New book showcases Baptist history

September 3 2015 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

Three Baptist history scholars were not completely satisfied with the textbook options in their field, so they decided to write their own.
In The Baptist Story, Michael Haykin, Nathan Finn and Anthony Chute sought to produce a more narrative story that spans four centuries of Baptist history of this diverse group, but is approachable for students and laypeople.


“It seems most Baptist history books are written primarily for the professor instead of the student,” said Chute, professor of church history at California Baptist University. “Our book communicates to the student the material they need to know in a way that is informative and interesting.”
Finn, dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University, noted the idea for a new Baptist history book emerged several years ago. Nothing came of it until B&H Academic asked Finn, Chute, and Haykin, professor of church history at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to tri-author the book.
“There has not been a true Baptist history textbook written by Southern Baptists with a primarily, though not exclusively, Southern Baptist readership in mind for nearly 30 years,” Finn said. “While several fine textbooks have been published, most are not written from a convictionally evangelical perspective, or they only cover Baptists in a particular region.”
Both Finn and Chute said the research and work on the international Baptists and often neglected minority communities within Baptist life was the most interesting for them. “My tendency has been to focus on Baptists in America,” Chute said, “so the global perspective to which we were committed provided an opportunity for me to explore areas that broadened my appreciation for global Baptist work.”
While the work, released last month by B&H Academic, is primarily written as a textbook to be taught in an academic setting, the authors believe churches, pastors and laypeople could benefit from The Baptist Story.
Chute noted readers could gain an appreciation for the diversity among Baptists, but also the core beliefs that unite. “We also hope pastors and church members will gain an appreciation for the sacrifices Baptists have made over the years to establish religious liberty, build mission organizations and more,” he said.
Since the book was written to engage students, Finn would like to see pastors and interested lay people read it to develop a better grasp of Baptist history. “We hope every reader would walk away knowing Baptists have evolved from a tiny sect in England to a global movement mostly characterized by a high view of Scripture, a commitment to following the New Testament in ecclesiological matters, and a passion for evangelism and missions.”
For more information on The Baptist Story or other books from B&H Academic, visit
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

9/3/2015 11:55:25 AM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Lawyers for Ky. clerk seek new way to block marriage licenses

September 3 2015 by Andrew Wolfson and Mike Wynn, USA TODAY Network/Religion News Service

Lawyers for a county court clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that allows same-sex couples to wed filed an emergency motion Wednesday to block an order from the Kentucky governor.
The motion asks U.S. District Judge David Bunning to stop enforcement of Gov. Steve Beshear’s order requiring county clerks to issue marriage licenses to gay couples while Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ case is on appeal to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
A spokeswoman for Liberty Counsel, the Orlando-based law firm that represents Davis, could not immediately explain the intent of the motion or whether it is designed to avert a contempt hearing set for Thursday at which Bunning could jail or fine Davis for failing to process the documents.


Screenshot from Video courtesy of The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal, via USA Today

Lawyers for two gay and two straight couples who have sued Davis could not be reached for comment. Davis filed a claim in that suit against the governor saying his order violates her religious liberty as guaranteed under the state and federal constitutions and the state’s religious freedom restoration act.
In the injunction motion, Davis said she wouldn’t object to another county official issuing marriages licenses in Rowan County, as long as they are not issued with her signature.
But under Kentucky law, that’s the rub: Issuing marriage licenses is a required duty for a county clerk in this state and at least two other county clerks in Kentucky have followed Davis’ lead with less publicity.
In Alabama, for example, the law states that probate judges “may” issue the licenses rather than “shall,” so as of mid-July at least nine counties had shuttered their marriage-license operations with no date for relaunching them, according to The Associated Press.
In Granbury, Texas, a federal court in July compelled Hood County Clerk Katie Lang to issue a license to Granbury residents Joe Stapleton and Jim Cato; Texas law also requires clerks to record marriage licenses. By the time the case was settled, county taxpayers had to foot a $43,000 bill, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Lang still doesn’t agree with same-sex marriage and says so on her website but is allowing deputies in her office to issue the licenses, something that Davis objects to because the certificates bear her name as an elected official.
“It is not a light issue for me,” Davis said Tuesday through her lawyers, the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel. “It is a Heaven or Hell decision.”
On Sept. 3, Davis and her deputies are being summoned to an 11 a.m. hearing before Bunning in Ashland, Ky., about an hour away from this city of 7,000 in eastern Kentucky. On Sept. 2, she stepped out of her office for only a moment to say she won’t comment on the fray that has drawn international attention.

