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Small church gives 30 percent through CP

January 7 2015 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Some might say trusting God comes easily for the farming families who make up the majority of the members of Almyra First Baptist Church.
They watch rice emerge from flooded fields, soybeans grow in carefully weeded rows, and cotton blossoms nearby. They know from this that God gives the increase in His time, when they’re obedient to do His work, says Doug Hibbard, who has served as pastor of First Baptist in Almyra, Ark., the past four years. The congregation averages about 55 in Sunday morning worship.
“These are people who want to hear the Word, and want to do what they can do to serve,” Hibbard said. “Because of what they do for a living, many of them can’t go [on mission trips,] but they want to be supportive of what Southern Baptists are doing around the world.”
Almyra First Baptist has given 30 percent of undesignated offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program for about 60 years.
“The Cooperative Program (CP) is the most efficient way to keep missions funding going,” Hibbard said. “I am married to the daughter of CP-funded missionaries. She grew up on the field and we know the stories [of non-Southern Baptist missionaries.] We like the fact that through the Cooperative Program we let missionaries be missionaries and not have to stress about going back home and raising money so they can stay on the field.”


The congregation is intentional in keeping Cooperative Program giving at 30 percent, the pastor said.
“Here in a rural environment it can take years for us to really see a lot of fruit,” Hibbard said. “We have to think long-term. That’s why, when it comes to our missions giving, we don’t need immediate results. We can’t say, ‘We didn’t see fruit so let’s try some place else.’
“That’s part of what we are as a church, and that’s one of the benefits I see in the Cooperative Program,” Hibbard said. “We give to support missionaries who are faithfully serving the Lord wherever they are, even when they’re not in man’s eyes being highly fruitful.”
About 500 people live within a five-mile radius of Almyra First Baptist Church, 319 in the town itself. The square-plotted rural village of 12 blocks began in 1891 as a railroad stop and farming village. A Baptist church was organized in 1896.
“There’s not a lot of community growth and change,” Hibbard said. “We’re creeping up, hoping for 60 [in worship attendance] in the coming year.
“We’re doing a whole lot of prayer, doing what’s in front of us, strengthening our children’s programs and keeping them strong,” he said, “because parents who won’t come to church want to send their kids to church.”
Wednesday evening activities are one way Almyra First reaches the local community. A church-wide meal follows the children’s Bible study, and plates are delivered to the homebound.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to serve kids and serve adults,” Hibbard said. “It’s great for relationships in the church; people can sit around and talk.”
In other local outreaches, church members volunteer for a month each year at a food bank in nearby DeWitt, Ark.; the congregation worships at Thanksgiving and Easter with the local Methodist congregation, and the church conducts outreach ministry to an elementary school in Dewitt.
“A lot of it is, ‘Here’s an opportunity; let’s grab hold of it,’“ Hibbard said. “That’s what we do.”
Hibbard’s personal blog and his occasional presence on SBCVoices.com stretch and expand the church’s ministry, as do his sermon audio podcasts and videos of services posted to YouTube.com.
“To have 35 to 50 audio downloads of a sermon is gratifying,” Hibbard said.
Hibbard is also called upon regularly to minister to community members who do not attend his congregation, and two years ago was named associational team leader for the Centennial Baptist Association, which covers about 1,000 square miles of southeastern Arkansas.
Several hundred members from the association’s 15 congregations participated in a major evangelistic block party, home repair, yard work and door-to-door visitation in 2013 in the southern part of Arkansas County, and a similar event in 2014 in the northern part of the county.
“I’m hoping to do something similar in 2015,” Hibbard said. “It’s strengthening the fellowship in the association, and [has] involved two churches that previously hadn’t seen the need to be part of the association.”
Jonathan Hillman, the church’s deacon chairman, is the only member who has taken a short-term mission trip in recent years. In partnership with First Baptist Church of nearby Stuttgart, Ark., Hillman traveled to a church near the Ural Mountains in Russia.
“It’s a place the International Mission Board doesn’t have a presence,” Hibbard said. “It’s been a good opportunity for us to have someone involved internationally.”
While Almyra First Baptist members may be able to take a mission trip in the future, the church will continue to serve the Lord, understanding His presence in their everyday lives, Hibbard said.
“This is how we define faith,” he said. “It’s obeying God and trusting Him with the outcome. That’s really what we do; we obey and trust God. It may seem like it’s not the easiest way to do something, but it’s the best way.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/7/2015 11:35:01 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

