News from the Baptist Press

Formed in 1946 by the Southern Baptist Convention, and supported with Cooperative Program funds, Baptist Press (BP) is a daily (M-F) international news wire service. Operating from a central bureau in Nashville, Tenn., BP works with four partnering bureaus (Richmond, Va.; Atlanta, Ga.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Washington, D.C.), as well as with a large network of contributing writers, photographers and editorial providers, to produce BP News.

Click on the title to view the full article at the Baptist Press website.

 

Friday, December 13, 2019 - 1:59pm
NOTA DEL EDITOR: La columna First-Person (De primera mano) es parte de la edición de hoy de BP en Español. Para ver historias adicionales, vaya a http://www.bpnews.net/espanol.

LA MIRADA, Calif. (BP) -- La frase "Jesús es el Señor" puede considerarse como el fundamento principal del cristianismo. Estas palabras indican un reconocimiento sobre la completa y total autoridad de Jesucristo sobre toda la creación y sobre todas las dimensiones de la existencia humana.

A pesar de ser una frase importante y común para todos los seguidores de Jesús a lo largo de la historia cristiana, en los últimos días me ha traído paz recordar la realidad del señorío de Cristo en medio de tantos problemas a los que nos enfrentamos en este mundo. Al reconocer que Jesús es el Señor aceptamos que él está en control de todo sin importar las circunstancias a nuestro alrededor. ¡Solamente existe un Dios soberano y yo no soy él!

La Biblia enseña claramente que Jesús es el Señor. De hecho, por siglos la confesión básica de cualquiera que se identificada públicamente con Cristo era declarar "Jesús es el Señor". Muchos seguidores de Jesús en diferentes tiempos y en diferentes lugares han expresado estas palabras al ser bautizados o al ser confrontados a explicar su fe. Esta confesión tiene su origen en los siguientes pasajes de las Escrituras:

Romanos 10:9: "que si confesares con tu boca que Jesús es el Señor, y creyeres en tu corazón que Dios le levantó de los muertos, serás salvo".

1 Corintios 12:3: "Por tanto, os hago saber que nadie que hable por el Espíritu de Dios llama anatema a Jesús; y nadie puede llamar a Jesús Señor, sino por el Espíritu Santo".

Filipenses 2:11: "y toda lengua confiese que Jesucristo es el Señor, para gloria de Dios Padre".

El teólogo, periodista y político holandés Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) describió elocuentemente el señorío de Cristo sobre todo ya que él es el único Señor con suprema autoridad: "No hay un solo centímetro cuadrado en todos los dominios de la existencia humana sobre el cual Cristo, que es soberano sobre todo, no clame: ¡es mío!" De hecho, no solamente Jesús es el Señor, sino que es el Señor de señores y el Rey de reyes (Ap. 19:16). ¡No hay nadie como él!

Sin embargo, a pesar de no dudar de esta realidad, con frecuencia me encuentro turbado o desanimado al ver cómo las grandes injusticias a mi alrededor se conjugan con mi gran impotencia por resolverlas. La hipocresía, el abuso de poder y la discriminación contra otros seres humanos constantemente me distraen de mis actividades y hacen que pierda el sueño o el gozo de una vida plena. En estas circunstancias, el recordar que "Jesús es el Señor" me ayuda a recobrar la perspectiva correcta y a encontrar el tan anhelado descanso que tanto había estado buscando. Jesús siempre continúa siendo el Señor soberano, pero yo necesito recordarlo constantemente y vivir de acuerdo a esta gran verdad.

El domingo pasado mi familia y yo fuimos a escuchar una vez más la magnífica obra maestra del gran compositor alemán George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), el "Mesías". Handel presentó por primera vez este oratorio barroco en 1742 en Dublín. A través de los años esta obra sigue siendo un clásico de la música y se continúa presentando en todo el mundo, en especial en los Estados Unidos y en Inglaterra ya que la letra está en inglés. Además de la majestuosa música, el Mesías es especial porque relata en tres partes el nacimiento, la vida, muerte y resurrección de Jesucristo solamente usando pasajes de la Biblia. Angélica, mi esposa, y yo hemos escuchado esta obra muchísimas veces, pero en esta ocasión llevamos a nuestros hijos a que la escucharan por primera vez. Quizá las partes más famosas del Mesías son la sección del Aleluya y la conclusión. Al escucharlas y meditar en las verdades bíblicas me trajeron la paz y refrigerio que tanto necesita en ese momento. Me ayudaron a recordar que Jesús es en realidad el Señor y que, por lo tanto, todo lo demás es secundario. Le dejo estos pasajes bíblicos del Mesías con la esperanza de que le ayuden y edifiquen tanto como a mí:

"¡Aleluya, porque el Señor nuestro Dios Todopoderoso reina!" (Ap. 19:16)

"Los reinos del mundo han venido a ser de nuestro Señor y de su Cristo; y él reinará por los siglos de los siglos." (Ap. 11:15)

"Rey de reyes y señor de señores." (Ap. 19:16)
"¡Aleluya!"

"El Cordero que fue inmolado y que nos ha redimido por su sangre es digno de tomar el poder, las riquezas, la sabiduría, la fortaleza, la honra, la gloria y la alabanza."

"La alabanza, la honra, la gloria y el poder sean al que está sentado en el trono y al Cordero por los siglos de los siglos."

Amén." (Ap. 5:12-14) Read more...

Friday, December 13, 2019 - 1:38pm
PENSACOLA, Fla. (BP) -- Pensacola Baptist churches are grieving as they bring comfort, hope and love to their community after a gunman began shooting at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, killing three people and wounding eight others Friday, Dec. 6.

