March 2015

Looking forward to this year's SBC Annual Meeting

March 20 2015 by Trevin Wax, Baptist Press

Summer is for vacations and, for many pastors, denominational gatherings. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is no exception. This year, we’re meeting in Columbus, Ohio, the 15th largest city in the U.S., one that is well outside of the Southeast where most of our churches are based.
In the past decade, though the attendance at the annual meeting has risen and fallen in conjunction with the location and the major topic of conversation (or controversy), the overall trend has been a dwindling of messengers. This isn’t surprising, considering the loosening of denominational loyalty and the variety of good conferences a pastor can attend.
But Columbus might buck the decline. Here are three reasons I’m particularly excited about this year’s annual meeting.
1. The annual meeting is trending younger.
In Baltimore last year, we saw a 10-year high of younger messengers involved in the convention proceedings. Baptist Press has reported that “nearly one-fourth (24.68 percent) of attendees were younger than age 40. That surpassed by more than 4 percentage points the previous best for the age group, recorded in 2013.”
My first visit to a Southern Baptist Convention was in San Antonio in 2007 as a 25-year-old associate pastor. I remember my initial shock at the small number of young people present. Recent years have seen an upswing in younger Southern Baptist engagement, a reality that is especially surprising when considered alongside the millennial generation’s diminishing enthusiasm for institutions in general. What this tells me is that the annual meeting is beginning to show signs of becoming a vibrant network, not just a report on denominational infrastructure.
2. The schedule of the annual meeting has been reworked in order to highlight the things we are most passionate about.
Few people get excited about a business meeting. Most messengers admit they come to network and see friends, not sit through every session of the SBC. But this year will be different, thanks to a reworking of the schedule under the leadership of the SBC’s president, Ronnie Floyd. For example, all the missions entities will present on Wednesday morning, and it won’t just be a time of reports, but also commissioning of missionaries.
The Send North America conference, slated by the North American Mission Board for this summer in Nashville, already has drawn more than 7,000 registrants, a staggering figure when you consider the fact that only one Convention since 2010 has come close to that number.
What does this tell us? Southern Baptists are hungry for a meeting that casts vision and rallies our people around a great cause. They’re not necessarily there, first and foremost, to vote on resolutions.
But resolutions matter. And so does our business. As Southern Baptists, we should care about the annual meeting, and we should care about this meeting because we care about the Kingdom of God. Business meetings come and go, with their moments of boredom and hilarity, awkwardness and quiet power, and yet in these moments, decisions are made, courses are set that define our cooperative work the rest of the year. It’s not glamorous, but the work of the Kingdom rarely is. This year, however, features a streamlined schedule that emphasizes what we’re there for.
3. We will pray for God to awaken His church to the opportunities before us.
The Tuesday evening meeting will be time of prayer and worship, a pleading with God to revive His people and empower our witness. It is easy to bemoan the moral decay of our culture, the encroaching limits to religious liberties and the difficulty of evangelism in a relativistic society.
But we shouldn’t miss the opportunity here. By cherishing once-common things, such as marriage between a man and woman for life, and core Christian doctrines, such as the exclusivity of Christ for salvation, we have the opportunity for our ordinary obedience to shine even brighter in a pluralistic world that bows to Aphrodite. The annual meeting gives us the opportunity to lay aside our differences, unite around our common confession and lock arms for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project, a Gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages published by LifeWay Christian Resources. His blog, Kingdom People, where this article first appeared, is hosted by The Gospel Coalition,

3/20/2015 11:42:45 AM by Trevin Wax, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Boost up for follow-up

March 19 2015 by Diana Davis, Baptist Press

When a first-time guest completes a guest registration card at your church, what happens next?
The most common answer to that question: absolutely nothing. No, it’s not an intentional oversight, but without an ongoing, immediate follow-up plan, your church may miss opportunities to reach guests for Christ and include them in your church family.
Need fresh ideas? Tweak some of these to fit your unique church:

  • First-time-guest Online Survey. People love to give an opinion! Create a brief survey on your church website. See a sample survey below or at Carefully study survey responses.

  • Same-day contact. A specially trained volunteer can make a brief phone call to each guest on the Sunday afternoon they visit your church.

  • Email plus snail mail. Assign volunteers to send a swift, personal email or handwritten card to each first-time guest.

  • Small group personal invitation. Immediately provide contact info to an appropriate small group or Sunday School class for each family member. A member of that small group may offer to meet the guest at a specific door to escort them to class.

  • A personal touch. Examples: An Indiana church delivers three coupons for a free drink in their coffee area, encouraging the guest to return for three consecutive Sundays. In a different church, their volunteers deliver a church coffee mug to the guest’s door before they get home from church. A baking volunteer at First Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, prepares fresh homemade cookies for each first-time guest, then a delivery volunteer simply knocks on their door and gives them delicious cookies and a goodie-bag of church info.

  • Pastor’s letter. Many pastors prepare a warm letter or email to welcome first-time guests; some even jot down a handwritten note. Pastor Ted Traylor at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., often texts or phones first-time guests on Saturdays, inviting them to come back on Sunday.