How God is at work in Abidjan

January 7 2015 by Elaine Gaston, International Mission Board

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ivory Coast was the country of focus for the 2014 International Mission Study by Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU). Find resources to support the study at wmu.com/IMS and imb.org/ims.)
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – As I pored over news stories to prepare for the trip to Ivory Coast, not much of the nation’s recent storyline encouraged optimism.
Abidjan, a city formerly known as the “Paris of West Africa,” seemed littered with tales of violence that left marks in bullet-pocked walls and on people’s hearts. Accounts of bloodshed and strife caused by a decade of civil war filled my background notes. Even the airport I flew into, reconstructed and modernized now, had been looted and damaged during fighting, which culminated in the Battle for Abidjan in April 2011.
Though now the government is stable and the city is rebuilding, I could also imagine the physical state of this West African city of more than 6 million inhabitants: tangles of traffic, impoverished neighborhoods, disparities between rich and poor, unemployment and economic uncertainty, all of which might have rubbed the sheen off a country that was once considered a model of stability for the continent.
All of that awaited me in Abidjan. But something else was there as well when I stepped through the airport doors into the humid African night with International Mission Board (IMB) missionary Heather McAfee. As she steered her vehicle through dark streets, dodging potholes and pedestrians, before we even reached her home, Heather began offering glimpses of a city much different than the one conjured up from reading too many articles on la crise, “the crisis.”


Heather and her husband, Mike, urban church planters in Abidjan, have a passion for this city and care deeply about the multitudes of people whom they seek to reach with the gospel. A diverse group it is, with more than 60 indigenous languages spoken in the city and a religious makeup that includes Muslims, Catholics and those who follow tribal religions. Only a sliver of the population includes Christian evangelicals.
In the following 10 days, Mike and Heather carried me throughout the city from the Treichville commune, to Abobo in the north, across the canal that makes Abidjan the primary port in West Africa, to the central business district of Plateau. They introduced me to national friends in ministry, took me into Muslim homes where they openly share Christ, showed me places of possibility in the city where God seems to be moving and other areas where they hope to establish a church presence.
They shared how God is there in Abidjan, working in those neighborhoods, touching lives of Muslims – even through dreams – and opening doors for their efforts to speak truth to many who live in fear of curses and darkness. Their daily focus, Mike says, is to discover where God is at work and join Him in what He’s doing in this sprawling, needy city.


Telling the story

Heather is a homeschooling mother of three. If that isn’t enough, she also manages to be deeply involved in ministry, wearing a dozen hats ranging from volunteer coordinator and hostess to networker with national pastors’ wives. One day she took me to Vridi, where she visits weekly to share Bible stories. Vridi was the first place that Heather began to practice Chronological Bible Storying in French when she first arrived on the field. She had only been in language study for three months when another missionary took her there to model the work. The following week, the older missionary encouraged Heather to tell the Bible story in her then-halting French, and Heather’s been returning weekly since that time.
Power lines skim the sky over this shantytown settled decades ago when the former French colonial government brought immigrants, mostly from Burkina Faso, to build the Vridi Canal. Dwellings are jumbles of corrugated tin, shored up by slats and pieces of discarded wood: someone else’s trash woven together to make a home. Young barefoot children wearing mismatched clothing run up to Heather, determined to shake hands with la blanche, the “white lady.” Heather finds her way along a dusty path to Vridi’s market area. There she meets two women, Agira and Marie, at a market stall with clothing hung on nails stuck in boards against the stall sides. Smoke from cooking fires wafts through the air. Surrounding stalls sell cheap hairpieces, plastic beaded necklaces and food items such as peanuts and bananas.
Heather seats herself on the floor of the stall while Agira reclines. Agira is pregnant with her second child and not feeling well today. Heather tells the story, in her now-fluent French, of the paralyzed man whose friends brought him to Jesus’ feet. As she wraps up the story, they discuss it while Shakira, Agira’s 4-year-old daughter, playfully climbs into Heather’s lap. Agira is interested in the fact that God is willing to forgive, “even really bad sins.” She comes from a Muslim background but has told Heather before today that she wants to give her life to Jesus. The three ladies conclude by singing a song together.