"When tragedy strikes in a place like this, we are a tight-knit community and everyone is proud of their military, it causes a huge ripple," said Dave Snyder, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pensacola.

The church is working with Baptist Health to minister to the staff who have tended to the patients who survived the NAS shooting.

"Some of them are deacons and members of our church and we have a close partnership with Baptist Health," Snyder said. The church will be launching an outreach ministry to the military in January. "This shooting has really shown us that we need to have a heavier presence there."

"We are just kind of in shock," said Terra Shishido, military spouse and member of The Point Church, located on the west end of NAS Pensacola. The church has seen an increase in military personnel from the base attending services and seeking counseling. The church is standing ready to help with long-term counseling and other needs.

"Today Pensacola hurts," pastor Ted Traylor said to the nearly 100 people gathered at Olive Baptist Church's campus in Warrington for a vigil on Dec. 7. The campus is located a mile from NAS Pensacola and was launched to reach military personnel in the community.

"We thought it would be good just to gather together where we like to come and have a few folks share their hearts with us, read scripture and pray," Traylor said. "And that's what this is about."

Olive Baptist at the Warrington location is about 60 percent military, and many of those in attendance were or have been stationed at NAS Pensacola.

One of the deputies injured in the shooting is a member of Olive, according to the church's military pastor Mike Dimmick, and had been part of the team that helped launch the Warrington campus two years ago.

At the conclusion of the vigil, more than a dozen active military personnel and veterans gathered at the altar, locking arms and joining in prayer. The congregation rose to pray in unity with those assembled.

Highland Baptist Church in Molino responded to the crisis by calling on church members to donate blood through the One Blood's Big Red Bus blood drive held on Sunday, Dec. 8, at the church.

When the call for blood donations went out, the community responded in a huge way.

"The blood bank was so overwhelmed, all of the employees started screening and the soldiers started working the front desk," wrote Jessica Simpson, vice president of the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, who jumped in to help.

"As a church and community, our hearts are breaking for the tragedy that happened at NAS Pensacola early this morning," said the Highland church's Facebook page.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, our brave men and women of the military, our first responders, those involved in this tragedy, and our wonderful community. Please, join us in prayer as we lift up our community to the Lord."

Read more...

Friday, December 13, 2019 - 1:34pm
CARY, N.C. (BP) -- In the synoptic Gospels, Luke 2:8-20, Dr. Luke records the glorious announcement that Jesus Christ had been born in Bethlehem. There was nothing ordinary about this special message. It was delivered by angels to a group of common shepherds on a Judean countryside when it was so unexpected, their night vision was overcome by the brilliant light of God's glory that flashed all around them and scared them to death.

The shepherds play an important part of the Christmas narrative, and they have become popular characters in our modern traditions. Shepherd figurines adorn storefronts and lawn displays. We sing about shepherds in many of our popular Christmas carols and they are always in nativity displays.

Even though we read of the shepherds in the biblical narrative and are reminded of them throughout the Christmas season, have you ever stopped to consider who they are, the role they play and what we can learn from them?

We actually don't know much about the shepherds who are referenced in Luke's account, but can you put yourself in their place on that first Christmas night?

As they faithfully kept watch over their flock, angels suddenly appeared to inform that the promised Messiah has been born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:8-14).

Most of us would expect that such a message would first be proclaimed to those with status and nobility rather than to lowly shepherds who probably didn't even own the sheep they were tending.

Yet, as John 3:16 reminds us, Jesus came for all people -- rich or poor, male or female, whatever their race, ethnicity or skin color.

The initial fear that the shepherds experienced soon turned to joy after hearing the angels' message.

And the message that the shepherds heard moved them to respond. Scripture tells us that they hurriedly went to see the newborn Jesus (Luke 2:15-16).

Scripture also records that after they spent some time with Mary, Joseph and Jesus, the shepherds shared the message they had received about Jesus, and everyone who heard what the shepherds had to say was "amazed" (Luke 2:17-18).

Finally, the shepherds returned "glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard" (Luke 2:20).

These shepherds can be considered the first evangelists who proclaimed the Good News about Jesus to those around them.

Christ followers that take pride in our American heritage need to remind ourselves that Jesus was not a white Anglo-Saxon and His Gospel made its way to us by individuals who came from another country. Today they would be referred to as immigrants.

Aren't we glad that some immigrants, in the providence and sovereignty of God, made it possible for us to hear the story of Jesus first proclaimed by the shepherds of Christmas?

As we celebrate and worship Christ this Christmas, may we, like the shepherds, proclaim Him to all people living around us including those from other nations of the world. Merry Christmas!

"Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people'" Luke 2:10 (NKJV).
Read more...

Friday, December 13, 2019 - 1:01pm
WASHINGTON (BP) -- A new congressional proposal seeking to balance religious freedom and gay rights is a misguided effort that will fail to achieve its stated goals, according to the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The Fairness for All Act, H.R. 5331, gained introduction in the House of Representatives Dec. 6 as an attempt to address the ongoing conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty. The bill would prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people while also guarding religious expression by institutions and individuals, Republican Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah said in introducing the legislation.

Some faith-based organizations endorsed the proposal, but the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and others expressed their opposition. Leading LGBT and civil rights groups also announced their disapproval.

ERLC President Russell Moore described the measure as "a wrong turn."

"There's no doubt that those proposing this approach mean well," Moore said in a written statement. "That said, legislation like Fairness for All is counterproductive and would undermine its own aims.

