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Mapping people groups across the state

January 26 2015 by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor

“Who do you bank with? The bank I’m with has an ATM screen that offers a choice of eight languages. … It’s the banking industry that understands that the world is moving to North Carolina, but the question is, ‘Do North Carolina Baptists know the world is moving to North Carolina?’” said Steve Hardy, a contract worker in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) church planting and missions partnerships group.
He said, “The mapping project is an opportunity for us to find out how much the world has moved to North Carolina, where they live, and begin to accept responsibility that the Great Commission has always started in Jerusalem and Judea.”
More than 1,700 points of interest (POI) and 137 people groups exist in North Carolina. A point of interest is any kind of ethnic establishment, such as a fabric shop, a local business, a grocery store, a mosque or an apartment complex.
“We are ready … to engage 52 of those people groups … in some type of church planting or ministry with them,” said Zac Lyons, an ethnographic anthropologist researcher for the BSC. When the BSC began identifying the 250 high-density pockets of lostness in the state, the mapping project became the foundation for the convention’s strategy of impacting lostness through disciple-making.
By the end of 2015, the mapping project will be underway in all eight largest population centers of the state: The Asheville, Hickory, Triad, Triangle, Fayetteville, Charlotte-Metro, Greenville, and Wilmington regions. 
In the mapping process, Lyons interacts with local businesses, shops and everyday citizens to discover POI, which he then uses to generate a map. While looking for districts or clusters of ethnic people in an area, he builds relationships with them by asking simple questions about their life. Possible points of engagement evolve from the process.
The BSC wants to learn more about the non-English speaking and diverse ethnicities across the state. Even though the number of points of interest and unreached people groups (UPGs) grow daily, 638 POI and 36 UPGs were discovered in the Triangle; 279 POI and 23 UPGs in the Triad; and 592 POI and 32 UPGs in the Charlotte-Metro area.
The 2010 U.S. Census Bureau reported that 74.79 percent (7.1 million) of North Carolinians live in eight metropolitan areas of the state with 77.82 percent (1.7 million) of non-Anglo North Carolinians living in these eight areas.
Hardy noted that people groups generally want to be befriended. “[This] is what North Carolina Baptists are good at – just being friendly,” he said. “If you will take the time to let them tell you their story, eventually they’ll ask you to tell your story.”

Engaging communities with the gospel

Based on the mapping data, “we are able to sit down with a church and say, ‘Here is a people group, here is their location within the city, and we can also help you with worldview understanding … for points of engagement,’” said Chuck Register, BSC’s executive leader for church planting and missions. 
He added, “We now have a responsibility to engage these 52 UPGs with the gospel of Christ.
“To know [UPGs] are present, to know where they are and to not engage them with the gospel ... becomes sin on our behalf.”
Some ways churches might engage their communities may begin with teaching English as a second language, helping immigrants in initial relocation, helping them secure a doctor or helping them adjust to American culture, said Register.
“There are a multitude of methodologies, but what [the convention] want[s] to do … is suggest methodologies, not dictate methodologies to the local church. It’s the local church’s responsibility to engage these people with the gospel, but we want to come along and assist them.”
This is very biblical, said Hardy.
“We’re looking at what God is doing among us and asking ourselves the question: ‘What is our appropriate response?’ The gospel must go forth beginning right here. … I think God is moving the world here so that North Carolina Baptists develop more of a heart for the world.”
“In my experience, as churches have reached out to people groups moving to North Carolina, God begins to break [churches’] hearts for people groups. And through that it begins to break their heart for the world,” he emphasized.
Many of the people coming to North Carolina are refugees.
Hardy said, “In Winston-Salem, there is a people group called the Kareni, and we have watched people reach out to them. … These are people who before they got on their first airplane to come to America were living in huts in the middle of the jungle. … We must be willing to walk beside them, and it is a time-consuming thing, by the way. … As we welcome people, it becomes an opportunity to build relationships, … [which] leads to the opportunity to share the gospel.”
Register noted that all churches need boldness, courage and faith to “step forward and engage an unreached people group in their community.”
Once Lyons and churches engage with various points of interest, they load their information to peoplegroups.info.
This is an initiative of the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board (IMB).

The heart of this website is the collection of accurate, relevant and strategic information that is shared with Southern Baptists and other Great Commission partners.
This website and the BSC can help churches collaborate together as they seek local unreached people groups. The goal, said Lyons, is to build deeper relationships with a people group for the purposes of gospel proclamation, Bible studies and ultimately, church planting.
The convention plans to host one-day training seminars that will train churches how to do people group mapping in their communities.
For more information, call the office of the Great Commission Partnerships at (800) 395-5102, ext.5536.

Also, IMB is hosting a people group discovery and engagement workshop March 30-April 1 at the Baptist building in Cary. For more information or to register, visit, regonline.com/peoplegrouptraining_NC.

