News

NGU states expectations of administration, faculty

September 2 2015 by Baptist Courier staff

The chairperson of North Greenville University’s (NGU) board of trustees has issued a statement that school leaders “are expected to lead Christ-centered lives” and that current administrative staff and faculty members reflect the Baptist university’s “legal, moral and ethical expectations” and are held to “the highest of standards.”
 
The written statement, which the university sent to The Baptist Courier by email Aug. 27, apparently was in response to a recently uploaded YouTube video titled “Epting Exposed” that apparently uncovers an affair between Epting and a female staff member. The video was  recorded by Epting’s son, Paul Epting, according to a report by Christianity Today. Epting’s son said in the confrontation, “What are y’all doing? … It’s over, Dad. This is done.” It was unclear who posted the video to YouTube.

 
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In January 2015, the university announced that then-President Jimmy Epting would take a “sabbatical leave” during the spring semester and retire in May. At the time, Randall Pannell, who would later be named interim president, said health concerns might have been a “catalyst” in Epting’s decision to step down.
 
In her Aug. 27 statement, NGU board chairperson Beverly Hawkins requested that the university “be allowed to focus on the traditions of our campus and our bright future as a community.”
 
Neither Hawkins nor Pannell were available for comment, said LaVerne Howell, NGU’s director of marketing and public relations, in response to an email from The Courier.
 
Efforts by The Baptist Courier to reach Epting by telephone prior to its publishing deadline were unsuccessful.
 
Epting’s 23-year tenure as North Greenville’s president began in 1991 when he was named the seventh president of the school, located in Tigerville, S.C., just north of Greenville.
 
Beverly Hawkins’ full statement follows:
 
“North Greenville University’s leaders are expected to lead Christ-centered lives and abide by all campus policies and procedures. The administration and faculty on campus today reflect our legal, moral and ethical expectations. We take our responsibilities as leaders of a Christian institution seriously and hold each member of our community to the highest of standards.
 
“As an institution, our promise is to combine an academic environment with a Christ-like lifestyle and provide students with opportunities for spiritual growth, academic training and Christian service. We will continue to focus our efforts on celebrating the start of the academic year with our students and ask that we be allowed to focus on the traditions of our campus and our bright future as a community.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the staff of the Baptist Courier at baptistcourier.com, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Biblical Recorder staff added to this story.)

9/2/2015 12:53:18 PM by Baptist Courier staff | with 0 comments



Clerk loses, resists high court on marriage licenses

September 2 2015 by Baptist Press staff

A Kentucky county clerk not only lost at the U.S. Supreme Court Aug. 31 but now faces a likely contempt of court ruling for again refusing to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
 
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis and her deputies turned away gay couples seeking marriage licenses Sept. 1 at their office in the eastern Kentucky town of Morehead. Their refusal came after the high court denied Davis’ request to block enforcement of a federal judge’s order that she issue licenses for same-sex marriages.
 
Lawyers for the gay couples subsequently filed a contempt of court motion against Davis, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported. David Bunning, the federal judge who previously ordered Davis to issue licenses, will consider Thursday the request she be held in contempt, according to the newspaper.
 
The Supreme Court’s denial of Davis’ application for a stay of the order came two months after the justices legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. That 5-4 ruling June 26 prompted some country clerks to resign their jobs rather than issue licenses to gay couples. Davis stopped issuing all marriage licenses and has refused to resign, appealing for an accommodation of her religious beliefs in order for her to keep her job.
 
American history “is filled with accommodations for people’s religious freedom and conscience,” Davis said Sept. 1 in a statement issued by Liberty Counsel, a religious freedom advocacy organization that represents her. “I want to continue to perform my duties, but I also am requesting what our Founders envisioned – that conscience and religious freedom would be protected.”

 
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Image captured from ABC News video
Kim Davis

Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, found the Supreme Court’s decision unsurprising, since the same justices ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. “This case is just another step along the sad road where erotic liberty trumps religious liberty in the United States,” he said.
 
“This can’t be an easy stand for Mrs. Davis to take,” Chitwood said. “The criticism is sharp, and the potential for fines and even jail time is very real. No matter how this plays out, we can all agree she’s facing an unenviable situation, and Christians across this country need to be praying for her.”
 
Tom James, president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said he supports Davis.
 
“To issue the license would not only violate her conscience but also her protection under the First Amendment of our Constitution, which provides for the free exercise of religion,” said James, pastor of Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green, in a written statement. “Christianity is not something a person can stop practicing when they go to work or school; our relationship with Christ should be marked by deeply held convictions that permeate all of who we are.
 
“We as a society are moving towards removing all of God’s standards and to silence all of God’s children who seek to speak light and truth in a society that is becoming darker by the minute,” he said.
 
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called it “a sad development.”
 
He said the government “ought to provide its employees with all protections possible to the furtherance of maintaining public order.”
 
