination on the basis of creed and freedom of conscience.
I pray for religious freedom, and the right to convert, and I am well aware that freedom is prevalent where I live and much more restricted where Muslim majorities do.

The way of Jesus

Nuance is hard and loud pronouncements are easy in times of anger, but as Christians, we don’t get to shout whatever rage we feel. Instead, we want the facts and then we want to follow Jesus in light of those facts.
The fact is that radical Islamists make up a small segment of Muslims as a whole. So while, yes, there may be some connection, it’s unfair to suggest a widespread causal relationship between Islam and terrorism.
In other words, Muslims are not our enemies. But, radical Islamists are.
And, knowing that, we follow Jesus – and Jesus calls us to love and pray for Muslims, who are not our enemies, and radical Islamists, who are.
That’s what the violence in Chattanooga prompted me to do.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ed Stetzer is executive director of LifeWay Research. This article first appeared at Ed Stetzer’s blog at Christianity Today christianitytoday.com.)

7/24/2015 2:59:50 PM by Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today | with 0 comments

Next up, polygamy

July 23 2015 by Jeff Iorg, GGBTS President

Nathan Collier and his “wives” – Vicki and Christine – want to get married. Actually, Nathan and Vicki are already legally married but they live in a polygamous relationship with Christine.
They recently went to the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings, Mont., to apply for a marriage license under the Marriage Equality Act to become a legal three-some. After some consideration, they were denied by county officials. They then appealed to the Montana attorney general. They were similarly denied.
After being denied, Nathan said, “All we want is legal legitimacy. We aren’t asking anybody for anything else. We just want to give our marriage and our family the legitimacy that it deserves.”
Sounds familiar.
The Colliers are making the same arguments the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community made in their quest to redefine marriage. We will now see if President Obama can evolve on polygamous marriage and the Supreme Court can mysteriously find “equal dignity” for them in the Constitution.
Failure to do so would be the height of ethical and legal hypocrisy. Failure to now recognize polygamous marriage will reveal the supposedly legal basis for permitting same-sex marriage as the politically-correct sham it has always been.
I have resisted every redefinition of marriage and continue to advocate for marriage between one man and one woman as best for the people involved and our society as a whole. While polygamous marriage is an unhealthy model (which is why it is has long been outlawed), there is no legitimate legal objection that can be raised if the Supreme Court’s reasoning behind their recent decision is consistently applied.
My hope is that our president, legislators and judges will reverse course and reaffirm the traditional definition of marriage. If not, when the Colliers have their day in court, marriage will continue to devolve until it dissolves as the foundation for healthy families and a stable society.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Iorg is president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, with campuses in the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Denver and Phoenix. This column first appeared at the seminary’s President’s Blog.)

7/23/2015 12:15:54 PM by Jeff Iorg, GGBTS President | with 0 comments

How can we align our hearts and minds with the mission of God?

