SBCLIFE JOURNAL OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION
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Encouraging Cooperation . . . for a Great Commission Advance!
How Giving in Your Church Resounds God’s Glory by David Platt
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f you are reading this article in SBC LIFE, you are likely a leader in one of the more than forty-six thousand churches the International Mission Board partners with to spread the Gospel around the world, particularly among people who have never heard the Gospel. That’s a pretty awesome thought: you and your church are joined with forty-six thousand other churches who say, “Together we want to get the Gospel to every person and group of people on the planet.” And the primary way we do that together is by sending and supporting missionaries all over the world. Thousands of missionaries have been sent out from this coalition of Southern Baptist churches. These missionaries are not just sent out; they’re also supported by the giving of our churches. God’s Word shows us in 1
Thessalonians 1 why giving together like that makes sense—and, even more, how giving in your church is resounding to God’s glory around the world. First Thessalonians is the first letter Paul writes to the church that he, Silas, and Timothy had played a part in starting. These men had a close relationship with this church—fifteen different times in this letter, Paul calls them his “brothers,” over and over emphasizing his love for them. And over and over again, he expresses thanks for them, for who they are, and for what they are doing. That’s what draws me to this book when I think about you and your church: As a part of this coalition of churches who are sending and supporting thousands of missionaries around the world, I just want to thank you over and over and over again. I want to thank you for what you’re doing, not just as a family of brothers and sisters there in your church, but as a family of brothers and sisters far beyond your church. In that sense, then, I want to say some of the same things to this entire coalition of churches that Paul says to the Thessalonians. Paul starts by reminding this church how the Gospel has affected them—how the Gospel has changed their lives—and how that Gospel has spread through them. First Thessalonians 1:8 tells us the Gospel has sounded forth from Thessalonica not just throughout Macedonia and Achaia (the nearby areas), but everywhere around the world. In the same way, then, I want to encourage you to stop and reconsider how the Gospel has affected you—how the Gospel has changed your life. And I want to celebrate with you how the Gospel is spreading through you everywhere around the world.
How the Gospel Affected You
Paul reminded the Thessalonian church that the Gospel is our foundation. He said, For we
New International Mission Board missionaries Katie and Chris Broome (right) share a moment of joy with Jerry Brown (name changed), who serves in Africa, during an August 24 Sending Celebration. The Broomes, members of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, are being sent to share the Gospel among European Peoples. photo by roy m. burroughs
know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:4–5, ESV). This same reality unites our coalition of churches, including your church. You exist because the Gospel came to you one day in power and in the Holy Spirit with great conviction. You exist as a church for one reason: God loves you. God brought you the Good News that though we have rebelled against Him and deserve His judgment, He has not left us to die in our sin. Instead, He has saved us from our sin. This is the greatest news in all the world: we have been delivered from the ultimate penalty of sin—death itself! This Gospel is good, and it’s the whole reason the International Mission Board exists.
It’s the whole reason this coalition of churches is working together to send and support missionaries around the world: the multitude of people in the world who have never heard this Gospel. We estimate that there are at least 2.8 billion people today who have little to no knowledge of the Gospel. In other words, no one has ever even told them the Good News of what God has done for us in Jesus. It’s not tolerable for us that billions of people in the world still haven’t heard this Good News, and together we want to change that. Paul also reminded the Thessalonians that the Gospel is our motivation. The Gospel was driving, compelling, motivating, and changing the early Church (1 Thessalonians continued on page 3
2 016 G O A L $155,000,000.00 TO REAC H THE NATIONS
FOCUS ON DOCTRINE—THE BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE 2000, ARTICLE XI, EVANGELISM
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, left, and Ken Weathersby, right, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee vice president for Convention advancement, pray with a local resident at an outreach event June 13 at North Linden Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio. The event was part of Crossover 2015, a series of evangelistic events held prior to the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 16–17 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. photo by paul w. lee
Evangelism and Missions: The Heartbeat of God by Ken Weathersby
any years ago I transitioned from a local pastor of a Southern Baptist church to serve as a missionary with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. I asked the Lord to give me a way that I could continue to be a personal witness for Him wherever I may go. He gave me the idea of asking my restaurant waiters when I when out to eat if they have a personal prayer request that only the Lord Jesus could meet in their lives, a practice I have continued to this day. Over the years, I have had the privilege to give a Gospel witness to hundreds of people during a meal time. One such occasion stands out. I asked a young lady if she had a prayer request that only Jesus could meet in her life and she said yes, please pray for my mother who has cancer. I asked the name of her mother. I had the privilege to pray for her mother. Later in the lunch, I asked her another question. I said, “If you were to die today, where would you spend eternity?” She said, “Heaven.” I asked if it was okay to ask another question, to which she replied yes. I asked, “If Jesus were
SBCLIFE SBC LIFE is published by the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention 901 Commerce Street Nashville, Tennessee 37203 615-244-2355 E-mail: sbclife@SBC.net Frank S. Page
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Roger S. (Sing) Oldham Executive Editor
Communications Specialist SBC LIFE is published four times per year: Pre-Convention, Summer, Fall, and Winter. It is distributed to pastors, ministers of education, ministers of music, full-time denominational workers, chaplains, missionaries, and vocational evangelists of the Southern Baptist Convention. Workers retiring from any of these groups may continue to receive the magazine upon request. Bulk subscriptions are available for shipping and handling costs. For SBC LIFE subscriptions, call 866-722-5433 (toll-free). * All Scripture is from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (2009) unless noted otherwise. * Any article without attribution is by SBC LIFE staff.
SBC LIFE (ISSN 1081-8189) Volume 25, Number 2 ©2016 Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee Encouraging Cooperation . . . for a Great Commission Advance!
to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’, what would you say?” Somewhat predictably, she said she had lived a good life. I asked her, “If what you believe about salvation is not true, would you want to know the truth?” When she answered in the affirmative, I had the privilege to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with her. She kneeled down beside me there in the restaurant and I had the personal privilege to hear her confess her faith and trust in Jesus Christ as her Lord. It is very important personally to endeavor to give a verbal witness about the Lord wherever we may be and wherever we may go (see, for example, Matthew 28:19). We frequently think of The Baptist Faith and Message as a doctrinal statement of faith, and it is. But it is more. It is also a practical guide, highlighting the core values of our faith and practice. Article XI addresses evangelism and missions. It helps us as Southern Baptists keep the main thing the main thing by lifting up evangelism and missions as part of our biblical belief system, foundation, and heritage.
Personal Privilege “It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations.” The mission of the church is simple: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19–20). But, how does the church accomplish this great task of making disciples? Baptists have believed the way God accomplishes His purpose is by planting the Gospel of Jesus Christ in communities where individuals will be saved, small groups will be started, new churches will be birthed, existing churches will be cultivated, and dying churches will be revitalized. These are the natural effects of evangelism and missions. To this end, Jesus expects every follower to be involved in making disciples of all the nations. We have the responsibility to make Christ’s name known among people of all ethnic groups. The Gospel must be preached to the poor, to the privileged, to the prisoners, to the proud, and to people who have never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. The command is clear—all peoples. This statement helps us not only understand that we have the privilege of sharing Christ, but we must endeavor personally to make disciples in the name of Christ. The church must be involved in the lives of people who need to hear
“It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man’s spirit by God’s Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the Gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the Gospel of Christ.”
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 Article XI, Evangelism and Missions
that salvation is a free gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. This free gift of God is offered regardless of socioeconomic background or ethnicity. The church has the responsibility to minister to everyone in the church’s field of service as well of those throughout their community. When the church is willing to extend her ministry outside of her local community, this is called missions. The church must constantly fight the temptation of complacency and be willing to minister in her Jerusalem, and then move out of her Jerusalem in the name of Christ.
Proclamation of the Gospel “The new birth of man’s spirit by God’s Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the Gospel to all nations.” Many people believe that preaching of the Gospel is reserved for those who have been called as professional ministers in the church. It is a misconception to think that preaching means standing behind the pulpit or in front of a big crowd of people. In the New Testament, the word “to preach” is one of the root words for evangelism (Luke 4:18). It is incumbent upon every believer to proclaim Christ as a minister of reconciliation
in order to evangelize the sinner (2 Corinthians 5:18–20). Such proclamation comes from a heart of love (2 Corinthians 5:14). The proclamation of the Gospel is grounded in both obedience and love. It is incumbent upon the individual believer and upon the church to show God’s love by becoming more vigilant and intentional about making disciples of all the nations. God is love (1 John 4:7); and love is of God (1 John 4:8). It was love that prompted God’s only Son to die for men and women to receive eternal life. As one of the trademarks of a Christian’s life, the Christ-follower should be known by how well the fruit of love is displayed toward others (Galatians 5:22). Such love will be demonstrated by those who are new creations as a symbol of their new birth in Jesus Christ. Nowhere is this love more apparent than when we share the Good News of Jesus with those who are lost. The manifestation of such love for God and for others is a sign of the power of the Holy Spirit working in the life of a Christian.
