Category Archives for Front Page Posts

‘Tis the season for soul-winning for SBC president

January 11, 2017

By Will Hall, Editor
Louisiana Baptist Message

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Baptist Message and is used by permission.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – While Christmas means a lot of things to a lot of people, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention sees it as an opportunity to put the exclamation point in “Jesus is the reason for the season!” by soul-winning, and this year that means 400 new believers are professing “Jesus is Lord!” because of a Christmas program.

Steve Gaines, pastor of the historic Bellevue Baptist Church in the Cordova area of Memphis, Tenn., is quick to credit others, with special praise for the tradition of soul-winning at his congregation to the leadership of former long-time pastor Adrian Rogers, as well as the vision for the presentation of the “Singing Christmas Tree” to former music minister James Whitmire.

Still, under Gaines’ leadership this flagship congregation continues to use every opportunity, especially Christmas, to reach others for Christ, and the evidence is in the results.

During 2015, the church averaged more than 7,000 in worship attendance and witnessed almost 600 baptisms – that is a per capita average of one baptism resulting for every 12 people who are active attenders (or 12:1). For the Southern Baptist Convention, the ratio is about 19:1 for established churches and even SBC church plants only achieve a 14:1 relationship (The smaller the proportion, the better. It means it takes fewer members to reach more lost people).

Moreover, Gaines is adamant about engaging the new believer for discipleship.

“We really try to ‘conserve the fruit,’” Gaines told the Baptist Message.

He used the “Singing Christmas Tree” outreach as an example.

“I share the Gospel at the end and lead them in a time of prayer and decision making. Then I tell them we have two gifts for them, a new Bible and a booklet, ‘Now That You’re Saved.’”

In the picture atop this article, Steve Gaines, SBC president and pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., prepares to baptize a young girl on Jan. 1. She is one of 50 new believers he baptized that day. Gaines hopes to re-invigorate soul-winning as “the main thing” among Southern Baptists.

“It tells them the main things they need to do, now that they’ve given their hearts to Christ,” Gaines said, describing the resource as an outline of the basic spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship and such.

The gifts are distributed at several tents where spiritual counselors engage the new believers and begin the process of involving them in discipleship, which results in many of the converts being baptized.

Mark Blair, the minister of music who now directs the “Singing Christmas Tree” evangelism event, said the effort is very thorough.

“We have a team of people who follow up with every person who made any kind of decision,” he said. “The information is shared with Life Group leaders and ministers, and every contact is followed up on in the next week.”

Gaines said they now use this same system at Easter with great results, saying the unusual circumstances of these special services drives the process.

He said in both cases “most lost people come with family or with friends. So they don’t really have the ability or the luxury of staying behind and talking a long time that particular time.”

“We’ll have 200 or 300 people get saved every Easter,” he continued, “where before we were seeing three or four, maybe 10 at the most get saved.”

Blair said one of the special aspects of the “Singing Christmas Tree” effort is that it involves nearly 500 students from 4th grade through college – a signature feature of Whitmire’s former leadership.

Blair said what is special about these young people is the spiritual focus they embrace, starting with rehearsals which begin as early as August.

“We talk about it every rehearsal,” Blair said. “In some way, in every rehearsal from Labor Day forward, we’re talking about the ‘why’ and not the ‘what.’ We talk about inviting unchurched people.”

Gaines said that is the DNA of Bellevue Baptist.

“I don’t care what it is – funeral or wedding – we are reaching out to the lost,” he said. “We don’t do anything without sharing the Gospel. It is just part of who we are.

He wants the same thing for the Southern Baptist Convention.

“I can’t make anybody do anything,” he said. “But, I can lead by example and inspire people.

“People are going to Hell and we don’t have time not to make sharing the Gospel the main thing.”

Gaines closed his conversation with the Baptist Message by giving an example of the results of Bellevue’s emphasis on soul-winning at Christmas.

“A family came up to me this year and shared they were from somewhere in New Jersey,” he recalled.

“The wife told me, ‘We came down here two years ago and my husband prayed and asked Christ to come into his life, and I want you to know he’s a brand new man.’”

The best part, Gaines said is that now the wife is saved, too.

“‘We both were baptized,’ she told me, ‘and now we are in church.’”