"Of course, every human being ought to be treated with dignity," he said. "Placing sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in this kind of legislation would have harmful, unintended consequences and make the situation worse in this country, both in terms of religious freedom and in terms of finding ways for Americans who disagree to work together for the common good."

Travis Wussow, the ERLC's general counsel and vice president for public policy, told Baptist Press in written comments, "We are in the beginning -- not the end -- of the national conversation about how Americans who differ on fundamental things can live together, be neighbors and genuinely care for each other."

The ERLC, Wussow said, "remains steadfast in our belief that religious freedom is an inherent right that secures the common good, and we will continue to oppose legislation that would undermine such a fundamental right."

In a news release, Stewart's office said the bill would amend the Civil Rights Act to protect LGBT people from discrimination in such contexts as employment, housing, adoption and places of public accommodation, including retail stores and service providers. Meanwhile, the legislation would preserve the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and protect the tax-exempt status of religious organizations and universities, according to his office. It also would safeguard small business owners from being coerced to violate their beliefs and protect adoption agencies, the release said.

"This legislation allows us to settle the legal questions and get back to the business of loving our neighbors," Stewart said in the release.

The text of the bill was not yet available on the congressional website as of this morning (Dec. 13).

An opponent of the proposal -- Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation -- commended the "undoubted good will" of those behind the Fairness for All Act but said, "[N]ot every bill that calls itself a compromise is a good compromise.

"Its protections for religious liberty come at the high cost of enshrining a misguided sexual and gender ideology into federal law," Anderson wrote in a Dec. 6 post. "This will allow the federal government to use our civil rights laws as a sword to punish citizens who dissent from the reigning sexual orthodoxy. This is certain to create significant harm to the common good, especially for the privacy, safety, and equality of women and girls."

Anderson -- who said he has dialogued with supporters of the proposal in recent years -- said the bill's elevation of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to protected classifications in civil rights law "will cause serious harms." The class known as "sexual orientation" includes homosexuality and bisexuality, while "gender identity" refers to the way a person perceives himself regardless of his biology at birth.

If it were genuinely fair, the legislation would explicitly protect institutions seeking to guard the rights of women in athletics and female-only spaces from men who identify as a different gender, he wrote. Anderson also said the bill, if truly fair, would explicitly protect doctors from being forced to participate in "gender-affirming" care.

Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council also have expressed opposition to the legislation.

Among the organizations that have endorsed the Fairness for All Act are the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, the AND Campaign, the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Some law school professors known for their religious freedom advocacy -- including Thomas Berg of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, Carl Esbeck of the University of Missouri and Douglas Laycock of the University of Missouri -- have announced their support for the bill.

While some LGBT advocates are part of the coalition supporting the legislation, major gay rights organizations are foes.

The Human Rights Campaign -- the country's largest LGBT civil rights organization -- joined other gay advocacy groups such as GLAAD and Lambda Legal in a statement expressing "strong opposition" to the Fairness for All Act. Among other organizations signing onto the statement were the ACLU, NAACP and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"This legislation licenses discrimination while eroding the rights of people of faith," the organizations said in a joint statement. "It is wrong, and we strongly oppose it."

The Fairness for All Act is in some ways an alternative to the Equality Act, an expansive gay and transgender rights bill that opponents warn would devastatingly undermine freedom of religion, conscience and speech, as well as protections for women, girls and unborn children. The ERLC and many other religious freedom organizations oppose the measure.

The Equality Act goes so far as to eliminate the use of RFRA as a possible protection in cases covered by the measure. In 1993, Congress passed RFRA nearly unanimously as a corrective to a damaging Supreme Court ruling, and President Clinton signed it into law. RFRA requires the government to have a compelling interest and use the narrowest possible means in burdening a person's religious exercise.

The Democratic-controlled House passed the Equality Act in May, but approval in the Republican-majority Senate appears unlikely.
Read more...

Friday, December 13, 2019 - 10:45am
ALMA, Ark. (BP) -- Carrie Jernigan recently took her kids shoe shopping for an upcoming family vacation when her daughter, Harper, brought a pair of Avenger shoes to her. Harper had noticed a friend from school had shoes that were too tight and had holes, and she asked her mom if they could buy the shoes for him.

"I said,'Yes,' but I looked down and I could tell they were small," said Jernigan, an attorney for Settle Jernigan Law in Fayetteville, Ark., and member of Kibler Baptist Church in nearby Alma. "I just jokingly said to the clerk, 'Looks like I may have to buy out all the shoes.'"

The employee at Payless, which was going out of business, laughed and then said, "Would you really consider doing that?"

A few days later, Jernigan found herself with 1,500 pairs of shoes.

Jernigan told her pastor, Lee Denton, that she had bought all the shoes, but she was going to give them away anonymously. She spent most of the summer trying to give the shoes away. However, the new school year was approaching, and she still had plenty of shoes left.

"When I found out Carrie had purchased the shoes back in the early summer, I had mentioned to her that we could make it a big event," said Denton. "After she shared her initial Facebook post, it went viral within 24 hours, and we were scrambling to decide what, when, how and where."

Jernigan's Facebook post was asking for a location where she could set up all the shoes and give them away to the community. It later was updated with details of the River Valley Kickstart that would be held at the Alma Middle School gym -- 17 days after the Facebook post went live.

The viral post also got the attention of major national news outlets.

"That first national news story let me talk about God and kept it in the article," said Jernigan. "That's when I knew that if MSN on their lead story is me and these shoes and they did not cut out me talking about God, God was going to do something big.'"

Jernigan was also featured on the national talk show "Strahan and Sara," where they gifted her $30,000 worth of school supplies from Staples. (Watch the "Strahan and Sara" segment below.)