Persuasion Evangelism “It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the Gospel of Christ.” The book of Acts gives us a record of the followers of Christ telling the story of Christ and the many people who became new creatures.
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AND MISSIONS They were persuaded by the verbal witness of the early believers (Acts 2:38–40; 13:42–44; 17:2–4; 18:4, 12–13; 19:8, 28:23–24). Jesus promised that His followers would receive power after the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit gives power to live an abundant life, power to deal with pain, power to live holy—and power to witness. The focus of biblical evangelism emphasizes the necessity for a verbal witness. Is it possible that we have confused the methods of evangelism with the practice of evangelism? Is knocking on doors in our communities simply to invite people to church an effective evangelism strategy? Do we think merely hosting a block party, holding a fall festival, or opening our doors for recreational events is truly doing evangelism? All of these events are good; but unless we verbally share the Good News of Jesus Christ and give a person an opportunity to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus, then we have not done evangelism. We have not tried to persuade the person to consider Christ. We may have ministered in His name but we have not preached Jesus. Some may think this approach is very narrow. But, evangelism is sharing Christ out of an overflow of an intimate relationship with him and leaving the results to God. Evangelism is preaching/proclaiming the Good News—to the poor, the broken-hearted, and the lost. Evangelism is sharing our salvation testimony and letting others know that Jesus died for them, too. Evangelism is the beginning point of making a disciple. Discipleship is definitively more than merely membership with names on the church’s roster, though membership in a local church is very important as the forum for fellowship. Jesus Christ did not say go and make members, but rather go and make disciples of all the nations. Disciples are followers and imitators of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are ones who are willing to obey His commandments. In 2015, Southern Baptist churches reported the lowest number in baptisms since World War II. Questions are being asked by church leaders:
In a report during the first session day of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, Ken Weathersby, senior strategist for evangelization for the SBC’s North American Mission Board, announced that despite severe thunderstorms part of the day, 759 professions of faith were made during Crossover ’08, an annual evangelistic effort to share the Gospel in the host city the weekend before the SBC. Crossover ’08 was co-sponsored by NAMB and the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana. photo by jim yates
Five North American church planting missionaries were honored at the North American Mission Board’s 2010 annual Church Planting Missionary Forum, including (from left to right) Samuel Rodriguez, Hispanic Church Planting Missionary of the Year; Ray Campbell (and wife Chris), African American Church Planting Missionary of the Year; Ken Weathersby, NAMB’s vice president for church planting; Ralph Garay, Asian Church Planting Missionary of the Year; and Dennis Holmes, Associational Director of Missions/Church Planting Strategist of the Year. Not shown: Sam Scott, Anglo Church Planting Missionary of the Year. photo by john swain
“Why is there a decline in baptisms? Why are churches dying?” The issue is that the people of God are not putting into practice what we say we believe— sharing the love of God by giving a verbal witness of the Gospel. We can witness with great assurance that His Word will not return void; it will accomplish what He pleases (Isaiah 55:11). We can also witness with the assurance that our labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). It is up to us as His disciples to give verbal witness, then trust the Holy Spirit to do His job of convicting the sinner of sin, God’s righteousness, and the coming judgment (John 16:8–11). When He does, many will believe in Him and receive Him as Lord and Savior (see, for example, John 4:39, 41; 7:31; 8:30; 10:42; 11:45; 12:42; Acts 4:4; 9:42; 17:12; 18:8; 19:18; 21:20).
Four Core Convictions
The five sentences of Article XI of The Baptist Faith and Message can be summarized under these four core convictions. 1. Christians must engage in personal evangelism at home and evangelistic missions abroad, demonstrating a genuine love for God and all people. 2. Christians must be passionate in being present in the lives of lost people, ministering to them at their point of material and spiritual need. 3. Christians must verbally and persuasively proclaim Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. 4. Christians must leave the results to God, resting assured in His promises that our labor is not in vain and that His Word will not return void!
Ken Weathersby is vice president for Convention advancement with the SBC Executive Committee and is a founding member of Living Grace Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. Weathersby previously served as church planter/ pastor of churches in Cincinnati and Baton Rouge; church planting strategist for the Tennessee Shelby Association of Baptists (now Mid-South Association); director of evangelism for the Tennessee Baptist Convention; director of the Cecil B. Day Center for Church Planting and associate professor of church planting at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; vice president for church planting with the North American Mission Board (NAMB), where he helped launch the nationwide God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS) evangelism strategy; NAMB senior strategist for evangelization, overseeing the annual Crossover witnessing events; African American church multiplication team leader with NAMB; and presidential ambassador for ethnic church relations with NAMB and the SBC Executive Committee.
HOW GIVING IN YOUR CHURCH RESOUNDS GOD’S GLORY continued from page 1 1:3). It produced work marked by faith, labor driven by love, and endurance driven by hope. The Thessalonians not only believed the Gospel in their heads and their hearts; it affected their hands. Their love for God and for each other enabled them to endure through the persecution and trials they faced.
The Gospel at Work in You
The same is true today. As you care for one another in the church, and as you love and serve the community around you, that’s the Gospel at work in you. Last year, our coalition of churches gave the highest amount we collectively have given in the history of the IMB: $165.8 million. That broke our all-time record by over $11 million! And when I saw that number come in, I thought, “What a picture of God’s grace.” What a picture of the Gospel at work in the hearts of God’s people, that you would be compelled to give $165.8 million together for the spread of the Gospel around the world. I praise God for your faith-driven work, your love-driven labor, and your hope-driven endurance. I praise God for your Gospel-driven giving. I praise Him that the Gospel is your ambition, just as it was for the Thessalonians, to sound forth God’s glory not only in our communities, but around the world. Right now, because of your giving, there are missionaries going up and down the Amazon and proclaiming the Gospel to remote tribes. Right now, people in European cities who are being attacked continually by terror are also hearing the hope of the Gospel because of your giving. Right now, as a result of your giving, there are brothers and sisters spreading the Gospel across West African villages, sub-Saharan countries, Middle Eastern cities, South Asian fields, Central Asian mountains, and Southeast Asian islands. Your faith is literally resounding around the world for the glory of God. A couple of months ago, I was actually in Thessaloniki. The city has become a holding place for refugees fleeing Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran who want to get into Macedonia. I walked late at night on the Macedonian border, north of Thessaloniki, through a sea of refugee tents swimming in mud as freezing rain fell on them. I looked at lines of men and women standing and waiting for small rations of food in the freezing rain, listening to the sounds of their children crying and their babies coughing in these tents, children the same age as my kids. These are men and women just like you and just like me, living in semblance of hell on earth.
But Here’s the Good News.
Right now, because of your giving, missionaries are living and working right in the middle of those refugees. People from Syria, for example, who have never heard the Gospel before, are hearing it for the first time, and they’re responding. One Syrian woman said to our missionary, “I’m tired of being tied to a religion that doesn’t offer
Last year, our coalition of churches gave the highest amount we collectively have given in the history of the IMB: $165.8 million. That broke our all-time record by over $11 million! And when I saw that number come in, I thought, “What a picture of God’s grace.” What a picture of the Gospel at work in the hearts of God’s people, that you would be compelled to give $165.8 million together for the spread of the Gospel around the world. me hope; I want to be a new person.” She, her husband, and their friend all placed their faith in Christ that day and were baptized outside the camp. Two Kurdish brothers whose family had been killed by radicals in Iraq, including their parents right in front of their eyes, straight up said, “We don’t want to be Muslim anymore. We want to follow Jesus.” A Palestinian-born man who was raised in Syria because of conflict in Palestine, who was separated from his wife and children and not sure when or how in the world he will reunite with them, saw our missionary distributing water. He pulled him aside and asked him two questions. “Do you speak Arabic?” (To which our missionary said, “Yes.”) The second question was, “Can you tell me how to become a Christian?” Because of your church’s giving, right now refugees are hearing the greatest news in all the world. Or to put it in the words of 1 Thessalonians: because of the Gospel in you and your church, God’s glory is sounding forth right at the border of Macedonia, and everywhere around the world. So I want to thank you. And at the same time, I want to encourage and challenge you. I want to encourage you to give all the more generously and all the more sacrificially and all the more cheerfully in the days ahead so that people who have never heard the Gospel might hear this Good News of what God has done for us in Jesus, that they might receive it, just as you have—and that through them, this Gospel might resound all the more in the world to the glory and praise of God. Take the next step at IMB.org/LMCO. David Platt is president of the International Mission Board and is an active member in a local Southern Baptist church.