Looking back

As with most missionaries going to the field for the first time, when the McAfees landed in Abidjan in late 2007, it was a commitment of uncertain shape and size. Heather and Mike, with their then-8-year-old Caleb and 6-year-old Karis, were planting their lives on an unknown continent with only the assurance that God had called them there. Now, however, Heather is clearly at home, sitting on the floor of this African market stall and talking about issues of the heart with these women.
As urban church planters, the McAfees’ ultimate hope is to plant a church in every quartier, or neighborhood, in Abidjan – a God-sized task. As they work toward this end, it’s just possible that these city streets that saw so much bloodshed will instead know God’s forgiveness, reconciliation and grace.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Writer Elaine Gaston has served overseas with her family in restricted-access countries.)

1/7/2015 11:21:27 AM by Elaine Gaston, International Mission Board | with 0 comments

Porn damages & degrades relationships

January 6 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A new study concluding that pornography use leads to decreased enjoyment of sexual intimacy for men illustrates “the detrimental effect” obscene images have on “a male’s sexual health,” a leader of Southern Baptists’ anti-pornography campaign told Baptist Press.
“The study reinforces the fact that pornography writes a sexual script that leaves out God, unconditional love, respect for each other and honoring each other,” Jay Dennis, co-sponsor of the Join One Million Men campaign, said in written comments. “Parents should take heed that the younger a male views pornography the more he will use pornography for sexual stimulation. The study underscores that pornography lessens enjoyment with a real-life partner.”
Launched at the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston, Join One Million Men is seeking commitments from 1 million men to live pornography-free lives. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the Woman’s Missionary Union sponsored the initiative along with Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla.


Researchers Chyng Sun, Ana Bridges, Jennifer Johnason and Matt Ezzell wrote in the December issue of “Archives of Sexual Behavior” that “pornography is sometimes dismissed, celebrated or problematized as fantasy, and many consumers may access pornography explicitly as a form of entertainment, but pornography is also much more. What happens on the screen may implicate life off of it.”
The researchers asked a sample of 487 males ages 18-29 a range of questions regarding the frequency of their pornography use, their use of pornography in conjunction with sexual encounters and their enjoyment of sexual intimacy.
The research team found “significant positive association” between pornography use and “reliance on pornography to obtain/maintain sexual excitement.” Use of pornography also made men more likely to “view pornography during sexual activity” with a real-life partner. Porn use correlated with less enjoyment of sexually intimate behavior.
“Our findings are consistent with a theory suggesting that pornography can become a preferred sexual script for men, thus influencing their real-world expectations,” the researchers wrote.
Only 10.9 percent of the men surveyed reported that they did not currently use pornography. A mere 1.3 percent of men surveyed said they had never encountered pornography.
The vast majority of study participants (97.9 percent) were unmarried, but 75.4 percent reported having engaged in sexual intercourse. Participants reported on average that religious faith was only moderately important to them, suggesting that the study results may not apply to men in committed relationships with Christ. All participants were college students.
Donna Rice Hughes, president and CEO of the anti-pornography organization Enough Is Enough, said the study proves that pornography “is not just harmless fun.”
“The science proves exactly how harmful porn is to relationships and society,” Hughes said in a news release. “Which is why we are fighting so hard to educate the public about how to prevent this toxic material from its devastating harms to children, women, men, marriages and our culture. At Enough Is Enough, we bring this research to the public, to Congress, to leaders.”
The study also found that 48.7 percent of today’s college males were first exposed to pornography prior to age 13. Researchers claimed that “current sex education models – in the schools and in the home – do not seem well-equipped to assist boys in navigating or critically engaging the messages of pornography.”
The study’s authors criticized abstinence-only sexual education programs, which teach teens to delay sexual activity until marriage, as “ineffective in helping adolescents make informed and healthy sexual choices.”
But Dennis agreed with the principle of sexual abstinence until marriage, noting “the boundaries God has set for our safety and enjoyment.” Pornography ignores those boundaries and depicts as normal “degrading and humiliating acts along with physically aggressive behavior toward women,” he said.
Dennis concluded, “Parents must begin educating their children, especially their sons, on why pornography is not God’s plan and how it damages and degrades real relationships. Education, information, accountability and biblical truth communicated by a loving parent can help turn the tide.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

