October 8 2015 by
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) will release Oct. 15 a new film in its global “My Hope” outreach and is encouraging pastors to use the free resource in conjunction with Graham’s 97th birthday celebration Nov. 7.
“Value of a Soul” showcases the testimonies of three born-again believers, including a former hard-core underground rapper, a Purple Heart recipient and a twice-divorced mother who suffered an abortion years ago at age 16.
“Value of a Soul,” the My Hope evangelistic outreach film that will mark Billy Graham’s 97th birthday, features Purple Heart recipient and retired Army Maj. Scotty Smiley, who lost his vision in a car bomb explosion in Iraq.
The new film and accompanying resources are suited for use by pastors and laypeople alike, My Hope vice president Steve Rhoades said in a press release.
“Our focus is on encouraging and equipping the local church to simply share Jesus,” Rhoades said. “We want to help local congregations by providing high-quality free resources – like “Value of a Soul” – anyone can use to reach out with a message of hope in their communities.”
The “Value of a Soul” trailer may be viewed at MyHopeWithBillyGraham.org/Value-Of-A-Soul-Trailer, and the full 30-minute film will be available for free online viewing and download Oct. 15, BGEA said. Advance orders of a single complimentary DVD are being taken online, along with requests for free prayer cards. Additional copies of the DVD and related discipleship resources will be available for nominal fees and shipping costs.
Value of a Soul focuses on Jesus’ question on the worth of a person’s soul in Mark 8:36-37 and features San Antonio burger restaurant owner Mark Outing, who was known as Magic Mark in the rap group P.K.O.; retired U.S. Army Maj. Scotty Smiley, who lost his vision in a car bomb explosion in Iraq; and motorcycle shop owner Laura Klock, who lost a child to abortion.
“All three stories, and [Franklin Graham’s] message in the film, address the underlying truth that each person – each soul – has value,” Rhoades said. “We hope churches and individuals will begin praying and planning now for how God can use this film to reach out to neighbors, family and friends with a message of hope this November and beyond.”
Value of a Soul is the latest in a series of My Hope films, including “Heaven,” released in 2014, and “The Cross” and “Defining Moments,” both released in 2013.
The My Hope outreach encourages churches, individuals, businesses and community venues to host My Hope viewing parties including DVD viewings and invitations to accept Christ. Since its international launch in 2002, the My Hope evangelistic outreach has been implemented in 60 countries in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Including the 2013 debut in the U.S. of “My Hope America,” more than 350,000 churches and 4 million individuals have participated in the evangelistic outreach, BGEA said. Decisions to receive Christ have surpassed 10 million, BGEA said, including 160,000 in the U.S.
Value of a Soul will be released in Canada this fall, and a new My Hope UK film is in production to be released to churches and groups in the United Kingdom, BGEA said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
10/8/2015 10:56:05 AM
October 8 2015 by
Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research
Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
Life didn’t just happen, most Americans say – and a surprising number of nonreligious people agree, a newly released study says.
More than 4 in 10 of the nonreligious believe physics and humanity point to a creator, LifeWay Research finds. A third say human morality indicates a creator who defines right and wrong. The study, released Oct. 7, is based on a survey taken Sept. 26-Oct. 5, 2014.
And although the nonreligious are less likely than other Americans to see evidence of a creator, they are more likely to agree (46 percent) than disagree (40 percent) with the statement: “Since the universe has organization, I think there is a creator who designed it.”
Traditional evidences for belief in a creator resonate with most Americans, including many of the nonreligious, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
“People who seek to set out reasons to believe, often called apologetics, have historically framed their argument in similar ways,” Stetzer said. “The large number of nonreligious people agreeing with some of these arguments points us to a surprising openness to classic apologetic arguments. Or, put another way, even nonreligious people are open to the idea there is a creator.”
Not blind chance
Human life and a complex universe are powerful indicators of creation, Americans say. In a survey of 1,000 Americans, LifeWay Research found almost 8 in 10 (79 percent) believe the existence of human life means someone created it, while 72 percent think the organization of the universe shows a creator’s design.
“The infinitesimal odds that life arose by blind chance is a formidable argument,” said Mary Jo Sharp, assistant professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University, and an author and speaker in the field.
Americans are less certain whether a creator defines right and wrong. A smaller majority, 66 percent, says people’s moral values attest to a creator who determines morality.
“Similar moral threads across cultures are evidence for many that someone has imprinted a common standard upon the human conscience,” Stetzer said. “However, it is worth noting the moral argument has less sway here, perhaps because of our changing views on what is and is not moral.”
Many atheists, agnostics, and those with no religious preference find the existence of human life to be a persuasive argument for a creator, with 43 percent agreeing: “The fact that we exist means someone created us.” However, a larger share (48 percent) disagrees.
The existence of good and evil is a less compelling argument for the nonreligious. More than half (53 percent) disagree with the statement: “Since people have morality, I think there is a creator who defines morality.” Nevertheless, a third of the nonreligious (33 percent) think human morals point to a creator who defines right and wrong.
“The existence of good and evil is difficult to explain from an atheistic worldview, because in that view, there is no stable external grounding outside of humans for a standard of goodness,” Sharp said.
Not surprisingly, Christians – particularly evangelicals – overwhelmingly say they see compelling proof of a creator. As evidence, 91 percent of Christians and 95 percent of evangelicals point to the existence of humanity, while 81 percent of Christians and 85 percent of evangelicals cite the structure of the universe.
They are slightly less confident that the existence of morality proves a creator who determines moral values, with 77 percent of Christians and 83 percent of evangelicals saying human morals indicate a creator who defines right and wrong.
Although most American adults of all ages believe in a creator, a sharp uptick emerges at midlife. On every measure, Americans 45 and older are more likely to see evidence of a creator than those 18-44.
The gap is widest on the question of morality. Three-quarters of those 45 and older agree the presence of human moral values indicates a creator who defines right and wrong, an opinion shared by only 57 percent of adults 44 and younger. Disagreement is twice as common among Americans 18-44 (34 percent) as those 45 and older (17 percent).
Younger Americans are also more likely than those 45 and older to believe human life may exist without a creator. Eighty-six percent of those 45 and older agree the presence of human beings points to a creator; only 1 in 10 disagrees. Among those 18-44, however, 72 percent believe human life is evidence of a creator and nearly a quarter (22 percent) disagree.
More than three-fourths of those 45 and older (77 percent) consider the orderliness of the universe to be a sign of a creator, a view held by two-thirds (66 percent) of those 18-44.
LifeWay Research also found differences by gender and geographic region.
Men (22 percent) are more likely than women (17 percent) to disagree that the structure of the universe points to a creator. Women, meanwhile, are more likely (85 percent) than men (73 percent) to believe the existence of human life means someone created it.
