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R.G. Lee steeled by ‘toil’ on Panama Canal

August 29 2014 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Of the nearly 100,000 construction workers it took to build the Panama Canal, only one went on to become the Southern Baptist Convention’s president and preach what was perhaps the 20th century’s most famous sermon: R.G. Lee.

At the 100th anniversary of the canal’s 1914 opening, Lee’s labors and vigorous work ethic can add a spiritual dimension to Labor Day lore.

“Everyone who knew Dr. Lee associated a strong work ethic with him,” Charles Fowler, pastor of the Memphis-area Germantown Baptist Church and a Lee scholar, told Baptist Press. “One of the stories that people enjoy hearing most is how he, in order to pay for college, left to go and work for a little less than a year on the Panama Canal as a construction worker.”

Lee, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis from 1927 to 1960, was best known for his sermon “Payday Someday,” which used the story of Ahab and Jezebel from 1 and 2 Kings to portray God’s judgment against sinners. Lee preached the sermon more than 1,000 times to some 3 million people and as a result saw more than 8,000 professions of faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.

Lee delivered “Payday Someday” in at least 44 states, seven foreign countries, at the SBC annual meeting and annually at Bellevue for 32 years – three times at Memphis’ Municipal Auditorium to accommodate the huge crowds.

The SBC elected Lee president in 1948, and he served three consecutive one-year terms. He died in 1978 at age 91.


Work in Panama

In 1907, however, he was just a 21-year-old South Carolina farm boy looking for a way to fund his college education at Furman University. When he heard that the U.S. government was hiring workers to build a massive canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific through Panama, Lee borrowed $250 from a local banker to fund his travel and headed for Central America, promising his mother that “he would not touch a drop of strong liquor, that he would not walk through the door of a saloon, and that when he returned home he would be as clean morally as he was at that moment,” biographer John Huss wrote.

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SBHLA photo
R.G. Lee was perhaps best known for his sermon “Payday Someday,” which he preached more than 1,000 times to some 3 million people.

Formerly a French construction project, the U.S. acquired rights to the Panama Canal and began construction in 1904. The canal, a shortcut that saved ships nearly 8,000 miles in their journeys between the Atlantic and Pacific, opened on Aug. 15, 1914. America retained control of the so-called Canal Zone until 1977, when an agreement ceded it to Panama. Today more than 800,000 ships pass annually through the canal, which has been dubbed one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Lee’s journey to Panama began poorly when his train to New Orleans was late, causing him to miss his ship to Central America and be stuck in the Crescent City for a week. With less than a dollar in his pocket, Lee paid for a room and meals that week by working 80 hours at the local wharf carrying bananas that had arrived by ship.

Things didn’t get any easier when he arrived in Panama to discover that the job he had been promised no longer existed. After getting so hungry that he ate the remains of a picnic meal covered in bugs, Lee secured work for $83 a month as foreman of a Jamaican construction crew.

The work involved 10-hour days that each required four miles of walking. It was dangerous work. Some 20,000 workers died over 10 years of construction from a combination of disease and accidents. Often the men worked in extreme heat, humidity and rain.

Decades later in his book Pickings, Lee complained about the “idleness” and folly of those who advocated a six-hour workday and a five-day workweek.

“That means out of a week of one hundred and sixty-eight hours a man is to work thirty hours,” Lee wrote. “That would leave one hundred and thirty-eight hours for leisure. But is not crime in society largely the product of leisure? Wise is he who said, ‘Most of the ordinary moral lesions could be cured by sawing wood.’”

Also decades later, after Lee gained a reputation as a master of words, he was known to enjoy the palindrome, “A man, a plan, a canal, Panama.” A palindrome is a sequence of letters that reads the same forward as it does backward, like “Anna” or “Draw, o coward.”
 

Work in ministry

After nine months in Panama, Lee had accumulated sufficient savings to return home and attend college. But before he could board a ship bound for the U.S., he contracted an illness known as blackwater fever that killed many of the canal workers. Lee was taken to a hospital, where he received the standard treatment for blackwater fever: being stripped and put in a tub of ice. He passed out during the treatment, awakening grateful that he was still alive.

Unfortunately, Lee faced the need to continue laboring upon his return home. Learning of financial strain on his family, Lee gave his father his entire savings minus the cost of matriculation fees and books for his first semester at a Furman preparatory school.

That meant Lee had to work himself through prep school and college, waking up at 3 a.m. daily to deliver newspapers. He washed laundry and milked cows for extra money.

Lee’s authorized biographer attributed his later success at Bellevue in part to his propensity for hard work – learned on the farm of his youth, where he once picked 416 pounds of cotton in a single day – refined in Panama.

“His ultimate success was hard won,” Huss wrote. “... Long hours of rugged toil put into Lee’s life a steel without which no man can attain the heights.”

At Bellevue, Lee averaged 10 pastoral visits a day for years and spent five to six hours daily in sermon preparation and study before noon. He wrote out all of his sermons and read them many times to cement the material in his mind before preaching extemporaneously. Additionally, he was known to visit church members in the middle of the night if needs arose.
 

“Despise ease”

Fowler said Lee would rebuke people today who eschew hard work, particularly ministers.

“He would caution anyone against pursuing a calling in ministry without marrying that to a strong work ethic,” said Fowler, who formerly oversaw the R.G. Lee Center at Union University. “The heart of the gospel is sacrifice, and the gospel came at a great cost to Christ. Those who bear His name and proclaim His Word in ministry must recognize that does come at a personal cost. You cannot advance the gospel ministry without there being a sacrifice ... so that we might spend the time necessary with the Lord to hear from Him and the time necessary with the people to walk with them.”

At the same time, Fowler advocated a healthy balance between work, leisure and family time, warning that a life of excessive work can cause a minister to neglect family life and miss many blessings.

Lee “would caution us to pursue excellence in preaching, to pursue excellence in pastoring but not to do so at the expense of family,” Fowler said.

