THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

New International Mission Board President David Platt said his head was “still kind of spinning” the morning after his Aug. 27 election by IMB trustees. “It’s good, though,” he told IMB global correspondent Erich Bridges. Their interview touched on mobilizing the next generation of missionaries, and the value of traditional Christian institutions in penetrating spiritual lostness.

“That’s the beauty in what God has created, even in the Southern Baptist Convention on a large scale – 40,000-plus churches working together, and the IMB keeping that coalition focused on reaching unreached peoples with the Gospel. The key is [building] strategies and structures and systems that help fuel a movement, that don’t inhibit the movement or cause churches to abdicate their responsibility in mission.”

Chicagoland pastors, planters share ministry challenges with SBC leaders
Frank Page
, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, was in Chicago last month for two “listening sessions” with leaders where the discussions touched on church size, diversity, church planting, and the challenges of urban ministry. Read the story from the Illinois Baptist here.

Seminary eyes new campus, new name
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary has signed a purchase agreement for its new campus in southern California, President Jeff Iorg announced in August. The school, currently located in Mill Valley near San Francisco, plans to relocate to the 153,000-sq.-foot building and adjoining property in Ontario, Ca., by June 2016.

Iorg also said the seminary will request that the Southern Baptist Convention approve a new name—Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. “The new name connects to our heritage, frees us from geographic designations, allows for developing a more global identity, and acknowledges our Baptist distinctive.”

Pastors call Driscoll to step down
Nine pastors at Mars Hills Church have called for Pastor Mark Driscoll to step down from ministry for a year in the wake of charges of verbal abuse and ungodly leadership. A 4,000-word letter from the pastors was circulated two days before Driscoll announced he would take a six-week leave of absence while the charges were investigated, Christianity Today reported.

In reponse to the letter, which was leaked online, a newly formed Board of Elders for Mars Hill responded with their own message to Mars Hill members, asking them not to “react in fear or anxiety” or “pronounce judgment before the time.” Read more at

Barna studies Christians and public schools
New research from Barna found 95% of Protestant pastors believe Christians should be involved in helping public schools, and more than 8-in-10 church-going Christians agree. While 65% of people who regularly volunteer at public schools are church attenders, Barna said, there are some factors holding Christians back. 44% say they don’t have children in public school, 18% don’t think public schools want religious people to help, and 17% are unsure how to help.

Church planter Scott Venable (second from right) shares about the process of starting Mosaic Church in Wicker Park, during a listening session hosted by SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page.

Church planter Scott Venable (second from right) shares about the process of starting
Mosaic Church in Wicker Park, during a listening session hosted by SBC Executive Committee
President Frank Page (photo below).

NEWS | Frank Page
is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, but he also carries the title CEO, which he has often said means “chief encouraging officer.” Operating in that role, Page joined pastors and church planters in northern Illinois for two “listening sessions” in August.

Throughout the year, Page has met with leaders in several states. In Chicagoland, he and members of his staff hosted church planters at a luncheon in Edgewater to discuss specific ministry challenges related to planting in the city. They also were at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church for a session with more than 50 leaders.

“I think the key is building relationships and building trust,” Page told SBC Life about the listening sessions. “It’s time to build some momentum on correct relationships.”

Broadview Pastor Marvin Parker said he was impressed Page “is taking the time to go around the country, to hear what SBC pastors are talking about.” In the Chicago sessions, Page and leaders addressed several issues:

Page_blogChurch size and diversity. Page previously has called small churches the “backbone” of the convention. In the session at Broadview, he told leaders that a large majority of Southern Baptist churches run 100 people or less, said Pastor Don Sharp. “And to me, that’s a story that needs to be told over and over and over again,” said Sharp, pastor of Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church in Chicago.

“…We hear these stories of people coming in places and [the] membership’s quadrupled and the baptisms are off the board, so to speak, but it doesn’t speak to many of us” pastors of small churches, Sharp said. Faced with the comparisons, leaders can fall into fear that they’re the reason their church doesn’t measure up.

“If nothing else, I came out of that meeting with a sense of, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, and leave room for God to do the rest.’”

The group also discussed diversity in the SBC, and the need for more ethnic groups to be represented in convention leadership, Sharp said. He paraphrased Page’s words: “The election of Fred Luter (as the SBC’s first African American president) should not be an anomaly…it shouldn’t take another 30 or 40 years for something like that to happen again.”

Cooperative Program education. The CP is Southern Baptists’ main method of supporting missions around the world, but it doesn’t have a Lottie Moon or Annie Armstrong to help promote it. “One of the keys for the future is to somehow put a face on the Cooperative Program,” said IBSA’s Dennis Conner during the Edgewater meeting of church planters. “We are deep into a cultural shift where people want to know the people they support.”