The survey found a surprising alignment of opinion between the usually dissimilar Northeast and South. Northeasterners (87 percent) and Southerners (82 percent) are more likely than those in the West (71 percent) to view the presence of human life as an indication of a creator. Similarly, those in the Northeast (72 percent) and South (69 percent) agree more often than Westerners (58 percent) that human morals point to a creator who defines morality.
Northeasterners (75 percent) and Southerners (74 percent) are also more likely than those in the Midwest (64 percent) to see the organization of the universe as evidence of creation.
“In an increasingly secular age, where the Christian faith has perhaps lost its home-field advantage, Christians will need to make their case for the creator and ultimately for the gospel,” Stetzer said. “It appears people – even nonreligious people – are indeed open to apologetics arguments, if Christians will actually make them.”
Methodology: The phone survey of Americans was conducted Sept. 26-Oct. 5, 2014. The calling utilized random digit dialing. Sixty percent of completes were among landlines and 40 percent among cell phones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity and education 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 or minus 3.5 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups. Those labeled evangelicals consider themselves “a born again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian.”
LifeWay Research, based in Nashville, is an evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture ... [Expand Bio]and matters that affect the church.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine.)
10/8/2015 10:51:24 AM
October 8 2015 by
T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS Communications
Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments
A symposium on “The SBC & the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal and Recommitment” set forth a range of projections for the nation’s largest evangelical body, Sept. 28-29 at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The event, which Midwestern President Jason Allen said will take place on a triennial basis, featured keynote speakers Frank S. Page, Ronnie Floyd, Paige Patterson, R. Albert Mohler Jr., David S. Dockery and Thom Rainer.
Allen, who also led a main session, noted that such an event had not been held in Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) life in recent years and that the purpose of the gathering was to engage issues vital to Southern Baptist identity, heritage and future.
Photo by Liz Stack
Jason Allen (from left), Frank S. Page, Ronnie Floyd, R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Paige Patterson discuss "Passing the Baton: Raising Up the Next Generation of SBC Leaders" at the “SBC & the 21st Century” symposium at Midwestern Seminary.
Allen said significant challenges face the SBC, including: Will we grow more unified around shared convictions and mission or will we fragment over secondary concerns and tertiary doctrinal differences? Will we see generational transition as an opportunity to seize or a change to resist? Will we be able to maintain a distinct Baptist identity while we engage and partner with the broader evangelical community?
“In planning the event, we believed the need for addressing such issues was self-evident,” Allen said, “and we pray the results will make a substantial contribution at every level of the SBC moving forward.”
Allen announced a partnership with B&H Academic on a book project comprised mostly of the presentations at the symposium. David Platt, Daniel Akin, Walter Strickland, Collin Hansen and Justin Taylor also will contribute chapters to the book, which will have the same title as the symposium. It will be available at the SBC’s June 2016 annual meeting in St. Louis.
“As a seminary that exists for the church, it can be counted on that this entire project has and will emphasize Southern Baptist churches and how to strengthen them, not how to perpetuate denominational machinery,” Allen said. “This is what SBC servants must be about, and that is what this symposium is about.”
Recaps of the featured speakers’ presentations during the symposium follow.
– Frank S. Page - “The Cooperative Program and the Future of Collaborative Ministry”
Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, opened the symposium recounting the 90-year history of the Cooperative Program and the impact of the SBC’s collaborative ministry over the years. Wondering if it is taken for granted among Southern Baptists, Page noted one outsider’s comment about the Cooperative Program (CP): “Do you Baptists understand what you really have with the Cooperative Program?”
As an asset that no other denomination possesses, Page said the Cooperative Program accomplishes ministry and missions in a way that lone churches cannot do.
“The CP is a collaborative way of doing work that gives every church in the SBC a seat at the table,” said Page, noting the small memberships of the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches. “When we recognize who we are, no matter how big or small, every church can be a part of doing something bigger than themselves. It is extremely important that they know they have a part in sending missionaries … supporting theological education … and planting churches all over this continent.”
Photo by Liz Stack
Leo Endel (left), executive director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, interacts with SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page prior to Page's presentation at the “SBC & the 21st Century” symposium at Midwestern Seminary.
Page said he foresees a bright future for collaborative ministry within the SBC. Goals he desires to see achieved through the Cooperative Program in the days ahead include 7,000 missionaries reaching the world for Christ; 15,000 new church plants across the continent; decreasing tuition and fees at all six SBC seminaries; and reaching the masses of lost college students.
“When we work together, God can do things that are mighty,” Page said. “His power is pointed out, and His plan is pointed out. The geographical spread of the Gospel is clearly delineated, and we need desperately to come together seeking the power of the Lord like never before.”
– Paige Patterson – “Guard What Has Been Entrusted to You: Counsel to the New Generation of Southern Baptists”
A list of 12 witticisms highlighted Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson’s counsel to the next generation of Southern Baptist leaders.
Ranging from “Culture is your friend in the same way a brown bear is your buddy” to “A Christian who has not seriously suffered is like a beautiful Rolls Royce without a motor,” Patterson imparted wisdom from more than five decades of ministry.
“Arrogance is as charming to God’s people, and as appealing to God,” another of Patterson’s witticisms asserted, “as an angry bull is to a wounded cowboy in a rodeo arena.”
While arrogance knows no age restriction, Patterson said it typically rears its head in ministry among younger believers. The reasons, he assessed, include insufficient experience, too little knowledge and inadequate time spent walking with God.
“I suspect that this last reason pretty much tells a story,” Patterson said. “A man cannot be haughty when he has just been walking with God that morning. Imperfection has been on a stroll with perfection, and the further they hike the more obvious the chasm between them appears. In the end, the imperfect one is not so much known by his ascription of praise to the Sovereign God in words that anyone can echo, but by the diminution of himself and his humble service to his Sovereign Lord.
“My hope for the future of the church is that a recovery of humility and integrity … will distinguish the body of believers clearly from the world,” Patterson said. “Above all, may such genuine piety be observed in our preaching.”
– Ronnie Floyd - “Kindling Afresh the Gift of God: Spiritual Renewal, Strategic Reinvention and the Southern Baptist Convention”
Photo by Liz Stack
Paige Patterson (center), president of Southwestern Seminary, speaks with Christian George, Midwestern Seminary assistant professor of historical theology and curator of the Spurgeon Library, during the “SBC & the 21st Century” symposium at the Kansas City, Mo., campus.
“A fire left to itself usually goes out,” said Floyd, SBC president and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. Basing his presentation on 2 Timothy 1:6-7, Floyd noted, “If we want the power of the Spirit to be everything through us that He is within us, then we must take the initiative personally and intentionally to fan the flame of the Spirit of God.”
