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ERLC, Ministry Grid partner to provide ethics training

November 20 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Southern Baptist ethics and leadership training entities are partnering to help pastors and churches address ethical issues from a gospel perspective.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) announced Nov. 6 a partnership with Ministry Grid, a service of Lifeway Christian Resources, to provide training for pastors and other church leaders. Ministry Grid is LifeWay’s year-old, web-based video service that enables churches of all sizes to train pastoral staff and lay leaders in customizable ways.
The first three ERLC courses provided through Ministry Grid offer training on sexual ethics, addressing such issues as marriage, homosexuality and pornography. Those courses are: “Embracing Sexuality in a Sex-saturated World;” “Ministry in a Sex-saturated World;” and “Family Matters in a Sex-saturated World.” Another course on sexual ethics is scheduled to be available early in 2015, according to the ERLC.
The videos feature training by ERLC President Russell D. Moore and members of the ERLC Leadership Network Council, such as J.D. Greear, lead pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area, and Matt Carter, pastor of preaching and vision at Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas.
The ERLC is “delighted to work with Ministry Grid to produce high-quality, low-cost training to pastors and church leaders on sexual ethics,” Daniel Darling, the ERLC’s vice president for communications, said. “Our mission is to serve the church by helping leaders apply the gospel to moral and ethical issues in the culture. Ministry Grid is the best platform for allowing churches of all sizes to access this training.”
Todd Adkins, LifeWay’s director of leadership, said Ministry Grid is “excited to partner with Dr. Moore and the ERLC to provide much needed training to pastors and churches on some of the most important issues facing the church today. “
Ministry Grid already has about 400 courses (4,000 individual videos) on a wide variety of topics for churches to use in their training, Barnabas Piper said at a dinner introducing the service during the ERLC’s National Conference on marriage and homosexuality Oct. 27-29 in Nashville. Each course includes from four to a dozen videos, he told about 30 pastors and others attending the conference.
“We exist to serve churches by facilitating training and making it more accessible for every role in the church,” said Piper, brand manager for Ministry Grid.
Only one in four churches in the United States has some form of training or development, according to a LifeWay survey. Ministry Grid seeks to solve the problems that prevent churches from providing training, Piper said.
He said churches report that the major problems with conducting training are:

  • Leaders don’t know how to develop a plan for training.

  • Neither trainers nor trainees have time.

  • The perceived cost is prohibitive.

Ministry Grid addresses those concerns, Piper told the attendees, by providing skillful training through videos that can be accessed at any time by trainees while making it affordable through tiered pricing based on a church’s average weekly attendance. It also enables a pastor or church leader to customize the training for his church and to facilitate and supervise it, he said.
Such training is necessary, Piper said in citing Eph. 4:11-13, because God has uniquely gifted each Christian and given pastors and other church leaders the responsibility for equipping believers to carry out ministry. Also, training has “a direct impact on the health and the unity of the church,” he said. Trained members are better equipped and have a sense of both engagement and investment in the church, he said.
Information on Ministry Grid is available at http://www.ministrygrid.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

11/20/2014 12:28:50 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Religion survey babble confuses 103% of readers. Here’s why.

November 20 2014 by Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service

Reading religion surveys can seem like confronting the Tower of Babel: stacked questions, confusing terms, unscientific methodology.
It gets even crazier when results are contradictory. How does that happen?
Let us explain

Some surveys lean like the Tower of Pisa

The Pledge of Allegiance is a perfect example.
There’s almost always a flap over how many Americans do – or don’t – want the words “under God” kicked out of the Pledge of Allegiance. Indeed, On Nov. 19 a court in Monmouth, N.J., will hear the case of the American Humanist Association battling the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District to have schools edit out mention of God.
The humanists claim 34 percent of Americans agree with their view. But, wait. What about a survey conducted earlier this year by LifeWay Research, a Christian research agency? It found that only 8 percent would cut God from the Pledge.


Why four times the difference? Look to the poll language.
LifeWay asked: “Should the words ‘under God’ be removed from or remain in the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America?” That’s a straight-up question with no preface.
The humanists’ survey, however, began with a bit of pointed Pledge history – before getting to the (loaded) question:
“For its first 62 years, the Pledge of Allegiance did not include the phrase ‘under God.’ During the Cold War, in 1954, the phrase ‘one nation, indivisible … ‘ was changed to read ‘one nation, under God, indivisible … ‘. Some people feel this phrase in our national pledge should focus on unity rather than religion.
“Do you believe the Pledge of Allegiance should:

  1. Return to the unchanged version: ‘one nation, indivisible … ‘

  2. Continue with the changed version: ‘one nation, under God, indivisible … ‘”

This is not kosher poll methodology, say experts.
“Always ask yourself why this group sponsored this survey,” advised David Kinnaman, president of the Christian research company Barna Group. “Read the questions and see if the responses are prompted. What is the information asking me to fear or to love? Are they trying to elicit one of those emotions from me?”