1/26/2015 4:06:45 PM by Michael McEwen, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Chris Sanders speaks about Super Bowl XLIX, faith

January 26 2015 by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports

Chris Sanders was a two-sport star at Ohio State University (OSU). He set records in track and field, including the long jump.
On the football team he was a three-year starter and had 71 career receptions for 1,120 total yards. In 1994 he was named the Ohio State Athlete of the Year across all sports.
The Houston Oilers selected Sanders in the third round of the 1995 National Football League (NFL) draft. For the next seven years he played for that organization, completing 177 career receptions for 3,285 total yards. In 1999, the franchise became the Tennessee Titans, and Sanders competed in Super Bowl XXXIV against the Kurt Warner-led St. Louis Rams. Currently he is a football coach at Montgomery Bell Academy outside Nashville, Tenn., where his team won the 2014 state title.
Sanders played football at the very highest level, but I know him as a great friend and fellow believer, and I have served with him in evangelistic events. He has a great and generous heart toward youth. With the Super Bowl approaching and his alma mater, OSU, winning the National Championship, we discussed both football and faith.
Q: How do you feel about the new four-game playoff system in college football, and would enlarging it to an eight-game system increase the impact?
A: Picking eight teams would eliminate the what-if factor and would include all teams that are eligible to play. I actually love what’s going on, and I love the excitement. I enjoyed watching the ESPN programs as the committee put out the top four teams each week. I think four teams is tougher because there are usually six or seven teams good enough to compete for the national championship. This year was a trial run, and I think the committee was 99 percent right. With eight teams there’s no doubt, there are no ifs, ands or buts.
Q: I picked the Seattle Seahawks to repeat this year as Super Bowl champions. What are your thoughts about Seattle?
A: Seattle has so much tenacity. If you’re around the ball, you’re going to get hit. If you stand around, you’re going to get hit. If you’re the mascot, you’re going to get hit. But it’s hard to win back-to-back. Every team puts a target on your back. Everyone this year was after Seattle because these teams in the playoffs want what Seattle has: a Super Bowl championship!
Q: It’s tough as a player to repeat a Super Bowl victory. It’s been 15 years since it was done, but how difficult is it as a coach? What is it about Seattle’s Pete Carroll?
A: He brings so much excitement to the game. There are a lot of coaches out there who don’t show emotion, who have a stern look on their face all the time. In my opinion, that’s not coaching. Coaching is about inspiring guys to give their best and have fun, and if the coach is having fun then the players are going to follow. You have to go in there with excitement and demand that the job gets done. This is what Pete Carroll does in Seattle, and I love it.
Q: How about my other pre-season pick, the New England Patriots?
A: The Patriots are the weirdest thing. Their coach, Bill Belichick, picks players that fit right into their system. They have different receivers every year. You have position changes on the offensive line, the same thing on defense. They just find ways to win. After the way they started, who thought they’d be 13-4. They do it every year!
Q: You played in Super Bowl XXXIV, so what does the game mean to an NFL player?
A: It’s something you dream about; this is how I envisioned myself even in the third grade. But when you go through trials and tribulations, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. In 1999 we had a chance to go to the Super Bowl and you just look at yourself and say, “I can’t believe it. What an opportunity!” Then you come back to reality and you go play the game.
Q: You played in one of the great Super Bowls of all time. In 1999 your Titans faced the St. Louis Rams and their quarterback, Kurt Warner. It came down to the last play of the game. Talk about the last frantic 10 minutes of that football game.
A: That last 10 minutes was a signature of how our season went. We were on the Ram’s seven yard line with a chance to win Super Bowl XXXIV. We had guys who never gave up, guys who went through trials and tribulations for three or four years. Even though we were down in the last 10 minutes of that Super Bowl, we never gave up. After the game players were so tired and so exhausted, because we left everything on the field. Even though we came up a yard short on that last play, we all still consider it a victory in our life.
Q: How important of a role did your faith play in your NFL career?
A: In my first few years, I was just going through the motions of trying to be a Christian. I had everything at my feet, but every time I went home I felt empty.
In 1995 coach Les Steckel led me to the Lord and I gave my life to Christ. The grace of God filled that emptiness. I look back on my life, and yes, I played in the Super Bowl, but following Christ gave me purpose. It gave me a willingness to live life because of my relationship with Jesus.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Be sure to follow “Sold Out” as we bring you exclusive faith, family and football coverage of Super Bowl XLIX Jan. 27-Feb. 1 in Phoenix, Ariz., between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. We will take you up close and personal with the coaches and players of faith, and provide ongoing video and pictures from the Super Bowl. Roman Gabriel’s Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio can be heard in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at afr.net. He is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Visit his website: soldouttv.com; Facebook: Roman Gabriel III; connect on Twitter: romangabriel3rd. Contact at (910) 431-6483 or email: soldoutrg3@gmail.com.)

