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.


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?”


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.


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
(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.”


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.


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.


“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 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.)


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

42 IMB missionaries appointed; Platt addresses trustees

August 31 2015 by Laura Fielding, IMB Communications

Growing up in Brazil, Thiago Montanher de Queiroz came to know Christ at 10 years old and early on felt God calling to follow Him into international missions.
As an adult while attending a local seminary, Montanher had a professor of missions and church planting – an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary – who helped confirm and encourage his calling.
“[The missionary’s] love for the nations was contagious, and I have never seen anyone so passionate about the gospel,” Montanher said.
The missionary continually reminded Montanher that not only does Brazil need the gospel, but so do other nations. Montanher recalled conversations where the missionary asked, “Now what are you going to do about the other millions that have no access to the gospel?”
“It has been years since he challenged me last, but those words still resound in my heart with great burden, and I believe with no doubt that my call in this life is to carry the ministry of the gospel to the nations,” Montanher said.


Photo by Paul W. Lee
Breaking down this important phrase, “Follow Me,” Platt discussed who is the “Me” being followed. “This Jesus is clearly and absolutely worthy of far more than nominal adherence or casual association,” he said.

Now, Montanher has become an IMB missionary himself. He was one of the 42 missionaries appointed in a service Aug. 26 at Spotswood Baptist Church of Fredericksburg, Va. Montanher, his wife Liana and two daughters will serve among Sub-Saharan African peoples.

‘Follow me’

IMB President David Platt addressed the packed crowd in the church’s sanctuary, speaking on Matthew 4:18-22, where Jesus is calling His first disciples, and particularly verse 19: “And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (ESV).
Those two simple words – “Follow Me” – are the essence of what it means to be a Christian, Platt said. Breaking down this phrase, Platt first discussed who is the “Me” being followed. In the first four chapters of Matthew alone, Platt noted, Jesus is described 20 different ways, including the Savior, Center of History, Righteous Judge, Light of the World and Hope for All Nations.
“This Jesus is clearly and absolutely worthy of far more than nominal adherence or casual association,” Platt said. “Let us not patronize Him. He’s infinitely worthy of all glory in all the universe, and He doesn’t need us at all. We need Him. ... He is worthy of supreme adoration and total abandonment.”
Platt then discussed what it means to “follow” Jesus:

  • To live with radical abandonment for His glory. “Leaving behind, laying down, abandoning everything in your life doesn’t make sense until you realize who Jesus is,” Platt said. “But when you realize who He is, when you realize who Christ the King is – laying, leaving, abandoning all these things is the only thing that makes sense.”

  • To live with total dependence on Him. “Who among us wants our lives to be summed up by what we can accomplish on our own?” he asked. “Don’t we want to be used by our King to do things that we could never do on our own?”

  • To live with faithful adherence to His person. “Followers of Jesus are those for whom Christ is their life. Missions is not your life, Christ is your life,” Platt said.

  • To be “fishers of men.” To be a disciple is to be disciple-maker. All Christians are called to tell people how they can know Jesus as Savior. “This is not an extraordinary picture, this is an ordinary Christian picture – to say ‘I’ll go wherever You want me to go,’” Platt said.

With 4.5 billion people in the world without Christ and several billion who have never even heard how they can go to heaven, “we don’t have time to waste living out a nice comfortable, Christian spin on the American dream. It makes no sense whatsoever,” Platt said.
“To follow this King in this world, it means total abandonment, dependence on His grace, adherence to His person and urgent obedience to His mission.”

Trustees’ board meeting

The service marked the conclusion of IMB trustees’ August board meeting, which was held in Richmond, Va. During the plenary session, Platt spoke about the essential role of the local church in missions, as signified by the appointment service at a local church.
“That’s the whole beauty of this convention,” Platt said. “It’s not about churches farming out mission to a mission board. It’s about churches taking responsibility for mission and a mission board helping them do that – because no one church can do this alone.
“I want to be crystal clear: the IMB does not exist to usurp the role of the local church in the accomplishment of the Great Commission. The IMB exists to serve the local church in the accomplishment of the Great Commission.”
In fall 2015, Platt said, IMB will pilot a training event aimed at equipping local churches to become centers for global mission. The event will arm pastors and church leaders to see the unique role God has given them to play in the Great Commission and to develop an intentional strategy for leading their local church to make disciples right where they live and all around the world.
The next appointment service will be Nov. 8 at First Baptist Church of New Orleans, La. The trustees’ next meeting will also be held in New Orleans, Nov. 5-6.
*Names changed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Fielding is an IMB writer. Anne Harman, a writer and editor for IMB, contributed to this article.)