Watch the labels

Researchers on religion and politics are fascinated with the evangelical vote. Is it growing? Shrinking? Trending X or Y direction?
But “evangelical” is one of the slipperiest words out there. Since every survey group sets its own definition, results can confuse more than they enlighten.
This has long been true. In 1998, Gallup asked people if they were “evangelical or born again” and came up with 47 percent, says survey research veteran Conrad Hackett, a demographer at the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.
But University of Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith came up with 7 percent that same year. Smith counted as evangelical only Protestants who attend church regularly or say religion is extremely important in their lives and who choose evangelical from a list of possible identities including fundamentalist, mainline, liberal or something else, said Hackett.
Pinning down religious identity in an era when 20 percent are “nones” – people who say they have no particular faith brand – is like trying to climb a greased pole. Neither can you assume that a label reflects reality, or that identity, belief and actions align. Oy!
Speaking of “Oy”… Pew Research dealt with the complex question of “who is a Jew” by allowing people to define themselves by religion, culture and family ancestry. However, there’s no parallel spot for cultural Christians who have little or no commitment to Christian theology or religious practice.
No survey has a “Christian Lite” category. Maybe they should. When Kinnaman at Barna Group looked at the mix of belief and behavior and church involvement, his organization’s survey found that 38 percent of self-labeled Christians were essentially like nones in their political and cultural outlook.

People fib

Raise your hand if the weight listed on your driver’s license is correct – or ever was. Well, we fib on surveys, too.
When Philip Brenner, a University of Michigan research fellow with the Institute for Social Research, examined hundreds of surveys and time diaries, he found Americans over-report their church attendance by 10 percent to 18 percent.
Why? We give answers that fit our self-image, Brenner said. We reframe the question to be: “Are you the sort of person who attends religious services?” Sure we are.

Methodological madness

We’re all bombarded with online opportunities to answer surveys. Fun – and totally unscientific. Put no credence in the results because they’re in no way representative of anyone except people who are online (no surveying the Amish) and who may have a point of view to promote.
4chan, the anonymous online forum that delights in provoking mischief, recently upended Time magazine’s fourth annual “word banishment” online poll by encouraging people to hate on the word “feminist.”
The magazine editor later apologized for including the word “feminist” – but not for employing a survey method that’s a gateway to troll heaven.
The old-fashioned randomly dialed phone survey is biting the dust. Why? For one, consider whether you even use your smartphone for phone calls anymore. And if you’re under 30, start by Googling “landline.”
So major research firms are moving to elaborately devised panels of people drawn randomly to represent American diversity who are willing to reply online or by mail to surveys. Pew Research devised an American Trends Panel, carefully assessed so everyone isn’t the same age or inclination.
There’s a hitch, however. You can’t track change over time in surveys if the researchers changed methodology, too.
Pew Research recently released a panel-based survey on online and offline religion that found 46 percent of U.S. adults say they saw someone sharing “something about their faith” on the Internet in the last week.
Is that a greater number than five years ago? We can’t tell. Earlier surveys about religion and online behavior were phone surveys.
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for Religion News Service, specializing in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics, and manager for social media.)

11/20/2014 12:18:07 PM by Cathy Lynn Grossman, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Missions ‘just got personal’ for pastor Tony Mathews

November 20 2014 by Kate Gregory, IMB/Baptist Press

Tony Mathews had thought international missions wasn't for everyone, that as a pastor his focus should be on the local church.

North Garland Baptist Fellowship, where he has served for 22 years, supported Southern Baptist missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program. Members of the Texas church had gone on international missions trips, which the pastor had supported – from a distance.

That changed in 2012 when he went on his first missions trip to help lead activities for children of Southern Baptist missionaries in Africa.


IMB Photo by Elijah Wilson
Pastor Tony Mathews is leading North Garland Baptist Fellowship in Texas to greater involvement in missions, by partnering with IMB missionaries to reach people groups in Madagascar and Ecuador, as well as supporting them collectively through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program.

Trying to fathom what it was like for them to live away from the comforts and familiarity of home, Mathews asked one of the children if she wanted to live in the United States again to have closer access to places like restaurants and theme parks. The 9-year-old girl said no. When he asked why, she responded: Because my best friend here doesn't know the Lord.

Hearing that clarity of purpose from one so young impacted Mathews. While he was still in Africa, he rewrote North Garland's new members packet to re-emphasize missions, "to build it into our DNA, not just in the church but within each member: 'We do missions.'"

Talking with the children's parents, the missionaries, face to face also changed how Mathews saw the world, and himself.

"I was overwhelmed hearing the missionaries' stories – hearing about the lives they've touched and going places where others didn't go," Mathews said. Through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, "our pennies, our nickels, our dollars enable them to share. And through that, we're a part of what they're doing."

International Mission Board (IMB) missionary Adam Hailes showed the pastor photos of a people group in Madagascar and told him about the opportunities and challenges of reaching them. It was the same people group, the Antandroy, that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth had recently adopted. Mathews' church in Garland, a suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth, decided to partner with the Hailes to reach the Antandroy and send ministry teams to Madagascar.

When Mathews returned from Africa, he made it his mission to enlist other African-American pastors in missions trips, knowing from personal experience how enriching a pastor's personal involvement in international missions could be to a local church.