As this takes place, Floyd said Christians will move into seasons of spiritual renewal. He added, “This deep work of God occurring within us will alter our strategies, reinventing them to the glory of God. And yes, this needs to happen within our Southern Baptist Convention in the way we carry out our work together.”
Floyd suggested that if Southern Baptists become more concerned about preserving old structures and systems than seeing them conform to what God is doing today, they could lose both the work of God and the emerging generation of Baptists.
“The stakes are high, and we better land with God and refuse to fight against what He is seemingly doing among us,” Floyd said.
He then covered six questions concerning challenges facing the SBC, citing the greatest one for this generation: “Knowing what we know about our past and present, as well as having the resources of churches, people, influence, reach and dollars, how can we leverage all for the purpose of advancing the gospel in an unprecedented manner into places where the gospel has never been before regionally, statewide, nationally and globally?”
Floyd noted the importance of the SBC being lean, nimble and diverse as well as working toward innovation for best practices. But what must propel this innovation, he said, is the Lord Jesus.
“The need of the hour is to believe our God reigns!” Floyd said. “Without Him, nothing durable can be achieved; with Him, the evangelization of the world is a certainty.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr. - “Southern Baptists and the Quest for Theological Identity: Unavoidable Questions for the 21st Century”
Discovering one’s or an entity’s identity in present times is difficult due to ever-increasing pluralism, said Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. However, he noted, it is a task that Southern Baptists must undertake, especially on the theological front.
With modernity and liberal theology influencing the identities of Christian denominations throughout the 20th century, Mohler said Southern Baptists remained “at ease in Zion” or comfortable within their denominational bubble. However, this changed in the 1970s.
In the 1970s, the question of identity became unavoidable, Mohler said. “There is no way that one can speak of the future of the Southern Baptist Convention … without the identity question being front and center.”
With the passing of nominal Christianity and faltering tribal identities of other Christian groups, Mohler said Southern Baptists realized that what was left was a group of believers who understood the costliness of adherence to faith in Jesus Christ.
Looking toward the future, Mohler noted 10 questions Southern Baptists must address as they seek to understand their theological identity. Among them: “Will Southern Baptists embrace an identity that is more theological than tribal?” and “Will today’s generation summon and maintain the courage to minister Christ in a context of constant conflict and confrontation?”
His final question originated from Jesus’ question to His disciples in Luke 18: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Mohler focused that question on the SBC. “Understanding that Jesus asked that question of His disciples means that surely He must be asking it of us,” he said. “Our responsibility, though in one sense for the church universal through the ages, is a responsibility for our denomination and our churches at this time. ... May the Lord find us faithful.”
David S. Dockery - “Who are Southern Baptists? Toward a Trans-Generational Identity”
Dockery, president of Trinity International University, set forth an in-depth history of Southern Baptists, dating back to the 17th century.
Acknowledging that Southern Baptist identity has changed significantly from 1845 to 2015, Dockery suggested a major shift toward recovery, or re-envisioning, took place around 2005.
“The millennials came along during this particular time, and they began to see not only Southern Baptist life differently but they saw the world differently,” Dockery said. “What was happening around the country began to be reflected in Southern Baptist life. A true generational shift was taking place.”
Dockery cited 12 areas of constancy among Southern Baptists that this new generation must “acknowledge and wrestle with as they participate in Southern Baptist life in the days to come.”
Among these: Southern Baptists’ commitment to the convention’s model of ministry and the SBC being characterized by controversy and conflict as well as being cooperative, confessional, compassionate, a Great Commission people and a group who understand their culture.
Looking to the future, Dockery suggested that Southern Baptists must become interconnected to other denominations and networks committed to the Great Commission and Great Commandment; become intercultural and interracial as opposed to insular; become intergenerational, finding its ultimate identity in Christ, not in particular generations.
“As we envision, or re-envision, a blessed future for Southern Baptists, we can no longer be naive to the multifaceted changes and multi-level challenges around us,” Dockery said. “We pray that shared collaborative efforts of churches and SBC entities will bring forth fruit, will strengthen partnerships, alliances and networks for the extension of God’s Kingdom, the advancement of the Gospel … for the eternal glory and grandeur of our great God.”
Jason Allen - “Training the Next Generation of Pastors, Ministers & Missionaries: Southern Baptist Theological Education in the 21st Century”
In addressing training for the next generation of SBC ministry leaders, Allen said theological education, both presently and into the future, seems to be unpredictable at best. Allen did offer an alternative, however.
“My argument is straightforward – we cannot predict the future of theological education, but we must choose to determine it.”
Historically, Allen said, the relationship between Southern Baptist churches and their seminaries was tenuous, or worse, because of a general suspicion of higher education as well as the theological controversies and liberalism that had spread throughout the faculties of these institutions.
However, Allen noted significant change has occurred as a result of the Conservative Resurgence, including the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. All of this has led to the present, which he described as “a golden era in theological education.”
Among his reasons for this assessment: SBC seminaries are more theologically conservative than they have been in a century; their faculties are notably accomplished; they are larger than ever before; they remain affordable and accessible; and they remain on mission toward Great Commission work.
Looking to the future, Allen noted the best path for the SBC is working to determine where theological education is headed. Among the areas of focus he included were: maintaining confessional integrity and mission clarity, developing sustainable business models, being agile and adaptable to educational delivery systems, serving the churches, prioritizing the master of divinity degree for those headed toward the pastorate, and collaboratively working together within the denomination.
Summing up his message, Allen recognized the efforts of Paul Pressler, Paige Patterson and Adrian Rogers during the Conservative Resurgence and the effect it has had in providing the SBC with healthy seminaries. Now, he said, “We must have a determination to keep them.”
Thom Rainer – “By the Numbers: What SBC Demographics Tell Us About Our Past, Present and Future”
In the symposium’s final presentation, Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, set forth a macro view of SBC demographics since the convention’s inception.
Five primary questions emerged from Rainer’s research: What happened during the “Silent Era?” Are we truly an evangelistic denomination? Have we ever truly been a Sunday School denomination? Have we become a denomination of affluence as opposed to influence? Where do we go from here?
A negative finding Rainer gleaned, which he called “The Silent Era for New Churches,” occurred from 1920-49. Noting that new church work has long been the lifeblood of the SBC, Rainer said the trend over the three decades confounded him: The SBC had zero new net churches; in fact, there were 159 less churches overall in 1949 than in 1929.
“The impact of such anemic church planting cannot be overstated,” Rainer said. “Applying those numbers to the missed opportunities of those 30 years suggests we missed the opportunity to have an additional 9,000 churches in our denomination today” – costing the SBC hundreds of thousands of new baptized converts, thousands of missionaries, countless pastors and staff and more new church plants.
