Franklin Graham’s targets Supreme Court justices online

May 21 2015 by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service

Evangelist Franklin Graham has taken to Facebook to plead for prayers on behalf of each U.S. Supreme Court justices as they prepare to rule on gay marriage.
Recognizing same-sex marriage as a constitutional right “would be a wicked, wicked thing,” said Graham, son of the iconic preacher Billy Graham. “The only hope we have is prayer.”
“Imagine tens and tens and tens of thousands of Americans praying for God to hear their prayers and to change the hearts of these justices. God just might do that.”
So far, Graham has posted prayers for seven of the justices on his Facebook page, which has 1.4 million “likes.” He plans to do two more in the coming days, covering all nine justices, both those who may rule for and those who are against same-sex marriage.


Franklin Graham

The Supreme Court is expected to decide before the end of June. Many court observers believe the court is poised, if not to declare the constitutionality of gay marriage, then at least to require states to recognize gay marriages established in states where it is legal.
Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Samaritan’s Purse charity, describes Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the subject of his latest post, as the daughter of immigrants who made good on the American dream.
“Unfortunately,” the post continues, “she is also an example of someone who seems to be very misguided on the issue of same-sex marriage. She voted to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 2014, and homosexual advocates consider her an ally in their fight to make same-sex marriage the law of the land.
“Let’s pray for Justice Sotomayor to have the wisdom to know that as a society we cannot survive if we turn our back on God’s standards and His definition of marriage,” the post concludes.
The Sotomayor post has received more than 34,900 “likes.” The one for Justice Samuel Alito, who, Graham writes, seems to understand the consequences of a ruling for gay marriage, garnered more than 92,400 “likes.”
“Social media, and Facebook in particular, has become a powerful pulpit,” said Scott Thumma, professor of sociology and religion at Hartford Institute for Religion Research. “The Graham clan has long understood the power of the media.”
“With nearly 1 million likes on Facebook and a quarter of a million followers on Twitter, Franklin Graham can inexpensively influence and incite his followers without the infrastructure his father required to persuade the masses.”
This is not the first time Graham has turned to social media to sway public opinion on a controversial issue in the news.
Duke University dropped plans to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer from the bell tower of Duke Chapel in January after Graham launched a Facebook campaign decrying the idea.
“As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism,” his Facebook post read.
Graham also asked Duke alumni to refrain from donating to the university until it canceled the call to prayer.

5/21/2015 1:25:40 PM by Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Ethnic summit seeks to reach diverse population

May 21 2015 by K. Faith Morgan, NAMB

People-group ministry is often viewed as an international concern, but the executive leadership at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) is seeking to highlight this ministry’s importance and develop the scope of Southern Baptist people-group efforts in North America.
“The ethnic population is growing faster than the Anglo population in the United States,” said NAMB senior assistant to the president, Kim Robinson. About 58 percent of the new churches added to the Southern Baptist Convention in 2013 and 2014 are reported to be minority congregations, he noted.
Robinson and NAMB president, Kevin Ezell, hosted a two-day summit at NAMB’s Alpharetta, Ga., building to address this growing need. More than 20 Southern Baptist leaders representing several different ethnic groups sat down to discuss current outreach efforts and explore how NAMB could effectively help plant churches for diverse populations in cooperation with ethnic Southern Baptist groups like the National African American Fellowship, the Vietnamese Baptist Fellowship of North America, the Native Fellowship of Christians, the Chinese Baptist Fellowship of the U.S. and Canada, and others.


Photo by John Swain/NAMB
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) hosted a two-day summit to address collaboration and partnership to strength ethnic church planting and people group focus in North America. Participants included NAMB president Kevin Ezell, K. Marshall Williams, Byron Day, A.B. Vines, Dennis Manpoong Kim, Christian Phan, Abraham Chiu, Ted Lam, Jeremiah Lepasana, Bobby Sena, Rolando Castro Salas, Erick Zaldana, Emerson Falls, Santosh Ramdam, Mokhles Bekhet and NAMB staff Carlos Ferrer, Gary Frost, Jeff Christopherson, Kim Robinson, Jason Kim, Jeremy Sin, Ramon Osario, Gary Hawkins, Aslam Masih, Dhati Lewis, Neal Hughes, Clark Logan, Jerry Daniel, Greg Murphree, Chad Childress, Shane Critser, and Mike Ebert.