July 22 2015 by Keith Whitfield, SEBTS

Mission exists because God exists. God created the world to make Himself known and to manifest His goodness throughout all the earth. His mission is to be known as the Lord of His creation. His missional plan involves us.
At the center of God’s plan for creation is humanity. His plan is to fill the whole world with image bearers who know and love Him. A calling to be fruitful, to multiply and to rule over the earth (Gen. 1:28) is a calling to participate with God to fulfill His purposes for creation. We were made to know God and to make Him known throughout the whole earth.
God’s purpose was challenged by the fall of humanity into sin. He continued His mission by calling Israel to be a chosen people and blessing to the nations (Gen 12:1-3; Exod 19:1-6). The redemptive mission that God began in Israel was ultimately accomplished through the sending of his Son into the world. It is through Jesus that God is known and worshipped throughout creation.
This redemptive mission extends to the Church. “As the Father sent me,” said Jesus, “I also send you” (John 20:21). For the Church to be committed to this calling, it must desire the fulfillment of God’s mission. This cannot happen unless the Church is struck by the privilege of participating in God’s great mission, and it is in awe by the privilege that we were created to know Him and to make Him known.
If we align with God’s mission, God will sustain the mission of the Church, for it is God Himself who empowers the Church through His Spirit (Acts 1:8). Jesus Himself said, “I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:18-19), and “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
How can we align our hearts and minds with the mission of God?
Be directed by the mission of God
Great Commission people live directed by God’s mission. God’s purpose is to be known as the Lord over His creation. This was God’s purpose in creation, and it is still His purpose in redemption. He accomplishes this mission ultimately in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 8:19, 14:6-7). When Jesus sends His disciples to live on mission in Matthew 28, He announces that He is Lord over everything. His disciples are to expand His Lordship.
Live a life that is shaped by the mission of God
God’s mission establishes a Kingdom where He is known as Lord and praised. The people of God are a Kingdom people, who dwell with God through His Spirit and enjoy His blessings. The blessings of God for His people may be characterized with three biblical words: faith, hope and love. Faith believes the redemptive promises of God. Hope holds onto the eschatological promises of God. Love shares God’s redemption with the world, seeking to embody God’s gracious reign and share His Kingdom with others.
Be sent on the mission of God
The mission of God is to make Himself known. The way that He makes Himself known is through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ to forgive and transform sinners through His death on the cross (John 14:6). This gospel message must be verbally shared in order for people to hear it (Romans 10:14). The church is sent into the world by their Savior with an evangelistic calling – to proclaim that the God of all creation has mercifully made Himself known in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that there is forgiveness of sins and transforming grace available to all who enter His Kingdom through repentance and faith.
Mission exists because God exists. When we go, we go on His mission.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Whitfield is a professor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and lay pastor at Imago Dei in Raleigh.)

7/22/2015 12:19:14 PM by Keith Whitfield, SEBTS | with 0 comments

Preaching on The Baptist Faith and Message 2000

July 21 2015 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC president

I am doing something I never thought I would do, and God is using it powerfully.
We are preaching a summer series on Southern Baptists’ statement of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BF&M 2000). There are 18 articles in the BF&M 2000; therefore, we have combined some to fit into this 13-week series.
We titled this series “WE BELIEVE: What We Believe and Why We Believe It.”
Instead of announcing we would be preaching on The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, here’s how I introduced the series:
We are beginning a 13-week series that will carry us throughout most of the summer. We will focus on what we believe and why we believe it. It is not just what we believe, but what we also covenant with some 50,000 churches and congregations in America, believing together and partnering with all Southern Baptists. So, it’s completely appropriate over the summer for us to say, “As Cross Church and as a Southern Baptist church, this is what we believe....” We will work through our common statement of faith. If you want to read more in depth on your own, this is called The Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

Yesterday, July 19, we preached our ninth message in this series and God is using it in the lives of our people.

Why I did this series & why I want you to consider a similar series

A few may think I have done this series because I am the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Candidly, that would make me run from doing it. But this past Easter, we built the entire weekend on the theme and declaration, “I Believe.” From this, we believed God wanted us to teach our people what we believe as a church.
Imagine where our country and world have been over this past year. The attacks on the Bible, Christianity and Christians have grown at an accelerated pace and are continuing. If there has ever been a need for teaching what we believe and why we believe it, it is now.
I determined there is not a better way to teach what we believe the Bible says about so many things than using the BF&M 2000 as a guide and help.
Our younger staff members embraced it immediately. They also want our people to understand doctrinal truth. We decided to use it as a summer series because it would allow consistency over the summer, but each message would be able to stand alone.