The reason why the Silent Era occurred remains elusive, Rainer said, but the most plausible hypothesis is a combination of local churches forsaking church planting and failed trust in the Home Mission Board.
Moving forward, Rainer said his research suggests that the convention needs healthier churches which possess traits such as a strong biblical foundation, intentional evangelism efforts, focus on small group membership, and intentionality about prayer.
“So what are the numbers telling us?” Rainer asked. “It appears … we have lost our focus. We have become complacent and comfortable. Perhaps we can turn these bad trends to good. And by the grace of God, those numbers will tell us that we are truly rebuilding the house of God.”
In addition to the plenary sessions, Allen hosted panel discussions on “Passing the Baton: Raising Up the Next Generation of SBC Leaders,” “Facing the Future Together” and one on “The Future of State Conventions” featuring state executive directors Paul Chitwood of Kentucky, Anthony Jordan of Oklahoma, Jim Richards of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, John Yeats of Missouri and Tim Lubinus of Iowa. In addition, breakout sessions were led by several Midwestern Seminary faculty members: Provost Jason Duesing, “A Denomination Always for the Church: Ecclesiological Distinctives as a Basis for Confessional Cooperation”; undergraduate dean John Mark Yeats, “16,000,000 Southern Baptists? Recovering Regenerate Church Membership”; assistant professor of historical theology Christian George and curator of the Spurgeon Library, “Downgrade: 21st Century Lessons from 19th Century Baptists”; and associate professor of Christian theology Owen Strachan, “Doctrine Will Keep Us Alive: Why the SBC & Confessional Christianity Will Thrive in a Compromised Culture.”
Allen noted that preparations for the 2018 symposium are underway, with the theme centering on a 40-year retrospective on the Conservative Resurgence and a proposed book to follow in 2019 – the 40th anniversary of the movement that began in 1979 with the election of Adrian Rogers as SBC president.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
10/8/2015 10:43:37 AM
October 8 2015 by
Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS Communications
T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS Communications | with 0 comments
Calling for Baptists to remember their roots as a “jailhouse religion,” Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Christians must be willing to be marginalized and offended for the sake of the gospel.
The remarks came at Baptist Voices: Left, Right and Center, a Sept. 29 forum sponsored by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s (NOBTS) Institute for Faith and the Public Square that brought together Baptists from varied perspectives to discuss challenges to religious liberty around the world. Speakers included Moore, Gregory Komendant, Ukrainian Baptist statesman; J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty; Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and others.
Throughout history Christian leaders often found themselves on the “wrong side” of economic and political authorities for the gospel’s sake, Moore said. He urged believers to “maintain a witness to religious liberty” and to remember what it means to “be a people of the jailhouse.”
Just as Paul and Silas chose to stay and share the gospel with the Philippian jailer after God opened the prison doors with an earthquake, Christians must be prepared to give up rights so the gospel can move forward, Moore said.
“This is why Baptists are committed to religious liberty. Because of how we believe the gospel works,” Moore said. “The gospel works by the addressing of the conscience person by person where individual people are made right with God and then brought into the community and into the people of God.”
Photo by Marilyn Stewart
Kenneth McDowell, a theology professor at Union Baptist College and Theological Seminary in New Orleans, participates in the question and answer session during “Baptist Voices: Left, Right and Center,” at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Sept. 29.
Because salvation comes when the Holy Spirit convicts and changes the heart, Christians cannot rely on political or economic circumstances to advance the gospel, Moore said.
“State power or economic power or community pressure can never turn people into Christians,” Moore said. “It can only make fake Christians.”
Moore distinguished between actions that offend believers and true persecution and warned Baptists against becoming an interest group that lashes out at those who ridicule the faith. In Acts 16 Paul demanded an apology from the magistrates not because he was offended for being mistreated as a Roman citizen, but for the religious rights of believers that would remain on in Philippi after he was gone, Moore said.
The gospel compels believers to stand up for the religious freedom of all because freedom of conscience is precisely the environment where the gospel will flourish, Moore said.
“We must be willing to be offended; we must be willing to be marginalized for the sake of the gospel because we know that the gospel has to go forward and often that is going to mean giving up our rights in many circumstances,” Moore said.
Christians are not Americans first, Moore noted. Believers are members of the global body of Christ, first, and must teach their children that the state has no authority over conscience and that the local church is an embassy of the kingdom of God, he said.
“I feel I have two callings,” Moore said. “One is to keep us out of jail and the other is make sure we’re willing to go to jail because there’s one thing worse than jail and that’s having a faith too safe to jail.”
Religious liberty abroad: Ukraine
Gregory Komendant, who serves at Kiev Theological Seminary and is the former leader of the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists, told the crowd his grandfather died in prison under the Stalin regime for allowing Christians to worship in his home. Komendant was baptized at night because daytime baptisms were forbidden, he said.
“It was a difficult time, but God was at work,” Komendant said.
Speaking through an interpreter, Komendant, said Jesus’ words through the apostle John in Revelation brought comfort: “‘Don’t be afraid. I have suffered … I hold churches, pastors and history in my hand.’“
During Stalin’s regime, “God was excluded from conversation” and churches were allowed to meet only in homes, Komendant said. Later, schoolteachers were placed at church doors to prevent children from entering, he added.
Komendant, who led the work of Baptists in the former Soviet Union, said that after Billy Graham’s visit to Moscow and meeting with Gorbachev two decades ago, doors opened for the gospel and seminaries were founded. In the last decade, the Ukrainian Bible Society has distributed 10 million Bibles.
“We were once in prison, now we have the opportunity to share Jesus in prison,” Komendant said of Ukraine’s religious freedom.
Komendant said the Ukrainian Bible Society recently received a substantial order for waterproof Bibles for the military. He noted, “In Ukraine, we have perhaps more freedom for Christianity than even you have in the United States.”
At one time, Khruschev boasted that “the last Baptist” would be paraded out on television for all to see, Komendant said. He concluded that instead, “Khruschev is dead. Baptists are preaching on TV.”
A tie that unifies Baptists
The forum was a unique in the fact that it brought together Baptists from inside and outside the SBC to discuss this shared Baptist value.
“Religious Liberty has been a common thread throughout Baptist life since the very beginning,” said Lloyd Harsch, director. “We sometimes disagree on how to apply religious liberty in a particular context, but the idea itself has been a unifying tenet of Baptist life.”
J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, examined the state of religious freedom in America in light of the three clauses guaranteeing religious liberty in the First Amendment. Walker noted recent Supreme Court rulings and concluded that the “free exercise clause” and “church autonomy clause” have been upheld consistently. “We are doing well,” Walker said in regards to these tenets.
But in regards to the “no establishment clause,” whereby the government cannot advance or favor religion, Walker concluded the nation is doing “terribly and is losing ground.”