Related Stories:

Clerk loses, resists high court on marriage licenses
Ky. county clerk prays, denies same-sex marriages

9/3/2015 11:48:58 AM by Andrew Wolfson and Mike Wynn, USA TODAY Network/Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Dying church revitalized, called ‘Lazarus story’

September 3 2015 by Karen l. Willoughby, Baptist Press

When its copier was repossessed, Powdersville First Baptist Church believed the end was near.
The remaining members drew up papers turning the church’s property over to the next-door neighbors. Former members heard the news and started returning, praying for God’s direction. That was nine years ago.
“It’s a Lazarus story,” said Pastor Brad Atkins. “The Cooperative Program had a lot to do with it.”
As the once-vibrant church that started in 1983 withered by January 2006 in the wake of a church scandal, its missions giving shriveled to zero in order to keep the lights on and mortgage paid. Atkins, 16 years in full-time ministry and leading a worship center overflow class at a large church, accepted a call to the troubled congregation in Easley, S.C. It’s his first senior pastor role.


Submitted photo
The worship center of Powdersville First Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., displays flags from various countries to remind members of their international missions reach through the Cooperative Program and church mission trips.

“The first thing I told them was that we had to start investing in the Kingdom,” Atkins said. “We started off with 5 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program and 5 percent to Piedmont Baptist Association, because the director of missions had supply-preached and his wife played the piano to help keep the church afloat.
“In the years following, we started increasing and today we’re giving 10 percent to missions through CP, 3 percent to the association, and 3.5 percent to the church’s four church plants and other ministries.”
Church attendance has rebounded to an average of 350 in Sunday worship services today, from an average low of 30 in January 2006. The Cooperative Program gives the church a global impact, Atkins tells his congregation.
“We can’t send out 5,000 international missionaries ourselves, but through the Cooperative Program, we’re part of that,” the pastor continued. “The Cooperative Program allows our church to be globally minded. We’re having an impact for the Kingdom!”
Powdersville First Baptist Church has draped the walls of its worship center with flags from all the states and nations the church has ministered in on mission trips over the last nine years.
“It’s just a visual reminder that when you put your offering in the plate, it doesn’t stay in Easley,” Atkins said. “It goes all over the world.”
Church plants, local ministries and national and international mission trips illustrate the church’s commitment to actively participate in missions while giving financially. One of its church plants is five minutes away in Easley. Others are in Xenia, Ill., Baltimore, Md., and one is ministering to cowboys in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Next year, Powdersville First Baptist plans to plant a church in Chesnee, S.C., an hour away.
In addition to its home state of South Carolina, the church has taken mission trips to Florida, New Mexico, Utah and Virginia, and has ministered abroad in Haiti, Israel and Romania.


Brad Atkins

A mission trip to Anchorage, Alaska, is planned for 2016, as well as a “mystery mission trip” with a destination unknown to those who sign up.
“If the Lord is calling, it doesn’t matter where it is,” Atkins said. “We wanted to show our members that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the calling.”
Each October, church members complete a spiritual gifts survey in advance of the church’s annual missions fair in November. Members select ministries that interest them and turn in the assessment known as My Personal Ministry Booklet for ACTS.
It’s part of the church’s new ACTS – Amazing Church That Serves – structural model that resulted last year in about 70 percent of the congregation becoming involved in one or more ministries. ACTS utilizes the church’s five deacons to facilitate the ministries and update the pastor on ministry progress at monthly deacon meetings.
“It’s one of my favorite times of the month,” Atkins said of the deacon meetings. “It allows me to know the pulse of the church. This way our members can keep their focus. They can say, ‘I am promoting the Kingdom. I’m a part of this, from faithful giving to faithful service.’“
By taking the onus off a nominating committee that might not know the new members, ACTS gets new members involved right away, even between ministry fairs.
“Unless everyone in the church is using all the gifts, talents and abilities God has given them, the church will not be what God intended it to be,” Atkins said.
Powdersville First Baptist has more than 40 ministries, including Awana, Good News Club, and special community events such as the First Fest annual homecoming which drew more 600 people. There’s a free community supper once a month, a van ministry that includes Sunday morning breakfast, and other outreaches.
The first ministry fair in 2014 more than doubled the number of people involved in ministry at the church. Evangelism is at the core of each outreach.
“I remind our people regularly that the same gospel that changed their life has the power to change lives all around the world,” Atkins said. “God is blessing the church and we are seeing God give the increase.
“I believe that greater things are ahead of us, as long as we’re preaching the Word and loving the people,” he said. “There’s no limit to what God can do if we don’t limit what He will do.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

9/3/2015 11:42:27 AM by Karen l. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

100-plus turn to Christ at college Bible conference

September 3 2015 by Ryan Bower, Baptist Press

More than 100 students made professions of faith in Christ during Cedarville University’s annual Fall Bible Conference. Another 90-plus students responded to a call to full-time ministry.
“We praise God that each of these students responded in faith, moving forward toward what they felt God wanted them to do,” said Thomas White, president of Cedarville in southwest Ohio. “It was an amazing week, and we are praying that it is only the beginning of even more spiritual awakening.”
This year’s speaker, Clayton King, founder of Clayton King Ministries and teaching pastor at NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., spoke to 3,400-plus students, faculty and staff during the Aug. 17-20 conference.
King shared the story of loss in his own life, including the deaths of his mother and father. He spoke about weakness and brokenness and how God uses those times as a way to worship Him and as a way to heal.