Notice that church members – not just ministry staff – accomplish the majority of follow-up. Newcomers want to hear what you love about your church. They desire relationships. And relationships provide evangelistic opportunities.
When God brings a first-time guest to your church this Sunday and they complete a guest registration card, what will happen next?
Online survey sample; also at
Your Church Name
First-Time-Guest Survey
Thanks so much for worshiping God with us at __________________________ Church today.
We value your opinion and appreciate your feedback.
Name (optional)____________________________________
Email (optional)_____________________________
Gender: Male___ Female___
Age: 18-22___ 23-34___ 35-46___ 47-58___ 59-70___ 70+___
What was the first thing you noticed when you arrived?
What did you like best?
What did you like least?
Based on your experience today, will you come again?
Definitely yes___ Likely___ Unsure___ Definitely not___
During the past year, have you regularly attended any church (3+ times per month)? Yes___ No___
Do you have any suggestion of how we can better serve first-time guests?
Thanks for taking time to help us. We hope you’ll join us again next Sunday.
NOTE: Adjust questions to fit your church, keeping the questions to 10 or less. Ask your media team to post this on your church website, with boxes for questions and submission online, with a “Press Submit” button at the bottom.
If your church has no website, try this instead. For years, my pastor/husband included a stamped church-addressed postcard survey with his pastor letter to first-time guests.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Davis, on the Web at, is an author, columnist and ministry wife in Pensacola, Fla. She is the author of “Fresh Ideas,” “Deacon Wives” (B&H Publishing) and the newly released “Six Simple Steps – Finding Contentment and Joy as a Ministry Wife,” (New Hope Publishers).)

3/19/2015 1:29:13 PM by Diana Davis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Our 2015 Committee on Committees of the Southern Baptist Convention

March 16 2015 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President

One of the most daunting tasks I face as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the appointment of the persons who will serve on the Committee on Committees. Since early fall, we have been working through this process diligently. The Committee on Committees has the responsibility to appoint the Committee on Nominations. The Committee on Nominations has far-reaching influence upon Southern Baptist life. They recommend the trustees of our eleven entities of the convention and our Executive Committee to the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Process

After receiving nominations from across our convention and working through our own processes of evaluating and examining candidates, it is with great privilege today that I announce the 2015 Committee on Committees. These persons are very representative of our convention. In fact, this committee is 20% multi-ethnic, which matches the percentage of churches that are multi-ethnic in our convention. This entire committee will work together to determine the very best two people at this time from their represented state or region, at least one of whom must not be employed full-time by or retired from a church, to serve on the Committee on Nominations. After working through this process between now and our 2015 Convention, they will meet together in Columbus on June 15 to determine their final recommendations. On Tuesday afternoon, June 16, they will recommend to our convention the Committee on Nominations. Then, after this process is voted upon by our convention and if the persons are affirmed, the Committee on Nominations will begin their work together to recommend trustees of our SBC entities and Executive Committee at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri.

Our Leaders

The 68 people who will serve on this year’s Committee on Committees will be led by Bryan Smith, Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Roanoke, Virginia. Smith is highly gifted in every way not only as a pastor, but is also the former Chairman of the Executive Board of the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia. He will be assisted as Vice-Chairman by Alex Himaya, Senior Pastor of in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Smith will chart the work of this Committee on Committees and both he and Himaya will lead exceptionally well. Pray for them and for our 2015 Committee on Committees.