As a result, Mathews and a group of other Dallas-area African-American pastors began partnering with IMB missionaries Johnny and Donna Maust to reach Afro-Ecuadorians along the South American country's coast.

Again, it was that personal connection with a missionary that made missions real for Mathews.
"Just getting to know Johnny and to see his heart for the Afro-Ecuadorians is encouraging – he'll go anywhere and talk with people about the Lord," said Mathews, realizing that willingness is what embodies missions.

"Now, I desire that everyone craves to be a part of it," Mathews said. "I want to show my people that God is not only their personal God, but He is also a global God and we need to be there to share that news with others."

Read related story "Reaching 'the people of the thorns' in Madagascar" here.

Watch Pastor Tony Mathews discuss his church's involvement with missions around the world:

(EDITOR’S NOTE -  This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Nov. 30-Dec. 7 with the theme of "One Sacred Effort Find your place in God's story" from Matthew 28:19-20. 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. This year's goal is $175 million.)

11/20/2014 12:05:38 PM by Kate Gregory, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Warren at Vatican: be ‘winsome under attack’

November 20 2014 by Baptist Press Staff

Christians must defend marriage by facing opponents winsomely and demonstrating that God’s plan of one man and one woman for life promotes human flourishing, Rick Warren told international religious leaders at the Vatican Nov. 18.
Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in the Los Angeles area, said he supports God’s unchanging model for marriage and opposes gay marriage because “the only way to always be relevant is to be eternal. What is in style goes out of style. But no revolution lasts. Every lie eventually crumbles under its own deception. Cultures rise and fall. Cultures come and go. It isn’t necessary to be on the right side of culture. It is necessary to be on the right side.”
Along with Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Warren provided an evangelical Protestant viewpoint on the complementarity of man and woman during the second day of a Vatican-sponsored colloquium on marriage. About 350 religious, academic and civil society leaders from 23 countries and various world religions gathered at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church for the Nov. 17-19 event.
Warren said he planned to speak on “Why Marriage Matters” but changed his topic to “What Must We Do?” after the 27 speakers on the program before him explained thoroughly the importance of traditional marriage. He outlined action steps for leaders to take in defense of marriage following the Vatican gathering. Among them:


Rick Warren (bottom right) was among 350 international religious leaders gathered at the Vatican Nov. 17-19 to discuss the defense of traditional marriage.


Believe what Jesus taught about marriage.

Male-female marriage is God’s idea, not man’s, and sex was created for marriage, Warren said.
“Even if you disbelieve the Bible, every human body, every living person, is a witness and testimony to God’s intended purpose for sex,” Warren said, according to his manuscript. “Sex was not created for recreation, but for the connection of a husband and wife and the procreation of life.”


Celebrate healthy marriages.

“We will convert more opponents by being winsome and positive about the beauty and joy of marriage than by being negative about immorality,” Warren said.
Churches should encourage people with happy marriages to share their testimonies, he said. Highlighting the benefits of marriage is also important, including healthier children, increased safety for women and greater economic stability, Warren said.


Engage every media to promote marriage.

“Right now, the church is being out-marketed by opponents of marriage,” Warren said. “The minority view is getting the majority of media attention. Right now, Christians are known more for what we are against than for what we are for. Whichever side tells the best stories wins.”
To stem the cultural tide in favor of gay marriage, Christians should promote “tasteful” movies and television shows that celebrate marriage, Warren said. Media produced by marriage proponents should portray “the joys and benefits of healthy marriages and the hard work it takes to maintain a great marriage.”
Social media should be used “to mentor the next generation” regarding marriage, he said. Warren personally uses nine social media channels, he said.


Face attackers with joy and winsomeness.

“Culture has accepted two lies: that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must hate them or are afraid of them [and] that to love someone means that you must agree with everything they believe or do,” Warren said. “Both are nonsense.”
Citing the Bible’s commands to “overcome evil with good” and “bless those who curse you,” Warren said, “Attackers are not the enemy; they are the mission field. Jesus died for them.”
To “stay winsome under attack” believers must be willing to face ridicule for the truth and remember that they “live for an audience of one,” he said.
Traditional marriage advocates must also give people hope that a biblical marriage is attainable and teach the purposes of marriage, Warren said. He listed among marriage’s purposes eliminating loneliness, channeling sexual expression and multiplying the human race.
But the deepest purpose of marriage is to illustrate “the mystery of Christ’s love for His bride and body,” the church, Warren said.
“No other relationship, including the parent-child relationship, can picture this intimate union,” he said. “To redefine marriage would destroy the picture that God intends for marriage to portray. We cannot cave on this issue.”
Warren concluded, “The church must never be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by applause, frustrated by problems, debilitated by distractions or intimidated by evil. We must keep running the race with our eyes on the goal, not on those shouting from the sideline. We must be Spirit-led, purpose-driven and mission-focused so that we cannot be bought, will not be compromised and shall not quit until we finish the race.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