That challenge is something his team deals with every day, Page said, asking for ideas. The planters suggested using social media or daily news briefs to connect Southern Baptists with missionaries they support through the Cooperative Program.

The Executive Committee’s Ashley Clayton suggested a more foundational plan to help communicate the importance of CP giving in the next generation. “Perfunctory” support for CP has been tailing off for several decades even among older Baptists, Clayton said. There’s a need to elevate again Baptists’ core values, like international missions, reaching unreached people groups, planting churches, and theological education.

“These are core values, that when you say it in a room full of pastors, they nod their heads, they’re in agreement, they go, ‘Yeah, I’ll support that.’”

The Chicago challenge. Also in Edgewater, Page heard from Chicagoland church planters about how long it often takes to grow a church. Michael Allen, city coordinator for Send North America: Chicago, said he tells planters, “When you come to Chicago to plant a church, buy a cemetery plot.”

“In other words, don’t come to Chicago thinking I’m going to try this church planting thing and see if it works out….Many [church planters] who start do not last, and I think primarily they didn’t realize just how hard the ground is, and how much gumption you have to have.”

Page told the leaders around the lunch table that he understands the role of a sponsoring church pastor, but hasn’t had personal experience as a church planter. “I don’t even pretend to understand what you might be going through,” he said.

“I will tell you that what I hear, what I’ve seen in the past four to five years, is that things are changing across our nation….Even in the deep south, we’re seeing an encroaching lostness in some areas that is profoundly more than what you might think.”

The planters and Page discussed the temptation church planters have to move to a new place with the hope of winning the city, but without really understanding its culture and context.

Page said he was praying for “an indigenous move of God, that native Chicagoans will be able to reach the city for Christ, in addition to those that God does bring in from the outside that has called, and equipped, and [that] have the staying power to get it done.”

HEARTLAND | Nathan Knight

It doesn’t take long when reading the Bible to see that God is impassioned for the plight of His people, such as this passage in Exodus:

“Then the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them….'” (Exodus 3:7-8).

Nathan_Knight_Sept1In the face of an ever-increasing worldwide persecution of Christians, we would be wise to cultivate practices in our churches that might more readily reflect this notion of God’s nature. I would like to note three ways you can implement this in the life of your church that will, eventually, lead to three rewards.

Three practices:
1. Apply biblical truth locally by using what is happening globally. Every pastor labors to try and faithfully apply the truths of the Bible in a way that will assault his people and spur them on toward faithfulness. They do that by considering their own context and using aspects of it to illustrate or apply that particular truth.

However, considering a different context will help your congregation identify with the plight of God’s people around the world. For example, when preaching or teaching through 1 Peter, don’t limit the illustrations and applications of persecution only to homosexuality or other American problems. Take them to the checkpoint just outside of Mosul where they are walking with their family and will have to answer for their faith in Christ. Bring them into the homes of those who just received word of the mock crucifixions of converted Christians in Syria.

Occasionally sprinkling in ideas like these will serve to strengthen faithfulness in our more immediate contexts.

2. Pray frequently, specifically and experientially. If we pray for the plight of God’s people in our public services, it is often done in short order or in a sort of peripheral way that does not resonate with the actual circumstances of the world. Don’t just pray for the persecuted church when it is on the calendar; pray for them often so as to engrain it into the minds and hearts of the people.

Praying continually will help your church understand that persecution is going on continually and will model the realities of our brothers and sisters in other countries. And when you do pray, pray for specific people in specific places. This will serve to put a face on otherwise formless peoples.

Also, genuinely pray in the mood of the situation. If I asked you to breathe life into the lungs of a victim the same way I asked you to pick up some milk at the store, we would rightly think something has gone awry in my soul. Likewise, consider the situation and pray in a manner that reflects it.

3. Be meaningfully involved in the nations. Appropriating 10 percent of your monies toward international missions is a good thing but it is not sufficient to build a fervency among your congregation for the people of God around the world. As a church, we have adopted a couple of communities around the world, and we have people who travel and work in others.

By sending people and resources to Christians in various communities, we make the people at our church more familiar with situations that might have just been another story on the evening news.

As you apply these practices to the particular church you pastor, you’ll probably begin to notice the culture of your congregation changing. Here’s what I believe you’ll joyfully reap.

Three Rewards:
1. Outsiders will be more warmed to your church. You don’t make an international church by simply putting “international” in your name. Making the nations a regular diet of your service will engender internationals to feel more at home. Also, the lost will see that you are not trying to hide yourself from the world and paint it with rose-colored glasses, but instead, you are broken by its brokenness. This will often pleasantly surprise the lost and possibly have them listen to your answers.