“We did not invite you here just to get to know you. We didn’t invite you here just to come and share the particular needs of each area. We’re really ready to stand with you. To speak up at the appropriate time, and to sacrificially, come together to have a shared goal of how we’re going to get this done,” Ezell said during the April 23-24 meeting.
Robinson told the group in his opening remarks, “We have a very strong desire to accelerate ethnic church planting, but we know we can’t do that by ourselves.”
He said, “That comes from pastor-led churches leading their congregations into church planting. So we want to partner with you to help plant more than we could if we tried to do it alone. It’s not that you need to join forces with us, and we are your leaders. We want to join forces with you.”
Throughout the two days, participants spent time in both large group sessions and small-group meetings where they explored ways that their respective fellowships could work symbiotically.
“We would like to advocate the potential of partnership with other ethnic groups, so that we could add value to the kingdom work here in the U.S.,” said Filipino leader Jerry Lepasana.
Dennis Manpoong Kim, pastor of Global Mission Church in Silver Springs, Md., agreed. “It is encouraging for me and for my congregation to cross over the ethnic boundaries to help other people start new churches,” he said. “I have a clearer understanding of what we are trying to do together, and I give thanks to God.”
One of the major organizational instruments introduced at the summit was the NAMB Church Plant Map at This interactive online tool allows pastors, planters and church members to see both current church plants and potential plants by ethnic group alongside census statistics. The data presented is the result of research and on-the-ground expertise from missionaries and pastors living in the area.
“We constantly update these maps,” Ezell said. “We don’t just come up with these numbers arbitrarily. We meet with people locally who have investment and expertise there, and we put the information on the map for everybody to see.”
Many leaders echoed a desire for increased collaboration and communication between their organizations and NAMB, too. The tools and initiatives presented by NAMB’s mobilization team sparked enthusiasm for the potential to partner in ministry and magnify the groups’ respective strengths – especially as it relates to the specific cultural context of each ethnic group.
“You’ve got dots on the map, and so do we,” said Emmerson Falls, chairman of the Native Fellowship of Christians, in reference to NAMB’s extensive map of target church plants. “Where they overlap, let’s partner together – it just makes sense.”
The meeting also stressed the bond of fellowship forged through prayer. K. Marshall Williams, Sr., president of the National African American Fellowship, said “If we don’t dialogue with the divine – if dust doesn’t talk to deity – nothing is going to happen.”
Ezell said, “I really believe that God has brought us together for such a time as this. God has brought us together for a purpose, and it’s not just to grow in fellowship with one another but to leave here with some action points. What are we going to do, and what are we going to do together?”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – K. Faith Morgan writes for the North American Mission Board.)

5/21/2015 1:19:03 PM by K. Faith Morgan, NAMB | with 0 comments

Jindal signs executive order for religious liberty

May 21 2015 by Philip Timothy & Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message

Hours after a religious freedom bill was struck down in committee May 20, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal quickly signed an executive order that afternoon which appeared to capture the intent and much of the language of the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act.
“In Louisiana, the state should not be able to take adverse action against a person for their belief in traditional marriage,” read a statement issued from the governor’s office.
“That’s why I’m issuing an Executive Order this evening to prevent the state from discriminating against people, charities and family-owned businesses with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Jindal said. “We don’t support discrimination in Louisiana and we do support religious liberty. These two values can be upheld at the same time.
“Indeed, we celebrate diversity of belief in Louisiana. Diversity of belief and religious liberty are the foundation of our law and Constitution and they should be protected. As long as I’m Governor, we will fight to protect religious liberty and not apologize for it,” he said.
The executive order means the 20 agencies that fall under the executive branch, including the Department of Revenue, Insurance, Transportation and Development and Health and Hospitals, must abide by the rules set forth in it.