1/26/2015 3:55:06 PM by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports | with 0 comments

Cooperative Program, missions gifts mixed in 2014

January 26 2015 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) released its 2014 financial report that shows Cooperative Program (CP) gifts to BSC and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) causes slightly down over the previous year. CP gifts for 2014 totaled $28,829,536.74, which is $271,208.25 or .93 percent below the amount given in 2013. Giving from N.C. Baptist churches fell short of the budget by 3.9 percent or $1,170,463.26.
According to the SBC website, “The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ unified plan of giving through which cooperating Southern Baptist churches give a percentage of their undesignated receipts in support of their respective state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries.” The gifts provide support for international missions, North American missions, six SBC seminaries, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the operations of the Executive Committee.
In North Carolina, CP dollars fund ministries that are not supported at the national level. These ministries include the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, Fruitland Baptist Bible College, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, church planting and revitalization, leadership training and other services to churches.
Some BSC funds are invested in shared ministries with the SBC including international partnerships and SEND partnerships. SEND North America is a focus by the North American Mission Board  (NAMB) to mobilize missionaries and churches in strategic cities across North America.
North Carolina has working partnerships with New York, Boston and Toronto, all of which are SEND cities. The convention has supported a three-year international partnership with the eastern European country of Moldova.
CP giving has declined significantly in recent years. Milton Hollifield, executive director-treasurer of BSC, said the trend is not unique to our state. He has participated in discussions about shifting patterns of giving with pastors, state leaders and SBC leaders across the nation.
“We are trying hard to help more pastors understand and believe that the SBC system of unified giving through CP is worthy of their support for helping state conventions and the SBC entities fulfill the Great Commission,” he said. “Although there is still much related work and prayer to be done, I am encouraged with progress that is being made.”
The BSC’s 2014 financial report also listed totals for three special mission offerings. Gifts to the North Carolina Missions Offering were $1,877,228.99. That is a decrease of $30,451.58 or .52%. North Carolina Baptist Men, also known as Baptists on Mission, receive the majority of their support from this offering. The offering also supports church planting in the state.
Totals for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions fell only $10,511.29 or .18 percent below 2013. According to the BSC report N.C. Baptists gave $5,817,429.51 to this offering.
The lone increase in special offerings came in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. A total of $12,630,118.17 was given in 2014. This is an additional $102,615.27 or an increase of .82 percent over the previous year.
Hollifield said he is “thankful and encouraged” by the churches that chose to increase their CP gifts. “I am also grateful for every dollar our member churches gave in 2014 to support state, national and international missions through the Cooperative Program funding plan,” he added. “Your convention staff spent and distributed all of the CP contributions received in Cary as we were directed by messengers from N.C. Baptist churches when they adopted the annual CP missions and ministry budget.”
Looking ahead, Hollifield said, “I do believe that our 2015 CP budget of $29 million is not only reachable, it can be exceeded! Let’s pray and work to that end as we trust in God to make this become a reality.” The BSC 2015 operating budget can be found online at ncbaptist.org/cp; click on the left column “Budget” tab.

1/26/2015 3:33:39 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

McEwen resigns from Recorder; Brown named content editor

January 26 2015 by BR staff

Michael McEwen, content editor at the Biblical Recorder since October 2013, has resigned. He will become the director of discipleship at a church in his hometown of Trenton, Tenn., and plans to continue his doctoral degree studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.


Biblical Recorder photo
Seth Brown

McEwen said, “It’s been a great pleasure serving N.C. Baptists while at the Recorder. From the multitude of stories I heard weekly, I am certain of one thing: Christ’s Great Commission is being fulfilled through the 4,000 plus Southern Baptist churches in this beautiful state. May He continue to bless you richly.”
Effective Feb. 2, Seth Brown becomes the Recorder’s content editor.
Previously, he was researcher and copy editor for Docent Research Group as well as the owner of a small graphic design business. Brown is currently studying instructional technology in a hybrid doctoral program at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. He received a master of arts degree from Southeastern Seminary and a bachelor of arts from William Carey University, also in Hattiesburg.

He and his wife, Lauren, natives of Mississippi, have two children and expect their third in March.
They are members of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh.
Brown said he is “eager to serve N.C. Baptists and their local churches.”
Allan Blume, editor of the Biblical Recorder, said, “Both of these men are gifted, committed followers of Christ. Michael has made a very positive impact on the Recorder’s ministry. We will miss him very much.
“Seth is described by his pastor as a ‘gifted scholar who walks with Jesus.’” Blume added. “I am confident his contribution to North Carolina Baptists will be obvious as he serves with us. We are excited to welcome him to the BR team.”