With national attention, Jernigan was able to raise more money for the back-to-school event and purchase more shoes and more school supplies. Local businesses and churches also chipped in, donating money to help kids get ready for school.

"The event could not have gone better," said Jernigan. "Someone said that God was in every nook and cranny in that school, and that was so true. Where everything could have gone wrong, or a few bad things could have gone wrong, nothing did."

Before the doors were even opened, 1,500 people were already waiting outside with the heat index at 114 degrees.

During the River Valley Kickstart, 150 volunteers from Kibler Baptist Church and 50 volunteers from the community gave away 1,200 backpacks, 2,300 pairs of shoes, 6,500 bottles of water, school supplies and thousands of dollars' worth of gift cards to Sonic, McDonalds, Taco Bell and Chick-fil-A. The event also featured free dental screenings, health screenings, physicals and haircuts.

City officials estimated there were around 5,000 people at the event; the population of Alma is 5,748.

"There were so many people, I thought we were going to run out of shoes. I thought we wouldn't have enough backpacks," said Jernigan. "Everybody kept talking about Jesus with the fish, and that's exactly how it felt."

According to Denton, this was the largest "missionary event" in the history of Alma.

"We normally give away 400 backpacks a year, but this year was altogether different," he said. "God supplied the platform and absolutely showed out in the River Valley."

Next year, Denton hopes to host the event again "with a little more than 17 days to plan."

"I think so many times in our community that our businesses are not working with our churches and our people," said Jernigan. "Everything is so individualized. We had almost every big church in town help, almost every business, the mayor, our police forces, almost all these elected officials. There is just one kingdom, and that's what I think communities like ours have to get better at doing. I think the event is exactly what God wanted that day -- that there was a showing of all these different types of organizations that can work together for Him."


Read more...

Friday, December 13, 2019 - 10:42am
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- life changes they are facing. They discuss holiday plans, an upcoming family wedding and the Sundays that they will have left with their home church. The weeks ahead will inevitably go by quickly. The mild Southern winters of their upbringing will be exchanged for the bitter cold of Eastern Europe in January.

As they share about their call to missions and their decision to plant their lives among unreached peoples, the predictable "why would you do that" question is quickly replaced with the answer: This is where God wants them to be, to do what He has prepared them to accomplish. Neither seems to have any doubt, though the bittersweet emotions of leaving family and friends behind are present.

The Landrys met in college through Baptist Collegiate Ministries. While both were raised in Christian homes, they had different feelings about the idea of serving overseas. Molly says that in college, she was very open to international missions. After serving for a summer in Portugal through IMB's summer missions opportunities, she sensed God's calling.

"It was a process of God breaking me of plans that I had for myself," Molly says.

When Matt was in college, he told an IMB representative he would not consider overseas missions. Already seriously dating, Molly began to wonder if she and Matt could stay together. She chose to pray about the situation instead of talking with Matt.

"I didn't even know we were on the rocks!" Matt quips.

As Matt was approaching graduation, a trusted student leader urged him to think about a short-term assignment overseas. With a passion and a gift for evangelism, Matt opened himself to ways he could be used outside the U.S. IMB's Hands On program offered a 4-month term that Matt began to explore. He heard about a young man who had already committed to a Hands On assignment in Scotland but needed a partner. This would become a life-changing season for Matt.

Gena Wilson was the team's supervisor in Scotland. Gena, who served in Scotland for more than 20 years before her death in May 2019, knew just what to do to equip the two recent graduates for life-on-life missions. She encouraged them to read Scripture together every day, and then to live out what they read.

"She had us read Colossians first," Matt says, "which was so good for us to learn to live as Christians, how to relate to one another, how to serve each other, and how to be about the mission throughout our time there."

Then they read through the Book of John. Matt saw how Jesus oriented His life toward lost people and taught His disciples to do the same thing.

"He gave them the vision for what missions should look like," Matt says.

Matt also saw these lessons lived out in the flesh through Gena and through TJ and Dena Odom. The Odoms have served with IMB since 2012 and worked closely with Gena before her death. Matt says he watched as these missionaries lived out the Scriptures in their family, with their team and among the people of Scotland.

"That experience is what God used most of all to call me to missions."

Back in the U.S., Molly knew that the time they were spending apart would ultimately bring them together for life. Though she never visited Matt in Scotland, she was learning through his experiences and through the people who were leading him.

"I didn't get to meet Gena in person, but I still learned through her about serving and about suffering," Molly says, referring to Gena's journey through cancer three times before her death. "She taught us all that the best is yet to come."

As their long-term commitment approaches, Matt and Molly see how God prepared them to take this step. Their obedience in the short-term opportunities equipped them for a move across the world.

"God shows us a lot of things when we're uncomfortable and when we take risks like that," Matt says. "Now we've answered the call to go and make disciples of all nations."

For more information about Hands On and other short-term opportunities for students, visit imb.org/students. To explore long-term opportunities in international missions, visit imb.org/go or email info@imb.org today.

Your giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® helps to fund the sending of new missionaries, like the Landrys. Learn more about giving at imb.org/lmco. Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is a registered trademark of IMB.

*Names changed
Read more...

Friday, December 13, 2019 - 10:40am
GREEN BAY, Wis. (BP) -- Uniting around a theme and common purpose of "Reaching the Northland," Baptists from Minnesota and Wisconsin gathered for their 36th annual meeting Oct. 25-26 at Highland Crest Baptist Church in Green Bay, Wis.

The annual meeting registered 94 messengers from 66 of the convention's 204 churches. Including 52 guests, total attendance was 146.