2. You will prepare your people for suffering. Paul told Timothy that “all those who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3.12). We pampered American evangelicals have been living a dream for a while. But the normal experience of Christians in history is to suffer for what they believe. We are not entering into a strange time of history, but a more normal one (see 1 Peter 4.12).

Bringing the realities of the world to the fore of God’s people will only serve to help believers in their own navigation of an increasingly hostile world.

3. Your church will grow into another facet of Christ-likeness. Let’s not forget that Christ understood Saul to be persecuting Himself when Saul was assaulting the church (Acts 9.4). The more we knead into the dough of church life — the realities of God’s people all over the world, both the good and the bad — the more we will come to understand all that it is to be in Christ.

Nathan Knight is pastor of Restoration Church in Washington, D.C. This column from Baptist Press first appeared at the website of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission,

IMB Trustee Chairman John Edie (left) and Tom and Jeannie Elliff (right) pray over new IMB President David Platt and his family. IMB photo

IMB Trustee Chairman John Edie (left) and Tom and Jeannie Elliff (right) pray over new IMB President David Platt and his family after he was elected August 27. IMB photo

NEWS | New International Mission Board President David Platt answered media questions by phone shortly after IMB trustees elected him on Wednesday. Platt addressed concerns about his church’s giving through the Cooperative Program and the importance of local churches to the work of the IMB.

From the Baptist Press report on the conference call:

On cooperation in the SBC
“There are scores of non-traditional churches that are totally disengaged from the SBC and the Cooperative Program and even from the IMB,” Platt said. “…I don’t think the way to mobilize them is to tell them they ought to give or make them feel guilty for not giving but to show them that this is worth giving to.”

Platt added that cooperation within the Southern Baptist family is “the wisest, most effective means for working together with other churches to see the Gospel spread.”

On local churches and the IMB
Local churches are central to the IMB’s work, Platt said, noting that congregations must do more than merely provide funds for overseas ministry.

There is a common misperception that “the local church just exists to send money and send missionaries and then the IMB kind of takes care of it,” Platt said. “We’ve really got to make sure that paradigm is turned upside down so that the local church is the agent that sends missionaries and shepherds missionaries, and the IMB comes alongside local churches to do that.”

On the Cooperative Program
Platt was asked whether he will urge churches to give to missions through the Cooperative Program—Southern Baptists’ unified program of supporting missions and ministries—or encourage designated giving directly to the IMB. In response, he acknowledged a constant need to evaluate and improve CP but said it should continue to be “the primary economic engine that fuels” Southern Baptists’ cooperative ministry endeavors.

“The last thing the SBC needs is a do-it-alone IMB that’s trying to in any way undercut the Cooperative Program,” Platt said.

Platt was asked specifically about the CP giving of the congregation he pastors in Birmingham, Ala., The Church at Brook Hills. The church has contributed to the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget and, according to an IMB news release, has contributed directly to the IMB. Gifts sent directly to the Executive Committee or an SBC entity are defined as designated gifts, not CP giving.

In 2013, The Church at Brook Hills gave $100,000 to the SBC CP Allocation Budget through the Executive Committee; $25,000 to the Cooperative Program; $12,500 to the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home; $15,000 to the Birmingham Baptist Association; $300,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; and $325,000 to the International Mission Board in special designated gifts, for a total of $777,500, or 8.9 percent of the church’s total receipts for the year, to Alabama Baptist and Southern Baptist causes.

Projections for 2014, according to the IMB report, are: $175,000 through the SBC Executive Committee; $25,000 to the Cooperative Program; $15,000 to the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home; $68,000 to the Birmingham Baptist Association; $300,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; and $718,000 to the International Mission Board in special designated gifts, for a projected year-end total of $1,301,000, or 13.8 percent of total projected church receipts.

Platt said he does not consider The Church at Brook Hills a “perfect model of giving” and is not holding it up as an example for every church to emulate. However, he said the church was “totally disengaged” from the SBC when he arrived eight years ago and has made “major strides” in cooperation.

It has been a blessing, he said, “over the last eight years, to see how we have made by God’s grace major strides in working with associations [and] conventions in planting churches here in North America, and then through the IMB sending church planting teams overseas.”

As he works with churches, Platt said he will advocate CP as a means rather than an end.

“What I want to trumpet more than anything else is the Great Commission and disciples made here and among the nations,” he said. “That’s what we cooperate together for, right? It’s not just cooperation for the sake of cooperation. We’ve got cooperation with a goal in mind: We want to see God glorified in the church here, God glorified among peoples around the world that haven’t even heard the Gospel.”