1/6/2015 11:17:50 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

WMU leader Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler dies at 84

January 6 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler’s desire to dedicate herself to Christian service is one that lasted until the day of her death on Jan. 2. Her joyful spirit and cheerful attitude will be sorely missed by those who knew her. She served as executive director of national Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) from 1974 to 1989.
Mattie Carolyn Weatherford was born to farmers Rufus Clark and Doris Elizabeth Sansing Weatherford on Jan. 17, 1930. The Weatherfords made their home in Frostproof, Fla., but were in House, Miss., when their daughter was born. Crumpler grew up in a household devoted to missions, as her mother involved Crumpler and her siblings in as many activities as their Baptist church offered.
She professed Christ when she was 12, and following the example of her mother, a Girls in Action (GA) leader, Crumpler became a GA counselor by the time she was 14. Her service at such a young age did not go unnoticed by visiting WMU leaders, and at the age of 16, with the invitation of a Florida WMU state officer, Crumpler and a friend were off to Ridgecrest, N.C., for a young women’s conference.



Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler

Crumpler taught her community’s first Vacation Bible School, and, as a junior in high school, she became the associational officer for Baptist Training Union (BTU), later serving as her church’s BTU director for all age groups. She added adult choir director to her list of activities.
Crumpler studied library science at Florida State University, and was a high school librarian for five years. However, her desire to commit to Christian service on a full-time basis would not subside, so she entered New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where she earned a master’s degree in religious education. Crumpler began her career with WMU in 1958 after being denied foreign missionary candidacy because of hypertension. Crumpler did not let that stop her from serving in WMU.


From 1961 to 1963, she worked with GAs through Florida WMU, and from 1963 to 1967, she served in Alabama as WMU promotion director. Next, she took on the position of executive director of Florida WMU.
After representing Southern Baptists in the Women’s Continental Assembly of 1972, Crumpler became chief executive of national WMU. During her tenure, she coauthored “My Life More Fit for Him,” a book on physical and spiritual well-being, with staff member Barbara Massey, and wrote a number of other works.
“When Carolyn was elected as executive director, she came with years of experience in state WMU work,” reflected Wanda S. Lee, executive director of national WMU. “Working with a board composed of many state staff members, she brought an understanding of the challenges of their work and fresh ideas for new ways to work together. She laid a strong foundation for the partnership that exists today between the national office and our state WMU partners. Her love for missions and missionaries will continue to inspire all of us who lead today to stay faithful to the purpose of WMU.”
During the years she led national WMU, the organization experienced growth in church missions organizations; began several initiatives including Acteens Activators, Baptist Nursing Fellowship and New Hope Publishers; and moved from downtown Birmingham to its current location at 100 Missionary Ridge.
She had an intense desire to help children of missionaries (MKs), and invited many of them to dinner at her house when they were in Birmingham for school. Starting in 1980, she served on the Baptist World Alliance’s (BWA) General Council and became chairman of the Baptist World Aid Committee in 1985. She attended BWA meetings faithfully, and was the first woman to chair the North American Baptist Fellowship.
When she became president of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary National Alumni Association, 1984–85, she became the first woman to chair a Southern Baptist seminary’s alumni association (other than the WMU Training School/Carver School of Missions at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). She was awarded honorary doctorates from William Carey College, Mobile College, Campbell University, Georgetown College and Houston Baptist University.
In 1989, Crumpler retired from WMU and married James Joseph (“Joe”) Crumpler, a widower who was then pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, Cincinnati, Ohio. She moved to Cincinnati and continued to be active in missions work, both nationally and with local ministries in the Cincinnati area. After her retirement, Crumpler became involved with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, serving as moderator in 1995-96.
In recent years, despite many health problems, Crumpler remained active in missions and sharing the love of Christ. She is survived by her husband and a host of family members.
Visitation will be Jan. 23, 4:30-7:30 p.m. at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 8645 Kenwood Road, Cincinnati, Ohio. The family will also receive visitors at the church on Jan. 24 at 9:30-10:30 a.m., prior to a memorial service at 11 a.m.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was submitted by the WMU communications team. Baptist Press contributed to this article.)


1/6/2015 10:26:49 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

7 ways religious affiliation will & won’t change in Congress

January 6 2015 by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

Republicans will take full control of Capitol Hill when the 114th Congress is sworn in on Jan. 6, but even with a political shift, there will be little change in the overall religious makeup of Congress, according to a new analysis from the Pew Research Center.


Here are seven ways the religious makeup of Congress will (and won’t) change.


  1. More than nine-in-10 members of the House and Senate (92 percent) are Christian; about 57 percent are Protestant while 31 percent are Catholic. The new Congress will include at least seven members who are ordained ministers.