Jonathan Woodyard, second vice president of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, set the tone for the meeting with a Bible study on Philippians 1:1-5, emphasizing the themes of joy and partnership that are found throughout that letter and pointing out that MWBC is "a Gospel partnership."

"The partnership is what gives rise to the joy," said Woodyard, who is pastor of Northfield (Minn.) Community Church.

Woodyard said he finds convention and other denominational meetings exciting because he sees them as gatherings of church leaders who are seeking to link arms to accomplish a mission.

"Why do we get together for associational, state and Southern Baptist Convention meetings?" he asked, then answered, "The partnership is for the purpose of an advance of the Gospel."

Business

Messengers once again increased the percentage of Cooperative Program gifts forwarded to the SBC, this time from 35 percent to 36 percent. They approved a 2020 budget of $1,520,175, a 2.3 percent increase over the 2019 budget of $1,486,075.

MWBC anticipates receiving about 38.8 percent of its budget -- $590,000 -- from the churches through the Cooperative Program. Other sources of income include the North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, special missions offerings, designated gifts and interest.

Of the money received through the Cooperative Program, MWBC will forward 36 percent ($212,000) to the Southern Baptist Convention. For several years MWBC has been increasing the percentage forwarded to SBC. The percentage was 35 percent in the current 2019 budget, 32 percent in 2018, 22 percent in 2017, 20 percent in 2016, and 17 percent in 2015.

Ashley Clayton, vice president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, reported to the messengers that through the years MWBC has given more than $15 million through the Cooperative Program.

All current officers were re-elected: president Chris Heng, pastor of TwinCity Hmong Baptist Church in St. Paul, Minn.; first vice president Bob Stine, pastor of Midvale Baptist Church in Madison, Wis.; second vice president Jonathon Woodyard, pastor of Northfield Community Church in Northfield, Minn.; recording secretary Wes Shemwell, member of Midvale Baptist Church in Madison, Wis.; and assistant recording secretary Jim Gress, member of Southtown Baptist Church in Bloomington, Minn.

Mission

"Reaching the Northland" was the theme chosen this year to express the specific Gospel advance that is the focus of MWBC. The convention has 204 churches seeking to share Jesus with about 11.5 million people who live in the two states. The "Reaching the Northland" theme was used not only for the annual meeting but also for the 2019 state missions offering.

MWBC's mission is one that requires full participation, said Leo Endel, MWBC executive director. Citing famed coach Vince Lombardi's rule that "every player must go all out on every play," Endel reminded those gathered that "we are all together on God's team.... It's going to take all of us to walk the path the Lord has put in front of us."

Endel encouraged churches to more fully participate in the opportunities and responsibilities of their partnership with their association, state convention and national convention, pointing out that last year:

-- Only 116 of the 204 MWBC churches gave through the Cooperative Program;

-- Only 17 percent participated in the annual state missions offering;

-- Only 16 percent turned in an annual church profile; and

-- Only 40 percent of MWBC pastors have retirement accounts with GuideStone Financial Resources, the others missing out on a matching benefit of $17.50 monthly to their retirement fund from the state convention and another $17.50 from GuideStone for term life insurance.

"The SBC exists to elicit, combine and direct the energies of Baptists for the propagation of the Gospel," Endel said, and MWBC's purpose "is to serve as a means by which affiliated Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist churches may cooperate together in fulfilling the Great Commission." When churches opt out of supporting and cooperating with the state and national conventions and entities they miss out on a major benefit of being Southern Baptist.

Other speakers mentioned opportunities that awaited churches and members because of their relationship with MWBC.

-- Rick Hedger, multiplying churches catalyst with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), reported that he has a list of 65 partnerships that have taken place between MWBC and MBC churches or associations during the past two years. He urged churches and associations to take advantage of the next three years of the five-year partnership. "Our churches want to be on mission," he said. "They want to come here and serve alongside you."

-- Scott Dadam, pastor of River of Life Church in Protage, Wis., reported on the 2019 Hands of Hope event in which his church hosted 75 volunteers from seven MWBC churches. The volunteers did various service projects around the community and also helped Dadam's church with outreach. All MWBC churches are welcome to participate in the annual project.

-- Joshua Whetstine, SEND City missionary for the Twin Cities, reported that 11 new churches were planted during the past year and eight more are already scheduled to plant in 2020. His goal is to see 60 sustainable, indigenous and engaged churches planted during five years.

-- Charles Harvey, director of doctor of ministry program for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, reported that five people in the first MWBC doctoral cohort are expected to graduate and a second cohort will be started soon. This partnership is providing a lower-cost mostly online opportunity for M-W Baptists to earn a seminary doctorate.

-- Penny Reedy, MWBC kids ministry director, promoted MWBC's May 30, 2020, Equip Kids Ministry Conference at the Metropolis Resort and Conference Center in Eau Claire, Wis. The all-day conference is only $29 through the end of the year and hotel rooms are discounted.

-- Dave Wedekind, MWBC disaster relief co-director, said there were four training events and four disaster responses during 2019. He encouraged M-W Baptists to take advantage of the training opportunities in 2020 as well as opportunities to serve as disasters arise.

-- Chris Phillips, associate pastor of children and students at Trinity Baptist in Reedsburg, Wis., and MWBC student ministry director, said, "If we are going to reach the Northlands, we need to reach students." MWBC offers an annual Called Out event that some churches have used as their kick-off event for beginning a new youth group, he said. The 2019 event registered 147 people from 11 churches. He encouraged each MWBC church to consider participating in this annual opportunity.

Other meetings held in conjunction with the MWBC annual meeting brought a synergy to the weekend.