Still, the Bible’s teaching on the value of work is undeniable, Fowler noted. Lee expounded on work’s value in his sermon on “worthless pursuits” – one of which was “ease in life.”

Lee warned young adults, “Now that you have finished some of you, your college course, oft with bold subtlety the tempter’s mouth will approach your ear, saying ‘Soul take thine ease.’ And if you listen and obey, you are giving yourselves to the pursuit of a flea, which, whether caught or uncaught, is worthless.

“... Young man, work. Despise ease. Set a high goal and go to that goal over any rough road, no matter how rough – up any high hill, no matter how high – through any dark valley, no matter how dark.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is the chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

8/29/2014 11:12:44 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Platt to new missionaries: ‘This mission will succeed!’

August 29 2014 by Tess Rivers, IMB/Baptist Press

Nathan and Aimee Pressley* are not easily deterred. After the International Service Corps program was suspended by the International Mission Board (IMB) in 2010, the husband-wife applicants relocated from their home in Kentucky to a city in the Midwest.

Their goal: to live in the United States among the unreached people group they wanted to serve overseas.

The Pressleys are two of 50 new missionaries appointed Aug. 27 at The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Va. They join 4,842 IMB missionaries now serving around the world.

The appointment service capped several days of meetings near Richmond, Va., when IMB trustees elected David Platt, 36, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., as president of the 169-year-old mission board. Platt succeeds former pastor and Southern Baptist Convention president Tom Elliff, 70, who has served as IMB president since 2011. Elliff asked IMB’s trustees earlier this year to begin an active search for his successor.

Platt preached from Romans 9 before a nearly packed auditorium, including two new missionaries from his church. “Every saved person this side of heaven,” he said, “owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell.


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IMB photo by Chris Carter
The beauty of the Gospel and the burden for missions go together, said new IMB President David Platt during the appointment service at The Heights Baptist Church.

“What else can we give our lives to that is more important than this?” Platt asked. “We’ve been invited by God to be part of making His salvation known among people that He loves, and we know that when we share this gospel, people are going to be saved ... somebody from every tribe, nation and people group.

“They are going to be around the throne that day,” Platt continued to a responsive audience, “which means if we go to the hardest, most resistant, most rebellious people group and preach this gospel, somebody is coming out!”

God promises such an outcome, Platt asserted, “for their salvation, His glorification and our satisfaction.”


Dependent, determined, undeterred

Nathan Pressley, as a seminary student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, began researching where he and his wife might serve internationally.

“We identified an African unreached people group with whom we wanted to share the gospel,” Pressley said. “Then we moved our family to a city in the United States that has tens of thousands of refugees from this people group.”

For the past four years, the Pressleys have visited with refugees, eaten their food and learned their language. In the process, they also taught English, tutored and shared the gospel.

“We decided to move to the Midwest because we were unable to move overseas,” Aimee Pressley said. “During the past four years, God has confirmed our calling to spend our lives working among this unreached people group.”

The Pressleys’ story echoes the experience of other new missionaries who could have chosen not to respond to God’s call to share the gospel with people overseas. In 2007, Jillian Oatley* was thrilled with the possibility of serving as an IMB journeyman among an Islamic people group. But three weeks before the IMB conference when she could formally request the position, fear gripped her.

“I had constant nightmares related to serving in this context,” Oatley said. “It was something I had never experienced.”

Because of the nightmares, Oatley attended the conference looking for a job in a different context. But on the second day of the conference, God’s Word redirected her.

“The Lord brought me to Jeremiah 1:7-8,” Oatley recalled. “Paraphrased, it says, ‘Go to the people that I have sent you to and do not fear them.’”

Instantly, “a peace washed over me and I knew the Spirit was telling me to go to Central Asia,” Oatley said. “The nightmares stopped, and I listed that location as my first choice for places to serve.”

Overcoming her fear, Oatley thrived and built relationships with a few Muslim women. One of them became a follower of Jesus. Oatley extended her assignment to serve an additional year to continue discipling the new believer.
 

‘Worth dying for’

As new missionaries shared testimonies of their willingness to leave jobs, families and comforts to go to the nations, Platt reminded them that, ultimately, “this mission will succeed.”

Quoting Romans 15:21, he said, “‘Those who have never been told of Him will see and those who have never heard will understand.’ ... Those are promises.”

Platt also shared Matthew 24:14, which says, “This message will be preached as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come.”

While Platt acknowledged that many people debate the meaning of Matthew 24:14, he quoted George Ladd, a New Testament theologian: “God alone knows the definition of terms. I cannot precisely define who ‘all the nations’ are. But I do not need to know. I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned. Therefore the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. Our responsibility is not to insist on defining the terms; our responsibility is to complete the task. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.”

“It’s going to happen one day!” Platt asserted, as the audience responded with applause and cheers. “This is what we work for and strive for! This is the vision worth dying for!”

The next IMB appointment service will be Nov. 9 at First Baptist Church, Olive Branch, Miss.
 
*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tess Rivers is a writer for the International Mission Board.)

8/29/2014 10:51:46 AM by Tess Rivers, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



SEBTS launches new center on spiritual formation

August 29 2014 by SEBTS Communications

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) announced the new Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality directed by Nathan Finn.
 
Finn is an associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies. His work has been published on topics related to Baptist Studies, Christian spirituality, ecclesiology and the history of missions.
 
The mission of the center is to promote spiritual maturity and the cultivation of a robust evangelical spirituality for the glory of God, the health of the church and the advancement of Christian mission.

 
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Nathan Finn

Chuck Lawless, vice president for graduate studies and ministry centers, said, “Our role as a seminary is not only to prepare the mind; it is also to address the heart. This new center will address spiritual formation at the academic, local church and personal levels. As a scholar and churchman, Dr. Finn is uniquely gifted to lead this work.”
 