“There are better solutions available than the one in Kentucky that needlessly pits the rule of law against freedom of conscience,” Moore said in written comments. “The governor and legislature of Kentucky could act to accommodate county clerks whose consciences object to issuing same-sex marriage licenses while still maintaining the rule of law.”
 
The Supreme Court opinion in June did not rule out accommodations for the conscience rights of religious Americans, Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver said Aug. 31 before the high court issued its denial.
 
“Providing religious conviction accommodations is not antithetical for public employees,” Staver said in a written release. “Throughout our history the courts have accommodated people’s deeply held religious beliefs.”
 
Among the accommodations suggested to the Supreme Court, Staver said, were removing Davis’ name from marriage licenses and permitting the county’s chief executive to issue licenses.
 
David Moore and David Ermold were among the same-sex couples whose requests for marriage licenses were rejected by Davis’ office Sept. 1.
 
“Who has to go through this to get married? This is 2015. This is America. This is what we pay taxes for – to be treated like this. To be discriminated against,” Moore told Davis, according to The Courier-Journal.
 
When asked under whose authority she was refusing to issue licenses, Davis said, “Under God’s authority.”
 
In her statement issued by Liberty Counsel, Davis said, “To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience.
 
“To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word. It is a matter of religious liberty,” said Davis, who served as a deputy clerk for 27 years before winning election last year as county clerk.
 
Steven Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said in a written statement, “The duty of public officials is to enforce the law, not place themselves above it.” The ACLU and ACLU of Kentucky filed the contempt motions with Bunning.
 
Davis has appealed Bunning’s order to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, but a court delay preventing enforcement of the order expired Aug. 31.
 
She has sued Gov. Steve Beshear for ordering the state’s county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, contributed to this article.)
 

Related Stories:

Ky. clerks continue fight against gay marriage
Ky. county clerk prays, denies same-sex marriages

9/2/2015 12:47:20 PM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments



Pioneer missionary doctor Wana Ann Fort dies

September 2 2015 by Laura Fielding, IMB Connections

Missionary doctor Wana Ann Gibson Fort, 91, died Aug. 31 in Baton Rouge, La.
 
Fort and her husband, the late Milton “Giles” Fort Jr., served with the then-called Foreign Mission Board as pioneer missionary doctors at Sanyati Baptist Hospital in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). At this hospital, Fort and her husband helped launch a spiritual awakening through medical missions.
 
The Forts, appointed as missionaries in 1952, led countless patients to Christ.
 
“We were committed to being God’s hands of mercy and healing to souls and bodies,” she once said.
 
She and her husband raised five sons in Zimbabwe. Three have served or continue to serve as missionaries with the International Mission Board (IMB). Two of the Forts’ sons are medical doctors.

 
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Photo courtesy of the Fort family
Pioneer missionary doctor Wana Ann Gibson Fort, 91, died Aug. 31 in Baton Rouge, La. Fort and her husband, the late Milton “Giles” Fort Jr., served at Sanyati Baptist Hospital in Southern Rhodesia.

“Mom lived out the reality of her faith,” said Gordon Fort, one of Wana Ann’s sons and IMB senior ambassador. “As wife, momma, teacher, doctor, women’s worker, and serving missions support functions, she demonstrated what it means to live a life of obedience to the Master. It has been our incredible privilege to have been a part of her life’s journey.”
 
During the Forts’ missionary service in Africa, the Shona people named Fort “Mai Chiremba,” meaning “Mother Doctor.” She led Chief Whozhele, the area leader at Sanyati, to faith in Jesus Christ after he was her patient.
 
Fort was one of the first people that missionary Tim Cearley met when he arrived to serve in Rhodesia in 1976. Cearley now serves as IMB affinity group strategy leader for Sub-Saharan African peoples.
 
“Her big smile and excitement about young people joining the [missionary] force, as well as her love for discipling African people, was an inspiration to me after [her] over 25 years on the field,” he said.
 
When Cearley and his wife returned to Africa as career missionaries in 1983, Wana Ann and Giles welcomed them into their home. From the Forts, the Cearleys learned a passion for language, culture and most importantly, “a desire for people to come to know the Lord.” Cearley also noted that Fort was active in working with and discipling women.
 
“It’s impossible to think about Wana Ann without thinking of their home in Sanyati, where they served as medical doctors,” he said. “The sons they raised in that place have also had a huge impact on Africa. I’m thankful for the years of knowing Wana Ann on the field, and since her retirement. She’s had an amazing life.”
 
Fort served as a pediatrician at Sanyati until 1978. When the family moved to Harare (formerly Salisbury), Zimbabwe, she ministered in the church and at home. She also served as mission financial administrator and as treasurer.
 
“When my youngest brother Grady was born with Down syndrome, it was Mom’s skills as a pediatrician in caring for his special needs that allowed them to stay on the field and continue their missionary service,” Gordon Fort said. “The fact that Grady is alive today at 54 and thriving is a tribute to her medical gifts.”
 
The Forts retired from missionary service in September 1988 after nearly 36 years with IMB.