11/20/2014 11:49:22 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments

First believer opens door to gospel among people group

November 20 2014 by IMB Staff

Jon Gerwig* was discouraged – it had been 16 months of sharing the gospel, but not one person had put their faith in Jesus.
Gerwig, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, came to East Asia in 2004 to work with the Iron Pea* people group, which had no known churches and only a handful of believers. He and his coworkers use a new method of ministry called “Scripture planting,” which integrates Bible translation with real-time church planting, evangelism and discipleship.
Although they used resources such as a chronological gospel story and Bible recordings, “it didn’t seem like anyone was interested,” Gerwig said.
In 2006, Gerwig took a team of Southern Baptist volunteers to share the gospel in an Iron Pea county – but the first day, no one responded. The next morning, the team prayed together and set out into a new area.
As they walked along a mountain path, they met a man named Solomon.* He asked the group what they were doing, and Gerwig told him they were just climbing the mountain and learning about his people’s culture.


IMB photo by Laura Fielding
A man and woman work in their fields in an ethnic minority area of East Asia. Many of the Iron Pea* minority group live secluded in the mountains, where their poverty level is high and their education level is low, to eke out a living as farmers. Many Iron Peas, particularly women and children, do not speak the trade language.


“He looked at us straight away and said, ‘That mountain behind me is boring, and besides, I think you came here to see me,’” Gerwig recalled.
Solomon invited the group into his home, and there they shared the gospel story – and he immediately believed in Jesus. Solomon then shared his own story.
“[Solomon] knew that there was a most high God, but he didn’t know who He was,” Gerwig said. “So every day for 20 years he had been praying, ‘God, send somebody to me to explain who you are.’
“And he looked at me and he said, ‘And God answered that prayer today when he sent you to me.’”
As they talked, interested neighbors crowded around to see the visitors. Solomon did not waste time – he told the crowd, “This is my friend from America. Now, look at me. I have a story I want to tell you,” Gerwig recalled, and Solomon shared the gospel.
Over the next several months, Solomon led his wife and one of his children to faith in Jesus, and by the beginning of 2007 there were eight believers in his village. But the village’s witch doctor saw these changes as a threat. 
“He told Solomon that if he didn’t stop sharing [the gospel], within three days he was going to put a curse on him, and Solomon would die,” Gerwig said. “Solomon didn’t stop sharing.”
On day four – after he should have died – people in the village asked Solomon, ‘What do you know that we don’t know?’ Again, Solomon shared the gospel, “this time with more power,” Gerwig said, and 80 people believed in Jesus.
On day five, people from a nearby village came to Solomon and asked the same question. Again, Solomon shared – and 60 people believed.
Over the next nine months, Gerwig and his team trained these new believers in a basic discipleship plan and, in September 2007, the first church among the Iron Pea people was started.
Since then, the gospel has spread throughout Iron Pea communities. Multiple “second-generation” churches, which are churches started by Solomon’s church, and several third-generation churches have been started. Today, there are 28 churches and approximately 3,000 believers among the Iron Peas.
“The power of the gospel was apparent in the life of Solomon,” Gerwig said.
*Name changed


For the Iron Pea* people, hearing worship songs and Bible stories in their heart language can be a powerful experience. $1,000 helps provide a radio program that speaks to the hearts of the Iron Pea peoples. Give here.

11/20/2014 11:39:08 AM by IMB Staff | with 0 comments

Keith Getty at conf.: ‘Teach theology through story’

November 19 2014 by RuthAnne Irvin, SBTS

Music ministers are responsible to teach their congregations theology through song, according to songwriter Keith Getty at the Doxology and Theology conference, Nov. 13-15, hosted on campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Songs portraying the incredible beauty about God are what the church needs, Getty said. The conference featured well-known musicians and music ministers, including Getty, Matt Papa, Bob Kauflin, Matt Carter, Harold Best, Matt Boswell and many others. Various bands led worship throughout the event, including the seminary’s Norton Hall Band, to Indelible Grace and others.


SBTS photo
Songwriter Keith Getty speaks during the Doxology and Theology conference at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Nov. 13-15.

Getty led both a brief talk and a breakout session during the conference. He discussed songwriting and ways music ministers can use the Christmas season to teach theologically rich hymns. A problem in the church today, Getty said, is that people think hymns, in their original length, are too dense for congregations to sing. If churches think that about music, he said, what does that teach the people about renewing their minds through study?
“Teach songs worth learning,” he said, telling attendees that one way he writes is to teach theology through story, which becomes a bridge for his music and ministry. For songwriters, he encouraged them to “aim to write hymns you can carry with you through life.” Hymns that endure time are not only rich with theology but a melody that transcends time.
“If we’re going to be critical about our theology we have to be critical about our art, too,” he said, noting the importance of writing good music and lyrics.
In his breakout session, Getty discussed ways music ministers can take advantage of the Christmas season in their local congregation. He discussed five things to remember about Christmas music: churches need to sing the gospel through the songs they choose, immerse themselves and build the traditions of the church, target congregational singing, promote art, and reach beyond the walls of the church.
Best, emeritus professor of music and dean emeritus of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and led a session about the labor of a musician. He told attendees the “true labor of a church musician means first of all returning to the basics. There’s a difference between labor and what labor produces. It varies from person to person, talent to talent, parish to parish,” he said.
Best, author of Music Through the Eyes of Faith, encouraged music ministers to ask themselves if they are laboring in worship or management.
“Examine your labor,” he said.
“It’ll always be daunting, but you will find rest, Christ’s rest, if and when you submit your labor to him for instruction, for reproof and correction, so that each of you will be by his actual promise thoroughly furnished into every good labor.”
Popular musician Matt Papa led a breakout session about aesthetics and music. “Good art always balances mystery and clarity,” he said. He defined real art and ministry as incarnation, or taking the mysterious and making it accessible.
Papa offered 10 criteria for judging a work of art. These criteria included wonder, clarity, complexity, truthfulness, authenticity, excellence, story, suitability, helpfulness and worship. He encouraged artists and ministers to ask themselves how well they feed their congregations, noting, like Getty, the importance of doctrinally sound songs for churches.