Our 2015 Committee on Committees

Alabama – Marilyn Foley, Spring Hill Baptist Church, Mobile; Buddy Champion, First Baptist Church, Trussville
Alaska – Todd Burgess, First Baptist Church, Eagle River; Brent Williams, True North Church, Anchorage
Arizona – Scott Gourley, The Way Fellowship Church, Peoria; Brett Carlson, Mountain Ridge Church, Glendale
Arkansas – Tom Hatley, Immanuel Baptist Church, Rogers; Bill Elliff, The Summit Church, North Little Rock
California – Ryan Blackwell, First Baptist Church, San Francisco; Anthony Dockery, St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church, La Puente
Colorado – Bryan Barley, The Summit Church, Denver; Missy Kintzel, Applewood Baptist Church, Wheat Ridge
Florida – Matt Crawford, First Baptist Church, Sebring; Trey Brunson, First Baptist Church, Jacksonville
Georgia – Fred Evers, Northside Baptist Church, Tifton; Jeremy Morton, First Baptist Church, Cartersville
Hawaii – Maria Ogle, Ocean View Baptist Church, Ocean View; Steve Gray, First Baptist Church, Wahiawa
Illinois – Adron Robinson, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Country Club Hills; Patrick Pajak, Tabernacle, Decatur
Indiana – Nathan Millican, Oak Park Baptist Church, Jeffersonville; Autumn Wall, Living Faith Church, Indianapolis
Kansas-Nebraska – Derrick Lynch, Blue Valley Baptist Church, Overland Park (KS); Faith McDonald, Lenexa Baptist Church, Lenexa (KS)
Kentucky – Garnetta Smith, Highview Baptist Church, Louisville; John Mark Toby, Hillvue Heights Church, Bowling Green
Louisiana – Stewart Holloway, First Baptist Church, Pineville; Diane Nix, First Baptist Church, Covington
Maryland-Delaware-DC – Bucas Sterling III, Kettering Baptist Church, Upper Marlboro (MD); Zach Schlegel, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington (DC)
Michigan – Nathaniel Bishop, Eastside Community Church, Harper Woods; Wayne Parker, Merriman Road Baptist Church, Garden City
Mississippi – Eric Hankins, First Baptist Church, Oxford; Chip Henderson, Pinelake Church, Brandon
Missouri – Malachi O’Brien, The Church at Pleasant Ridge, Harrisonville; Brad Graves, Calvary Baptist Church, Joplin
Nevada – Greg Fields, Nellis Baptist Church, Las Vegas; Kristie Pitman, Hope Baptist Church, Las Vegas
New England – Matt Chewning, Netcast Church, Beverly (MA); David Um, Antioch Baptist Church, Cambridge (MA)
New Mexico – Alan Stoddard, First Baptist Church, Ruidoso; Elio Barrios, Taylor Memorial Baptist Church, Hobbs
New York – George Russ, Ebenezer Mission Church, Oakland Gardens; Salomón Orellana, Iglesia Bautista El Buen Pastor Church, Hempstead
North Carolina – Mike Daniels, Hickory Grove Baptist, Charlotte; Brundi Crawford, Biltmore Baptist Church, Arden
Northwest – Brian Smith, Calvary Baptist Church, Burlington (WA); Mark Ford, First Baptist Church, Longview, Wash.
Ohio – Travis Smalley, Lakota Hills Baptist Church, West Chester Township; Rich Halcombe, Jersey Baptist Church, Pataskala
Oklahoma – Felix Cabrera, Iglesia Bautista Central, Oklahoma City; Alex Himaya,, Tulsa
Pennsylvania/South Jersey – K. Marshall Williams, Nazarene Baptist Church, Philadelphia (PA); John Cope, Keystone Fellowship, North Wales (PA)
South Carolina – Paul Jimenez, First Baptist Church, Taylors; Karyn Wilton, First Bapist Church, Spartanburg
Tennessee – Kim Tucker, Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova; Jonathan Akin, Fairview Church, Lebanon
Texas – Chuy Avila, El Encuentro Baptist Church, El Paso; Glynn Stone, Mobberly Baptist Church, Longview
Utah-Idaho – Paul Thompson, Eastside Baptist Church, Twin Falls (ID); Ray Sparkman, Central Valley Baptist Church, Meridian (ID)
Virginia – Bryan Smith, First Baptist Church, Roanoke; Tammy Ethridge, Liberty Baptist Church, Hampton
West Virginia – John Freeman, Calvary Baptist Church, Chapmanville; Will Basham, New Heights Church, Milton
Wyoming – Mark Porter, Happy Jack Country Church, Cheyenne; Zachary Edwards, Life Point Church, Cheyenne
Join me in praying for this committee as they work together over the next few months.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd
Senior Pastor, Cross Church
President, Southern Baptist Convention
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is currently serving as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.7 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide.)

3/16/2015 12:49:44 PM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President | with 0 comments

Personal evangelism still counts

March 16 2015 by Paige Patterson, Baptist Press

While sitting in the Mobile, Ala., airport, my phone began to vibrate – not a good sign on Sunday evening. Answering, my wife said through her tears “Leroy Krolczyk just transferred his home to glory.” Many who read this would not know Leroy, but he was precious to Southwestern and especially precious to me. After he served with his wife Sharon for quite a number of years as Minister of Music in our churches, he joined the staff of Houston Baptist University in Institutional Advancement. Later, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was able to secure his services to assist in our growing Havard Campus in Houston.
And Leroy Krolczyk got it! Raising money for the seminary is fine, but never the end or real purpose of the ministry. The guiding commitment is always to take care of the donors, to meet their spiritual needs, to love them supremely, and to trust God for the rest. Leroy – wonderful husband, consummate father, gentle and encouraging minister of the gospel – waited on his flock as unselfishly and faithfully as any I have ever known. All who knew him rejoice with his new adventure with God but sense only too well the loss we have sustained.
When I learned from my wife that Leroy was gone, I wept, but then I was flooded with a memory so sweet that I thought I heard angels singing. Suddenly I was 19 again, and I was just walking onto the platform of Memorial Baptist Church in Baytown, Texas, to preach the evening revival service. It was 6:15 p.m., and I was a few minutes early to begin the service at 6:30 p.m. Then it hit me. I had attempted to share my faith with a young man that afternoon. He was from a Roman Catholic background but was most curious about Jesus. He informed me that he could not talk then but finished work at 5 p.m. He asked me to come by his house. “I will be there at 6 p.m.,” I replied. Then, may God have mercy on my soul, I forgot. Walking on the platform at 6:15, the Lord suddenly brought Leroy back to my mind. What would I do? By the time I got to his house and shared a few moments with him, it would be time for me to preach, and all the saints would wonder where the evangelist was.
“Well, it was just another kid,” I reasoned. He probably would not have been home anyway. Surely to stay and preach to a large gathered congregation was more important. I sat in the cushioned platform chair and opened my Bible. But I could not shake the vision in my heart. God seemed to say, “You promised Leroy that you would come. What need have I for a preaching evangelist who is not a man of his word? Go now, and someday you will be a thankful man.” Approaching pastor Ed Thiele, I said, “Pastor, I have made a terrible mistake. I must go and make it right. Please sing until I return.” I drove to the address that Leroy had provided.
Sitting on the front porch, Leroy said, “I was about to give up on you. I thought you had forgotten me.” I told him the truth. I did forget. Please forgive me. But God reminded me; and though the service is already under way, I had to come here. Oh glorious night! On that night, Leroy Krolczyk invited Christ to be his Savior. On that day he set a course that would change the lives of hundreds for good and for God.
Now in the airport, I missed him greatly – taken from us, I thought, far too soon. But then I remembered the delinquent witness who almost did not go to Leroy. And I wept once more as I thanked God that He would not let me forget, and I also realized anew that this is precisely how God intends evangelization to take place. Not preaching to massive crowds, but the personal word of love and salvation – this is what God has purposed to use.
Please, precious Lord, never let me forget again. And please, Lord Jesus, may our people recover this vision.
Farewell, sweet brother, Leroy Krolczyk. I know that it is only for a while; and when I approach, you will be waiting for me on the porch of heaven.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paige Patterson is president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