The center plans to provide a resource guide for Southern Baptist churches and other similar evangelicals who are interested in these topics.
 
“I believe one of the great needs among this generation of seminary students and local churches is a healthy view of spiritual formation,” Finn said
 
The foundational passage of scripture for the center is Colossians 1:9-10. “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
 
“Authentic Christian spirituality is rooted in the scriptures, provides a gospel-centered shape to our character and priorities, and fuels our mission to the lost, needy, persecuted and oppressed,” Finn emphasized.
 
Throughout the year, the center will host seminars for the campus community, area pastors and ministry leaders. Every two or three years, major academic conferences for scholars will be held.
 
“I’m hopeful this new center will help us to form students into mature disciples and equip them to lead their local churches and other ministries in cultivating a discipleship culture that glorifies God and advances his kingdom,” Finn explained.
 
The Southeastern fellows for the Center are Drew Ham, director of the Office of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation; Greg Mathias, associate director of international missions for the Center for Great Commission Studies; Chuck Quarles, professor of New Testament and biblical theology; Steven Wade, associate professor of pastoral theology and coordinator of field ministry; and Keith Whitfield, associate vice president for institutional effectiveness and faculty communications and assistant professor of theology at Southeastern.
 
The center’s pastor advisory board includes, Jason Dees, senior pastor of Valleydale Church in Birmingham, Alabama; Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Dhati Lewis, lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Georgia; Ronjour Locke, pastor of First Baptist Church of Brooklyn, Maryland; Josh Reed, pastor of Oaks Church in Raleigh, North Carolina; Juan Sanchez, preaching pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas; and Justin Wainscott, pastor of First Baptist Church of Jackson, Tennessee.

8/29/2014 10:33:47 AM by SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Healed ALS patient takes Ice Bucket Challenge

August 29 2014 by Keith Collier, TEXAN/Baptist Press

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has garnered national attention and raised nearly $100 million dollars in donations in less than a month. But few participants can say they have already been cured of the lethal disease.

JJ LaCarter is one of them.

LaCarter, a deacon at Houston’s First Baptist Church, joined pastor Gregg Matte in taking the Ice Bucket Challenge in a fountain outside the church’s Loop Campus, Aug. 25, to raise awareness for ALS and to tell the story of LaCarter’s miraculous healing. Houston’s First posted his story along with a video of Matte and him participating in the challenge on the church’s website.


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JJ LaCarter, a deacon at Houston’s First Baptist Church, joined pastor Gregg Matte in taking the Ice Bucket Challenge in a fountain outside the church’s Loop Campus, Aug. 25, to raise awareness for ALS and to tell the story of LaCarter’s miraculous healing.

LaCarter was diagnosed with ALS in 2008 following extensive tests by a neurologist at the Texas Medical Center. He then underwent additional testing by one of the world’s foremost ALS research doctors, who confirmed he had the disease.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a fatal condition that affects more than 30,000 Americans, with no known cure.

“Over the course of about 2-5 years, ALS progressively paralyzes all the muscles in the body, including the muscles that control speaking, breathing and eating – eventually resulting in death,” LaCarter said, adding that he and his wife Barbara “were in total shock” at the diagnosis.

LaCarter says his church family rallied around him in support and prayer.

“People would stop me in the hall just to tell me they were praying for me,” LaCarter said. “I know that when you ask people at Houston’s First to pray, they really do. My own prayer was for me to continue to walk, talk and breathe. Each Sunday I thanked the Lord that He allowed me to walk up the stairs to our Life Bible Study that met on the second floor.”

In spring 2009, pastor Matte was on a tour of Israel when a tour guide at the Pool of Bethesda encouraged him to pray for someone in need of healing. Matte sensed the Lord laying LaCarter on his heart, so he prayed for LaCarter’s complete healing from ALS.

Seven months later, during a scheduled visit, LaCarter’s doctor told him he did not have ALS anymore. Shocked, Barbara LaCarter asked the doctor whether the initial diagnosis was an error, but the doctor was certain that he had the disease.

“We immediately told him that it was answered prayer and God’s healing,” LaCarter said. The doctor “said, ‘Maybe so,’ but we knew it was. I asked him if he had ever told anyone else this before, and he replied, ‘Only three patients since 1982.’”

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a social media-driven initiative sponsored by the ALS Association (ALSA) to raise awareness and financial support for ALS research. Participants douse themselves in a bucket of ice water and donate money to ALS research before challenging a number of their friends to follow suit. The initiative has been fueled by online videos of high-profile athletes, politicians and celebrities participating in the challenge.

Many pro-life advocates have raised ethical concerns about donating to the ALSA because the organization has funded embryonic stem cell research, which destroys unborn humans. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention released a list of frequently asked questions on the ethical implications of the Ice Bucket Challenge. The website includes a list of alternative organizations recommended by Christian bioethicist David Prentice that do not fund embryonic stem cell research.

Along with the story and video of Matte and LaCarter’s participation in the Ice Bucket Challenge, Houston’s First included on their website a list of alternative ALS research organizations and a link to the ERLC website. The church also included an online prayer request form and the phone number to its Prayer Line, offering to pray for those with ALS or other illnesses.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Collier is editor of the Southern Baptist Texan (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)
 

Related Story:

Ice Bucket Challenge hits stem cell snag

8/29/2014 10:09:49 AM by Keith Collier, TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Pastors request Driscoll step down completely

August 28 2014 by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

A letter from nine Mars Hill Church pastors to their fellow elders offers the most trenchant criticism yet of controversial megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll, who recently stepped down for at least six weeks amid a series of accusations.
 
The pastors did not mince words in their lengthy Aug. 22 letter concerning Driscoll, who has been caught up in allegations that include plagiarism, inappropriate use of church funds and abuse of power:

  • [W]e direct that he steps down from ministry, submitting himself under the authority of the elders of the church, who will oversee the details of his restoration plan.