‘Tis the season for soul-winning!

 

It Pleases God to Damn Most People to Eternal Torment

January 10, 2017

By Ronnie W. Rogers, Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church Norman, Oklahoma

Commenting on Romans 9, John Calvin candidly explains, “He concludes that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth (Rom 9:18). You see how he refers both to the mere pleasure of God. Therefore, if we cannot assign any reason for his bestowing mercy on his people, but just that it so pleases him, neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his will.” (italics added) Continue reading

Does the ERLC, Under Russell Moore, represent the SBC?

January 6, 2017

 Message Editor Will Hall

Will Hall, Editor
Baptist Message of the Louisiana Baptist Convention

Editors Note: This article originally appeared in the Baptist Message and is used by permission.

ALEXANDRIA – When an unnamed staffer “boasted” to the online media outlet Think Progress in October 2014 that Russell Moore had “completely rebranded” the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, few could have imagined what this meant.

However, Moore’s all-in campaign against presidential candidate Donald Trump, highlighted by his most recent attacks on Liberty University for hosting Trump at a student convocation, reveals something quite unexpected about Moore when he was elected to lead the ERLC in 2013—a penchant for disdain for Christians who think differently than him.

Moore rightly points out Trump’s moral flaws—and character should count—and he has a right and responsibility to comment on Trump’s policies and to share his view of what these might mean in terms of Christian values.

But Moore’s dislike for Trump goes beyond the pale, translating into disrespect and even contempt for any Christian who might weigh these considerations differently than Moore when comparing the range of personal beliefs and behaviors as well as public records of ability and achievement within such a large field of candidates for the White House.

DISRESPECT FOR OTHERS

In an editorial for the New York Times, Moore called evangelicals’ support for Trump “illogical” and declared “these voters must repudiate everything they believe” in backing Trump.

He even ranks the spirituality of evangelicals according to the candidate they support.

Roll Call, a Washington, D.C., newspaper, reported Moore as saying, “Ted Cruz is leading among the ‘Jerry Falwell’ wing, Marco Rubio is leading in the ‘Billy Graham’ wing and Trump is leading the ‘Jimmy Swaggart’ wing.”

“He was suggesting that Cruz appealed to Moral Majority types like Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, who has endorsed him,” Roll Call observed. “And Trump, Moore said, attracts ‘the prosperity wing of Pentecostalism,’ who tend to believe God will ‘financially reward believers.’”

— Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of the Liberty University his father founded, called Trump “a breath of fresh air” when introducing Trump to students and faculty Jan. 18.But Moore’s scale for assessing one’s biblical bona fides appears politically calculated to raise his own stock at the expense of other evangelical conservatives:

— Robert Jeffress, pastor of the 12,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, wrote in an editorial for Fox News that evangelicals back Trump for his strong leadership: “They are not under any illusion that Trump will be conducting Bible studies in the Oval Office, nor do they feel like they are abandoning their Christian values to support Trump,” he said.

— Franklin Graham, president of his father’s Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, also seems to invalidate Moore’s hierarchy of righteousness.

Although, Graham has said he will not comment on the presidential race, he has announced support for Trump’s position on U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran. He also agreed with Trump’s objection to bringing Syrian refugees into the United States: “For some time I have been saying that Muslim immigration into the United States should be stopped until we can properly vet them or until the war with Islam is over,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

DOUBLE STANDARD

While Moore stridently opposed Trump’s appearance at Liberty University, he did not object to the self-described Socialist Bernie Sanders who spoke there only three months ago (Sanders is pro-abortion and strongly supports gay marriage).

For that matter, Moore has held his own candidate forum, managing to grab a prime slot during a Southern Baptist missions conference—with 13,000 in attendance, July 2015, in Nashville—to interview Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

He also confessed he had invited Hillary Clinton—who has a raft of personal convictions and public positions which contravene Southern Baptists’ stated consensus beliefs—but that she declined. Moore said he was disappointed Clinton did not attend because he felt “he could have modeled our disagreements with her with civility.”

But he offers no such civility for Trump or his supporters.