3/16/2015 11:15:20 AM by Paige Patterson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Four things I love about state conventions

March 13 2015 by Jedidiah Coppenger, Baptist 21

Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to talk to several non-Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) pastors about partnering with the SBC for the advancement of the gospel. Not all of them have locked arms with us, but several have. In just about every conversation – no matter the state – the largest stumbling block to partnering with Southern Baptists is the state convention. Many times, it is the reason why a like-minded pastor will not partner with the SBC.
I know that state conventions, like any organization, need to make improvements. I’ll mention a few suggestions in the following post. But I also think state conventions give us a number of reasons to love what they’re doing. So I thought I’d mention a few of the things I’ve told those non-SBC pastors.

  1. I love that state conventions are steadfastly organized for the advancement of the gospel. State conventions represent an attempt by the people of God to do more together for the kingdom of Christ than they can apart. Decades ago our fathers and mothers in Christ looked at the overwhelmingly large task of spreading the gospel and decided to partner together. I love this. I love it for the picture of unity and stewardship that it is. Organizations who have been on mission for decades in a world that seems to becoming darker and darker spiritually, should be recognized and celebrated.

  2. I love that state conventions have systems already in place and working for gospel advancement. If state conventions didn’t exist, we’d still try to find ways for our churches to partner together. In order to create the necessary systems and infrastructure, we’d have to use tons of money, energy, and time – all in a way that was pleasing enough to all people involved to move forward. That’s not easy. As a church planter who had to create (is creating) a lot of new systems, I appreciate the work it took to put everything in place that state conventions have like never before. I love pre-existing, time-tested systems that are already in place and proven. Churches have been planted, conferences have been had, leaders have been trained, people in need have been helped, orphans have found homes, and so much more.

  3. I love that state conventions are filled with people who love Jesus and the advancement of his kingdom. The tendency of all our broken hearts is to think the best of our intentions and the worst about the intentions of the people with whom we disagree. I’ve certainly seen this in the way people talk about people in state conventions. I have known several state convention employees over my lifetime – Gary and Tammy Ledbetter, Lewis McMullen, Dan Ferrill, and my father and grandpa, immediately come to mind – and I admire their love for Jesus and passion to see the kingdom advance.

  4. I love that state conventions are willing to make difficult changes for the advancement of the gospel. State conventions have a reputation among many younger pastors for being keepers of a status quo that isn’t worth keeping. While there may be some validity to these concerns (I’ll address them later), I want to make sure people know that state conventions do make some difficult changes. I think about the way my Dad chose to remove a layer of management at the Indiana Baptist Convention when he was the executive director. That wasn’t easy. Those people had families, aspirations and a heart to spread the gospel like the rest of us. It wasn’t easy, but he made the decision for the advancement of the gospel. I also think about how Randy Davis has led the Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC) to downsize their property in order to be better stewards of funds given to them. I think about how Randy Davis walked off the platform at the TBC annual convention to speak in favor of moving to a 50-50 Cooperative Program split. Those are courageous moves for the advancement of the gospel. While we won’t always agree on which, how, and when decisions should be made, I love that I see some movement in this direction.

These are a few of the reasons I love state conventions. These are a few of the reasons why some non-SBC pastors have become SBC pastors. While I’ll mention in a following post a few changes I’d love to see, I want to be sure that I celebrate the grace of God evidence in their midst.
What would you add to this list?

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jedidiah Coppenger is the lead pastor of Redemption City Church in Franklin, Tenn. and contributor to He also blogs at

3/13/2015 12:16:05 PM by Jedidiah Coppenger, Baptist 21 | with 0 comments

Look for ‘the look’