Walker cited the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in the Town of Greece v. Galloway that upheld that the New York town’s practice of opening board meetings with prayer did not violate the no establishment clause. Walker said the Baptist Joint Committee viewed prayer in that context to be “impermissibly coercive to require those folks to undergo or to experience and participate in a state-sponsored religious exercise as a ticket to exercise and perform their civic responsibilities.”
Walker distinguished the case from that of the U. S. Congress opening in prayer, noting that the public is seated as observers of Congress rather than participants.
Suzii Paynter said religious liberty is not a fragile principle and encouraged listeners to practice liberty of conscience and engage others in conversation about the subject.
“God will use that conversation,” Paynter said. “The public square needs to hear the deliberative thoughts of religious liberty-conscious people.”
Other speakers included Mike Edens, NOBTS professor of Islamic studies; William Brackney, Acadia Divinity College, Canada; and Kenneth McDowell, Union Baptist College and Theological Seminary, New Orleans.
The lectures are available online at www.faith-publicsquare.org /past-events.html.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marilyn Stewart is the office of public relations assistant director of news and information at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Gary Myers is director of public relations for NOBTS.)
10/8/2015 10:34:18 AM
October 8 2015 by
Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS Communications | with 0 comments
Messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) will gather Nov. 2-3 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. Visit ncannualmeeting.org or brnow.org for more information.
Monday Evening, Nov. 2
2:00 p.m. Exhibits, Registration Open
6:30 Call to Order – Timmy D. Blair Sr.
Prayer – David Butler
Pledges (American & Christian flag, Bible)
Committee on Convention Meetings – Josh Phillips
Committee on Nominations – Reginald Bakr
Historical Committee – Nathan Morton
North Carolina Baptist Men Partnerships – Richard Brunson
Office of Great Commission Partnerships – Chuck Register
7:10 Worship; Theme Interpretation; Prayer
Music – The NC Baptist Renewing Worship Band
7:50 Introduction of President – Cameron McGill
Prayer – Fred Carlton; Music – Mercy’s Cross
8:00 President’s Address – Timmy D. Blair Sr.
Closing Prayer – Dena Alley
Tuesday Morning, Nov. 3
7:30 a.m. Listening Sessions
2016 Budget Proposal (Pinehurst)
Proposed Bylaw Amendments (Turnberry)
8:00 Exhibits, Registration Open
(Exhibits close at 7:30 p.m.)
8:45 Call to Order – Timmy D. Blair Sr.
8:50 Worship; Theme Interpretation; Prayer;
Music – Carolina Quartet
9:15 Board of Directors Report
– Perry K. Brindley III
Impacting Lostness through Disciple-Making
– Milton A. Hollifield Jr.
9:50 Music – Carolina Quartet
10:00 Biblical Recorder – Allan Blume
10:15 Miscellaneous Business
10:30 Election of Officers
(Fixed Order of Business) – President
10:35 Board of Directors Report
– Perry K. Brindley III
The Peoples Next Door NC – Chuck Register
Articles and Bylaws – Bartley Wooten
11:00 N.C. Baptist Men/Baptists on Mission
– Richard Brunson
11:15 Institution & Agency Reports
North Carolina Baptist Foundation
– Clay Warf
North Carolina Baptist Hospital
– Gary Gunderson
Baptist Children’s Homes of N.C. and N.C. Baptist Aging Ministry
– Michael C. Blackwell
11:45 Closing Prayer – Noel De Asis
Tuesday Afternoon, Nov. 3
1:30 p.m. Call to Order – Timmy D. Blair Sr.
1:35 Greeting – LifeWay Christian Resources
1:40 Worship; Theme Interpretation; Prayer;
Music – Kenny Lamm
1:55 Election of Officers
– First & Second Vice President
2:05 Convention Committee Report
Committee on Resolutions and Memorials
– Donald Goforth
2:20 Music – Kenny Lamm
2:25 Board of Directors Report (Fixed Order of Business) – Perry K. Brindley III
SBC Great Commission Advance Report
– Ashley Clayton
Proposed 2016 Budget for CP and NCMO
– Tony Honeycutt
2:55 Breakout Sessions Promotion – Lynn Sasser
3:00 Closing Prayer – Tamran Inayat
3:15 & 4:15 Breakout Sessions (see list)
Tuesday Evening, Nov. 3
6:30 Call to Worship – New South Brass
6:45 Call to Order – Timmy D. Blair Sr.
Prayer – Jeff Dowdy
SBC Missions Boards (IMB and NAMB)
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
7:10 Presentation of Officers
7:15 Echo Worship Service
– Greensboro Area Churches
7:45 Convention Sermon – Lee Pigg
Closing Prayer – Tom Wagoner
10/8/2015 10:24:53 AM
October 8 2015 by
BSC Communications | with 0 comments
Breakout sessions will be held at the Koury Convention Center during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting Tues., Nov. 3 from 3:15-4 p.m. and 4:15-5 p.m. Sessions are free. All sessions are offered at both times, with the exception of the first two listed.
A New “Normal” Part 1: warning signs for church revitalization
John Ewart; Room: Auditorium 1; 3:15-4 p.m.
Declining and unhealthy churches have become the norm all too often. We need a new expectation, a new normal! As a church leader, how can you diagnose and prevent poor church health? What should we be watching for and how can we be that intentional? Join experienced pastor, church consultant and professor John Ewart to discover and discuss key qualitative and quantitative symptoms that characterize a church in need of revitalization as well as how to move toward or maintain greater strength and health.
A New “Normal” Part 2:
Five phases for ongoing church revitalization
John Ewart; Room: Auditorium 1; 4:15-5 p.m.
What are some biblically based, practical steps my church can take to actually move toward or maintain Great Commission fulfillment? How can we prevent the decline or unhealthy conditions that have become so normal for so many churches? Join experienced pastor, church consultant and professor John Ewart to learn five phases every church should constantly be working through in order to be effective for the Kingdom.
Beyond One-On-One: Discipling through women’s ministry
Meredith Snoddy; Room: Cedar A
The Great Commission says we are to “make disciples,” and women’s ministry plays an important part in the church seeing this mandate fulfilled. This equipping session will help women’s ministry leaders learn how to make disciples through their women’s ministry and keep the process on-going.
Biblical prayers for challenging times
Chris Schofield; Room: Oak A
This session will help believers and churches respond and pray biblically toward the ever-changing moral and spiritual collapse of America.
Bob Foy; Room: Bear Creek
In this session, participants will discover a tool for strengthening the church by awakening, equipping and empowering laity to create reproducing disciples.
Church Revitalization through Multiplication
Tim Ahlen; Room: Colony A
Come hear the story of how one at-risk church became a multi-congregational, multi-ethnic community that is shaking the nations for Jesus Christ at home and throughout the world.
