May 2018

Preparing for revival through leadership accountability

May 31 2018 by Keith Whitfield

Southern Baptist leaders have begun to say publicly what many have been saying privately for months: our denomination is undergoing a time of judgment. In a recent article on his personal blog, R. Albert Mohler, Jr. said, “[T]he terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance.”
 
Mohler says the judgment facing the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) results from an “unorganized conspiracy of silence.” He calls the silence “dangerous.” He is right, and this should haunt us. While the silence may be unorganized, it likely reflects habits of complicity deeply embedded in the culture of the SBC.

SEBTS photo
Keith Whitfield


We pray this season of judgment is not the end of our story, but a time when God prunes our convention to restore in us a servant-minded, spirit-empowered unity for gospel cooperation. We pray that this renewal will be followed by seasons of gospel fruitfulness.
 
But we must become wide awake to the fact that our leadership and organizational dynamics are a determining factor in our cooperative culture.
 
If the SBC experiences revival in the future, we must begin the active and ongoing preparation to be found revival-ready. That includes preparing for revival through leadership accountability.
 

Calling for revival is not enough

For many years now, Southern Baptists have voiced our desire for revival to come to our denomination. In preparation for our annual meetings, we often call one another to pray for, seek and generate an expectation for revival. We tell ourselves that revival will come when our desires, affections and wills align with God’s will and character.
 
These dispositions are necessary spiritual preconditions for revival, but this periodic approach has led us to desire and anticipate revival only in short bursts of spiritual energy.
 
What happens when revival does not fall as we had hoped? We go about our lives, hoping that it will be different the next time we join our hearts in a fervent longing for revival to come.
 
My friend Otto Sanchez, pastor of Ozama Baptist Church in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and president of the Baptist convention in the Dominican Republic, believes the Lord is planning to revive the churches of Latin America. Every time I am with him, he talks about the work God is doing to prepare the church.
 
Otto is actively and constantly preparing for this revival in Latin America. He teaches and leads church members and church leaders to instill an anticipation of God’s renewing work. He invests his time in training future leaders. He has inspired a team of people to develop evangelistic and equipping resources to serve Latin American churches. He is discipling a generation of people, and through leadership development and accountability, he is engendering a “revival-ready” culture.  
 
My conversations with Otto have challenged my own thinking on how we should expectantly prepare for revival. We should not anticipate it passively, but actively. We should not pursue it intermittently, but constantly. We should not only seek to cultivate a desire for it, but we should also strategically disciple people in preparation for it.  
 
This leads me to reflect on what the SBC is doing to prepare, and to evaluate just how expectant we actually are. Are we discipling people to have a longing for revival to come to our churches? Are we teaching people to live humble, sacrificial lives that are fully dependent upon God? Are we developing people who esteem personal holiness over ministry success? Are we cultivating spiritual discernment and vision in our people? Are we enculturating commitments, practices and systems to hold our leaders accountable?
 
In my assessment, Southern Baptists have not been steadfast in our pursuit of humility, sacrifice, faithfulness, holiness and accountability. We have permitted “acceptable sins” to persist among us, and have tolerated behavior by our leaders that would not be tolerated if practiced by those they serve. We have nurtured a culture of silence rather than transparency.
 

Becoming revival-ready through leadership accountability  

The organizational silence in the SBC that Mohler warns about lives and flourishes among our family of churches for one primary reason: we have neglected the responsibility to hold leaders accountable.
 
There are many reasons for this neglect.
 
One reason is that Southern Baptists have idolized popularity and influence, and failed to show due honor to local, responsible leaders. Large ministries enable wider reach for gospel impact, and can be used for Kingdom advance. Yet, the adoration of expanding influence can allow unhealthy distance to form between leaders and their communities, and unwittingly blur what would normally be recognized as character flaws and ministry neglect.
 
Another reason is that we fear losing cultural status and institutional stability more than we fear the Lord. We depend on our storied history of resurgence, the size of our denomination and our contemporary doctrinal fidelity. We are skillful in seeking institutional protection and organizational momentum above all, and these institutional habits judiciously insulate our leaders from accountability.
 
Further, we have created a culture that discourages confronting leaders, because we’ve stigmatized “those people.” If we are serious about being revival-ready, we have to address this hesitation that too often simply becomes acquiescent silence. We are right not to charge a leader in haste, but this biblical principle (1 Timothy 5:19) is often misapplied to buttress a culture and system that protects its leaders from answering for their responsibilities.
 
Biblical accountability happens in community and in face-to-face relationships. It calls leaders to live gospel-transformed and biblically faithful lives within and for their community. Such vision and accountability cannot happen without intentional preparation and discipleship.
 
I have become convinced that one of the greatest current discipleship needs is the equipping of Christians to hold their leaders accountable. Many feel powerless to confront leaders, who are using their gifts and position for personal gain rather the good of the people they are called to serve.
 