Bobby Jindal

The bill (HB 707) was designed to block the government from pulling licenses, tax benefits, and the like from a company because of the owner’s view of same-sex marriage. The sponsor of the legislation, State Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, said Jindal’s executive order reflects parts of an amended version of his bill.
“I applaud Gov. Jindal for this executive order. It will go a long way to preserve the most fundamental freedom of all Louisianians which is our religious liberty,” Johnson said.
With the Supreme Court’s imminent ruling on a landmark same-sex marriage case set for June 18, Johnson said he felt his legislation was necessary as there would be an increasing number of conflicts “between the old idea of religious freedom and new changing ideas about marriage.”
“As was just mentioned a few weeks ago in oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court, it is incumbent upon every state to address this important issue as soon as possible,” Johnson said. “This is a good resolution for our state for now and we intend to bring this legislation back again at the earliest opportunity.”
However, the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee did not agree and defeated the measure when legislators voted 10-2 to return the legislation to the calendar after hours of testimony from both sides including Louisiana Baptists’ Executive Director David Hankins and Louisiana Family Forum’s President Gene Mills.
“Thank you to all who signed the petition and supported the position statement put forth by me, Dr. [Steve] Horn, and Dr. [David] Goza,” Hankins said. “While the hesitancy of our representatives is disappointing, I am thankful the governor signed an executive order which will provide protection for people of faith who live out their convictions.”
Gene Mills, president of Louisiana Family Forum, said, “We are very disappointed in the fact Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans and chairman of the committee, did not even extend the courtesy of allowing Rep. Johnson to place his amendments on the bill.
“Rep. Johnson did everything possible to answer the spectacular claims of the opponents and to make his bill clear and concise, but the chairman, aided by Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite), motioned to return the bill to the calendar before the author could amend his bill,” Mills said.
“By voting with the chairman today, the House Civil Law committee effectively ignored two-thirds of Louisiana voters, endorsing both the state’s ability to discriminate and the LGBT advocacy groups. The website has registered over 500 businesses and 1,000 citizens in Louisiana in support of the bill. These voices were ignored by today’s committee vote,” he said.
In response to the executive order, Rick Edmonds, vice president of Louisiana Family Forum, thanked Louisianians who have expressed their support for biblical marriage.
Edmonds wrote, “While religious freedom in America is being attacked on every corner, believers like you in Louisiana continue to make a difference. Many of you have been praying, signing petitions, speaking to legislators, informing friends and even making your way to Baton Rouge to make a difference. Congratulations, your hard work and prayers have paid off.”
LGBT advocacy organizations Equality Louisiana and Louisiana Progress Action issued a joint statement condemning Jindal’s Executive Order saying it would only hurt the state’s economy.
“It is shameful that Gov. Jindal has decided that abusing his executive power to accomplish the goals of House Bill 707, even after it was tabled indefinitely by our legislature today, is worth more effort than fixing our disastrous state budget. He may have forgotten what every day Louisianians value the most, but the testimony today against HB 707 should have reminded him. Discrimination is not a Louisiana value.”
However, a poll taken by Louisiana Family Forum on May 14 and May 17 indicated that a majority of voters in Louisiana supported the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act by a margin of over two to one (67 percent to 25 percent). Moreover, voters from nearly all key demographic groups in Louisiana overwhelmingly supported the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act.
In July 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1.6 percent of U.S. adults identified themselves as homosexuals and another 0.7 percent described themselves as bisexual.
In 2004, 78 percent of Louisianians amended the constitution to affirm traditional marriage.
However, officials from both the Louisiana tourism and business industry strongly opposed the bill according to a story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. In testifying against the bill, New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Stephen Perry called it “a radioactive, poisonous message for (tourism).”
“The state could lose millions – up to $65 million a year – in state tax revenue because of lost business as a result the bill and perceptions that it is discriminatory,” Perry said. “Let’s not create discriminatory elements in the marketplace that destroy our economy.”
Johnson, though, was skeptical about Perry’s loss projections. “Those numbers are unsubstantiated,” he said. “So much of this is based on mischaracterization of the bill.”
Louisiana Baptist Convention President Steve Horn said in recent days he has been holding to Proverbs 24:10, which states “If you do nothing in a difficult time, your strength is limited.”
“As we await a decision by the Supreme Court in just a few weeks now, I am thankful for leadership in our state that would have the courage to do something in a difficult time,” said Horn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lafayette. “I fear that once again we have allowed the minority position to speak for the majority. Instead of continuing to have an honest debate about a matter that is going to define our culture, the Committee’s decision yesterday disallows the debate to continue.”
Johnson said he plans to reintroduce the bill during next year’s legislative session.
“All of this effort has been about one simple thing – the need to preserve the most fundamental of all human rights, which is our right of conscience and the freedom of belief,” Johnson said. “Everyone in our society deserves dignity and respect, but part of that is upholding the right of people to adhere to their faith.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Philip Timothy is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Brian Blackwell writes for the Baptist Message.)