8/31/2015 12:10:35 PM by Laura Fielding, IMB Communications | with 0 comments

Rubio surges among evangelical insiders

August 31 2015 by J.C. Derrick, World News Service

Strong debate performances catapulted Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina forward by double-digit margins in the second WORLD evangelical insiders survey, while Jeb Bush slumped from second to fourth place.
The findings are from a monthly survey of 103 evangelical leaders and insiders, 88 of whom participated in August. The results are not scientific or representative of all evangelicals, but they offer a snapshot of how a group of well-connected evangelicals are leaning in the 2016 election.
This month, respondents shifted toward Sen. Rubio of Florida, whom 53 percent named as either their first or second choice – up from a combined 39 percent in July.
“Many of the candidates running for the Republican nomination are impressive, but Marco Rubio reminds me more of Jack Kennedy every day,” said survey participant Richard Land, the president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, who spent 25 years leading the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “Whatever charisma is, he’s got it.”

Sen. Marco Rubio

Many pundits panned Bush’s performance in the first GOP debate, and it showed in the survey results. The former Florida governor’s support was down 8 percent combined, even though 30 percent of respondents said he is the most prepared to be president – easily the highest-rated candidate in the field.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas jumped over Bush (24 percent) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (21 percent) to take second place overall: 29 percent selected Cruz as their first or second choice, up 4 percent from last month.
Carly Fiorina, on the heels of her widely acclaimed debate performance, surged into third place with a combined 25 percent. Only 10 percent of respondents – down from 15 percent last month – said they would not consider voting for her, a number only beaten by Rubio (5 percent) and Walker (8 percent).
Although Fiorina is rising in recent national polls, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO still may not have the long-term average to make the main stage when CNN hosts the second GOP debate on Sept. 16. Survey participant Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest women’s public policy organization, said any debate formula that leaves Fiorina off the main stage would be wrong.
“Carly Fiorina’s debate performance and subsequent ability to articulate a cogent message on economic and foreign policy has earned her the attention of voters,” Nance said.
Donald Trump, who leads the GOP field in national polls, continues to be a non-starter for evangelical insiders. For the second straight month, only 5 percent said Trump is their first or second choice, and 81 percent said they “absolutely” would not consider voting for him – topped only by Democratic candidates Martin O’Malley (83 percent), Hillary Clinton (85 percent), and Bernie Sanders (86 percent).
Former evangelical favorites Mike Huckabee (5 percent), Rick Perry (2 percent), and Rick Santorum (zero votes) all saw their waning support erode even further. Ben Carson, who sits third in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, only garnered 3 percent of combined support, but significantly more respondents indicated they would now consider him.
Domestic religious liberty again topped the list of most important election issues among respondents, up slightly to 71 percent. Another 64 percent named abortion as a top-three concern, an 8 percent gain, which was a larger increase than for any other issue.
“The increased attention to Planned Parenthood will continue to raise the importance of the abortion issue in the minds of voters,” Nance said. “This past weekend’s rallies across the country are further proof of the breadth of this scandal.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – J.C. Derrick is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau.)