To equip people for this responsibility, we have to cultivate spiritual discernment in them, so that they can perceive when church and denominational leaders use their power and God-given gifts for self-protection and to maintain control. At the end of the day, no matter the institutional influence or public platform, we have to embolden them to fear God and not man.
 
Our leaders need accountability. However, leaders sometimes deflect it with tactics like patronizing aloofness, aggressive defensiveness and spiritual redirection.
 
Three questions can help us identify when such ungodly maneuvers are in play. First, how open is the leader to vulnerable accountability and confrontation? Second, how directly do they address their mistakes and ask for forgiveness? Third, what practical steps does the leader take to correct how they lead once they’ve acknowledged that they’ve failed their community? The answers to these questions reveal a lot about the character of a leader.
 
We talk a lot about leadership, and we do so for good reason. Leadership is essential. But may we not forget that the New Testament focuses its attention on the head of the church, Christ. The church as his body receives its life from the King of kings, and is called to grow, minister and serve under his Lordship.
 
Christian leaders are gifted to advance the Kingdom of the King and cultivate the flourishing of His people. Christian leaders are called to cultivate this ecclesial reality, but too often they stunt it by trying to be kings themselves, expanding their own kingdom of public influence and recognition.
 
We need to disciple people to hold their leaders accountable. And we need to disciple leaders who resist the temptation to believe gifts, platform and personality are more valuable than serving the people to whom God has called them.
 
May God protect His people by giving them spiritual sight to only follow leaders who live for the King and the good of His people. May God give us leaders who have hearts that follow His heart.
 
I am praying that the Lord will raise up a coalition of leaders who are sincerely humble, godly in character, united in service, share in love for the SBC and see a future for cooperative missions.
 
Join me in praying for these leaders.
 
And, join me in preparing our leaders for revival by calling for and practicing a greater level of leadership accountability.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Whitfield is associate professor of theology, dean of graduate studies and vice president for academic administration at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.)
 

5/31/2018 10:23:00 AM by Keith Whitfield | with 0 comments



The wrath of God poured out

May 30 2018 by Albert Mohler Jr., Guest Column

The last few weeks have been excruciating for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and for the larger evangelical movement. It is as if bombs are dropping and God alone knows how many will fall and where they will land.
 
America’s largest evangelical denomination has been in the headlines day after day. The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment.
 
At one of our seminaries, controversy has centered on a president (now former president) whose sermon illustration from years ago included advice that a battered wife remain in the home and the marriage in hope of the conversion of her abusive husband. Other comments represented the objectification of a teenage girl. The issues only grew more urgent with the sense that the dated statements represented ongoing advice and counsel.
 
But the issues are far deeper and wider.
 
Sexual misconduct is as old as sin, but the avalanche of sexual misconduct that has come to light in recent weeks is almost too much to bear. These grievous revelations of sin have occurred in churches, in denominational ministries and even in our seminaries.
 
We thought this was a Roman Catholic problem. The unbiblical requirement of priestly celibacy and the organized conspiracy of silence within the hierarchy helped to explain the cesspool of child sex abuse that has robbed the Roman Catholic Church of so much of its moral authority. When people said that Evangelicals had a similar crisis coming, it didn’t seem plausible – even to me. I have been president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for [25] years. I did not see this coming.
 
I was wrong. The judgment of God has come.
 
Judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention. The terrible swift sword of public humiliation has come with a vengeance. There can be no doubt that this story is not over.
 
We cannot blame a requirement of priestly celibacy. We cannot even point to an organized conspiracy of silence within the denominational hierarchy. No, our humiliation comes as a result of an unorganized conspiracy of silence. Sadly, the unorganized nature of our problem may make recovery and correction even more difficult and the silence even more dangerous.
 
Is the problem theological? Has the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention come to this? Is this what thousands of Southern Baptists were hoping for when they worked so hard to see this denomination returned to its theological convictions, its seminaries return to teaching the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, its ministries solidly established on the gospel of Jesus Christ? Did we win confessional integrity only to sacrifice our moral integrity?
 
This is exactly what those who opposed the Conservative Resurgence warned would happen. They claimed that the effort to recover the denomination theologically was just a disguised move to capture the denomination for a new set of power-hungry leaders. I know that was not true. I must insist that this was not true. But, it sure looks like their prophecies had some merit after all.
 
As I recently said with lament to a long-time leader among the more liberal faction that left the Southern Baptist Convention, each side has become the fulfillment of what the other side warned.
 
The liberals who left have kept marching to the Left, in theology and moral teaching. The SBC, solidly conservative theologically, has been revealed to be morally compromised.
 
Among the issues of hottest theological debate was the role of women in the home and in the church. The SBC has affirmed complementarianism – the belief that the Bible reveals that men and women are equally made in God’s image, but that men and women were also created to be complements to each other, men and women bearing distinct and different roles.
 
This means obeying the Bible’s very clear teachings on male leadership in the home and in the church. By the year 2000, complementarian teachings were formally included within the Baptist Faith & Message, the denomination’s confession of faith.
 
