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The Briefing

‘Great Commission’ lacks great understanding among churchgoers
51% of churchgoers say they haven’t heard of the Great Commission, according to new research from Barna that also shows only 17% say they know the meaning of the Scripture passage where Jesus tells his followers to make disciples of all nations. But the data doesn’t necessarily mean people aren’t sharing their faith, say the researchers.

“The data indicates that churches are using the phrase less, which may reveal a lack of prioritizing or focusing on the work of the Great Commission, but may also indicate that the phrase, rather than the scriptures or the labor, has simply fallen out of favor with some.”

FBC Sutherland Springs set to rebuild
The church massacred by a gunman’s attack last November will launch a new building project in May with the “primary goal…to lift Jesus up in the community,” said Frank Pomeroy, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The North American Mission Board, a missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, will accept donations for the project and cover any remaining costs for the construction of the church’s new worship center and education building, Baptist Press reports.

SBC Executive Committee calls meeting to address leadership transition
Following Frank Page’s exit as president of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, Baptist Press reports the entity’s chairman has called a special meeting April 17 whereExecutive Committee members will have the opportunity to discuss interim leadership matters and elect a presidential search committee. Page announced his retirement from active ministry March 27, citing a “personal failure.”

University event aims to combat ‘Christian Privilege’
Just four days after Easter, George Washington University will host a training session for students and faculty that teaches that Christians — especially white ones — “receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country.” The April 5 diversity workshop is titled “Christian Privilege: But Our Founding Fathers Were All Christian, Right?!”

Churches trending—slowly—toward diversity
The vast majority of Protestant pastors say their churches are still composed predominantly of one racial or ethnic group, according to data from LifeWay Research. But the percentage is lower than four years ago.

Sources: Barna Research, Baptist Press (2), The College Fix, LifeWay Research

 

 

 

Greear and Hemphill

J.D. Greear and Ken Hemphill will be nominated for SBC President when the denomination convenes in Dallas.

 

The 2018 election for president of the Southern Baptist Convention looks a lot like what happened in St. Louis two years ago. But one thing is different about the race between J.D. Greear and Ken Hemphill—public campaigning is making a comeback.

Hemphill in particular has received support from some Baptist state executives, including Missouri’s John Yeats and Louisiana’s David Hankins, the latter who was part of the group that appealed to Hemphill to throw his hat in the ring. In a statement on his personal website, Hankins called Hemphill “thoroughly Southern Baptist” and noted his commitment to the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified method of support for missions and ministry.

“Dr. Hemphill values and promotes the work of the LBC and the other state conventions and has been a lifetime advocate in word and deed of the CP, without which we cannot carry out our ministries,” Hankins wrote.

In announcing he would nominate Greear, Florida pastor Ken Whitten noted Greear’s own commitment to missions, while pointing to the 44-year-old’s ability to bridge the SBC’s generation gap.

“We bleed missions. We bleed evangelism, and we bleed the Gospel of Jesus Christ…J.D. Greear will give us the opportunity to impact another generation while continuing to honor the former generation of Southern Baptists.”

While endorsement statements, especially from nominators, aren’t out of the ordinary, more public forms of campaigning have been largely absent during the past several SBC elections. This year, however, some leaders are speaking more openly about which candidate they endorse, and the conversation has shifted to debating the propriety of SBC electioneering.

The Louisiana Baptist Convention drew fire from Greear supporters and others when it was reported that the convention initially hosted Hemphill’s campaign website, kenhemphill2018.com. After posts on some Baptist blogs expressed concern about the perceived use of Cooperative Program funds to facilitate a website for one candidate, Hemphill told Baptist Press the site wasn’t funded by CP dollars, but that it would be moved to an independent server to avoid “any impression that it was inappropriate.”

“If anyone got the impression the website was funded with CP money,” the candidate said, “I’m sorry, because I would never do anything to erode confidence in CP giving.”

Campaigning was also an issue during the lead-up to the 2016 election between Greear and Memphis pastor Steve Gaines. That spring, a member of Greear’s church produced a rap video parody to Run D.M.C.’s “It’s Tricky.” Ashley Unzicker’s video about the intricacies of leading the SBC featured several SBC leaders, including International Mission Board President David Platt and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, rapping the song’s repeated refrain, “It’s tricky.”