  • He must step down not only from the pulpit, but from all aspects of ministry and leadership.

  • He will continue to receive his salary so long as he continues to cooperate with the restoration plan set before him by the elders of Mars Hill Church.

The letter was posted within a Mars Hill online network and provided to Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor who has been blogging updates about Mars Hill.

 

The 4,000-word letter suggests there were insufficient layers of accountability at Mars Hill, a congregation of an estimated 14,000 people at 15 locations in five states, and that power was consolidated at the top with Driscoll given free rein to do what he wanted. The pastors included quotes from conversations with Paul Tripp, a widely respected evangelical pastor who is seen as a “pastor to pastors” and was on the Mars Hill’s Board of Advisors and Accountability before he resigned in June.
 

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Photo courtesy of Mars Hill Church
Controversial Seattle megachurch founder Mark Driscoll will step down for at least six weeks while church leaders review formal charges lodged by a group of pastors that he abused his power.

“This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with,” Tripp is quoted saying in the letter.
 
One of Tripp’s concerns was the way the church governance was set up.
 
“You can’t have a church culture where you essentially have a very tight circle and everyone else is your enemy,” he said.
 
Tripp declined to an interview request.
 
“This letter, as with past letters voicing accusations toward Mark Driscoll will be processed in accordance with Article 12 of the church’s bylaws,” a statement provided by public relations firm head Mark DeMoss said. “This means the accusations will be thoroughly examined and a report issued when the review is complete. In the meantime, it does not seem appropriate to comment on specific accusations before/while they are being formally reviewed as we don’t want to circumvent the process prescribed by the governing body of Mars Hill.”
 
The church’s bylaws, which spell out how the church is governed, are not public. It’s also unclear what the governing body entails, as DeMoss was unavailable to respond to more questions. The pastors in the letter suggest that the bylaws do not offer church elders much authority.
 
“While the current bylaws greatly restrict our authority, we believe we must act like elders none-the-less,” they write. “It is time to take responsibility for our church, regardless of how much our current bylaws prevent us from exercising that authority.”
 
The pastors suggest that there has been a lack of transparency from the leadership, especially surrounding Driscoll’s ouster from the Acts 29 Network, a church-planting coalition of more than 500 congregations that he helped found.
 
“We have been repeatedly told that no one from the A29 board talked to Mark or to our board prior to removing Mark from the network,” the pastors wrote. “The truth is that multiple members of both boards had been in direct contact with each other, and with Mark, exhorting and rebuking him over the course of months and years, and to say or imply otherwise is deeply misleading.”
 
The pastors also cited issues of “questionable transparency and truth-telling” surrounding church finances and the Mars Hill Global Fund, along with a controversy last year involving a conference on charismatic theology called Strange Fire. In addition, they cite charges that Driscoll plagiarized, inflated his book sales, and confusion around transitions and resignations from its board, including Tripp and pastor James MacDonald.
 
The letter cited another recent letter, from Mike Wilkerson, who, along with other former Mars Hill pastors, sent a list of allegations to church elders regarding Driscoll. The pastors suggested that the statement put out from the church at the time was misleading.
 
“Even this Thursday we put out a statement claiming that Wilkerson’s formal charges were being ‘reviewed by the board and the elders,’” the letter from the current pastors stated. “This is misleading as it gives people the impression that the elders as a whole are able to take part in reviewing and adjudicating the case.”
 
As of Thursday (Aug. 28), Mars Hill would not provide information about who will oversee Driscoll during his time off from the pulpit; neither did it provide a copy of the church bylaws requested by Religion News Service.
 
The pastors’ letter ends by quoting a sermon from Driscoll from 2006.
 
“I just shudder to say this, but if I should ever say or do anything that the elders would need to fire me, do not be loyal to me,” Driscoll said. “Be loyal to Jesus; be loyal to your elders. Be loyal to the pastors in your church.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– Sarah Pulliam Bailey joined RNS as a national correspondent in 2013. She has previously served as managing editor of Odyssey Networks and online editor for Christianity Today.)

 

8/28/2014 2:43:50 PM by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



Cooperation central to Platt’s vision at IMB

August 28 2014 by David Roach & Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Newly elected International Mission Board (IMB) President David Platt wants to convince the “scores” of “totally disengaged” Southern Baptist churches that their best opportunity to reach the nations for Christ involves cooperating with fellow Baptists at the associational, state convention and Southern Baptist Convention levels, he said in a telephone press conference with some 15 members of the media today (Aug. 27).

“There are scores of non-traditional churches that are totally disengaged from the SBC and the Cooperative Program (CP) and even from the IMB,” Platt said. “... I don’t think the way to mobilize them is to tell them they ought to give or make them feel guilty for not giving but to show them that this is worth giving to.”

Platt added that cooperation within the Southern Baptist family is “the wisest, most effective means for working together with other churches to see the gospel spread.”

Local churches are central to the IMB’s work, Platt said, noting that congregations must do more than merely provide funds for overseas ministry.


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David Platt

There is a common misperception that “the local church just exists to send money and send missionaries and then the IMB kind of takes care of it,” Platt said. “We’ve really got to make sure that paradigm is turned upside down so that the local church is the agent that sends missionaries and shepherds missionaries, and the IMB comes alongside local churches to do that.”

Missions strategies “don’t necessarily need to be manufactured in a board room of a denominational entity as much as they need to come from the Spirit of God working in the hearts of local churches,” he said.

Platt was asked whether he will urge churches to give to missions through the Cooperative Program – Southern Baptists’ unified program of supporting missions and ministries – or encourage designated giving directly to the IMB. In response, he acknowledged a constant need to evaluate and improve CP but said it should continue to be “the primary economic engine that fuels” Southern Baptists’ cooperative ministry endeavors.

“The last thing the SBC needs is a do-it-alone IMB that’s trying to in any way undercut the Cooperative Program,” Platt said.