Is complementarianism the problem? Is it just camouflage for abusive males and permission for the abuse and mistreatment of women? We can see how that argument would seem plausible to so many looking to conservative evangelicals and wondering if we have gone mad.
 
But the same Bible that reveals the complementarian pattern of male leadership in the home and the church also reveals God’s steadfast and unyielding concern for the abused, the threatened, the suffering and the fearful. There is no excuse whatsoever for abuse of any form, verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual or sexual. The Bible warns so clearly of those who would abuse power and weaponize authority.
 
Every Christian church and every pastor and every church member must be ready to protect any of God’s children threatened by abuse and must hold every abuser fully accountable. The church and any institution or ministry serving the church must be ready to assure safety and support to any woman or child or vulnerable one threatened by abuse.
 
The church must make every appropriate call to law enforcement and recognize the rightful God-ordained responsibility of civil government to protect, to investigate and to prosecute.
 
A church, denomination or Christian ministry must look outside of itself when confronted with a pattern of mishandling such responsibilities, or merely of being charged with such a pattern. We cannot vindicate ourselves. That is the advice I have given consistently for many years. I now must make this judgment a matter of public commitment.
 
I believe that any public accusation concerning such a pattern requires an independent, third-party investigation. In making this judgment, I make public what I want to be held to do should, God forbid, such a responsibility arise.
 
I believe that the pattern of God’s pleasure and design in the family and in the church is essential to human flourishing. I believe that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible verbally inspired Word of God. I believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the great news that any sinner who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. I believe that theology rooted unapologetically in Scripture is the only sure foundation for the home, the church and the Christian life. And, I also believe that the fruit of the Spirit “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Where this fruit is not present and visible, Christ is not present.
 
The #MeToo moment has come to American evangelicals. This moment has come to some of my friends and brothers in Christ. This moment has come to me, and I am called to deal with it as a Christian, as a minister of the gospel, as a seminary and college president, and as a public leader.
I pray that I will lead rightly.
 
In Romans 1:18 we are told: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
 
This is just a foretaste of the wrath of God poured out. This moment requires the very best of us. The Southern Baptist Convention is on trial and our public credibility is at stake. May God have mercy on us all.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.)
 

5/30/2018 9:31:25 AM by Albert Mohler Jr., Guest Column | with 0 comments



It’s not about us

May 25 2018 by Keith Shorter, Baptist Press

Though it was not an audible voice, I never expected to encounter God in line at Starbucks.
 
I had taken a group of pastors to Boston on a Catch the Vision Trip with the North American Mission Board. After listening to several church planters and hearing their heart for the city, we took a coffee break.

Keith Shorter


As we were waiting in line, one of the pastors said to me, “Do you know the difference between us and these church planters?” “What is it?” I replied. “These guys have to focus on lostness every day in order to survive, and we don’t.” The voice that I heard was Tracy’s but the message I heard was from the Lord.
 
I’ve pastored my church for 21 years and hate to admit this, but we can do quite well just baptizing our kids from [Vacation Bible School], welcoming new people who have moved into our community and getting folks from neighboring churches when they are dissatisfied there. We don’t have to focus on lostness every day. We can do pretty well just by focusing on church people.
 
At least for a while.
 
One of the reasons that I like to go on mission trips is because missionaries and church planters inspire me to focus on people who still need to hear the gospel. Missionaries are not tourists; they live on a mission, driven to share the gospel with those who are living far from God. Their efforts are deliberate, their concern for their city is genuine. I am always challenged by their example and reminded that my church should do likewise.
 
Acts 5:42 has always been a verse that has fascinated me: “Every day in the temple, and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah” (CSV). The church in Acts had plenty of opportunities to stop sharing the gospel. They were threatened, jailed and beaten. Still, every day they continued sharing the good news about Jesus with those who desperately needed to hear it.
 
If we could somehow go back in time, I would love to ask them how they maintained their focus and their faithfulness. How did they resist the slide toward apathy and indifference? They would probably look at me with astonishment. “Apathy about Jesus?” They had the best news this world has ever heard! So each day simply brought new opportunities to tell people what God had done.
 
The early Christians did not have a program to promote. They did not have a budget to raise. They did not have a building to maintain. They did not have a staff to lead. Those things are not wrong. The first Christians just had a simple message – there is hope because of the cross.
 
Somehow, in the middle of all of our church work, we have to remember the work of the church. People broken by their sin need to know that there is an answer to their emptiness.
 
I remember going to Mexico about 15 years ago for some specialized training with the International Mission Board. The speaker did a great job of equipping us, but what I remember most is a simple three-phrase formula he engrained in our minds: “It’s not about us. It’s all about Him. Then it’s about them.”
 
To me, that summarizes a missionary’s motivation better than anything else I have ever heard. It also summarizes our task as a church.
 