5/21/2015 1:14:30 PM by Philip Timothy & Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message | with 0 comments

Missions fuels Jimmy Draper scholarship recipient

May 21 2015 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

Not long after LifeWay Chistian Stores associate Anna Dible began asking customers if they would like to purchase a Bible to send to South Asia, she asked God a question as well: “Can I go?”
Dible believes God called her to go and used her selection as the recipient of LifeWay’s Jimmy Draper Mission Scholarship to make it possible.


Photo provided by LifeWay
Anna Dible was overjoyed to hand out Thomas Project Bibles in person to villagers in South Asia.

In April, Dible was part of a team of LifeWay employees who distributed 5,000 Thomas Project Bibles in South Asia. The Thomas Project is LifeWay’s initiative last year to encourage customers to purchase Bibles to send to South Asia. “I loved sharing with our customers about this awesome opportunity to reach people with the gospel and put Bibles in their hands,” she said.
Store manager Scott Glover says Dible’s passion was contagious in the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, store. “Anna was instrumental in our store selling the Bibles,” he said. Along with inspiring customers to donate them, Dible helped train other employees on the Thomas Project.
Dible said she “couldn’t stop smiling” when she found out she had been chosen for the scholarship. “It was such an honor to receive this scholarship and be part of what God’s doing in South Asia,” she said.
Part of what struck her during her time overseas was the importance of the Bibles. “It is such a treasure,” she said. “We were able to give people their very first Bible. We were able to equip them with their own copy of God’s Word and allow them to grow closer to God as they read and study their own Bible.”


Photo provided by LifeWay
Anna Dible shares the gospel with children in South Asia using an Evangecube.

At 19, Dible is the youngest recipient of the scholarship that is awarded each year to an employee participating in a LifeWay mission trip for the first time. The scholarship is named for former LifeWay president, Jimmy Draper. In her application, Dible explained she had recently graduated from high school and “funds are pretty tight.” But she said, “God calls us to things beyond our wildest dreams.”
After reading an article in LifeWay’s employee magazine last year, Dible began to pray about going on an international mission trip with LifeWay.
“I find it awesome to be part of an organization that not only provides Bibles and biblical resources here in the United States,” she said, “but also impacts other countries with the gospel.”
After her trip to South Asia, she said she is looking forward to sharing with customers “how God is using LifeWay to impact other cultures.”
Glover noted, “Anna was a leader on our team in getting those Bibles donated,” he said. “... She is an outstanding, exemplary employee.”
Dible said, “one of the most powerful prayers we can pray to God is ‘Here I am. Send me.’” For anyone else thinking about going on a mission trip, she said to pray about it and then step out in faith. “If we offer ourselves up to be used by Him, He will use us,” she said. “And it is such a tremendous blessing to work with God Almighty.”
Her favorite memories from the trip were being able to share the gospel and seeing how receptive the people were. “It’s crazy to realize there are still so many people who have never heard the gospel and need to hear about Christ,” she said. “Someone just has to go and tell them.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. This article first appeared in LifeWay’s employee magazine, LifeLines.)

5/21/2015 12:53:05 PM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Two Sudanese Christians face death penalty

May 21 2015 by Fredrick Nzwili, Religion News Service

Last year, a death penalty sentence slapped on a Sudanese doctor for refusing to renounce her Christian faith stirred international outrage and heightened calls on the government to increase religious liberty.
Meriam Yahya Ibrahim was released a month later, but now two Christian pastors have been jailed and they also face a possible death sentence.


REUTERS Photo by Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
People from South Sudan stand near a tent used as a church at a railway station camp, where they have spent the last four years, in Khartoum on May 11, 2014.