Cedarville photo
Clayton King, founder of Clayton King Ministries and teaching pastor at NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., spoke to 3,400-plus students, faculty and staff during Cedarville University’s Fall Bible Conference, Aug. 17-20, in southeast Ohio.

“Hard times don’t make us happy,” King said early in the week. “They keep us humble and make us holy.”
Those words – and others sown by King in his series of messages – fell on fertile ground at Cedarville, which has been endorsed by the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio since 2002.
After the student body was dismissed Tuesday evening, residents of Lawlor Hall formed their traditional ring around their parking lot to sing songs of praise and pray for those who had made decisions during the service.
“While coming together in prayer and praise is something of a longstanding tradition, this year felt so different,” said Scott Stephens, Lawlor’s resident director. “We were able to celebrate what the Holy Spirit had done just moments before. There was a great energy.”
Freshman Megan Orr, a new student from Crystal Lake, Ill. was among those touched by the Spirit of God.
Orr spent the summer preparing herself for a new chapter in life – new friends, new challenges and the beginning of her studies as a psychology major. She came to Cedarville from a Christian home with faithful church attendance. But, she recounted, something was missing in her life.
“I’d always been really plugged in with my church,” Orr said. “I always thought I’m doing great, I’m doing ‘the God thing’ but I never really understood it. I’d go to church camp or a youth retreat and be on fire for God, but it didn’t last.” Eventually, her church attendance became sporadic and she wasn’t inclined to consider a Christian university when the time came to choose a college.
“I was struggling with a lot of guilt,” Orr said. “I kept telling myself that I was a sinner and I didn’t belong in church. I didn’t even want to attend a Christian college, but my parents brought me for a visit and convinced me it would be good for me.”
While sitting in the pew during King’s Tuesday evening message, Orr couldn’t help but feel that something was pulling her toward a decision about faith. “I could feel that something big was going to happen,” she said. “As I listened to Clayton pray for us and ask us to pray along, I began to cry. I knew that I needed to trust in Jesus.”
Orr returned to her room in Printy Hall after the service and began a frantic search through her Bible to find the exact words to pray.
That’s when senior Anna Prosise came alongside and explained there is no ritualistic passage or process that Orr needed; she simply had to ask Jesus to save her from sin. For Orr, that moment was the culmination of something that had been building since she stepped foot on campus four days earlier, encountering faculty, staff and students who welcomed her and pointed her toward Christ.
“It can be easy to take for granted the privilege we have to live in a community like this,” Prosise said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us at Cedarville. Never again will we have the opportunity to be around this many believers who will challenge you, grow with you and support you.”
Not lost on how God moved during the Bible conference is the $17,764 offering from attendees for the Miami Valley Women’s Center, a nonprofit organization in suburban Dayton that educates men and women with parenting skills, assists women who are considering an abortion, and provides regular Bible training for their clients.
“[W]e look forward to following up on each decision,” White said, “as we use their 1,000 days on campus to intentionally guide them to a life that glorifies God.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ryan Bower is assistant director of public relations at Cedarville University.)

9/3/2015 11:37:34 AM by Ryan Bower, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

National CP funds 1.13% over projection

September 3 2015 by Baptist Press staff

Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) are $174,276,734.99, or 1.13 percent above the year-to-date budgeted goal, and are 1.42 percent ahead of contributions received during the same time frame last year, a news release from SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page reported. The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution, according to the 2014-15 SBC Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget.
As of August 31, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget represent 101.13 percent of the $172,333,333.33 year-to-date budgeted amount to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. The total is $2,434,843.37 more than the $171,841,891.62 received through the end of August 2014.
The convention-adopted budget is distributed 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board (IMB), 22.79 percent to North American missions through North American Mission Board (NAMB), 22.16 percent to theological education, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget, and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. If the convention exceeds its annual budget goal of $188 million dollars, IMB’s share will go to 51 percent of any overage in Cooperative Program allocation budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage.
Designated year-to-date giving of $191,161,942.22 is 0.4 percent, or $752,910.23, above the $190,409,031.99 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the EC through close of business on Aug. 31 and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief and other special gifts.
August CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $15,417,216.61. Designated gifts received during August amounted to $5,551,127.74.
The totals include money received by the EC from 42 cooperating state Baptist conventions as well as contributions from churches and individuals through the last business day of August.
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the ministries of its state convention and to the missions and ministries of the SBC with a single contribution to its state convention.
State conventions retain a portion of church contributions to CP to support work in their respective states and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget.
Month-to-month receipts often reflect significant swings based on a number of factors, including the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted, the timing of when cooperating state conventions forward the national portion of CP contributions to the Executive Committee, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, and the number of Sundays in a given month.
CP allocation budget receipts received by the EC are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at

9/3/2015 11:34:18 AM by Baptist Press staff | with 0 comments

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.


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, 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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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. 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.”


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
Learn more about pastoral care and development at
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 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 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

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