FIRST PERSON: My experience at a TobyMac concert

 
I went to the "Hits Deep Tour" featuring TobyMac at the Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, Ga., earlier this month. I didn't go alone, but with my extended family -- 17 of us (one granddaughter was sick and could not join us). It was not the first time I have been to a contemporary Christian music concert. I have also been to Winter Jam at the Georgia Dome. The "Hits Deep" concert was an extraordinary experience. I actually appreciated and enjoyed ...

FIRST PERSON: VBS planning has got to include follow-up strategy

 
If you've ever planned a big event, you know how it feels when it's over. All the work and energy and trial and error that went into planning and executing the project can be exhausting, and when it's finally over, all that energy seems to fly out the window. But for church leaders, the end of an outreach event is only the beginning. This is heavy on my heart as we enter Vacation Bible School season, and I'm reminded how ...

Millennials: In search of a bigger God

 
In a recent blog post, Shaun Pillay, the new minister of evangelism and discipleship at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, shared his thoughts about engaging more millennials. You may recall that Shaun said millennials are looking for vibrancy, a sense of realness and something sacrificial. Here’s the link: http://gofbw.com/blog?id=1598 That makes millennials especially well-suited to taking part on mission trips, community outreach and church plants. Those things check all their boxes. But some of ...

Tx Baptist leader: 'We do not need to be fighting against one another'

 
Southern Baptists need to unite in order "to advance the Kingdom of God together for God's glory," Texas state convention leader Jim Richards said in a chapel message at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. What we have [as churches in the Southern Baptist Convention] is definitely much more in common than we have apart," said Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, noting that "our heart and our soul" is "to be together." Preaching from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Richards' ...

Angry, tortured refugee makes peace with God's love

 
Andrew* limped up the stairs to the pulpit of the church. As he turned to face the congregation, I noticed that one of his eyes sagged. The scarring was evidence of the torture he had endured. He greeted the members of the Bulgarian Baptist church in broken English. It was the late 1990s, and it had been less than a decade since the Soviet Union had dissolved. Many of the believers sitting shoulder to shoulder in the pews of the ...

SWBTS launches Center for Early Christian Studies

 
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has launched a new center dedicated to the study of the ancient church—the Southwestern Center for Early Christian Studies. The seminary has a long history of research and publications in early Christianity, but now it meets with a heightened focus. A new website, special lectures, patristic reading groups, regular graduate and postgraduate seminars, and a group of faculty and students dedicated to researching the early church will all be features of the new initiative. "...

Friends, foes debate Neil Gorsuch; Democrats to filibuster

 
Proponents and opponents voiced their opinions of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on the final day of his hearing—the same day the Senate's Democratic leader announced he would try to block a confirmation vote. After three days of appearances before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gorsuch was followed by witnesses who urged panel members either to vote for or against his confirmation. Among the witnesses were a religious freedom expert who endorsed Gorsuch's confirmation and abortion and ...

Neil Gorsuch defends religious liberty ruling in hearings

 
Neil Gorsuch steadfastly refused to provide judge-like commentary on such issues as abortion and assisted suicide in his confirmation hearings but was not reluctant to explain his ruling in a vital religious liberty case. President Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court answered questions about his role in supporting the free exercise of religion rights of Hobby Lobby March 21 as a member of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Gorsuch responded to questions about the religious liberty ...

Africa drought victims became family to Kentucky volunteer

 
Residents of drought-stricken Lesotho, Africa, became like family to 64-year-old Karen Smith of Shepherdsville, Ky., the first time she took them food. "You go with expectations of doing a job and it quickly becomes more than a job. It becomes personal," Smith, volunteer feeding coordinator for the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC), told Baptist Press. "That first little boy that came and sat in my lap, it stopped being a job. It began to be personal, because then I met moms ...

Wyoming judge censured for gay marriage opposition

 
Proponents of religious liberty have expressed mixed opinions on the Wyoming Supreme Court's censure of a judge for saying her religious beliefs would prevent her from performing same-sex weddings. Judge Ruth Neely's counsel from Alliance Defending Freedom cited the court's decision not to remove her from the bench as a recognition "that her honorable beliefs about marriage do not disqualify her from serving her community as a judge." But Martha Lawley, a Wyoming attorney and former officer of the Southern ...

Olive Baptist's response to engaging more millennials

 
Like most pastors, Ted Traylor has been prayerfully considering how to keep more millennials engaged in the church. I spent time recently with Dr. Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist in Pensacola, and he took the opportunity to introduce me to Shaun Pillay, his new minister of evangelism and discipleship. He wants Shaun to spend a lot of time with what he calls the under-40 crowd at Olive. I asked Shaun what that group is looking for when it comes to ...

ERLC unity statement praised by Steve Gaines, Jack Graham

 
An extended statement by Russell Moore and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission executive committee, "Seeking Unity in the Southern Baptist Convention," has drawn praise from SBC President Steve Gaines and former SBC President Jack Graham among others. Meanwhile, Christian worldview analyst John Stonestreet said in a radio interview that controversy surrounding Moore, the ERLC's president, gives Southern Baptists an opportunity to "model what it looks like to have deeply held differences ... on political issues" yet "keep the main things ...

Gorsuch affirms independence, refuses to give opinion on Roe

 
Neil Gorsuch defended his judicial independence and refused to express his opinion on U.S. Supreme Court decisions—including Roe v. Wade—during the first two days of hearings on his nomination to serve as a justice. In his opening statement on March 20 and in responses to questions on March 21, the nominee to the high court assured the Senate Judiciary Committee of his willingness to rule against President Trump, who nominated him. The hearings will continue March 22, with ...

Olive's Ted Traylor affirms his obligation to young pastors

 
During my recent wide-ranging conversation with Ted Traylor, he touched on the topic of what he thinks is the obligation his generation of pastors has to young SBC leaders. Reflecting on those who came alongside him at a critical time, the pastor at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola said: “I was invited to a lot of things. Nobody asked me to open my mouth.” And, he said in a jovial manner, they didn’t need to. “...

Clemson great played key role in early years of Bell Shoals Baptist

 
Frank Irvin Gillespie's last year playing football at Clemson was 1949—20 years before Dabo Swinney, coach of the university's national championship football team, was born. However, Coach Swinney called Gillespie's son Frank the day after his dad died to offer his condolences—a call evidencing that Frank Irvin Gillespie's influence at Clemson is legendary and still being felt nearly 70 years after his last football game. Gillespie, 94, died on March 8. He was a war hero, a champion in collegiate athletics, ...

Russell Moore, ERLC trustees issue 'Seeking Unity' statement

 
An extended statement, "Seeking Unity in the Southern Baptist Convention," has been issued by Russell Moore and the executive committee of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Moore, in a 1,691-word portion of the March 20 statement, clarified criticism he had leveled at Christians who supported Donald Trump for president in the November 2016 election. The ERLC executive committee, in a 536-word portion of the statement, affirmed Moore's ongoing leadership as president of the SBC entity. The ERLC executive committee acknowledged criticisms ...

Ted Traylor talks about supernatural living, personal revival

 
I recently had the opportunity to spend time with Ted Traylor, pastor at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola. During our wide-ranging conversation, I asked Dr. Traylor what he thought was the biggest misconception American Christians had about living the Christian life. His answer led to one of the most emotional moments of our entire time together. In short, the misconception is believers think that, within their own power, the Christian life is something they can accomplish. “I had to ...

FIRST PERSON: 'We as a Convention have lost our way'

 
As I look on in dismay at the convention I love, splintering and fragmenting, I cannot help but desire unity. This is why I have believed that we as Southern Baptists must pull together our resources for the sake of the Gospel based on our doctrinal commitment defined in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. But still it seems that this doctrinal statement is not sufficient. What then is the truth that unites us as Southern Baptists? The reality is, we ...

Jim Henry's busy schedule includes release of autobiography

 
Jim Henry, mid-1990s president of the Southern Baptist Convention, hasn't been sitting around with his feet propped up since his 2006 retirement as pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla.—unless it was sitting in airports or vehicles getting to his next assignment. "I'm busier now than I've ever been," said Henry, before adding with a laugh, "or maybe it just takes me longer to get everything done. [It's] one of the two." Joking aside, Henry has indeed ...

Muslims in Michigan open to conversations about Christianity

 
In Dearborn, Mich., home to the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the United States, students from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary learned about praying for and sharing the Gospel with local Muslims during a three-day visit to the city. Led by faculty member Ayman S. Ibrahim, the team interacted with a number of the 100,000-plus Arab Americans who comprise at least 45 percent of Dearborn's population. The 13 students from Southern Seminary and its undergraduate school, Boyce College, visited local Arab bakeries and ...

Pastor Traylor surprises Olive's guests by sending personal texts

 
I recently had the opportunity to spend time with Ted Traylor, pastor at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola. During our wide-ranging conversation, Dr. Traylor talked about a discipline in his life instilled by Jim Henry, former pastor of FBC Orlando and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Jim told a small group of people that included Dr. Traylor about how every Saturday he used to call everyone who visited FBC Orlando the previous week. Dr. Traylor’s response: &...

Humanitarian emergency: Africa's famine and drought

 
Hunger and thirst often prevent members of Kamakowa Baptist Church in Kimusu, Kenya from attending worship, pastor Tom Ogalo Ngoya told Baptist Press in an appeal for aid to the country where drought is a national disaster. "It's [disheartening] to watch your children beg for water and food," Ngoya emailed BP after Kenya's government declared the drought a national disaster in February. Members of the congregation "are often not in the church due to lack of food and water for ...

Divide over Neil Gorsuch on display as hearings open

 
Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearings opened March 20 with Republicans and Democrats, pro-lifers and pro-choicers, and conservatives and liberals pressing their conflicting cases regarding his nomination to the Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee began the latest hearings in what has been an often stridently contentious process for the last three decades with a day of opening statements—first from the 20 members of the panel, then from the nominee. Gorsuch's statement came after the deadline for this article. A committee vote ...

Advisory council surveying young leaders within the SBC

 
A newly appointed advisory council is drafting recommendations to foster vibrant participation within Southern Baptist life among young leaders including pastors, denominational servants and others. The diverse 22-member Young Leaders Advisory Council, appointed by SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, is conducting an online survey of young leaders to help accomplish its goal. Ken Weathersby, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement, serves as EC liaison for the group, and is assisted by Ashley Clayton, SBC Executive Committee ...

FIRST PERSON: Annie Armstrong offering helps push us forward

 
EDITOR'S NOTE: Kevin Ezell is president of the North American Mission Board. Have you noticed that God does not settle for the status quo? There is no place in the Bible where He says, "There, that's good enough. You can take a break now." Even nature, which He created, is constantly shifting, changing and moving in order to keep the balance He intended. God is always pushing us forward. He calls us closer in our walk with Him. He sends ...

N.C. challenges NCAA's tax status for lobbying against HB 2

 
With March Madness in full swing, Republican state legislators in North Carolina are alleging the NCAA and the ACC violated their federal tax-exempt status by attempting to provoke a repeal of the Tar Heel State's transgender restroom law. GOP state Rep. Mark Brody filed the Athletic Associations Accountability Act (HB 328) in the state legislature March 13. The measure, which has 17 co-sponsors, would instruct leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly to "file a tax-exempt organization complaint (referral) with the Department of ...

FIRST PERSON: When filmmakers get it right

 
British novelist Evelyn Waugh was known as an earthy man, even after he found Christ. A lady once asked him: "Mr. Waugh, how can you behave as you do and still call yourself a Christian?" His answer: "Madam, I may be as bad as you say. But believe me, were it not for my religion, I would scarcely be a human being." Well, we've all heard it before: "Christians are hypocrites!" Sometimes, it appears so. None of us gets it ...

Beauty and the Beast's 'gay moment' sours many Christians

 
A gay plot twist in Disney's upcoming live-action "Beauty and the Beast" continues to stir discontent among Christians, with an online poll at Faith Driven Consumer (FDC) among the latest to voice displeasure. The poll reports 95 percent of 6,700 consumers said they are less likely to see the film because of an intimate attraction the bumbling LeFou character expresses toward the villainous Gaston. And 94 percent of those polled said they will likely spend less money on all Disney offerings as a ...

Religious liberty in China is 'rapidly deteriorating'

 
The persecution of Christians in China has increased, and is expected to continue to do so, as a result of a dramatic policy change by the communist government, according to the human rights organization China Aid. In its annual report released March 2, China Aid said Beijing's shift in how it seeks to manage religion and the adoption of that new policy by government agencies resulted in expanded persecution of individual Christians and greater oppression of unregistered house churches in 2016. Conditions ...

My conversation with Jacksonville foster parents

 
It’s hard to look at the sheer number of children in foster care and not have your heart break a little. I know mine does. Julie Bruce, director of foster care at the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes Jacksonville campus, said the need for foster parents is critical. With more than 12,000 children currently in foster homes, Bruce is always willing to talk to families who want to find out more about being a foster parent. Bruce said ...

If we're going to help recovering addicts, we have work to do

 
Many Florida Baptist churches join the fight against addiction by hosting Celebrate Recovery groups. Simon Hunt is the director of the Celebrate Recovery ministry at First Baptist Orlando. He said that while they don’t have people coming in off the street who are under the influence, Celebrate Recovery can be a good option for people as they are leaving a treatment facility and looking to rejoin and rebuild their lives. Hunt believes that when it comes to recovery, ...

Vocational Church in Tampa helps former addicts develop job skills

 
Charles Young saw the need to help recovering addicts find faith in God and their place in society, and planted Vocational Church in Tampa to do just that. Complete with an in-house residency program, the church offers men who are already in recovery a place to live while they develop job skills that help them move away from the lives they knew as addicts. As more churches understand just how far-reaching and deadly the effects of our state’s ...

LifeWay's Chris Adams retires as 'true champion for women'

 
Although she was a young mother of twin girls with a fear of public speaking, Chris Adams became a women's ministry pioneer in the Southern Baptist Convention. After 22 years of training leaders as the women's ministry specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources, Adams retired in February from a role that God began leading her toward 30-plus years ago at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas. As she navigated motherhood, Adams gained a desire to share with others the wisdom that ...

Why church plants sometimes have trouble becoming self-sustaining

 
It’s not rare to hear a church planter name money as one of his top needs even as he shifts in his seat and tries to come up with what he hopes you think will sound like a more spiritual answer. And, while many planters will admit that finances rank as one of their plant’s top challenges, it is still tough for them to ask for money from potential partners or even their own congregation. The ...

FIRST PERSON: Our job is to save the humans, not the whales

 
Millions of people in the online world have watched livestream video for days on end as a 15 year old named April prepares to give birth to her baby. April, though, is not a teen mom. April is a giraffe who lives at Animal Adventure Park in New York. People often are as emotionally attached to the lives of animals as they are of people. We see it now with "April the Giraffe," as we saw it when many grieved over ...

Frank Page & Russell Moore: 'We fully support one another'

 
Despite a Washington Post article published on March 13th suggesting Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank S. Page could ask Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore to resign amid ongoing controversy, the two SBC entity leaders reported a collegial meeting on that day and said they "fully support one another." Earlier in the day, amid a social media flurry following the Post's report, Page told Baptist Press he planned on "bridge-building" with Moore with no anticipation of ...

'JESUS' film, now translated into 1,500 languages, reaches millions

 
For one morning a week for quite some time, both women had been nothing but consistent. Riah* had been faithfully working to help keep up the home of Yvonne Cantwell*, an IMB missionary in Southeast Asia. And Cantwell had been faithfully sharing the Gospel and Bible stories with her as they built a relationship. "She is from a UPG [unreached people group]," Cantwell said. "I speak her national language but not her heart language." Riah was "friendly and open but ...

FIRST PERSON: What happens when foster kids come to church

 
    EDITOR'S NOTE: Diana Davis' column is part of a Special Report that the April print edition of the Florida Baptist Witness will have on orphan care. To subscribe, go here: https://www.sonovasystems.com/css/1012/epay.page "The Turners have a new foster child," someone whispered. A wide-eyed 12-year-old walked into church beside the couple, and people began to welcome him. When God prompts someone in your church to foster a child, how will your church respond? Are ...

Bellevue Baptist reaches $1 million in Cooperative Program giving

 
Bellevue Baptist Church, where Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines serves as pastor, has become the first church in Tennessee to send $1 million through the Cooperative Program over a 12-month period. In early March, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board received a check for $83,333 that brought Bellevue's total giving through the Cooperative Program to $1 million since April 2016. Records from the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board indicate that Bellevue's gifts through the Cooperative Program have quadrupled over the past six years. Gaines said ...

SBC's disciple-making task force needs to work an additional year

 
A group tasked with encouraging and teaching disciple-making among Southern Baptist churches will extend its work an additional year, task force chairman Robby Gallaty told Baptist Press. Gallaty, hosting a task force meeting in Nashville on March 9, said the group will not issue a report at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix. The task force will instead seek an additional year to evaluate discipleship and strategize. They plan to give their report at the 2018 SBC annual meeting in ...

Pastor's family chooses Cooperative Program for memorial

 
Levi Parish spent the better part of his ministry supporting and encouraging others to support the Cooperative Program. So when he passed away on Feb. 26, it was only natural that the family wanted to do something related to Southern Baptist's giving channel for missions and ministry in his memory. "He loved missions," Sherry Parish said of her husband of 53 years. "In every church we served, he encouraged the church to increase its giving through the Cooperative Program," she recalled. "He ...

Texas prison's 'field ministers' see wide-ranging impact

 
"I've been in prison before," Michael Rios humbly reflects. "I came in when I was very young. I had the right ideas, I had the right intents: get out, get married, have a life." Dressed in a white prison uniform, Rios speaks slowly but directly, his tattooed hands slowly gesturing to accentuate his words. He has been in prison longer than some of his fellow inmates have even been alive. Though Rios had the "right intents," bad choices kept him ...

LifeWay Films schedules encore 'Insanity of God' simulcasts

 
LifeWay Films schedules encore 'Insanity of God' simulcasts   Response to LifeWay Films' simulcasts of "The Insanity of God" last fall has prompted encore showings March 22 and 26. The feature documentary tells the story of missionaries Nik and Ruth Ripken who traveled to 72 countries into the depths of the persecuted church to find out if God actually makes a difference in difficult places. The film is produced by the International Mission Board and Cooke Pictures, distributed by LifeWay Films and based ...

NAAF president urges reconciliation among Moore, critics

 
The president of a network of some 4,000 predominantly African-American Southern Baptist churches has issued an open letter urging reconciliation between Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore and those threatening to withhold Cooperative Program money over his actions. Byron Day, president of the National African-American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote in a March 9 letter that while "feathers have been ruffled on both sides," "obedience to the Bible's teaching can surely offer a solution so that we can ...

Planned Parenthood reveals how vital abortion is to its mission

 
Planned Parenthood's rejection of a White House offer to maintain federal funding if it drops its abortion business demonstrates how important the lethal procedure is to the organization, Southern Baptist leaders said. The informal proposal and the refusal—reported March 6 by The New York Times—came as Congress and President Trump consider legislation to cut funds for the country's scandal-plagued, leading abortion provider. Both budget bills and a new health care replacement measure proposed in the House of ...

NRB highlights Reformation's 'solas' at Proclaim 17 in Orlando

 
The five "solas" of the Protestant Reformation were highlighted during the National Religious Broadcasters' Proclaim 17 convention in Orlando. The event was designed to mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Theses. Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, preached on "Sola Gratia" (by grace alone) during the NRB International Christian Media Convention, which was held Feb. 27-March 2. Erwin Lutzer, pastor emeritus of Moody Church in Chicago, addressed "Sola Fide" (by faith alone); Mac Brunson, senior pastor ...

ERLC, LifeWay release religious liberty curriculum

 
Two Southern Baptist entities have combined efforts to produce a small-group study on religious liberty at a time when the fundamental freedom appears to be both threatened and misunderstood in the United States. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and LifeWay Christian Resources announced the release of the study—"Religious Liberty: How the Gospel Shapes Our First Freedom"—on March 7. The six-week study is available for purchase through LifeWay. The free exercise of religion guaranteed in the ...