The gospel resounds through your prayers. The Week of Prayer for International Missions is your opportunity to join the work of missionaries around the world.
As you read the stories throughout the week, youʼll discover how the gospel resounds in places like Italy, Ghana, and South Asia. Youʼll also ﬁnd speciﬁc requests to pray over each day.
PRAY for Nick and Shannan as they continue to build relationships and share their lives in this northern Italian city and for wisdom in where best to focus energies as they balance several ministry initiatives.
PRAY the Holy Spirit would continue to draw Makhuwa Nahara souls to Himself, that Brian and Becky and national believers would ﬁnd those God-prepared people, and present a clear witness.
PRAY for a multiplying house church movement in Tønsberg, near where Zack and Jennifer live, as believers there boldly share their faith. Pray that through sharing their faith they would see fruit as others follow Jesus.
PRAY for ministries in the red-light areas of the South Asian city where Rodney and Helen serve, that women enslaved in prostitution will break free and ﬁnd Christ. Pray for Millennials, a crucial segment to reach with the gospel.
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Your Gifts at Work booklet
Week of Prayer bookmarks
Lottie Moon Christmas Offering Posters
PAGE 5 WINTER 2016
2016 WEEK OF PRAYER FOR INTERNATIONAL MISSIONS DECEMBER 4–11 Your prayers and gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® will help the gospel continue to resound throughout the nations as you send and sustain missionaries and their work.
DAVID & HANNA HARRIS South America
PRAY for Bethany’s desire to ﬁnd new opportunities to use her talents for God’s glory. Pray as she ﬁnishes high school and for her transition from South African schools to the American school system for college.
Week of Prayer brochure Distributed by WMU state offices.
PRAY for William and Heidi as they balance family, homeschooling, language and cultural acquisition, and ministry. Pray they manage time wisely to avoid exhaustion and burnout in their time-consuming jobs.
PRAY for U.S. churches to partner with the Messianic Center where David and Hanna work to reach the local Jewish community and for Jewish leaders to come to know Jesus, which would radically change the community.
Learn more about these missionaries and ﬁnd their stories at imb.org/lmco and in the December 2016 edition of Missions Mosaic from WMU (wmu.com).
PRAY for immigrant factory workers from the country where Layla served before she was expelled. Pray that the students she teaches will be willing to boldly share their faith with their countrymen.
imb.org/lmco A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is a registered trademark of WMU®.
10/11/16 10:33 AM
PRAYERLINK / JANUARY CALL TO PRAYER
(Left) Participants at the “10-20-30 Prayer Experience” bow in prayer during the October 7 day-long gathering at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois photos by roger s. oldham
(Below) Gary Frost (standing, center), national facilitator of prayer and compassion initiatives for Mission America Coalition, leads PrayerLink leaders in prayer for Chris Schofield (seated), newlyselected volunteer executive director of PrayerLink. Frost is joined by Phil Miglioratti (left foreground), prayer consultant for the Illinois Baptist State Association, and Paul Kim, Asian American consultant with the SBC Executive Committee. Other members of PrayerLink also joined in the prayer for Schofield.
PrayerLink Hosts Prayer Gathering by Morgan Jackson
hen man works, man works. But when man prays, God works,” David Choi, pastor of Church of the Beloved in Chicago, told participants during a prayer gathering at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in the Chicago suburbs. Choi was one of several Illinois prayer leaders who helped facilitate the prayer gathering on October 7. The day-long prayer gathering was designed as a “Great Commission Prayer Experience” aimed at encouraging people to pray for the mission fields around them. The timing of the meeting, amid political turmoil and racial unrest, drove home the urgency of each of the five sixtyminute prayer sessions. Using a “10-20-30 prayer model,” each prayer segment consisted of a ten-minute presentation of biblical, bold, and challenging material related to prayer; twenty minutes of facilitated table discussion; and thirty minutes of prayer, praise, and petition focused on themes surfaced by the Holy Spirit.
Gary Frost, national facilitator of prayer and compassion initiatives for Mission America Coalition, led more than seventy attendees in interceding for their communities and neighborhoods, often interpreted as “Jerusalem” in the model outlined in Acts 1:8. “Our Jerusalem is that area of ministry in our life with the people that we come in contact with every day, the people who live around us. The problem is, that just because people have proximity, does not mean they have affinity,” Frost said. Many individuals are near us geographically on a daily basis, he added, but we have no real concern for them, who they are, or the state of their souls. Kevin Carrothers, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Rochester, Illinois, and president of the Illinois Baptist State Association, led the time of prayer that followed Frost’s message. With the idea of letting Christ’s compassion flow out of us to everyone we meet, Carrothers encouraged attenders to pray for their own homes and for the wellbeing of their communities, challenging
“We don’t need more strategies; we need prayer. Not just religious prayer, but Gospel prayer. Where we recognize that we have nothing without Him.” David Choi, pastor, Church of the Beloved Chicago, Illinois
people to ask God how he wants them to make a difference where they live. David Choi led a session on praying for church revitalization and church planting. In the US, we tend to be all about our individual accolades and strengths, he said. “But the Gospel is about finding your weakness, finding your deficiency, finding what you’re not good at, and then crying out to the God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.” Cheryl Dorsey, prayer coordinator for the Chicago Metro Baptist Association, led the following time of prayer. She encouraged participants to face the wall along the perimeter of the room and call out to God, interceding for their churches, repenting of their prayerlessness, and praying for the salvation of those within their sphere of influence who don’t know Christ. “We don’t need more strategies; we need prayer,” Choi said in his message. “Not just religious prayer, but Gospel prayer. Where we recognize that we have nothing without Him.” The day of prayer was sponsored by PrayerLink, an organization of SBC entity, state Baptist convention, and ethnic fellowship prayer leaders that meets annually to pray and share best practices for engaging people in effective intercessory prayer. Morgan Jackson is an editorial contributor to the Illinois Baptist, the news journal of the Illinois Baptist State Association, where this article first appeared, and is a member of Vale Church in Bloomington, Illinois. Used with permission. Roger S. Oldham, executive editor of SBC LIFE, contributed to this story.
PrayerLink Annual Meeting Speaking on the topic, “Leading in the Need of Prayer,” Nate Adams, executive director of the Illinois State Baptist Association, challenged PrayerLink participants to avoid relying on “our God-given strengths more than we rely on God” through prayer. Drawing from the story of Gideon, Adams noted that Judges 6 records numerous instances of Gideon speaking his objections to God’s directions. After “talking himself out,” Gideon came to a moment of surrender. What follows in chapter 7 is a role reversal: “God speaks; Gideon obeys; the people listen; God acts,” Adams said. “Prayer is the heart’s declaration of dependence on God,” he said. We must resist the urge to “rush into leading without the power of God.” Meeting at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, PrayerLink members also selected Chris Schofield, prayer and spiritual awakening director with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, as its volunteer executive director; affirmed its new composition and purpose statement (see related story at SBCLife.net/Articles/2016/03/sla14); shared reports about ministry needs and resources in their various areas of service; hosted a prayer gathering; and participated in a prayer tour to six church-planting sites in metropolitan Chicago during the October 6–8 meeting.
SBC CALL TO PRAYER, JANUARY 2017
ACTS 1:8 PRAYER FOCUS
But you 1 will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem 2, in all Judea 3 and Samaria 4, and to the ends of the earth 5 (Acts 1:8).
DURING THE MONTH OF JANUARY, SET ASIDE AT LEAST ONE HOUR FOR FOCUSED PRAYER USING THE 10-20-30 PRAYER MODEL. * 1
MYSELF AND MY FAMILY
MY COMMUNITY AND FRIENDS
MY CHURCH MINISTRIES
MY COUNTRY AND ITS PEOPLES
MY WORLD AND ITS PEOPLE GROUPS 5
Ask the Lord to make you a willing volunteer to tell others about Jesus.
Introduce the CrossRoads Prayer Evangelism ministry (see sample at InAllThingsPray.net). Encourage church members to list names of up to five friends and begin tracking their prayer, care, and sharing with those friends.
Print the names and dates of the church’s planned evangelistic emphases for the next six months—things like VBS, revival services, or special music programs. Lead the church to pray for these planned events by name during the pastoral prayer time on Sunday morning. Pray also for the continued health and unity of the church.