11/19/2014 2:52:46 PM by RuthAnne Irvin, SBTS | with 0 comments

Professor, evangelism chair practices Everyday Evangelism

November 19 2014 by Rob Collingsworth, Southern Baptist TEXAN

Matt Queen, assistant professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was installed in the school’s prestigious L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism at the beginning of the fall semester. Queen is the eighth professor to hold the distinguished position but the first among them with an earned doctorate in evangelism.
The history of the Scarborough Chair, as well as Southwestern’s legacy of training in evangelism, goes back over a century.
The school’s founding president, B.H. Carroll, installed L.R. Scarborough as the first occupant of the “Chair of Fire” in 1908. The nickname stemmed from Carroll’s preferred designation for the newly created chair of evangelism, the first of its kind in the world.
In keeping with the wishes of Carroll, the Chair of Fire has been reserved for professors who displayed a particular fervor for evangelism.
“That all the work of this chair may not be mere theory and historical delay,” Carroll writes, “the occupant of this chair must himself be a practical field evangelist all the time illustrating, between lecture series, the power of his office in great revival meetings.”
Queen’s doctorate is in applied theology with a specialization in evangelism. He received this degree and his master of divinity (pastoral track with biblical languages) from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. The Asheville, N.C., native received his bachelor’s degree in religion with a minor in biblical languages from Mars Hill College. He was licensed (1995) and ordained (1999) at Ridgeway Baptist Church in Candler.


Southern Baptist TEXAN photo
Matt Queen, right, shares the gospel in neighborhoods around Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He was recently installed as the L.R. Scarborough Chair of Evangelism at Southwestern.


He was minister of youth and music at Turkey Creek Baptist Church in Pisgah Forest (1995-1997) and Union Chapel Baptist Church in Zebulon (1997-2002). He then served as pastor of Union Chapel until November 2006 before joining the staff of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro as associate pastor for discipleship and evangelism (2006-2010). He served as a teaching assistant at Mars Hill College and at Southeastern before becoming the Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism Teaching Fellow (1999-2002) at Southeastern. He was an adjunct instructor of evangelism at Southeastern College (2004-2005), adjunct instructor of discipleship (2010) at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va.
In his four years at Southwestern, Queen has proved to be just such an evangelist. However, he says he is fully aware of the weight that accompanies the historic Chair of Fire.
Referring to his new assignment as the “Holy Grail for evangelism professors,” Queen described the history of the position first held by Scarborough.
“Scarborough was the first evangelism professor in the world. He was a preacher of the people who passionately shared the gospel and inspired people with his stories of soul-winning. His successor E.D. Head was evangelistic but is primarily remembered for his passion for scholarship.”
According to Queen, James Eaves and Malcolm McDow were both “compassionate men who loved souls.” However, they each held the chair for only a year or two during a brief period when it rotated among the chair of the seminary’s evangelism department.
“C.E. Autrey was thoroughly Baptist, but he had a broader base in his evangelistic leadership among evangelicals because of his association with Billy Graham,” Queen explained. “He left Southwestern to lead the evangelism department at the then-Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board).”
It was under Roy Fish that the Chair of Fire was officially named for Scarborough. “Roy Fish had a love for studying evangelism historically, and in many ways contributed to an ongoing history of evangelism among Southern Baptists,” Queen said. “If Scarborough’s evangelistic influence in theological education was that he introduced the study of evangelism in seminaries and divinity schools as the first professor of evangelism, Fish’s evangelistic influence is in the students he taught who now serve as professors of evangelism.”
Queen pointed out that Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, his immediate predecessor in the Chair of Fire, has championed evangelism in his role as president at three different schools: Criswell College, Southeastern Seminary and Southwestern.
“Exactly like Fish’s influence on theological education, Patterson has trained numerous Southern Baptist professors who are evangelistic in their places of service, as well as beyond [Southern Baptist Convention] entities,” Queen said. “On a personal note, Paige Patterson has had the most influential impact on me in my practice of personal evangelism. His example, teaching and expectation for faculty to be soul-winners have made me who I am today.”
Known by those on campus for his winsome and approachable personality, Queen has continued in the tradition of the previous occupants of the Chair of Fire by displaying evangelistic passion both inside and outside of the classroom. Queen was instrumental in the seminary’s “Taking the Hill” initiative, a plan conceived in 2009 by Patterson, the then-occupant of the Chair of Fire. Prioritizing the importance of evangelism both far and near, “Taking the Hill” and its follow-up initiative “No Soul Left Behind” proposed to share the gospel with every household within a one-mile radius of the seminary campus – some 6,700 homes. Thanks largely in part to Queen’s leadership and passion, the seminary accomplished this goal by the end of 2012.
The seminary’s next evangelism initiative, “Going the Second Mile,” extends that same theme to include every household within a two-mile radius. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Queen leads groups of students to share the gospel at least once every week in the area immediately surrounding the seminary.
In his newly published book Everyday Evangelism, Queen lays out how to establish a culture of evangelism within your church. Groups from Southwestern have also been made available to do evangelism outreach and training at churches across the state of Texas.
Twice in the last year, Queen has led a group of Southwestern students to Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla. The students trained and led church members to share the gospel personally in the area around the church. Between the two trips, more than 20 individuals expressed faith in Christ for the first time.
“We chose Southwestern because we know that Southwestern has a hot heart to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people,” pastor Stephen Rummage said.
“We know what they’re doing in their community around Southwestern Seminary to reach people with the gospel, so we wanted a little bit of that spirit here in our community as we seek to reach the people around us with the gospel.
“I’ve known Matt Queen for a long time. He was one of my students when I was a seminary professor. I know about his commitment to evangelism and to personal soul-winning, so I really wanted our students here to have an opportunity up close to find out what it’s like to be around people like Matt and like the students who are studying with him at Southwestern, who are sharing the gospel diligently, boldly and through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
In writing of Scarborough, Carroll penned these words that also describe the most recent occupant of the Chair of Fire: “His office continues each year from January 1 to December 31. He is now on the field. The Lord is blessing him. ... Like John the Baptist, he is both a burning and a shining light – not light without heat as fungus fox fire, not the aurora borealis, brilliant indeed, but melting no icebergs, but light with heat.”