8/31/2015 12:03:09 PM by J.C. Derrick, World News Service | with 0 comments

Ross Douthat on Christianity, GOP

August 31 2015 by Warren Cole Smith, World News Service

Ross Douthat is a columnist for The New York Times whose opinions run counter to the liberal and anti-Christian voices at that paper. He writes about Christians and in favor of many Christian causes, including life, marriage and religious liberty. I had this conversation with Douthat at a recent convention sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
Q: We’re here at the ERLC event in Nashville, Tenn. Tell me what you’re going to tell the audience in a few minutes.
A: I guess we’re talking about the future of Christianity, and the society that a lot of people think is becoming more secular or post-Christian. When people have those debates, I usually end up making a couple points. The first is that it’s important for conservative Christians especially to recognize the extent to which American society at large is still very religious or very religiously interested and engaged, even as it has clearly drifted away from institutional Christianity in its traditional forms. I think it tends to be a mistake around hot-button issues like same-sex marriage and so on to look at current trends and say what we’re seeing is a clash between the secular and the Christian worldview. I think it’s more reasonable to look at America as divided into roughly three parts: a traditionally religious cluster, a highly secularized cluster, and then a vast mushy middle that ranges from lukewarmly religious to the spiritual category.
What happens on particular issues – same sex marriage, for instance – is that middle can swing one way or another, and it’s swung into alignment with the secular vision on the marriage issue. It hasn’t swung in the same way on the abortion issue, but overall, that middle remains a defining feature of American life. I think it’s a mistake for Christian believers, even when they’re feeling an understandable state of possibly siege, possibly ongoing marginalization, to just think of it in terms of pure secularization. In fact, it’s a very diverse and complicated religious landscape in which Christianity, in particular, has lost some ground.
Q: Your book a few years ago, Bad Religion, explored some of these issues. Is the bad religion of your book the religion of the mushy middle?
A: It’s mostly the religion of the mushy middle, but it bleeds in both directions. I think it’s visible in the secular part of America because I don’t think true secularism is actually necessarily possible. I think even secular worldviews have religious concepts, often, at bottom. So to the extent that I’m critiquing a debased or spoiled Christianity, I think it’s visible among people who don’t consider themselves religious believers, too.
But I also think it leaks the other way into what are in culture-war terms defined as the conservative Christian camp. It’s more likely to do that around issues of money and finance and wealth than it is around issues of sexual morality. But I think that part of what’s happened to the church as an American life is just an acculturation in a society that has a basic civic religion that overlaps with Christianity, is in certain ways a heresy of Christianity, but isn’t necessarily Christianity itself. The civic religion of the United States is a religion well-designed for an inquisitive, commercial republic with a libertarian spirit, and those attitudes on the personal level, on the financial level, necessarily influence how people of every form of religious belief end up making their decisions and thinking about what God wants for their life.
Q: As you and I are having this conversation, the campaign is heating up. Do you think evangelicals and religious conservatives will align early behind a single candidate?
A: I think the history of Republican politics since the rise of the Religious Right suggests that evangelical voters never unite around a single candidate early. In every cycle, evangelical leaders say, “We’ve got to find someone to get behind.” That never works out. … I do think, though, you’re seeing with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and, to some extent, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, that the candidates who are seen as most electable and possibly closest to the so-called Republican establishment in this cycle are more so than in the past also … genuine social and religious conservatives themselves, and that’s different from the Bob Dole model. It’s different for different reasons from the Mitt Romney model, where he was religious but a Mormon, which unsettled some evangelicals, and he had a record of social liberalism as governor of Massachusetts. I think [Bush] and Rubio and Walker are closer to the George W. Bush model, where they’re people who are acceptable to … moderate Republicans, but are also people who could reasonably be considered trustworthy by a lot of religious conservative voters.
Q: Is that a victory for the Religious Right or for religious social conservatives in this country? Have they shifted the conversation so the frontrunners are acceptable to them?
A: It’s a partial victory within the context of Republican politics in the sense that the Republican Party has changed to the point now where the socially liberal, hostile-to-religious-conservatives candidate is just a non-starter in a Republican primary. That is a victory. That victory co-exists, though, with a couple of losses. One loss is the fact that as religious conservatives have become concentrated in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party has become more strictly secularized, and, therefore, more straightforwardly hostile to religious conservatives and their concerns. So you’ve had the benefit of consolidating power in one party, [but] you end up, when the other party is in power, in more trouble. There’s less willingness to compromise and make deals.
The other downside is that on ... certain specific issues, same-sex marriage above all and some of the religious liberty issues related to it, the Republican leadership class clearly regard religious conservatives as a problem for the party. … The apparatus of the party thinks that on those issues in particular, the religious base of the party needs to essentially be quiet and not be involved in national politics. They think that those issues end up being a vote loser, which, depending on the issue itself, sometimes they have a point. … The danger for religious conservatives is that they end up in a position where they feel that they have to vote for Republicans because only the Republican Party will protect them, but the Republican Party itself at its elite level takes their votes for granted and disdains their concerns. That problem isn’t going away just because Bush and Rubio and whomever are seen as religious conservatives themselves. It’s a structural problem.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Warren Cole Smith is vice president of WORLD News Group.)