FIRST PERSON: The power of preaching the Word of God

 
The writer of Hebrews said, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Not long ago, I was reminded of this power. Preachers are called to communicate God's Word and when they do so, they have a promise of His power to work in it and through it. When a ...

WEEK OF PRAYER: Colorado church planters no longer alone

 
EDITOR'S NOTE: The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 5-12, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering provide support for missionaries who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists across North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year's offering theme is "Together for His Kingdom." Jacob and Jessica Dahl are Week of Prayer missionaries for the North American Mission Board. For more information, visit anniearmstrong.com . To read about other 2017 featured missionaries, visit anniearmstrong.com/missionaries-overview. Two months ...

WEEK OF PRAYER: Teaching, reaching refugees in Jacksonville

 
EDITOR'S NOTE: The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 5-12, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering provide support for missionaries who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists across North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year's offering theme is "Together for His Kingdom." Kim and Ron Carr are Week of Prayer missionaries for the North American Mission Board. For more information, visit anniearmstrong.com . To read about other 2017 featured missionaries, visit anniearmstrong.com/missionaries-overview. While sitting ...

Orphan care helps Florida Baptists build more diverse congregations

 
Adoption and foster care cross ethnic and cultural lines, and while that may be a challenge it is also an opportunity. Florida Southern Baptist churches are discovering that by being involved in adoption and foster care ministries they are becoming multicultural themselves, or growing their current multicultural ministries even further. “As a church with so many people who have fostered children and adopted children the ethnic makeup of the church has changed,” said Pastor Jamin Stinziano of ...

Bradenton church has a 'work where it's planted' strategy

 
“It’s like throwing a life preserver to someone who thinks they’re standing in a baby pool.” That’s how Jason Smith, pastor of Good Life Church in Bradenton, described trying to reach the suburbs with the Gospel. When you’re living and ministering to an urban area, the needs are easy to see. Examples of homelessness, hunger and addiction are right out in the open. You don’t have to convince ...

Cooperative Program escrow study set to begin

 
An ad hoc committee of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee is set to begin its study of churches' escrowing Cooperative Program money. EC chairman and Florida Baptist pastor Stephen Rummage says the study was occasioned in part by the notable volume of contacts the EC has received regarding the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press the entity is "a servant of our churches" and is "happy to work with the Executive Committee." Meanwhile, ...

Fla. lawmakers to debate alcohol, guns, abortion and gambling

 
As members of the Florida House and Senate gather in Tallahassee for the 2017 legislative session, Florida Baptists will find several items of particular interest. Alcohol will be front and center once again as the debate over whether grocery stores should be allowed to sell hard liquor within their primary storefronts continues to rage on. Those opposed to the legislation, which has failed in past years, think the bill makes it too convenient for minors to get their hands on spirits. ...

Steve Gaines: Loving people gives you the platform to share Christ

 
Evangelism should be the priority of every Christian, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines said at the March 5 West Tennessee Evangelism Rally. "Heaven and hell are looming in the balance, and that's a lot more important than anything else," Gaines, pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, told those gathered at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Gaines was the featured preacher at the rally, sponsored by Union and the Tennessee Baptist Convention. He spoke to pastors and church members from ...

WEEK OF PRAYER: Pastor finds new flock with The Gathering

 
EDITOR'S NOTE: The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 5-12, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering provide support for missionaries who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists across North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year's offering theme is "Together for His Kingdom." Garth and Patty Leno are Week of Prayer missionaries for the North American Mission Board. For more information, visit anniearmstrong.com . To read about other 2017 featured missionaries, visit anniearmstrong.com/missionaries-overview. John D'Antonio's ...

President Trump's immigration orders draw diverse reaction

 
President Trump's immigration policy has drawn renewed focus among Baptists, with reactions to his March 6 executive order emerging and criticism of two previous executive orders voiced by a coalition of Hispanic pastors. Trump's March 6 executive order revoked a Jan. 27 order on immigration that proved controversial and was blocked by federal courts. The new order, which would take effect March 16, imposes a 90-day "pause" on entry to the U.S. by nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—...

International Mission Board appoints 29 new missionaries

 
Twenty-nine Southern Baptists were appointed as missionaries to the nations during the International Mission Board's trustee meeting Feb. 28-March 1 near Richmond, Va. Trustees also heard numerous reports and recognized 63 missionaries who retired or died within the past year. During IMB's Sending Celebration service, new missionaries represented churches that cooperate with 11 state Baptist conventions. The missionaries will take the Gospel to peoples in Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Americas. ...

Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein continue court fight

 
Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein took their religious liberty fight to court March 2 after they were penalized for refusing business for a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony. First Liberty Institute defended the Kleins before a three-judge panel in the Oregon Court of Appeals, promoting the couple's constitutional rights to religious freedom, free speech and due process in a court session webcast online. Kelly Shackelford, First Liberty president and CEO, said after the proceedings that he hopes the court upholds the ...

Attacks on religious liberty were the focus of NRB panel

 
Three clients of Alliance Defending Freedom described their battles for religious liberty March 2 at Proclaim 17, the National Religious Broadcasters' annual convention, which was held in Orlando this year. A wedding cinematographer, preschool director, and former fire chief shared about their legal efforts in a public policy session sponsored by ADF at the Orlando World Center Marriott. Their cases and others likely will determine the future of religious freedom in America, ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley told the audience. "I firmly ...

Supreme Court vacates pro-transgender ruling

 
The U.S. Supreme Court set aside on March 6 a ruling in favor of a transgender high school student and returned it to a lower court for reconsideration in light of the Trump administration's recent withdrawal of a directive issued under President Obama. The justices issued the order returning the case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., barely three weeks before they were to hear oral arguments in the matter. The arguments were scheduled for March 28. ...

NRB leader: Free speech mission 'primary, necessary, indispensable'

 
Protecting the freedom of speech is as vital to the National Religious Broadcasters' mission today as it was when the association was founded in 1944, the group's president and CEO, Jerry A. Johnson, said. Johnson gave his State of the Association speech at the Orlando World Center Marriott in the opening session of Proclaim 17, NRB's International Christian Media Convention. During the session, he also read a statement regarding the terrorist killing of 49 people and injury to 53 others at the city's Pulse ...

LGBTQ themes spread in kids' entertainment

 
Themes promoting gay, bisexual and transgender lifestyles are becoming more prevalent in entertainment expressly marketed to children, most notably with Disney's upcoming version of "Beauty and the Beast." Disney's remake of Beauty and the Beast, debuting in theaters March 17, will include a reimagined LeFou, who will express a homosexual yet conflicted attraction to the brutish and macho Gaston, the movie's director Bill Condon told the gay Attitude Magazine. The movie is after Disney already included a scene with several same-gender ...

N.C. billboard sparks debate over gender roles

 
A North Carolina billboard that reads, "Real men provide. Real women appreciate it," has generated discussion of gender roles and work. While some say the sign expresses a biblical principle that men should provide financially for their families, others argue provision is a shared responsibility not limited by gender roles. The controversial message appeared in late February on a billboard along Interstate 40 between Winston-Salem and Greensboro, according to media reports. The billboard's owner told the Raleigh News & Observer the ...

Christians in Egypt flee after killings in North Sinai

 
Hundreds of Christians continue to flood out of the Egyptian town of Al-Arish in northern Sinai after the third Coptic Christian in a week was gunned down on Feb. 23, reportedly by Islamic State-linked militants. The mass exodus comes after three Coptic Christians were killed in what appears to be the work of militants making good on Islamic State threats issued on a Feb. 19 video promising to rid the country of "idolaters." The latest slaying was the seventh killing of a ...

Sen. James Lankford sees a 'missional calling' to government

 
James Lankford, a U.S. senator from Oklahoma, knows a little bit about experiencing a call from God. He also knows a little bit about resisting that call to be obedient. "For all of the disciples, Jesus used one simple phrase to call them: 'Come follow me,'" Lankford said during a Great Commission Conference at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo. "It wasn't a calling to an occupation, to a place or a task. It was a calling to ...

Africa: Preparing for the next missions epicenter

 
Historian Richard Bulliet suggests that early Muslims recounted the story of the spread of Islam as if it had one center, like an inkblot diffusing outward from a center that remains set and inexorably stained. In contrast, when we look at the story of the spread of God's Kingdom, we see something more like shifting epicenters of earthquakes. Sudden, tectonic shifts occur and then shock waves go out from the center to spread the Gospel far and wide. Once the ...

National Cooperative Program giving 4.86% ahead of projections

 
Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist Convention national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee are 4.86 percent above the year-to-date budgeted projection, and are 0.86 percent below contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page. The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2016-17 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget. As of Feb. 28, gifts ...

FIRST PERSON: Dear absent church member

 
Dear Absent Church Member, Today I saw your empty seat as I stood to welcome the people to worship. I wondered to myself what it was this week that had kept you away once again from gathering with other believers on the Lord's Day. I love being your pastor, but I must admit that I experience sadness every time I see your empty seat. I visit the older members of our church in their homes because age and sickness has ...

How churches are expanding their reach through social media

 
More than 5,000 people watched and listened to small-town pastor Mark Helton's sermons on smartphones, tablets and computer monitors over the past month. First Baptist Church in Monticello, Ky., has embraced the relatively inexpensive technology that has allowed congregations of all sizes to vastly increase their reaches. On the typical Sunday morning, Helton preaches to about 200 familiar faces gathered in the pews while analytics show that lots of others from his community and beyond tune in remotely. "It has been an ...

Trump highlights immigration, war on terror in speech to Congress

 
Discussions of immigration, terrorism and health care were among the highlights of President Trump's first address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28. The hour-long address included no mention of abortion, so-called homosexual and transgender rights or religious liberty. It did include calls to "invest in women's health," confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and ensure parents' access to "paid family leave." The president also voiced support for "the incredible men and women of law enforcement" and ...

ANALYSIS: Reaching the remote in the Amazon jungle

 
Although we sometimes lament the digital age, truth be told, it's nice to be so connected. Most of us can't remember the last time we were out of contact without a phone, a computer or even a GPS-enabled car to get us out of trouble. Everyone, everywhere on the planet seems accessible, but that's not the case. There are still remote, uncontacted places in the world where the Gospel has not yet been declared. Some of those places are in ...

The special challenges pastors have in raising Godly children

 
One of the greatest legacies of any pastor is for his children to grow up loving God and loving the Church passionately. Yet, this is often not the story of the children of a pastor. Why? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. Through the years, hundreds of people have asked how they could pray for our family. Jeana and I were very clear through the years our boys were living at home with us: Pray for Josh ...

Reports show improved levels of ethnic participation within SBC

 
A review of ethnic participation in Southern Baptist Convention life left a workgroup of the convention's Executive Committee encouraged at the SBC's progress and eager for increased diversity in the days ahead. Reports submitted to the EC "show intentionality on the part of each one of our entities to provide resources and opportunities for involvement of our ethnic churches and church leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention," Jim Gregory, chairman of the EC's Communications Workgroup, told Baptist Press. "I think ...

Black history and the SBC: Need for more study noted

 
EDITOR'S NOTE: February is Black History Month. Black History Month gives Americans a yearly spotlight on such key figures in U.S. history as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. Few Southern Baptists, however, have considered key African-American figures in SBC history like Garland Offutt, Emmanuel McCall and Fred Luter—the first African-Americans, respectively, to attend a Southern Baptist Convention seminary, serve on an SBC entity staff and be elected SBC president. Yet some Baptist historians ...

Frank Page's witness fruitful after 35 years

 
Engaging in door-to-door evangelism earlier this year, two seminary students came across a house they almost overlooked because of its obscurity. When they knocked on the door, Jackie, a man with a unique connection to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, answered the door. When master of divinity students Sharon Ngai and Christian Stringer told Jackie they were from Southwestern, Jackie informed them that he had given his life to Christ more than 35 years ago as a result of Southwestern students doing ...

FIRST PERSON: Why I practice cold-call evangelism

 
Many of us have received a phone call from an unknown number and, upon answering, found out that a random salesperson from a different state is attempting to sell us something. This method is called cold-call sales, which simply means that a company acquires a list of random names and phone numbers and methodically marches down the list, calling people to whom they have never spoken before and offering their product and/or services. My question regarding this practice is, ...

Obama-era transgender bathroom order rescinded

 
The Trump administration has reversed an Obama-era directive that advised schools to open bathrooms and locker rooms to students based on their perceived sexual identity or risk losing federal funding. The new ruling leaves bathroom use policies to the discretion of state governments and local school districts, but the issue is already set to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court is scheduled on March 28 to hear a case from the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia ...

Women's academic society forms at Southeastern

 
Women at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern have a new opportunity for encouragement and collaboration in their academic work through the Society for Women in Scholarship. Created by SEBTS students, the society's goal is to provide a gathering place for ideas, networking, learning and leadership development among women at Southeastern who desire to be part of theological scholarship. It was just over a year ago when Bekah Stoneking, a doctor of education student, and Amber Bowen, ...

Young leader initiative announced by EC & NAMB

 
The SBC Executive Committee and North American Mission Board are launching a young leader initiative to better engage pastors between the ages of 25-45. The network's goal will be to provide a sense of brotherhood for those already participating in Southern Baptist life and find ways to engage those who are disconnected or minimally involved. "A look at the research and a look around the room at most SBC meetings tells you we must do a better job at engaging ...

Today is the day to start growing Sharper! in your ministry

 
Sharper!, the one-day conference taking place simultaneously at more than 20 Florida Baptist churches across the state, has arrived. Host churches will focus the day of training and team building on discipleship, prayer, preaching, teaching, leadership, church multiplication, small groups and other issues, with each location having the freedom to customize its own program and schedule to the needs of their specific audience. "Staying honed and ready to be used by God can be difficult as the challenges of the day ...

CP escrowing by Prestonwood Baptist draws EC's attention

 
Amid continuing discussion of churches' escrowing or withholding Cooperative Program funds, the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee launched two efforts to study the issue at its Feb. 20-21 meeting in Nashville. The EC's actions related to CP came less than a week after it was reported that Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church would escrow CP funds over "various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission." See related story. Other churches have taken or are considering ...

Anderson U.'s divinity school OKs partnership with BEMCSC

 
The Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina has voted to establish a partnership with Anderson University's Clamp Divinity School. The Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina encompasses 1,100 churches and 230,000 members across the state. It was founded in 1877 by a group of black men who came together to enhance the quality of life in their churches and to provide a means of bringing churches together on a statewide basis to address the educational needs of African Americans ...

GuideStone planning its first-ever Employee Benefits Summit

 
Key ministry decision-makers, along with human resource professionals and financial officers of churches and ministries, are invited to register for the first Employee Benefits Summit presented by GuideStone Financial Resources, March 27–29 in Dallas. The Employee Benefits Summit, a combination of GuideStone's popular Southern Baptist Business Officers' Conference held each spring and the Benefits Forum held in the fall, will provide an expanded menu of networking and training opportunities in one annual conference. Registration is $199. An additional $50 per person dinner ...

FIRST PERSON: God's mission and women's ministries

 
I'm plagued with a burden that I've played it too safe. And what's even more dangerous, I fear I may have led others to play it safe as well. The heaviness was fueled as I sat on a dirt floor listening to 15 Asian women -- one by one -- tell how they had shared the Gospel. Each said something like, "I shared the Gospel with 15 people in my village, eight of them followed Christ and one was healed of demon ...

Page: We need a 'massive effort' to build stewardship education

 
The use of God's resources—stewardship—will gain a strengthened emphasis in Southern Baptist life, Frank S. Page said in addressing the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville. "If we do not get the issue of stewardship correct, the work to which God is calling us will simply not be done in a way that would honor Him and glorify Him as He would wish," Page, president of the Executive Committee, said during the opening session of the EC's ...

An impassioned Steve Gaines implores SBC to pray

 
In Nashville all of 24 hours while his wife Donna was home in Memphis, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines had already spoken with her four times, he said, because he loves her and simply loves to hear her voice. The conversations with his wife served as an analogy to encourage Southern Baptists to talk with God and tell others about our Savior, the theme of his sermon on the first evening of the SBC Executive Committee meeting in Nashville Feb. 20...

Dreher: Stop wasting energy fighting unwinnable culture battles

 
With secular culture increasingly marginalizing the Christian faith, believers should leave behind political battles and embrace the communal life exemplified by St. Benedict of Nursia, author Rod Dreher said in the Gheens Lectures, Feb. 7-8 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Although Christianity continues to spread in Asia and the global south, it is rapidly losing its influence in the public square in the West, said Dreher, senior editor of the American Conservative and author of "The Benedict Option," a book ...

FIRST PERSON: What makes the Great Commission great?

 
We call these words of Jesus the Great Commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20). But what makes the Great Commission so great? It's great in its responsibility Every follower of Jesus has ...

Hispanic churches face unique challenges with cultural expression

 
It’s not always easy for any church to reach millennials or post-millennials in an increasingly secular culture. But, Hispanic churches often have additional challenges when it comes to reaching young adults in Florida. As Spanish-speaking churches affiliated with the Florida Baptist Convention grow, and younger generations come of age, it often takes time and effort to figure out the church’s cultural expression, said Emmanuel Roque, the FBC’s Hispanic church catalyst. First- and second-generation Hispanics ...

Gaines, Greear, Luter, Hunt to lend support to Pastors' Conference

 
Celebrating smaller membership churches in the Southern Baptist Convention is a key aspect of this year's Pastors' Conference. However, key leaders are calling for broad participation by pastors regardless of the size of their church. "The core of the SBC has always been faithful men and women living out the Great Commission in local churches without the benefits of large platforms, big budgets or headline recognition," J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., ...

What's planned for SBC's Pastors' Conference? Check this out!

 
This year's Southern Baptist Pastors' Conference has already promised several firsts, including the first time all preachers will be from small- and medium-sized churches and all sermons will walk through a book of the Bible expositionally. This year's Pastors'Conference added another first—the first time the speakers met in advance to discuss their passages to ensure cohesive unity to their sermons. Eleven of the 12 pastors, whose churches range in attendance from 60 to 500, met with Pastors' Conference officers as well ...

Prestonwood Baptist escrows CP funds, citing ERLC actions

 
A Dallas-area megachurch has decided to escrow Cooperative Program funds temporarily in order to evaluate future support of Southern Baptist Convention causes. At issue are what the congregation calls "various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission that do not reflect the beliefs and values of many in the Southern Baptist Convention," according to a statement the church released to Louisiana's Baptist Message newsjournal. Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, will escrow what would ...

David Platt apologizes for 'divisive' IMB amicus brief

 
International Mission Board President David Platt has apologized to Southern Baptists for the divisive nature of an amicus brief the IMB joined last May in support of a New Jersey's Islamic society's right to build a mosque. "I apologize to Southern Baptists for how distracting and divisive this has been," Platt said Feb. 15 during a meeting with Baptist state paper editors in Ontario, Calif. "I can say with full confidence," he said, "that in the days ahead, IMB will have ...

Steve Gaines' Q&A: from Trump to prayer for revival

 
Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines discussed a range of topics of interest to Baptists in a question-and-answer session with state Baptist paper editors during their Feb. 14-16 annual meeting in Ontario, Calif. The discussion covered President Donald Trump's first 25 days in office, including the refugee crisis; controversial comments by Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore during the election; churches tithing 10 percent to the Cooperative Program and state conventions splitting their CP receipts 50/50 with national entities; Millennials and ...

Believers see health-care cost-sharing ministries as 'safe harbors'

 
As Kacie Melvin anticipated the arrival of her newborn and transitioned from school teacher to stay-at-home mom, she immediately knew health insurance was going to pose a problem. So Melvin and her husband, both members of First Baptist Church in Orlando, did something that more and more Florida Baptists are doing. They began to look into alternatives to the increasing costs of insurance, especially for those who are not receiving healthcare benefits from an employer. What they found was heath-care ...