Michael Yat and Peter Yein Reith, both from the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, have been charged with undermining the constitutional system and spying, offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment.
The clerics are charged with waging a war against the state and assault on religious belief.
“We know they have been arrested, but we don’t know where they are being detained,” said Kori Romla Koru, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches. “We are trying to find them.”
Yat was arrested last year after visiting the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church’s Bahri congregation in Khartoum, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a charity that works on behalf of persecuted Christians.
The congregation had resisted the takeover of the church by a Muslim businessman, who had demolished part of the worship center.
In December, police beat and arrested 38 Christians for worshipping in the church.
With Yat’s arrest, South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church sent Reith with a letter to the authorities to demand his release. He was arrested on Jan. 11.
Human rights groups have expressed deep concern over the charges, warning that the two clerics could face torture.
“It is unacceptable that after enduring extended detentions without charge, the men now face extreme and unwarranted charges,” said Mervyn Thomas, CSW’s chief executive, said earlier this month.
Since the separation of Sudan and South Sudan in 2011, Sudan has forced out all foreign missionaries, raided churches and arrested and interrogated Christians on grounds that they belonged to South Sudan.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Fredrick Nzwili is a journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.)

5/21/2015 12:44:48 PM by Fredrick Nzwili, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Yadkinville man shares Christ through gift of cross

May 20 2015 by Jesse Miles, Special to the Recorder

Witnessing to complete strangers can be intimidating, but not for Mickie Reavis. He has a story to tell and doesn’t hesitate to let others know how God spared his life.
Reavis grew up in the Lone Hickory Community of Yadkin County, N.C., where he and his wife, Ann, still reside. They are active members of Bethel Baptist Church in Yadkinville.
In 2010, while working on his truck in the shop behind his house, Reavis was overcome by carbon monoxide fumes. He was rushed to a local hospital and later transported to Duke University Hospital where he was placed in a hyperbaric chamber to rid his body of the poisonous fumes.


Mickie Reavis sands one of the crosses he plans to give to someone as he shares Christ with others in his daily life.

In the months that followed his breathing continued to deteriorate. A lung biopsy revealed he had a severe lung disease known as Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis.
The treatment placed him back in a hyperbaric chamber at Duke. It was the only treatment available at the time short of the last option, a lung transplant.
After three separate hospital stays involving extended procedures and multiple battles with infections, Reavis was released to go home. He credits his recovery to determination, answered prayers and “God’s amazing grace.”
Reavis said he has always been able to witness to people, and doesn’t mind asking, “Are you saved?” But after his recovery he had a desire to do more.
He doesn’t work full time, but Reavis never seems to run short on things to do.
He serves on the building and grounds committee at Bethel and spends countless hours doing small repairs on the church property.
In his spare time, he serves the “Good Lord” by hand crafting small wooden crosses that he offers to everyone he meets.
The small cross measures about one inch by two inches. He draws the pattern on a plank of walnut wood, Reavis’ wood of choice, and skillfully cuts the cross with a scroll saw. After the sanding process he drills a hole for a chain or ring. The final step is to hand a cross to a stranger, something he enjoys.
Reavis estimates he has given away over 1,000 crosses. He carries them tucked away in the front pocket of his jeans and hands them out in restaurants, stores or wherever life takes him.
The crosses serve as a reminder that “our Savior is waiting for anyone who will accept His saving grace. When you are going through a difficult season in life, you are never alone – God is with you every step of the way.”
Reavis keeps a journal of responses from people to whom he has witnessed. He also hands out a tract on “How to be saved.” It’s his way of witnessing; his way of serving.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jesse Miles, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Yadkinville, N.C., submitted this story to the Biblical Recorder.)

5/20/2015 12:49:14 PM by Jesse Miles, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

Nathan Finn joins Union University

May 20 2015 by Tim Ellsworth, Union University Communications

Union University has named Nathan Finn of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) as dean of the university’s School of Theology and Missions.
Finn, director of the Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality and associate professor of historical theology and spiritual formation at SEBTS, has taught at the seminary and held a variety of positions there since 2006.
“Nathan is a great teacher, an excellent scholar, a strong churchman, a devoted husband and father and a faithful follower of Christ,” Union President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver said. “We are excited that he is joining us at Union and look forward to his leadership and service as we seek to advance our mission and vision.”
Finn will take over the position previously held by Greg Thornbury, who left Union in 2013 to become president of The King’s College in New York. James Patterson has been the school’s acting dean since then.
Finn said he is thankful for Union’s storied history and ongoing influence in Baptist life and the wider evangelical world.