 
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IMB Photo
At Sanyati Baptist Hospital, Dr. Wana Ann Fort and her husband helped launch a spiritual awakening through medical missions. During Fort’s missionary service in Africa, the Shona people named her “Mai Chiremba,” meaning “Mother Doctor.”

Wana Ann Fort wrote an autobiography of her years as a missionary doctor, A Thousand Times Yes, from New Hope Publishers.
 
“Way more than once we were asked, ‘Do you really like living in Africa?’” she said in the book. “I did not have to think about my answer. It was always a thousand times, ‘Yes!’”
 
About her call to missions to this remote area, Fort wrote, “I came to the place in prayer that I could tell the Lord this was impossible for me to do, but I would commit my way to Him, trusting in Him to bring it all to pass for His honor. How marvelous it is that God knows the best way for His children!”
 
Fort was born June 21, 1924, in Harrisonburg, La., and was the oldest of seven girls. She accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior at age 12.
 
Throughout her childhood, she was involved in Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) educational programs, where she developed a love for international missions.
 
Fort attended Louisiana Tech University during World War II; in fact, during her first semester, Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941.
 
While attending a Baptist Student Union conference at Ridgecrest, a LifeWay Conference Center in North Carolina, Fort dedicated her life to world missions and planned to be a missionary doctor.
 
During her college years, she met her husband, Giles, of Fort Worth, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M University and planned to attend medical college. After completing service in the Navy, he also intended to become a missionary doctor. Wana Ann Fort graduated from Louisiana Tech in the fall of 1944, summa cum laude.
 
Giles and Wana Ann were married on June 14, 1946, in Harrisonburg, and both attended Baylor College of Medicine.
 
Wana Ann Fort graduated with honors from Baylor College of Medicine in 1949, one of three women in a class of 62 graduates. She worked as a doctor in pediatrics at Jefferson Davis Hospital in Houston, Texas.
 
Fort was a lifelong member of WMU, and a member of Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.
 
Her survivors include five sons: Giles Fort III, M.D., of Louisiana, David Fort, M.D., West Africa, Gordon Fort, Virginia, Gregg Fort, Zimbabwe, and Grady Fort, Louisiana; four daughters-in-law; 14 grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; four sisters and two brothers-in-law: Jane Noonan, of Florida, Polly and Don Hamilton, Oklahoma, Evelyn and Wayne McDonald, South Carolina, and Rose Ellzey, Louisiana; and nieces and nephews.
 
Nearly 250 cumulative years of missionary service are represented in the Fort family.
 
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering through a Southern Baptist church or online.
 
Visitation will be held at Greenoaks Funeral Home in Baton Rouge on Sept. 1, from 6-9 p.m. A memorial service will be held at Parkview Baptist Church, 11795 Jefferson Highway in Baton Rouge at 10 a.m. on Sept. 2. A graveside service will be held at Louisiana National Cemetery at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Fielding is an IMB writer. Kim P. Davis, a writer who served as a missionary in Zimbabwe with members of the Fort family, contributed to this story.)

9/2/2015 12:28:51 PM by Laura Fielding, IMB Connections | with 0 comments



Stress & ministry focus of new study

September 2 2015 by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research

Though pastors are stressed about money and overwhelming ministry demands, only one percent abandon the pulpit each year, LifeWay Research finds.
 
LifeWay Research surveyed 1,500 pastors of evangelical and historically black churches and found an estimated 13 percent of senior pastors in 2005 had left the pastorate 10 years later for reasons other than death or retirement. The study, released Sept. 1, was gathered from a survey conducted March 5-18.
 
“Pastors are not leaving the ministry in droves,” said Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research vice president.

 
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Still, pastors say the role can be tough:

  • 84 percent say they’re on call 24 hours a day.

  • 80 percent expect conflict in their church.

  • 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming.

  • 53 percent are often concerned about their family’s financial security.

  • 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle.

  • 21 percent say their church has unrealistic expectations of them.

“This is a brutal job,” McConnell said. “The problem isn’t that pastors are quitting – the problem is that pastors have a challenging work environment.
 
“Churches ought to be concerned, and they ought to be doing what they can.”

 

Leaving the ministry

The survey, commissioned by the North American Mission Board and Richard Dockins, an occupational medicine physician in Houston concerned about pastoral attrition, also examined why pastors leave the ministry and what can be done to support pastors.
 
Looking back at the leadership of their church 10 years earlier, today’s pastors report relative stability. Forty-four percent say they were pastor of their current church 10 years ago, and 12 percent say the pastor from 2005 now leads another church. Ten percent of pastors from 2005 have retired, and 3 percent have died.
 
Small segments have left the pastorate, current pastors say. Two percent shifted to non-ministry jobs, and 5 percent stayed in ministry but switched to non-pastoral roles. Combined, those two groups account for known losses of less than 1 percent a year.
 