March 13 2015 by Erich Bridges, Worldview Conversation

“The look.” If you’re a parent, a teacher or a mentor, you’ve seen it on young faces.
I’m not talking about the exasperated eye roll or the heavy-lidded look of indifference. I’m talking about that yearning stare into the middle distance, the look of someone in search of direction.
If you’re a disciple maker or mission mobilizer, look for that look.
It’s not that hard to find. Don’t let all the gloom and doom about Millennials leaving the church (or never attending) get you down. There are plenty of teens, college students and young adults – Christian or not – searching for deeper purpose in their lives and eager for someone to point them in the right direction.
I’ve encountered lots of them. And backing me up is research about faith, work and “calling” among American adults. Last year the Barna Group reported that three out of four adults are “looking for ways to live a more meaningful life. Whether such meaning is found in family, career, church, side projects or elsewhere, these are all questions of vocation – that is, the way in which people feel ‘called’ to certain types of work and life choices. ... [T]hese questions remain as strong as ever for millions of Americans.”
Christians have an additional question: “What does God want me to do with my life?”
According to the Barna Group’s report, “only 40 percent of practicing Christians say they have a clear sense of God’s calling on their lives. Christian Millennials are especially sensitive to this divine prompting; nearly half (48 percent) say they believe God is calling them to different work, yet they haven’t yet made such a change.”
What’s stopping them? Fear of stepping out of the safety zone, perhaps. Finances, student debt or conflicting commitments and priorities might be holding them back. Then there’s the “quarter-life crisis” – that anxious and increasingly extended period between completing school and hitting a stride, professionally and/or relationally, when 20-somethings wander in a bewildering world of countless options and no firm decisions. It’s not a new thing. Bob Dylan captured it perfectly 50 years ago in his classic song, “Like a Rolling Stone”:
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?
But perhaps the only thing many 20-somethings lack is a nudge, an encouraging word, a coach in their corner. Christians in particular crave “more direction and discipleship when it comes to the theology of calling, especially as it relates to work,” the Barna report found.
Many young Americans are following a multi-career path or working multiple jobs, whether by choice or economic necessity. The traditional 40-hour week for a single employer has changed for millions into a series of temporary jobs, freelance assignments, passion projects and startups. It’s harder to make ends meet, but the new environment affords the flexibility for people to seek something more than just a paycheck.
“A new kind of economy is taking shape, in part because it would seem today’s workforce has decided for itself that making a living is not enough if that living lacks purpose, meaning and impact,” said the Barna report. “[A]dults today are deeply concerned with getting work ‘right’ – nearly six out of 10 say they want to make a difference in the world.”
This represents a huge opportunity for Christians who want to lead a rising generation toward God and His global purposes. The secular facade that covers American culture is just that, a facade. Young adults are just as hungry for God today as ever, whether they realize it or not, and they’ll never know peace and purpose until they follow Him. Seek them out. If you can’t find them at church, look for them in the workplace, or join a school mentoring program.
They’re out there, hoping for a guide. Don’t keep them waiting.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is IMB global correspondent. Bridges recommends as a resource for Millennials seeking direction.)

3/13/2015 12:02:41 PM by Erich Bridges, Worldview Conversation | with 0 comments

How Chuck Colson changed the way I think

March 12 2015 by Nathan Finn, ERLC Research Fellow

I was raised in Southeast Georgia, close to the buckle of the Bible Belt. I came of age in the mid-1990s, when the Christian Coalition was at the height of its influence, Newt Gingrich was making contracts with America, and it seemed like national revival was closely tied to the fortunes of the Republican Party. Those were heady days for politically conservative evangelicals, Bill Clinton’s presidency notwithstanding. I was a proud member of the College Republicans and listened regularly to D. James Kennedy and James Dobson on American Family Radio.
I was also what my friend Bruce Ashford calls a “cultural anorexic.” To my thinking, American culture was decadent and should be avoided by believers – with the exception, of course, of voting for Republican politicians. I didn’t listen to secular music for a couple of years. I didn’t watch any R-rated movies and avoided most PG-13 movies. I even avoided G-rated movies (at least the ones made by the Walt Disney Company). I wore a lot of Christian t-shirts and rocked a “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelet. As I have reflected on those years, I think I meant well. I really wanted to honor God. But I was an arrogant, condescending, and pretty ignorant religious reactionary.
All this began to change the summer between my junior and senior years of college. Simply put, I discovered Chuck Colson. Previously, I had listened to the “Breakpoint” radio program, so I knew Colson’s name. But that summer, I read his book How Now Shall We Live?. Next, I read The Body: Being Life in Darkness. I started subscribing to Christianity Today, and Colson’s columns became a monthly highlight. I started reading every essay of Colson’s that I could find on the internet. By the time I graduated from college, by God’s grace—and with Chuck Colson’s help—I was no longer a religious reactionary.
Through his writings, Colson taught me three lessons that have continued to shape how I think about the relationship between faith and culture.

Worldviews matter

Chuck Colson believed that worldviews matter. In How Now Shall We Live? Colson and his co-author, Nancy Pearcey, argue that, “The church’s singular failure in recent decades has been the failure to see Christianity as a life system, or worldview, that governs every area of existence.” They then go on to explain the basics of a Christian worldview: the goodness of creation, the horror of sin, the cosmic scope of redemption, a Christian view of culture, the importance of work and witness and worship.
How Now Shall We Live? introduced me to the thinking of Francis Schaeffer and Abraham Kuyper, two figures who further helped to reorient my thoughts about faith and culture. In fact, it would be fair to say that my understanding of the Christian worldview has been nurtured through a combination of Schaeffer, Kuyper, John Calvin, C.S. Lewis, Carl Henry, William Wilberforce, Al Wolters, Richard Mouw and Jonathan Edwards. Colson put me on the trail of about half of these figures.