Imagine the impact we could all have if we focused less on personal preferences, and more on the lostness around us. Does the lostness that permeates your community still penetrate your heart? If you need to refocus on what is really important, ask yourself one simple question: “How would a missionary reach this community?” Ask that question often enough and you may find yourself telling others, “It’s not about us. It’s all about Him. Then it’s about them.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Shorter is pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., and immediate past president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)
 

5/25/2018 9:43:51 AM by Keith Shorter, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



A prayer at D.L. Moody’s gravesite

May 24 2018 by Paul Kim, Baptist Press

On a bright spring morning on Saturday, May 5, a caravan of minivans pulled into the parking lot of The Moody Center in Northfield, Mass. This idyllic little New England town was where the famous evangelist Dwight Lyman Moody was born and buried.

Submitted photo
Paul and Rebekah Kim show a V sign for “Victory in Jesus” at the gravesite of evangelist D.L. Moody and his wife Emma.


Nearly 50 pastors and missionaries attending a pastoral retreat from Korean-American churches in the U.S., Korea, the Republic of Georgia and Armenia made the pilgrimage to visit the historic campus. The day was especially meaningful because we were welcomed by David Powell, grandson of Mr. Moody’s eldest daughter. Nearly 90 years young, Mr. Powell displayed a sprightly step, a sparkling wit and an infectious charm. He and Julia Wiggin, director of the Moody Center, gave us a tour of the site and shared about the life and ministry of D.L. Moody.
 
I had recently read Why God Used D.L. Moody by his longtime friend and co-laborer for Christ, R.A. Torrey, who listed seven reasons why God was able to use Mr. Moody:

  1. A fully surrendered man
  2. A man of prayer
  3. A deep and practical student of the Bible
  4. A humble man
  5. His entire freedom from the love of money
  6. His consuming passion for the salvation of the lost
  7. Anointed with power from on high

 
As God used D.L. Moody so powerfully in his generation, He can use us in our generation if we imitate these seven characteristics.
 
Billy Graham recently passed away at the age of 99. These two spiritual giants of evangelism in the 19th and 20th century both embodied a simple child-like faith and trust in the Father, and they immersed themselves in the three-pronged spiritual power of the Word of God, prayer and the Holy Spirit. Just as the apostle Paul challenged the Corinthian church, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, ESV), may we also honor, learn from and imitate men of faith such as D.L. Moody and Billy Graham.
 
As we all gathered at the gravesite where D.L. Moody and his faithful wife Emma are buried side by side, I led a prayer thanking God for Mr. Moody’s continuing challenge to us through his life example of preaching the clear truth of the gospel message – one that calls for sinners to repent for the forgiveness of sins through the cross of Jesus Christ. He left an evangelistic legacy and ministry footprint that is worthy of following.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Longtime pastor Paul Kim currently is the Asian-American relations consultant with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.)
 

5/24/2018 10:37:25 AM by Paul Kim, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



The issue of race & a compassionate heart

May 23 2018 by Nate Millican, Baptist Press

At the MLK50 conference in Memphis, Tenn., I looked forward to learning more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as how the gospel informs and empowers us to be, as Tim Keller says, “just persons.” That is, those changed by the gospel should be persons of justice, particularly in reference to racial issues.

Nate Millican


Candidly, I was spiritually unprepared for much of what was shared in keynote addresses, breakouts and short testimonials marking the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination. When I say “spiritually unprepared,” I’m referring to the nature of my heart. There were many times when I affirmed the speaker’s words with a hearty amen or looked to several friends and stated, “wow.” The “wow” was in regard to a statement that dripped with such gospel clarity and power that it was almost stunning. And yet, disappointingly, there were many times when irritation sprang from my heart and even, at times, dismissiveness.
 
Why did this happen? What was going on and, still goes on, within me? Let me share several reasons why I believe I reacted this way.
 

Failing to see the reality of spiritual warfare

I failed to keep in mind the reality of Ephesians 6:12, where the apostle Paul writes, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (ESV). A good friend reminded me earlier this year that our struggle is not against one another, but against a very real demonic presence and power that seeks to bring disunity, bitterness and chaos. We see this spiritual warfare rooted in the truth of Genesis 3 where the root of enmity and relational and ethnic tension is found.
 
Today, when we fail to see the beauty and awesomeness of God’s image in our racial distinction, the same insidious scheme of the devil is palpable. Furthermore, my irritation and dismissiveness were playing a part in giving “ground” to the devil, as I was choosing not to see the urgency and seriousness of the issue at hand. In doing so, I was not only failing to love my neighbor, but it necessarily meant that I was not loving God with the totality of my being.
 

Letting geographical context determine engagement

Second, I live in Phoenix, Ariz. Specifically, I live in a town called Ahwatukee. In my time here I have heard people sometimes refer to Ahwatukee as “all-white-tu-kee.” This is an unfortunate, wrong and unhelpful phrase to say the least. Though the issue of racial reconciliation and inequality is certainly prevalent in Phoenix, I live in a fairly monolithic part of the city. Currently, the Ahwatukee suburb of Phoenix is more than 80 percent Caucasian. The racial issue is a national issue; it doesn’t feel like a local issue. It’s simply not as conspicuous in the issues I deal with each week as a pastor.
 
