Archives For Baptist Press

Ronnie SmithAUSTIN, Texas (BP) — American teacher Ronnie Smith, who was gunned down during his morning jog near the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, served on staff at Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, before moving to Libya.

The church is affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Acts 29, an independent church planting network. Smith was director of equipping and resources at Austin Stone from 2009-11, and before that he served for two years as a pastoral intern.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Smith’s Dec. 5 murder, but Islamist militants in October had called for the kidnapping of U.S. citizens in Libya. Hospital officials said the teacher had been shot multiple times. His death came 15 months after an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Grieving friends on opposite sides of the globe remembered Smith, 33, as a devoted teacher, family man and Christian.

Smith held a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin and had been teaching chemistry at the International School Benghazi for 18 months. His wife Anita and their young son had returned to the United…

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PRETORIA, South Africa (BP) — Former South African President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s ‘long walk to freedom’ has ended. He died today (Dec. 5) at age 95 at home after months of declining health.

“All of us in the country must accept that Madiba is now old,” South African President Jacob Zuma had said when Mandela seemed near death this summer. “As he ages, his health will trouble him.”

Southern Baptists joined diverse leaders worldwide who hailed the civil rights champion for his life’s work against apartheid, economic injustice, AIDS and other ills.

Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, noted the heroism of the leader who rose from 27 years of incarceration to become the first black South African president as well as a hallmark of freedom and a leader of worldwide acclaim.

“Nelson Mandela’s heroism will outlast him throughout untold generations. Mandela will be remembered for standing up to a racist regime, for persevering under persecution, and for leading his country toward democracy,” Moore told Baptist Press. “Mandela’s move from prison cell to president’s office…

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C S LewisC.S. Lewis died the same day as John F. Kennedy 50 years ago. Twenty years before that in the midst of World War II — before the Normandy invasion when the outcome of the war was still uncertain — Lewis delivered a series of lectures for the University of Durham that he published as “The Abolition of Man.” Had he written nothing else, Lewis would be important for how Christians understand culture because of his analysis of the great change occurring in our culture that, now, almost has come to completion.

Lewis only wrote one more piece of philosophical apologetics after writing The Abolition of Man, as he shifted to a different form of apologetics that would speak to the changing culture more effectively.

Lewis argued that our educational system had begun to teach children that all values are only statements about how we feel. If values are only statements of feelings, then nothing is right or wrong in itself. We may not like something, but that is only the way we feel about it. Objective value does not exist from this point of view. This perspective frees people from any…

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Cross Church Pinnacle HillsTo create a culture in your church, business or nonprofit organization, you must be clear about two things: your vision and mission.

Vision is a future picture of what you see or what you want to become. Mission tells you why your church, business or nonprofit organization exists and what it does.

An organization’s culture, then, is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that flow from vision and mission.

As Southern Baptists, our missional vision, or mission statement, is clear: “As a convention of churches, our missional vision is to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.”

When your mission and vision are clear, then you establish a set of core values. Core values are how we behave — how we treat each other. These values are our guiding principles; they guide us in our decision-making processes and help align our decisions with the future we want our organization to experience.

For Southern Baptists, our core values are:

— Christ-likeness

— Truth

— Unity

— Relationships

— Trust

— Future

— Local church

— Kingdom

We as individual Christians can impact our church and organizational culture through…

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Ever wondered how you know when someone needs encouragement? Here’s a simple test. It works every time. Check and see if they have a pulse.

Pastor, one of the members in your congregation whose heart beats regularly for you is your wife. She’s your No. 1 fan and your No. 2 responsibility after your relationship with Jesus. She needs encouragement.

Here are five practical ways you can do that:

1. Pray with your wife. One of the most important and encouraging activities you can do with your wife is join with her in prayer. When she hears your struggles and sees your vulnerabilities, she knows you trust her with your heart. She also knows the man behind the pulpit not only needs God’s power and grace but he also needs his partner in ministry.

2. Publicly praise her ministry. Many times a pastor believes that to praise his wife publicly shows favoritism and a sense of entitlement, but it truly demonstrates a spirit of gratefulness for her calling and recognition for the sacrifices she makes every day for your ministry. Keep in mind, her greatest ministry may be…

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My Hope AmericaNike Ladapo shares a birthday week with Billy Graham, and the soon-to-be 50-year-old Texas woman is following his lead on the most fulfilling way to celebrate a milestone birthday.

For his 95th birthday on Nov. 7, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is kicking off a weeklong endeavor to reach the country with the Gospel. From Nov. 7-10, more than 22,000 churches are participating in “My Hope America with Billy Graham,” reaching out with the love and Good News of Christ in homes and other venues across the country.

Nike, a member of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church, signed up after a Sunday service (Oct. 6) to host a “My Hope Party” at her home. She said she cannot imagine a better way to celebrate her birthday than by inviting family, friends and neighbors to her home and then sharing what Christ has done in her life and how He can transform their lives.

“Matthew 28:19 tells us that we are to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth and help fulfill the Great Commission that the Lord has given us,” she said. “My Hope America is a great opportunity to…

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What Crossroads Church in Hinesville, Ga., is doing to obey God and penetrate lostness in Toronto seems crazy. They are, you might say, at a bit of a crossroads and have decided to take the path less traveled.