Cultural engagement is more than political engagement

Thanks to Colson, I had come to believe that the gospel transforms the mind and the Bible provides a particular grid through which to interpret all of life. I now had a healthier, more robust, more biblical way of thinking about how best to engage culture. Politics remained an interest, but as I matured in my understanding of the Christian worldview, I became less partisan. Increasingly, I was able to maintain a bit more critical distance from any particular political party. I now knew that politics was only part of the story – and a part that was as likely to disappoint as any.
As a Christian, I’m to care about how God is at work in the arts, and education, and the sciences, and the family, and public justice. Everything matters to God. Colson introduced me to the Kuyperian concept of “sphere sovereignty,” a topic I later learned about in greater depth from Kuyper himself and other Kuyperian thinkers. Christian should be concerned with the full range of human existence and how God’s common grace is displayed in every human culture. I’m committed to what I think is a biblical vision of human flourishing, and I’m indebted to Chuck Colson for first putting me on this path.

The Church is bigger than I thought it was

The second Colson book I read was actually his earlier work, The Body. In that book, Colson and co-author ‎Ellen Vaughn looked at how various Christians from every denominational tradition were living out their faith in witness and service to the world. Colson argued that the church is both against the world and for the world, a balancing act that should be reflected in our cultural engagement. Tim Keller and others have captured this same theme in recent years by referring to the church as a counterculture for the common good.
I found Colson’s view of the universal church challenging. I was a Baptist collegian who was suspicious of other denominations. But without rejecting my sincere and strong commitment to biblical doctrines such as the sufficiency of scripture and justification by faith alone, I came to recognize that God’s people transcends our denominational traditions. Our denominations have real and important differences. Furthermore, nominal faith remains a persistent threat. Nevertheless, all who claim Jesus is Lord should find as many ways as possible to work together to be salt and light in a world that hates everyone who acknowledges the Bible as God’s Word, affirms biblical ethics, and embraces the faith summarized in the creedal consensus of the ancient church.
I’m thankful for the life and ministry of Chuck Colson. I’d urge those reading this blog post to read Colson’s many writings. I’d also encourage you to be on the lookout for Owen Strachan’s forthcoming book The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nathan A. Finn teaches church history and serves as director of the Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a research fellow for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. This blog originally appeared at

3/12/2015 3:29:00 PM by Nathan Finn, ERLC Research Fellow | with 0 comments

Church planting to reach the nations

March 11 2015 by David Platt, IMB Communications

With over 80 percent of people on our continent now living in metropolitan areas, the need for more biblically faithful churches in key urban centers is critical.
Over the last year, I have had the privilege of visiting and preaching in many of the “Send” cities designated by the North American Mission Board (NAMB). As I have interacted with church planting and revitalization teams, I have been deeply encouraged to see and hear about all the avenues God is blessing for the spread of the gospel in North America.
The rapidly shifting moral landscape of our culture, combined with the sobering reality that many of the most influential cities in North America are filled with lost people yet are home to very few churches beckons us to do more together to reach these cities.
God’s primary instrument for the spread of the gospel here and around the world is the local church. We know from the New Testament that Christ is building His church and that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
Consequently, I praise God for the laser-focused vision of NAMB to plant and revitalize churches in these cities for the spread of the gospel in this nation and to all nations. It is from these churches that men and women, filled by the Spirit of God, equipped with the Word of God and compelled by the grace of God, will serve as ambassadors of Christ and agents of reconciliation in these cities. May it be that through the church planting efforts of NAMB and other cooperating partners that God will use us to “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) as we co-labor on mission together.
As we prepare to enter this Easter season and celebrate the resurrection of our conquering King, I want to encourage churches to give to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. This offering helps fuel church planting and church revitalization efforts across North America. The purpose of this offering rightly reflects the personal conviction of Annie Armstrong that more can, and should, be done in our missions efforts right here at home.
God, in His sovereignty, has uniquely positioned Southern Baptists to play a vital part in the Great Commission. By the grace of God, we have been equipped to intentionally and relentlessly engage our cities, our nation and the world with the life-changing message of the Gospel. I am grateful for NAMB and the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, and I pray that God will do exceedingly more than we can ask or imagine through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering in 2015.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Platt is president of the International Mission Board. The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions provides support for missionaries who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists across the continent. This year’s theme is “Send North America,” with a goal of $60 million. For more information, visit