Platt was asked specifically about the CP giving of the congregation he pastors in Birmingham, Ala., The Church at Brook Hills. The church has contributed to the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget and, according to an IMB news release, has contributed directly to the IMB. Gifts sent directly to the Executive Committee or an SBC entity are defined as designated gifts, not CP giving.

The church gave $100,000 during each of the SBC’s past three fiscal years (Oct. 1-Sept. 30) through the Executive Committee, according to the SBC Annual, and $75,000 during the 2010 fiscal year. Through Aug. 26 of the current fiscal year, the church has given $141,667 through the Executive Committee for the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget, according to an information request from Baptist Press to the EC’s convention finance office.

In Cooperative Program giving, The Church at Brook Hills has given $25,000 through the Alabama State Board of Missions in each of the past five calendar years. The Alabama convention allocates 43.3 percent of its CP receipts for SBC causes, with 46.7 percent utilized in state missions and ministries and 10 percent for shared SBC/Alabama ministries.

A spokesman for the church relayed its gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions in the past five years: $300,000 in 2013, $250,000 in 2012, $150,000 in 2011 and 2010; and $50,000 in 2009. Though it has supported the North American Mission Board through the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget and Cooperative Program, the church has not given to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, the spokesman said.

A North American Mission Board spokesman, meanwhile, noted to Baptist Press that "David Platt has been a strong supporter of our Send North America strategy [to plant churches in key cities across the continent]. He has spoken at several of our events and is scheduled to speak at several more. He’s been a great advocate."

Through Southern Baptists, the IMB received 50.41 percent of the $188,001,276 in Cooperative Program gifts during the SBC’s 2012-13 fiscal year, or nearly $98.8 million from the churches’ tithes and offerings. The IMB also relies heavily on the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to which Southern Baptists gave $154,057,852 during the past year.

According to the IMB news release on Platt’s election as IMB president, The Church at Brook Hills has an active current membership of 4,582, according to church administrative staff. Weekly worship attendance averages 5,500. Annual baptisms for the past several years have averaged about 100.

In 2013, The Church at Brook Hills gave $100,000 to the SBC CP Allocation Budget through the Executive Committee; $25,000 to the Cooperative Program; $12,500 to the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home; $15,000 to the Birmingham Baptist Association; $300,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; and $325,000 to the International Mission Board in special designated gifts, for a total of $777,500, or 8.9 percent of the church’s total receipts for the year, to Alabama Baptist and Southern Baptist causes.

Projections for 2014, according to the IMB report, are: $175,000 through the SBC Executive Committee; $25,000 to the Cooperative Program; $15,000 to the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home; $68,000 to the Birmingham Baptist Association; $300,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; and $718,000 to the International Mission Board in special designated gifts, for a projected year-end total of $1,301,000, or 13.8 percent of total projected church receipts.

Platt said he does not consider The Church at Brook Hills a “perfect model of giving” and is not holding it up as an example for every church to emulate. However, he said the church was “totally disengaged” from the SBC when he arrived eight years ago and has made “major strides” in cooperation.

It has been a blessing, he said, “over the last eight years, to see how we have made by God’s grace major strides in working with associations [and] conventions in planting churches here in North America, and then through the IMB sending church planting teams overseas.”

As he works with churches, Platt said he will advocate CP as a means rather than an end.

“What I want to trumpet more than anything else is the Great Commission and disciples made here and among the nations,” he said. “That’s what we cooperate together for, right? It’s not just cooperation for the sake of cooperation. We’ve got cooperation with a goal in mind: We want to see God glorified in the church here, God glorified among peoples around the world that haven’t even heard the gospel.”

Among other matters discussed at the press conference:

IMB trustee chairman and presidential search committee chairman David Uth said a “turning point” in the search occurred at the end of July when the committee met with Platt and his wife Heather in Denver.

“If you’d been where I was, if you’d seen what I saw, if you’d heard what I heard, you’d believe what I believe today, and that is that David Platt is the man that God appointed and anointed as head of the IMB,” Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., said.

Uth acknowledged that there was some opposition to Platt during the process but said it was not “formidable.”

Platt clarified comments he made previously that were critical of the “sinner’s prayer” commonly used to help people express their desire to follow Christ as Lord and Savior. The comments were made at a missions conference where Platt was discussing “the need for gospel clarity on the mission field,” he said. His point was that evangelism should never be reduced to getting people to repeat a prayer divorced from true repentance and genuine belief in the gospel, Platt said, adding that he recently invited a lost friend to say a prayer surrendering his life to Jesus during a witnessing encounter.

“What I was trying to say, in maybe not the best choice of words, was what we all believe about salvation and repentance and faith,” Platt said.

Platt said he is “living for the day when the IMB is needed no more. I want us to see the day when the concept of unreached peoples is non-existent, where peoples have been reached with the gospel.”

In addition to Uth, the 15-member search committee that recommended Platt’s election included first vice chair John Edie, retired, member of Second Baptist Church, Springfield, Mo., and Jay Collins, civil engineer, member of First Baptist Church Haughton, La.; Jay Gross, pastor, West Conroe Baptist Church, Conroe, Texas; Scott Harris, minister of missions, Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, Tenn.; Rick Lewis, pastor, Ken Caryl Baptist Church, Littleton, Colo.; Jaye Martin, ministry director, Houston’s First Baptist Church, Houston, Texas; Vickie Mascagni, a registered dietitian and member of Morrison Heights Baptist Church, Clinton, Miss.; John Meador, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas; Matt Pearson, pastor of First Baptist Church, El Dorado, Ark.; Doyle Pryor, senior pastor, Bethel Baptist Church, Norman, Okla.; Cindy Snead, a clinical laboratory scientist and member of North Phoenix Baptist Church, Phoenix, Ariz.; Matt Taylor, senior pastor, First Baptist Church Lebanon, Mo.; Kristen White, director of global mobilization for California Baptist University and a member of Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church, Riverside, Calif., and Jay Wolf, pastor, First Baptist Church, Montgomery, Ala.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

8/28/2014 10:48:57 AM by David Roach & Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Ice Bucket Challenge hits stem cell snag

August 28 2014 by Baptist Press

Participants in the popular Ice Bucket Challenge, which has raised more than $50 million to combat ALS, may be unwittingly supporting embryonic stem cell research, pro-life advocates have warned.