4 things that may be helpful

Keep in mind these things if you ever consider doing a series like this:
1. People are really learning what we believe and why we believe it.
Four years ago, we changed our church’s name to Cross Church. We did not do it because we wanted Baptist off of our name but because we were beginning our third campus and we could not keep adding names. Now we have five campuses.
When we changed our church’s name, I wanted to make it more than clear that we are a Southern Baptist church. Therefore, when we released our new website with this name change, we placed The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 on our website under “Our Beliefs”. Why? Because we believe it! Another choice we made on our website under “Our Partnerships” is to unashamedly make clear our partnerships with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Yet, I assure you, in our present series, our laypeople are really learning what we believe and why we believe it. The relevance of it in today’s world is absolutely remarkable.
2. We confess together verbally each article that we are teaching.
This took a little getting used to, but now we do it loudly and unashamedly. I sometimes stop and say a word while we are reading it, and then have everyone repeat a statement for clarity.
3. We arranged the 18 articles in the series as we felt it would benefit our specific church, relating to the timing in the year.
For example, on our Summer Freedom Sunday, June 28, we preached on Religious Liberty, even though it was only the sixth week in the series and it is listed as Article 17 in the BF&M 2000.
Additionally, if we have already done more in-depth teaching on some of these, we were more willing to combine them with others. Obviously, one could do a series on each of the 18 articles.
4. The outline of our series:
You are welcome to use this outline. Most of you will take it and improve upon it. Blessings to you! Our messages are live-streamed and then archived within 24 hours on crosschurch.com. The following is the initial outline I gave our staff team:

  • May 17: The Scriptures - Article 1

  • May 24: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit - Article 2

  • May 31: Man - Article 3

  • June 7: Salvation - Article 4 and 5

  • June 14: The Church - Article 6, 7 and 8

  • June 21: The Kingdom - Article 9

  • June 28: Religious Liberty - Article 17

  • July 5: Last Things - Article 10

  • July 12: Evangelism and Missions - Article 11 and 12

  • July 19: Stewardship and Cooperation - Article 13 and 14

  • July 26: The Christian and Social Order - Article 15

  • August 9: Peace and War - Article 16

  • August 16: The Family - Article 18

May God bless your teaching and preaching of His Word. Our nation desperately needs spiritual awakening rooted in sound doctrine; the masses in our lost world desperately need to hear of a saving faith found only in Jesus. Our Baptist Faith and Message 2000 helps us go forth with solid footing on every front.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. This column first appeared at Ronnie Floyd’s website, ronniefloyd.com.)

7/21/2015 11:53:56 AM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC president | with 0 comments

Pastor disagrees with attack on Confederacy

July 17 2015 by Edward DeVries, The Villages, Fla.