3/11/2015 12:44:14 PM by David Platt, IMB Communications | with 0 comments

Kenneth Ridings: In the spirit of John the Baptist

March 10 2015 by Greg Mathis, Guest Column

We have a tendency to believe the greatest people we know will live forever. It’s hard to imagine that the day will arrive when we must continue on without those who mean so much to us. The disciples of John the Baptist seemed to think that way about his departure. The students, faculty, alumni and friends of Fruitland Baptist Bible College feel the same way with the passing of one of our spiritual heroes – Kenneth Ridings.
I believe Kenneth was like John the Baptist. God spoke to my heart about the similarities between these two unusually gifted preachers. Both had a Spartan spirit, a unique personality, a heavenly power, an enormous ministry and an unexpected departure.
At the age of 78, Kenneth Ridings, who spent 60 years as an extraordinary expositor of God’s Word, has gone to be with the Lord. Like many “heroes of faith,” this world was probably not worthy of Kenneth’s ministry, and will pay an eternal price for not hearing and heeding his preaching.
Like John the Baptist, Kenneth burst onto the scene out of nowhere to stir, rebuke and rally many through preaching. Like the Judean wilderness, Fingerville, S.C., is not a well-known location. But the small, rural, hometown mill village, gave us a great prophet. He used to jest that any of us who rode by his old home place on “scenic highway 11” could put that on our resume.
Few could have imagined the slender country boy who married the local preacher’s daughter would erupt on the platform as such an exciting expository preacher. God sovereignly set the direction Kenneth’s life would take. The heavenly prediction Gabriel gave prior to the birth of the Baptist “that he would be great in the sight of The Lord,” could have also been prophesied about Kenneth. He had few peers in scriptural insight, exposition and heavenly giftedness. Listening to him was spell-binding!
I wish everyone in our Southern Baptist Convention could have heard him. He was a “prince among preachers.” Like John the Baptist, he preached repentance and demanded righteousness. He grew us spiritually with his well-prepared, homiletically-crafted messages. Many of his alliterated outlines will linger with us long after his passing.
His messages on The Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 23 and Hosea 14 are legendary. With his King James Bible firmly held in his left hand and the unforgettable gestures of his right hand as thumb and fingers pointed out at his audience, his voice cut the air with the precision of the most seasoned orator. He never finished with the scriptural text until the text was spiritually finished with us!
Kenneth’s sermons were often loud and long. He regularly preached for more than an hour, generally to the delight of his listeners. Most preachers have neither the content, the attention of their audience nor the stamina to preach that long. I told Kenneth that my brain couldn’t think as fast as he could preach, and that my seat would get sore from listening to his long sermons.
I asked him if he had ever considered shortening his sermons, and he said he would think about it. So in our next Bible conference he decided to become a short-winded preacher. After I preached my usual 30-minute sermon, Kenneth arose to the platform and preached exactly 29 minutes. He then sat down beside me snarling, “You ain’t going to out short me!” I never again heard him preach another short sermon.
Recently I told him that some of the young preachers were finding it stylish and acceptable to preach nearly an hour. I suggested if he would consider purchasing a deep V-necked shirt, and some skinny jeans, perhaps some contemporary churches might invite him to preach for an hour. He glared at me and let me know that Baptists were more apt to see him in John’s camel hair and a leather girdle than skinny jeans.
But I appreciate Kenneth’s willingness to realize that other preachers were arriving on the scene who didn’t look or dress like him. That’s another thing he had in common with John the Baptist. He wisely informed us that God could call whomever He chooses.
Kenneth was a herald like John who gladly humbled himself so that Jesus alone would be seen and magnified. He accepted his preaching assignment with John’s humility. For much of his life, he felt most at home at Fruitland Baptist Bible College. His sole purpose was to point his listeners to Jesus, and he taught his “preacher boys” to do the same.
Like John, Kenneth had his followers and imitators. Perhaps his greatest impact was on the preachers who would graduate and emulate him in their preaching. Today the college chapel bears his name with the motto, “Where preaching is our passion!”
Kenneth said many times that he and his wife, Ann, wanted to finish their lives in the rapture. In the end, God saw fit to welcome him to heaven through death.
Like John, no one expected Kenneth’s life to end as it did. I thought Kenneth or John the Baptist might have died preaching or baptizing. I certainly would not have thought that John should die in prison lonely and uncertain in his thoughts.
In his last days Kenneth experienced John’s isolation, insecurity and intimidating circumstances as he suffered in his own emotional confinement brought on by dementia. Alzheimer’s is a painful mental prison. It was difficult to witness the toll it took on his once keen mind.
His loving wife Ann and his daughter Beverly were so good to him. They were with him every step of the way. Ann, who led Kenneth to the Lord when he was a teenager, was there to place Kenneth’s hand into God’s as he stepped into glory an aged, weathered and faithful servant. God’s man finished his course!
Even if Kenneth’s ministry lessened toward the end, his deserved respect will never be lost. I am reminded that it was in John’s prison experience when Jesus asserted that John was more than a prophet and better than the best man who had ever lived. If John the Baptist was the greatest man to ever live, could Kenneth, with John’s spirit, be far down the list?
Those who knew him witnessed his spiritual greatness. We cherished our time with him. Hopefully we can carry a little of his legacy with us. Young or aged, modern or old fashioned, we should all strive to move forward in Kenneth’s spirit and in John’s spirit.
The famous preacher, Alexander Maclaren, commended us to emulate John the Baptist in this way: “[With] an unalterable resolution, stand as solid as an iron pillar, live as an unshakeable reed, speak with a clear vision from heaven and minister with a calling to ready people for the Kingdom of God!”
Kenneth Ridings completed his ministry pursuing God’s glory. He allowed others to come along as he quietly faded off the scene. He allowed God to move him out of the spotlight of success to the shadows of obscurity. What a lesson from a man of God who lived his life in the spirit of John the Baptist. Kenneth seized his opportunity, and shouldn’t we as well? God bless the memory of a “unique, one of a kind” preacher.
Perhaps, like John the Baptist, we may never see another like him.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Greg Mathis is senior pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church in Hendersonville.)