Read 1 Timothy 2:1–6 aloud during the morning worship service. Ask the congregation to intercede for the nation. Mention the names of elected officials during the pastoral prayer.
During the pastoral prayer, pray for those in your church who may be sensing God’s call to become part of the “limitless ministry teams” serving alongside our IMB field missionaries.
Pray for the Lord to multiply your church’s reach by calling out of your congregation those who will serve as pastors and church planters.
Ask the Lord to give IMB trustees and leaders divine wisdom and guidance as they challenge Southern Baptists to be on mission with God.
Pray for the diverse peoples of our nation and for the racial reconciliation that is possible only through salvation in Jesus Christ.
Ask for wisdom and mercy for missionaries accepting often-dangerous opportunities for service around the world.
Create a prayer list of your family members, praying for them daily. Ask members of your congregation to write down names of unchurched and lost family members on a note card and bring them to the front of the worship center and place them before the Lord. As they bow in prayer, have a church member pray for the salvation of these family members.
Solicit names in Sunday school classes. Covenant to pray as a group for the salvation of those named. Encourage small groups in your church to “adopt” your community’s first responders and school teachers for regular prayer.
Pray by name for the church’s ministry teams and committees, encouraging volunteers to use their ministry opportunities to expand the Kingdom.
*For a description of the “10-20-30” prayer model and for other resources visit InAllThingsPray.net.
COOPERATING FOR THE GOSPEL
Teaching pastor Mike Satterfield (left), recently retired lead pastor Gary Smith (center), and current lead pastor Jason Paredes stand in front of Fielder Church’s main campuses in Arlington, Texas. photos courtesy of fielder church
A Changed Church for a Changing Community: Fielder Church by Mark Kelly
astor Gary Smith was shocked by what he saw at the opening of a new middle school. In 1991, when he had been called as pastor of Fielder Church in Arlington, Texas, the city was predominantly white. His congregation was made up of middle-class folks who drove into Dallas to work. At school, the cheerleaders were all white. Now, just a dozen years later, Smith was looking at a cheer squad of twenty-four girls—all but one black. Arlington had changed dramatically, but Fielder Church was still white—and declining. Smith knew the church had to change as well, if it was going to survive.
More Than Survival at Stake
Like most Southern Baptist churches launched in the mid-1950s, Fielder Church was as segregated as its community. As the city’s population exploded almost six-fold during that era, the church reflected the neighborhoods of white families drawn to the booming economies of Dallas and Fort Worth. Over the next forty years, Arlington would multiply another six-fold, and Fielder Church grew along with it. “During those early years, we experienced exponential growth,” Smith says. “We couldn’t build buildings fast enough. “But neighborhoods generally decline,” Smith adds. “And after about ten years, we noticed a leveling off of our numbers. People were moving out of Arlington to newer areas.” As he looked at that predominantly black cheer squad, Smith realized Arlington had changed racially without the church recognizing it. He set out to learn what other predominantly white churches had done to adapt and survive. “I discovered there were no models for it,” Smith says. “In those neighborhoods, 95 percent of those churches die.”
But Smith also knew the issue was larger than just survival. “I knew that, from the beginning, God wanted to show the availability of the Gospel to all the nations of the world,” he says. “God confronted the ‘Jews only’ mentality of the early church by calling Paul to the Gentiles and giving Peter a vision at Joppa.” The segregation of Fielder Church had to be addressed, not just for the survival of the congregation, but also for the good of the community’s lost souls.
A Very Painful Journey
“We felt God wanted us to do whatever it took to become a vibrant congregation in the midst of a changing city,” Smith recalls. “None of our staff or church leaders had ever been part of something like this, but we believed it was God’s plan. Many of us could have moved to places where the task was easier, but we felt a calling from God to confront this challenge.” Not surprisingly, the move to reverse the segregation met with opposition. “From the beginning, underlying prejudice surfaced,” Smith says. “Prejudiced members chose to criticize the leadership or leave the church. Even some well-meaning leaders departed because they were simply unable or unwilling to build relationships with people who were not like them. “For me as the leader, this journey proved especially painful at times,” Smith adds. “Some of my closest friends left the church. We struggled to deal with reduced financial resources and the discouragement of declining attendance. There were many times I felt like a failure and wondered if I should leave as well.” Fielder Church lost more than 10 percent of its attendance during a period of four years. As part of the intentional transition process, Fielder Church hired a young Hispanic, Jason
Paredes, to lead a Spanish-language mission of the church. During one of the English services, Paredes began singing a song in Spanish. Several church members walked out of the sanctuary as a protest.
Nothing Short of Miraculous
Undeterred, church leaders continued to pursue diversity that transcended Arlington’s ethnic, social, economic, and age barriers. Church staffing at all levels was diversified. Intentional efforts were made to listen to the perspectives of others in the community. Sermons and testimonies confronted the issue of prejudice. Fielder’s members gathered with diverse churches for joint worship. Community service projects focused on low-income schools, apartments, and neighborhoods. And in February 2014, the congregation instituted a thirty-month transition from Smith’s leadership by calling Paredes as senior pastorelect with a 97 percent vote. Paredes thinks the success of Fielder’s transition is nothing short of miraculous. “This was, in my mind, nearly impossible,” he says. “Historically, this was a very Anglo church in a very Anglo city. It seemed like a perfect storm for things not to work.” Paredes credits the transition’s success to “heroes of leadership” in the congregation and Smith’s willingness to “spend all his chips” in following God’s leadership. “This was born from Gary’s deep conviction that a church is unhealthy if it is staying in one culture when the city around it is so diverse,” Paredes explains. “That conviction led him to consider some outside-the-box thinking.”
‘The Church Needs This’
Despite the difficulties, the blessings of diversity have far outweighed the cost of obedience, Smith adds.
“We felt God wanted us to do whatever it took to become a vibrant congregation in the midst of a changing city. None of our staff or church leaders had ever been part of something like this, but we believed it was God’s plan. Many of us could have moved to places where the task was easier, but we felt a calling from God to confront this challenge.” Gary Smith, recently retired lead pastor, Fielder Church Arlington, Texas
PAGE 9 WINTER 2016
“God is raising up leaders of diversity and calling us to step into these things, even if we don’t feel equipped or think it is impossible. The church needs this, and when we cry out to God and ask for it, He does move.” Jason Paredes, senior pastor Fielder Church Arlington, Texas
“At every turn, there was a sense of rightness that brought God’s blessings upon our church family,” he says. “The more we began to look like heaven in our diversity, the more we sensed the presence of the God of heaven.” Because ethnic minorities in the United States are steadily making their way up the ladder economically, even America’s suburban and established neighborhoods are diversifying. As a result, most churches need to be more reflective of their communities. “The church is going through a great upheaval,” Smith notes. “Pastors are in a tough spot today. Security, money, and buildings often rest with people who don’t want transition. Our journey has been painful and difficult. Six or eight years ago, I felt the challenge was too much, but the Lord wouldn’t let me leave—and I am grateful. Our church is now multi-ethnic and multi-generational, and it is a joy unspeakable
for my wife and me.” Fielder Church is now 30 percent nonAnglo, and Paredes hopes “pastors and church leaders of diversity” will be encouraged by the success of their transition. “This should not have worked out. About 77 percent of pastoral transitions fail in monocultural situations,” he says. “But this transition has been phenomenal. People need to know this can and does happen.” Making a transition into diversity requires a heart that yearns for change and the courage to obey God’s call, Paredes adds. “God is raising up leaders of diversity and calling us to step into these things, even if we don’t feel equipped or think it is impossible,” he says. “The church needs this, and when we cry out to God and ask for it, He does move.” The thirty-month lead pastor transition concluded in August 2016 when Smith
Church members greet one another in preparation for Sunday worship at Fielder Church in Arlington, Texas.
retired as senior pastor of the changing— and changed—church he served for twentyfive years. Smith continues the discussion on how churches can adapt to changing communities at realchurchsolutionsinc.org, where a fuller narrative of Fielder Church’s story
can be found. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mark Kelly is a career Southern Baptist journalist and is a member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia.
COOPERATING FOR THE GOSPEL According to one survey, as many as one-half of Southern Baptist pastors serve full time but are not fully funded by the congregations they serve. They serve bivocationally, dependent for their family’s financial fitness on secular employment and/ or wife’s employment.