8/31/2015 11:48:06 AM by Warren Cole Smith, World News Service | with 0 comments

‘Post-worship war’ counsel offered by Page & Gray

August 31 2015 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Breaking the paradigm of age-segregated services, navigating a “post-worship war culture” and fostering multicultural praise gatherings are among the topics addressed in a book by Frank S. Page and Lavon Gray on worship challenges for 21st-century churches.
Worship “has become a big claim in the twenty-first century church; but, based on the reality of people’s lives, the worship that we claim to be experiencing is not truly affecting the quality of our lives, our families, and our witness,” Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, writes in the introduction of Hungry for Worship: Challenges and Solutions for Today’s Church.
The book, published by the Woman’s Missionary Union’s New Hope imprint, is intended as “a challenge to all of us,” Page writes. “It is a challenge to our churches, to our entities and to our educational institutions. It is a challenge to every believer to look seriously at how he or she worships.”


Gray, minister of music and worship at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss., writes of “the enormous challenges for churches in the area of worship.”
“Decades of ‘worship wars’ have left many congregations shell-shocked and uncertain of their core identities,” Gray writes. “Church music and worship education continues to lag years behind actual church practice, leaving many worship pastors with minimal theological training. These with other factors including church consumerism, performance-driven worship, and the changing demographic landscape of our communities raise important issues for church leaders that must be addressed.”
The book’s recommendations to church leaders include:

  • Replace “age-segregated worship” with a “multigenerational worship approach.”

For decades, some churches have separated youth, college students and adults into separate worship services, Page and Gray write. Based on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and other scripture passages, they recommend involving multiple generations of believers in the same worship service as a means of passing down the Christian faith.
“Creatively presented hymns” and avoiding labels like “contemporary,” “traditional” and “blended” can help congregations begin “worshipping together, learning from and teaching one another,” Page and Gray write.

  • Don’t be satisfied with the present “truce” in worship wars between proponents of traditional and contemporary music; work to achieve God-focused unity.

Weariness from fighting, a natural affinity between the boomer and millennial generations and a proliferation of contemporary songs that reflect solid theology all have contributed to a lull in worship wars, Page and Gray write. Worship leaders must “rise to the occasion and lead people in authentic worship of the King of kings and Lord of lords ... something that never should have divided us in the first place.”

  • Build a multicultural worship experience by diversifying leadership, planting new churches and breaking down walls of racial prejudice.

While noting numerous challenges associated with diversifying local congregations, Page and Gray write, “There should be no confusion concerning God’s mandate to reach our communities with the message of Christ: the requirement is clear. When churches acknowledge the changing identities of their communities, reaching across cultural barriers becomes a question of obedience.”
Other topics addressed in the book include using technology effectively, educating worship pastors based on the needs of modern churches, affirming the lifelong calling of worship pastors and ensuring that songs used in worship have robust theological content.
Mike Harlan, director of LifeWay Worship, labeled Hungry for Worship “not just another worship book.”
“It is an important answer to the questions about worship on the hearts and minds of the modern church,” Harland writes in a foreword. “And it’s not just a book with another set of opinions on the subject. It is a serious attempt to gain a biblical perspective on these issues from two students of the Word and servants of the church.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

8/31/2015 11:42:30 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Golden Gate embarking on historic year,’ says Iorg

August 31 2015 by Kathie Chute, GGBTS Communications

An academic year “like no other in the history of American seminaries” awaits faculty, staff and students of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, President Jeff Iorg said in a convocation address Aug. 27.
“We are currently moving the primary campus of one of the 10 largest seminaries in the United States 400 miles to Southern California, while at the same time building a secondary campus in the Bay Area – all while remaining fully operational,” Iorg said in an address titled “A Great Adventure.”
“We haven’t curtailed any academic programs, canceled campus activities or closed campus facilities,” Iorg noted while expressing thanks for the support received by the seminary and voicing optimism for the future.
In addition to the new Southern California campus in Ontario and the Bay Area campus in Fremont, Golden Gate also is changing its name to Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. The first of two affirmative votes for the name change occurred during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, in June; a second SBC vote is required, slated for the 2016 annual meeting in St. Louis.


GGBTS photo
Golden Gate President Jeff Iorg predicts in convocation message that the coming academic year will be “like no other” as the seminary moves to two new campuses in California.