Crossroads Church is selling their church building and its 16 acres, setting aside more than $1 million and — with no solid prospects of where they’ll meet — continuing to call themselves a church and make plans for future ministry. They have hopes a local school will let them use their space.

The church has designated the funds from the building and property sale for church planting work locally, throughout North America and globally — and has no plans yet to start building anything new. To top it all off they’re sending their pastor, Danny Eason, to another country to start a church just as things were getting good.

Eason and his family are leaving where they’ve been their whole lives and moving to Toronto, a place they’ve been twice. He admits this is a miracle in itself.

“Sometimes I think I am nuts for leaving,” Eason said. “The church is a great church. They’re willing, with…

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A church in south Alabama is taking action to stop the scourge of pornography by hosting a men’s event called “Battle Plan” to speak frankly about what must be done to equip believers for victory.

What they’re doing, pastor Ed Litton said, can be replicated in churches across the nation.

Litton has been pastor of First Baptist Church in North Mobile, Ala., for nearly 20 years, and in the past five years or so he has noticed what he calls a cultural avalanche.

“I’m certain other people are seeing it too, but as a pastor I’m watching marriages in my church be ravaged and destroyed. I’m watching men become less directional about their leadership role in the home and the church,” Litton, a former president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference, told Baptist Press.

“In counseling and trying to deal with these issues, we suspected that one of the major issues for men is pornography.”

First Baptist North Mobile’s effort coincides with the Join One Million Men anti-pornography initiative ( set forth at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in June. That movement, launched by pastor Jay Dennis at First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla., calls men…

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Facebook ScamsNASHVILLE (BP) — Rick Warren is among the latest Christian leaders targeted by phony Facebook pages using his name to bilk money from supporters.

Criminals have established more than 200 fake Facebook pages soliciting funds supposedly in memory of Warren’s son Matthew, who committed suicide in April, Warren tweeted followers. The pastor of mega Saddleback Church in Lake Valley, Calif., told followers he had shutdown 179 of the pages as of Aug. 6.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that Saddleback is indeed seeking donations for the church’s Matthew Warren Fund for Mental Health under the umbrella of the New Horizons Foundation of Colorado Springs, Colo.

Christians can avoid such scams by investigating such solicitations before making contributions, said LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer, whom criminals have twice targeted on Facebook, most recently this year.

“The biggest issue is that these scams don’t work if you don’t give money,” Stetzer told Baptist Press. “If someone asks you for money via a Facebook message, be skeptical. Check it out.

“In my case, I would never send someone a Facebook message asking for money, so if you get such a message, you need to ask, ‘Is…

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Young Adults Leaving ChurchKANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — Why young adults leave the church is one of the most vexing questions facing the church today.

A LifeWay Christian Resources survey from 2007 indicated that 70 percent of 18–22-year-olds stop attending church for at least one year. Surveys by The Barna Group repeatedly have shown that a majority of 20-year-olds leave church, often never to return.

Citing a recent study by the Brookings Institution, author Rachel Held Evans recently suggested, in essence, that millennials are leaving evangelical churches in search of more progressive fellowships because of dissonance with the more conservative doctrinal stances and cultural convictions of their former congregations.

Yet it seems to reason that if compromising biblical convictions attracted millennials, then mainline denominations would be teeming with young adults. On the contrary, mainline churches are proof positive that liberal theology does not magnetically draw young adults to church.

Causation for young adults exiting the church has been studied for decades, yet little has been accomplished in the way of reversing it. As a Gospel preacher, seminary president and father of five young children, to me this is more than a theoretical concern.

At the risk…

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The Supreme Court has now ruled on two monumental marriage cases, and the legal and cultural landscape has changed in this country.

The court voted to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and remand the decision of the Ninth Circuit in the Proposition 8 case, holding that California’s Proposition 8 defenders didn’t have standing. The Defense of Marriage Act decision, meanwhile, used rather sweeping language about equal protection and human dignity as they apply to the recognition of same-sex unions.

But what has changed for us, for our churches, and our witness to the Gospel?

In one sense, nothing. Jesus of Nazareth is still alive. He is calling the cosmos toward His Kingdom, and He will ultimately be Lord indeed. Regardless of what happens with marriage, the Gospel doesn’t need “family values” to flourish. In fact, it often thrives when it is in sharp contrast to the cultures around it. That’s why it rocketed out of the first century from places such as Ephesus and Philippi and Corinth and Rome, which were hardly Mayberry.

In another sense, though, the marginalization of conjugal marriage in American culture has profound implications…

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WASHINGTON (BP) — Religious liberty continues to suffer globally at the hands of extremists and totalitarian governments, according to a new report by a congressionally approved watchdog.

In its annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended the same countries it had proposed in 2012, with one exception, be named to the list of the world’s worst violators of religious liberty. USCIRF urged the U.S. State Department April 30 to designate 15 governments as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs).

Those 15 recommendations included eight for redesignation that already have been labeled CPCs by the State Department: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. The other seven USCIRF proposed for CPC designation are Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.

The bipartisan commission — which advises the White House, State Department and Congress on religious freedom conditions overseas — recommended Turkey’s inclusion on the CPC list last year but not this year.

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