We already have the tools to reach next-generation Hispanics

 
Billy Young, next generation ministries catalyst with the Florida Baptist Convention, pointed out in a phone conversation that Millennials and post-millennials are the generations that have perhaps been the most exposed to diversity through their school systems. “Student ministry/college ministry is more diverse than other ministries because [Millennials and post-millennials] have gone to school with many different cultures; they are accustomed to interacting with people different than they.” For Young, this is encouraging because it means that ...

Florida Baptist church planters stress over health-care coverage

 
As Washington begins to debate about whether it will try to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act, Florida Baptist church planters reflect on how they have managed to provide health care protection for themselves and their families, and how a decision on the Affordable Care Act could affect them. Todd Peterson, pastor of the Pulse of Miami Church, purchases his health insurance on the federal government’s health care exchange page healthcare.gov. “I’m ...

'Authentic Love' calls teens to true identity in Christ

 
Love is a popular topic in today's culture, especially around Valentine's Day. But since many teens hear a distorted view, "Authentic Love," a new True Love Waits Bible study, aims to ground students' concept of love in their identity in Christ. Authentic Love, divided into studies for guys and girls, places a "strong emphasis on developing a lifestyle of personal holiness and helps students understand sex and purity in light of the Gospel," said Karen Daniel, team leader in student ...

Faith-based groups lead in sheltering the homeless

 
Rick Lechner says he speaks the language of the streets. A former drug addict and convicted criminal, the Southern Baptist preacher helps put a dent in homelessness in Omaha, Neb., as co-founder of Freeway Ministries. Omaha is one of 11 cities included in a new Baylor University study that found, on average, 58 percent of emergency shelter beds for the homeless in those cities are provided through faith-based organizations. At the high end of the spectrum is Omaha, where faith-based groups provide 90 ...

FIRST-PERSON: David Jeremiah says marriage is like a song

 
For most of us, the radio was part of our dating experience. That's why when we hear a certain tune, we smile and say, "Honey, they're playing our song." So-called experts are always putting together "Top 100" lists, so I wondered what songs would be listed as the Top 100 love songs of all time. According to one study I saw, the top pick was George Harrison's "Something," sung by the Beatles in 1969. No. 2 was Elton John's "Your Song." Also high on ...

Florida Baptists find different ways to tackle sports ministries

 
Many Florida Baptist churches have implemented sports ministries as a way to reach out to the sports-crazed communities they serve. But for churches not playing in this space, it can be difficult to get a grip on what they can offer with the resources they have available. To see how churches tackle the task of making decisions about sports and recreation ministries, we talked to congregations of various sizes to find out what the process of starting and running a ...

Pastor Willy: Churches need to give 20-somethings the chance to lead

 
The millennial generation presents unique challenges for a lot of churches. So, when I met recently with Willy Rice, senior pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater, I wanted to make sure I asked what they were doing to minister in this critical area. As during other parts of our interview, Pastor Willy was candid in his responses. “A church like ours, which is a multigenerational church that has been there for 150 years last year, we’re asking: How ...

Shiloh shows that racial unity is not an unattainable goal

 
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Florida Baptist Witness told the story of how Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in downtown Jacksonville and Ridgewood Baptist Church in Orange Park were planning to merge in our Sept. 11, 2014, print edition. This article from Baptist Press shows what has happened since that time. Tami and Roger Clemmons searched more than a year for a church home after moving from Georgia to the Palm Coast area in 2014. Nothing seemed to fit the couple's desire for racial diversity coupled ...

FIRST PERSON: Deciding what kind of neighbor you will be

 
From time to time I receive a postcard boasting the headline, "Choose Your Neighbor!" It's from a local realtor sending listings of houses for sale in my neighborhood. The idea is for me to tell my circle of friends and acquaintances about the available houses, thus allowing me to choose my neighbor. Through many years of moving around the country and overseas, my family has been blessed with incredible neighbors. There was one family in particular that we really enjoyed. ...

FIRST PERSON: Finding reasons to celebrate our diversity

 
EDITOR'S NOTE: Feb. 12 is Racial Reconciliation Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention. "The beauty (and effectiveness) of Southern Baptists is their diversity," I wrote in a column after my first Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore in 2014. I was amazed that so many different personalities comprised this group of evangelicals known as the SBC. However, I have not always prized diversity. As one of the few half-black girls in the predominately white school, church and extended family I grew up in, ...

NAMB approves three SEND Relief mercy ministry hubs

 
Trustees of the North American Mission Board meeting in Southern California heard reports from local church planters and approved the establishment of three Send Relief "ministry hubs" that will provide mercy ministry and give Southern Baptists more opportunities for hands-on missions service. Meeting Feb. 7 for their full board meeting, trustees approved a plan for NAMB to purchase existing property that will be transitioned into the ministry hubs. A Clarkston, Ga., hub will be located in Clarkston International Bible Church; in ...

Open letter from evangelicals: Refugee ban 'deeply' concerning

 
A full-page ad in the Feb. 8 Washington Post expressing concern over a portion of President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration included the signatures of at least seven Southern Baptists among a coalition of some 100 evangelicals. Two of the signatories—former Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin—told Baptist Press their signatures reflect a specific policy disagreement and not a blanket repudiation of the president's approach to immigration. The ad ...

ANALYSIS: What to know about apostasy laws worldwide

 
When a Sudanese court handed down a death sentence to Meriam Yahya Ibrahim for converting from Islam to Christianity, her case sparked international outcry. The young wife and expecting mother was convicted of apostasy, a crime in Sudan. Although the furor died down after her 2014 release, the law she was found guilty of violating remains on the books today. As recently as one month ago in Sudan, a group of men, including three teenagers, was accused of apostasy for following ...

Texas church plant blessed with space once used as a bar

 
An El Paso, Texas, area church withstood the opposition of alleged drug traffickers and credit the protection of God as they sought to expand their presence in a strip shopping center in San Elizario, a city of 5,000 in El Paso County. Iglesia Bautista Dios con Nosotros, translated in English as "God with Us Baptist Church," quickly outgrew the small space rented in 2012 and expanded the storefront. Within a few years, they again needed more room, but the owner of Amigos ...

Pastor Willy: Everyone can play a role in church planting

 
I recently asked Willy Rice, senior pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater, if it is realistic to think that smaller Florida Baptist churches can play a significant role in church planting. His answer convinced me that he’s confident church planting is based on heart and leadership—not size and scope. “Even in a smaller church I think focusing on multiplication is a kingdom mindset,” Pastor Willy says. “Obviously, in a smaller church you’...

Prayer for injured player leads to Freedom From Religion complaint

 
A Tennessee public school system has agreed to update employees on applicable constitutional law after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained of a Southern Baptist pastor's impromptu prayer over an injured player at a high school football game this past season. The Hamilton County Department of Education will "provide additional training to its employees on the application of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses in public schools," HCDE attorney D. Scott Bennett recently told the FFRF. On Jan. 27, the FFRF ...

Send Conference in S. Calif. urges redefining moment

 
"Redefine" was the charge and challenge at the Send Conference—a joint event of the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. The sold-out conference in Long Beach, Calif., drew nearly 4,000 attendees Feb. 3-4 from a variety of backgrounds. Church planters, college students, pastors, missionaries, moms and dads, sons and daughters, California natives, world travelers, road-trippers and frequent flyers came together to redefine their lives for Christ. "I'm not a risk-taker," Caroline McGibbon, daughter of Canadian church ...

New Orleans tornado destroys church, delays NOBTS chapel

 
The EF-3 tornado that touched down in eastern New Orleans on Feb. 7 heavily damaged a Southern Baptist church's facility and briefly interrupted a chapel service at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Initial reports estimated that 250 homes were damaged with 31 people injured. No fatalities have been reported. The tornado—one of several to strike Louisiana Tuesday—devastated the three-building campus of Suburban Baptist Church in New Orleans, a predominately African-American congregation. Pastor Jeffery Friend and his wife Stephanie were ...

Trump's immigration order sparks biblical analysis

 
With President Trump's travel ban from seven predominately-Muslim countries on hold at least temporarily, some Christians are evaluating biblical teaching on immigration and refugees. On one side of the debate, the National Association of Evangelicals' World Relief arm is helping to draft a letter signed by hundreds of pastors asking Trump to rethink the travel ban. Other Christians have emphasized the need for stringent border security along with compassion toward immigrants and refugees. Trump's order was temporarily blocked Feb. 3 in ...

'Grace-filled' Kurt Warner selected to NFL's Hall of Fame

 
After coming up short in his first two years of eligibility, Kurt Warner is finally a Pro Football Hall of Famer. The former NFL quarterback, often known for being outspoken about his Christian faith, was picked for the honor on Feb. 4 by the 48-member selection committee. He was selected along with LaDainian Tomlinson, Terrell Davis, Morten Andersen, Jason Taylor, Jerry Jones and Kenny Easley. Warner won two MVP awards during his NFL career, played in three Super Bowls and was ...

Why mediation works so well as a tool for church conflict resolution

 
Conflict in any relationship is painful, but within a church family it can be downright devastating. Lewis Miller, regional catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, has helped pastors and congregations navigate the turbulent waters of conflict over the years. Miller said that even with a biblical mandate to resolve issues peacefully and in God-honoring ways, churches sometimes struggle to know when or how to go about it. “Churches tend to wait too late to ask for outside help,” ...

Why not take kids on overseas mission trips?

 
We were celebrities and oddities in a rolling caravan. And by rolling, I mean with actual wheels—a double stroller and several wheeled suitcases trailing my husband Steven and me as we careened through an Asian airport with our two boys, ages 3 and 1. In an American airport, perhaps we would have been a passing entertainment, avoided in security lines and processed with great pains. Yet in this Asian country, as I sweated my way through an immigration line, it ...

Congress proposes Johnson Amendment overhaul

 
Members of Congress have introduced legislation to enable churches and other non-profit organizations to endorse candidates or otherwise participate in political campaigns without fear of penalties from the Internal Revenue Service. The Free Speech Fairness Act—introduced Feb. 1, the day before President Trump reiterated his intent to eliminate the so-called Johnson Amendment—would free pastors, churches and other tax-exempt entities to intervene on behalf of or against candidates in an election campaign. The measure would still prohibit financial ...

Pastor Willy: It's arrogance that divides us as Southern Baptists

 
During a wide-ranging interview with Willy Rice, senior pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater, I asked him about the most divisive issue facing Southern Baptists right now. He lamented what he describes as the underlying “tribalism, division” that seems to occur. At another point, he called those divisions “camps.” I asked him if one of those camps is the division caused by the issue of Calvinism, and he reluctantly acknowledged that there is a lot of ...

Faith allows for Falcon's Jacob Tamme to put injury into context

 
The Atlanta Falcons squared off against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 30 in what proved to be a preview of this year's NFC championship game. Atlanta tight end Jacob Tamme caught a 13-yard pass on the first drive of the game. "When I got tackled, a second guy hit me right as I went to the ground," Tamme said. "Twice in my career I've known that something bad had happened. The first time was [when] I broke my femur in ...

National Cooperative Program giving 3.11% ahead of projections

 
Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist Convention national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee are 3.11 percent above the year-to-date budgeted projection through the first four months of the convention's fiscal year, and are 1.48 percent below contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page. The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2016...

President Trump spotlights religious liberty at prayer breakfast

 
The Trump administration "will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty," President Donald Trump said earlier this week at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Among steps he proposed to safeguard religious liberty was a promise to "get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment," a 1954 law that bars churches and other tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates. The promise drew attention within hours from major media outlets and echoed statements Trump made during the 2016 ...

Pastor Willy Rice leads Calvary to shift the church growth 'scorecard'

 
I met earlier this week with Willy Rice, senior pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater, for a wide-ranging conversation. One of the first things I asked him was what he saw as the biggest obstacle to more Florida Baptist churches getting involved in church planting. His answer was fascinating. "Because we’ve created a target, we’ve created a scorecard that doesn’t necessarily value kingdom expansion as much as we value expanding our kingdom," Pastor Willy ...

ERLC-organized coalition endorses Gorsuch's SCOTUS nomination

 
More than 50 Southern Baptist and other evangelical leaders have endorsed the confirmation of new Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch in a letter sponsored by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The Southern Baptist Convention entity released the letter Feb. 1, a day after President Trump announced his nomination of Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge the last 10 years. If confirmed, Gorsuch would fill the seat on the nine-person high court left vacant by the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia last ...

Boy Scouts' new transgender policy 'sad,' 'predicted'

 
The Boy Scouts' decision to include girls who identify as boys in their programs is a tragic but predictable step, said conservative Christian leaders. "Tragically, the Boy Scouts seem to be continuing their trajectory toward embracing the moral priorities of the Sexual Revolution," said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "Many of us predicted that earlier decisions by the organization were the beginning of an organizational reinvention and hoped we were wrong. Those fears ...

Idlewild shows how a clean bus can lead to a Gospel conversation

 
Barry Chesney, minister for local missions at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, shared some stories of Gospel impact with me recently as we talked about Idlewild’s One Day churchwide local missions initiative. Twice a year, members participate in projects to serve the community and spread the Gospel message through acts of service. Barry told me about a project Idlewild did last year where a team washed school buses and left gift bags for the drivers. One driver was ...

Just what is it, exactly, that leads to a successful revival?

 
Blackrock Baptist Church in Yulee has been having successful revivals for the last 26 years. Senior Pastor John Kasper, who’s been leading the church for the last three of those, said preparation is key. Kasper said the people must be prepared to receive revival through a combination of prayer and fasting. “Prepare people not to put hope in the evangelist,” he said. “God brings revival.” David Burton, president and founder of David Burton Ministries, said ...

Trump's nomination of Gorsuch lauded by life, liberty advocates

 
Religious liberty and pro-life advocates warmly welcomed President Trump's nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court as the Senate prepares for what is expected to be a hard-fought confirmation battle. Trump announced his selection of Gorsuch, 49, a federal appeals court judge, during prime-time television on Jan. 31 to fill the seat created by the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia last February. In Gorsuch, Trump nominated a judge who—like Scalia—has a philosophy and record ...

President Trump's immigration order draws protests, support

 
Following President Trump's executive order temporarily limiting travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, Southern Baptists reasserted their commitment to seek a balance between compassion and national security in immigration policy. Among Southern Baptist leaders to respond to Trump's order and ensuing protests across America were Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, Executive Committee President Frank S. Page and former Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright. Also weighing in on the controversy were pastor Robert Jeffress of Dallas, a vocal ...

FIRST-PERSON: Learning when it's OK to say no

 
The first time I ever ate shark meat was at a Chinese restaurant in Mexico in 1991. Specialist Salters, a soldier in my Army unit, took Pamela and me to a little restaurant in Juarez as a wedding present to us. In attempting to show off in front of my new bride and demonstrate that I ate "exotic" stuff all the time, I stuck a huge piece of shark meat in my mouth. I had never had this before and knew ...

Here's what we can do while debate rages over refugee policy

 
Persecution against Christians is ranked "extreme" and "severe" in the seven countries whose residents President Donald Trump's recent executive order on immigration has temporarily banned from entry into the United States, based on 2017 rankings by the nonprofit Open Doors USA. Six of the countries—Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen—are ranked in the top 10 nations where persecution of Christians is highest, with Libya ranked 11th, according to Open Doors' 2017 World Watch List. Upon the release of the ...

MKs, international students to receive WMU aid after tornado

 
Children of missionaries (MKs) and international students attending tornado-ravaged William Carey University in Mississippi are being assisted by a $5,000 HEART Fund grant from the national Woman's Missionary Union and the WMU Foundation. The HEART (Humanitarian Emergency Aid for Rebuilding Tomorrow) grant will be used to purchase gift cards for each of the 30 MKs as well as international students affected by the Jan. 21st tornado's devastation at the university in Hattiesburg. "My first thought after witnessing the vast destruction in my ...

'Life is winning,' VP Michael Pence says at March for Life rally

 
Vice President Michael Pence declared "life is winning again in America" in his historic appearance Jan. 27 before a massive March for Life crowd that included a contingent of Southern Baptists attending the Evangelicals for Life conference. Sworn in as vice president only a week before, Pence became the first person holding that office to speak in person at the March for Life in its 44-year history. No president has ever appeared at the annual event. Pence's appearance—as well ...

More believers drawn to health care cost-sharing ministries

 
Dale Bellis, CEO of Liberty Healthshare, a health-care cost sharing ministry, said there is a massive movement of people leaving the care of traditional general practitioners and moving to what he calls direct primary care physicians. These doctors, who were once known as concierge doctors who treated only the ultra-wealthy, are now making their services available to the general public on a subscription basis. With one flat monthly payment, subscribers can have access to their doctor whenever they need or ...

SBC 2017 Phoenix registration opens Feb. 1

 
Registration opens Feb. 1 for the Southern Baptist Convention 2017 Annual Meeting June 13-14 at the Phoenix Convention Center, 100 N. 3rd St. in Phoenix. Registration will be available around the clock at www.SBCAnnualMeeting.net for messengers and guests. Through online messenger registration at the www.SBCAnnualMeeting.net tab, each messenger will receive an eight-digit registration code to present at the annual meeting's Express Registration lane in Phoenix. The code will be entered into a computer at the SBC registration area and ...

Mosque case prompts change to IMB policy

 
Ongoing discussion of a federal court case concerning religious liberty for Muslims has prompted the resignation of an International Mission Board trustee and a revision of the IMB's process for submitting friend of the court briefs. Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tenn., resigned from the IMB trustee board in November based on his conviction the IMB should not have joined a friend of the court brief last May supporting the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, N....

Russell Moore: Gospel shapes view of human dignity

 
A Gospel-based view of human dignity both contradicts and gives hope to the world, Russell Moore said in the opening address of Evangelicals for Life on Jan. 26. "We are evangelicals for life," which means "we are a Gospel people," the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) told attendees at the second-annual conference in the country's capital city. "We're pro-life, and we're pro-newness of life," Moore said. "We're pro-birth, and we're pro-new birth. We're pro-adoption, because ...

Friday's March for Life highlights Evangelicals for Life conference

 
Churches and pastors are to stand for vulnerable people because of the image and glory of God, speakers told participants on Jan. 26, the first day of the Evangelicals for Life conference. The conference—the second-annual event co-hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Focus on the Family—continued Jan. 27 with a schedule built around the afternoon March for Life, which also took place in the country's capital. Evangelicals for Life (EFL) attendees were to join ...

Florida ALS patient speaks out on issues dealing with disabilities

 
It’s easy to spot when you walk in. A beautiful piece of furniture that you’d guess came from a high end department store. But that’s not the case. It was an old dresser that 37 year old Richard Pollock re-finished himself. This do it yourself-project was impressive, and there are others. But that was then. Before Pollock was diagnosed with ALS-most commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He has a wheel chair and ...

Former Tennessee GOP executive director joins ERLC

 
Former Tennessee GOP Executive Director Brent Leatherwood has been appointed as the new director of strategic partnerships for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.  In this role, Leatherwood will work to further the organization's reach in the public square through coalition building and mobilizing, and by serving as an advisor on both state-level and national policy goals. "Brent Leatherwood is the perfect fit to serve as our director of strategic partnerships," said ERLC President Russell Moore. "He comes to ...

FIRST-PERSON: Don't waste a youthful faith

 
When I lived in Central Asia, it was very interesting to see how many of the young Muslims viewed their religion. They said that, at their age, they could enjoy life and wait until an older age to get serious about religion. Their thinking was that God is more interested in the afterlife, and that only becomes an issue when you are close to the afterlife, which is where old people find themselves. Once you are of a grandparent-type age, ...

Baptists mobilize after weekend storms in Southeast

 
Southern Baptists throughout the Southeast have started responding to a deadly storm system that reportedly claimed the lives of at least 19 people from Georgia to Mississippi over a two-day period this past weekend. Severe weather, which lasted through Jan 22 in the region, extended into South Carolina and north Florida. According to the Associated Press, 39 possible tornadoes were reported in the Southeast. Georgia Baptist Mission Board disaster relief leader Stuart Lang says chaplains are heading into the impacted regions of the ...