Iorg, focusing on the progress of the moves to Ontario and Fremont in his convocation address, reported that the seminary has about 2,000 students enrolled this year across all its programs, with virtually no decrease, in spite of the move.
“While enrollment has declined at this campus,” as expected, he said of the seminary’s current Bay Area location in Mill Valley, “the students haven’t gone to other seminaries. They have either enrolled in our online program or at regional campuses – many planning to transfer to Ontario next year.”
Iorg called students who have come to Golden Gate Seminary in the past two years “special heroes.”
“They accepted the risk of coming to a school in major transition,” he said. “Some of them have told me they chose Golden Gate because of the transition. As one student said, ‘I could have gone to school anywhere. I can only watch history being made once.’ That’s the spirit that makes Golden Gate students such amazing people.”
Construction on both the Ontario and Fremont campuses has begun and is on schedule, Iorg said, reminding the chapel audience of God’s providence in providing facilities.
The building in Ontario, constructed in 2009 and never occupied, allows the seminary to complete the interior to its own specifications, at a cost of 30 percent below the price to construct the facility today, Iorg said. At more than 150,000 square feet, it will provide 20 percent more academic and administrative space than Mill Valley.
The Fremont campus is being built on property given to Golden Gate by a church and is located on a major thoroughfare, close to major freeways and public transportation in the Bay Area. An appraisal set the property value at $2.9 million.
Iorg reported that a special $500,000 gift has enabled the seminary to purchase a missionary-in-residence house near the Ontario campus, completely furnish it and provide a vehicle. In addition, an $850,000 cash gift by first-time donors has allowed establishment of a special scholarship fund for church planters. Other gifts have been designated for special parts of the building projects.
Thus far, the seminary has received nearly $5 million in special gifts in the past 16 months, Iorg said.
Recounting the steps the seminary has taken to prepare for the transition, he noted, “First, we have communicated openly through the Transition Update newsletter. Second, we have provided timely information about aspects of the change. Third, we have involved many people in designing the new facilities. Fourth, we have planned alumni events to help people crystallize their closure with this location. Finally, we have been dealt individually with every person who was employed on the day the change was announced. All our employees continue working hard, choosing a positive attitude and accepting the decision to relocate as part of God’s plan for the seminary and for them.”
The new locations will help the seminary “to better accomplish our mission,” Iorg said.
“The primary reason for selecting the Fremont location is its centrality to the transportation patterns of Bay Area commuter students,” he said. “There are several reasons why Ontario is the best primary campus location.”
The Ontario location will allow the seminary to employ more faculty and senior staff because they will be able to afford housing in the area, Iorg said. In addition, Riverside and San Bernardino counties will have an estimated 3 million new residents by 2050, putting the Ontario campus in an area with a population of more than 7 million people in the next 35 years.
“This population growth will come from the nations of the world, creating a wonderfully diverse mosaic perfect for us as we train leaders for global ministry,” Iorg said. “We have chosen to place our primary campus in a corporate office park, next to an airport, at the junction of two major freeways, and within a mile of a huge mall that claims to have more daily shoppers than people who go to Disneyland.
“We made this decision intentionally,” Iorg said. “We want Gateway Seminary to be where the action is – where churches are growing, where new churches are being started and where ministries to meet human needs will proliferate. We believe a seminary is a training facility – not a retreat center. We have put ourselves at the economic, political and social crossroads of the fastest-growing region of the West.”
Iorg reported that the seminary is embracing a student housing model for students to live in surrounding communities, with the seminary aiding them in finding housing.
“We want students to live in communities – real communities, not artificial Christian communities,” he said. “If you are a student, we want to you train for ministry while living in the kind of community you will live in for the rest of your life.”
Iorg quoted his own words when the move was announced 16 months ago: “You are part of one of the boldest moves by any seminary in the past century. We are selling a campus, not closing our doors. We are relocating and repositioning for future success, not abandoning our vision. We are sacrificing short-term comfort for long-term fulfillment of our mission. We are positioning ourselves strategically, geographically and financially to impact the Western United States and the world like never before.”
Using Luke 8:22-25 as a text, Iorg said that when one of Jesus’ disciples awakened Him in the boat to calm the storm, they failed to trust His direction in His initial invitation to cross over to the other side of the lake.
“The principle parallels our situation,” Iorg said. “God has directed us, and confirmed His direction to us, to relocate to two new campuses in California. We are in the boat with Him. It’s already a little windy, and it’s likely to get stormy in the next few months. Our challenge is resting in the direction we have been given and staying steady in the storm.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kathie Chute is director of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, with campuses currently in Mill Valley and Brea, Calif., and in Denver, Phoenix and the Pacific Northwest.)

8/31/2015 11:36:21 AM by Kathie Chute, GGBTS Communications | with 0 comments

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