The ALS Association, the principal charity benefitting from the challenge, said in a statement that it currently sponsors one study using embryonic stem cells, though donors can “stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project.” Any future embryonic stem cell research will be conducted “under very strict guidelines,” the association said.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission posted a Q&A on its website Aug. 22 cautioning those considering donations to the ALS Association.

“With the close proximity to a moral dilemma that this situation presents, it is reasonable that Christians would register hesitation and distrust towards collaborating with an organization that harbors no moral opposition to the destruction of unborn life, but instead endorses such activity,” ERLC staff members Andrew Walker and Joe Carter wrote. “Christians should also consider whether their contributions are unwittingly undergirding a philosophical worldview at odds with Christian ethics. The taking of innocent life under any circumstance is sinful. Moreover, fostering a culture of life predicated on the destruction of life is contradictory.”

Walker and Carter noted that there are “pathways to participation” in the Ice Bucket Challenge “that don’t require moral compromise” and listed three ALS charities that only fund adult stem cell research: the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center, the Adult Stem Cell Technology Center, LLC and Dr. Anthony Windebank’s team at the Mayo Clinic.

ALS is an acronym for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disease that killed baseball great Lou Gehrig and gained the nickname Lou Gehrig’s disease. Earlier this year a 43-year-old International Mission Board missionary to Central Asia who was identified by the pseudonym Mary Harper died of ALS. Approximately 80,000 Americans have ALS. The Ice Bucket Challenge features people pouring cold water on themselves, posting a video of it on social media and challenging others to do the same or donate to an ALS charity or both.

Embryonic stem cell research involves extracting cells from an embryo that was conceived through in vitro fertilization but never implanted in a woman’s uterus. Such research destroys a days-old human being and has never resulted in clinical treatment of any human affliction. In contrast, adult stem cell research, which does not destroy human beings, has produced therapies for dozens of medical conditions. Research with induced pluripotent stem cells, which also does not destroy embryos, has shown promise.

In 1999 the SBC adopted a resolution expressing “vigorous opposition to the destruction of innocent human life, including the destruction of human embryos.” The resolution urged a ban on using tax dollars to support embryonic stem cell research and asked private companies to cease any research that destroys human embryos, “the most vulnerable members of the human community.”

When the superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati took the Ice Bucket Challenge, the archdiocese issued a statement urging Catholics to donate to ALS charities that do not sponsor embryo-destructive research if they take the Ice Bucket Challenge.

“The archdiocese is not dissuading individual Catholics from making donations, but they are encouraged to be fully informed and make their own prudential judgments,” the Aug. 20 statement said according to LifeNews. “...To quote St. John Paul II, ‘Any treatment which claims to save human lives, yet is based upon the destruction of human life in its embryonic state, is logically and morally contradictory, as is any production of human embryos for the direct or indirect purpose of experimentation or eventual destruction.’”

Katie Fruge, a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, wrote in a blog post that she views the Ice Bucket Challenge as a way of expressing empathy to ALS victims.

“The reason why I love the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is that in the midst of the current global tragedies, it provides us with a brief moment to stop and recognize those who are silently suffering from a debilitating disease,” Fruge wrote. “The Ice Bucket Challenge began with a friend declaring to a friend, ‘We acknowledge you. You are important. Your suffering matters to us. We’re going to try to help in our own small way.’”

Among the notable personalities to take the Ice Bucket Challenge are former President George W. Bush, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former SBC President Jack Graham.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.)
 

Related Story:

Healed ALS patient takes Ice Bucket Challenge

8/28/2014 10:39:16 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Boko Haram sets up Islamic Caliphate

August 28 2014 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Boko Haram has established its own government in Gwoza, a Nigerian city it captured three weeks ago by killing perhaps 1,000 residents and overcoming the Nigerian military, a legislator displaced from his home there has confirmed.

The Defense Headquarters of Nigeria has Tweeted denials of Boko Haram’s claim of an “Islamic Caliphate” in Gwoza, but Peter Biye-Gumta, representative of the Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza Federal Constituency of Borno State, confirmed reports of the caliphate in the area that had been mostly Christian.

“He confirmed to me that his whole area has been totally overrun and that Boko Haram now has set up a government, their own government in those areas,” Adeniyi Ojutiku, an expert in Nigerian relations, told Baptist Press.

Biye-Gumta is working with Ojutiku’s grassroots group, Lift Up Now USA, to establish an Anti-Boko Haram Liaison office in the U.S. to report the struggles of Boko Haram targets and coordinate strategic planning and relief efforts, Ojutiku said.

“Now we are getting from him a perspective that is uniquely different from what we have had before,” Ojutiku said, noting Biye-Gumta’s status as an elected official in northeastern Nigeria. “[Boko Haram has] actually set up their government. I wouldn’t be surprised if they get some financial support from ISIS. I would not be surprised at all, because they have escalated their operation, they’ve become more sophisticated, they have captured more sophisticated weapons, military tanks and armor. They are just operating in the manner that is so similar to ISIS.”

Boko Haram armies are also growing in size, Biye-Gumta reported. The jihadists may be attracting members from outside Nigeria, Ojutiku said.

“He did tell me that when they invaded Gwoza this time, there were so many of them; there were more than 1,000 Boko Haram jihadists, which is very different from what has been happening,” Ojutiku said. “He just managed to escape from his house and he would also probably have been dead by now, but for God’s protection. He cannot go back to his area; he can’t.”

The Nigerian government is denying reports of Boko Haram advances, including the establishment of the caliphate.