Ken Whitten: When freedoms are lost, church form will change

 
Lots of people are wondering what the future of the church will look like as we live in an increasingly secularized society. Count me among those. So, when I met recently with Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in the Tampa suburb of Lutz, I looked around his beautiful campus and then popped the question: What did he think the future of the universal church would look like? “The church is Jesus’ bride. We know that,&...

Calvary Baptist Clearwater shares strategy for greeter ministry

 
Amanda Stanton, director of guest services at Calvary Church in Clearwater, recently had the gigantic task of recruiting and training volunteers to greet guests who attended the Florida Baptist State Convention, which her church hosted last November. Stanton said she normally utilizes 40 to 50 volunteers as greeters on any given Sunday morning, but for the State Convention she used 100 volunteers. She was able to offer community service hours to the high school students who attend Calvary Christian High School, which shares ...

Mississippi tornado damages William Carey University

 
A tornado that ripped through southern Mississippi Jan. 21 in the wee hours of the morning damaged nearly all of the 30 buildings on William Carey University's Hattiesburg campus and left seven students injured. William Carey is affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention and has campuses in Hattiesburg and Biloxi. "The outpouring of support from not only here in Hattiesburg but also around the state and out of state has just been tremendous," university spokeswoman Mia Overton told Baptist Press, adding, "Although ...

Sanctity of Life: Pro-life also has to mean anti-poverty

 
We can't truly be pro-life if we're not anti-poverty. Follow me through the facts here. Planned Parenthood celebrated its 100-year anniversary last October. Since 1916, founder Margaret Sanger's vision for this organization, reflected in its very name, was that every child be a wanted child. But underneath this mantra lay an ambition of systematic eugenics along with her belief that "the most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it." Today, Planned ...

Trump cabinet picks draw Baptist prayer support

 
When U.S. Rep. Tom Price and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt faced Senate confirmation hearings Jan. 18, they were supported by prayers of the Southern Baptist churches they attend. The two cabinet nominees of President Donald Trump also appeared at their confirmation hearings with endorsements from some evangelicals who did not support Trump in the presidential election. Price, a regular attendee at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., has been nominated as secretary of the Department of Health and ...

Pew Research: Trump deemed good for conservative Christians

 
Conservative Christians will gain influence under President-elect Donald Trump's term, more than half of respondents polled in a Pew Research study believe. Conversely, Hispanics, the poor, and gays and lesbians will lose influence under Trump, a majority of those polled told Pew. Nearly half of respondents said African Americans and women are poised to lose. "The public's assessments of the groups that will gain and lose influence in Trump's presidency are sharply different than before Barack Obama took office eight ...

President Trump's inauguration day: The Christian response

 
Today Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. As you know, Mr. Trump won a highly volatile election last November. Some see him as a candidate of much-needed change, readily resonating with his Reaganish slogan, "Make America Great Again!" Others see Mr. Trump as a less than desirable candidate for the highest office in the land. What are Southern Baptists to do? Trump won the election. In doing so, he earned the right to serve for ...

God & inaugurations: Baptists continue tradition

 
The participation of at least five Southern Baptist pastors in inaugural activities for President Donald Trump continues a tradition of prayer, Scripture and references to God surrounding presidential inaugurations dating back to George Washington. Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress preached Jan. 20 at a private worship service for the families of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at St. John's Church near the White House. The service is a pre-inauguration tradition dating back to the 1933 inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt, according to the ...

Ken Whitten: Tension caused by Calvinism nothing new

 
“Some Baptists need to understand this: Calvinism has been a tension in our ranks for hundreds and hundreds of years.” Now that Ken Whitten, senior pastor at Idlewild Baptist Church in the Tampa suburb of Lutz, has your attention, here’s what he means. “There’s a lot of folks who don’t think anything happened before 1986,” he told me during a recent interview, only partly joking. “There’s a lot ...

Survey: 79% of unchurched say it's OK if friends share their faith

 
A recent study of unchurched Americans by LifeWay Research and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism in Wheaton, Ill., found that 79 percent of the unchurched don’t mind if Christian friends talk about their faith if it’s something they genuinely value. Luther Stanford, lead pastor of City Church at Northside in Panama City, said that number is “dead on the money” in his ministry context. He said the “plastic” evangelism presentations we used ...

Blind preacher from Florida has a heart for people of Italy

 
RJ Sandefur attends First Baptist Church of Okeechobee. He is a preacher. He is blind. Despite his special need, RJ has not stopped preaching the Gospel, and he considers his lack of sight a means for God to glorify Himself through him. Sandefur, who is currently starting a career as an evangelist, has a burden for the country of Italy on his heart. “Here’s the thing about the country of Italy,” he said recently in a ...

Baptist Marlana VanHoose to perform at Trump's inauguration

 
Marlana VanHoose, a petite, young Kentucky Southern Baptist with a big voice, will take perhaps her grandest stage yet when she performs at President-elect Donald Trump's inaugural concert. "Whoo! I'm excited," said VanHoose, who is a member of Liberty Baptist Church near Paintsville. At little more than 4-feet-tall, VanHoose has led tens of thousands of sports fans at lots of venues in singing the national anthem since she first appeared center court at a University of Kentucky women's basketball game ...

New ADF president has big plans for securing religious liberty

 
New Alliance Defending Freedom President Michael Farris says he wants to make ADF larger than the American Civil Liberties Union and secure religious liberty in America for generations to come. Farris, a founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and Patrick Henry College, began his duties with ADF Jan. 10. He also serves as CEO and general counsel at ADF, a legal organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom. "I hope that Alliance Defending Freedom grows and prospers ...

Report: U.S. abortion rate hits all-time low

 
The abortion rate in the United States declined to an all-time low, with the number of lethal procedures dropping below a million for the first time since 1975, according to a new report. The Guttmacher Institute is reporting the rate fell to 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women 15 to 44 years old in 2014, which is a decline of 14 percent since its most recent survey in 2011. In its census of all known abortion providers in the country, Guttmacher found abortions totaled 958,700 in 2013 and 926,190 in 2014. The abortion ...

Agape House empowers women with the truth about life

 
When a woman walks into the medical clinic operated by Agape House in northwest Tennessee, she won't find evangelism tracts or Bibles in the waiting room. While she waits nervously to have an ultrasound to confirm her pregnancy, she won't be judged regardless of her circumstances. And if she tells the clinic staff that she's considering having an abortion, she will be given all the information she needs about her child, but won't be pressured into a decision. "If someone ...

Five tips to evangelize superstitious religious people

 
Terror gripped Simon and his family. Their neighborhood mutt had howled and barked incessantly the previous night at the front door of their one-room home. Simon explained that the dog's behavior signaled an impending death in their household. While many may simply dismiss Simon as foolishly superstitious, others would not. In fact, millions of people see the world as Simon does. Traditional Religion, as it is called, is common in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and yes, North America. Vestiges ...

Pastor Ken Whitten reflects on how times have changed

 
Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in the Tampa suburb of Lutz, has been in the ministry for 40 years. I recently had the chance to spend some time with him, and one of the things I wanted to know was how he felt the role of the pastor had changed during his time in ministry. He was quick to point out that, biblically speaking, he thinks the expectations of the role are unchanged. Practically speaking, however, the challenges ...

The unchurched: They don't know what they don't know

 
Sixty-two percent of those who no longer attend an organized church service did so as a child, according to a recent study of unchurched Americans conducted by LifeWay Research and the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism in Wheaton, Ill. Sam Rainer, lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church in Manatee County, says churches need to be sensitive to this fact as they interact with people who don’t currently attend church. Rainer cautioned that just because they may have ...

Trio NeVaeh wins Best Album from Artists Music Guild

 
First Baptist Church of Palm Coast has three ladies to be very proud of. April McHone, Allison Walker and Kathleen Robinson together form the musical Trio NeVaeh—Heaven spelled backward—and they were nominated for three Artists  Music Guild Awards— Best Album, Best New Artist and Best Song. The trio won Best Album for their CD “Love is Enough” during the guild’s last meeting in November. The music guild meets annually in ...

Even for the redeemed, the work of cooperation is challenging

 
"Jesus: to the Neighborhood and the Nations" was the cry during the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans. That cry for missions and cooperation encapsulates the heart of Southern Baptists since the days of men like Jesse Mercer and women like Lottie Moon. It was during that SBC when I heard seminary president Danny Akin say to a group of pastors: Within Southern Baptist life we have different theological ideas. We disagree on different issues but we agree ...

Urban church planters sow amid complex demographics

 
Boston church planting catalyst Joe Souza has developed a unique strategy for working in the city: prayer driving. As a lifelong urbanite and an urban church planter in Rio de Janeiro, Orlando and now Boston, Souza frequently ponders how to reach the vast numbers of distinctive city dwellers, many of whom have radically different lifestyles from the average Christian. "I pray, I cry and I ask God in desperation: Father, do something here that these people may understand that You ...

Brooks Hays, SBC president during turbulent '50s, drew MLK's praise

 
Though Southern Baptists were not known for their advocacy of racial justice 60 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. once told a fellow black Baptist minister that the 1957 Southern Baptist Convention president "suffered with us" in the cause of civil rights. King's reference was to the late U.S. Rep. Brooks Hays, D-Ark., who served as SBC president from 1956-58. After helping to mediate a conflict over integration at Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., Hays lost his bid for ...

Obama's farewell draws mixed response from Baptists

 
Following President Obama's farewell address Jan. 11 in Chicago, Southern Baptists who have met with him personally reflected on his "liberal" social policies, apparent commitment to family, and status as America's first black president. Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank S. Page said he "watched the presidential speech with great interest" and has appreciated Obama's example as a husband and father despite deep disagreements with the president on some issues. A member of Obama's Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood ...

Kentucky's AG won't defend new late-term abortion ban

 
Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear is refusing to defend Kentucky's new law banning late-term abortions if a lawsuit challenges its constitutionality, drawing a sharp rebuke from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. "This law is clearly unconstitutional based on our review of numerous federal appellate rulings," Beshear said in a statement released Jan. 10. The new law, passed by the General Assembly on Jan. 7, bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the point at which babies can survive outside the womb. Bevin chastised Beshear ...

LifeWay stores plan nationwide Bible study workshop

 
LifeWay Christian Stores across the country will host a nationwide Bible study workshop next week to help people better understand Scripture. The Jan. 17 workshop will teach participants how to conduct a devotional Bible study and how to apply the teachings of Scripture to life. "This event is another great example of something customers will find in their local LifeWay Store, where we are striving to walk with them every step of the way," said Nathan Magness, director of marketing strategy. ...

My hope is that media execs become open to issues of faith

 
"We don't get religion," New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet said, his words sparking a whirlwind of attention. The "media powerhouses," as Baquet put it in an NPR interview Dec. 8, "don't get the role of religion in people's lives." As a Christian, I can understand Baquet's observation. In order to "get" religion, one has to "get" faith. This often seems to be a challenge for those who see themselves as intellectuals. They have a faith; however, their faith is ...

Anxious mom learns to rely on sovereign God

 
I was sitting on the conveyor belt in the baggage claim area of the airport in Jackson, Miss., when the tornadoes came through last fall. The airport staff had directed us to take shelter there until the storms passed. I had already heard of the casualties in Arkansas, children who lost parents, parents who lost babies. My own mother, meanwhile, was on the road somewhere in the storm trying to get home. As I sat there in the darkness, the ...

Texas church gives more than $1M to Lottie Moon in single day

 
Steve Swofford came with a vision 27 years ago—a vision for what a church could do to support missions around the globe. At First Baptist Church Rockwall's annual missions offering day in December, that dream was realized in a single Sunday when church members gave more than $1 million. "I had prayed secretly in my heart that someday before I retired we might get a million dollars but I never dreamed it would be this year," Swofford said. For his ...

ACLU challenges Kentucky's new ultrasound law

 
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a new Kentucky law requiring women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound first. The lawsuit, filed at U. S. District Court in Louisville, seeks to overturn the ultrasound law approved by the General Assembly on Jan. 7. "It forces physicians to deliver a government-mandated, ideological message to patients in violation of the First Amendment, all the while causing harm to their patients," the ACLU claims in the lawsuit. "...

Alabama, Clemson players pique pastor's compassion

 
Six seasons as chaplain of the University of Alabama football team give pastor Bruce Chesser a unique perspective on the Jan. 9 College Football Playoff title game between Alabama and Clemson University. The uniqueness, however, isn't the strength of his allegiance to the Crimson Tide—though his office does feature a sign that reads "Jesus bled crimson." What's unique for Chesser, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., is the way he thinks about the players on both sidelines. ...

Southern Baptist named co-chair of Congressional Prayer Caucus

 
Another Southern Baptist has stepped up to provide leadership for the Congressional Prayer Caucus. Rep. Mark Walker, R.-N.C., will be the new House of Representatives co-chairman of the caucus, it was announced on Jan. 9. Sen. James Lankford, R.-Okla., the other co-chairman of the prayer caucus, and former Rep. Randy Forbes, R.-Va., made the announcement. All three are members of Southern Baptist churches. Forbes, a seven-term Congressman, founded the caucus in 2005 to help protect the right of ...

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signs pro-life bills into law

 
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed bills into law on Jan. 7 that ban late-term abortions and require women seeking abortions to undergo ultrasounds. Both laws took effect as soon as Bevin's signature was applied. Lawmakers held a rare session on Saturday (Jan. 7) to give final passage to a series of high-priority bills, including two that would curb abortions. The late-term abortion law bans the procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases in which the mother's life is in danger. Physicians ...

Music & worship draw focus of Baptist theologians

 
A biblical argument for congregational singing, insights for planning worship and a case for multigenerational worship services are among the music-related topics being discussed by Southern Baptist theologians. Such topics were featured in at least eight presentations on biblical worship at the most recent meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. At least five of those presentations were given by scholars affiliated with Southern Baptist-related institutions. In all, the fall meeting in San Antonio featured approximately 600 presentations, including some 175 by scholars ...

Congress remains majority Christian, but less Protestant

 
Congress has remained majority Christian and Protestant for as long as the Pew Research Center has been tracking data, but the number of Protestants has declined by nearly 20 percentage points. Since Pew began tracking religion in 1961 during the 87th Congress, the body has declined from 95 percent to 91 percent Christian. Protestants, while still maintaining a majority, have declined from 75 percent in 1961 to 56 percent today, Pew announced. Of the 485 Christians in the 535-member Congress, 299 are Protestant, according to Pew's analysis of the 115...

Congressional panel urges defunding of Planned Parenthood

 
Planned Parenthood should no longer receive federal funds, a special congressional panel has recommended following a nearly 15-month investigation. The Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives issued its final report Jan. 3 into the practices of abortion providers and others involved in the fetal tissue procurement business. The report not only called for congressional action to protect unborn children and their mothers, but it also recommended restrictions on government grants to abortion providers and on research using fetal tissue. Congress established ...

GuideStone president just misses Fort Lauderdale airport shooting

 
At least five people are dead and 13 wounded after a gunman allegedly opened fire today (Jan. 6) in a baggage claim area of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Among air travelers to narrowly miss the shooting were GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins and his wife, Susie. The shooting occurred in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2, according to media reports. The alleged shooter reportedly arrived in Fort Lauderdale on an Air Canada flight, "pulled a gun out of a ...

Illinois Baptist executive director: Leading in the need of prayer

 
Especially for leaders, new years require fresh vision. And for pastors and other Christian leaders, fresh vision requires prayer. But quality prayer takes time and, for me at least, finding that time is one of the biggest challenges I face. Time is so precious. I often feel I don't have enough of it simply to do well with my family, my job and my church. So I end up giving almost all my time to those things, and telling myself ...

Baptist missionary fighting Russia's anti-evangelism law

 
A longtime Baptist missionary convicted under Russia's anti-evangelism law has returned briefly to his Illinois home as lawyers appeal his conviction and challenge the law's constitutionality. Donald Ossewaarde was compelled to end his ministry months ago after his arrest under the July 2016 law. He hopes other Baptists might find ways to continue to minister in Russia as his attorneys defend religious freedom in the nation more than 25 years after the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). "There's ...

Former atheist shares how she became a pastor's wife

 
Pardon Tiffany Bowen for laughing when the following question was posed to her and a room full of other ministers' wives: "Did you think you would ever marry a minister?" During The Good Cup event for ministers' wives, held during the Tennessee Baptist Convention's annual meeting in November, the question served as a reminder to her of God's apparent sense of humor. At the time she met her future husband, Jason Bowen, now pastor of First Baptist Church in Trenton, ...

Who do Americans think can best lead discussion of nation's woes?

 
America has its problems and needs to talk. But according to a new study, few Americans agree on who can best lead a conversation about the nation's woes. Less than a quarter (23 percent) would turn to the office of the U.S. president. About one in 10 would turn to the nation's preachers (11 percent) or to college professors (10 percent), a survey by LifeWay Research shows. "Almost no one would ask a musician or pro athlete," said Scott McConnell, executive director of ...

Judge blocks HHS mandate on gender transition, abortion

 
A federal judge has blocked implementation of a controversial Obama administration rule that requires doctors to perform gender transition procedures or treatments, as well as abortions. In a Dec. 31 opinion, judge Reed O'Connor of the Northern District of Texas granted a nationwide, preliminary injunction against a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation that mandates the performance of and insurance coverage for gender transitions—even on children—and abortions, even if they violate the religious or ethical ...

David Platt to students at Cross 2016: 'Risk your life in faith'

 
As 2016 came to close, more than 2,000 college students and campus leaders were challenged by Southern Baptists and other Christian speakers to give their lives to the cause of missions during the Cross 2016 missions event. The purpose of the Dec. 27-30 conference at the Indianapolis Convention Center was "to mobilize students in the cause of frontier missions for the glory of Jesus Christ," according to the event website and various speakers throughout the gathering. "Don't retreat in fear! Risk your life ...

Arkansas Baptist Children's Homes receives early Christmas present

 
A $1.2 million gift recently made by supporters allows Arkansas Baptist Children's Homes and Family Ministries (ABCHomes) to expand its foster care ministry and impact major capital needs, according to agency leaders.  More than $767,000 of the generous gift was made by Charles and Genevieve Bonner of Conway, Ark. Winston Wolfe of Memphis donated $500,000. The trio are longtime supporters of ABCHomes. Part of the Bonner's donation will help the organization meet the needs of foster children and provide startup money for ...

National CP contributions .04% above last year's 1st quarter

 
Year-to-date contributions through the Southern Baptist Convention's portion of the Cooperative Program are .04 percent ahead of the same time frame at the end of 2015 and 3.11 percent under the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget projection for the year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page. The $45,782,192.42 received by the Executive Committee from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget represents 96.89 percent of the $47,250,000.00 year-to-date budgeted amount to support Southern ...

Jen Hatmaker tops list of Baptist Press' most-read stories in 2016

 
It was a year of unexpected election outcomes, race-related violence, ongoing global terrorism and natural disasters. It also was another year of controversial comments and consequences. In 2016, the most-read Baptist Press story was one about a popular author and speaker who sparked a firestorm with statements she made in an interview about gay marriage. This year's list of stories, compiled by the web-traffic tracker Google Analytics, also includes coverage of a tragic highway crash that took the lives of a ...

Commentary: Professor ponders the question, 'Is Christmas done?'

 
Although the Christmas holidays are getting smaller and smaller in our rearview mirror, a Christmastime question asked by my young son continues to linger in my head. We had gathered with friends for one of the holiday's first Christmas parties on the first Friday in December last year. We enjoyed the tasty food, great conversation, special music of the season and a twist on our Christmas ornament gift exchange that left us all cracking up. Then, as our family began ...

Annual day of prayer for Baptist College of Florida set for Jan. 29

 
The Florida Baptist State Convention has set aside the last Sunday of January as the annual day of prayer for The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville. This year, Florida Baptists all across the state will be praying for the college on Jan. 29, which is not only exciting and encouraging but of great comfort to those individuals who work and study at BCF. “As an institution, The Baptist College of Florida needs prayer,” stated BCF President Thomas A. ...