1/26/2015 3:25:47 PM by BR staff | with 1 comments

‘Moral cowardice,’ Moore says of GOP dropping abortion vote

January 23 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives were guilty of “moral cowardice” when they canceled a scheduled vote on a bill to ban late-term abortions, the Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist said.
On the eve of the annual March for Life, House Republican leaders abandoned their plan to vote Jan. 22 on the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36. The Jan. 21 reversal by House leadership put off a vote on a bill that would ban abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation.
House leaders pulled the scheduled vote after about two dozen Republicans, led by female members, expressed concerns about the legislation, according to news reports. The chamber, however, had approved the same measure in the previous congressional session.
Russell Moore did not mince words in his response to the GOP’s action.
“I am disgusted by this act of moral cowardice,” said Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “If the House Republicans cannot pass something as basic as restricting the abortion of five-month, pain-capable unborn children, what can they get done?
“The Republicans in Congress should come and explain this atrocity to the hundreds of thousands of people gathering here in the nation’s capital to march for life,” he said in an ERLC news release late Jan. 21. “The congressional Republicans seem to think that pro-lifers will be satisfied with Ronald Reagan rhetoric and Nancy Pelosi results. They are quite wrong.”
Moore continued his criticism of House Republicans Jan. 22 during an event in Washington, D.C., shortly before the March for Life.
Describing the proposal as a “reasonable, moderate bill,” he told the pro-life audience, “This isn’t a radical move, and the House Republicans became scared and showed a complete lack of moral conviction and competence.”
While a pro-life renaissance is occurring at the grass-roots level, “[W]e still have politicians that are trembling and shaking over ghosts from the past instead of dealing with reality as it is,” Moore said.
In place of a vote on the pain-capable abortion ban, House leaders substituted a roll call on the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act, H.R. 7, while people were gathered on the National Mall for the March for Life. The House approved the bill with a 242-179 vote.
The measure, which the House also passed last year, would institute a permanent, government-wide prohibition on federal funding of abortion by standardizing bans on such funds that now exist in various federal programs. It also would halt money for abortion coverage under the 2010 health-care law.
The House approved in June 2013 basically an identical version of the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act that it failed to vote on Jan. 22. The roll call in favor of the bill nearly two years ago was 228-196.
Reps. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina and Jackie Walorski of Indiana led the Republican members who expressed concerns to House leadership about the pain-capable abortion ban, according to news reports.
Ellmers wants to drop a requirement in the rape exception of the bill that the assault be reported to law enforcement authorities, she told reporters Jan. 22, according to the Washington Examiner. She also said Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, should be certain their legislation is not perceived as “harsh and judgmental” by women and young adults.
Women and young people both support the ban with the reporting requirement, however, according to a poll in November by Quinnipiac University. That survey showed 60 percent of Americans, 59 percent of women and 57 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 favor the legislation.
Ellmers voted for the ban in 2013 but said the rape reporting requirement “wasn’t evident in the base language of the bill,” the Examiner reported.
The pain-capable ban’s sponsor – Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona – responded gently to the actions by some of his GOP colleagues.
“I’ve maintained an open heart, because I realize that all of the people involved have sincere perspectives and have knowledge and experiences and information that I don’t have,” he said, The Washington Post reported. “So my heart is open – my desire here is not a political victory, it is to try to somehow be part of catalyzing an awakening in America to where we finally see the humanity of these little victims and the inhumanity of what’s happening to them.”
Other pro-life leaders joined Moore in expressing their discontent with the House’s failure to vote on the pain-capable bill. Meanwhile, they commended its quick action on the funding ban.
The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) was “profoundly disappointed” the vote was postponed.
“Pro-life citizens across the nation are sharply disappointed with those lawmakers who violated commitments to constituents. ... In some cases these actions were apparently dictated mainly by inordinate concern with political correctness and garnering favorable coverage from the mainstream news media,” NRLC President Carol Tobias said. “Some of these lawmakers may ultimately conclude that they were ill advised to sacrifice the trust of their pro-life constituents so egregiously.”
Three female heads of pro-life organizations – Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, Jeanne Monahan of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, and Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America – said, “While we are disappointed that the House will not be voting on the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act today, we are pleased that the House is moving forward to stop taxpayer funding of abortion.”
They support a “prompt vote” on the pain-capable ban and will work “to ensure the maximum number of votes” in the House on the legislation, the female leaders said in a written statement.
The new Republican majority in the Senate also is seeking to pass the pain-capable ban, but the White House already has signaled its opposition to the measure. Obama administration officials indicated in a Jan. 21 policy statement they would recommend the president veto it.
In the Jan. 22 vote on the taxpayer funding ban, Rep. Richard Hanna of New York was the sole Republican to oppose it. Only three Democrats – Reps. Dan Lipinski of Illinois, Henry Cuellar of Texas and Collin Peterson of Minnesota – voted for the bill.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

1/23/2015 5:20:28 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

What’s God got to do with football devotion?