I am a Southern Baptist pastor and the direct descendant of godly Southern Baptist men who served honorably in the Army of the Confederate States of America. My ancestors did not own slaves, and they did not fight to maintain or perpetuate slavery. My great-grandfather, Macijah N. Lawrence, was a deacon in a Southern Baptist church, a Sunday school teacher and a soul-winner. He owned two very large farms which he and his family worked without the benefit of slave labor. He enlisted in the Confederate States Army because his homeland was invaded by an aggressive army from the North. He served honorably during the entire course of the war and was honorably discharged.
Having surrendered in Texas and not having the money with which to travel by any other means he walked to Alabama to find his farm had been destroyed by the invading army, his farmland had been stolen by carpetbaggers, and his family was living by the charity of others. Fortunately, while serving in Texas, he had purchased some land. So he, his wife and their nine children walked all the way back to central Texas where he helped to plant a church as they built a new farm and a new home.
During the war my grandfather served as the color sergeant in the 19th Texas Infantry. His job was to march at the front of the column, carrying the flag that Russell Moore, Al Mohler and others now vilify. It also meant that he was the primary target for enemy fire in battle. The fact that he survived the war is a miracle.
I share this ancestry with my maternal grandfather who was a Southern Baptist pastor for 53 years. Hundreds of thousands of Southern Baptists share similar ancestry.
In Exodus 20 we are commanded to honor our fathers. According to biblical genealogy our grandfathers and great grandfathers are considered our “fathers.” That is why our Lord was referred to as the “Son of David.”
Perhaps Russell Moore, Alan Cross, Bill Leonard, Albert Mohler, Danny Akin and Doug Wilson do not share the ancestry common to the majority of Southern Baptists. Or perhaps they do and are simply choosing political correctness over the fifth commandment. In either case, I cannot sit quietly in my office as men with voices more prominent than mine slander the good name of my fathers who left me a godly heritage.
Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children.” My confederate ancestors were good men. Among the many things that they left us was the King James Bible, the testimony of their Christian faith, a faithful adherence to the doctrines and practices once considered “distinctive” to Baptists, and the presentation of the gospel to their children who led us to our common salvation.
I have another great-grandfather who was a chaplain in the Confederate army and a Methodist pastor. He preached the “one Lord” and the primary tenants of our “one faith,” even if he did not share our baptism. He, too, left a godly heritage.
Most of the men who founded our Southern Baptist Convention were Confederate veterans. Those who were too old to serve were documented supporters of the Confederate States government.
So the attack by our denominational leadership is not only an attack against my ancestors, it is also an attack against the men and women who birthed our denomination and established many of its critical institutions. It is a direct attack against the character and the godliness of our fathers and heroes in the faith.
In Psalm 11:3 the question is asked, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” I simply cannot imagine why the leaders of our convention would be attacking the very foundation of our denomination by impugning the character, morality and patriotism of our denominational founders. Do they not realize that our denomination cannot withstand such an attack without being redefined so drastically that it may cease to be what it has always been? Maybe they do. If so, that is even scarier! I simply cannot allow the attack against my fathers by ancestry, or my fathers in the faith, both of whom were unashamedly Baptists, Confederates and Southern, to stand without an answer.
Thirteen years ago I authored a book with 61 footnotes documenting that the flag my Confederate fathers bravely carried into the battle was not a symbol of slavery or hate. It was a symbol they selected from antiquity as a testimony of their Christian faith.
In the few hours between when Amazon announced that they would remove all “Confederate” merchandise and the time when they removed the listing of my book, I sold 1,215 copies. I will give a copy, absolutely free, to anyone who visits my new website and requests it. The reason I am giving it away is because our history and heritage are under attack like never before. And sadly, the attack against our Southern Baptist ancestors is now coming from high-ranking Southern Baptists.
How sad it is that I must work so hard to enable the rank and file of our Baptist churches to defend the heritage and the good name of our noble ancestors, against the slander of our own denominational leadership. The very least I can do is give anyone who requests it a copy of the book in the name of those who so bravely fought for their nation as they passed down to their children, and to us, the “faith once delivered unto the saints.”
The website is at dixieheritage.weebly.com. (See YouTube video below.)
While I think the actions committed by a domestic terrorist against our brethren at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were deplorable and unconscionable I do not believe that the proper response to them, by Southern Baptists or by anyone else, is to vilify the good name of our ancestors. Nor should we propagate lies about the banner under which many of them so bravely fought.
Romans 12:21 tells us, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” To that end I am writing this letter hoping in some small measure to combat the lies about our ancestors and about our common history with truth.
I believe that the motto of the Confederacy is most applicable: Deo Vindice, God will Vindicate!
As the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 16:6, “I have a goodly heritage.” It is a gift given to me by my Confederate fathers who sacrificed much to live for Jesus and laid the foundations so that we too can serve Him in our Southern Baptist churches.

7/17/2015 11:03:13 AM by Edward DeVries, The Villages, Fla. | with 7 comments

Mission revolutionary Jim Slack

July 16 2015 by Erich Bridges, Worldview Conversation

How can God use one faithful life to change the world?
Consider Jim Slack, 77.
He retired from the International Mission Board (IMB) in June after 50 years as a missionary, missiologist, strategist, researcher, ethnographer, teacher – and passionate advocate for unreached peoples, especially oral learners who need God’s Word in forms they can understand.
Slack can see out of only one eye these days, but his global vision remains crystal clear. He’s been at the center of several movements that revolutionized modern missions. And he’s not through yet. He has multiple projects in the works, from investigating potential church-planting movements to guiding missions-related dissertations by seminary students.
“Whatever physically I can do, I want to do,” Slack explained in his trademark Louisiana rasp. “I don’t want to just sit around and look at the wall.”
Not much chance of that. Never has been.