Bobby Bowden's life profiled in LifeWay film 'The Bowden Dynasty'

 
The life of one of Florida Baptists’ own—legendary college football coach Bobby Bowden—is profiled in the inspirational true story, “The Bowden Dynasty: A Story of Faith, Family and Football” in a new film from LifeWay Films. The film of the life and career of Bowden, the winningest coach in college football, will kick-off the NCAA Football National Championship weekend in January. Along with his loyal assistants and players, Bowden fought against all odds ...

Christmas marks 2nd anniversary for family of adopted kids

 
As Christians worldwide prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, one Kentucky couple reflects on the day they say God stitched together their Christmas gift of a new family. On Dec. 18, Sam and Stephanie Patterson will mark the second anniversary of the day they adopted four siblings from foster care. "That's our 'forever family' day," said Stephanie, a music ministry associate at Little Flock Baptist Church in Shepherdsville, Ky., just south of Louisville. More than 8,000 children are in the care ...

More than half the states boost CP dollars for SBC causes

 
Ohio Baptists approved the largest increase in the portion of Cooperative Program receipts sent beyond the state next year, moving from the current 59.75/40.25 ratio to a 50/50 split. "Supporting missions from Ohio to the ends of the earth is the heartbeat of Ohio Southern Baptists," said Ohio Executive Director Jack Kwok in praising the decision. The State Convention of Baptists in Ohio (SCBO) joins four other conventions that forward half or more to the Southern Baptist Convention, without a "shared ministry" ...

Christmas schedule for the Florida Baptist Witness

 
The offices of the Florida Baptist Witness will be closed from Dec. 23 until Jan. 3 so that we can spend time with family and friends during the Christmas and New Years holidays. In a similar fashion, we hope that you and yours get a chance to relax and reflect during this special time of year. But that doesn't mean we are leaving you without something meaningful to read. For print-edition subscribers, the redesigned January 2017 issue—all 32 pages of it—...

Diana Davis: Keep the Christmas spirit going all year long

 
It feels so wonderful how the spirit of Christmas adds oomph to life. We live in anticipation and we're even nice to strangers. We become quite intentional about giving to others. But as we turn the calendar page to Dec. 26, does that Christmas spirit fade? As you pack up those Christmas decorations, consider these five simple reminders to help keep that spirit of joy and generosity at the forefront throughout the year: Live expectantly. Anticipation is at a high during ...

Measuring the impact of Mission:Dignity

 
Hard work was nothing new for bivocational pastor L.C. Jones. After decades of laboring in sewing factories, he was accustomed to sweating it out for the sake of his family. "I've worked all summer—mowing yards, trying to save enough money to fix my wife's teeth," he said. "I plan to work next summer to finish paying for her teeth." The blazing Texas heat wasn't going to hold him back from earning enough so that Jerry could get ...

Open letter: Cooperation needed to ease rising SBC tensions

 
Controversy surrounding ethicist Russell Moore's past comments on President-elect Donald Trump has led three Tennessee Baptists—all under the age of 40—to issue an open letter calling "the [conservative] resurgence generation and their protégés" to "be the statesmen we need them to be in this season of denominational tension." Jonathan Akin, Nathan Finn and Micah Fries wrote in a Dec. 21 open letter provided to Baptist Press, "Now isn't the time for acrimonious debates over ...

Your all-new Florida Baptist Witness is on the way!

 
Subscribers to the Florida Baptist Witness are only days away from holding our new product in their hands. The new print edition is the result of months of prayerful planning, and only part of our new approach to how we are going to bring you news and information of interest to Florida Baptists going forward. First and foremost, the changes we are making are designed to better connect our digital, social and print platforms—and the audiences that use ...

Letter from evangelical leaders calls Pruitt 'well qualified' for EPA

 
A group of 48 evangelical leaders, the vast majority of them Southern Baptists, has sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump in support of Scott Pruitt, Trump's choice to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Among the signatories are 12 former Southern Baptist Convention presidents; current SBC President Steve Gaines; 14 current and former SBC entity heads, including all six current SBC seminary presidents; and 17 state Baptist convention executive directors, including Florida's Tommy Green. Pruitt, Oklahoma's attorney general, is a deacon at ...

Rule protects Planned Parenthood in Obama's last days in office

 
Pro-life advocates hope the Obama administration's latest beneficial act for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers will have a brief existence. Barely five weeks before President Obama leaves office, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued Dec. 14 a final rule that would effectively block states from prohibiting Title X funds for abortion providers. The federal government provides funds for family planning and preventive health services to states through the Title X program. The HHS action appears to benefit ...

War on Christmas includes Peanuts poster, Christmas tree cross

 
A poster of a Peanuts character with a Bible verse, a cross on a town Christmas tree and even the word "holiday" are among the latest battlegrounds in the so-called war against Christmas. Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines told Baptist Press this year's flurry of attacks on public expressions of Christmas highlight the need to safeguard religious liberty. "Christians are not the only people in America," said Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn. "But we ...

Pastors: Enjoy Christmas with your family

 
One December I spent 22 nights away from home leading up to Christmas Day. Then I repented and never did that again! The December schedule is fast-paced for many but perhaps more so for pastors. Class Christmas parties, community events, special Christmas services at church—if you try to do it all it can become too much. While many travel to be with family on Christmas, pastors rarely do so because Christmas is too important to miss, including the traditional "...

ERLC's Moore clarifies comments on Trump supporters

 
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore has clarified that he never intended to criticize all evangelical supporters of President-elect Donald Trump, noting many were motivated by "biblical convictions" and "voted their conscience." In a Dec. 19 blog post, Moore acknowledged “pointed conversations in my denominational family about the election" over the past month, "some of them ... directed at me." "I remember one situation where I witnessed a handful of Christian political operatives excusing immorality and confusing the definition ...

Brunson: To pledge allegiance to the flag is not dishonoring to Christ

 
Here’s the last excerpt from my conversation with Dr. Mac Brunson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, ahead of the story scheduled to publish in our January 2017 print edition. During our interview, I made this statement about war and how it is waged differently today. “For your generation war was a total country sacrifice,” I said to Dr. Brunson during a wide-ranging interview in his office in late November. “If your dad wasn&...

Congress OKs new International Religious Freedom Act

 
Congress has approved legislation promoted by religious freedom advocates that should strengthen the United States' effort to combat persecution of Christians and other faith minorities. The House of Representatives approved the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), H.R. 1150, Dec. 13 to complete congressional action on the proposal. That action came only three days after the Senate amended and passed an earlier House-approved version. Both the House and Senate endorsed the amended bill without opposition. Bill supporters are optimistic ...

SBC leaders defend religious liberty against gender laws

 
More than 20 leaders of Southern Baptist institutions have endorsed a new statement that defends religious freedom by rejecting sexual orientation and gender identity laws. The document—"Preserve Freedom, Reject Coercion"—says even "narrowly crafted" sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) measures "threaten fundamental freedoms, and any ostensible protections for religious liberty appended to such laws are inherently inadequate and unstable." The Colson Center for Christian Worldview released the statement on Dec. 14 with 79 original signatories. SOGI policies seek to ...

Ohio Gov. John Kasich: Veto of 'Heartbeat Bill' was strategic

 
In an action that drew divided response from the pro-life community, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill Dec. 13 banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and vetoed a measure outlawing abortion following detection of a fetal heartbeat. The 20-week ban includes an exception only for saving the life of the mother, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The so-called “Heartbeat Bill” would have banned most abortions after approximately six weeks of pregnancy. Kasich, a Republican, said in a statement he ...

Florida pastor: PPFA prosecution could have 'cooling effect'

 
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley's decision to refer the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and several affiliates for potential federal prosecution has drawn praise from a Florida Baptist pastor who helped draft a Southern Baptist Convention resolution rebuking America's largest abortion provider. Prosecution "would have a cooling effect on the abortion industry," said Darrell Orman, chairman of the 2008 SBC Resolutions Committee, which recommended a resolution adopted by messengers "on Planned Parenthood." The resolution "decr[ied] the immoral actions of ...

Southern Baptist leaders call on Christians to pray for Aleppo

 
Southern Baptist leaders are exhorting Christians to pray for Aleppo, Syria, a city being destroyed in civil war between the Syrian government and rebels, including the Islamic State. The latest call for prayer follows the desperate pleas of residents who believed their death was imminent as the Syrian government reportedly made significant progress in overtaking and evacuating rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo. The United Nations received multiple reports of execution-style killings—although it was not clear whether the perpetrators ...

St. Augustine church's Christmas story undaunted by hurricane

 
Michael Arnold and his family were among hundreds of St. Augustine residents who fled their homes two months ago as Hurricane Matthew trailed close behind. And while St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city, didn't take a direct hit from the hurricane, coastal flooding from its storm surge and near-hurricane-force winds wreaked havoc and destruction for many who call it home. When the bridges reopened and Arnold returned home after a mandatory evacuation he discovered his garage had been flooded and ...

Brian Hobbs: Keep the 'mas' in Christmas

 
The year 2016 offers a unique opportunity in that Christmas falls on a Sunday. Years ago, a non-denominational megachurch publicly decided to cancel its worship services when Christmas fell on a Sunday, citing families' needs to spend time together that day and the church's inability to get enough volunteers together to make services work. This move, perhaps unintentionally, showed a great misunderstanding of Christmas. You see, it not only takes Christ out of Christmas, it takes that "mas" out of Christmas. ...

Billy Graham statue has new home at Ridgecrest Conference Center

 
A larger-than-life statue of evangelist Billy Graham has been installed at its new location at Ridgecrest Conference Center in the North Carolina mountains. The sale of LifeWay Christian Resources' 14-acre downtown Nashville campus prompted the move from middle Tennessee to LifeWay's conference center near Asheville, N.C. The statue was removed from LifeWay earlier this summer and placed in storage until the new site at Ridgecrest was ready. Workers installed the sculpture in October near the main entrance to the ...

Macy's ends Planned Parenthood contributions

 
Macy's Inc. has reportedly discontinued contributions to Planned Parenthood after customers complained of the chain's support of the abortion provider. Macy's Inc.'s latest 990 tax form verifies that the retail giant no longer includes the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in its community contributions, the research group 2ndVote said, describing the news as the latest "Miracle on 34th Street." "We're constantly updating our research to portray companies in the fairest possible light," 2ndVote Executive Director Lance Wray said in a ...

First person: 5 pastoral convictions about congregational singing

 
I'm not a music guy. I can still awkwardly bang out a few chords on the guitar, but for the most part I'm pretty terrible at music. Furthermore, I'm not a music enthusiast; I'd rather be listening to news or talk radio than music in the car. Some people seem to have music in their souls. I'm just not one of those people. But I do love singing with other believers in worship. As a pastor, I am the worship ...

Study: Most churches will be open for worship on Christmas

 
More than half of Americans plan to go to church at Christmastime. And most Protestant pastors will keep the doors open for them, a new study shows. Nearly nine out of 10 Protestant senior pastors say their churches plan to hold services on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, as both fall on a Sunday, according to a recent survey from LifeWay Research. More than seven in 10 Protestant senior pastors say their churches plan to hold Christmas Eve services. And ...

First person: A tribute to Thomas C. Oden

 
Thomas C. Oden was one of the most prolific and influential theologians of this generation. Not only was Thomas, who died Dec. 8, one of the most prolific and influential Christian thinkers of our time, but his theological journey was also certainly one of the most interesting. I had the privilege of hearing him give lectures in the early 1980s at Drew University, where for many years he held the Henry Anson Buttz Chair in Theology and Ethics. He was making ...

Teen overcomes fear to spread Gospel in South Africa

 
The children crowded around 18-year-old Bethany Amber, hands reaching toward her on the hot South African morning. A few years ago this kind of crowding frightened the Southern Baptist "missionary kid." At age 13 she found the lack of personal space in the townships difficult to endure, having just moved to South Africa with her parents who were International Mission Board missionaries. "People were always wanting to touch my hair, touch my face," Bethany recalled. But she's learned to understand and ...

Dr. Brunson: 'I'm very much marked by my dad's generation'

 
I recently asked Dr. Mac Brunson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, what counsel he could provide when it comes to discussing politics and the recent election with millennials. Here was my specific question: A lot of believers, especially millennials, of which I have three, are uncomfortable with public professions of support for specific political candidates, issues or parties. What counsel would you give to them? “Well, I think that is unique to them, in a sense,&...

Movie reviewer urges Christians to send Hollywood a message

 
Following a contentious election season, it's apparent that many Americans are tired of corruption and ineptness in our political system. Will this latest presidential election change Washington, D.C., for the positive? We can hope and pray that it will. Now, when it comes to Hollywood, there is an opportunity for Christians and conservatives to send a message that could provoke change for the better. Many Christians want change in the entertainment capital. It's time the prejudice and bigotry against ...

Supreme Court will decide if hospitals can remain as ministries

 
The U.S. Supreme Court should prevent the government from making the determination if Protestant and Catholic hospitals qualify as faith-based ministries, religious freedom advocates say. The high court announced Dec. 2 it would review lower-court rulings in cases involving religious hospitals that are being threatened with losing the ability to participate in church pension plans. Three religious health-care systems in California, Illinois and New Jersey have lost in federal appeals courts, which have ruled the hospitals are ineligible for a ...

Gatlinburg fire suspects elicit churches' sympathy

 
The arrests of two teenagers in connection with deadly wildfires in and around Gatlinburg, Tenn., have provoked expressions of sadness from three local Southern Baptist congregations that lost buildings in the blaze. The three Gatlinburg churches—Roaring Fork Baptist Church, First Baptist Church and Banner Baptist Church—also report God's continued work in their midst, including at least four first-time professions of faith in Christ over the past two weeks. Authorities announced the arrests Dec. 7, the Knoxville News ...

Theme selected for 2017 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix

 
"Pray! For such a time as this" is the theme for the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix, anchored by Esther 4:14 and Luke 11:1, SBC President Steve Gaines has announced. Prayer should be the top priority of every Christian, Gaines said in an interview outlining his choice. "The Southern Baptist Convention needs to be a people of prayer," Gaines said in the interview with SBC LIFE, journal of the SBC. "Only then will God send the power we ...

ABC being urged to change title for sit-com it is developing

 
The Parents Television Council is urging ABC to drop plans to use profanity in the title of a television comedy series featuring a struggling church and its new pastor. "Holy (expletive)," the title of the series currently in development, is not only offensive and inappropriate, but assumes that advertisers want to link their products to "excrement," PTC President Tim Winter told Baptist Press. "You scratch your head and wonder what the folks at the programming department in these networks are ...

Converting a sheet of paper into salvation tool

 
Take an 8½-by-11 sheet of paper and fold it in half. Now fold it in half again. Then fold it in half one more time, so that you're holding a pocket-size piece of paper. Pray and think a few moments—perhaps off and on for a day or two or as long as need be—to seek God's guidance for a short phrase that might spark someone's interest in your journey of faith or the importance of ...

Ronnie Floyd reflects on 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack

 
Today, Dec. 7, the United States commemorates the 75th anniversary of the surprise attack on our forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by the Imperial Japanese Navy. That attack killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178 others—and was the direct cause of our nation entering into World War II. It was, according to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “a date which will live in infamy.” This past June, I presided over the Southern Baptist Convention as president. In this setting in St. ...

Study: Most Americans say assisted suicide morally OK

 
The American Medical Association has described physician-assisted suicide as a serious risk to society and "fundamentally incompatible with a physician's role as healer." But millions of Americans disagree, according to a new study released Tuesday (Dec. 6) by LifeWay Research. Two-thirds say it is morally acceptable for terminally ill patients to ask their doctors for help in ending their lives, according to a new survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. A similar number says doctors should be able to help terminally ill ...

Pearl Harbor attack cited as evangelism catalyst in Hawaii

 
As Americans commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, some Christians also are remembering a series of evangelistic harvests that emerged from the death and destruction. Among those to find a saving relationship with Jesus in the aftermath of Dec. 7, 1941, were the commander of the Japanese air fleet that carried out the attack, Japanese Buddhists in Hawaii and other Hawaii residents who heard the preaching of missionaries recalled from East Asia. 'Impressed & captivated' by Christ ...

Patterson & chapel speaker address topic of Calvinism

 
Paige Patterson stated his personal views on Calvinism in a blog post in light of a chapel speaker's critique of the doctrinal system and "rude behavior [in response] on the part of a few students." The speaker, Rick Patrick, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sylacauga, Ala., spoke about salvation in Christ at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in a Nov. 29 message titled "The greatest thing that ever happened to me." Patrick, a 1993 Southwestern master of divinity graduate, spoke of his ...

Gatlinburg fire: Disaster relief volunteers urged to be patient

 
The Tennessee Baptist Convention, the Woman's Missionary Union and Southern Baptists serving in local government are among those providing aid in the wake of wildfires that killed at least 14 people in and around Gatlinburg on Nov. 28. But TBC disaster relief officials are urging those wishing to volunteer to be patient. TBC Executive Director Randy Davis wrote in a Dec. 1 open letter to Tennessee Baptists that "Tennessee Baptist Mission Board missionaries were able to get to the sites of three of ...

Lottie Moon: The rebel I want to be

 
EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 4-11 with the theme of "The Gospel Resounds." The theme undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at IMB.org, where there are resources ...

Brunson on Trump: No president is without character flaws

 
As evangelicals try to regain some unity following the presidential election, I met with Dr. Mac Brunson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, in his office for a wide-ranging interview. An edited version of the conversation will appear in our January 2017 print edition as the debut of a feature we are calling Behind the Pulpit, which will talk with some of the most influential pastors and Florida Baptist leaders on the hot-button topics of the day. Here is ...

Imprisonment under Castro recalled by missionary

 
As the world reflects on the legacy of late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, a former Southern Baptist missionary imprisoned by the Castro regime in the 1960s is remembering what Castro could not do: kill the church. David Fite, 82, was arrested in Havana in 1965 on what he calls fabricated charges of "trafficking in foreign currency" and "ideological diversionism." Then a Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board) missionary and the father of three young boys, including a one-month-old, Fite ...

Creating healthy churches in transitioning neighborhoods

 
Pastor Gary Smith was shocked by what he saw at the opening of a new middle school. In 1991, when he had been called as pastor of Fielder Church in Arlington, Texas, the city was predominantly white. His congregation was made up of middle-class folks who drove into Dallas to work. At school, the cheerleaders were all white. Now, just a dozen years later, Smith was looking at a cheer squad of 24 girls—all but one black. Arlington had changed ...

What will people say at your funeral?

 
I think about funerals differently today than I did 30 years ago. It never occurred to me at that time to wonder what my kids and grandkids and pastors might say over my coffin. Today, that day is easier to imagine. As I attended a recent funeral for a prominent and godly man I noticed who talked about him, what they said and what they did not talk about. If we want our friends and families to praise us for significant ...

Fruit Cove's pastor talks about church's commitment to CP

 
As international missionaries are going into difficult places around the globe, Tim Maynard, lead pastor of Fruit Cove Baptist Church, said the least his St. Johns County congregation can do is support them. But that's just where the church's commitment to missions begins. "I've seen it," Maynard told Baptist Press. "I've seen our missionaries in action … and I tell them, 'If you're willing to go and put your life on the line, the least I can do is hold ...

National Cooperative Program receipts 4.13% under projection

 
Contributions to Southern Baptist Convention national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee in November were 5.07 percent below the second month of last year's SBC fiscal year, and 4.13 percent below the projected budget for the first two months of the current fiscal year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page. As of Nov. 30, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget totaled $30,199,554.25, or $1,613,575.04 ...

At year's end, planned giving options abound

 
In the midst of the tree-trimming, gift-wrapping and caroling, it can be easy to forget about year-end giving. Not only is this the most wonderful time of the year, it is also a wonderful time to consider the many ways to enjoy the tax and income benefits of charitable giving. When many people think of charitable giving, especially at year's end, they think of making a cash gift. However, there is another way. It's called a planned gift. There are ...

An amazing Christmas gift: Creating your conversion story

 
The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas always ignites the stress of finding just the right gifts for loved ones and friends. The reality is that Christmas in America is more of a commercial event than a religious holiday. Decrying commercialism won't change things much, but there are some ideas to make your holiday season a more spiritual experience for your family. Let me recommend an amazing gift you can give this year that will have long-lasting impact. I propose that ...