  2. Protestants and Catholics continue to be overrepresented as members of Congress. As of 2013, 49 percent of American adults are Protestant, and 22 percent are Catholic, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.

  3. The biggest difference between Congress and other Americans is the number of people who say they are religiously unaffiliated. Just 0.2 percent of Congress say they are religiously unaffiliated, compared with 20 percent of the general public. In fact, the only member of Congress who publicly identifies herself as religiously unaffiliated is sophomore Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

  4. Jews continue to have greater representation in Congress (5 percent) than most Americans (2 percent), but there are five fewer Jewish members in the incoming Congress than there were in 2005-2006. Of the 301 GOP House and Senate members scheduled to be sworn in on Tuesday, only one – Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York’s 1st District — is a Jew. The 113th Congress also had just one Jewish Republican, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who lost his primary race last year.

  5. Many of the nation’s smaller religious groups are more proportionally reflective of the American population. Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus combined represent about 2 percent of Americans and 1 percent of Congress.

  6. Two-thirds of the Republicans in the incoming Congress (67 percent) are Protestant, about a quarter are Catholic (27 percent) and 5 percent are Mormon.

  7. Of the 234 Democrats in the 114th Congress, 44 percent are Protestant, 35 percent are Catholic, 12 percent are Jewish, 1 percent are Mormon, two are Buddhist, two are Muslim, one is Hindu and one does not identify with a particular religion.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for Religion News Service.)

1/6/2015 9:34:09 AM by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

CP 3.11 percent ahead of 2013 pace

January 6 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Year-to-date contributions through the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) portion of the Cooperative Program (CP) are 3.11 percent ahead of the same time frame at the end of 2013 and 3.84 percent under the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget projection for the year according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Frank S. Page.
The $45,193,980.71 received by the Executive Committee from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2014, for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget represents 96.16 percent of the $47,000,000 year-to-date budgeted amount to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. The total is $1,364,185.10, or 3.11 percent, ahead of last year’s decade-low total through the first quarter of the fiscal year of $43,829,795.61.
The year-to-date total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of December and includes receipts from state conventions, churches and individuals for distribution, according to the 2014-15 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
Designated giving of $11,481,207.91 for the same year-to-date period is 4.00 percent, or $441,545.65, above gifts of $11,039,662.26 received at this point last year.
This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities.
Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief (formerly the World Hunger Fund) and other special gifts.
December’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $13,234,621.75. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $4,165,776.17.
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the ministries of its state convention and to the missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention with a single contribution to its state convention.
State conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective states and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget.
The SBC allocation budget is distributed as follows: 50.41 percent to support more than 4,800 overseas personnel with the IMB, 22.79 percent to help fuel North American evangelism and church planting through NAMB, 22.16 percent to help underwrite low-cost ministerial preparation and theological education through six SBC seminaries, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to promote biblical morality and religious freedom through the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted and the timing of when the state conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee.
CP allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at www.cpmissions.net/CPReports.

1/6/2015 9:29:06 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

Newsweek’s slam of the Bible ‘irresponsible’

January 5 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A Newsweek cover article calling conservative evangelicals “God’s frauds” and characterizing the Bible as full of errors has drawn a range of corrective responses from Baptist commentators.
“When Newsweek, now back in print under new ownership, let loose its first issue of the New Year on the Bible, I held out the hope that the article would be fair, journalistically credible, and interesting, even if written from a more liberal perspective,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote in a Dec. 29 blog post. “But Newsweek’s cover story is nothing of the sort. It is an irresponsible screed of post-Christian invective leveled against the Bible and, even more to the point, against evangelical Christianity. It is one of the most irresponsible articles ever to appear in a journalistic guise.”
Appearing on the Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” Dec. 30, Mohler said the article demonstrates “ignorance of the facts” regarding scripture.
“When you have someone in the media give a balanced view and talk about the great truths of the faith in an honest and balanced and journalistic way, that’s fair game,” Mohler told host Elizabeth Hasselbeck and guest host Scott Brown, a former Republican senator from Massachusetts. “But that’s not what we’re dealing with here. From the opening shot, this [article] is an open attack upon Christianity.”
Written by veteran business and financial reporter Kurt Eichenwald, Newsweek’s article is titled “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin” and appears in the magazine’s Jan. 2 issue. Eichenwald does not cite any conservative evangelicals as sources but does quote Bart Ehrman, a New Testament professor who has gained a reputation for attacking historic Christianity.