Community Baptist Church children’s ministry team leaders perform a community outreach mystery theater production of “Humpty Dumpty” to illustrate the negative effects of jealousy, showing that only God can put people’s lives back together. photo courtesy of community baptist church
Bivocational Leaders Serve Growing Church C by Karen L. Willoughby
ommunity Baptist Church in Maylene, Alabama, is served by a full complement of six bivocational leaders to minister to the four hundred people who gather for worship each Sunday, to the larger community of about seven thousand located twenty miles south of downtown Birmingham, and to each of the bivocational leaders’ workplaces. In addition to Pastor Bo Brown, who works for the Social Security Administration, the worship leader, minister to families, education minister, student minister, and senior adult/ children’s minister all serve bivocationally at what is locally known as CBC Maylene. “Bivocational ministry is a calling on one’s life,” Brown said. “It’s not a condition based on the size of your congregation, serving in that capacity only until your church gets bigger. Instead it is a unique independent calling, allowing for God to use ministers without creating a massive financial draw on the church. It allows the investment in the ministries of the church to be larger. “Our staff at CBC work as a team, working in step with our congregation to impact not just the church, but also the community that surrounds us and beyond,” Brown continued. “It is a Christ-centered module, modeling the Church of Acts in everyone serving one another. It is the quintessential picture of the church being the church, both ministers and congregation.”
Located just north of the center of the state, CBC Maylene’s congregation mirrors its community, with a growing church that is gaining in its ethnic diversity, with multiple nationalities among the historically Anglo congregation. When Brown became pastor in 2005—it was his first pastorate, after seventeen years in youth ministry—about forty people participated in Sunday morning worship. Within five years there were 350. Education Minister Matt Monk, who also works as a medical auditor for a local hospital, gave several reasons for the growth of the church. “Bro. Bo [Brown] has a great ability to develop personal relationships with people,” Monk said. “He has a great ability to cast a vision to help people see what God is doing in the community. We also have a great core of people who have a vision for the church to grow.” As a medical auditor, Monk translates medical records for billing and for research. As education minister at the church, Monk develops and promotes Sunday school and discipleship classes. He’s also involved in the outreach committee and on the nominating team. “From a spiritual perspective, we’re able to relate to people who work, as they balance ministry with vocation,” said Monk, a lay minister at CBC Maylene since 2008 and on staff since 2010. “Without lay ministers we can’t do
“Bivocational ministry is a calling on one’s life. It’s not a condition based on the size of your congregation, serving in that capacity only until your church gets bigger. Instead it is a unique independent calling, allowing for God to use ministers without creating a massive financial draw on the church. It allows the investment in the ministries of the church to be larger.” Bo Brown, pastor, Community Baptist Church employee, Social Security Administration Maylene, Alabama
ministry as a staff, and the more they and we see how each other has to balance ministry and secular employment, the more understanding we all have, and the more we are willing and interested in working together.” According to one survey, as many as onehalf of Southern Baptist pastors serve full time but are not fully funded by the congregations they serve. They serve bivocationally, dependent for their family’s financial fitness on secular employment and/or wife’s employment. Bivocational pastors weave hospital visits, funerals, weddings, members’ crises, and community opportunities with their secular employment, family, and study time. “For me it is about trusting others and trusting the God who called you, if I am to do all God asks me to do,” Brown said. “God has blessed me with an outstanding staff and incredible leaders. Because of their commitment, my pastoral duties are a blessing. “I have learned from my mentors that having great people around you, an administrative plan in place, and an uncompromising call is essential to serve as a bivocational pastor,” Brown continued. Greg Ragland serves bivocationally as a sixth-grade science teacher/bus driver, and is in his first year as minister to families at CBC Maylene. Previously he was the church’s youth minister for thirteen years. “I’ve been bivocational since 2001,” Ragland said. “I get to work out in the real world and relate to people. We can’t share Christ with them at school, but we can be an every-day example. “Parents see how you work with their kids, and see your light shine, and to me that’s a positive,” he said. “I love the fact that our pastor is bivocational,” Ragland continued. “He works so hard at his job, and does such an awesome job as pastor. He holds you accountable for what he’s asked, and for your job. The thing I love about Bo the most is his [evangelistic] boldness.” Brown is has led the church in FAITH evangelism through the Sunday School, Continued Witness Training (CWT), and the MasterLife discipleship program. When he’s not
teaching, he’s often a student in the discipleship classes that take place Sunday evening in lieu of a full worship service. “[Members] know we work other full-time jobs,” Ragland said. “It makes them respect us and love us even more.” In addition to their ministerial assignment, secular employment, and family, bivocational leaders are not immune from the real world “stuff” that others go through. “All our ministers have several situations,” said the minister to families. “Bo has four children, three in college. Matt has seven kids. I have three adopted kids from China, all with medical needs. My son has had forty surgeries.” In recent days Brown, in addition to everything else, has dealt with doctors over his father’s as-yet-undiagnosed sickness, and has gone to New York to build a relationship with a church planter there. It might be easy for CBC Maylene’s bivocational leaders to sit back and take a breath. After all, the church has grown seven times larger than it was when Brown was called as pastor in 2005; it has four additional staff members; by deliberate design the church reflects the community’s diversity; and is heavily involved in local missions and ministries. The church reaches out globally with the same resolve it does locally, contributing 10 percent of its undesignated income to missions through the Cooperative Program. “This is a small way of trying to give back,” Brown said. “We are a blessed congregation, blessed more than we deserve, and this allows us to give to something bigger than ourselves. “In our church, we work together, sharing in the mission of Christ both in the local congregation, being bivocational, and in the greater cause of the Gospel,” Brown said. “We accomplish a great deal because of that philosophy, regarding both the Cooperative Program and with a bivocational staff and involved members. “We support the Cooperative Program because it’s efficient, effective, and we as Southern Baptists can accomplish more because we work together through CP,” Brown continued. “For us at CBC Maylene, it’s our way of participating globally in the Great Commission.” “Bo says we’ve got to keep working,” Ragland said. “God’s been blessing us so much, but don’t ever get comfortable because there always is so much more that we can be doing.” Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for SBC LIFE and is a member of First Baptist Church of Pleasant Grove, Utah.
PAGE 11 WINTER 2016
SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE SUNDAY Agape House is one of thousands of pro-life organizations throughout the country on the front lines of elevating the sanctity of human life. Pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics such as the one operated by Agape House offer various services to support women and men faced with pregnancy decisions. with Jesus Christ and be committed to a biblical understanding of the sanctity of human life. The ministry is entirely funded by churches, individuals, businesses, and civic groups; more than sixty Southern Baptist churches, as well as other churches who embrace a pro-life ethic, contributed financially in 2016. In addition to their medical clinic, Agape House has an educational arm and offers a Bible study for women who have previously had abortions, to carry out their mission statement of “upholding the sanctity of human life through education, medical services, and spiritual restoration.”
Missionaries for Life by Rebecca Wolford
hen a woman walks into the medical clinic operated by Agape House in northwest Tennessee, she won’t find evangelism tracts or Bibles in the waiting room. While she waits nervously to have an ultrasound to confirm her pregnancy, she won’t be judged regardless of her circumstances. And if she tells the clinic staff that she’s considering having an abortion, she will be given all the information she needs about her child, but won’t be pressured into a decision. “If someone tries to talk a woman out of a decision to abort” before her heart is ready to accept it, “then someone else can easily talk her back into it after she leaves,” said Linda DeBoard, CEO of Agape House and member of First Baptist Church in Martin, Tennessee. “When ladies come to our clinic, our mission is to empower them with the truth about life so that they can make the best choice for themselves. We know that’s a choice for life, but she has to come to that realization after she has been given all the truth.”
Agape House is one of thousands of prolife organizations throughout the country on the front lines of elevating the sanctity of human life. Pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics such as the one operated by Agape House offer various services to support women and men faced with pregnancy decisions. Some centers minister to those who need assistance throughout a pregnancy in the form of training classes, counseling, or material goods such as diapers. These types of centers may or may not operate as medical clinics and offer services such as pregnancy testing and ultrasounds. Others, like Agape House’s clinic, focus on reaching women who are at risk for abortion, offering medical services and informing them of their pregnancy options. Everyone on staff with Agape House is a member of a Southern Baptist church in northwest Tennessee or Kentucky, said DeBoard. Many of their volunteers come from Southern Baptist churches in the area, and all volunteers are required to have a personal relationship
“When ladies come to our clinic, our mission is to empower them with the truth about life so that they can make the best choice for themselves. We know that’s a choice for life, but she has to come to that realization after she has been given all the truth.”