Importantly, Moore failed to invite three White-House-seeking Southern Baptists to his question and answer time —Lindsey Graham (now withdrawn from the race) Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee, who served 10 years as governor of Arkansas was educated at a Southern Baptist college and a Southern Baptist seminary, pastored Southern Baptist churches and served as president of a Southern Baptist state convention (helping to raise millions of dollars for Southern Baptist causes)—and he has already experienced the highs and lows of running for president as a proud Southern Baptist.

If Moore was looking for someone to explain the issues and politics of the 2016 presidential campaign in context of the vision and values of Southern Baptists, he missed the mark.

SOUTHERN BAPTIST SNUBS

Obviously, Huckabee was not the face of evangelicals Moore wanted to project to the audience, and on that note, Moore has shown apparent disdain for traditional Southern Baptists:

— During a Sept. 2015 meeting, he told ERLC trustees “We must see to it that the future of the SBC is not a bunch of old, angry white men who have around us a few people that are African American and Latino and Asian Americans.” Yet, four out of five of his first top hires were white males—two of the five were not even members of Southern Baptist congregations but four of  the five had ties to the Calvinistic network The Gospel Coalition.

— This theme continued at the ERLC “Gospel and Politics” conference held in conjunction with “Send North America,” when one panel discussed how the era of “white, angry evangelicalism” was over. Yet, the overwhelming faces who appeared on stage for the whole of the event were white and male—just not men like Huckabee or Jeffress.

— He has even declared the Bible Belt (a map marked in Southern Baptist red) as populated by “almost Christianity” a kind of “God-and-Country civil religion that prizes cultural conservatism more than theological fidelity.”

TROUBLING DEVELOPMENTS

During his young tenure at the ERLC helm, other actions have been equally as troubling:

— An ERLC research fellow published an article in Christianity Today asserting “gay marriage remains an act rooted in love” and arguing Christians should affirm homosexuals’ “longing to be loved and belong.”

— His team played a major role in drafting “An Evangelical Statement on Responsible Care for Animals,” with a key member concluding in an accompanying article  that the “entire biblical witness” suggests “animals may very well be co-inheritors with us of the new creation.”

— He signed an Evangelical Immigration Table—Syrian Refugee Letter to Congress, arguing among other points against increasing security checks or enhancing the vetting process of those seeking to come to the United States from countries with a known ISIS presence. The 1,000-word missive cites Christian duties multiple times, but mentions Jesus only once to describe Him as “a refugee,” not as Savior, Lord or King.

— In a public flap perceived to be directed at Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, Russell Moore suggested Christians in public office should resign rather than resist after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned traditional marriage (despite an SBC resolution urging the opposite).

— He dismissed as a “utopian idea” the belief that “if you come to Christ and if you go through our program, you’re going to be immediately set free from attraction or anything you’re struggling with” in reference to reparative therapy and change from homosexuality (causing at least one national figure to suggest Moore should confer with actual experts on the matter.)

For the record, former lesbian Jackie Hill-Perry, now a Christian lyricist and hip hop performer, celebrates being completely changed, attractions and all.

“We’ve made God very little if we believe He cannot change people,” she says. “If He can make a moon, stars and a galaxy that we have yet to fully comprehend, how can He not simply change my desires?”

DISDAIN FOR LIBERTY

While Trump was speaking at Liberty University, Moore tweeted a stream of comments, each one more acerbic than the last: “Trading in the gospel of Jesus Christ for political power is not liberty but slavery … This would be hilarious if it weren’t so counter to the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ … Evangelicals can love a golden calf as long as Aaron promises to make Mexico pay for it.”

Afterward, he tweeted, “This is unofficial, I know, but Trump is apparently winning HUGE in the demographic of folks with eggs or cats as their Twitter avatars.”

QUESTION REMAINS

Shortly after Moore’s election to his ERLC post, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Moore’s mentor, offered an interesting observation to the Wall Street Journal regarding Moore’s future in context of the gravitas of his predecessor.

“When Richard Land spoke to most issues, he was certain that Southern Baptists were behind him and he was their mouthpiece,” Mohler said. “Russ will need a deft touch to make sure that Southern Baptists stay behind him.”

In the end, it’s a rhetorical exercise to ask whether the ERLC represents the SBC—organizationally, it absolutely does.

But the question many Southern Baptists are asking is whether this ERLC represents them.

Does it represent you?

 

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