“I could not be more excited to be joining the Union family,” Finn said. “I was shaped profoundly by my own education at a Baptist liberal arts college. I look forward to being a part of a comprehensive university where every discipline is engaged from the perspective of the Christian worldview.”
The faculty in Union’s School of Theology and Missions is one of the strongest theological faculties in the nation, he added.
“I have been friends with many of them for years and have been greatly influenced by their teaching and writing in my own ministry,” Finn said. “I love how they wed faithful Christian scholarship with an emphasis on practical ministry and a burden for the salvation of the lost. I’m grateful for the chance to lead the School of Theology and Missions as we educate a rising generation of pastors, church staff, missionaries and other Christian leaders for the glory of God and the advance of his kingdom.”
Danny Akin, president at SEBTS, called Finn “one of the finest church historians I have ever known” and “a wonderful churchman.”
“His departure from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is a huge loss for us and a tremendous gain for Union University,” Akin said. “I can only give my blessing to this move because in my heart I know it is good for the kingdom work of Christ. I believe Nathan will excel at his new assignment, and he goes with my love, prayers and full support.”
Finn completed his bachelor’s degree from Brewton-Parker College and his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy from SEBTS.
In addition to his role at SEBTS, Finn serves as an adjunct professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he teaches seminars and supervises doctoral students in biblical spirituality.
A prolific writer and editor, Finn is co-author, along with Anthony Chute and Michael Haykin, of The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement, which B&H Academic will release in August. This textbook offers a comprehensive narrative introduction to the Baptist tradition.
Finn edited Help to Zion’s Travellers by Robert Hall Sr. and co-edited Domestic Slavery: The Correspondence of Richard Fuller and Francis Wayland and Ministry by His Grace and for His Glory: Essays in Honor of Thomas J. Nettles. He has written dozens of book chapters, scholarly essays, popular articles and book reviews.
In addition to his teaching and writing ministry, Finn is an ordained Southern Baptist minister who previously served in ministry positions in several Southern Baptist churches in Georgia and North Carolina. He is an elder and member at First Baptist Church in Durham, N.C.
“Nathan Finn is a Bible-man, a gospel-man, and a church-man,” Union Provost C. Ben Mitchell said. “His passion for students, for his discipline, for the church and for the worldwide spread of the gospel of the risen Christ will be infectious.”
George Guthrie, Union’s Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Bible, said he is grateful for Finn’s appointment.
“Nathan loves the church, understands the academic context as a crucible for Christian discipleship and integrates a warm-hearted faith with rigorous scholarship,” Guthrie said. “The fact that he is one of our very best Baptist historians in the field today can help keep us rock-solidly grounded in our heritage while giving us crystal-clear perspective on our current challenges in the broader Baptist and evangelical life.”
Finn and his wife Leah have been married since 2001. They have four children: Georgia, Baxter, Eleanor and Fuller. He will begin at Union July 1.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for Union University communications.)

5/20/2015 12:31:55 PM by Tim Ellsworth, Union University Communications | with 0 comments

Church strengthening: What makes a church strong & healthy?

May 20 2015 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

The apostle Paul is widely considered the greatest missionary who ever lived.
Paul is known for the many churches that he planted and established during his missionary journeys. Sometimes overlooked, however, is Paul’s work in strengthening the churches he helped start.
Acts 15:41 says Paul “went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”
Following the example of Paul, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) disciple-making strategy is focused on not only planting new churches, but strengthening existing churches, as well.
That’s why there’s a group of consultants at the convention who serve on the Church Strengthening Team. They work with churches to help them become stronger and healthier as they seek to carry out the Great Commission. Antonio Santos leads the Church Strengthening Team, which is a part of the convention’s Evangelism and Discipleship Group.
“Our main thrust and our main goal is disciple-making,” Santos said. “We seek to strengthen churches by helping them develop a disciple-making culture. We are all about making disciples.”
The Church Strengthening Team works with churches in a number of areas, including leadership, stewardship, pastoral ministry, worship, renewal and special ministries. A key component of the Church Strengthening Team’s work is in the area of church revitalization.
Although the numbers vary, recent statistics cited by the North American Mission Board report that 70-75 percent of Southern Baptist churches have either plateaued or are in decline. Add to that another estimated 10-15 percent that are considered at risk, and that means up to 90 percent of churches across the country are struggling.
Helping churches change course and reverse these trends is not an easy fix.
“Often times we believe these issues can be addressed through programs and processes,” said Lynn Sasser, the BSC’s executive leader for evangelism and discipleship. “This is not a mechanical fix.”
That’s why Santos and his team work hard to help churches first realize that their challenges are spiritual rather than physical or material.
“A major aspect of our work is related to spiritual warfare,” Santos said. “This is a spiritual battle. We first want to help churches develop an understanding of where they are, spiritually speaking.”
To assist churches in this self-discovery, the Church Strengthening Team has developed a helpful resource for pastors and church leaders titled “Revitalize.” This brochure is designed to help leaders assess their church through a series of questions that are undergirded by prayer, fasting and repentance.
The “Revitalize” resource is designed so that pastors and church leaders may work through the assessment themselves or in consultation with a member of the Church Strengthening Team. The resource is available at Download your free copy today.
Members of the Church Strengthening Team are available to assist you and your church to evaluate your current situation and make recommendations. You may contact the team by emailing Santos at or by calling (800) 395-5102, ext 5642.