Developing Cultural Impact Teams in the Local Church
Mark Harris; Room: Oak C
Western society is being influenced in numerous ways and from numerous sources. While some influences and some changes are positive, others call into question the claims of the gospel and the expectations of Scripture. The Family Research Council has developed resources that can assist congregations impact the culture. This session will provide an introduction to cultural impact teams and how they can be developed in your church.
Disciple-making Pastors’ Roundtable
David Cox, Joel Stephens, Brandon Ware; Room: Turnberry
Participate in a discussion with N.C. pastors from a variety of contexts on how their churches are impacting lostness through disciple-making.
Engaging Pockets of Lostness: A local church’s journey
Chuck Campbell; Room: Heritage B
Join us as we share a local church’s journey engaging the largest pocket of lostness in the Greenville area. Learn practical and reproducible principles on how to discover, develop and engage pockets of lostness through disciple-making.
Growing Disciples Through Missions Involvement
N.C. Baptist Men Staff; Room: Oak B
One of the best ways to grow disciples and a healthy church is through missions involvement. This session, led by N.C. Baptist Men/Baptist on Mission staff, will cover how missions can change your church and your members. The session will include practical ideas and projects at the local, state, national and international level that your church can be involved in. This breakout session is a great overview of resources for church missions involvement.
Impacting Lostness: Churches planting churches
Mark Gray; Room: Heritage A
Every church in North Carolina had a birth. One of the most effective ways to impact lostness through disciple-making is in churches giving birth to new churches. Partnering with a new church positively impacts the sending church in multiple ways, and dozens are won to Jesus as new disciples. This session will reveal steps in the joyful process of giving birth and the legacy that continues.
Making Disciples in Rural North Carolina
Jeff Sundell; Room: Colony B
This session will cover an American adaptation of church planting movement principles from the international mission field for making disciples anytime, anywhere.
Making Disciples Through Small Groups
Derick DeLain; Room: Cedar B
This breakout will focus on best practices to develop healthy small groups that function as gospel communities on mission.
SHARE the Gospel in a Changing Culture
Marty Dupree; Room: Pinehurst
This session will discuss options for engaging in gospel conversations by comparing Acts 2 and Acts 17 strategies.
The Peoples Next Door: Discover and engage unreached people groups in North Carolina
Steve Hardy; Room: Colony C
How do we, as ordinary people, take the gospel to the peoples of the world that God is bringing here to be our neighbors? We will discuss how to discover people group communities in our cities through natural encounters and begin to intentionally engage them through gospel hospitality.
The Pulpit and Disciple-making
Clay Smith; Room: Cedar C
The disciple-making process goes beyond preaching, but preaching is a vital and indispensable part of your church’s disciple-making strategy. This session will show how preaching can be intentionally connected to your strategy for impacting lostness through disciple-making.
When Adolescence Gets Old
Jonathan Yarboro, Tom Knight; Room: Olympia
The fact that 40 percent of all college graduates return home to live with their parents may cause us to agree with the declaration, “30 is the new 20.” But the truth is that 20-somethings are in a unique stage that makes their lives particularly fertile for the gospel. But they also represent the largest age demographic absent from our churches. What does your church need to understand about them in order to close the gap, effectively communicate the gospel to them and see them become a vital part of your church’s community?
10/8/2015 10:18:29 AM
October 7 2015 by
Chad Austin BSC Communications
BSC Communications | with 0 comments
Messengers and attendees at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) will be encouraged and challenged to “echo” the love and message of Jesus to others during this year’s meeting.
“Echo: Reproducing Gospel Life in Others” is the theme for this year’s annual meeting, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 2-3 at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. The theme is based on 2 Timothy 2:2 which describes the disciple-making process and how it is passed on from generation to generation.
In the theme verse, the Apostle Paul admonishes his young apprentice Timothy to take the truths of God that he had learned from Paul and teach those truths to others who would, in turn, teach them to others, as well. The passage reveals a pattern for disciple-making that involves investing one’s life in others so that the gospel and its application to life is continually reproduced in subsequent generations.
This year’s theme aligns with the BSC’s strategy of impacting lostness through disciple-making and was selected by members of the BSC Committee on Convention Meetings after much prayer and deliberation.
“The theme of the 2015 Annual Meeting has been derived with the desire for all churches within the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina to ‘echo’ the very words of Paul,” said Josh Phillips, chair of the Committee on Convention Meetings. “The BSCNC has become very intentional in its approach to disciple-making. The theme of these year’s Annual meeting is intended to promote and support the direction that our great convention is heading.”
Timmy Blair Sr., BSC president and pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier, will deliver the annual president’s address sermon on Monday evening. Lee Pigg, senior pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Monroe, will deliver the convention sermon Tuesday night.
Messengers will also hear an update from BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. during the Tuesday morning session.
In addition, representatives from a variety of BSC ministries, as well as other ministries and organizations, will be on hand in the exhibit halls to answer questions, network and explore ministry partnership opportunities.
Throughout the entire schedule of annual meeting activities, attendees will be equipped and encouraged to make disciples in the everyday rhythms and routines of daily life. Several breakout sessions conducted by convention staff members, pastors, denominational leaders, lay leaders and others will provide biblical and practical ideas about how to “echo” the gospel and reproduce gospel life in others based on the example of Jesus and the words of Paul.
Breakout sessions will cover topics that include evangelism, church renewal, church revitalization, missions, prayer, small groups, women’s ministry and more.
More information about this year’s annual meeting is available online at ncannualmeeting.org. Visit the website to make room reservations and check out the complete annual meeting schedule. Make plans now to attend this year’s annual meeting in Greensboro to learn how God can use you to be an “echo” for His name and reproduce gospel life in others.
Board approves 2016 Cooperative Program budget
10/7/2015 9:52:36 AM
October 7 2015 by
Butch Blume, The Baptist Courier
Chad Austin BSC Communications | with 0 comments
A South Carolina Baptist disaster relief official is predicting it will take years for the state to recover from the extensive flooding of the past two days.
“This is much bigger than [the recovery from] Hurricane Hugo,” said Randy Creamer, disaster relief coordinator for the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Creamer said the flooding that has prompted 10 counties or municipalities to declare states of emergency has caused more widespread damage than did Hurricane Hugo, which slammed into the state’s coastline in September 1989.
Creamer said the recovery will be “a marathon, not a 100-yard dash.”
He said Baptist relief workers set up a feeding operation on Oct. 5 in Richland County, one of the state’s hardest-hit areas, to provide meals for first responders and workers from the county and the City of Columbia.
Creamer said a number of Baptist associations across the state, including Columbia Metro Association, have “taken the lead” in setting up shelters for people displaced by floodwaters. “There’s a lot going on out there that I won’t hear about for a few weeks,” Creamer said.