-- Joshua Whetstine led the MWBC church planters meeting on Thursday, which helped bring a large percentage of new planters to the annual meeting.

-- The Pastors' Conference took place on Friday morning with a lecture series by Southeastern Seminary preaching professor Jim Shaddix on decisional preaching. This event was attended by about 50 people.

-- The convention hosted a special luncheon that drew more than 40 pastors' wives to fellowship together around small tables in informal conversation.

-- The MWBC Woman's Missionary Union conducted their annual meeting and elected new officers including Gwendolyn Sutton of Monumental Baptist Church in Milwaukee as their new president. Cindy Vang had served four years in the role.

Next year's annual meeting will be Oct. 3-24 at Ebenezer Community Church in Brooklyn Park, Minn. Jonathan Woodyard will preach the convention sermon. Alternate preacher is Ben Bolin, pastor of Calvary Church in New Prague, Minn.
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Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 2:58pm
LifeWay to host first Women's Leadership Forum in the West
By Joy Allmond

NASHVILLE (BP) -- The LifeWay Women's Leadership Forum will make its western debut at Mariner's Church in Irvine, Calif., Feb. 20-21.

Since the inception of the forum, LifeWay Christian Resources has hosted thousands of women in the Nashville area and at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.

Kelly King, LifeWay's women's ministry specialist, said there's never been a more important time than now to come alongside churches in the West.

"We need each other," King said. "Not just as individuals and sisters, but as churches who have the same goal -- to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to spur one another on as we do that.

"I'm thrilled to link arms with other leaders -- perhaps some of whom we've never had the privilege to serve -- to accomplish great things for the Kingdom and in the lives of women."

The theme of the forum is "Flourish," which focuses on the important role of mentoring in disciple-making.

With its focus verse of Acts 12:24, King said, "Scripture has a lot of metaphors about planting seeds and where the seed falls. The result is fruitfulness. Our job is to plant the seeds, water them -- do that part of it -- but allow the Lord to bring the growth."

The women's forum is for women who lead or serve in the local church in women's and girl's ministry or by teaching Bible studies, as well entrepreneurs, stay-at-home moms and working professionals who walk out their leadership calling in their day-to-day life. Women attending the forum will sit under the teaching of today's top ministry leaders and authors, participate in breakout sessions led by experienced trainers, and learn from peers who serve in the local church.

Not only is it mission-crucial for LifeWay to host an equipping event such as the forum in the West, said King, but it's timely, given the theme and one of society's current challenges: loneliness.

"We live in an age of isolation," she explained. "It's a real issue that results in anxiety and depression. And we can find accountability and spiritual growth through mentoring relationships."

Ruth Chou Simons, founder and CEO of Colorado-based GraceLaced Co., is a keynote speaker for the forum.

GraceLaced, according to its website, is "a multi-faceted company rooted in ministry" that serves customers around the world through its offerings of gospel-inspired original prints, books and other gifts.

"I'm excited to serve and encourage women at the Women's Leadership Forum," Simons said.

"Nothing will impact our leadership as sisters serving sisters more than a steady commitment to the Word of God and the tools that help us to use our gifts in service. I can't wait to see how the Lord builds women through the forum."

LifeWay author Kelly Minter, another keynote speaker at the forum, said she's eager to break geographical ground for LifeWay's women's ministry on the West Coast.

"I can't think of a better part of the country to equip and encourage leaders in their ministries, especially since our culture is longing for truth and purpose," Minter said.

"We want to make Jesus known from East Coast to West, and I can't wait to see how the timelessness of God's Word ministers through the forum in Southern California."

The forum will also include smaller breakout sessions that allow leaders to customize their equipping experience based on their ministry roles. Attendees will hear testimonies of mentoring relationships, and there will be emphases on family and marketplace ministry.

"Collaborative Conversations" -- opportunities to network with other women who lead and trade ideas, strategies and inspiration -- will be available to all in attendance.

There will also be an on-site LifeWay store, which will offer books, Bible studies, apparel and other gifts.

The film industry will have representation through the main stage at the forum. Shari Rigby, who has starred in notable films like "October Baby" and most recently, the Kendrick Brothers' "Overcomer" is scheduled as a keynote speaker.

"LifeWay is bringing women leaders together to encourage and inspire them by uniting the East and the WestÑwomen empowering women," Rigby said.

"The world we live in today teaches us to focus on all that we see, spinning us out of control and causing anxiety to fill our lives. We must mentor women, reminding them to keep their eyes on Jesus."

Other forum speakers include LifeWay authors Jen Wilkin and Beth Moore, along with Mariners Church Pastor Eric Geiger.

Immediately following the conclusion of the leadership forum, LifeWay Women will host Living Proof Live with Beth Moore (Feb. 21-22), also at Mariners Church. Bundle pricing is available for women to attend both the forum and Living Proof Live at a discounted price.

Visit the forum website for more information and to register.

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Southern Seminary expands its non-residential doctoral studies program, adds two modular concentrations

LOUISVILLE, Ky., (BP) -- In an effort to make its doctoral studies program available to pastor-theologians everywhere, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary announced it is installing new doctor of philosophy modular concentrations in Biblical Studies and Historical and Theological Studies.

The two modular formats will bring Southern Seminary's high standard of excellence in biblical and theological studies to students previously unable to study them remotely.

The concentrations also underscore the school's commitment to excellence in biblical and theological scholarship in service to the church, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary.

"Southern Seminary's Ph.D. program has been the leader for over a century," Mohler said. "We believe these two new programs are incredibly strong. They will serve the church, give us flexibility we have never had in the past, and put us in good stead as we look to the future for this premier doctoral program."