5/20/2015 12:15:52 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Mount Zion’s story wins BSC historical award

May 20 2015 by Dianna L Cagle, BR production editor

Mount Zion Baptist Church had A Story to Tell about its history, so the church did what any good Baptist church would do – formed a committee.
“It was a joint effort by a lot of people,” said Floyd Annas, chairman of Mount Zion’s history committee.
Annas, along with several others, recruited information from current and former members. He said they were inspired after Caldwell Baptist Association, the association in which the church is involved, published its history. A couple of Mount Zion members were involved in the publication of the association’s history and suggested the church, which was founded in 1889, do so as well.
The church’s history, published in A Story to Tell: The History of Mount Zion Baptist Church Hudson, North Carolina, won the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) award at the 2014 annual meeting held in Greensboro. The BSC Historical Committee chooses a winner each year for the historical writing competition.
Having a good author like Bill Kincaid, Mount Zion member and former editor of three newspapers, “helped an awful lot,” Annas said. Compiling the church’s history took time and included all the minutes from the very beginning. The book even includes a copy of the deed filed in 1889, lists of previous staff members and reports from various ministries of the church throughout the years. The book also calls attention to the present-day staff and former members called out to various ministries.
Annas’ family has a long history in the church.
“My mother brought me in her arms to Mount Zion when I was real small,” he said. He was saved and baptized in the church in 1937 at age 12. Reading through A Story to Tell finds the family name mentioned several times.
Now, Floyd Annas is one of the church’s oldest members. He and Kincaid have also interviewed some of the older members and keep the audio recordings at the church’s library for people to check out.
“Oral history is very important,” he said. “Sometimes it is overlooked.”
Annas remains excited about his church. He shared that Mount Zion gives 16 percent to the Cooperative Program and that they recently finished studying Ezekiel in small groups at people’s homes. They have started a study on discipleship.
“It’s really strengthening our church,” he said.
Much of the church’s early history is available at the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. The library houses the North Carolina Baptist Historical Collection (also known as the Ethel Taylor Crittenden Collection in Baptist History).
The Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives ( offers resources and information to help churches preserve and protect historical documents.
There are three categories in the BSC historical writing competition: church history,* association history (includes agencies and institutions); and biography, autobiography, memoirs and personal reflection. For the 2015 competition, the entries should have been released in 2014 or 2015.*
To enter, mail two copies to: BSC, Historical Committee, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC  27512-1107.
The deadline for submission is June 30. Winners will be recognized at the 2015 Baptist State Convention Annual Meeting in Greensboro.
Contact Norma Jean Johnson at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5618, or
*Older church histories can qualify if additional work has been done to bring them current to this date, and have not been previously submitted.

5/20/2015 12:10:42 PM by Dianna L Cagle, BR production editor | with 0 comments

Olympic swimmer offers hope

May 20 2015 by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A

Amy Van Dyken is a former world-record competitive swimmer, six-time Olympic champion and national radio sports talk show co-host. She won four of her gold medals at the 1996 Summer Olympics, making her the first American woman to accomplish such a feat. She was also the most successful athlete at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Recently Amy was in a severe all-terrain vehicle accident that severed her spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. It was an honor to sit down with this great champion. I came away blessed because of her incredible faith, positive outlook and relentless drive to help others through her difficult challenge.
Q: What is it like to be an Olympic champion?
A: It was an amazing experience to represent our country. To be able to say that I’m an Olympic champion for my country is so cool.
Q: You recently suffered a potentially life-ending accident. What happened?