7 ways your church can start a compassion ministry

 
When a church initiates a compassion ministry, a door can be opened in a community where people witness Jesus' character through actions and hear about His gift of salvation, some for the first time, say Southern Baptist ministry leaders. The North American Mission Board's Send Relief compassion ministry strategy encourages churches to expand their community engagement while delivering the Gospel. "As Southern Baptists we are good at making the call to missions around the world and across our continent, but ...

'Fixer Upper' stars 'hounded' for pastor's marriage stance

 
Media reports criticizing HGTV personalities Chip and Joanna Gaines for attending a church whose pastor believes homosexuality is a sin have drawn criticism from Southern Baptist commentators as illogical and "unbecoming of the term 'news.'" The Gaines, who star in HGTV's popular series "Fixer Upper," were the subjects of a Nov. 29 article on the news and entertainment website BuzzFeed that classified their pastor and Waco, Texas, church as holding a "severe, unmoving position ... on same-sex marriage." BuzzFeed writer Kate ...

Platt talks about the importance of Lottie Moon Christmas Offering

 
EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 4-11 with the theme of "The Gospel Resounds." The theme undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at IMB.org, where there are resources ...

Ronnie Floyd: How you can end the year faithfully

 
With the holiday season upon us, how can you end the year faithfully? In other words, what should your focus be for the last few days of this year? You can lead aimlessly or aim purposefully. I would like to challenge you personally and professionally. Here are some challenges I believe will help us all end the year faithfully. Personally I want to challenge each of us to end the year personally in the highest way possible. How? 1. Evaluate ...

Judge's block of overtime rule receives praise

 
A federal judge has blocked a looming Department of Labor overtime rule considered burdensome by Southern Baptist and other nonprofit entities. Amos Mazzant, a judge in the Eastern District of Texas, issued a nationwide temporary injunction Tuesday (Nov. 22) to prevent enforcement of a DOL regulation that would have increased the number of workers eligible for time-and-a-half overtime pay by more than 4 million. The rule was scheduled to go into effect Dec. 1. The regulation would double the salary threshold for overtime ...

Troy Gramling: 'A culture in desperate need of God'

 
Each year, Outreach Magazine speaks with several Outreach 100 pastors in an effort to collect their honest observations about the church, their ministries and their experiences. This year, Outreach collected their insights on everything from personal growth and stress management to staying humble in a high-profile position—as well as their thoughts on the future of the American church. TROY GRAMLINGPotential Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Pride walks very closely to success, and what we describe as ...

Russell Moore: The problem with our holly jolly Christmas songs

 
Sometimes I learn a lot from conversations I was never intended to hear. This happened once as I was stopping by my local community bookstore. It’s a small, quiet store, so it was impossible not to eavesdrop as I heard a young man tell his friend how much he hated Christmas. To be honest, the more he talked, the more I understood his point. This man wasn’t talking about the hustle and bustle of the holidays, ...

Fire-damaged churches in Gatlinburg: God is still with us

 
The pastors of three churches whose buildings sustained major damage in Gatlinburg, Tenn., wildfires Nov. 28 say God is at work in their congregations despite sadness and tragedy. Meanwhile, Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy Davis has called for prayer amid ongoing ministry efforts by Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief workers. Some 15,000 acres in and around the resort area of Gatlinburg have burned thus far, with four deaths reported and "hundreds of structures and homes" destroyed, Knoxville's WBIR TV reported. Larry Burcham, ...

Florida Baptists share ‘Right Beside You’ testimonies at convention

 
Highlighting the Florida Baptist Convention’s guiding principle to be “Right Beside You,” Florida Baptist Executive Director-Treasurer Tommy Green interviewed 16 church leaders during the 2016 state convention annual meeting at Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater. Each interview demonstrated how Florida Baptist state, associational and church leaders work cooperatively to advance the Gospel message in Florida and beyond. Here is a glimpse of those interviews: Right Beside You: Regional & multicultural Gary Martin, pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church in ...

Southern Seminary student shares faith through comic books

 
Though he didn't have a personal faith in God, Chad Nuss was incredulous as his father stood firm in atheism before dying from lung complications in 1996. Nuss experienced an existential crisis, sensing that family and friends were wrong when they said that his father was "in a better place." Not having grown up in church, Nuss said his knowledge of God extended only to what he perceived in creation, alluding to Romans 1 in the New Testament. "Look at the stars. ...

Pope's pronouncement clashes with biblical teaching, Baptists say

 
Pope Francis' newly extended permission for all priests to forgive the sin of abortion demonstrates sharp disagreement between Roman Catholicism and evangelical Christianity over God's forgiveness, Southern Baptist theologians say. In an apostolic letter issued Nov. 21, Pope Francis said he was granting "all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion." In so doing, the pope expanded indefinitely an authorization he had given priests worldwide during the just-concluded Jubilee ...

'Heartbroken': Tennessee fires destroy homes, churches

 
Wildfires in and around the east Tennessee resort area of Gatlinburg have destroyed the facilities of at least one Southern Baptist church, claimed buildings at two other churches and prompted local believers to launch relief ministries. The reported 14 blazes near Gatlinburg Nov. 29 were among a series of wildfires across the Southeast this fall that have led Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units to deploy in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia. In Gatlinburg, about 100 homes have been damaged or destroyed and 14,000 people ...

Ronnie Floyd: When disappointment comes

 
Disappointment is not easy to live through. It is real and will visit you from time to time. Learning to live and work through disappointment will save you from a life of resentment and bitterness. Identifying disappointment will help us know what to expect and perhaps give us some insight on how to live through it. 1. People will disappoint you. All kinds of people will disappoint you in life. At times, even people you love and admire may disappoint you. ...

Erich Bridges: Say a prayer for school bus drivers

 
My heart aches for the six young lives lost in the crash of school bus No. 366 in Chattanooga, Tenn. I think about their families, now facing Christmas without beloved children. I think about the kids on the bus who survived. Some of them suffered critical injuries; all of them experienced the horror of seeing friends die. And I think about the tens of thousands of school bus drivers across the United States. Their noble—and challenging—calling has ...

Tommy Green: Reflections from our family gathering in Clearwater

 
It was a joyous celebration of the incredible hand of God upon Florida Baptist churches at the recent Florida Baptist State Convention. We heard exciting reports of what God is doing through churches around the state of Florida. The impact of your Cooperative Program receipts in Florida and beyond anchored the family gathering at Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater. A special word of thanks to Pastor Willy Rice and the team at Calvary for hosting the 2016 annual meeting. The hospitality ...

Cuban pastors in Miami react to death of Fidel Castro

 
Cuban pastors in Miami have expressed a range on emotions regarding the death of Fidel Castro, the communist dictator who governed the island nation from 1959 to 2006. Castro, who instituted a regime of oppression and little-to-no religious freedom, passed away in the early morning hours of Nov. 25. Many of the Cuban diaspora in Miami celebrated the politician’s death in popular Cuban spots like Versailles Restaurant in Calle Ocho and in front of Westland Mall in Hialeah. But for Cuban ...

Jerry Falwell Jr. declined Donald Trump's education secretary offer

 
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. reportedly declined to serve as education secretary under President-elect Donald Trump. Trump offered the post to Falwell during a meeting in New York days before Thanksgiving, Falwell told The Associated Press Nov. 26. Fallwell reportedly declined the post because he was not able to commit to serve four to six years as Trump desired. Instead, Falwell was only prepared to serve two years at most, he told AP. Trump has made no indication of the ...

At Thanksgiving, immigrants & refugees cherish freedom

 
Dung Duong remembers the long walk from South Vietnam to Cambodia as he, his father and brother fled life at the hands of the communists who had overrun their nation 15 years earlier. The year was 1989, but thoughts of that suffering—including losing friends who took to the open sea in small boats and were never rescued—remains with him to this day. Cuba native Samuel Aleman remembers well the individuals Fidel Castro stationed on every block in his ...

The first Thanksgiving: myth and reality

 
When Americans think about the first Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621, they tend to reflect back to images of smiling Pilgrims and Native Americans huddled around a large table filled with copious amounts of food. In addition, there is the image of a Pilgrim elder offering an extended season of prayer over the feast. Yet the two surviving accounts of the first Thanksgiving challenge some of our images. The second governor of Plymouth Colony, William Bradford, included an account of ...

Thanksgiving holiday sweetened by Baptist children’s homes

 
In one Tennessee household, this year’s Thanksgiving table will include an unusual centerpiece: the letters Y-E-S made of black pressed wood. With a new 10-year-old daughter in their house, Jennifer and Rusty plan to place the letters on their table as a reminder of what God does when believers say “yes” to His will without knowing precisely where He’s leading. For them, saying yes led to adopting a child through the Tennessee Baptist Children&...

Pastor’s wife Lauren Chandler thankful for God’s overarching love

 
Lauren Chandler had good reason to thank God. “Most of my life was pretty charmed,” she says. “I grew up in a home where my parents loved Jesus and each other, loved my brother and me. My life had a natural flow where things just kind of worked out for me.” In 1999, Lauren married Matt Chandler, a passionate young preacher who would become lead pastor of one of the fastest-growing churches in America, The Village Church ...

How should a sending church help a church plant financially?

 
Sending churches commit to take responsibility for a church plant until it can stand on its own as a self-sustaining, self-governing and self-propagating church. Many sending churches have questions about their role in helping a church become self-sustainable. Here are six critical elements of the sending church’s role in walking with a church plant toward financial sustainability: 1. Set a realistic budget The sending church and church planter should work together to determine a realistic budget that accounts appropriately ...

Thanksgiving: Not just a holiday or shopping melee

 
Last year I received a phone call from a friend who asked me what I was doing on Thanksgiving Day. Our conversation was on Tuesday, just two days before the holiday. I had been so preoccupied with the "busyness" of life during the previous month that I had not been paying attention to the "big day." Thankfully, my wife had not lost track, and our family had a very fulfilling day. Like many other families in our country, our Thanksgiving ...

Ministers’ wives encouraged to find ‘soul satisfaction’ in Jesus

 
Approximately 280 Florida Baptist ministers’ wives, gathering together for a luncheon during the 2016 Florida Baptist State Convention meeting, were encouraged to find their “soul satisfaction” in Jesus. “After you find soul satisfaction … you will walk in true freedom … begin to see other people with true compassion … glorify God … and have a more vibrant Jesus to offer,” said Kathy Litton, national director of ministry to pastors’ wives for the North American Mission ...

FBSC: State Board fills positions, hears Green’s heart

 
The State Board of Missions created a Black Multicultural Church Catalyst position, transferred three staff members to new roles and took further action to create Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center as a cooperating ministry during its annual meeting held Nov. 14 prior to the Florida Baptist State Convention at Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater. Tommy Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, updated the Board of Missions on the successful transfer of Blue Springs Baptist Conference to The Baptist College ...

BCF gathers to ‘Exhort, Stir Up and Send Out’ at state convention

 
On Nov. 13-15, representatives from The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville took part in the Florida Baptist Pastors Conference and the 155th annual meeting of the Florida Baptist State Convention held at Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla. The theme for this year’s convention meetings was “Gathering to Exhort, Stir Up, Send Out.” Messengers, exhibitors and visitors attending the convention were greeted by the smiling faces of BCF students serving in the registration area as ...

Rummage elected FBSC president; CP commitment continues

 
Messengers attending the 2016 Florida Baptist State Convention elected Brandon pastor Stephen Rummage as president and approved a $30 million Cooperative Program budget for 2017 that continues to send 51 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention while retaining 49 percent for missions and ministries in the state. The meeting, held Nov. 14-15 at Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, focused on the theme: "Gathering to Exhort, Stir Up and Send Out." The nearly 1,200 people in attendance—including 989 messengers—also heard Florida Baptists from across ...

Willy Rice at FBSC: What to do when you’re living in Babylon

 
“We are Baptists living in Babylon,” said Willy Rice, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, during the last session of the Florida Baptist State Convention on Nov. 15. The United States is overwrought with pornography, materialism, a devaluing of life and a variety of issues related to sexuality, racial strife and no restraints on evil, Rice said to a packed house. “We love our country. This isn’t about our patriotism,” Rice continued. “...

FBSC fellowship meetings celebrate ethnic diversity

 
The diversity of Florida Baptists was celebrated during the 2016 Florida Baptist State Convention in Clearwater as three fellowship meetings embraced unique language and cultural expressions of faith. Each fellowship included inspirational music, biblical messages, announcements, a fellowship meal and greetings from Tommy Green, Florida Baptists’ executive director-treasurer. Hispanic Baptist State Fellowship Approximately 175 people gathered for the Hispanic Baptist State Fellowship, where “a united spirit of cooperation and collaboration” prevailed, said Emanuel Roque, Florida Baptists’ Hispanic catalyst. ...

FBSC: Tommy Green calls Florida Baptists to the altar of God

 
Tommy Green called Florida Baptists to the altar, a place of reparation, restoration and revival, during the Nov. 14 opening session of the Florida Baptist State Convention. “Come, come, unite and ignite our lives to reach Florida for Jesus Christ. White, black, Hispanic, Haitian, Brazilian, Japanese, Korean—we are one church–His church; one body—His body—we need each other more than ever before,” said Green, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention. “...

Gay-affirming churches trigger Texas convention's response

 
In response to messenger actions at the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting Nov. 15, convention leaders will ask the BGCT Executive Board to consider withdrawing fellowship from two churches that permit practicing homosexuals to be members. The congregations at issue are First Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, and Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas. Neither church cooperates with the Southern Baptist Convention or the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. "The BGCT believes First Baptist Church Austin and Wilshire Baptist Church ...

International Mission Board taps 5 megacities for global initiative pilot

 
"There's no lack of church buildings in London, but the average congregation is fewer than 20 people," missionary James Roberts noted. Roberts is part of an International Mission Board team in London strategizing a comprehensive missions approach to reach this city of 8.6 million. More than 50 non-indigenous communities, each with 10,000 people or more, have been identified in London, making it truly a global city. More than 300 languages are spoken in London, and 37 percent of the city's population was born outside the United ...

Restroom law likely safe despite undecided N.C. governor's race

 
Regardless of who emerges victorious in North Carolina's still undecided governor's race, some of the state's Baptists believe a controversial law limiting transgender restroom access will remain in force. Incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who has defended the law known as House Bill 2, trails Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat and staunch H.B. 2 critic, by some 5,000 votes with more than 58,000 provisional ballots to be adjudicated and potentially counted, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. A smaller number of ...

Southern Baptists unanimously win re-election to Congress

 
All Southern Baptist members of Congress participating in the Nov. 8 election successfully defended their seats. Three senators and 26 representatives—all members of Southern Baptist churches—won re-election. With three other senators who were not up for re-election, Southern Baptists will count at least 32 of their own in the Senate and House of Representatives when the next Congress convenes in January. Some Southern Baptists whom Baptist Press is unaware of may have been elected for the first time. Five ...

LifeWay study reveals what Americans are thankful for

 
When Americans count their blessings at Thanksgiving, God will get most of the credit, a new study shows. And money might be the last thing on their minds. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) say they give thanks to God on that day, according to LifeWay Research. Fifty-seven percent give thanks to their family. About a third (31 percent) thank friends. Eight percent thank themselves, while 4 percent thank fate. Most Americans are thankful for family (88 percent), health (77 percent), personal freedom (72 percent) and ...

Anti-Trump protests at FBC Dallas draw spotlight

 
Protesters picketing First Baptist Church in Dallas will have no effect, pastor Robert Jeffress said Nov. 15 on national TV. "Look, these people, these protesters, aren't opposing me or our church," Jeffress said of the 50 or so protesters who picketed the church for a second night Nov. 14 because of the pastor's apparent public support of Trump during the contentious presidential campaign. "When I see these protesters, it kind of reminds me of a flea striking its hind leg against Mount Everest, ...

Billy Graham Crusades' Cliff Barrows dies at 93

 
Clifford Burton "Cliff" Barrows, who served as music director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for more than 60 years, died Nov. 15 in Pineville, N.C., after a brief illness. He was 93. The Marvin, N.C., resident had traveled the world with Billy Graham since the noted evangelist's first crusade in 1947 in Grand Rapids, Mich., the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association reported. Barrows' contributions to the ministry were immeasurable, Graham said in an official statement upon the musician's death. "There wouldn't be ...

Possible record-breaking buck, baptism in same week

 
As his pastor said at Stephen Tucker's baptism, it had been a good week. First he bagged a 47-point buck that may break the world record for largest antlers ever measured, then it was his birthday and then he followed the Lord in believer's baptism. Tucker, of Gallatin, Tenn., was baptized Nov. 13 at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., where pastor Bruce Chesser explained Tucker had been a believer for years but had not demonstrated his faith through baptism. Last ...

Hialeah couple among 50 new missionaries appointed by IMB

 
Bob and Melanee Gallina invested 18 years in leading The Church at Green Hills in La Habra, Calif. They lived in a comfortable house that was a home base for their children, who are missionaries overseas. After retirement, the couple noted, they planned to serve overseas themselves. But then they felt God prompting them to consider, "Why wait until you retire? Why not now?" Now the church they once led is sending them through the International Mission Board to take the ...

Russell Moore calls church to stand strong against sexual immorality

 
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, brought a message during the final afternoon of the 2016 Florida Baptist Pastors Conference on Monday to encourage the church to stand firm against sexual immorality. Speaking out of the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 6:15-7:5, Moore wondered what message today’s church has for a culture that has embraced a sexuality that is counterfeit to what God ...

GuideStone strategist urges investors to 'stay calm'

 
The election of Donald J. Trump may have surprised political observers, but his election and the continued control of Congress by fellow Republicans could increase the odds for his major policy plans to be adopted over the next two years. Financial markets are likely to remain volatile over the near term—and possibly for months, said David S. Spika, CFA, global investment strategist for GuideStone Capital Management. Markets rallied in the days after a Trump victory, even after signaling ...

Pastor Fries: Five characteristics of biblically faithful corporate worship

 
The problem with the way most Christians find a church home is that their approach has a lot more to do with the way they would buy a pair of jeans than it does what Scripture says about the importance of corporate worship. That’s how Micah Fries, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., started the 2016 Florida Baptist Pastors Conference Sunday night hosted by Calvary Church in Clearwater. “They try to find the nicest-looking place ...

Pastor Brunson: How do I follow God when I don’t where He is going?

 
Mac Brunson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Jacksonville, laid down a deceptively simple question to those attending the 2016 Florida Baptist Pastors Conference Sunday night hosted by Calvary Church in Clearwater. His question: How do I follow God when I have no idea where He is trying to lead me? “God will not detour you around the difficulties in ministry and life,” Brunson told those attending the pastors conference. “He will guide you through them for His ...

Pastor Scroggins: Surprise! It’s God’s field and His ministry

 
Jimmy Scroggins, lead pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, started his message at the 2016 Florida Baptist Pastors Conference Sunday night by acknowledging that some Christians feel like they are in a plane that is going down. Some of those feelings, Scroggins acknowledged, are based largely on an American culture that thinks everything should always be getting better. But, he said, such a mindset is making us miss out on what is going on. “It would be a ...

Pastor Whitten: What happens when God begins to sift us?

 
Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in the Tampa area, opened the Florida Baptist Pastors Conference Monday morning with the question: What happens when God begins to sift us? Everyone in the room is in one of two places: You either think you’re OK, but you’re really not, Whitten said. Or, you think you’re in a bad spot, but God says this is the best spot you could ever be in. “...

Donald Trump rebukes alleged racism among supporters

 
In his first major interview since Election Day, President-elect Donald Trump said he is "saddened" by reported incidents of racial harassment committed in his name and urged perpetrators to "stop it." Trump also commented on potential Supreme Court nominees, abortion and same-sex marriage among other social issues. When interviewer Lesley Stahl of CBS's "60 Minutes" asked Trump about reports of African-Americans, Latinos and homosexuals being harassed in his name, Trump replied he was unaware of such episodes occurring on a large ...