North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder newspaper reported critics of the video said it functioned like a campaign ad, and the leaders who appeared in it were endorsing Greear for the presidency.

The buzz around the issue of campaigning could serve as a new way to operate when it comes to SBC elections, said one Baptist blogger. Iowa pastor Dave Miller, who edits SBC Voices, put forth some guidelines for “limited campaigning” in a recent blog post. In it, he wrote Baptists need to be honest about the convention’s political nature.

“There are actually people who will get upset if you say that the SBC is a political organization, as if that is somehow antithetical to being spiritual. But we get together and have meetings where we make motions and vote and hold elections. That, my friend, is called politics. Hopefully, those politics can be done by the fruit of the Spirit not the works of the flesh, but it’s still politics.”

Check back here for more updates on the Southern Baptist Convention June 12-13 in Dallas. Read both candidates’ introductions on Baptist Press here: 

-J.D. Greear to be SBC president nominee again
-Ken Hemphill to be SBC president nominee

-Meredith Flynn

 

Petition aims for Billy Graham holiday
A North Carolina man has garnered more than 115,000 signatures to an online petition effort to name a holiday in honor of evangelist Billy Graham. Kyle Siler addressed his Change.org petition to President Donald Trump and other lawmakers, noting that Graham, who died Feb. 21, “preached the gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history.”

Mississippi poised to enact nation’s earliest abortion ban
Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to sign legislation approving a ban on abortions in Mississippi after 15 weeks gestation. The ban would be the earliest in the U.S., lowering the state’s current ban by five weeks.

Pastors challenge housing allowance ruling
A group of pastors and religious leaders have filed an appeal to protect the minister’s housing allowance, which was declared unconstitutional last year. Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin ruled last year that the housing allowance violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause—which bans government-established religion.

Mohler answers ‘ask anything’ questions on campuses
Southern Seminary President Al Mohler’s dialogue with university students is based on two overarching questions: Does God exist?, and Does he speak? “If I didn’t have that assurance, I wouldn’t dare stand up in front of an audience…to talk about how we can ask and answer the biggest questions of life,” Mohler said at UCLA during the second stop on his Ask Anything Tour of college campuses.

MLB team hosts anti-porn seminar
The Kansas City Royals took a break from on-the-field spring training to hear from Fight the New Drug, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the harmful effects of pornography.

The Briefing

Chaplains comfort Florida families
Hours after last week’s school shooting in Florida, chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association arrived to minister to students and families. The team and others like it have traditionally been called to help after natural disasters, Christianity Today reports, but more and more of their deployments are now in response to manmade violence.

Baptists in Florida gathered to grieve and pray in the aftermath of the shooting.

T-shirts at center of conscience freedom case
A Kentucky T-shirt printer is facing a legal challenge over his refusal to print shirts for a gay pride festival. “All we are asking for is that the government not force us to promote messages against our convictions, said Blaine Adamson, owner of Hands On Originals apparel company in Lexington. “Everyone should have that freedom.”

Going offline for Lent
Social networking topped the list of what people are giving up for Lent this year, according to a list generated from posts on Twitter. Since 2009, social media has made at least one appearance in the top five every year. Filling out this year’s top five: Twitter, alcohol, chocolate, and swearing.

Headlines from the Winter Games
The Winter Games are in their second week in Pyeongchang. Former Illinois Baptist editor Tim Ellsworth is covering the Olympics for Baptist Press, including:

IMG_5178 (1)

Church leaders from 13 Midwestern states gathered in Springfield, Ill., this week to share success stories and struggles—and to encourage each other through both—at the Midwest Leadership Summit, a meeting organized every three years by Southern Baptist state conventions in the region.

“We share the same love for our communities and vision to see people come to Christ,” said Missouri pastor Tim Burgess, “and getting together is a great reminder that we are not working at this alone.”

Watch the Midwest Leadership Summit recap video.