In some cases, current pastors didn’t know who led the church 10 years earlier (16 percent) or weren’t sure of the previous pastor’s whereabouts (3 percent). Assuming those cases follow the same pattern as the known instances, McConnell estimates a total of 29,000 evangelical pastors have left the pastorate over the past decade, an average of fewer than 250 a month.
 
Current pastors say a change in calling is the top reason their predecessors left the pastorate, accounting for 37 percent of departures.
 
Conflict in the church – something 64 percent of pastors experienced in their last church – is the second most common reason at 26 percent.

 
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Other reasons pastors have left the pastorate include family issues (17 percent), moral or ethical issues (13 percent), poor fit (13 percent), burnout (10 percent), personal finances (8 percent), and illness (5 percent). Lack of preparation for the job was cited in 3 percent of cases.
 

Switching churches

Many senior pastors are relatively new to their current churches – 35 percent have been there five years or less – but most are not new to the pastorate. Fifty-seven percent of current senior pastors previously held that role elsewhere.
 
Most said they moved on because they had taken the previous church as far as they could (54 percent). However, 23 percent of pastors who changed churches say they left because of conflict in the church.
 
Church conflict often took multiple forms in pastors’ last churches, including significant personal attacks against 34 percent of the pastors.
 
Pastors also reported conflict over changes they proposed (38 percent), their leadership style (27 percent), expectations about the pastor’s role (25 percent), and doctrinal differences (13 percent). Thirty-eight percent faced conflict with lay leaders, and 31 percent found themselves in conflict with a church matriarch or patriarch.
 
More than a third of pastors (34 percent) say they left a previous church because their family needed a change. One in five found the church did not embrace their approach to pastoral ministry (19 percent). Pastors also cited poor fit and unrealistic expectations (18 percent each) as reasons for leaving. Some were reassigned (18 percent) or asked to leave (8 percent).
 

Family issues

On the surface, pastors’ responses about their families are quite positive, yet many indicate things could be better by agreeing only “somewhat.” More than 9 in 10 married pastors say their spouses are enthusiastic about life in ministry together (63 percent agree strongly; 31 percent somewhat), have found a fulfilling ministry in the church (65 percent agree strongly; 26 percent somewhat), and are very satisfied with their marriage (82 percent agree strongly; 16 percent somewhat).
 
In addition, 20 percent of pastors say their family resents the demands of pastoral ministry, and more than a third (35 percent) say the demands of ministry prevent them from spending time with their family.
 
“Each pastor I talk to agrees that there are increasing demands placed on his life and family today,” said Michael Lewis, executive director for pastor care at the North American Mission Board. “Healthy pastors with growing family relationships are empowered to lead healthy congregations that reach their communities.”

 
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Protecting themselves

The demands of ministry require pastors to protect themselves, they say. Ninety-four percent consistently protect time with their family. Nine in 10 regularly listen for signs of conflict in the church, and 92 percent make deliberate efforts to prevent conflict.
 
Although they typically work on others’ traditional day of rest, 85 percent of pastors say they unplug from ministerial duties to rest at least one day a week. The majority (59 percent) find seven or more occasions a week for private Bible study and prayer, unrelated to preparing sermons or lessons.
 
Caution is warranted when counseling, says Adam Mason, minister of counseling services for Houston’s First Baptist Church. “It’s almost always the minister beginning the process of counseling a person of the opposite sex and the emotional support that they give each other through the counseling process that leads to an inappropriate physical relationship.”
 
More than three-quarters of pastors say they have another staff member present when counseling those of the opposite gender (78 percent) and refer people to a professional counselor if the situation requires more than two sessions (76 percent). Most say they have received training in counseling, including graduate school courses (52 percent), conferences (64 percent), and books or articles (90 percent).
 
For their own emotional well-being, pastors say they openly share their struggles at least once a month with a source of support such as their spouse (90 percent), a close friend (74 percent), another pastor (71 percent), or a mentor (42 percent).
 
Help is available in a variety of forms. Care4Pastors.com has numerous resources for pastors and churches who desire to support their pastor. Focus on the Family’s pastoral care team is available to provide supportive direction at 1-844-4PASTOR1.
 

Support from their church

Most pastors acknowledge they knew what they were getting into, although 1 in 5 think the search team didn’t accurately describe the church during their candidacy. Still, they pinpoint shortcomings in their churches that make a pastor’s role more challenging:

  • 71 percent of churches have no plan for a pastor to receive a periodic sabbatical.

  • 66 percent lack a support group for the pastor’s family.

  • 66 percent have no lay counseling ministry.

  • 33 percent don’t have a list of counselors for referrals.

  • 30 percent have no document clearly stating what the church expects of its pastor.

  • 16 percent lack a process for church discipline.

“If you’re at all in a position of influence in a church, there are practical things you can be doing to help,” McConnell said.
 
“Is there a document that clearly defines what the pastor’s job is?” he asked. “That’s a basic need a church could meet in the next two weeks. Does the church have a sabbatical policy? That’s something you can put in place in a matter of a month.”
 