January 23 2015 by Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service

Did God lift Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s overtime pass into the end zone on Sunday, rewarding the prayerful Christian player with a championship victory and a trip to the Super Bowl?

Millions of Americans may think so.

“One in four Americans believe there will be a 12th man on the field, and that the hand of God will be seen before the final whistle blows in the Super Bowl,” said Robert Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).

And 53 percent agree God “rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success,” according to a new PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey released Jan. 22.

Indeed, not only did majorities of all but one major religious group put faith in God’s rewarding the faithful, so did 27 percent of those who claim no religion, the “nones.”

The survey of 1,012 U.S. adults, conducted by PRRI in partnership with Religion News Service, measures how people interweave team spirit and spirituality – and moral wrath, too. Nearly one in three Americans would slap a lifetime ban on players convicted of domestic violence, even for someone on their favorite team.


Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports, courtesy of Reuters
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) bows his head in prayer after the overtime victory over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks defeated the Packers 28-22 in overtime.

Most Americans (64 percent) have a favorite team, with football leading the way as the preferred sport for 40 percent, no matter what their professed faith.

However, NFL love is not blind. It stops at the Ray Rice elevator door – the one the Baltimore Ravens player dragged his fiancée through after knocking her unconscious last February. The survey was conducted Jan. 14-18, after months of intense media coverage of Rice and the NFL’s response to domestic violence. Rice was initially suspended by the Ravens, then by the NFL, but ultimately reinstated on appeal and is now eligible to sign with another team.

“I was surprised at how seriously Americans are taking domestic violence in sports. Nearly one in three (29 percent) would support a lifetime ban for a player convicted of domestic violence,” said Jones. “That’s a heavy penalty.”

Most (59 percent) would allow such a player to return after a temporary suspension.

But few would make that easy. Nearly two in three Americans (64 percent) would oppose a professional sports team’s hiring a player “who has been convicted of domestic violence but is not in current legal trouble.”

Contrast that with a hiring choice once thought to be too hot to touch: signing an openly gay or lesbian player.

University of Missouri star Michael Sam became front-page news for his openly gay status, which became public just months before the NFL draft last year. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams and had a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys but did not make either team.

Survey respondents greeted the issue with a shrug: 73 percent say they would favor a team’s drafting a gay or lesbian player.

Even so, there’s an overwhelming sense that this is not an easy road for these athletes: 88 percent, including majorities of every major religious group, say gay and lesbian athletes face discrimination in professional sports.

For all the controversies, Americans are still captivated by football.

Eighteen percent of Americans – led by 45 percent of white evangelical Protestants and 30 percent of Catholics – say they are more likely to watch football any given Sunday than go to church.

But overall, men and women of all major faiths are mostly alike: About a quarter of both genders choose church, and about another quarter say they devote the day to both God and gridiron.

Who’s missing from football frenzy? One in three Americans overall (32 percent), including 60 percent of “nones.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for Religion News Service.)

1/23/2015 11:26:08 AM by Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Calling 10 Commandments ‘sayings’ draws ire of Baptists

January 23 2015 by Ron Barnett, Religion News Service

A Baptist minister is in hot water after preaching a sermon that called the Ten Commandments sayings or promises rather than mandates.

In his Christmas Eve message, senior pastor Perry Noble of NewSpring Church, which regularly has more than 32,000 worshippers at 11 campuses across South Carolina, told congregants that no word for “commandment” exists in Hebrew, the Old Testament’s original language.

“Instead of Ten Commandments that you have to keep if you’re going to be a follower of Jesus, they’re actually 10 promises that you can receive when you say yes to Jesus,” Noble said.

He then proceeded to rephrase each of the commandments as a promise. The first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” became “You do not have to live in constant disappointment anymore.”

Noble told his far-flung congregation that he believed his topic was given by God for a specific people whose struggles over their inability to keep the Ten Commandments were preventing them from “saying yes” to Jesus.


Photo courtesy of NewSpring Church
Senior Pastor Perry Noble of NewSpring Church, which regularly has more than 32,000 worshippers at 11 campuses across South Carolina, told congregants that no word for “commandment” exists in Hebrew, the Old Testament’s original language.

But the president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention said Noble had better reassess his position or reassess his affiliation with the state’s Southern Baptist churches.

“His 2014 Christmas Eve message and his theological position in that message are evidence of continued problematic positions and statements that are inconsistent with the beliefs of South Carolina Baptists,” the Tommy Kelly said last week in a statement published in the denomination’s statewide newspaper, The Baptist Courier. Kelly is pastor of First Baptist Church in Varnville, S.C., in addition to heading the first state Baptist convention organized in the U.S.

After a backlash on social media and among bloggers, on Jan. 9 Noble wrote in his own blog that he had misunderstood what a teacher in Israel had told him: Hebrew does have a word for “commandment.” He apologized for his error.