11/19/2014 2:38:25 PM by Rob Collingsworth, Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments

Moore at Vatican: Gospel vital in marriage

November 19 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

The Southern Baptist Convention’s lead ethicist told international religious leaders Tuesday (Nov. 18) at the Vatican they should defend man-woman marriage for the common good, but Christians also must champion it for the sake of the gospel.
Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), provided an evangelical Protestant viewpoint on the complementarity of man and woman during the second day of a Vatican-sponsored colloquium on marriage. About 350 religious, academic and civil society leaders from 23 countries gathered at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church for the Nov. 17-19 event.
Speaking to representatives of at least 15 religions, Moore said he joins them – despite their theological differences – in recognizing that marriage and family constitute “a matter of public importance,” yet he possesses “an even deeper concern” – the gospel of Jesus.


Russell D. Moore addresses those gathered at the Vatican for a colloquium on marriage.

“All of us must stand together on conserving the truth of marriage as a complementary union of man and woman,” Moore said, according to his manuscript, which he reportedly followed closely in his remarks. Marriage, and the “sexual difference on which it is built, is grounded in a natural order bearing rights and responsibilities that was not crafted by any human state and cannot thus be redefined by any human state,” he said.
Yet “there is a distinctively Christian urgency for why the Christian churches must bear witness to these things,” Moore told the assembly.
Marriage and family are “icons of God’s purpose for the universe,” he continued, adding Christianity teaches that the “one-flesh union points beyond itself to the union of Christ and His church.”
“Our neighbors of no religion and of different religions do not recognize a call to gospel mystery,” he said. “Marriage is a common grace, and we should speak, on their own terms, of why jettisoning normative marriage and family is harmful.”
But as a Christian, Moore said he also is impelled to speak of “the conviction of the church that what is disrupted when we move beyond the creation design of marriage and family is not only human flourishing, although it is that, but also the picture of the very mystery that defines the existence of the universe itself – the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“With this conviction, we must stand and speak not with clinched fists or with wringing hands, but with the open hearts of those who have a message and a mission,” he said.
Moore was one of two American evangelicals to speak at the colloquium. Megachurch pastor and popular author Rick Warren also spoke Nov. 18. Warren is pastor of Saddleback Church, a Southern Baptist church in Southern California.
Warren, who spoke on the “What Must We Do?” told the Orange County Register, “It’s great to be with leaders from different streams of Christianity from all over the world.” The paper quoted him as saying, “Although we have some differences, we all love Jesus Christ and we all want marriages and families to be healthy and strong.”
Pope Francis spoke Nov. 17 during the opening session of the conference. The pope affirmed the biblical, traditional definition of marriage; the complementarity of the sexes; and the need for children to have a father and a mother. “Complementarity,” which refers to the unique roles of men and women in marriage and a variety of other contexts, is “at the root of marriage and family,” the pope said.
In his address, Moore said a husband and a wife exist as “one flesh, cooperation through complementarity.”
God created human beings as “male and female identities that correspond to one another and fulfill one another,” he said. “We are not created as ‘spouse A’ and ‘spouse B,’ but as man and as woman, and in marriage as husband and as wife, in parenting as mother and as father. Masculinity and femininity are not aspects of the fallen order to be overcome, but are instead part of what God declared from the beginning to be ‘very good,’” he said in a reference to Genesis 1:31.
A man, Moore said, is made “to be other-directed, to pour himself out for his family. Headship in God’s design is not Pharaoh-like tyranny but Christ-like sacrifice.”
The sexual revolution celebrated in Western culture has not resulted in freedom, he told the assembly.
“The sexual revolution is not liberation at all, but simply the imposition of a different sort of patriarchy,” Moore said. “The sexual revolution empowers men to pursue a Darwinian fantasy of the predatory alpha-male, rooted in the values of power, prestige and personal pleasure.”
This sexual revolution “cannot keep its promises,” he said. “People are looking for a cosmic mystery, for a love that is stronger than death. They cannot articulate it and perhaps would be horrified to know it, but they are looking for God. The sexual revolution leads to the burned-over boredom of sex shorn of mystery, of relationship shorn of covenant.”