Despite the stresses, 92 percent of pastors say their congregations regularly give genuine encouragement to the pastor’s family.
 
H.B. London, pastor to pastors emeritus at Focus on the Family, summarized: “For a pastor and his family to know that 1) the leadership is praying for them, 2) they affirm them, 3) they encourage them, and 4) they recognize the work that is being done – those are things that give a pastor hope or give a pastor a sense of being wanted.”
 
Methodology: The phone survey of pastors of evangelical and black Protestant denominations was conducted March 5-18, 2015. The calling list was a random sample, stratified by church membership and denominational groups, drawn from a list of all evangelical and black Protestant churches. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister, or priest of the church called. The completed sample is 1,500 pastors. Responses were weighted by region and denominational group to more accurately reflect the population. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 2.7 percent. This margin of error accounts for the effect of weighting. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups. The study was sponsored by the North American Mission Board and Richard Dockins, M.D.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lisa Cannon Green is senior writer for “Facts & Trends” magazine.)

9/2/2015 12:11:27 PM by Lisa Cannon Green, LifeWay Research | with 0 comments



Pastor appreciation opportunities available

September 2 2015 by Joe Conway, NAMB

Imagine if pastors received the same support and accolades reserved for college football coaches. While many churches encourage their pastors well – and some do an exemplary job – many pastors feel closer to last year’s fired head coach then the man with the post-game TV show.
 
Enter pastor appreciation month in October. Pastors need demonstrated love and support, perhaps as much as any other vocation. The stresses of accepting spiritual responsibility for congregations are well-documented in scripture by Paul and today in countless surveys. Your pastor needs your support.
 
“Just as Moses needed an Aaron and Hur to lift his weary arms in battle (Exodus 17), so every pastor needs encouragement from his church to lift his arms in the spiritual battle facing the local church,” said Michael Lewis, executive director for the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) pastoral care and development office. “Pastors, whose jobs are all about ‘giving out,’ are ‘wearing out.’ Pastors need affirmation and encouragement from their congregations. Serving as a local church pastor is filled with pressing demands.”

 
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As a former pastor, Lewis understands those pressures. One question a church can ask itself is, “Shouldn’t our pastor have … ?” and fill in the blank with what church members take for granted or see their pastor truly needs. Take concrete steps to meet the need, which may include time off or a sabbatical, Lewis said.
 
NAMB president Kevin Ezell, who most recently pastored Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., for 14 years prior to coming to NAMB, knows well the joys and demands of leading a church.
 
“It’s the greatest privilege in the world to pastor a congregation,” Ezell said. “But it is also very demanding and we need to take steps to protect, strengthen and express appreciation for our pastors.”
 
Lewis adds that appreciation for pastors is simply following the exhortations of 1 Thess. 5:12,13, and Gal. 6:6. Churches can find “Five simple steps to lift up God’s servant in your church” at namb.net/For_Lay_Leaders.
 
Learn more about pastoral care and development at sendnetwork.com/pastoral-care-and-development.
 
As a way of encouraging more churches to participate in pastor appreciation month in October, NAMB is partnering with worship leaders Shane and Shane to provide a worship event for a selected church which best demonstrates the spirit of pastor appreciation. The recipient church will have the opportunity to host the free event as an additional thank-you for its pastor.
 
Church members can post photos on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #LiftMyPastor showing how they lift their pastor with one of NAMB’s resources found at sendnetwork.com/pastors-appreciation. Posts should include details of why and how the church body chose to lift their pastor.
 
Each social media post that uses the hashtag #LiftMyPastor will be entered for the chance to bring Shane and Shane to their church for a worship night. Visit facebook.com/NAMB.SBC for details and more about entering your church’s example of pastor appreciation.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.)

9/2/2015 12:02:29 PM by Joe Conway, NAMB | with 0 comments



CT cover highlights ERLC’s Moore

September 1 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Russell Moore’s five meetings with President Barack Obama and a personal objection to displaying the Confederate battle flag that predates Moore’s public stance on the issue are among the highlights of a Christianity Today (CT) cover article profiling the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) president.
 
“Moore may be a fitting figurehead for evangelical public policy leading up to November 2016, during which, absent an evangelical pope, media will look to him to speak for the movement,” wrote editor at large Sarah Pulliam Bailey in the September issue of CT.
 
All five of Moore’s meetings with Obama have concerned immigration, according to CT, which noted Moore’s public disagreement with the president regarding abortion and same-sex marriage. With both the White House and Congress, Moore “shifts between prophetic dissent and hearty support, depending on the issue,” CT reported.

 
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During one of the regular conference calls Moore hosts with Southern Baptist pastors, a participant asked him how to criticize Obama “in a way that is Christian,” according to CT. Moore responded, “Make sure you are publicly praying for the president and honoring him in situations where you’re not criticizing him. Some of the ways I’ve heard people pray for the president have been things like, ‘Lord, we pray you turn his wicked heart.’”
 