“That claim is empty,” the Defense Headquarters of Nigeria Tweeted Aug. 24. “The sovereignty and terrorist integrity of the Nigerian state is still in tact.”

News reports confirm that Nigerian soldiers at times have been forced to withdraw. Boko Haram forced 450 Nigerian soldiers to retreat to neighboring Cameroon Aug. 25 and captured 35 Nigerian police officers at a training camp in remote northeastern Nigeria the previous week, the international news agency AFP reported.

The government denials are an attempt to save face, Ojutiku said.

“The Nigerian government does not want to appear like it has failed the people. They want to appear to be still in charge and be capable of running the government,” he said, “because if the information gets out that some portions of Nigeria have been captured and taken by Boko Haram, then that is a serious blight to the capability of the president and the government. So they would rather deny it.

“And also, you just don’t know what the political motives are here. Everything has become so complicated, by political intrigues between the ruling government and the people who are trying to take over the reign of government,” Ojutiku said. “Sometimes you don’t even know who is supporting and who is against Boko Haram.”

Boko Haram, seeking to establish sharia, or Islamic law, had killed at least 4,239 Christians, moderate Muslims, government officials and civilians in attacks targeting religious communities in northern Nigeria this year, according to a July 29 report by the advocacy group Jubilee Campaign. Hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes. The terrorists are blamed for 10,000 deaths since 2009, according to an AFP report Aug. 23.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press.)

8/28/2014 10:23:11 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘Radical’ pastor David Platt elected IMB president

August 27 2014 by Erich Bridges, International Mission Board

David Platt, one of the most passionate and influential voices for missions among evangelicals, was elected president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board (IMB) Aug. 27 by board trustees, meeting at the IMB’s International Learning Center in Rockville, Virginia. 
 
Platt, 36, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, a Southern Baptist congregation in Birmingham, Alabama, will take office effective immediately as president of the 169-year-old organization, the largest denominational missionary-sending body among American evangelicals. More than 4,800 Southern Baptist international missionaries serve worldwide.
 
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Photo courtesy of Platt family
International Mission Board President David Platt and his wife, Heather, are seen with their four children (from left): Joshua, Isaiah, Mara Ruth and Caleb.

Platt succeeds former missionary, pastor and Southern  Baptist Convention president Tom Elliff, 70, who has served as IMB president since March 2011. Elliff asked the agency’s trustees earlier this year to begin an active search for his successor. Elliff and his wife, Jeannie, plan to return to their home state, Oklahoma.
 
The author of the bestselling books Radical and Follow Me, among others, Platt has been pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, which counts about 4,500 members, since 2006. He also founded and leads Radical, a ministry that exists to serve the church in accomplishing the mission of Christ. Radical provides resources that support disciple-making in local churches worldwide, organizing events and facilitating opportunities through multiple avenues, all aimed at encouraging followers of Christ in God’s global purposes. Platt has traveled extensively to teach the Bible alongside church leaders and missionaries throughout the United States and around the world. He and his wife, Heather, have four children: Caleb, Joshua, Mara Ruth and Isaiah.


Clear Calling


“We talk all the time at Brook Hills about laying down a blank check with our lives before God, with no strings attached, willing to go wherever He leads, give whatever He asks and do whatever He commands in order to make His glory known among the nations,” Platt said in a letter to his church, released Aug. 27. “Over these past months, God has made it abundantly clear to both Heather and me that He is filling in that blank check in our lives and family with a different assignment. Along the way, God has used the elders of our church to affirm His call, and today He used the leadership of the IMB to confirm it.”
 
In an interview, Platt said that God had done a unique work in his life over the past 12 to 18 months – particularly since an overseas journey during which he saw a stark representation of just how many people have never heard the name of Jesus.
 
“This is not something I saw coming,” he said. “I love pastoring The Church at Brook Hills. I love shepherding this local church on mission for the glory of God among the nations and could picture myself doing that for decades to come. At the same time, God has been doing an unusual work in my heart and life. The only way I can describe it is that He’s been instilling in me a deeper, narrowing, Romans 15 kind of ambition, where [the Apostle] Paul said, ‘I want to see Christ preached where He has not been named. ... He has given me a deeper desire to spend more of my time and energy and resources in the short life He has given me to seeing Christ preached where He’s not been named. The concept of unreached peoples – of nearly 2 billion people who have never heard the gospel – is just totally intolerable.”
 
During a February trip to Nepal, Platt recounted, his team trekked for five days before they encountered a single follower of Christ. He also witnessed Hindu families burning the bodies of newly deceased loved ones and scattering their ashes over a sacred river in hopes that they would be reincarnated. Most if not all of them presumably had died without ever hearing of Christ.
 
“It just gripped me in a deeper way,” Platt said. “I came back with a desire to say, ‘How can my life more intentionally be used to get the Gospel to unreached peoples? Maybe I need to move overseas.’ Then the [trustee] search team contacted me and said, ‘Would you be willing to consider [becoming IMB president]?’ And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Why would I be willing to consider moving overseas, but not be willing to consider mobilizing thousands of people in a more intentional way to do that?’
 
“The Lord has made it so clear, clearer than just about anything else I’ve ever done in my life. I told my wife the only thing I can compare it to is asking her to marry me.”
 

Passion for Lostness, New Generation

 
Platt’s passion for people lost without Christ – and his calling to reach them – inspired members of the IMB trustee search committee, according to trustee and search committee chairman David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church of Orlando, Florida.
 
“When we realized his sense of call, whether that meant serving as IMB president or going himself ... we realized how passionate, how deeply committed and called he was to the nations,” Uth said in an interview. “That began for us a new season of discussions with him – and I will add, too, with his wife. The picture we saw of them was a beautiful picture of a one-flesh marriage moving together, following the same call. We sensed as much call in Heather as we did David. ... One more thing that really was consuming for us: his passion for lostness. To bring back passion for lostness within the context of Southern Baptist life would be so refreshing. I think it would be a [denominational] rebirth.” 
 