“Regardless of what Bible scholars and Hebrew-speaking Christians in Israel believe the list of God’s 10 points in Exodus should be called – I have heard conflicting positions – the points themselves are clearly written as imperatives,” Noble wrote.

“In no way was I deliberately trying to mislead or deceive anyone. I simply recalled a conversation I had, … looked back at my notes and taught the message,” he wrote. “I now realize I should have put way more time into doing research.”

But Kelly, who acknowledged Noble’s apology, sent out his message a week later. Neither he nor Noble could be reached for comment.

NewSpring Church makes little public display of its affiliation with the Southern Baptist denomination. Based in Anderson, S.C., the church features live, professional-quality contemporary Christian music and Noble’s sermons in lifelike big-screen video at remote locations.

Noble, a native of Easley, S.C., who preaches in a conversational guy-next-door style, uses humor as well as high-tech visual aids and elaborate stage settings as backdrops for his sermons. He called the backlash from his sermon intense.

The day before his apology, he posted this on Twitter and Facebook: “If those who are angry at what I said about The 10 Commandments were actually following all 10, the world would be such a better place!”

“I have had to endure people making assessments about my life and ministry based upon one message I preached,” he later wrote in his apology. “It was wrong.”

So far, the apology doesn’t appear to have appeased Kelly, but no overt measures have been taken to kick Noble and NewSpring out of the state Baptist convention.

“All church leaders must take seriously their responsibilities to present well-thought and biblically based sermons and teaching that come from God’s infallible, inerrant Word and lead the lost to Christ,” Kelly wrote, urging pastors “to treat their individual ministry settings as a sacred trust.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ron Barnett writes for USA Today and also reports for The Greenville News in South Carolina.)

1/23/2015 11:15:35 AM by Ron Barnett, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Plano petition drive succeeds, Houston awaits day in court

January 22 2015 by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press

Plano Citizens United, a coalition of churches and civic leaders, cleared the first hurdle this week in rescinding a city ordinance that legal experts said would stymie free speech and religious liberty, while opponents of a similar ordinance in Houston prepare to take their fight to court.
With no preexisting ministerial alliance in place, Plano churches were caught unprepared when the city council, led by Mayor Harry LaRosilier, passed an ordinance Dec. 8 creating a protected class of citizen based on sexual orientation and gender identity. With help from the Houston pastors’ coalition, opposition to the ordinance was hastily organized and a successful petition drive launched.
In order to force the repeal process, the coalition needed signatures of 3,822 registered Plano voters. The volunteer group verified more than 4,000 signatures before submitting nearly 7,000 to the city secretary Jan. 20.
“The mayor has been adamant,” Mike Buster, executive pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, said. “He will not discuss this with anyone. The citizens of Plano said we will discuss it. We will vote on it.”
The ordinance, like Houston’s and scores of others passed in cities across the nation, is championed by the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization calling for civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. The ordinances are beginning to meet opposition as they are brought to light.
Plano is home to the Liberty Institute, a religious liberty advocacy organization. Their attorneys joined the Citizens United legal battle and stated in a press release, “Government officials have demanded that family businesses and employees be punished for simply trying to exercise their faith beyond the four walls of their church or in their homes.”
Opponents of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), passed last May, are taking their battle to court next week. Barring any delay by Houston’s legal team of city and pro bono attorneys, jury selection should begin Monday, Jan. 26.
The No Unequal Rights Coalition, led by a racially diverse group of Houston pastors, gathered 50,000 signatures on a petition to force the ordinance’s repeal. Following verification by City Secretary Anna Russell, City Attorney David Feldman disqualified thousands of pages of signatures, effectively defeating the recall effort.
The coalition filed a lawsuit against the City of Houston, Feldman and Mayor Annise Parker demanding they recognize the signatures and present the petition to City Council as required by law. A jury will determine if Feldman and Parker acted outside their authority in squelching the referendum.
No such interference has come from Plano city administrators, said Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastors Council, which led opposition to HERO and helped coordinate the Plano referendum effort. However, he said, hostility from the LGBT advocates was swift.
“It just got ugly real fast. It was very enlightening,” Welch said.
Welch said coalition headquarters received antagonistic phone calls and business owners opposed to the ordinance were threatened with demonstrations outside their businesses.
Buster said, “We have to state, always up front, we love all people. And this is an issue of religious liberty.”
Mark Reid, a Plano Citizens United volunteer and small business owner, told The TEXAN arguing against “anti-gay” and “bigot” labels is futile.
“The issue is not about hating anyone. I don’t fight it on that basis,” Reid said.
Instead he demands protection of his First Amendment rights. As an employer whose crews work in schools and churches, he can admonish employees for inappropriate behavior. But with the Plano ordinance in full force, Reid said his speech – grounded in his Christian convictions – could be deemed in violation of city code.
“That’s not equal rights. That’s special rights, and that’s wrong,” Reid said.
If the Plano signatures are certified, the city council must repeal the equal rights ordinance or put it on the ballot in the next general election in May.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN [www.texanonline.net], newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