By avoiding passive-aggressive prayers, Moore said pastors can “signal you really do want the president to succeed but you’re disappointed with what he’s doing.”
 
Moore’s opposition to displaying the Confederate battle flag dates back at least to an occasion when he was preparing to host African-American friends in his home and noted the Confederate battle emblem on a Mississippi flag he had pinned to a bulletin board. “He noticed the Confederate cross in the corner of the flag – and couldn’t imagine trying to explain why he had the flag hanging in his home,” CT reported. “As Moore unpinned the flag from the wall, it fell apart in his hands.”
 
Moore remembered that experience when he spoke against displaying the Confederate battle emblem following the fatal shooting of nine black churchgoers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., this summer, according to CT.
 
Regarding the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Moore said, “If in 10 years Fred Luter is the only person of color” to have served as SBC president, “that will not be progress.”
 
Among other highlights of the CT cover article:

  • After being “raised by a Catholic mother and a Baptist father in a working-class neighborhood in Biloxi, Mississippi,” Moore went on to become an aide to U.S. Congressman Gene Taylor, a Catholic pro-life Democrat from Mississippi, CT reported, noting Moore has since switched to the Republican Party. Taylor, Moore wrote in 2006, is “the greatest public servant I’ve ever known.”

  • Moore’s adoption advocacy, including his 2009 book Adopted for Life, “has given him a broadly evangelical platform that combines theological, cultural and political engagement,” according to CT. Moore and his wife Maria adopted two boys from Russia before having three biological sons.

  • Labelling Moore a “big-tent Calvinist,” CT said he embraces four of the traditional five points of Calvinistic soteriology. “He’s not on board with Limited Atonement,” CT notes, a reference to Moore’s rejection of the idea that Christ’s death atoned for the sins of the elect only.

  • “Country music and hip-hop are the only two popular music forms in America that have a more holistic view of a person and deal with sin,” Moore said. “Both of these forms of music at their best tend to be more honest.”

  • Moore “occasionally meets with hip-hop artists like Lecrae,” CT noted, “though he retains deep affinity for his Mississippi church that sang Fanny Crosby revivalist songs.” Moore “may be uniquely equipped” to reach both Millennials and Baby Boomers, according to CT.

  • The article notes Moore’s willingness to embrace “the cultural margins” and countercultural aspects of Christianity. “The end of the gospel,” he said, “is not a Christian America.”

While “America is important,” Moore said “the end goal of the gospel is redeemed from every tribe and tongue and nation and language. ... We belong to another Kingdom.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

9/1/2015 12:10:58 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Christ’s love put on display at SEBTS convocation

September 1 2015 by SEBTS Communications

Binkley Chapel was filled with new and returning students, faculty and staff for the fall 2015 convocation celebrating the sacrificial love of Christ.
 
On the morning of Aug. 18 Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SEBTS) first chapel service of the semester featured President Daniel Akin preaching from John 13.
 
Akin spoke about Christ’s “new commandment” for Christians to serve others as Jesus served them. Akin also highlighted Christ’s humility as the Savior washed the disciples’ feet on the eve of His crucifixion.
 
The sermon was titled, “How will the world know that we belong to Jesus?” He posed the question “What does it mean to love others as Jesus has loved us?”

 
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Akin believes that Christians’ “love for others will show Jesus’ love to the nations.” He stated that by the way Christians live, love, serve and die they show that they belong to Jesus.
 
As an example of someone who lived this kind of life, Akin shared the story of Christian missionary and martyr Eleanor Chestnut. She was an orphan in the late 19th century whose faith in Christ led her to medical missions in China. Her sacrificial work in China led to the growth of a local church to 300 members.
 
In 1905 at the age of 37 she was martyred in China for her faith. Years later, the community spoke about how Chestnut’s loving care of others made them think of Jesus.
 
Akin and his wife Charlotte, along with a few of the SEBTS faculty, put the message into practice by washing the feet of five students.

 

The Hendley chair, new faculty and teaching awards

In addition, Ken Keathley was installed in the Jesse Hendley Chair of Biblical Theology. Ed Hindson, dean of the divinity school at Liberty University and author of more than 40 books introduced the new chair.

 
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Hendley is best remembered as one of Southern Baptists’ most remarkable evangelists. He hosted “The Radio Evangelistic Hour” beginning in 1931 and continued until his death at the age of 87 on Nov. 30, 1994.
 
Keathley, professor of theology and the director of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, graduated from SEBTS with a master of divinity and a doctorate in theology.
 
“I am grateful to the Hendley Foundation for the funding it provided, to Ed Hindson for his work in guiding the endowment to Southeastern, and to the administration for bestowing the chair,” Keathley said. “Occupying the Hendley chair is a privilege I do not take lightly.”
 
Akin recognized two new members elected to the faculty at SEBTS including Stephen Eccher, assistant professor of church history and reformation studies, and Jim Shaddix, professor of preaching and W.A. Criswell Chair of Preaching.
 