Related Story:

Relatives, friends say goodbye to Ridings
3/10/2015 1:51:24 PM by Greg Mathis, Guest Column | with 2 comments

Progress report: 10 burdens about the SBC

March 9 2015 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President

When I began serving as President of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), I also began working daily on listening to people and their concerns about our convention. Some of the ways I’ve accomplished this is through meetings with pastors and leaders as I’ve traveled. I have also called upon others for open and honest dialogue about our present status and future together.
Through these gatherings and conversations, we have worked diligently to create a specific list of 10 burdens that we keep hearing from our people about the SBC. We have not just listened, contemplated, and discussed these things endlessly, but we have worked consistently to take actions relating to these things.
Today, I want to give a progress report about the actions we have taken to address these things over the past five months. The SBC is a very large, complex ministry network. Things take time, but I thought it would be wise to share the progress I feel we have made since the fall.
I am listing these things not by order of priority, but as a matter of reference for each of us. I hope this will encourage you and perhaps give you some things to pray about.
1. Revival and Great Awakening – A heart and growing desperation for a great move of God in this generation.
This desperation for the next great move of God continues to grow. You can review my writings over the past several months and discover the consistent call for each of us to pray for this next great move of God. We know we cannot fix ourselves and God alone is our hope.  
In the fall, I released an e-book entitled Pleading With Southern Baptists. This ten to twelve minute read can be downloaded at or I would encourage you to read and share it with the world. God is using this to move us toward clear agreement, visible union, and extraordinary prayer.
2. Unity and cooperation absolutely must happen across the SBC in order for us to realize the future God has for us.
We have attempted to have conversations with people via conference calls, personal meetings, as well as various group meetings. I am convinced when we talk to each other we will not be prone to talk about each other. This also permits us to talk openly and honestly about our future together.
Independence threatens the value of unity and cooperation. We have been diligent to call for unity and cooperation. I am convinced our future is tied to our commitment to these two things.
3. The Cooperative Program is needed & valuable. Therefore, we need to discover ways to help all generations understand its importance for what we do today and for our future.
The great news is that our leadership is highly committed to the future of the Cooperative Program. Unquestionably, our leaders value the Cooperative Program and see its need in the future of Baptist life. While our seminaries are working hard to bring along the next generation, our mission boards are telling the story of God’s work around the world.
I have met with our leaders, working diligently to bring all of us together for the future financial support of all our Southern Baptist work. We will continue to call upon our churches to give more, but also elevate the importance of both of our major mission offerings. There is more about all this to come, so stay tuned.
4. The Great Commission – We need to remember what we are about: reaching America and the world for Jesus Christ.
As we have elevated and reminded ourselves, this single commitment that brought us together in 1845 is the same thing that keeps us together in 2015. Southern Baptists have stated again and again our grand commitment to the Great Commission.
Our problem is not our path, but our pace. We must find a way to accelerate our fulfillment of the Great Commission. In this urgent hour, we must find a way to give all we have and all we are to the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
5. Change the Annual Meeting of the SBC.
Our Order of Business Committee and the leaders of our Executive Committee have worked diligently and faithfully with me to change the annual meeting of the SBC. Please go here to see how this is being done. And take a moment to look at the Highlights of the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention.
6. Communication – Tell the compelling story of who we are and what we are about.
In this month’s edition of SBC LIFE, you can understand more of what God is doing through our own ministries.
When you come to the 2015 SBC, you will see our commitment to tell the great story we have as Southern Baptists.
7. Better engagement of the younger generation in the SBC.    
Recent statistics have confirmed what we felt was happening when we found that almost 25 percent of the SBC Messengers from last year were under forty years of age. I would urge you to take the time to read an article about this issue from our friend, Trevin Wax. It will encourage you. Come to Columbus!
8. Duplication – Address structural challenges in the SBC that permit duplication of ministries, resulting in monies being spent that should be spent elsewhere.
While this is an ongoing issue in the convention, the convention entities, state conventions, and associations alone have to address it. As pastors, we can request it be dealt with, but it is up to the leaders of our convention bodies to address it. Pray for them as they do.
9. Diversity – Celebrating our progress and continuing with intentionality.
As president, I have the privilege and responsibility to appoint many people for various committee positions. I have just completed two of these major responsibilities and they will be made public soon, but let me tell you, right at 20 percent of our appointments to the Committee on Committees will be multi-ethnic. This will be incredible for our future. You may already be aware, but about 20 percent of our 50,000 churches and congregations are multi-ethnic churches.
Additionally, on this same committee, I am appointing twice the number of women than a year ago. There is so much to say about this exciting future we have together, but please know, we celebrate our progress and are being very intentional.
10. Legacy Churches – Raise up a generation of young men willing to give their life to these kinds of churches.
We are raising the flag high for the need to see our legacy, established churches be pastored and led by the next generation of leaders. While we are very committed to church planting, we also love seeing our legacy churches moving to great heights in their future.
Additionally, I know many of our leaders are very committed to remind the next generation of leaders about the huge need we have in our legacy churches.
In Conclusion …
I hope this progress report has helped you see that we have not just conducted meetings without results. I believe in taking action and leading us toward further steps. Please join me in doing the same not only in your prayer closet but also with your leadership. It will take all of us, so let’s come together like never before and do it for God’s glory.
Our future is great. Let’s experience it together.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd
3/9/2015 9:39:52 AM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President | with 0 comments

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