And yet, some Christians in my context have been guilty of making comments and sharing illustrations particularly on social media that are not only unloving but are prejudicial and racist.
 
So what am I do? Part of my role as a pastor is specified in Ephesians 4:12, where Paul writes, “equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Therefore, by God’s grace I must lovingly point out the absence of love and remind them that our manner of life is to be worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27). I must call them to repent of words, actions, feelings, thoughts, intentions and choices that are unbecoming of a Christ-follower.
 

Needing to pray for a compassionate heart

I simply lacked compassion for the issue of racial reconciliation and inequality. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:12, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts …” I realized I did not have the sympathy, the care and the concern for the issues like I was called to have. In God’s kindness, the Spirit pricked my conscience and prompted me to spend some time evaluating my thoughts, choices and feelings. In so doing, the ungodliness in my heart was exposed. I spent time repenting of my lack of compassion and asking God to help me see the issue as He does – and as my black brothers and sisters do, as well as many of my white brothers and sisters. I asked God to help me “put on a compassionate heart.”
 
Without a mindfulness of spiritual warfare, the insulating and blinding effect of my local context, and not putting on a compassionate heart, I can too easily slip back into a posture where I am not sensitive to the issues that God calls me to be sensitive about.
 
May the Lord continue to give me ears to hear and eyes to see as I seek to learn how to think about all things, including race and racism, from a God-centered worldview.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Nate Millican is lead pastor of Foothills Baptist Church in Phoenix and the Cooperative Program catalyst for the western U.S. with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. This column first appeared at the Executive Committee’s talkCP.com website.)
 

5/23/2018 8:29:47 AM by Nate Millican, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Prayer for Southern Baptist resolutions

May 22 2018 by Jason G. Duesing

As chairman of the 2018 SBC Committee on Resolutions, I write to ask for members and messengers of Southern Baptist churches to pray for the committee during this season where we carry out our work and to provide a brief overview of our responsibilities.
 

Jason G. Duesing

What are resolutions and what is the Resolutions Committee?

 
The Resolutions Committee exists to serve the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and has the entrusted duty of preparing and submitting resolutions for adoption by the Southern Baptist Convention at its annual meeting.
 
Resolutions are non-binding statements and are intended to express the collective opinion of the messengers at that particular annual meeting on pertinent moral, ethical and public policy issues, often providing suggestions for cooperating churches and entities to speak with biblical clarity on a wide range of theological, social and practical topics.
 
The duty assigned to the Resolutions Committee is one of prayerful service to and for the messengers of the churches. In such, the committee functions as an editorial board of sorts that receives and evaluates all properly submitted resolutions and then works to determine which ones are best suited for recommendation. The Southern Baptist Convention has adopted resolutions at the annual meeting every year since 1845.
 
The function of the committee has changed over time to better position the committee to serve the messengers. Prior to 2002, the committee received and evaluated proposed resolutions during the annual meeting from messengers physically present. While most years this would mean processing a few dozen resolutions, in 1990, messengers proposed 81 resolutions. Over the next several years, as many as four dozen resolutions were often read into the microphones on the Tuesday and Wednesday of the then three-day annual meeting. Following a period of evaluation, in 2002, the convention voted to amend SBC Bylaw 20 to give the committee more time for evaluation in advance and to allow more participation from church members at cooperating Southern Baptist churches to pre-submit proposed resolutions.
 
Even though the committee starts its work 75 days in advance of the annual meeting, no resolution has official standing until it is introduced to the messengers at the annual meeting by the Resolutions Committee. Therefore, the committee labors to ensure that the first presentation of their recommendations is to the messengers rather than in some other form of advanced copy. In other words, the resolutions come as recommendations to the messengers from the committee, but they only represent the collective voice of the messengers once they are adopted.
 
At the annual meeting, there will be a printed list of all properly submitted resolutions in the Convention Bulletin. There, prior to the official report of the Resolutions Committee, everyone who submitted a resolution will see what determination the committee made, along with a brief explanation if the resolution was declined. If the committee declined to advance a properly submitted resolution that a messenger would still like the convention to consider, the convention can do so only by a 2/3 vote.
 

How is the 2018 Resolutions Committee going about our work?

 
Practically speaking, given the amount of resolutions we receive and the 35-minute window the committee has to present its report, the committee has to make determinations to decline resolutions, not because they may not be good or helpful, but because they are not, in the opinion of the committee, the best fit for this particular annual meeting of the SBC.
 
Further, it is the usual and longstanding practice for the committee to edit, amend or rewrite submitted resolutions before they are brought for recommendation to the convention. This evaluative function allows the committee to serve the convention by considering, as a committee, various topics from a variety of perspectives and extended research. The committee works hard to ensure the initial spirit and intent of each properly submitted resolution is preserved.
 