David Platt, preaching at the 2014 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference in Baltimore

BREAKING NEWS | Trustees of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board have elected David Platt to succeed Tom Elliff as the agency’s president. More than 4,800 missionaries serve around the world through the IMB, the world’s largest evangelical, denominational missions agency.

Platt, author of the bestselling book “Radical” and a popular conference speaker, is known for his intense preaching and focus on authentic discipleship. The 36-year-old currently is pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.

Due to an online mix-up, his election was announced prematurely, causing some confusion in the Southern Baptist blogosphere. The SBC Voices blog made light of it, offering a sequence of updated headlines and finally landing on “David Platt is the New IMB President (It’s Official NOW!??!).”

A video message and letter from Platt to his congregation was posted immediately on Brook Hills’ website after the official vote was announced.

“We talk all the time about laying down a blank check with our lives before God, with no strings attached, willing to go wherever He leads, give whatever He asks, and do whatever He commands in order to make His glory known among the nations of the earth, particularly among people who have never heard the gospel,” Platt said.

“Over these past months, God has made it abundantly clear to both Heather and me that He is filling in that blank check in our lives and family with a different assignment. Along the way, God has used the elders of our church to affirm His call, and today He used the leadership of the IMB to confirm it.”

David Uth, chairman of the search committee who recommended Platt, said the new IMB’s new president will be instrumental in mobilizing the next generation of missionaries.

“I think the missionary force, the young people God is calling … represent one of the greatest forces in Christian history right now,” Uth said in an interview after Platt’s election.

“While the world is becoming more hostile and anti-Christian in some places, it’s as if [young missionaries'] passion is growing equally to go to those hard places. That’s where we hear young couples saying they want to go, that they want to be radically obedient to what God has called us to do for the nations. The passion is there. How do we equip them and resource them? How do we incorporate strategy that’s effective? David is going to address that in a way that’s going to bring maximum impact.”

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Newly released from Emory University Hospital, missionary doctor Kent Brantley used a press conference to talk about his Christian faith, and to thank everyone who prayed for him while he fought the Ebola virus. “I cannot thank you enough for your prayers and your support,” Brantley said in this NBC News video. “But what I can tell you is that I serve a faithful God who answers prayers.”

Brantley and fellow doctor Nancy Writebol were both given an experimental drug after being infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia. According to an Aug. 20 update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 624 people in Liberia have died from the virus, which also has spread in Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. What is believed to be a different strain of the virus has also been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Amid controversy, Driscoll announces leave of absence
Pastor Mark Driscoll told his congregation Aug. 24 he will step away from Mars Hill Church for at least six weeks, while church leaders examine charges against him made by 21 former pastors. “Storm clouds seem to be whirling around me more than ever in recent months, and I have given much thought and sought much counsel as to why that is and what to do about it,” Driscoll told his Mars Hills Church in Seattle, reports Christianity Today. “The current climate is not healthy for me, or for this church…. I am sorry for that, and I grieve with you.”

Earlier this month, Driscoll and Mars Hill were removed from fellowship from Acts 29, the church planting network he helped found. (Southern Baptist pastor Matt Chandler currently serves as president of Acts 29.) A day after the network’s decision, LifeWay Christian Resources pulled Driscoll’s books from its stores and website.

The_BriefingNew HHS policy doesn’t solve main problem, Moore says
A division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released new rules for non-profits and “closely-held” corporations that object to a mandate requiring them cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health care plans. But the new plan still allows for an insurer or third-party administrator to cover the services, reports Baptist Press.

“What we see here is another revised attempt to settle issues of religious conscience with accounting maneuvers,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “…The administration is setting itself up as a mediator between God and the conscience on the question of the taking of innocent human life.”

‘God’s got us,’ says husband of lye victim
Update: Jan Harding was released from the hospital Aug. 23.
Baptist leader Jim Harding told reporters Aug. 21 his family is sad, rather than angry, about the Aug. 10 poisoning of his wife at a Utah barbeque restaurant. Jan Harding is still hospitalized with esophageal burns after taking a sip of sweet tea that had lye in it. “We have absolute confidence in our God,” said her husband, a professor at the Utah extension center of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Read more at

Volunteers serve with Illinois church planters
Church planters in Chicagoland and northwest Illinois partnered with volunteers Aug. 16 for the most recent edition of Serving Across Illinois, a year-long focus on meeting practical needs. Teams hosted block parties and celebrations, tidied up schools, and handed out water and Bibles to bikers. Click here for photos from the day.

On August 16, church planters in Chicagoland and northwest Illinois partnered with missions volunteers for a “Serving Across Illinois” focus day. Teams helped planters prepare for back-to-school season with landscaping projects, community celebrations, and other outreach events.

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