R. Albert Mohler Jr.


The 8,500-word essay begins, “They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation. They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch.”
Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, a Southern Baptist, asked why national news magazines do not level similar criticism at adherents of other world religions.
“The national news magazines never seem to target Islam. When was the last time Newsweek or Time published an attack piece on Muhammad during Ramadan?” Starnes wrote in an online commentary. “I wonder if Newsweek would have the courage to publish ‘The Koran: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin’? I wonder if Newsweek would allow a feminist to weigh in on what the Islamic holy book says about women? Perhaps Newsweek could illustrate their story with cartoons of Muhammad – or maybe photographs of jihadists beading Christians in the name of Allah? But we all know that won’t happen, right Newsweek?”
Starnes’ mention of illustrations likely referenced Newsweek’s decision to accompany its article with photos of snake handlers, televangelist Pat Robertson and the infamous protestors of Westboro Baptist Church who have picketed funerals of American soldiers killed in action. A drawing included with the article depicts David holding Goliath’s severed head.

Rebuttals of Newsweek

The Newsweek article presents as fact a list of supposed errors, contradictions and problems in the Bible. Though all of Eichenwald’s assertions have been addressed by conservative biblical scholars, he does not mention that in the essay.
In his blog post, Mohler countered some of Eichenwald’s incorrect claims. Among them:

  • “No television preacher has ever read the Bible. Neither has any evangelical politician. Neither has the pope. Neither have I. And neither have you. At best, we’ve all read a bad translation – a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.”

Mohler responded, “No knowledgeable evangelical claims that the Bibles we read in English are anything other than translations. But it is just wrong and reckless to claim that today’s best translations are merely ‘a translation of translations of translations.’ That just isn’t so – not even close.”
Charles Quarles, professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, added in written comments to Baptist Press, “Several excellent translations of the Bible are available today. Many evangelical scholars read the Bible in the original languages, prepare their lectures and sermons from the Hebrew and Greek texts, and constantly consult ancient manuscripts of these texts. I frequently read directly from facsimiles of ancient biblical texts like Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and p46. The author of this article is clearly unaware of the outstanding biblical research conducted by Christian scholars or conveniently chose to ignore it.”

  • “About 400 years passed between the writing of the first Christian manuscripts and their compilation into the New Testament,” Eichenwald writes. “(That’s the same amount of time between the arrival of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower and today.) The first books of the Old Testament were written 1,000 years before that. In other words, some 1,500 years passed between the day the first biblical author put stick to clay and when the books that would become the New Testament were chosen.”

Mohler responded that Eichenwald “grossly exaggerates the time between the writing of the New Testament documents and the establishment of a functional canon.” The apostle Peter referred to Paul’s writings as already regarded among the “scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16), and an ancient document written by Papias of Hierapolis reveals that the canonical Gospels existed as a collection by A.D. 110, according to Christian History Magazine.

  • The Koiné Greek of the New Testament “was written in what is known as scriptio continua – meaning no spaces between words and no punctuation,” Eichenwald writes. “So, a sentence like weshouldgoeatmom could be interpreted as ‘We should go eat, Mom,’ or ‘We should go eat Mom.’ Sentences can have different meaning depending on where the spaces are placed.”

Mohler acknowledged that the New Testament was indeed written without spaces or punctuation. But he observed, “There is no text in the Bible in which this is truly a problem. Context determines the meaning, and no mom is in any danger of being eaten due to confused punctuation.”
Eichenwald also suggests that scripture does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity, and he criticizes Christians who believe the Bible condemns homosexuality.
Mohler countered that while there is not an isolated proof text that says God is one essence and three persons, “the doctrine of the Trinity [is] drawn from the totality of the New Testament.” Regarding homosexuality, Mohler noted that Eichenwald “appears unable to deny ... that Romans 1:27 identifies men lusting after other men as sinful.”
Various Christian scholars have countered additional claims of error presented as fact in the Newsweek article. For example, Eichenwald writes that “contradictions abound” between the accounts of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke.
But Thor Madsen, professor of New Testament, ethics and philosophy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a Dec. 23 BP article, “Matthew’s infancy narrative would contradict Luke’s only if, in some respect, Matthew says ‘A’ and Luke says ‘not A.’ But the two accounts don’t differ in that kind of way. What we see, rather, are differences arising from the standards by which Matthew chooses to include information not given by Luke, and vice versa.”