The new programs will extend Southern Seminary's longstanding commitment to the highest standards of Christian theological scholarship, said Matthew J. Hall, senior vice president of academic administration and provost of Southern Seminary.

"Since 1892, Southern Seminary has offered one of the premier doctoral programs in North American theological education," Hall said. "Marked by the highest level of scholarship, a commitment to biblical authority, and a passion for the church, this stewardship continues in this generation. By offering the Ph.D. in these classical theological disciplines, we are now able to make this level of study accessible to even more, all the while complementing our traditional residential programs."

These programs will not only make traditional theological disciplines more available to students who cannot physically be on campus, they will also expose students to a broader range of disciplines and equip them to be better scholars and teachers at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Students in the biblical studies program will take courses in both Old Testament and New Testament directly from faculty in those departments.

Likewise, historical and theological studies students will take courses from Southern Seminary's church history and systematic theology faculty members.

The modular Ph.D. program is already excellent, said Jonathan T. Pennington, director of the research doctoral studies program, but these new courses will give modular students the opportunity to study under Southern Seminary's accomplished evangelical faculty.

"For over 125 years the goal of Southern's research doctoral studies program has been to provide rigorous scholarly training in a confessional environment, channeled into service for the Church and the Kingdom of God," Pennington said. "These new Ph.D. concentrations help us expand the heritage of our programs into the future and reach more people than ever."

These two modular concentrations will officially open in the Fall 2020 semester. Find out more about the program here: sbts.edu/newmodularphd.

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Hobby Lobby and Green Family donate campus to OBU

SHAWNEE, Oak., (BP) -- Hobby Lobby and the Green Family formally announced their donation of the former St. Gregory's University campus to Oklahoma Baptist University during a special event Wednesday, Dec. 11. The event took place at the Rockwood Center on the campus of the former SGU, now the OBU Green Campus.

Hobby Lobby purchased the property last year following SGU's bankruptcy proceedings, after St. Gregory's closed its doors in December 2017.

At that time, OBU offered a teach-out agreement to current SGU students, with many of them transferring to OBU to complete their degrees.

The donated property is approximately 72 acres, with 286,600 square feet contained in seven major buildings.

The donation deed for the property was filed earlier in the week, officially transferring ownership to OBU. St. Gregory's Abbey and Monastery will continue to occupy its current property, as will the Mabee-Gerrer Museum, as they operate as separate entities from the university.

The event included comments by Les Miller, real estate analyst for Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.; Dr. Pat Taylor, OBU interim president; Dr. Heath Thomas, OBU president-elect; Dr. David Whitlock, former OBU president and chancellor; and Dr. Will Smallwood, OBU senior vice president for advancement and university relations.

Miller, a 1981 OBU graduate, offered remarks on behalf of Hobby Lobby and the Green family, who founded and owns the corporation.

"It is with great joy that God has extended to the Green family the opportunity to invest in the future of Oklahoma Baptist University and her students, through the donation of this beautiful property, now affectionately referred to as the Green Campus," Miller said. "OBU's history is one of steadfast faithfulness to God's Word, something that must remain the highest priority as a University devoted to impacting the world for Christ and His kingdom."

"OBU is known for providing the highest in quality, Christian liberal arts education," Miller continued. "OBU functions as a means of God's grace to the students who come here to be educated. Yet they receive far more as they step into her care – they are given the rare and unique opportunity where rigorous scholarship, together with a Christian world view, prepare the whole person for success, but also for the many challenges of life. In a time when Christian faith is viewed by the world as something to be tolerated, OBU embraces the understanding that a deeply meaningful and fulfilling university education includes a firm foundation established in Christ."

"For these reasons, and for so many more, it is an honor for the Green family and Hobby Lobby to present this property to Oklahoma Baptist University, to the future benefit of generations of students, on mission for Christ," Miller said.

Miller also shared deep-felt appreciation to St. Gregory's University alumni and former employees, who impacted the community and the state with more than a century of Christian higher education on the former SGU campus.

"The Greens would also like to recognize the long and outstanding contribution that St. Gregory's University made to the Shawnee community, to Oklahoma, and far beyond. The importance of this property to the community, the alumni, faculty and administration of St. Gregory's University does not go unnoticed. To the Benedictine Monks of St. Gregory's Abbey, thank you for your stewardship of this property and ministry to Oklahoma and points beyond."

Dr. Heath Thomas, OBU president-elect, concluded the ceremony with his words of gratitude for the gift of the Green Campus and anticipation of what the future holds for OBU.

"It is an historic day," Thomas said. "It is an exciting moment in the history of OBU. We are excited about the future of this Green Campus as we continue our mission to transform students' lives by providing distinctively Christian liberal arts higher education at OBU. It carries on the legacy of education that has gone on here for over a century.

"I join the chorus of those who have spoken this morning to express my heartfelt gratitude and say thank you to the Green Family, and to all who facilitated this generous gift to OBU. This is indeed a day of celebration."

Thomas continued with words of anticipation for how the campus will be used to transform lives into the future.

"As we move forward, we will work carefully and deliberately to ensure that this campus extends the legacy of Christian higher education begun by St. Gregory's University for over a century. And for that legacy, we are grateful, and we will carefully consider how best this campus will facilitate OBU's mission of transforming lives through a distinctively Christian liberal arts education."


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Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 1:21pm
OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) -- YouVersion Bible app announced its most popular verse of 2019, Philippians 4:6: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done."

The globally influential app has seen significant increase in downloads, engagement and consistent interaction from users new and returning around the world.