A: Yes, I was in an ATV accident 10 months ago. My husband found me, and I wasn’t breathing. It took about four minutes to get me to breathe, and then I went to the hospital. The doctor said, “One of your vertebrae is right up against your aorta.” They said to say goodbye to my husband, and I did.
I know how to overcome obstacles, and I know how my mind works. I know that my mind can tell my body to do just about anything. You can say I walked through hell with a smile on my face, so maybe your Monday morning meeting isn’t really as bad as you think it is. It gives you perspective.
Q: As difficult as this has been, what have you taken from this challenge?
A: It’s been amazing. I’m an ambassador for the Reed Foundation. They are looking for a cure for spinal cord injuries. I’m also working with Cure Paralysis Now that is trying to do the same thing.
I was sitting in a hospital in Colorado with a bunch of paraplegics and quadriplegics. They tell you that you’re never going to walk again, and you’re going to sit in the chair for the rest your life and not move or feel anything.
Just to take a shower you need a special chair that costs $2,500 and insurance may not pay for it. There’s a statistic out there that says when you’re newly injured, that first year could cost up to $1 million in medical bills alone, that you will have to personally take care of.
Q: You have stepped in to help find a solution. Tell us about it.
A: We formed the Amy Van Dyken Foundation. An arm of our work is called “Amy’s Army.” What we do is provide necessary medical equipment for people with spinal cord injuries who can’t afford it. I feel this is my calling. All of this happened to me for a reason.
Q: As Christians, we wonder how people without God go through tragedy like this. Obviously, your accident has given you a real heart for suffering people.


A: You have to smile about it; every day is a blessing. You have to look at life like you do not know what is around the corner. Sometimes we don’t tell our loved ones that we love them. We think, “Oh, I will tell them later.” Tell them now, because we never know what could happen. This has really given me the freedom to tell my loved ones how I feel.


Amy Van Dyken, seen here upon her release from the hospital after her accident, said it has been a tough battle but her faith and family have helped.

Q: You have a famous husband, Tom Rouen, who punts for the Denver Broncos. How has he responded to your injury?
A: Tom has been such a big help through this challenge. He is there every single day as a shoulder to cry on. He’s there to help me when I fall out of my chair. He’s absolutely amazing, and you talk about inspiration – he helps me wake up every day.
Q: Tell me what faith, family and sports means to you?
A: Faith, family is sports, right? I mean it is the Olympics. You have to have faith, because God gave you the gift to do what you’re doing. You need family to help you get where you’re going; you need faith, also.
When I tell people I saw the light, they kind of start shaking. “Oh, she didn’t say that, right?” But on your show, Sold Out, you can be open, and talk about these things. There are so many negative stories out there, and we don’t hear [enough] about the good stories. Let’s focus on some of the positives that go on.
Q: Tell me a personal story from the Olympics that no one has heard.
A: Amanda Beard was a multiple Olympic gold-medal swimmer. She was 14 years old at the time that we were getting ready to do a relay. Before getting ready to go, she takes me aside and says, “Amy I’ve never done a relay.” I’m like, “You’re kidding me, right?” She said, “No I don’t know what to do.” So I said, OK, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to stand when it’s your turn, and I’ll scream “GO!” Even if it doesn’t look like you’re supposed to go, GO!
So the swimmers are coming in, I scream “Go!” We win the gold medal and the media goes nuts. They say, “Amy, you were so supportive of Amanda and cheering her on.” I said, “Yes, we love each other.” What was so funny is they did not know that I was literally telling her to go.
Q: Amy Van Dyken, you’re a six-time Olympic gold medalist. What do you want to do moving forward?
A: Right now I want to walk again. I would like to help people to live the best life they can live, letting them know that their day isn’t as bad as they thought it was, and help them to live their life to the fullest.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roman Gabriel is an evangelist and motivational speaker. Hear his Sold Out Sports Talk Radio program on American Family Radio in 200 cities nationally or streaming live at Visit; Facebook: Roman Gabriel III; connect on Twitter: @romangabriel3rd. Contact at (910) 431-6483 or email:

5/20/2015 12:00:12 PM by Roman Gabriel III, BR Sports Q&A | with 0 comments

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