MIA for 65 years, Korea veteran draws Mass. pastor’s gratitude

 
The return of a Korean War veteran’s remains to his hometown of Cambridge, Mass., 65 years after his death in 1951 provided opportunity for local Korean Christians to pay tribute and for Pastor Paul Kim to offer a public Gospel witness. U.S. Army Cpl. Ronald Sparks, then 20, was wounded in action and captured by Chinese troops the year after he arrived in Korea to help defend it against a communist advance. Shortly thereafter, his family received notice he was ...

At 'Hanoi Hilton,' Navy captain was POWs' de facto chaplain

 
Dorothy McDaniel knew all about Navy life. The hardships. The sacrifices. The loneliness. The pride a family has for their family member's service. So the day in 1967 a shiny black car pulled into her Norfolk, Va., driveway and two uniformed officers emerged, she knew. "Red is down," one of the officers said. Her husband, Navy Capt. Eugene "Red" McDaniel, was beginning six years of imprisonment in North Vietnam as a POW—and de facto chaplain at the infamous "Hanoi ...

Combat veteran & wife: from PTSD toward healing and hope

 
"Do you feel safe in our home?" Kathy Langston asked her husband, Navy Chaplain Mike Langston. "No, I don't," he replied. It was four years after his last tour of duty. Theirs was a family that understood deployment. Mike had been gone a total of nine and a half years during the course of their marriage. But they weren't ready for this; the "best friend" relationship that had defined their marriage had become a distant memory replaced by tension and ...

IMB trustees celebrate balanced budget, appoint 50 missionaries

 
International Mission Board trustees celebrated a balanced budget, unanimously approving the 2017 budget during their Nov. 10-11 meeting near Richmond, Va. Trustees also appointed 50 missionaries during a sending celebration. "I am pleased to share with you that because of generous giving from Southern Baptist churches to the IMB, disciples have been made and churches have been multiplied over the last year among the nations in truly breathtaking ways," IMB President David Platt told trustees. "Furthermore, we are pleased to be able ...

Election sparks hope for liberty & life causes

 
Republican Party electoral victories for the White House and Congress have given social conservatives hope for progress on religious freedom and pro-life issues. Donald Trump's upset of Hillary Clinton for the presidency -- paired with the GOP's preservation of its majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives -- has suddenly encouraged conservative evangelical Christians and their allies to think they will be able to roll back some harmful policies and to advance some helpful ones. The president-elect, who will ...

Presidential transition prompts calls for prayer

 
Prayer for a smooth presidential transition and thankfulness for the American tradition of peaceful leadership transfer are among Southern Baptists' prescriptions for the 73 days between Election Day and Donald Trump's inauguration as America's 45th president. "Through history, transitioning political power has usually been bloody [and] involved great social upheaval, destruction of property and personal uncertainty," said Daniel Heimbach, a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor who served in the George H.W. Bush administration. "And those who lose power have usually ...

David Platt: 16 ways to pray for missionaries

 
Acts 13 and 14 communicate one of the most pivotal stories in all of missions history. They relay the first recorded sending of missionaries by a local church in Scripture. Paul and Barnabas were commissioned for their particular task in a worship service, complete with singing, prayer, fasting and the laying on of hands. Pastor John Piper claimed of this passage, “This moment of prayer and fasting resulted in a missions movement that would make Christianity the dominant religion ...

Trillia Newbell: 5 ways to pray for our president-elect

 
The presidential election is over, and we now have a president-elect, but the work has really just begun. The years ahead could easily produce anxiety, greater division and frustration. We’ve seen the questions: Will our country survive? Will my candidate be elected? Will one or the other political party destroy America? The results mean good news for some, and bad news for others. It’s good to be involved and even concerned about the political climate of ...

2017 SBC Crossover in Phoenix adds Greg Laurie crusade

 
As Phoenix-area Southern Baptists prepare for next summer's SBC annual meeting, they are praying that a new addition to Crossover activities could lead to long-lasting spiritual fruit. At the invitation of the North American Mission Board, Southern California evangelist and pastor Greg Laurie has scheduled his national Harvest America outreach at the University of Phoenix Stadium for June 11, which will coincide with Southern Baptists' Crossover efforts. The Crossover crusade, which will be simulcast nationally, will include a Gospel message by ...

2nd 'Insanity' simulcast Nov. 13, DVD release Nov. 21

 
More than 1,000 churches have registered for two simulcasts of the feature documentary film, "The Insanity of God." The first simulcast was Nov. 9 and the last is Sunday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. Eastern. A DVD of the film on the persecuted church will be released Nov. 21. Produced by the International Mission Board and Cooke Pictures and distributed by LifeWay Films, "The Insanity of God" tells the story of missionaries Nik and Ruth Ripken. After the death of their son, the couple ...

Ronnie Floyd: Americans make a historic statement … now what?

 
We have watched history unfold before our eyes. The faces of many we have watched in these last hours tell the story of surprise and bewilderment. The American people have spoken and resounded a message that is undeniable. The American population has elected Donald Trump as the next president of the United States of America. President-elect Trump has captivated much of America and has been entrusted with leading our nation for the next four years. The “Trump Tide” ...

Russell Moore: President Trump—what now for the church?

 
The 2016 presidential election is now over, and, in what very few could ever have imagined, Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States. No matter what our differences politically or religiously, surely we can all agree that this campaign has been demoralizing and even traumatizing for most of the country. So what should evangelical Christians do now? The first thing, of course, is to pray for our president-elect. The Bible commands us to pray for “all who ...

President-elect Trump carries Florida; Medical marijuana amendment passes

 
In what proved to be one of the most stunning upsets in U.S. political history, Donald J. Trump won more than the 270 electoral votes needed on Nov. 8 to become the 45th president of the United States. Although votes are still being counted in a handful of states, Trump’s lead in key races have him winning an overall projected 310 electoral votes to Clinton’s 228, according to electoral-vote.com. While Clinton did not make a ...

Florida pastors encourage reconciliation, unity following brutal 2016 presidential election

 
Did you find yourself thrown into a “basket of deplorables” this election season for the views you held? Or, were you more often than not voicing concerns about the temperamental fitness of the other candidate? Regardless of your political persuasion, perhaps the one thing upon which we can all agree as followers of Jesus Christ is that political discourse hit new lows during the 2016 election season. While an “us vs. them” mentality is not uncommon during ...

Jesus' purported tomb unearthed for study

 
Archaeologists' discovery of what may be the original burial bed on which Jesus' body was laid have been deemed "hugely significant" by a Southern Baptist archaeologist. The burial bed, which has not been studied by archaeologists previously, was unearthed Oct. 28 inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, a site regarded by some as the burial place of Jesus, National Geographic reported. Two days earlier, researchers from the National Technical University of Athens removed marble cladding from the traditional ...

Pro-life campaign saves 676 unborn babies, leaders say

 
At least 676 mothers were swayed from aborting their babies by volunteers on the 40 Days for Life international campaign and its concurrent bus tour that ended Nov. 6, according to the campaign's preliminary tally. Major campaign sponsor Pro-Life Action Ministries of St. Paul, Minn., estimated 676 lives had been saved, based on reports from volunteers who conducted fasts and held prayer vigils outside 367 abortion facilities in 270 U.S. cities and more than 20 foreign countries. "The numbers are reported by our local leaders and ...

Daryl Cornett: Being Christian and American

 
One reason many American evangelicals get in such a twist in regard to politics is because we fail to put into proper relationship our being Christian and being American. We possess both identities simultaneously; however, we need to keep in view some key differences that will help at least keep our hearts calmer, our mouths milder and our hope affixed to the right source. The proper relationship between Christian and American rests in which identity I allow to encompass the ...

Election Day: God's leadership in voting considered

 
God can and does lead believers to vote for particular candidates. But that doesn't mean Spirit-filled believers all will vote for the same candidate. That's the Election Day conclusion of several pastors who have devoted themselves to prayer and seeking spiritual awakening through the years. "Christians have to really decide: In this election, do I really believe God can give me wisdom?" Arkansas pastor Bill Elliff told Baptist Press. "He says in James 1, 'If you lack wisdom' -- we could ...

Ronnie Floyd: Refusing to vote not an option for a Christian

 
As the 2016 election looms large this week, polls suggest that both candidates are considered two of the most unfavorable in history, even while simultaneously activating enormously enthusiastic constituencies. It’s a real political fight, and the differences between the two are stark. Because of this some voters are threatening to stay home and not cast a vote at all, or even write in another candidate. I’m among those who believe that writing in a candidate is often&...

Steve Gaines: Christians should vote and pray on Nov. 8

 
One of my favorite movies is an old classic starring Gary Cooper called "Sergeant York." The story is about a Tennessee mountain man named Alvin York, a poor farmer who kept running into bad luck. But along the way he became a Christian. When World War I broke out, he designated himself as a conscientious objector because he believed the Bible taught people not to kill. While he was in basic training, he excelled as a marksman. He came to ...

'Duck Dynasty' couple recounts marriage journey at SWBTS event

 
Alan Robertson, eldest son of Phil and Kay Robertson on the TV series "Duck Dynasty," spoke alongside his wife, Lisa, in conjunction with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's Art of Homemaking Conference. "Our marriage was forged through the fires of pain" for the first 15 years, Alan said in the seminary's MacGorman Chapel during the Oct. 27-29 sessions. "And now, after 32 years [of marriage], we can both say with confidence what we could never say before: We would go through everything we've ...

Baptist College of Florida registering for spring semester

 
The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville is registering students for the spring semester that will begin Jan. 16. New student orientation will be held Jan. 12-13, beginning at 8 a.m. in the R.G. Lee Chapel. Even though registration continues through the official drop/add deadline in January, registering early ensures a seat in the desired classes. The Baptist College of Florida continues to lead the way in offering innovative programs and degrees that prepare men and women for areas ...

Arkansas family goes from gang members to followers of Christ

 
Last year, numerous gang-related shootings rocked a Springdale, Ark., community. Following the death of two young men killed in gang-related shootings, stunned residents responded with a peace march to stand against gang violence. As the crowd paused for a moment of silence, a former gang member had time to thank God for rescuing him—and 14 members of his family—out of that culture. "If I did not meet Christ, I would be serving life in jail, or I ...

Swing-state pastors offer election counsel

 
When Florida pastor Ken Whitten started to address the 2016 presidential election in a sermon, "it got real quiet" because the congregation "knows I do not do that" typically, Whitten said. But he spoke out because he is among Southern Baptist pastors in key swing states who, without endorsing a candidate, have felt compelled to offer spiritual counsel to their congregations in the home stretch of an at-times rancorous presidential campaign. Their concerns include harsh social media posts by Christians, the ...

Marijuana legalization on 9 state ballots, including Florida

 
Nine states will vote Nov. 8 on marijuana legalization, reflecting its advocates' continued nationwide push at the ballot box. Voters in five states—Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada—will cast ballots on Election Day for or against initiatives that will legalize the recreational use of marijuana, or cannabis as it is sometimes known. Another four states—Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota—will vote on measures to legalize medical use of marijuana. The latest decisions will ...

Supreme Court accepts transgender bathroom case

 
The question of transgender rights will receive a hearing soon from the country's highest court. The Supreme Court announced Oct. 28 it will review a lower court opinion regarding the right of a student to use the public school restroom that matches her gender identity rather than her biological sex. Oral arguments in the case likely will take place in early 2017, and an opinion is expected before the court adjourns next summer. The order from the justices is the latest action ...

Hispanic Fellowship to meet in conjunction with SBC

 
The National Fellowship of Hispanic Southern Baptist Churches, in a gathering intense in worship, held its ninth annual congress at Iglesia Bautista Casa de Dios in Wichita, Kan., where Abraham Arevalo is pastor. About 80 people from 24 churches participated in the Oct. 27-29 sessions, reported Elias Bracamonte, first vice president of the organization named in Spanish the Confraternidad Nacional de Iglesias Hispanas Bautistas del Sur. The fellowship's leadership voted to move the annual gathering to June to coincide with the SBC ...

Iowa police shootings spark prayer, ministry

 
The murders of two Des Moines-area police officers have spurred Iowa Christians to prayer and action. Officer Justin Martin of the Urbandale Police Department and Sgt. Anthony Beminio of the Des Moines Police Department both were shot in their patrol vehicles in "ambush"-style attacks some two miles apart Wednesday (Nov. 2) shortly after 1 a.m., CNN reported. Police took suspect Scott Michael Greene into custody hours later. In response to the tragedy, pastors and other believers of various denominations gathered ...

Ronnie Floyd: My letter to all ministers

 
Dear Fellow Ministers, In recent weeks, I have felt the need to write a special letter to you. Speaking at a convention on Monday night and in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, and spending time with other ministers recently has reminded me of how much ministers need encouragement. Also, hanging out with some of our Cross Church School of Ministry residents has reminded me of some basic things it is important for all ministers to practice from the beginning of ...

'It's never too late': 94-year-old Louisiana woman gains new life

 
Wearing a shower cap moments from entering the baptismal waters, Ophelia White was beaming with excitement. With the encouragement of friends gathered in the Cook Baptist Church worship center in Ruston, La., the 94-year-old new believer was baptized, answering the prayers of those closest to her. "I want people to know it's never too late," White said. "Get with it." When she was a young girl, White's mother urged her to go forward and ask to be baptized. Not fully ...

Cooperative Program giving 2.73% under 1st month projection

 
Contributions to Southern Baptist Convention national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee in October were 4.54 percent below last year's opening month of the convention's fiscal year and 2.73 percent below the projected budget for the first month, according to a news release from Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page. As of Oct. 31, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget totaled $15,320,010.00, or $728,429.92 below the $16,048,439.92 received in October 2015. The October ...

Analysis: We serve an eternal King, not a temporary president

 
Oh, how Nov. 9 can’t get here soon enough. Has there been such a divisive election year in our millennial history? To no longer have to endure a barrage of political ads, commentary, name-calling and spoofs of the candidates; it’s nothing short of vulgar (if we even know what that means anymore.) It’s become ridiculous, to the point where both candidates spew childish arguments over whose worse and why, and offer middle school class president ...

Messengers to consider cooperating ministry status for Lake Yale center

 
A recommendation to change the status of Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center in Leesburg to an incorporated cooperating ministry, thus creating its own identity, will be considered by messengers to the Florida Baptist State Convention Nov. 14-15 at Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater. Historically, the conference center had served as a department within the Florida Baptist Convention. By transforming it to a cooperating ministry model, the new entity would remain linked to the Florida Baptist Convention, much like Florida Baptist ...

Baptist College of Florida first lady hosts scholarship auction

 
There is never any doubt among students at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville that they are supported in prayer by the faculty, staff and leadership. Each year, the generosity of the BCF family is demonstrated in the form of the annual scholarship auction held at the home of BCF President Thomas A. Kinchen and First Lady Ruth Ann Kinchen. The popular Faculty Scholarship Auction was established many years ago, but continues to have a growing, tangible effect on ...

Ken Whitten: Three reasons baptism rates are falling

 
When our Lord began His ministry, He commenced it with these words, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). When He finished His ministry, He concluded it as He echoed these words, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). That, by the way, was not ...

Analysis: Religious liberty hangs in balance in presidential election

 
A few weeks ago, in an article titled “Preaching ban shows what’s at stake this fall,” I told you about the unelected Iowa Civil Rights Commission, which in July decided that no pastor may preach any sermon, in any service “open to the public,” that might cause any transgendered person to feel “unwelcome.” As I wrote then, this is the equivalent of the Federal Election Commission ruling that no Republican convention may ...

Annual meeting will highlight Florida Baptists’ diversity

 
The diversity of Florida Baptists will be celebrated during the 2016 Florida Baptist State Convention as speakers, choirs and fellowship meetings share their unique expressions of faiths, many in their own languages.  “Our Florida Baptist family is beautifully diverse in cultures, languages and expressions,” said Emanuel Roque, Florida Baptists’ Hispanic catalyst. “As part of celebrating that unity within diversity it’s important to recognize existing affinities and expressions.” “It is exciting that we ...

Baptist College of Florida: Preview Day a huge success

 
The campus of The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville is always filled with excitement, but no day rivals the excitement felt on Preview Day, when prospective students and their families attend an open house to see if BCF is where they should continue their education. Registration began in the BCF Wellness Center at 9 a.m., when prospective students received bags filled with information regarding campus life and degree opportunities. During registration, prospects were able to visit exhibit booths dedicated ...

Lead role in Columbine film helps actress grasp God's love

 
Masey McLain, the daughter of a Georgia Baptist pastor, knew God intended her to play the true-to-life movie character Rachel Joy Scott, a Columbine victim, even when the part first went to someone else. "I'm Not Ashamed," a PG-13 movie that opened nationwide Oct. 21, stars McLain in her first leading role. The PureFlix film, directed by Brian Baugh, co-stars actress Jennifer O'Neill, Sadie Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" fame, singer Jaci Velasquez and Nancy Stafford from the TV series "Matlock." The ...

Analysis: Will you vote based on personalities or issues?

 
In this time of massive uncertainty just days before the Nov. 8 election, there is ONE area of absolute certainty: In American Christendom, the current presidential campaign’s two major binary candidates have proven to be the most morally controversial characters ever! Both are extremely flawed candidates when measured against a biblically principled life. So what do we do? Do we let our emotions run unchecked and make a determination about which candidate is least morally flawed in our personal ...

Amy Hebert: Halloween's bony finger of fear

 
As a mother of four young children I dread the month of October. Life becomes incredibly inconvenient because I cannot even make routine shopping trips without being confronted with "holiday cheer." I'm not referring to the beautiful scenes of fall or the already visible Christmas decorations. It's the bony finger of Halloween that seems to point at me as I round every aisle. Our culture celebrates fear. We have made it cute. We even have entire stores devoted to a ...

Sharing Christ's love with your Hindu friends

 
Anyone who has shared the Gospel with a follower of Hinduism likely will be familiar with a common refrain something like this: "Yes, what you are sharing is very much like what I believe. I also believe in Jesus. You see, all religions are different paths to the same God." Our reaction might be to promptly set about showing how it's just not true. We display our Western logic to prove that the gods are not the same and that ...

Bivocational minister in Georgia refuses to turn over sermons

 
A bivocational lay minister and physician is refusing to give the state of Georgia copies of his past sermons in a legal suit alleging the state fired him as health director because of his religious beliefs. Eric Walsh will not comply with the district court's request for his sermons and relevant notes because he believes the court has exceeded its authority in the request, he said in an Oct. 26 press release from his counsel, First Liberty Institute. "No government has ...

Past elections: 'dire' Christian predictions not new

 
During the presidential campaign of 1800, Christian opponents of candidate Thomas Jefferson warned he "abhors the Christian system" and if elected, might send troops to seize Christians' Bibles. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln's election was thought by some Southern Baptist leaders to threaten fundamental American liberties. A century later, the presidential campaign elicited the Chicago Sun-Times headline "Southern Baptists Tell Why They Are Attacking Kennedy." These and other interjections into presidential politics by followers of Jesus have led a Baylor University church historian ...

Barrett Duke to begin in January as Montana's executive director

 
Barrett Duke will begin in January as the new executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention after his near unanimous election to the post. "We are very excited about the opportunity the Lord has opened up for us in Montana. The convention confirmed for us what we believed God's call to be with a very strong vote. And we're in preparation now to be on the field and beginning the new position on Jan. 1," Duke told Baptist Press of ...

Doctors, states oppose federal transgender mandate

 
Thousands of health care providers and eight states are challenging a new federal rule that requires doctors to perform gender transition procedures or treatments even on children. The latest transgender directive from the Obama administration mandates physicians carry out such gender-altering measures even if they believe they could prove harmful or would violate their religious and ethical beliefs. Health care providers who refuse to abide by the regulation might face imposing fines and the loss of their jobs. The transgender ...

Weighing the cost of the election against the price of our witness

 
“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the ...