However, once a resolution is finalized for recommendation, the convention now sees each resolution as the committee’s rather than the original author’s. Further conversation with the author or other experts on that topic can and sometime does take place, but ultimately the committee makes the final evaluation. The limited time this committee of volunteers has to do its work precludes extended dialogue with authors, especially given the volume of resolutions submitted. That said, this year, I am personally writing each author of a properly submitted resolution to thank them and give a brief overview of our process to avoid any misunderstanding or miscommunication.
 
Prayerfully speaking, the committee is conducting its work in conversation with each other and with God. The committee will have met three times since April 1 via video conference for prayer and discussion. In addition, every properly submitted resolution is given to a subcommittee for prayer and initial evaluation in the weeks leading up to the meetings of the committee in Dallas.
 
The committee convenes in Dallas for three days of working sessions in advance of the annual meeting and there we will, as a committee, read aloud each properly submitted resolution followed by prayer and discussion before making our final recommendations. The day before the annual meeting begins, the committee will meet for one final session to proofread, pray and finalize the report. Once the annual meeting begins, the committee remains available and ready to respond to the work of the messengers as we present our recommendations during our allotted time for reporting.
 
SBC President Steve Gaines has appointed a phenomenal Resolutions Committee this year of gifted and wise men and women. Our desire is to follow his leadership in carrying out our work “with a genuine unity of spirit and purpose.” Following 1 Peter 4:11, please pray that the Resolutions Committee would serve the convention with “the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

5/22/2018 10:33:17 AM by Jason G. Duesing | with 0 comments



The problem of evil – for atheists

May 21 2018 by Adam Groza

In his book “The Cross of Christ,” John Stott said that the “the fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith.”
 
The ages-old problem of evil is the apparent conflict or contradiction between the existence of evil and suffering and the existence an all-powerful, all-knowing and ever-present God who is also perfectly good.
 
As the problem goes such a God would stop evil and suffering, if He existed. Another form of the problem of evil focuses on the amount of evil, suggesting that while God may have good reason for some evil, surely the amount of evil we experience makes it unlikely that the God of Scripture exists.
 
Why is this argument such a challenge to the Christian faith? For many people, the argument is not about logical inconsistencies, probability or deductive logic. Rather, the problem of evil is about a sick child, an experience of abuse, personal exposure to horrific and traumatic evil or perhaps the hurtful actions of Christian leaders.
 
The problem of evil often boils down to our inability to reconcile our belief in a good and loving God with our experience of sin, suffering and evil.
 
There are smart people who have offered lengthy defenses of God against the problem of evil. Such a defense is called a theodicy, and you can check out the free will defense by C.S. Lewis or Alvin Plantinga or Gordon Clark’s view of sovereign decree.
 
On a practical level, ministers can answer this question by turning the question back on the person who is raising the objection.
 
As Christians, we need to give an account of why evil exists. The good news is that the problem itself is understandable because we know who God is, we know what evil is and we know why it is a problem. An atheist, however, in raising the problem of evil must answer: If there is no God, why is evil, evil?
 
As Christians, we believe that evil is that which fails to reflect the beauty, goodness or will of God. As Augustine said, evil is “deprived of good.”
 
When an atheist points to the evil in the world as proof that God doesn’t exist, he faces much bigger problems: If not for God, what constitutes evil?
 
A person who rejects God still lives in a world with suffering and evil, yet cannot explain why suffering and evil are bad. A person who rejects God lives in a world with suffering and evil, yet without any hope of future redemption and salvation, without any future reward for the righteous, punishment for the wicked and vindication for the abused.
 
Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There’s no God.’” One aspect of the foolishness of unbelief is that, apart from God, the evils of suffering, abuse, persecution and injustice fail to be evil.
 
If not for God, evil ceases to be evil. If not for a perfectly just Creator revealed in Christ, the very idea of injustice becomes meaningless. If there is no God and no Imago Dei, then moral outrage is reduced to collective emotionalism, social posturing or political maneuvering.
 
The problem of evil makes us realize just how much we need God.

5/21/2018 3:05:48 PM by Adam Groza | with 0 comments



Chaplaincy: It’s all about presence

May 18 2018 by Josie Rabbitt Bingham, NAMB

When Chaplain (CPT) Robert Boyles was in U.S. Army Ranger School training, he met four strangers he later would baptize. But when the weather turned 15 degrees that night, Boyles was simply another Ranger in training, stomping his feet in his Army boots to keep warm.

File photo provided by NAMB
Army chaplains not only complete all rigorous Army trainings with men and women in uniform but also offer spiritual counsel to Army members by putting people first, providing professional care and focusing on the fruit that comes from sharing the gospel.


Boyles and the others were in the Mountain phase of an arduous 61 days in training at Fort Benning’s Ranger Brigade. They’d already endured a 12-mile road march carrying 35-pound rucksacks and weapons as well as intense military instruction, challenging patrols and a grueling physical training test together.
 