1/22/2015 3:59:07 PM by Bonnie Pritchett, Southern Baptist TEXAN/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

$500,000 grant launches Midwestern’s 5-year degree

January 22 2015 by T. Patrick Hudson, Baptist Press

A $500,000 grant will help Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and College launch a new program enabling students to earn a bachelor’s degree and master of divinity degree within five years.
The Kern Family Foundation is providing the grant for Midwestern’s new “Accelerate” five-year bachelor and master of divinity program.
Midwestern President Jason Allen voiced gratitude to the foundation “for such generosity in assisting Midwestern College to provide an avenue for its students to graduate with high-level theological education in a significantly reduced amount of time and cost.”
“The legwork for this grant was accomplished by John Mark Yeats, our undergraduate dean,” Allen added. “Dr. Yeats’ work in obtaining this grant … has enabled us to offer the Accelerate program to students much sooner than originally anticipated.”
The Wisconsin-based Kern Family Foundation, according to its website, has “a deep appreciation for excellent pastoral leadership, believing that healthy local churches led by capable, committed pastors can transform the moral fabric of our society.”
Yeats noted that the Kern family has expressed concerns about the time it takes for a pastor to receive training – typically four years for an undergraduate degree and three to four more years for a master of divinity – which can mire ministerial candidates in debt and keep them from serving effectively once in the field.
“Accelerate helps decidedly motivated students to engage their studies in an aggressive manner,” Yeats said of the five-year educational experience that results in bachelor of arts and master of divinity degrees upon completion.
“Students are required to take approximately 15 credit hours per semester and to complete some coursework during the summer,” Yeats said. “Students follow a highly structured course of study that includes a weekly cohort meeting. By the third year, students are taking select master of divinity courses along with their higher-level undergraduate courses.”
Other benefits for Accelerate students, Yeats said, include significant financial savings “because of the condensed program format – allowing them to jump more quickly into front-line ministries like church planting and missions,” as well as opportunities for learning “not just in the classroom, but by working with others in an intentional cohort that better grounds them for ministry.”
The program is residential, with all coursework taking place on Midwestern College’s Kansas City campus.
Yeats said Accelerate will involve a four-pronged approach:
– Communal learning: Accelerate’s cohort structure, which fits best-practice models throughout higher education for engaging students, aids in retention, provides encouragement and strengthens the learning process, Yeats said.
“Ultimately, it whets the student’s appetite for lifelong ministry and learning, supported in later years by communities of similar ethos,” Yeats said. “A minister who refuses to minister alone is a minister who is built to last.”
– Leadership focus: The Accelerate program’s cohorts and academic classes are designed to continually emphasize the necessary skills for each graduate to enter their ministry field as a high-capacity leader, Yeats said. Assessment structures, practicums and regular courses contribute to the cohort structure, reinforcing leadership ideas that help each student become better suited to the 21st-century church.
– Discipline: “The academic rigor of Accelerate will challenge students to develop capacities of self-discipline that are essential to short- and long-term ministry success,” Yeats said. “To a certain extent, and by design, the proposed structure replicates the pressures of actual ministry.”
If Accelerate’s students learn to manage reading loads, class projects, ministry obligations and community responsibilities effectively, Yeats said, they will be more apt to maintain healthy balances in their future ministries.
Experience: The environment sustained within Accelerate equips students with an essential package of theoretical knowledge but also engages students in firsthand ministry.
“In their final year of study, students will be well-engaged in the apprenticeship phases of ministry service,” Yeats said. “Especially for students who struggle with practical engagement, the required practicums in the fifth year create and require new opportunities for ministry.”
Students applying to the program directly from high school must possess a 3.0 GPA or higher and provide strong letters of recommendation. The program also is open to current Midwestern College students who have not yet earned 40 credits in order to integrate smoothly into the program.
“If you are a young person called to ministry, we invite you to join what God is doing at Midwestern Seminary [to] … grow in your faith and be anchored in the truth of God’s Word,” Allen said.
“Accelerate allows us to do this on a more advanced level that places you into unique and dynamic contexts and that trains you to be a leader of tomorrow, today.”
Applications for the Accelerate program, which will launch in the fall of 2015, are currently being accepted for the limited space available.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

1/22/2015 3:49:24 PM by T. Patrick Hudson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Obama threatens vetoes in State of the Union speech