LifeWay pulls Jen Hatmaker books over LGBT views

 
LifeWay Christian Resources has discontinued resources featuring best-selling Bible study author Jen Hatmaker just days after she voiced approval of gay marriage and the gay lifestyle. "In a recent interview, [Hatmaker] voiced significant changes in her theology of human sexuality and the meaning and definition of marriage -- changes which contradict LifeWay's doctrinal guidelines," LifeWay spokesman Marty King told Baptist Press today (Oct. 27). "As a result, LifeWay has discontinued selling her resources." LifeWay, a Southern Baptist Convention entity, has published ...

Study: Halloween is time for outreach, pastors say

 
This Halloween, millions of Americans will carve pumpkins, dress up in costumes, decorate their yards and gobble down a lot of candy. And America's preachers hope they'll also consider coming to church, a new study shows. Two-thirds of Protestant pastors say they encourage church members to ask their neighbors to a church-related event like a fall fair or trunk-or-treat, according to a new phone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors from LifeWay Research. Half tell their church members to befriend those ...

Diana Davis: How to show God's love to refugees

 
He's right in front of you in the grocery line. She's the new girl in your child's school classroom. You've read about immigrants or refugees who are moving to your town, but you're not sure what to say or do. What is a correct Christian response to strangers in your community? When we see immigrants as individuals who are dearly loved by God, it's easy to truly care. Your Bible class, women's ministry group or entire church can impact eternity ...

Jason Allen: 10 tips on leading kids to Christ

 
My greatest stewardship in life is not training a generation of students as a seminary president. It is training my five young children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. I feel the weight—and glory—of this stewardship daily and find immeasurable fulfillment and joy as I see my children taking steps toward Christ. I am sure many Christian parents feel the same way—awestruck by the opportunity and responsibility that is ours. My wife ...

Missions ideas flow from FBW columnist Diana Davis, daughter

 
Long before most people were aware of Diana Davis' "fresh ideas," her daughter witnessed her mom's imagination and creative spark. "Her creativity is what has always made life in our family so much fun!" Autumn Wall said, recalling how her mother was always starting something new or turning an ordinary day into something adventuresome. "For our family, she constantly used her creative ideas to help us understand that serving God is an adventure," Autumn said via email. Davis, whose "Fresh ...

Volunteers needed in North Carolina for hurricane recovery

 
Disaster relief volunteers are urgently needed to help North Carolina residents recover from flooding damage wrought by Hurricane Matthew, said Richard Brunson, executive director of North Carolina Baptist Men. "Teams are needed to help individuals and families remove the wet furniture, floors, walls and other items as needed. We will need many recovery volunteers for many months to come," Brunson said Oct. 24. "Thousands of homes and many thousands of people were affected by Hurricane Matthew and we need volunteers to ...

Federal courts issue split decisions for pro-life centers

 
The freedom of pro-life pregnancy centers to determine their message to abortion-minded women has received contrasting verdicts from the federal court system. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco refused Oct. 14 to grant an injunction to block a California law that requires pro-life pregnancy centers to notify their clients of the availability of abortion services elsewhere. Ten days earlier, however, a federal judge in Maryland ruled a Baltimore law violates the free-speech rights of the Center ...

Rare hymnals get new life in NOBTS digital scanning

 
The musty smell of antiquity fills the air as music professor Ed Steele positions an old leather-bound book on an odd-looking scanner. With the press of a button the scanner comes to life, a light passes over the page, and before long a scanned page appears on Steele's computer screen. Steele, a faculty member at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's Leavell College, spent much of his recent sabbatical scanning and digitizing page after page from rare hymnals. To date, he ...

Southern Baptist task force aims to create 'discipleship culture'

 
LifeWay Christian Resources' and the North American Mission Board's recently-appointed task force on disciple-making met Oct. 17 at NAMB's building in Alpharetta, Ga. The group of 11 Southern Baptist pastors gathered to discuss their task of communicating that "any church of any background can be disciple-making," according to Chairman Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn. Gallaty began the meeting by asking what the "win" for the discipleship task force would be. Members unanimously agreed that success would ...

Rick Warren & Saddleback Church surpass 45,000 baptisms

 
Rick Warren and Saddleback Church recorded the 45,000th baptism in the church's 36-year history on Oct. 16—Alberto Flores, who was baptized alongside his 13-year-old son Andre. Warren told the California congregation he would take the 45,000th person baptized to lunch. By the end of the day across all 16 campuses, Saddleback had recorded a total of 45,743 baptisms, 792 of whom were baptized during the weekend alone, with Warren personally baptizing 600 of them. "Baptisms are an amazing moment in the life of ...

Philosophy degree approved by SWBTS trustees

 
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's trustees approved a new master's degree in philosophy and reaffirmed the seminary's media policy during their Oct. 17-19 fall meeting. Trustees elected seven faculty members and promoted three others during their sessions at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus. The new 48-hour master of arts in philosophy includes 31 hours of philosophical studies, 11 hours of theology and ministry studies and six hours of elective courses. Regarding why a theological seminary would teach philosophy, Southwestern President Paige Patterson explained, "...

MBTS trustees affirm enrollment gain, student center

 
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees celebrated the announcement of record enrollment growth and voted to move forward with plans for a student center during their fall meeting, Oct. 17-18 at the Kansas City, Mo., campus. During his president's report, Jason Allen announced that the seminary's enrollment has doubled in size in less than five years. The 2010-11 total student enrollment stood at 1,107. This past academic year that number totaled 2,537. "In the broader world of theological higher education, most schools are ...

BCF missions conference is “Christmas in October”

 
“Christmas in October!” That is how missions students at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville refer to the college’s annual on-campus missions conference. Held Oct. 10-12, the theme for this year's conference was "One Heart. One Goal. One Mission." The heart of missions was definitely on display as more than 30 missions agency representatives were in attendance. Agencies represented included various Southern Baptist entities, as well as other Great Commission partners. The guest list included agencies ...

Raising up church leaders focus of inaugural Pipeline conference

 
Church leaders must make critical shifts in focus to prepare leaders for the next generation, speakers told attendees at the inaugural Pipeline conference for church leaders Oct. 13. The event, hosted by LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn., emphasized the need to build a pipeline of future leaders at every church. Ten speakers addressed issues ranging from vision to stewardship. Eric Geiger Kicking off the conference, Eric Geiger, vice president of LifeWay Christian Resources, spoke on the importance of building future ...

Former SBC president addresses refugee crisis on '60 Minutes'

 
Amid today's tumult of political rhetoric and social discourse about Syrian refugees entering the United States, a pastor and former Southern Baptist Convention president spoke out in an Oct. 16 "60 Minutes" report, as well as a Sept. 11 sermon, calling on Christians to lean on God's Word to determine how to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. Bryant Wright, senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, said Christians are not to make decisions about Syrian refugees "by our feelings, by our fears, ...

Florida churches make Outreach/LifeWay top 100

 
Twenty Southern Baptist congregations are among the 2016 top 100 fastest-growing and largest-participating churches in the United States, with NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., ranking highest in both categories among Southern Baptists. In the lists compiled annually in collaboration between Outreach Magazine and LifeWay Christian Resources, NewSpring Church ranks third on the largest-participating churches list and eighth among the fastest-growing churches named in Outreach's October issue. NewSpring, under the leadership of interim senior pastor Clayton King, reported an average attendance of 33,761 ...

Improvements coming to your Witness in 2017

 
The Board of Directors of your Florida Baptist Witness recently approved a series of recommendations that will allow us to make significant improvements to the official news source of the Florida Baptist State Convention in 2017. Starting in January, we plan to take all of the content we generate that has a specific time element attached to it and make it available to readers on our website as soon as the content is produced. And the content that we push to ...

Clinton, Trump share plans for Supreme Court in final debate

 
The third and final debate of the 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump focused on various issues of concern to many evangelical Christians: the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion, immigration, personal character and ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, hosted the 90-minute debate between Clinton, the Democratic nominee, and Trump, the Republican nominee. Chris Wallace, host of "Fox News Sunday," moderated the event. Wallace opened the evening by asking each candidate about ...

Russell Moore: The Gospel vs. 100 years of Planned Parenthood

 
This past weekend Planned Parenthood turned 100. As several politicians and pro-choice supporters publicly celebrated the milestone, many Christians and others committed to defending life and human dignity mourned. While supporters see a century of Planned Parenthood as an era of choice and physical autonomy, many of us see it as an era of death, both of unborn humans and of the consciences of millions of women and men. Many Americans cannot hear the words “Planned Parenthood” without remembering ...

Florida Baptist Children's Homes inspiring Brave Moms

 
As Emma waited for the bus at 6:30 a.m. with her 1-year-old daughter, Isabella, on her lap, she was determined to make up for lost time. She was ready for another day of classes at a local technical school, always believing that each day is another opportunity to better herself. She jotted down a goal, and below it she penned her inspiration: My goal: To get my high school diploma My why: My daughter In June, Emma turned that goal ...

Ronnie Floyd: 4 vital words that build a worship service

 
I have been thinking a lot about what it takes to build a worship service and even a worship ministry. What should we desire in the worship services and for the worship ministries in a local church? Let me suggest we should build our worship services upon four vital words. Theology We need to sing worship songs that are built upon a proper theology. Our view of God is obtained from Scripture. God’s sovereignty, holiness, justice and love ...

Steve Gaines: 'Lord, teach us to pray'

 
If I could encourage the Southern Baptist Convention in one area, it would be to pray. I want us to be the greatest army of prayer warriors in the world. Jesus is the only "expert" in prayer. When we read the Gospels, we see how important prayer was to Him. There is only one thing recorded in the Gospels that Jesus' disciples specifically wanted Him to teach them. They said, "Lord, teach us to pray." As we read in Luke 11:1, "...

40 Days for Life U.S. tour runs through Nov. 6

 
As Planned Parenthood marks its centennial, pro-life advocates are participating in the international 40 Days for Life campaign billed as the largest such mobilization in U.S. history. A 40 Days for Life United bus tour is a new addition to the 2016 campaign that will include vigils in 367 locations in 270 U.S. cities and more than 20 foreign countries, major campaign sponsor Pro-Life Action Ministries (PLAM) of St. Paul, Minn., said at 40daysforlife.com. The United tour will make stops in more than 125 ...

Artificial intelligence spawns ethical concerns

 
The ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) has drawn comments from the White House and British House of Commons in recent weeks, along with a nonprofit organization established by Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft. Now, Baptist computer scientists have called Christians to join the discussion. Louise Perkins, professor of computer science at California Baptist University, told Baptist Press she is "quite worried" at the lack of an ethical code related to AI. The Christian worldview, she added, has much to ...

California church's 'micro mission trips' nurture its reach

 
The Church on Cyprus called them "micro mission trips," short-term initiatives that were affordable and close to home to increase missions participation. There are "all kinds of reasons" why some people shy away from mission trips, said Peggy Tumlinson, a missions committee member at the church, named for its location on Cypress Avenue in Carmichael, Calif. "[S]ome find it frightening; some find it hard because of finances; some just are not sure what to expect," Tumlinson said, so the ...

Thom Rainer leadership podcast surpasses 1 million listeners

 
The "Rainer on Leadership" podcast is on pace to reach 1.2 million listeners this year, having reached a milestone in September when it surpassed 100,000 downloads per month. LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer with Jonathan Howe, host of the podcast and operations director of ThomRainer.com, launched "Rainer on Leadership" in 2013. The podcast offers practical solutions for issues facing pastors and church leaders in the 21st century. Recent topics include dealing with staff conflict, multigenerational worship ministry, keys to a ...

Fellowship of Christian Athletes names new president/CEO

 
The National Board of Trustees of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has named Shane Williamson as president and CEO, effective Jan. 1. Williamson, currently FCA executive director of field ministry, replaces FCA president and CEO Les Steckel, who will retire at the end of 2016 after 12 years of service. "FCA conducted a comprehensive, national search for our new president, and the candidates we interviewed were tremendous leaders in their fields," board chairman Bruce Graham said. "When it came down to it, we ...

NOBTS to launch Adrian Rogers Center for preaching

 
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees have approved the establishment of an Adrian Rogers Center for Expository Preaching. Additional initiatives also were approved during the trustees' fall meeting to enhance the training of local church pastors and other church leaders—a Christian leadership major in the doctor of philosophy program and several enhancements to the seminary's master of divinity program. "Dr. Adrian Rogers is one of the most significant alumni in the history of NOBTS—well-known for a ...

Baptist College of Florida named among best online colleges in state

 
The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville has been named one of the best online colleges in Florida for 2016-17 by Affordable Colleges Online. Affordable Colleges Online provides community resources and tools related to higher education with an eye on affordability and accreditation. According to Affordable Colleges Online, its researchers collected and analyzed data from accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States to see which colleges offered the most notable balance of academic rigor, student support and affordability for online ...

Fighting the religious straw men of the religious right, moral majority

 
As a local church pastor and leader, I stand amazed, but also burdened, over the ongoing attacks that are aimed at what I call “religious straw men.” The term “fighting a straw man” is used when one states a belief in an exaggerated way and then destroys it. Usually someone is attacking the belief and practice of another person, but doing so by creating a different reality of what actually occurred. These imaginable characters receiving the ...

Erich Bridges: Refugees—retreat or welcome?

 
The United Nations held a conference in September focusing on the more than 65 million migrants worldwide—by far the biggest displacement of people since World War II. They are driven from their homes by war, instability or grinding oppression and poverty. Some 21.3 million of those people are officially designated as refugees. Half of that number have fled three countries: Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan. Most refugee families, even if they have enough food to eat, languish in camps or squatter ...

Political engagement, trust in God's sovereignty urged

 
Jesus is the "ultimate" refugee and immigrant, and as a result the church has a responsibility to love and care for strangers in their land, said Georgia pastor and former Southern Baptist Convention president Bryant Wright during an Oct. 11 chapel message during Heritage Week at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "The role of government is different. The role of government includes a protection of the citizens, but our role in the church is to love our neighbor," said Wright, who received ...

Pro-lifers grieve Planned Parenthood anniversary

 
Planned Parenthood—America's leading abortion provider—celebrated its 100th anniversary Sunday (Oct. 16) with praise from the current president, as well as the front-runner to be the next president, and protest from pro-life advocates. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America observed its centennial with an event at the City Hall of New York and the launch of #100YearsStrong, a year-long celebration marked by more than 150 community events around the world. Inaugurated when eugenicist Margaret Sanger opened a Brooklyn birth ...

Southern Baptist Women's Ministry Advisory Council conducts survey

 
Fourteen women met for two days in Atlanta to continue their discussion about increasing the participation of women in the Southern Baptist Convention. Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, appointed the Women's Ministry Advisory Council to gather information concerning the involvement of women's ministry leaders and ministry wives in their Southern Baptist churches. With the purpose of involving Southern Baptist women in all areas of convention life, the task force has been at work since January conducting ...

Baptist College of Florida trustees hold pre-convention meeting

 
The Board of Trustees of The Baptist College of Florida held their pre-convention meeting Oct. 7 on the Graceville campus. The meeting is always held during this time of the year, but it has never been held under the circumstances that were faced this year. As Hurricane Matthew roared across the Caribbean toward Florida, plans for the trustee meeting entered a state of flux—should it be canceled, postponed, etc.? The decision was made to have the meeting in a ...

Continued SEBTS enrollment gain reported to trustees

 
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's trustees, along with individuals who support the seminary through the Southeastern Society, held their biannual meetings Oct. 9-11 at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus, receiving updates about the seminary, worshipping together in chapel and fellowshipping with faculty and students. Danny Akin, in his presidential address to each group, reported that Southeastern Seminary is in its seventh year of record enrollment with 3,550 total students. The current fall semester is the second-largest spring enrollment in SEBTS history. ...

David Jeremiah: Cut out the middle man—once and for all

 
In Scripture we read of two kinds of men—the spiritual man controlled by the Holy Spirit and the "carnal" man who is ruled by his passions, as noted by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3. Paul used the terms old man and new man in Ephesians 4: "Put off … the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and … put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22, 24, ...

Evangelical political divide seen in LifeWay Research survey

 
Americans with evangelical beliefs share a great deal in common. They trust in Jesus alone, evangelize their neighbors and believe the Bible is the final authority in their lives. But when it comes to voting, race and political affiliation still divide evangelicals, according to a survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research taken from Sept. 27-Oct. 1, before the second presidential debate. Overall, fewer than half (45 percent) of those with evangelical beliefs planned to vote for Donald Trump, according to the survey. A ...

Amid fallen trees & debris, Baptist teams bring help & hope

 
Though tragedy has been a recurrent theme in Holocaust survivor Margaret Oettinger's life, so has hope. When a large tree fell on her property during Hurricane Matthew's destruction, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers, including Florida Baptist chainsaw teams, were there to provide help and hope. As volunteers cut away the tree, Oettinger became one of many helped by SBDR teams in recent days. And the teams didn't just come bearing chainsaws. They came with prayer as well. "We worked in ...

2016 Annie Armstrong giving 2nd highest ever at nearly $59 million

 
The nearly $59 million given to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering in 2016 ranks second highest in the offering's history, the North American Mission Board has announced. Southern Baptists gave $58,860,553 in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 to the offering named for noted missionary Annie Armstrong, second only to the $59,463,281 given in 2007, NAMB said. "This is extraordinary in a year when so many of our churches gave above and beyond in response to the special call from our International Mission Board," NAMB President ...

Kevin Ezell: Thank you Southern Baptists for your generosity

 
Southern Baptists are known for their generosity to missions, and 2016 was no exception. I am happy to report that giving to this year's Annie Armstrong Easter Offering totaled $58,860,553—the second-largest Annie offering ever given! This is extraordinary in a year when so many of our churches gave above and beyond in response to the special call from our International Mission Board. We are humbled by how God has moved once again through Southern Baptists and excited about what this ...

Ronnie Floyd: Not every hill is worth dying on

 
Today, I’d like to share more about one of the lessons I listed earlier this week in "30 lessons learned in leading the same organization for 30 years." The greatest leadership lesson I have ever learned is: Not every hill is worth dying on. If I had believed and practiced this in my previous churches and perhaps during the first few of my 30 years at Cross Church, my influence would be greater and the ministry would be more ...

Kentucky pastor: God is bigger than Clinton, Trump & my vote

 
I've struggled with the choices we've been handed next month in perhaps the strangest and most divisive presidential election in recent history. I've listened to people I respect give their thoughts about the situation. With Hillary Clinton on the far left and Donald Trump on the far right (I think), the choice would seem clear. But I've observed that, for some, there is a genuine struggle to endorse either with their vote. I'm a Christian who has the wonderful privilege ...

Several states helping North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew

 
North Carolina continues to reel from the damage and flooding left by Hurricane Matthew. As rising rivers have yet to crest in many areas, North Carolina Baptists are responding where they can and as quickly as conditions will allow, a state Baptist disaster relief leader reported Monday. A team of North Carolina Baptists on Mission serves its first meal Monday at Cedar Falls Baptist Church in Fayetteville. Electrical power is coming from the kitchen trailer’s on-board generator. A ...

North Jacksonville Baptist Church ministers after Hurricane Matthew

 
Chris Coram watched as the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief trucks rolled into the North Jacksonville Baptist Church parking lot in Jacksonville, Fla., Monday night. “It was quite humbling to see the big disaster relief trucks here to help my city,” said Coram, who serves as associate pastor of North Jacksonville Baptist Church. “And it is an honor to assist the volunteers and teams with KBDR by hosting them at our church. It is amazing how hearing the ...

Albert Mohler: Evangelical support of Trump destroys ‘moral credibility'

 
The 2016 presidential election presents “an excruciating moment” for evangelicals because the two major candidates fail “the baseline test of character,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, during an Oct. 12 appearance on “CNN Tonight” with host Don Lemon. “When it comes to Donald Trump, evangelicals are going to have to ask the huge question, ‘Is it worth destroying our moral credibility to support someone who is beneath the ...

30 lessons learned in leading the same organization for 30 years

 
ESPN produces a series of documentary films titled "30 for 30." They highlight important people and events in sports history. Each of these is powerful and highly engaging. Today, I want to share with you my own 30 for 30. I want to call it "30 lessons I have learned in leadership through leading the same organization for 30 years." Many people have led organizations for 30 years. Yet, only a few have led the same organization for the past 30 ...