During their cold circuit in the mountains, Boyles and a few men talked. Unbeknownst to many soldiers, Boyles was a chaplain in training – sliding on his belly in the mud under a fence of barbed wire with the other trainees and running toward whirring helicopters in the middle of the night with his unit. Being a chaplain meant Boyles would be there at the end, earning his Ranger tab and graduating with the elite.
 
Why? Because chaplaincy is all about being present.
 
“Chaplains pay their dues,” says Chaplain (Major) Philip Kramer, senior chaplain in the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigades at Fort Benning. “The cloth we wear is the same cloth our fellow soldiers wear. It is earned with blood, sweat and tears, and paid in the form of hard work for the purpose of ministering.”
 
It’s why Chaplain (CPT) Robert Davis, an Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade chaplain, continuously jumps with young airborne trainees off 250-foot towers formerly built for the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
 
“We want to be constantly available to our constituents, which means doing what they are doing in order to earn the respect to reach them,” Davis says.
 
Currently 37 chaplains and 38 religious affairs specialists are serving the religious and pastoral needs of thousands of soldiers, families and authorized civilian personnel at the military base. They are the Fort Benning Unit Ministry Team under the watchful eye of Chaplain (COL) Robert Hart, a Southern Baptist who heads the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE)/Garrison Chaplain, Religious Support Office.
 
They are in charge of 25 weekend services and 40 weekday programs in 15 facilities.
 
“In the Army, many soldiers have spiritual experiences,” Boyles says. “Knowing a chaplain means knowing someone they can talk to.”
 
In sleeting weather during Ranger training, for example, Boyles’ presence and proximity to his troops allowed him to reach them on another level and even pray with them upon request. After graduating, Boyles remains a chaplain at the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade.
 
Boyles’ support comes from the MCoE in its role of providing safety, support and services to all military and civilian organizations as well as comprehensive religious support. It is also a trusted advisory team to the commander and staff on matters pertaining to religious support, morals, pastoral care and morale issues.
 
Chaplain (COL) Bob Hart’s philosophy entails three steps: People first, professional care and be purpose-driven.

  • “People first” is about being with soldiers when they train, deploy and have problems they need someone to hear. Chaplains putting people first are compassionate and provide kind and understanding leadership to those far from home.
  • “Professional care” is about providing confidentiality to those in the Army. This requires integrity and respect from the chaplains.
  • “Purpose-driven” is about focusing on the Great Commission and about being fruitful.

 
“There’s a lot of additional things easy to get wrapped up in, like status,” Kramer says. “But those things produce foliage, not fruit. We have to focus as chaplains on the fruit and on producing that fruit as part of the Great Commission. It’s a challenge, but we must have a greater commitment to what truly matters in life and live out that commitment.”
 
Going on 28 years of service, Shane Chapman, the 194th Brigade Command Sergeant Major, meets basic trainees at the starting lines of their military careers.
 
“I saw the worst of what humans can do to each other,” Chapman says about his first deployment at age 20 to Somalia. “I tell the basic trainees that glory and war do not go together. We are patriots and we fight for our country because we believe in it, not because we want the glory. If that’s what they’re fighting for, they won’t find it in a war zone.”
 
During the course of eight deployments, Chapman realized many find God on deployment.
 
“We have about 60,000 soldiers a year pass through Fort Benning,” he says. “My goal is to produce aspiring professionals to the force by developing disciplined, competent, professional, well-trained soldiers who are accountable for their actions. It’s hard work but I care because I love the troops and I know our chaplains do too.”
 
The chaplaincy is there for soldiers when their “innocent view of the world is lost,” Chapman says.
 
“We must rely on something greater than ourselves to get through it,” says Chaplain Jay Burke, currently serving the 2-58th infantry regiment at Fort Benning. “We can’t lose the sacredness of life. We are here to remind them there is a reason and purpose. Our commitments to the soldiers are not only about honoring the nation but also about connecting dots of moral absolutes not determined by man.
 
“It’s tough but, as chaplains, we get on our knees and pray and then live with the soldiers,” Burke says. “We search for leaders among them to train up. We give our best and encourage personal relationships with Christ beyond theory and tradition.
 
“We all need Jesus. Chaplains are here to remind everyone amidst the noise of what is important.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Josie Rabbitt Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board.)
 

5/18/2018 8:59:52 AM by Josie Rabbitt Bingham, NAMB | with 0 comments



SBC IN DALLAS: Bright light in the prayer room

May 17 2018 by Ted Elmore, Baptist Press

“Daddy, are we there yet?” Oh, do I remember those days.
 
A few of you coming to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Dallas this year will hear those or similar words. Many of us recall the days when vacations were planned around the Southern Baptist Convention.
 
And we really do stand out in the crowds as “touristers.” No matter how “cool” you are, or how skinny your jeans are or how long that broom skirt really is, folks, you are a tourist, and you will stand out in the crowd. Even locals will stand out. That lanyard around our necks says it all.
 