January 22 2015 by Baptist Press staff

President Barack Obama promised during his State of the Union speech Tuesday (Jan. 20) to veto any effort by the new Republican Congress to roll back health-care reform or his immigration orders.
In his sixth State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress and a national television audience, Obama focused much of his early attention on “middle-class economics” but addressed a litany of issues during the 61-minute speech. In response, some conservative lawmakers and other leaders indicated his economic proposals actually will harm families.
For the first time in his now six-year presidency, Obama is faced with a Senate and House of Representatives controlled by Republicans. The GOP gained the majority in the Senate in the November election.
The president told Americans, “We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got to fix a broken system. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it. It will have earned my veto.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner has already said his chamber will vote again this year to repeal the health-care reform law. The House has voted at least a half-dozen times for repeal since it was enacted in 2010.
Among concerns raised by pro-life advocates and other Americans about the health-care law and its regulations are the measure’s taxpayer funding of abortion and the abortion/contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide for their workers not only contraceptives but drugs and devices that can potentially cause abortions.
On immigration reform, Obama issued executive orders in November that protect an estimated five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The president acted after contending for years he did not have the legal authority to make or ignore immigration law. He issued the orders, Obama said, after a comprehensive reform bill approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate in 2013 failed to gain a vote in the Republican-led House.
Even some backers of immigration reform expressed opposition to his actions. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called it an “unwise and counterproductive move.” Moore has asked the president more than once not to make immigration reform a “red state/blue state issue.”
Americans widely agree their immigration system is badly damaged. The system and its enforcement have resulted in an estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants living illegally in the United States.
In his State of the Union speech, Obama acknowledged “passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student and agree that no one benefits when a hard-working mom is snatched from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”
“Middle-class economics,” the president said, means enabling working families to “feel more secure.” Obama promoted affordable childcare and college – as well as sick leave, equal pay and a higher minimum wage – as ways to help families. He wants to make two years of community college free throughout the country, the president said.


NBC News
Image captured by Baptist Press

Some of the president’s proposals to accomplish his goals fall short, conservatives said afterward. Those new efforts include a new tax credit program for two-paycheck families and a significant increase to the child care tax credit, according to the Heritage Foundation.
The child care tax credit “discriminates against married-couple families who make a financial sacrifice so that one parent can care for infant and pre-school children in the home,” wrote Heritage domestic policy expert Robert Rector and policy analyst Rachel Sheffield after the speech. “Tax policy should not unfairly discriminate between families using daycare and families making a financial sacrifice to provide parental care to their children.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said of Obama’s proposal to increase the child care tax credit, “[W]hy not instead increase the child tax credit and give parents the flexibility to decide what’s best for their own family?
“His policies continue to penalize marriage and families, which are vital to economic fairness and success,” Perkins said. “It is unfair to penalize marriage in the tax code, and it doesn’t make economic sense.”
Obama failed to address the greatest economic divider in American society – the collapse of marriage, said Heritage’s Sheffield. Children in single-parent homes are five times as likely to be poor, she said. The president “again neglected to utilize his unique leadership position to call for a restoration of marriage in American communities,” she said.
Obama cited same-sex marriage, which he supports, in the address, saying, “I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in 10 Americans call home.”
Same-sex marriage is legal in 36 states, nearly tripling the 13 states where it was legal just 18 months ago. It also is legal in the District of Columbia. Many Christians and other defenders of the biblical, traditional definition of marriage continue to express concerns about the incursions against religious liberty as gay marriage’s spread continues.
In a reference to abortion, the president said, “We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care that she needs.”
Earlier in the day, the White House issued a statement of administration policy on the Pain-capable Unborn Child Protection Act, H.R. 36. Administration officials said they would encourage Obama to veto it if it reaches his desk.
The House was scheduled to vote on it Jan. 22, the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, but lawmakers dropped the bill. The bill would have prohibited abortions on babies 20 weeks or more after fertilization based on scientific evidence that a child in the womb experiences pain by that point in gestation. In its place, House representatives will put forward a new bill that aims to permanently ban taxpayer funding of abortions, according to the Associated Press.
“If the president truly believes that declining abortion rates are a good trend, then he should support legislation that would better protect the health of women and lives of unborn children, especially from dangerous and gruesome late-term abortions,” said Sarah Torre, a Heritage policy analyst.
The president, however, affirmed human dignity in his speech, saying he wants “future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we’re a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen – man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino, Asian, immigrant, Native American, gay, straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability. Everybody matters.”
Globally, the United States needs to lead by combining military might with effective diplomacy and “leverage our power with coalition building,” Obama said. America is halting the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by not “getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East” but by “leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group,” he said.
The president urged Congress to adopt a resolution authorizing the use of force against ISIS.
Sen. Joni Ernst, the newly elected member from Iowa, gave the nationally televised Republican response, explaining the GOP’s priorities as the new majority party in Congress. Ernst is the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate. A member of the Army Reserves, she served as a company commander in Iraq in 2003.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Baptist Press' Washington Bureau chief. The Biblical Recorder added to this report.)

1/22/2015 1:45:54 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

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