Christians must reject the call by many to speak in “more generic spiritual terms” on these issues, Moore said.
“To jettison or to minimize a Christian sexual ethic is to abandon the message Jesus handed to us, and we have no authority to do this. Moreover, to do so is to abandon our love for our neighbors.”
Christians, he said, will speak “with the confidence of those who know that on the other side of our culture wars, there’s a sexual counter-revolution waiting to be born, again.”
The colloquium came at a time when marriage as a permanent union of only a man and a woman is threatened, especially in the United States: Recent judicial rulings have set the stage for same-sex marriage to be legal in 35 states; the percentage of American adults who have never married is at an all-time high; and cohabitation and divorce are problems in the culture and the church. In addition, the religious freedom of Americans who decline to provide their services for same-sex weddings based on their convictions increasingly is threatened.
Other speakers during the colloquium included:

  • N.T. Wright, popular Christian author and professor at the University of St. Andrews.

  • Charles Chaput, Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia.

  • Jonathan Sacks, professor at both New York University and Yeshiva University and former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the United Kingdom.

Among the speakers were representatives of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism and the Sikh religion.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

11/19/2014 2:24:35 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Study: pastors support immigration reform

November 19 2014 by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press

Many of the nation’s Protestant senior pastors want the U.S. government to mix justice with mercy when it comes to immigration reform, a LifeWay Research survey shows.
Most say it’s the government’s job to stop people from entering the country illegally. They also support reform that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country.
And they believe Christians should help immigrants, no matter what their legal status.
Those are among the findings of a new survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors. The survey was conducted prior to the mid-term elections.
Scott McConnell, vice president of Nashville-based LifeWay Research, said pastors don’t approve of illegal immigration. But they want to help illegal immigrants make things right.
“This is one of many cases in which Christians can look at those around them and say, ‘I don’t agree with what got you to this place in life, but I will love you while you are here,’” McConnell said.


Nearly 6 in 10 Protestant senior pastors (58 percent) agree with the statement: “I am in favor of immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for those who are currently in the country illegally.” About a third (34 percent) disagrees. Seven percent are not sure.
Most African-American pastors (80 percent) agree, as do a majority of white pastors (59 percent). Two-thirds (68 percent) of mainline pastors and more than half (54 percent) of evangelical pastors also favor a path to citizenship.
Pastors of mid-sized churches are more likely to agree than those from small churches. Two-thirds (66 percent) of pastors of churches with between 100 and 249 attenders agree. About half (54 percent) of pastors with less than 50 people in their congregation agree.
Two-thirds (63 percent) of pastors under age 45 favor a pathway, as do a little over half (55 percent) of those ages 45-54.

Churches want to lend a hand

LifeWay Research also found pastors want to help their immigrant neighbors, no matter what their legal status.
Caring for immigrants can be “an opportunity to show people who Jesus is,” McConnell said.
About half (47 percent) of Protestant senior pastors say their church currently helps immigrants.
And most (79 percent) agree with the statement: “Christians have a responsibility to assist immigrants, even if they are in the country illegally.” One in 6 (17 percent) disagree.
More than three quarters of evangelical pastors (77 percent) and most mainline pastors (86 percent) agree. Most pastors under 45 (83 percent) and those in churches with 100 or more attenders (82 percent) agree.
The new study parallels the findings of a 2013 LifeWay Research survey,
In that poll, 58 percent of pastors supported immigration reform. And about half (51 percent) said reform would help their church or denomination reach Hispanic Americans.
Other recent polling found that people in the pews have similar views to their pastors on the issue of immigration reform.
A 2014 Pew Research poll found that about two-third of Protestants (69 percent) support reform that would allow undocumented immigrant to stay in the country if they meet certain conditions. Three-quarters of Catholics (77 percent) also support reform.
Pew also found that less than half of Protestants (46 percent) say it is important that reform happens this year.