But that’s not really a bad thing.
 
We will see old friends, make new ones and hang out with the “tribe” for a few days of refreshing. No, outsiders won’t understand us, not even in the Bible Belt. The last time the SBC met in Dallas, the local newspaper used the old line to describe us – “Southern Baptists came to town with $10 and the Ten Commandments and didn’t break either one!”
 
My wife Cheryl and I drove around Dallas in 1974 for our first SBC, gawking at the enormity of the city. We registered and walked through the halls. I never saw such big hair in all my life! Some preachers looked like rock stars – of the ’50s! I thought Pat Boone had been cloned. But, we were there. It was our tribe and we were beaming with pride and anticipation. I saw pastors that my pastors had quoted. I was actually in the same room with them. Our hearts were full and our dreams were big.
 
Now we come together in 2018 in a different world. We, who Jesus said were to be salt and light, have seen the tasteless and at times walked in the dark. Billy Graham is gone, and no one has replaced him. That is not pessimism; that is reality. It is a good reality because in that reality, or maybe maturity, I have learned what Harold Lindsell once said, “Only God can turn the water to wine.”
 
Although the world is tasteless and dark, we are children of the light. And in that Light, we see light. One of the bright lights at the 2018 SBC annual meeting will be the prayer room. I am inviting you to come pray there for 15 minutes as often as you want. God can do in a minute “exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20) if His people will call upon Him.
 
It is our desire for God to use our denomination for His glory. In this desire, the convention has a prayer room led by local prayer leaders. Our prayer room this year will be an exciting journey of prayer – from connecting prayer in the home and church to taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. We are asking people to volunteer for one or more 15-minute prayer segments as we seek to cover the Pastors’ Conference and the annual meeting with prayer.
 
Will you pray 15 minutes? You may register to pray during all of the segments you desire at sbtexas.com/prayer. It does not matter how many people are in the segment. Pray when you can. Registration helps the prayer team prepare for you.
 
I look forward to seeing you in Dallas. And I hope you will use your social media platform to promote the link to the prayer room registration. Safe journey! Yes, kids, we are nearly there.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ted Elmore is pastor/church relations associate and prayer strategist for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

5/17/2018 7:45:21 AM by Ted Elmore, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Vulnerable children, foster care & what you can do

May 16 2018 by David Melber, NAMB

Thirteen-year-old Mary wakes up early on a Monday morning. Entering the kitchen, she begins making lunches for her 10-year-old brother and her 5-year-old sister.
 
Peanut butter again. Stale bread. She brushes her sister’s hair, grabs book bags and heads out the door. Mom didn’t come home again last night. It’s the third night in a row. “Keep moving forward,” she says to herself.

Photo by Greta High


Mary is doing the best she can. The opioid crisis is her reality.
 
When Mom does come home, she sleeps a lot. Like a carousel, their home has a revolving door of strangers. Mary tries to stay in the background with her siblings hoping not to be noticed. Being noticed never turns out well.
 
Her teachers don’t know what is going on at home. She’s learned to divert attention from her family. She’s trained her siblings to do the same. If they speak up, Mom will get in trouble. They could be separated. As bad as life is, being separated from them would be worse. Mary and her siblings are voiceless.
 
This is a typical scenario for over 430,000 children who have been placed in foster care in the United States. Children in unsafe, vulnerable, voiceless situations are on the rise. Sadly, the opioid crisis is showing up in nearly every neighborhood. The statistics can be daunting. How can Southern Baptists make a difference with so many children in need?
 
Stop, and think about your own community. Consider this scenario. Every day, on average, the local child welfare agency has 260 children in care in your county. These children attend school with yours. They play with your children on the playground. They are neighbors in your communities. If your county is typical, only 34 families have stepped up to say they will care for the vulnerable and be foster or respite parents.
 
Christ tells us to love our neighbors. These voiceless children are your neighbors. How can you help? May is Foster Care Awareness Month. Everyone from preschoolers to senior saints can join to make a difference in the lives of children on the mission field called “my hometown.”
 
Collect diapers. Provide meals. Babysit. Lend a helping hand. Teach their Sunday School classes, and don’t be offended if they behave like children who have been through real trauma. Most importantly, pray! Ask the Lord to raise up believers who will be the hands and feet of Christ to care for vulnerable children. And don’t be afraid to say “Yes, Lord!” if He calls you to be a foster parent.
 
The bottom line is that Christ is the answer to this epidemic. He is able to save birthparents from a life of addiction, restore traumatized children and heal families. Are you willing to love your neighbor? The problem is not going away. Rise up, Church. Be a voice for the voiceless.
 
As scripture instructs us: “Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable” (Proverbs 31:8).
 
Learn more about how you and your church can become part of the foster care solution by visiting sendrelief.org/foster-care-adoption.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Melber is as president of Send Relief, which encompasses the North American Mission Board’s compassion ministries.)
 

5/16/2018 7:16:20 AM by David Melber, NAMB | with 0 comments



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