Uth said the trustees are excited about Platt’s influence among thousands of Southern Baptists and other evangelical leaders through The Church at Brook Hills, the Radical network and other arenas.
“We weren’t looking for a man who knew how to talk about it; we were looking for a man who was doing it – and using the influence he had to affect the nations,” Uth said. “When we considered what Brook Hills was doing to send couples [to the mission field] and to engage people in the pew in kingdom work, we felt like those were clues to how effective he was at mobilizing and getting people to follow the vision that God had given him.”
 
The ongoing crisis in financial support for missionaries is a major issue for Southern Baptists and IMB leadership, Uth acknowledged, and will challenge Platt as it has challenged Elliff during his tenure. But the potential of young, God-called missionaries in an emerging generation is far greater. 
 
“I think the missionary force, the young people God is calling ... represent one of the greatest forces in Christian history right now,” Uth stressed. “While the world is becoming more hostile and anti-Christian in some places, it’s as if [young missionaries’] passion is growing equally to go to those hard places. That’s where we hear young couples saying they want to go, that they want to be radically obedient to what God has called us to do for the nations. The passion is there. How do we equip them and resource them? How do we incorporate strategy that’s effective? David is going to address that in a way that’s going to bring maximum impact.”
 
Platt particularly hopes to use his influence to multiply the involvement of local Southern Baptist churches for missions in a way that glorifies God and His Word.
 
“I want to see the IMB, first and foremost, exalting Christ as the center of the church and mission,” Platt said. “He’s the One who’s going to accomplish the Great Commission. He’s given us the joy of being involved with Him in it. That means in everything the IMB does, we’ve got to be in tune with His Word, His plan, His Spirit, reflecting His character. I want to take whatever influence the Lord has given me, and will give me in this position, to sound the trumpet among followers of Christ – Southern Baptists and non-Southern Baptists – to say missions is not a compartmentalized program. The local church is the agent God has promised to bless for the spread of the gospel to the nations. The role of the IMB is to equip and empower and encourage the local church to do this.”
 

Message to Missionaries

 
For IMB missionaries overseas, he had a simple message:
 
“I just [want] to say to you, more than anything, that the vision of the IMB remains the same: a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ.. If you don’t hear anything else, please hear me say that all I want to do is lock arms with you, with what you’re doing on the frontlines, with what’s going on back here in mobilizing churches, to go after that vision. … I’ve been so thankful over the years pastoring in the church to partner with so many of you in different parts of the world. I’m thinking about specific brothers and sisters that I’ve had the joy of serving alongside and many others that I look forward to serving alongside in different ways. And I just don’t believe that there is a means that God has blessed so greatly as He has the IMB and this coalition of 40,000 [Southern Baptist] churches working together for the spread of the gospel to the nations.
 
“I am honored, humbled, overjoyed and overwhelmed to be in this role, and I just want you to hear from me from the beginning that I am committed to praying for you, to supporting you, to listening to you, to learning from you. … How can we most effectively work together to make disciples of all nations? … I love you, I’m praying for you, and I’m honored to serve alongside you in what is the greatest mission on this earth.”
 
Platt asked for prayer for The Church at Brook Hills and for his family as he begins the transition to his new role at the International Mission Board.
 
The Platts are natives of Atlanta. He received two bachelor of arts degrees from the University of Georgia in Athens and master of divinity, master of theology and doctor of philosophy degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Before becoming pastor at Brook Hills, he served as an assistant professor of expository preaching and apologetics at New Orleans seminary and as staff evangelist at Edgewater Baptist Church in New Orleans.
8/27/2014 12:03:22 PM by Erich Bridges, International Mission Board | with 0 comments



N.C. pastor to serve in Dubai

August 27 2014 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Jon and Pam Estes are leaving Jackson Park Baptist Church in Kannapolis for a unique international ministry assignment. For the last seven-and-a-half years he has served as pastor of the Jackson Park congregation.
 
On Sept. 1 they are moving to the United Arab Emirates where he will become the pastor of Emirates Baptist Church International in Dubai.
 
“Dubai is a city known for its opulence and beauty, but is also filled with lostness,” Estes said.
 

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Jon and Pam Estes

Most of Dubai’s 2.1 million people are not from the city – 85 percent are expatriates. “When we visited the city and the church, we discovered that God was answering our prayer of reaching the nations.”
 
He has participated in 39 domestic and international mission trips in 35 years of ministry.
 
Pastoring churches in Greensboro, Roxboro, El Paso, Texas, Johnstown, Pa., and Nigeria has been fulfilling according to Estes.
 
Leading LifeWay’s FAITH Sunday School Evangelism clinics for eight years was also a joyful time in his ministry.
 
“We have always wanted to reach the nations for Christ, but never understood how God was going to do this, or if He would,” Estes said. “I have made contact with different international ministries and nothing ever opened. Earlier this year, I sent my resume in response to an ad for a pastor. It was in a geographical area I knew little about, and never thought about it being a place to serve. My first thoughts about United Arab Emirates were that I would not be reaching the nations. I was wrong.
 
“United Arab Emirates, specifically Dubai, is said to have 95 percent of the world’s nations within its borders.”
 
Estes is confident that God has called him and his wife to serve in Dubai.
 
“Each church I have pastored has brought me joy. … As this new path on our journey began to present itself, I knew God had so much more for me to experience, and I knew it would be different. … We know that He will continue to change us, and that He wants us to experience Him in greater and deeper ways.”  
 
Jon and Pam Estes are leaving two married sons and six grandchildren.
 
He is a graduate of Dallas Baptist University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to Jackson Park, he served as pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Roxboro and Rocky Knoll Baptist Church in Greensboro.
 
His father, Robert Estes, was also a Baptist pastor in the state.

8/27/2014 10:53:55 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



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