Jim Slack

Slack was a bright young college grad on the way to law school when a summer of ministry in Hawaii – still considered by many a “foreign mission field” in those days – captured his heart and mind for missions. He returned home to tell Mary, his wife-to-be, that life plans had changed. She happily informed him that she had surrendered her life to serving God in missions years earlier.
Before they went to the Philippines as Southern Baptist missionaries in 1964, however, Slack worked as a researcher with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Graham was helping lay the foundations of what would become the Lausanne Movement, which called the church to obey its biblical responsibility for world evangelization by making disciples among all peoples – the panta ta ethne Jesus Christ referred to in His Great Commission command in Matthew 28:19.
“Billy Graham said, ‘We have misunderstood the Great Commission,’” Slack recalled. “The Great Commission is: You shall make disciples of the panta ta ethne – the nations, the unreached people groups.”
Slack put that into practice as a church planter in the Philippines. He moved as soon as he could to Mindanao, where restive Muslims and tribal peoples had never heard the gospel. He trained local believers to evangelize and start churches and participated in key research projects that challenged missionaries in the Philippines and elsewhere to move beyond the reached to the unreached.
While doing doctoral work in seminary early in his missionary career, he encountered a book about the global challenge of evangelizing people who can’t read. He devoured it in a single night and changed his whole approach to missions.
“I wish I’d had that book when I first went to the field,” Slack said. “Mindanao Muslims couldn’t read, didn’t want to read, weren’t going to read. And the tribal people in the mountains didn’t even have a written language.”
Missionary Bible translators were doing heroic work in many cultures. But what was the point of spending years translating the Bible into indigenous languages if people couldn’t, or wouldn’t, read it? Until they were willing and able to read, an alternate approach was needed to deliver God’s Word to the hundreds of millions of people around the world belonging to cultures that communicate orally.
Working with missionary colleague J.O. Terry and others, Slack helped develop Chronological Bible Storying – later shortened to Bible Storying – a simple, flexible, transferrable way to deliver the truths of the Bible to oral learners and make disciples among them.
It has become one of the most effective and widely used mission methods of the modern era, expanding beyond the original sets of teachable Bible stories to songs, drama, pictures, video, audio, webisodes and more. But in the early years, when Slack traveled the world teaching the method, it wasn’t an easy sell.
Slack and Terry came to West Africa several times to “introduce this weird new thing called Chronological Bible Storying,” remembered IMB staff member Roger Haun, then a missionary in the region. “We were kind of hardheaded about it. Even after our missionaries began to warm up to the idea, we were still having trouble with our West African brothers. ... [Today, storying] is the main evangelistic tool now used all across West Africa. And there are literally tens of thousands of Africans who have heard the gospel in a way they can understand – and many who have accepted Christ, and will be with us one day in heaven – because [Slack] came and introduced us to that concept.”
After 25 years on the field, Slack transitioned to IMB’s Global Research team during another revolutionary period. IMB mission strategists were exploring the emerging phenomenon of church-planting movements, the new concept of strategy-coordinator missionaries and the global urgency of reaching unreached peoples. Slack made vital contributions in these areas while continuing his campaign for Bible storying.
More recently, as IMB and the North American Mission Board partner to reach the waves of peoples immigrating to America, Slack has trained church leaders in some of the biggest U.S. urban centers to reach the unreached in their midst.
“Few men living have affected the shape of world missions like Jim Slack,” said Tom Billings, executive director of Union Baptist Association (more than 560 affiliated churches) in increasingly multiethnic Houston. “Of late, he has also focused on helping U.S. church leaders recognize the enormity of the Great Commission task in our own country and challenged us to think differently about what we must do to reach them.”
As America becomes more and more ethnically and socially diverse, Slack offers the same challenge to U.S. Christians that he’s been delivering to missionaries and the global church for decades.
“If we do not win the people groups here, we will not grow,” Slack said with tears in his eyes. “Friend, we’re going to die if we don’t obey the Great Commission.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is IMB global correspondent.)

7/16/2015 10:55:04 AM by Erich Bridges, Worldview Conversation | with 0 comments

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