Politicians “hypocrites”

Eichenwald names conservative politicians Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal as examples of Christians who apply the Bible incorrectly and hypocritically. Bachmann “should shut up and sit down” if she takes seriously the teaching of 1 Timothy 2:12 that women should “stay silent,” Eichenwald writes. He adds, “Every female politician who insists the New Testament is the inerrant word of God needs to resign immediately or admit she is a hypocrite.”
Mohler countered that Eichenwald “seems to believe that the teachings about women teaching and leading in 1 Timothy would apply to a woman in political office, failing to read that the text is clearly speaking of order within the Christian assembly.”
Steve Lemke, provost at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP in written comments that Eichenwald “grossly mischarcterizes both Christians and the Bible. He primarily cites non-Christian and liberal scholars, so their opinions predictably challenge biblical inerrancy. Eichenwald is not writing in an area of his expertise, and evangelical scholars such as Dan Wallace [of Dallas Theological Seminary] and Al Mohler have already shown that his outrageous claims are devoid of accuracy.”
In the end, “this article is likely to do far more damage to Newsweek” than Christianity,” Mohler wrote. “Kurt Eichenwald probably has little to lose among his friends at Vanity Fair, but this article is nothing less than an embarrassment. To take advantage of Newsweek’s title – it so misrepresents the truth, it’s a sin.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

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1/5/2015 12:44:09 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Roy Cooper will ask high court to hear ultrasound case

January 5 2015 by Courtney Crandell, World News Service

A federal appeals court gave the pro-abortion movement an early gift just before Christmas, striking down a North Carolina law requiring abortionists to show their patients ultrasound images of the babies they are about to kill.
In December, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to block the law, known as the North Carolina Woman’s Right to Know Act. The appeals court ruled the law violates free speech rights because it requires doctors not only to show abortion-minded women their ultrasounds but also describe the image to them.
“The state freely admits that the purpose and anticipated effect … is to convince women seeking abortions to change their minds or reassess their decisions,” the 37-page ruling said. “The state cannot commandeer the doctor-patient relationship to compel a physician to express its preference to the patient.”
The law also requires abortionists to offer women the opportunity to hear their babies’ heartbeat.
Three other states – Louisiana, Texas, and Wisconsin – also require abortionists to describe the ultrasound image to women. Twenty-one states require abortionists to offer or provide women the opportunity to view their ultrasounds. Courts upheld Texas’ ultrasound law, but struck down the law in Oklahoma.
Pro-abortion groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America originally challenged the North Carolina law in 2011. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards hailed the court’s decision last week as a “major victory for women.”
But women deserve complete information about their pregnancies, said North Carolina Right to Life President Barbara Holt. She hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually hear an appeal.
“It is absolutely vital that a woman, at this most crucial life-and-death juncture, be provided all the information possible about the abortion procedure and the development of her unborn child,” she told National Right to Life News Today. “Simply put, the abortion decision cannot be undone. Women deserve all the facts.”
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court based on other, conflicting court decisions. “Monday’s opinion holding North Carolina’s law unconstitutional is now in conflict with … a case involving a similar Texas law which the 5th Circuit Court upheld,” Cooper's spokeswoman, Noelle Talley, told the Charlotte Observer.
When performing other risky surgeries, doctors provide complete information about the procedure. Abortionists shouldn’t be exempted from this standard, said Casy Mattox, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. “Because this law places the best interests of women and their children first, we hope that it will ultimately be upheld,” he said.

1/5/2015 12:28:00 PM by Courtney Crandell, World News Service | with 0 comments

Huckabee ends TV show, weighing presidential bid

January 5 2015 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Former Arkansas governor and Baptist pastor Mike Huckabee ended his Fox News TV show Jan. 3 in view of a possible run for the White House in 2016.
Huckabee finished second in 2008 to Sen. John McCain for the Republican nomination to face then-Sen. Barack Obama.