Also during chapel, Provost Bruce Ashford presented Chuck Quarles, professor of New Testament and biblical theology, and Matthew Mullins, assistant professor of English and history of ideas, with the “Faculty Excellence and Teaching Award.”
 
To watch this message online, visit multimedia.sebts.edu/?p=6271.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story was compiled from SEBTS press releases by Emily Blake, editorial aide for the Biblical Recorder.)

9/1/2015 12:04:19 PM by SEBTS Communications | with 0 comments



Jesus myths need correction, Darling writes

September 1 2015 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Even evangelical Christians can believe in a mythical Jesus, and that needs to be corrected, says Daniel Darling.
 
“I’ve seen a tendency among evangelicals, including myself, to create a Jesus in our own image rather than surrendering to the Spirit’s work of creating us in Christ’s image,” said Darling. “The scriptures present one Christ, the Christ of history, the Christ who is. I think chasing down a Jesus who looks just like us ends up with disappointment and disillusionment. The Jesus who is is infinitely better than the Jesus we create.”
 
Darling’s new book, The Original Jesus: Trading the Myths We Create for the Savior Who Is, is his effort to clear up some popular and misguided notions about Jesus.
 
“I want to peel away the faux Jesus we’ve constructed and expose the real Jesus,” writes Darling, vice president for communications of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in the introduction. “My only goal is to help knock down some Jesus myths, our ideas about Jesus that are either incomplete or totally false.”

 
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In a review for The Gospel Coalition, Justin Dillehay concludes Darling succeeded in his mission, saying he “peels back the husk of cultural myths and gives us the historical, biblical kernel – a Jesus who is both God and man, transcendently above and immanently (Immanuel-ly) with us, and a Jesus who is different than we would have chosen, but better than we could ever have imagined.”
 
Darling addresses 10 myths in the same number of chapters in the book, which will be released Sept. 1. The chapter titles – and myths – include “Red-letter Jesus,” “Braveheart Jesus,” “American Jesus,” “Dr. Phil Jesus,” “Prosperity Jesus” and “BFF Jesus.”
 
Two of these, Darling said, are particularly prevalent and worrisome in American culture: “Red-letter Jesus” and “BFF Jesus.”
 
“I understand the sentiment of wanting to follow Jesus in the way of compassion and relief and peace,” he said regarding the “red-letter” emphasis practiced by some Christians. “But we do damage to the revelation of scripture and of the presentation of Christ from Genesis to Revelation if we accept a hermeneutic that says only the words quoted by Jesus in the gospels are scripture that matters.”
 
The BFF version of Jesus produces a casualness about the Son of God that can imperil people, Darling said.
 
In the book, he writes, “Our homogenized evangelicalism can at times make weekly worship more like a divinely inspired TED talk than an act of worship, offering a Jesus who desperately wants to be your BFF but is totally chill if you’re, like, not that into him.”
 
Darling said, “When we reduce Christ down to a jogging buddy or a sidekick, we lose the powerful deity who has come to save us, rescue us and bring us home. We need to recover a sense of the transcendence and holiness of God.”
 
Holding onto a mythical Jesus who is a mascot for a favorite cause may mean the American church will be “in for a rude awakening over the next several decades,” he writes in the chapter on “American Jesus.”
 
“I don’t want to sound alarmist,” Darling says in the book, “but the coming years will force us to make difficult choices. The unbroken social contract between the church and the culture, rare in human history, is fraying, and I’m afraid we’re not ready for what comes next. We will have to choose between cultural acceptance and the way of Jesus.”
 
He said, “If we’ve followed a Jesus who is so well-liked by the world that there is no difference between the Christian and the culture, then we’ve followed the wrong Jesus.”
 
The most significant action Christians can take to avoid following a mythical version of Jesus is “to surrender our assumptions about Jesus to the revelation of scripture,” Darling said. “Let scripture, not our emotions, not our feelings, not our preferences, form our view of Christ.”
 
The solution involves a corporate aspect as well, he said. “[I]t’s important to be deeply involved in a local, Bible-believing church and embedded in community. One thing we’ve lost in America that we need to recover is the sense of growing in Christ in community.”
 
Pastors, meanwhile, have the responsibility “to get out of the way and let the Word of Christ dwell in people with richness and power,” Darling writes in his book, commending expository preaching. “This stewardship is why we must lay aside our opinions and proclaim God’s Word.”
 
The Original Jesus, published by Baker Books, will be available at Lifeway Christian Stores, among other booksellers, and Amazon.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

9/1/2015 11:57:02 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



John Stonestreet to lead Chuck Colson worldview center

September 1 2015 by David Carlson, Baptist Press

John Stonestreet has been appointed president of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. A gifted communicator on areas of faith and culture, published author, and a popular conference speaker, Stonestreet is the anchor for The Point and BreakPoint This Week radio broadcasts. Since the death of Chuck Colson in 2012, Stonestreet has served as co-host with Eric Metaxas on Colson’s daily radio program, BreakPoint.