As the floodwaters recede in the coming days, Southern Baptist teams from churches and associations across the state will coordinate with Creamer’s office to provide disaster relief services – including feeding tents, laundry facilities, and mud-out and chainsaw operations – to affected areas.
In the meantime, Creamer suggests directors of missions and pastors look for opportunities to help those affected by the floods in their own communities. “Take care of the needs there, in your own Jerusalem,” he said.
Creamer also encouraged South Carolina Baptists to pray for victims and to consider donating money to help with the state convention’s recovery efforts. Those interested in helping were asked to visit scbaptist.org/donations-for-flood-disaster-relief. Also, see related story.
“We’ll burn through a lot of expense in the next few days buying food and helping support our teams,” he said.
Tommy Kelly, pastor of Varnville First Baptist Church and president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, asked Christians to reach out to victims personally. “Find those who need help, and offer help, and do it in the name of Christ,” he said.
At least nine South Carolinians have died since a slow-moving rainstorm began on Friday. Some parts of the state saw more than 20 inches of rain. Hundreds of stranded people have been rescued from flooded homes and buildings.
Statewide, as of Monday morning, nearly 400 roads and 150 bridges have been closed, including 100 roads in Columbia. More than 26,000 are without power. Nearly 1,000 people are in shelters. Boil-water advisories are in effect for up to 40,000 people in Columbia and West Columbia.
Many churches in the Columbia area were forced to cancel services on Sunday. The offices of the South Carolina Baptist Convention were closed on Oct. 5.
At a news conference Monday morning, Gov. Nikki Haley said the danger “is not over” just because the rain has stopped, adding that it is still “a vulnerable situation.”
On Sunday, Haley said, “We are at a thousand-year level of rain. That’s how big this is.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Butch Blume is managing editor for The Baptist Courier, the news magazine of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)
10/7/2015 9:47:44 AM
October 7 2015 by
Art Toalston, Baptist Press
Butch Blume, The Baptist Courier | with 0 comments
Ronnie Floyd, in just over 3 and a half minutes, speaks volumes about ethnic inclusiveness within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
Floyd speaks in English and, through a translator’s voice, in Spanish and Korean in a new video to invite Southern Baptists to the SBC annual meeting next June in St. Louis.
More than 3,200 Hispanic churches and church-type missions are among the 40,700-plus Southern Baptist congregations across the U.S. and its territories.
Korean churches and church-type missions number more than 840, according to the SBC’s current statistics.
“With these two language groups comprising hundreds and hundreds of our churches, we want and need them to join us in St. Louis,” said Floyd.
“With 20 percent of our churches being non-Anglo and our nation becoming filled with ethnicities from across the globe, we must understand that reaching all ethnicities with the gospel is imperative to reach America and the world for Jesus Christ.” Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said in written comments. “This is why we want not only our Anglo churches to come to St. Louis, but all of our non-Anglo churches to join all of us.”
Across Southern Baptists’ ethnic spectrum, there are 3,500-plus African American churches and church-type missions, along with more than 430 that are Native American; 444 Haitian; 228 Chinese; 223 Multi-Ethnic; 185 Filipino; and 20 additional ethnic, language and racial groups with fewer than 100 churches each.
Guillermo Soriano, who is leading a new SBC-wide Hispanic Pastors and Leaders Network, said Floyd’s Spanish-language invitation to the convention’s 2016 annual meeting will be well-received among Hispanic Baptists.
The United States has become the second-largest Hispanic country in the world, Soriano noted, so “the presence and involvement of Hispanic Americans in our SBC” could become “one of the most effective ways” of revitalizing Southern Baptist churches that are declining or dying – “toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission with the Great Commandment.”
Soriano, who serves as North Carolina Baptists’ Hispanic evangelism and discipleship consultant, said the SBC annual meeting can be a key “opportunity to meet each other in order to build a ministry network for Kingdom purposes. Hispanic Americans would learn and understand much better our SBC structure and opportunities for inter-cultural collaboration. It could generate a disciple-making process with multigenerational implications and results.”
Paul Kim, now serving as the Asian American relations consultant with the SBC Executive Committee, commended “the creative vision with passion of Dr. Floyd” to invite non-English-speaking churches into broader involvement in Southern Baptist life.
Kim, who founded and led Boston’s Antioch Baptist Church (formerly Berkland Baptist Church) for 30 years as senior pastor, said the “first-ever Korean invitation to my fellow Korean pastors and churches … reflects the personal interest and heart of Dr. Floyd for Korean pastors and churches, saying, ‘I care for you!’ It touches our hearts.”
The video’s release comes “several months ahead to ask us to pray for the 2016 SBC meeting in St. Louis [with its theme] ‘Awaken America’ through a prayer movement for the Holy Spirit to revive our nation,” Kim added.
Floyd, in the video, states, “I am calling every pastor, every church leader and every layperson to come to St. Louis for our 2016 Southern Baptist family reunion. We have never needed to be together more than in 2016.
“With our ever-changing culture and the world becoming more dangerous by the day, now is the time for us to come together. Plus, God is moving among us mightily,” Floyd says. “Bring as many people as you can. Until we all arrive [in St. Louis next year on] June 14-15, I want to challenge you to Agree … Unite … and Pray. Yes, we need to ask God to Awaken America and to empower us to reach the world for Christ.”
Floyd also encourages Baptists to arrive in St. Louis in time to participate in the June 11 Crossover evangelistic thrust, held each year in the SBC annual meeting’s host city.
Bobby Sena, the Executive Committee’s Hispanic relations consultant, voiced a word of thanks to Floyd in a statement to Baptist Press. “Thank you for your commitment to serve all the members of the SBC family,” Sena wrote. “The videos in different languages send a powerful and positive message to the ethnic groups and show your heart and mission to the SBC! Proud of you, Hermano.”
Félix Cabrera, lead pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City, said, “Dr. Floyd since his first day as SBC president showed commitment not only with his words but also in actions with Hispanic Southern Baptists.” Cabrera commended Floyd for involving Hispanic Baptists in key platform roles during this year’s SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, and in the nomination of Hispanic pastors and leaders for various SBC committee assignments.
It is “not a surprise that he is taking time to let us know that we are not only part of the SBC but also that we are valued and important,” said Cabrera, who is among the leaders of a Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance committed to advancing sound doctrine as set forth in the SBC’s 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.
Floyd’s Spanish- and Korean-language videos continue a series of initiatives by SBC leaders to broaden ethnic involvement in the convention. In 2011, for example, messengers embraced a 10-point set of recommendations for steps by the SBC president and convention entities “to foster conscious awareness of the need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist life.”