Linda DeBoard, CEO, Agape House Martin, Tennessee
The ministry has developed G.R.O.W. (Great Relationships Open ur World) as a sexual risk avoidance program taught in schools. “Your” is intentionally spelled “ur” to grab the attention of the student audience. The age-appropriate program encourages students to make healthy choices in relationships and abstain from sex until marriage. Though they cannot overtly talk about spiritual things in the public school setting, they can still share truths that reflect biblical values with the students, DeBoard said. They have taught in every school in the two counties they primarily serve, as well as some outlying counties, DeBoard said. The ministry’s October newsletter reported that 1,355 students had attended the program between January and September 2016. She believes the program has contributed to the overall drop in teen pregnancies in the counties they serve.
The ministry’s sexual health medical clinic aims to serve women physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The clinic provides pregnancy options information as well as pregnancy tests and ultrasounds. Ultrasounds help confirm the pregnancy and the fetal age of the child. It also offers testing and treatment for sexually-transmitted infections (STI). For women considering abortion, these same services are necessary, DeBoard said, since the fetal age of the child affects the type of abortion procedure the woman could expect to undergo and women with an STI may experience complications during the procedure. Staff and volunteers make it clear that the clinic does not offer or refer for abortions. Our culture has lied to women about abortion, telling them that it is a “quick fix” and that their lives will return to normal afterward, DeBoard said. Agape House is committed to providing truthful information about all pregnancy options—including parenting, adoption, and what abortion is and how the procedures work—and offering a safe space where women can process the information, she said. DeBoard said that by offering their services this way, they have the opportunity to reach women who would never go to a church for help. “A woman in our area who is wanting to have an abortion, and has already made the decision to have an abortion, is not going to church to tell you that she wants an abortion. She’s not,” DeBoard said. “She’s running from the church.” A 2015 study from LifeWay Research supports that assertion. In a survey of women who have had abortions, 59 percent of respondents said that they received or expected to receive a judgmental or condemning attitude from a local church as they considered their decision to abort. Twenty-nine percent said they received or
expected to receive a loving or caring response. And 54 percent of women would not recommend to someone close to them that they discuss their decision regarding an unplanned pregnancy with someone at a local church, while only 25 percent would recommend it. Their clinic strives to treat their clients the way Jesus would, DeBoard said, by showing them love, presenting them with the truth about life, allowing them to make their own decisions, and loving them no matter what they choose. Clinic staff and volunteers may ask clients whether they have a faith that might influence their pregnancy decision. This often leads to opportunities to share the Gospel or to encourage women in their relationship with Jesus. DeBoard encourages pastors and anyone interested in supporting a pro-life ministry to take a tour of their local center or clinic and learn more about their ministry. Since there are two distinct types of pregnancy centers—those focused on providing support throughout a pregnancy and those focused on preventing abortions—it’s good to gain hands-on experience to make sure you understand the specific work that you’re supporting, she said.
Agape House also offers a Bible study program for women who have previously had abortions. The study focuses on healing and forgiveness— learning to forgive themselves and accepting forgiveness from God. “There’s no sin too great that God won’t forgive us and set us free and use our mistakes for His glory,” DeBoard said. She also reminds pastors that their pews may be filled with women who have abortions in their past. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization with ties to Planned Parenthood, approximately 30 percent of women will have had an abortion by age forty-five. About half of the women who have an abortion in a given year have previously had at least one. “What abortion is and does needs to be told and spoken and preached,” DeBoard said, but with sensitivity to the women who are hurting from their own abortion experiences.
When missionaries begin their assignments overseas, they have platforms that help them gain access into closed countries and build relationships in their communities. They go as teachers or businesspeople with the intention of building relationships and sharing the Gospel. The same is becoming necessary in America, DeBoard said. “Unfortunately, we are at that place in our own country, in our own homeland,” she said, “to where we must have occupations that bring others in and then share truth with them. And that’s really what’s happening through Agape House . . . “We are sharing truth with those that we’re serving, but we’re not known as missionaries through the two venues that we’re operating under.” By providing a neutral environment for women who are seeking a solution for an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, “we’re able to share the truth with them. And I think that’s where we’ve got to go in our country, if we’re going to turn our country back to God.” Rebecca Wolford is communications specialist for the SBC Executive Committee and is a member of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee.
2017 SBC ANNUAL MEETING
SBC President Releases Theme and Artwork for 2017 SBC Annual Meeting SBC LIFE invited SBC President Steve Gaines to share his vision for the SBC annual meeting to be held in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13–14, 2017. SBCLIFE: What drew you to the theme, “Pray . . . for Such a Time as This,” and what do you hope to see as an outcome of this year’s SBC annual meeting? Steve Gaines: I am convinced that prayer should be the number one priority for every Christian. Talking with and listening to God as we read His Word are the most important things we do. Without these disciplines, we cut off the flow of the Holy Spirit’s power. We cut Him off from speaking to our hearts and giving us direction. The Southern Baptist Convention needs to be a people of prayer. Only then will God send the power we need to fulfill the Great Commission. SBCLIFE: What drew you to Esther 4:14 and Luke 11:1 as our theme verses? What do you hope to see through their use at the annual meeting and beyond? Gaines: Esther 4 is the text God used to allow my name to be presented as a candidate for SBC president. Luke 11 records the only thing Jesus’s disciples asked Him to teach them—how to pray. Our Convention and our world are in need of prayer. In combining these verses together, I want to call us to pray . . . for such a time as this.
SBCLIFE: The artwork for this year is visually compelling. What is the message you hope to convey through this visual imagery? Gaines: God’s time line is running out, and I believe man’s time is running out. Jesus Christ is coming back, and I personally believe He could come back at any moment. If we live like we believe that, our lives will be more productive, more pure and holy, more Christ-like. People are dying and they’re entering into eternity. If they don’t have Jesus, they’re going to hell. That motivates me to be about my Father’s business— to pray, tell people about Jesus, win people to Christ, and help them become solid disciples. SBCLIFE: Why should a Southern Baptist attend the annual meeting in Phoenix? Gaines: Just like we want people to attend our church meetings, we should want to attend the gathering of the SBC. We come together to learn what God is doing through the various SBC entities, but we also gather to pray for our nation and be encouraged. I believe so many pastors and church members are discouraged right now. It’s a great time to see godly brothers and sisters and be reacquainted with them. Most importantly, it’s
a time to worship the Lord and be recharged so that you can go back to your place of service to be a better leader for the Lord Jesus Christ. We will devote our Tuesday evening session again this year to prayer for revival and spiritual awakening. SBCLIFE: Any concluding challenge for Southern Baptists? Gaines: I want to encourage all of us to pray for spiritual awakening across the Southern Baptist
Convention. I also want us to pray that we will be a soul-winning denomination—to really tell people about Jesus Christ. We must share with people what the Bible says about Jesus with the purpose of leading them to faith in Christ. I pray we will emphasize biblical stewardship. We must encourage our people to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, to give so that it might be given unto us, so that we can have more missionaries and fund all that we do through the Cooperative Program.
2017 SBC ANNUAL MEETING reminders To ensure the orderly flow of attendees and enhance security of the convention hall, each MESSENGER, EXHIBITOR, and GUEST must be registered and properly badged for entrance into the general sessions on TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13–14. Phoenix Convention Center photo courtesy of visit phoenix
PRESCHOOL CHILDCARE for children birth through five years will
once again be provided by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Childcare teams Sunday through Wednesday. Registration for all children/youth events will open on Wednesday, February 1, 2017, at www.sbcannualmeeting.net. Registration will close on May 19, 2017. Space is limited to 100 children and pre-registration is REQUIRED—there will be NO On-Site Registration
GIANT COW MINISTRIES will again provide activities for children ages
6–12 Sunday through Wednesday—registration will open on Wednesday, February 1, 2017, at www.sbcannualmeeting.net. A special thanks to WMU for providing missions education as part of the curriculum
Youth on Mission for those children who have completed grades
7–12 will be provided again by WMU Tuesday and Wednesday— registration will open on Wednesday, February 1, 2017, at www.sbcannualmeeting.net. Registration will close on May 19, 2017. Space is limited to 100 youth and pre-registration is REQUIRED—there will be NO On-Site Registration
MESSENGER PRE-REGISTRATION will open on Wednesday, February 1, 2017, at www.sbcannualmeeting.net
“SBC ANNUAL MEETINGS” APP—updates will be made as information
becomes available—stay connected by downloading the 2017 “SBC Annual Meetings” app from the Play Store or App Store
For more information and to register for these activities, visit www.sbcannualmeeting.net
HOTEL RESERVATIONS can be secured by going to www.sbcannualmeeting.net
February 27––March 2, 2017 Orlando World Center Marriott Orlando, Florida nrbconvention.org
Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Hear from Bible teachers, evangelical thinkers, and industry leaders, including:
JERRY A. JOHNSON
P. SATISH KUMAR
Founder & Chairman, Ligonier Ministries
Founder & Chief Communicator, PULSE
Author & Christian Apologist
Founder & President, The Urban Alternative
President & CEO, National Religious Broadcasters
Best-Selling Author & Salem Radio Talk Show Host
Founder & Senior Pastor, Calvary Temple, Hyderabad, India
President/CEO, Franklin Entertainment
Former Atlanta Fire Chief
Founder & Chairman, The Christian Film & Television Commission™
Co-Founder & CEO, Cooke Pictures
Salem Radio Talk Show Host, Lawyer, Academic, and Author
SHAUNTI FELDHAHN Social Researcher, Author, and Speaker
President, Jacobs Media
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Jacksonville
Managing Director, Leadership Matters, Inc.