Over three days at Springfield’s Crowne Plaza Hotel, around 1,000 people heard from their Midwestern neighbors on a wide range of topics: collegiate church planting, urban ministry, church revitalization, women’s ministry, and a host of others presented in more than 90 breakouts.

In large-group sessions, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell interviewed four Midwestern church planters who have seen God grow their congregations from as few as one, into churches that welcome hundreds of worshipers each week. Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary, spoke on advancing the gospel in the current culture. And church planting specialist Darryl Gaddy shared from his experience in Detroit, calling leaders to be agents of change.

IMG_5013“Being a change agent means you have to give up your rights to someone else,” said Gaddy (right). “That someone else is Jesus Christ.”

At a luncheon for Illinois leaders following the summit, participants reflected on the most helpful, encouraging, and challenging things they heard.

Gary West, pastor of North Benton Baptist Church and director of missions for Franklin Baptist Association, said he gained new insight into how to extend the gospel to Millennials, the generation generally categorized as people born between 1981 and 2000.

“I’m re-looking at the dynamics of church and the things you used to do that don’t work anymore,” West said. “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationships.”

Look for more from the Midwest Leadership Summit in the Feb. 5 issue of the Illinois Baptist, online at ibonline.IBSA.org.

The Midwest Leadership Summit Recap (2018) from IL Baptist State Association on Vimeo.

 

 

The Briefing

HHS division created to guard right of conscience
A new division within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is earning praise from religious liberty advocates. The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division will “more vigorously and effectively enforce existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom, the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights,” the Trump administration announced Jan. 18.

“I am thankful that HHS recognizes how imperiled conscience rights have been in recent years in this arena and is actively working and leading to turn the tide in the other direction,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Health care professionals should be freed up to care for the bodies and minds of their patients, not tied up by having their own consciences bound.”

Christian student organization takes university to court
A student organization deregistered by the University of Iowa is fighting the school’s decision in court. Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) was deregistered in November after a former member said he was not allowed to become a leader in the organization because he is gay.

Evangelist Palau shares cancer diagnosis
International evangelist Luis Palau announced last week he is fighting stage 4 lung cancer. Acknowledging healing “would literally take a miracle,” Palau also said he is “completely at peace.”

Parenting research: More kids, not enough time
Two recent Pew Research studies measure current family dynamics, both for moms, who are having more children now than a decade ago; and dads, who say they spend too little time with their kids.

Midwest Baptist leaders meet in Illinois
The Midwest Leadership Summit begins today, drawing Southern Baptist leaders from 13 states to Springfield, Ill., for plenary sessions and breakouts facilitated by ministry leaders in a variety of specialties. Follow along on Twitter with #mwadvance.

The Briefing

Court rules against bakers
Sweet Cakes by Melissa shut down after a heavy fine was levied against its owners for not participating in a same-sex wedding ceremony. Aaron and Melissa Klein took their case to court, but on Dec. 29, the bakers lost in the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Former fire chief gets partial court victory
Kelvin Cochran, the former Atlanta fire chief terminated for writing a devotional book in which he advocated a biblical view of marriage and sexuality, won a partial victory in court Dec. 20, when a judge decided the city rules under which he was fired are unconstitutional. In other religious liberty issues related to the case, however, the judge ruled against Cochran, Baptist Press reports.

Kasich approves Down syndrome abortion ban
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a law Dec. 22 prohibiting abortions in cases where prenatal tests reveal Down syndrome or if there’s “any other reason to believe” the genetic condition exists. North Dakota and Indiana have similar laws, although the Indiana measure has been blocked by a federal judge, CNN reports.

New data explores evangelical diversity
One in three people who identify as evangelical is nonwhite, according to 2017 research. The numbers rises to four in 10 of those who are evangelical by belief, reports Christianity Today in its analysis of research on diversity and the church.

The year’s most popular passages
The most popular Bible verse around the world in 2017 was a command to be strong and courageous, according to Bible app YouVersion. Joshua 1:9 was the most shared, bookmarked, and highlighted verse by the global YouVersion community, The Christian Post reports, while in the U.S., Romans 8:28 topped the list.