Mike Huckabee

He is a former pastor of Southern Baptist churches in Pine Bluff and Texarkana, Ark., and a former president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention; a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia; and a former student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.
"As much as I have loved doing the show, I cannot bring myself to rule out another presidential run," Huckabee, 59, said in a news release prior to his Jan.3 “Huckabee” airing. Huckabee has hosted the weekend show for the past six and a half years.
Huckabee delved into politics, faith and family values in the hour-long talk show, which was taped in New York for airing on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
National media quickly reported on Huckabee’s decision; a CNN headline stated, “Huckabee gets serious about a second presidential run.”
Huckabee, in the news release, said the cable TV show had been “the ride of a lifetime.... But I also realize that God hasn't put me on earth just to have a good time or to make a good living, but rather has put me on earth to try to make a good life.”
He acknowledged "a great deal of speculation” about his intentions for 2016. “If I were willing to absolutely rule that out, I could keep doing this show,” he said. “But I can't make such a declaration.”
Huckabee said he will make a decision in late spring, “but the continued chatter has put Fox News into a position that is not fair to them nor is it possible for me to openly determine political and financial support to justify a race. The honorable thing to do at this point is to end my tenure here at Fox.”
The RealClearPolitics.com website, in an analysis of various polls for the Iowa caucuses in February 2016, placed Huckabee in the lead with an average of 15.7 percent among respondents from July through October, followed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2012, at 9.5 percent; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, 8.5 percent; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 8.3 percent; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 8.0 percent; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, 6.0 percent; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 5.8 percent; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, 5.8 percent; and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, 5.5 percent.
Huckabee served as Arkansas governor from 1996-2007 and as lieutenant governor from 1993-96. As a pastor, he led Beech Street Baptist Church in Texarkana from 1986-92 and Immanuel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff from 1980-86. He was president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention from 1989-91.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)

1/5/2015 12:22:27 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Pastors see need amid culture of ritual sacrifice

January 5 2015 by Rolan Way, International Mission Board

A group of Southern Baptist pastors squeezed their way into a small area with crowds of Hindu faithful to watch the ritual slaughter of goats at the Kali temple in Kolkata, India. Those with cameras were swatted with batons by temple security guards adamant the group not capture images of the beheadings.
That scene, combined with earlier scenes of idol worship and ritualistic cleansing in other South Asian cities, was a clear reminder of why these pastors – which included Fred Luter, who was Southern Baptist Convention president at the time – had journeyed there. The Old Testament was played out right in front of them, real and tangible, even brutal. But they had come to tell South Asians that the fulfillment of the gospel in Jesus changed everything – for all.
“We as believers, we understand that the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God – [our] Lord Jesus Christ dying on the cross – is the best and is the only one sacrifice that has been done in history,” said Humberto Gonzalez, minister of First Euless en Español, a Spanish-speaking ministry of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas. “So we don’t have to kill more animals. Jesus died for all of us.”


Gonzalez reflected the sentiment from his pastor colleagues who traveled to South Asia from African American, Korean, Chinese and Hispanic Southern Baptist congregations across the United States. Team members said they were profoundly impacted by seeing the effort people go to for a religious experience at the Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim places of worship they witnessed on the trip.
The experience served as a reminder that being part of a New Testament church doesn’t involve building earthly establishments to get God’s attention or involving a priestly caste system to beg Him for redemption for others. The joy of the Christian faith is that believers know they already have been redeemed by Christ on the cross and through His subsequent resurrection. Christians are part of the Kingdom of God, no animal sacrifice or candles needed to atone for sins – just placing their faith in Him.
Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, noted “too many times we get so interested in building our own kingdoms in our city, in our state, but we’ve got to look at the bigger picture.
“Again, this is one sacred effort: all of us coming together to impact the world, not just our city, not just our state, not just our nation, but to impact the world ... with the Word of God.”
And the Kingdom of God is growing in South Asia despite the sheer number of people spiritually lost and dying without access to His Good News. There are more unengaged, unreached people groups (those without an active gospel witness) in South Asia than in the rest of the world combined. More than 1.6 billion of the world’s peoples are from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka or the Maldives.
After visiting areas where churches are being started, pastor Joseph Chan of Arizona’s Tucson Chinese Baptist Church said he is impressed with the growth of new churches in South Asia through the Holy Spirit’s leading and the obedience and perseverance of Christian workers and local pastors.
“It seems that when things are difficult, when the environment is not as friendly or maybe to some extent hostile, that’s where the Kingdom of God and the gospel flourish even more so,” he said.

See and hear some of what the pastors witnessed:

(EDITOR’S NOTE – The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches support approximately 4,800 international missionaries in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at imb.org/offering, where there are resources to promote the offering.)

1/5/2015 12:07:34 PM by Rolan Way, International Mission Board | with 0 comments

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