For churches intent on sending messengers to the SBC annual meeting, two messengers can register from each cooperating church that contributes to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year. Additionally, the convention will recognize 10 additional messengers from a cooperating church under one of the following options:
One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the convention’s Executive Committee for convention causes, and/or to any convention entity.
One additional messenger for each $6,000 the church contributes in the preceding year through the normative combination of the Cooperative Program, designated gifts through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, the news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
10/7/2015 9:43:24 AM
October 7 2015 by
Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS Communications
Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
The transgender movement presents an unprecedented theological and cultural crisis for the church, said Southern Baptist scholars at an Oct. 5 pre-conference event, “Transgender: Transgender confusion and transformational Christianity,” at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The preconference preceded the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) annual conference, which is being held at the seminary Oct. 5-7 in Louisville, Ky. The preconference, co-sponsored by ACBC and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), is believed to be the first time evangelicals have held such an event to discuss the transgender movement.
“We have underestimated the challenge that we’re facing, and we have underestimated it in ways that betray the fact that the lessons of church history are so quickly forgotten,” said Southern Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. “The challenge that is now presented us by this comprehensive moral revolution taking place around us is tantamount for the kind of theological challenge that the church faced in the Trinitarian and Christological controversies of the first [few] centuries.”
The preconference featured Mohler, Owen Strachan, president of the CBMW and professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College. Burk and Heath Lambert, executive director of ACBC and associate professor of biblical counseling at Southern Seminary and Boyce College, recently wrote Transforming Homosexuality, and Burk is author of What is the Meaning of Sex?
Photo by Emil Handke
A panel of R. Albert Mohler Jr., Denny Burk, James M. Hamilton Jr., and Owen Strachen discuss the transgender movement during the ACBC/CBMW preconference, Oct. 5. SBTS
In his plenary session, Mohler – whose new book about the sexual revolution, “We Cannot Be Silent,” addresses the moral revolution facing Christianity – argued that the transgender movement represents the cultural dilemma about gender and sexuality even more clearly than homosexuality. The moral revolution has expanded so rapidly as to put the “very existence of biblical Christianity” into question, he said.
“The transgender revolution presents a more acute and more comprehensive challenge than merely the issue of homosexuality,” Mohler said. “Because of the identity questions rooted in creation, the transgender revolution represents a challenge on an altogether different scale.”
Strachan presented two competing worldviews on gender during his address, juxtaposing the constructionist perspective – that all gender differences are socially cultivated and not inherent to each person – with the essentialist perspective – that gender differences are part of God’s creation design and that men and women are essentially different. One’s God-given sex, Strachan argued, does define and determine how one should live.
“We cannot be whatever we want; we cannot make ourselves whatever we would wish to be,” he said. “Our body is not supposed to be whatever we make of it. Our frame is intricately woven. How different a perspective is that than a transgenderist perspective? Our bodies are woven by God, as with a beautiful loom of creation.”
Reading the creation story in Genesis 1 as formative for gender identity, Strachan argued that manhood and womanhood are both unique and intentional. The differences are not incidental, he argued, but part of God’s purposes in creation. Therefore, girls should be encouraged to be girls, and boys should be encouraged to be boys, he said.
“We, unlike the culture, are not asking our little boys to change,” he said. “Many boys simply need a father who takes notice of them, who throws his iPhone against the wall and gets on the floor and plays with his boy and doesn’t abandon his son. That’s what the church needs more of, I think, and that’s what the culture needs more of.”
Strachan strongly opposed claims that Paul’s theology of manhood and womanhood emerge from the apostle’s confusion regarding sexual orientation. Far from being bound by his time and culture, Paul was witnessing the very creation order of God, Strachan said.
“The apostle Paul isn’t behind the times. The Apostle Paul doesn’t need education. The Apostle Paul was a living apostle of Jesus Christ who died in the name of Christ. And I will trust a slain apostle before I will trust a blogger anytime.”
Strachan encouraged the conference attendees to hold firm to their convictions, leaning on their confidence in the provision and power of God himself.
“Know that God has not messed things up. The church is not a crisis PR firm, cleaning up the messes Jesus has made. That is not our role,” he said. “God does not need new PR; God needs people who will preach the truth in love.”
During his talk, Burk emphasized the human side of the transgender debate, urging that Christians should have a posture of compassion and love toward transgender people who suffer the effects of the Fall.
“How are we going to respond in the face of this kind of conflict? This is a very real challenge,” Burk said. “Our first response should not be outrage; our first response should be heartbreak.”
Christians should be sensitive to the pain and confusion transgender people feel when they experience a conflict between their perceived gender and their biological sex. Christians should long for their redemption, recognizing that surrendering biblical truth doesn’t lead to genuine wholeness, he said.
“We aren’t being loving, we aren’t being compassionate, we’re not leading them to Christ when we in any way diminish the authority of scripture,” he said. “This is the Word of Life. When this Word speaks, God speaks. … We are not loving people if we lead them to a perspective on Scripture that goes that way.”
While popular opinion about gender continues to swing away from biblical teaching, Burk said Christians will continue to be reviled and mocked publicly by those who oppose a distinctly Christian worldview, which appears more strange and unusual at each stage of the moral revolution. The church’s faithfulness to Christ and his Word will be tested in unprecedented ways in the coming years, he said.
“For Christians to oppose those dogmas with the Word of God doesn’t just make us wrong, in the eyes of many it renders us haters and bigots and people who should be banished to the margins of polite society,” Burk said. “This is a real test for us because the stakes are so high.”
Following the three plenary sessions, Mohler, Burk, Strachan and James M. Hamilton Jr. professor of biblical theology at Southern Seminary, participated in a panel moderated by Lambert.
Using the oft-debated passage about women and head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11, Strachan argued Paul had strong categories for manhood and womanhood rooted in creation. Christians should encourage and cultivate God-given gender differences in their communities, Strachan said.
“We want to be very clear to transgender people that we love them, that we share common humanity with them, and every single person in here – the most conservative person in here – has to own being a man or a being a woman,” he said. “We all must choose that regularly by the Spirit.”
During the panel, Mohler suggested that even without Christian theologians speaking out against the transgender movement during a conference, the revolution would not continue unopposed.
“If we did not have this conference, if we just shut up,” Mohler said, “I don’t believe that those who are pushing the revolution would be at peace, because I don’t think it’s just us. I believe that the conscience in them is crying out, a knowledge that they cannot deny.”
ACBC is an evangelical organization that has certified biblical counselors for 40 years. The live stream for the ACBC annual conference on homosexuality is available at sbts.edu/live.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andrew J.W. Smith writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
Transgender issues slated as focus of SBTS conference
Transgender ministry, gender roles discussed
10/7/2015 9:37:35 AM
Andrew J.W. Smith, SBTS Communications | with 0 comments