CEO, PureFlix Digital
Founding Partner, Pure Flix
JONATHAN FALWELL Pastor, Thomas Road Baptist Church
Thomas Road Baptist Church
President, CEO & General Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom
For the full list of speakers, visit nrbconvention.org
Featuring specialized summits and tracks where you will learn how to excel in your work:
FILM & ENTERTAINMENT
GREAT COMMISSION (INTERNATIONAL)
Musical Artists and Worship: Hear popular Christian
artists, including Selah, and join us for the worship service on the evening of Wednesday, March 1.
Film Screenings: Get sneak The Exposition: Check out the largest Museum of the Bible: Museum of the
peeks and advanced screenings of yet-to-be-released ﬁlms, including The Case for Christ: The Lee Strobel Story, coming out spring 2017.
marketplace dedicated to Christian ministry and media professionals. There will be 200+ exhibitors, including ministries, broadcasters, equipment providers, publishers, and more.
Bible will present an all-new interactive preview of its building in D.C., scheduled to open in November 2017. See treasures from the museum’s collections and get an exclusive sneak peek at its exhibit plans and interactive tech.
For details, visit nrbconvention.org Day passes and special ﬁrst-timers rates available! Questions? Call 202-543-0073
HISTORY AND HERITAGE renewal in the past, such as the Reformation, for lessons that are relevant for today. “If we look back carefully, we can see forward more clearly,” he said. Plenary speakers for the event include Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School; David Lyle Jeffrey, distinguished professor of literature and the humanities at Baylor University; Peter Leithart, president of the Theopolis Institute; and Carl Trueman, the Paul Woolley Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Fifteen breakout sessions will cover the Reformation’s far-reaching contributions. “This recovery of the Gospel, it did lead to salvation most centrally, but it led to a change in the way politics was done, in the way education and science were done,” Van Neste said. “I want us to see how it affects all of life.”
Scripture Reading Marathon
Union University Plans Multi-Faceted ‘Reformation Celebration’ by Tim Ellsworth
hen a German monk took hammer and nail to the door of the Wittenberg Chapel in 1517, he set in motion a series of events that changed the world. Pastoral concern was Martin Luther’s primary motivation when he challenged the misleading and deceitful teaching that people could buy forgiveness of their sins. Five hundred years later, Union University has planned a series of events to celebrate that momentous day that launched the Protestant Reformation. From evangelism to preaching to the public reading of Scripture to the “five solas” that were the Reformation’s heartbeat, the West Tennessee Evangelism Rally and the REF500 festival in March will explore the history and the legacy of what Union’s Ray Van Neste says is the greatest revival in the history of the church after Pentecost. “That’s a big claim, but I think it’s true,” said Van Neste, professor of biblical studies at Union and organizer of the REF500 festival. “I think often times people miss seeing the Reformation as a revival. . . . [S]ometimes people think of it as merely an academic thing, but it comes out of pastoral concern. “This is a recovery of the Gospel. It’s a rejuvenation or revival of the church.”
annual West Tennessee Evangelism Rally. Though not officially part of the REF500 festival, Ernest Easley, professor of evangelism at Union, said without the Reformation, an evangelism rally like this likely wouldn’t be happening. “They really go together. Without what God did through the Reformation and the proclamation of the Gospel, we honestly may not even be talking about having an evangelism rally. It solidified the preaching of the Gospel. It got us back to the point of declaring the truth of Scripture. Without one, there wouldn’t be the other one,” he said. SBC President Steve Gaines will be the keynote speaker at the plenary worship services. Attendees will be able to attend two of ten planned workshops, including a panel discussion on how business men and women can share their faith in the workplace and how parents can lead their children to Christ. “All you have to do is look at the churches across West Tennessee and beyond to realize an event like this is essential right now,” Easley said. “Baptisms are really down. Attendance is down. Morale is down. We have an opportunity here at Union to encourage, to equip, to inspire our church leaders and church members to get back to this issue of getting the Gospel to people.”
REF500 will formally kick off with an all-day festival of preaching on March 8 to be held in Union’s G. M. Savage Memorial Chapel. Five
The nine days of events celebrating the Reformation will begin March 5 with the second
preachers will address each of the five “solas” that were the themes of the Reformation— “Scripture Alone,” “Christ Alone,” “Grace Alone,” “Faith Alone” and “To God Alone Be Glory.” The five preachers scheduled are Steve Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis and president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Fred Shackelford, senior pastor of Ellendale Baptist Church in Bartlett, Tennessee; Justin Wainscott, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee; Eric Smith, senior pastor of Sharon Baptist Church in Savannah, Tennessee; and Jim Shaddix, professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Preaching comes to new life coming out of the Reformation, and preaching is actually what’s pressing the Reformation,” Van Neste said. “It goes forth because of popular public preaching. So we wanted not just to talk about it, but to do it.”
The central piece to Union’s celebration of the Reformation is a three-day festival March 9–11 with lectures from visiting scholars, breakout sessions covering a variety of topics, a music concert by Union’s music department, an art exhibit, a film showing, and a Bible exhibit. Van Neste said since the church in the United States is often dormant, lackluster, and looking for renewal, one of the strategies for believers should be to look to great times of
To bookend the REF500 festival, Union will host a Scripture reading marathon March 6–7 and March 13–14 in which four hundred volunteers will read for ten minutes each under Miller Tower on the Union campus. The reading will begin at 6:30 a.m. each day and go until midnight, and by the end of the fourth day, the entire Bible will have been read. Van Neste said they’ll recruit Union faculty, staff, students, and alumni as readers, in addition to volunteers from area churches and schools. “I’m telling people, ‘There may not be anybody there when you get there. You just read.’ Scripture itself has its own power.” B&H is cosponsoring the marathon and will debut its new Christian Standard Bible at the event. While other conferences will celebrate the Reformation’s 500th anniversary next year, Nathan Finn, dean of Union’s School of Theology and Missions, said the events at Union form arguably the most diverse conference of its kind in North America. “I’m unaware of another conference that is giving so much attention to the variety of ways the Reformation has shaped not just theology and church practice, but western culture itself,” Finn said. “Union is a Christ-centered, comprehensive university that is committed to the liberal arts, the sciences, and the professions. The REF500 Conference is exactly the sort of interdisciplinary event that a university like ours ought to be hosting.” Union’s Ryan Center for Biblical Studies, of which Van Neste is the director, is hosting the REF500 festival. More information is available at www.uu.edu/events/ref500. Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University and is a member of Cornerstone Community Church in Jackson, Tennessee.
Other Scheduled SBC Reformation 500th Anniversary Plans
any scholars regard Baptists as among heirs of the Reformation tradition. Among the Reformation celebrations planned among Southern Baptists:
Baptist Press, State Baptist Papers
On October 31 and November 1, 2016, Baptist Press kicked off its coverage of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation with four news features about the Reformers and the “unfinished reformation.” BP will routinely publish reports, feature stories, and columns leading up to the October 31, 2017, anniversary of when Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. In addition, several state Baptist papers have plans to carry monthly or weekly historical snippets about the Reformation and its continuing impact on Western Christianity, especially as it pertains to Baptist work in the United States and around the world.
LifeWay Christian Resources will release a small group Bible study titled “Echoes of the Reformation: Five Truths That Shape the Christian Life.” The six-session study will examine five core truths that stemmed from, and were the DNA of, the Reformation. The study aims to help believers better understand the Reformation’s impact on today’s church and how to live for the glory of God. LifeWay’s B&H Academic division will release Reformation 500 next spring, a book by Ray Van Neste and J. Michael Garrett that will explore how the Reformation has shaped the world.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission will publish articles on the impact of the Reformation on the way we engage culture today and some of the movements that have arisen out of the Reformation, particularly the Baptist movement.