The overall increase of app use from the previous year is 30 percent, according to a release.

The statement also notes that 5.6 billion chapters of the Bible were listened to, 35.6 billion chapters read, 1.1 billion days were spent in Bible plans, two billion highlights, bookmarks and notes were made and more than 478 million verses were shared throughout 2019.

In all 11 years since the app's creation, it has been downloaded more than 400 million times.

Global outreach outside the United States has grown tremendously with the app now offering more than 2,000 versions and more than 1,350 languages.

The app has been downloaded in every country on earth.

Algeria saw the largest engagement increase, finishing the year at 261 percent growth.

Another prominent verse shared consistently was Matthew 6:33: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you."

This verse was the most shared in Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Argentina, Spain, Thailand and Vietnam.

Trevin Wax, senior vice president of theology and communications at LifeWay, said the commonality between countries and their most popular verse raises a lot of questions about the specific app usage in each individual country.

Socioeconomic status, church attendance history and denominational background could potentially play a role in the Bible app usage throughout the year, Wax said.

"It raises additional questions that make you wonder about the different contexts," Wax said. "It is fascinating to see so many different countries gravitating toward the same verses."

The cultural situations may be vastly different, but the inclination to share verses that call individuals to point their minds above, to God, is a commonality.

"People that are sharing Bible verses in YouVersion look like they gravitate towards action verses where it's something of a daily jolt or a reminder of what it is that we're all to be about," Wax said.

Matthew 6:33 is a command from Jesus to seek the kingdom and Philippians 4:6 is a command to be God oriented, to take whatever it is we encounter in our lives to the Lord.

"What's interesting to me, is how many of these number one verses, regardless of what country they come from, are pointing upward," Wax said. "They [the verses] are, when someone shares them, making a statement about their [the person's] own being, to be reoriented to things that are above, not things on the earth."

"What we are seeing in global engagement is exciting to us because with every verse highlighted, plan day completed, or audio chapter listened to, that's a person who is being transformed by knowing God more intimately through spending time in the Bible," said YouVersion founder Bobby Greunewald in a release.

YouVersion also partners with illumiNations to develop Bible translations.

Their goal by 2033 is that 95 percent of the world's population will have a complete Bible, 99.9 percent will have a complete New Testament and 100 percent will have at least some part of Scripture translated in their native language.

"The importance of the Bible cannot be overstated for the health and life of the Christian church," Wax said.

In many cases of Bible translation there may not even be a written language, Wax said. The translation of the Bible goes beyond sharing the Gospel to bringing a sense of cohesion to the language itself.

"It's an honor and a privilege to have God's Word," Wax said. Witnessing others receive a Bible for the first time can shake out the complacency some may have toward the Bible.

"We grow familiar with the world-shattering impact of the Gospel," Wax said.

YouVersion's goal for future Bible translations should be a reminder of the power of God's Word and is something we should be very grateful for, Wax said.

Wax noted that the sheer number of app downloads and level of engagement with the Bible through the app during 2019 is encouraging because it shows the level of connection points people are having with Scripture.

However, connection to individual verses is not truly enough for a lifetime of faithful, biblical study, Wax said.

"I think we celebrate this because its people connecting to the Bible," Wax said. "But on the other hand, we as the church have our work cut out for us in making sure that engagement leads to a fuller immersion in the passages of Scripture that may be more obscure but that are all pointing us to the Gospel and leading to life transformation." Read more...

Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 12:28pm
NASHVILLE (BP) -- This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, LifeWay publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week's Bible study is adapted from the Explore the Bible curriculum.

Bible Passage: Numbers 20:1-13

Discussion Questions:

-- What does the way a leader responds to criticism reveal about his or her character?

-- How can a believer deal with criticism in a God-honoring way?

Food for thought:

Arthur Flake outlined a simple plan for growing an ongoing Bible study ministry, which he called Sunday School. That plan came to be known as Flake's Formula and included these elements: Know the possibilities, Expand the organization, Enlist and train leaders, Provide resources, and Go after the people. In his notes, Flake identified two objections he expected to hear from his critics: It won't work here and We tried that. Most leaders have encountered these same two, tiring objections at some point in their lives.

In Numbers 20, we find Moses yet again being badgered by the Hebrews. He was grieving the death of his sister -- the person who watched him float in a basket as a baby before being rescued by Pharaoh's daughter -- but his grief did not deter his critics. Moses and the Hebrews were in Kadesh and in need of water -- again. One might think by now the Hebrews would have known God would provide, but that does not appear to be the case. Instead they bring their complaints to Moses with accusations and regrets. Moses and Aaron put their personal grief aside and humbly approached God. God showed up and gave them a plan of action without them even asking. Problem solved.

Our only refuge is going to God and seeing His counsel. Once He provides us with that counsel, we then can act with confidence. Unfortunately, Moses and Aaron did everything right, except follow to the letter what God told them to do. They struck the rock just as they had done in the past, but God had told them to speak to the rock.

Criticism can wear on the strongest of people, especially when they are dealing with a personal loss. We can know that even in the most difficult of circumstances and when facing our harshest critics, we can depend upon God to identify our next steps. Our responsibility is to obey, following exactly what He directs us to do.

Explore the Bible
Explore the Bible is an ongoing Bible study curriculum that helps groups dig into the key truths of each Bible book, while keeping the group on pace to study through the Bible books in a systematic way. More information can be found at LifeWay.com/ExploreTheBible.

Other ongoing Bible study options for all ages offered by LifeWay can be found at LifeWay.com/SundaySchool or ordered at LifeWay Christian Stores.
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