Pastors want the government to do its job

Protestant pastors of all kinds want the government to do a better job preventing people from entering the country illegally.
Almost 9 in 10 (87 percent) agree with the statement: “The U.S. government has the responsibility to stop illegal immigration.”
Most evangelical (91 percent) and mainline pastors (82 percent) agree. Pastors in the Midwest (38 percent) are less likely to agree than pastors in the South (89 percent) and West (90 percent). Pastors under age 45 are less likely to agree (82 percent).
“Justice, love, and mercy are all intrinsic to the Christian faith,” McConnell said. “It appears pastors see the need to end illegal immigration as an issue of justice. They also want to show love and mercy while the legal problem is addressed.”
Methodology: The phone survey of Protestant pastors was conducted Sept. 11-18, 2014. The calling list was a stratified random sample drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus 3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

11/19/2014 2:14:47 PM by Bob Smietana, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

From addict to urban missionary

November 19 2014 by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder

The numbers are staggering.
According to The Dream Center of Gaston County’s website (dreamcentergastoncounty.com), more than 95 percent of students at Rhyne and Woodhill Elementary schools in the Highlands community receive free or reduced lunches. Only about half of those are able to function at an appropriate grade level. Thirty percent of Highlands households live in poverty.
Those are the cold and hard numbers, and the stories of life in Highlands are even more heartbreaking. Young toddlers are left untended.
Drugs and crime seem to be everywhere, and multiple shootings have happened in the last few months.  
It’s into this kind of environment that urban missionary Jaron Moss and his teams willingly venture as often as possible.


Contributed photo
Jaron Moss uses his past to open doors into the Highlands community in Gaston County. It started with walking and praying for the community. Moss works with The Dream Center in Gaston County in its efforts to reach its community.

They are there through The Dream Center, a nonprofit effort organized by Bethlehem Baptist Church in Gastonia.
“We started walking in the community, praying for the community, seeing the needs,” said Moss, who is 26 and a full-time student at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont.
“As we’d walk around, you’d see people in the streets and on their porch. We’d just go up and talk to them.
“We weren’t trying to tell people about the church. We were trying to love the people, and share the hope they can have in God. We just started loving the people, and through a few months, God started building relationships with people.”
Moss’ is another in a long line of out-of-the-box ministries at Bethlehem, which hosts five weekend services at three campuses in the area. The Dream Center partners with local businesses every year to provide free services for weddings and proms.
There are support groups for single parents, sports programs, job fairs – name it, and there’s a pretty good chance it can be found at Bethlehem, The Dream Center or both.
The key to it all is this: None of the church’s efforts are necessarily designed to simply increase numbers, but instead to meet those in the community where they’re at, no matter what their circumstances might be. It’s about outreach in its simplest, purest form.
“We’re just focused on relationships with the people and connecting them with the Word of God, not just in church but in their home,” Moss continued.
“My whole life growing up, it was all about you invite people to church and tell the pastor to preach to them and teach them about God. I want these people to realize that God has equipped them to do that, to share God with their neighbors, friends and family.”
A native of nearby Kings Mountain, Moss’ backstory is not unlike those that play out every day in Highlands. At 17, he began smoking weed. It wasn’t long before he was not only popping pills, but selling drugs as well.
By 19, he was in rehab and charged with armed robbery.
Six months after getting out of rehab, he’d fallen right back into the trap. Life was one long, slippery spiral downward. At one point, he placed a pistol in his mouth ready to pull the trigger.
He didn’t and the next day his mother called and invited him to church.
“At the end of the service, this lady stood up and said, ‘God told me that there’s a man in here …’ and she began to say every thought that was running through my head,” Moss remembered. “She said, ‘You’re thinking life’s too long.’ She kept sharing things about me that she didn’t know.”
Moss made his way to the front of the church, and his life hasn’t been the same since.
“I wanted to sit in that seat, but I couldn’t,” Moss said. “I was up in the front before I even knew it, just lifting my hands to God, not saying any complicated prayer, but just saying, ‘Help me.’ I began to cry, tears [were] running down my face for fifteen minutes.
“I’ve never experienced the power of God like I did that day, ever. I walked back to my pew shivering. I left that day knowing something was different and changed. I felt as if someone had taken thousand-pound weights off of my shoulders.”
In the years since, Moss’ life has made a dramatic turnaround from addict to urban missionary, from living solely for that next fix to proposing to girlfriend Anna in a video that’s sure to go viral if it hasn’t already.
Drugs no longer matter to him. Even golf, a sport he loves, no longer holds quite the same attraction. What his old life does do, however, is give him an opening to serve the people in Highlands.
“People welcome me so easily in this community,” Moss concluded. “(His story) opens doors for me, because a lot of these guys struggle with drugs, addiction and depression.
“The life that I lived introduced me to all of those things, so when I go and start talking to them, I’m able to connect with them. God’s using my past mistakes for His good now.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rick Houston is a freelance writer living in Yadkinville. He has written books on NASCAR and the Space Shuttle program.)

11/19/2014 2:02:11 PM by Rick Houston, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

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