GuideStone Financial Resources w ill commemorate the Reformation with a special speaker during its weekly employee chapel services in October 2017.
The International Mission Board plans to post articles related to the Reformation on its website and IMB President David Platt is scheduled to speak in April at a Reformationthemed conference in Germany sponsored by the German group Evangelium 21 and US-based Together for the Gospel.
Southeastern—Reformation scholar Timothy George, dean of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, will deliver a 2017 chapel address on the Reformation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition, a June
2017 Reformation study tour in Europe will be led by Southeastern President Daniel Akin and Stephen Eccher, assistant professor of church history and Reformation studies. Southern—Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will partner with Ligonier Ministries in August 2017 for the Land of Luther Study Tour, with church historians teaching in the places Luther lived and taught. The seminary also will host a Reformation Conference Oct. 24–25, 2017. In addition, chapel speakers, articles, and other resources will address key Reformation themes throughout the year. Southwestern—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will host three facultyled study tours of Reformation sites in Europe between the summer of 2017 and the winter of 2017–18. The third tour will include key Anabaptist sites. On-campus events throughout the year will include a special Reformation Day chapel service next year.
PAGE 15 WINTER 2016
‘Getting’ the Cooperative Program by Randy C. Davis
ames Suggs “gets” it. Suggs, 72, is pastor of Cave Hill Baptist Church in Newport, Tennessee. He’s lived in Cocke County, popula tion of about thirty-five thousand, his entire life. When he was in his early twenties, he told some friends that his life goal was to see a million souls saved. “I knew to see that goal reached I was going to have to go way beyond Cocke County,” he said. “But I figure that by participating in the Cooperative Program (CP) I’ve been able to see at least that many saved in these fifty years.” Because of the faithful giving of the churches he’s served, he has seen way beyond a million come to saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ through the diversity of ministries and missions those churches supported through CP giving. But James Suggs isn’t Tennessee’s only Cooperative Program hero. There are countless Tennessee Baptists in churches of all shapes and sizes who sincerely believe that we truly can do more working together to advance the Gospel than we can do apart. That isn’t some catchy slogan; it is a reality, and I’m thankful for men like Pastor Suggs who can give an eyewitness accounting to a half century of the truthfulness of that statement. I’m also thankful for young men like James Griffith, 32, pastor of Dyllis Baptist Church, Harriman, who believe in the potential of the Cooperative Program. He recalls being
immediately challenged by the God-sized goals the TBC adopted two years ago, particularly Objective Four, “Realizing an increase in local church giving through the Cooperative Program that reaches at least 10 percent by 2024.” “That was one I felt we could do immediately,” he said. “It just hit me that we ask members of our churches to give 10 percent so why wouldn’t the church also give 10 percent? I believe in where we are heading as a state convention and I believe in missions. In the end it is all about making sure people hear the Gospel, are saved, and that we see them become disciples.” Dyllis jumped from 4 percent to 10 percent in its Cooperative Program giving in a matter of months after that meeting. It was initially a huge challenge, but just two years later, Pastor Griffith reports that the church’s giving is up in every area: building fund, missions giving, budget, and more. Each October Southern Baptists celebrate the Cooperative Program. Since its genesis in 1925, CP has been the financial backbone of Southern Baptists’ Great Commission efforts and it is as relevant today as when our predecessors launched it by faith. Its impact is profound. Tennessee Baptists giving through the Cooperative Program have had a hand in planting a record number of churches or Bible study groups in Tennessee alone. Through CP, Tennessee Baptists are helping a record number of struggling churches successfully turn from
James Suggs, pastor of Cave Hill Baptist Church in Newport, Tennessee, gives a video testimony. screen capture from “james suggs — my cp story” on vimeo.com
dying to growing again. And I’m proud to say that because of CP, Tennessee Baptists are supporting Baptist Collegiate Ministries ministering among more than 350,000 students on more than twenty university campuses. More than sixty young adults have given their lives to Christ just since classes began this fall. What’s more, it thrills my heart to report that Cooperative Program giving is up more than 3.6 percent over last year. This increase allows us to help more Tennessee churches successfully connect with their communities, see more people saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship, and send more money on for national and international missions efforts. And while we celebrate one of our best years recently, we mustn’t lose sight of the task before us. Tennessee Baptists have a goal to see annual baptisms jump from twenty-two
thousand to fifty thousand in the next eight years. The reality is baptisms must increase to that level just to keep up with our state’s exploding population growth. Anything less and Tennessee migrates deeper into spiritual lostness. James Suggs “gets” it. So does James Griffith. Do you? Cooperative Program giving has a direct impact on our ability as Southern Baptists to reach our states and the nations for Christ. I strongly encourage you and your church to grab hold of cooperation and give generously. The eternities of millions of people are dependent upon it. Randy C. Davis is executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and is a member of First Baptist Church in Sevierville, Tennessee. This column first appeared in the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Used by permission.
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Why Do the Wicked Prosper? Living in Psalm 73 by Susie Hawkins
he was weeping over the phone. Grief, anger, and frustration were pouring out of her as she told me her latest news. Her husband of over thirty years had left her for another woman. At one time he had been a deacon in their church, a respected spiritual leader. He had been a stellar dad, good friend of many, and successful businessman with a good name. But his spiritual interests had evaporated over the past
several years and his heart had grown cold. The divorce was acrimonious and drawn out, and she was beyond weary and devastated by it all. But that wasn’t the cause of her current anguish. She had just heard that he had already married the other woman, been promoted in his job, was traveling on exotic trips, and had even returned to church. She was struggling with the age-old question: If he was so wrong to leave her,
then why was his life going so well? She, on the other hand, was left to deal with broken-hearted children, financial stresses, and the humiliation of it all. Where was God in all this? Why was his life going so well while hers was in such disarray? As I listened, I was reminded of Psalm 73. Asaph, the author, asked the very same questions my friend was asking. She was, and IS, living IN Psalm 73. Look at the pattern:
In the first two verses, Asaph affirms his faith in God’s goodness but then confesses that his faith is faltering. He is troubled because he sees the wicked (unbelievers or unrepentant) living in ease, wealth, and leisure. He can’t reconcile what he sees with what is taught in the Law—the promises of blessings to the obedient and judgment on the disobedient. In the text (verses 4–12), he details his complaints: he is envious of their “prosperity” (“shalom” in the Hebrew); they are healthy, problem-free, boastful of their possessions, thoroughly corrupt, and have no mercy on the poor. And Asaph isn’t the only one troubled by all of this. God’s people are confused also, asking if He even notices what is happening in their world (verses 10–11). He takes his frustration a step further by asking: What good has it done him to keep an obedient heart? All he has is trouble and pain. If that’s not bad enough, he feels constrained to keep these observations to himself because he has influence with God’s people as a leader. By verse 16, he is ready to throw in the towel and be done with it all. But the psalm abruptly pivots in verse 17, with a drastic change of focus. Asaph found himself in God’s “sanctuary,” which most likely was the Temple, the dwelling place of God’s glory. Temple worship consisted of reading the Law, singing, worship, and prayer. What happened to him there? His heart was softened. His attention was drawn away from the wicked to the glory and majesty of God. His focus changed from “them” to himself and God. He was no longer contrasting the wicked with the good, but looking at God alone. We can almost hear Asaph saying, “What was I thinking?” He confessed his bitterness, his foolishness, and recounted the spiritual blessings that were his “glorious destiny.” Verse 28 sums up his new perspective: How good it is to be near God! (NLT) My friend, just like Asaph, has discovered the life-giving mindset of being in “the sanctuary”—being still and entering into God’s presence. Once there, her thinking is transformed and her spirit is made strong, just as Asaph’s was. Occasionally I get a text from her, saying she has been in “the sanctuary,” and I know exactly what that means! Living IN the psalm has carried my friend through dark days and is a continual source of strength for her. Watching her and learning from her faith struggle has sharpened me— and driven me to Psalms time and time again. There are more people than we know in our churches who struggle with injustices, just as my friend has. While their issues may not be marriage-related, the principle is the same. Turning our eyes toward God and off of others brings us a fresh assurance of His presence and eternal graces toward those who trust Him and seek to live in His sanctuary. Susie Hawkins is an author, speaker, and wife of GuideStone Financial Resources President O. S. Hawkins, and is a member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. Adapted from a blog post at NAMB.net/flourish.