 
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John Stonestreet

Regarding his appointment, Stonestreet said, “Working with Chuck Colson was one of the greatest honors of my life. I believe deeply in his vision of Christianity as the fundamental truth about reality and the task of Christians to be the restorers of culture.”
 
Colson invited Stonestreet to join the Colson Center staff in 2010, specifically with an eye to reach a new generation of Christians. “It’s a tough, confusing world for Christian young people,” Colson said on a BreakPoint broadcast. “The problem’s compounded by the fact that we older Christians aren’t particularly adept at communicating our faith and worldview to younger Christians.”
 
Colson then announced how pleased he was “that we’ve added one of the truly fine, leading, young worldview thinkers and teachers to the ‘BreakPoint’ fold.”
 
Stonestreet is the co-author of three books – the latest being Restoring All Things (with Warren Cole Smith). He remains a featured faculty member of Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and has engaged deeply in collegiate life, lecturing frequently on college campuses and formerly serving on the teaching faculty of two Christian colleges.
 
Best-selling author and radio host Eric Metaxas praised Stonestreet’s appointment: “After working with John and co-hosting BreakPoint for the past three and a half years, I have no doubt that John is God’s choice to take the Colson Center forward. I congratulate the board on this important decision and rejoice to think what lies ahead for the Colson Center under John’s leadership.”
 
The Colson Center also announced the appointment of Steve Verleye as executive director. Verleye spent nearly 35 years in the technology industry with roles including chief administrative officer of Coinstar/Redbox and CEO of Applied Microsystems. A graduate of the Colson Center’s Centurion Program, Verleye also serves as chairman of the board for Pioneer Human Services, a nonprofit that helps former prisoners with housing, treatment and job skills training.

9/1/2015 11:50:16 AM by David Carlson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



‘War Room’ 1st at box office opening night

September 1 2015 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

The Kendrick Brothers’ “War Room” opened in first place in box office sales on the single night of Aug. 28, but finished second to “Straight Outta Compton” over the entire opening weekend ending Aug. 30, Box Office Mojo reported.
 
War Room, promoting the power of a disciplined prayer life, grossed $4.045 million on Aug. 28, averaging $3,564 on each of 1,135 screens. Straight Outta Compton, an R-rated movie about the American hip-hop “gangsta rap” group N.W.A., took in $3.85 million that same night, averaging $1,225 on 3,142 screens.
 
While Straight Outta Compton took first place for full weekend sales with $13.2 million and maintained the top spot it debuted in three weekends ago, War Room did better than industry insiders predicted by grossing $11 million. War Room’s per-screen average for the weekend was described as “robust” at $9,692.

 
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“Sony’s faith-based film from their Affirm division flew so far under the radar that it didn’t even get a Cinemascore,” Box Office Mojo reported. “But it nearly stole Compton’s title and, at the same time, became the biggest hit for the Kendrick brothers, director Alex Kendrick and his writer/producer brother, Stephen. Their modestly-budgeted flicks have a great return on investment.”
 
The movie is the Kendrick brothers’ first project independent of Sherwood Pictures, the filmmaking ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., where both brothers are associate pastors. It is also their first offering since the successful “Courageous,” which grossed $34.5 million at the box office four years ago and sold 5 million DVDs.
 
War Room stars noted Bible teachers Priscilla Shirer in a lead role and Beth Moore in the supporting cast. Shirer is cast as a young wife and mother who heeds the advice of an older, wiser woman to establish a room in her home for prayer – a war room – and to pray earnestly for her husband, marriage, child and home.
 
While Southern Baptists and other faith leaders promoted War Room as a must see, TV Guide said the film’s success was contrary to the forecast of secular critics.
 
“Despite receiving nearly universal bad reviews from critics,” TV Guide reported, “the faith-based film War Room emerged as a formidable force at the box office this weekend and almost knocked Straight Outta Compton out of first place.”
 
Southern Baptists recommending the film include Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church of northwest Arkansas; SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page; LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer, and Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research.
 
The Southern Baptist North American Mission Board has linked its Evangelism Resource Center (ERC) prayer line to the War Room website, offering prayer at 888-537-8720, and through the FindItHere.com online chat. The ERC offers personalized prayer 24 hours a day, 365 days a year all over the U.S., offering callers the life-changing hope found only in Jesus, and pointing them to local churches for discipleship, according to the website.
 
The film is accompanied by several resources from B&H Publishing Group and LifeWay including a book by the Kendrick brothers titled The Battle Plan for Prayer, and a book titled Fervent by Shirer, a New York Times best-selling author. Resources include two children’s books written by the Kendricks, Prayer Works: Prayer Training and Strategy for Kids and Peter’s Perfect Prayer Place. A War Room Bible Study and Church Campaign Kit include a 5-week small group study, sermon outlines and promotional items.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

 

Related Stories:

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9/1/2015 11:36:57 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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