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April 2009 Issue

From the President's Report to the SBC Executive Committee, February 16, 2009

Our nation has been brought to its knees financially. Now the question is, "How shall we respond?" What, if anything, will we do differently?

So many in our generation have tried and tested many gods only to discover none of them has the answer to the emptiness in their hearts. If the financial collapse in the United States has reverberated to every nation on earth, could not the fresh wind of God's Spirit reach every continent in the world? It can happen but only when we are serious enough about the things of God to abandon all of self for all of Christ. It can and will happen only when the church is ready to provide real spiritual leadership, to teach Kingdom values to the newborn in Christ, to do ministry, and to fulfill the Acts 1:8 imperative.

The general tenor of our country is one of fear and panic. If people don't find an answer for their panic, these dire predictions can actually become self-fulfilling.

First, we need leaders ...

In the midst of the nation's financial hardships, Southern Baptists have a prime opportunity to show unbelievers that what they've embraced is not fair-weather Christianity, Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said February 16.

"I thank God that what the Lord Jesus Christ has done in our lives will go the distance. The truth is ... it's not what's going to come against us that's going to make us or break us, it's what God has placed in us and what we choose to do with it," Hunt told the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville, Tennessee.

During a recent speaking engagement at the Georgia House of Representatives, Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock, said government officials lined up to ask him whether the Bible says anything pertaining to the financial difficulties Americans are facing.

Hunt said the Bible is the oldest collection of wisdom, and he called it the church's s...

Despite the nation's financial upheaval, "the generosity of countless numbers of men and women in the pews of our churches" is evident, leaders of the SBC's eleven entities and its women's auxiliary noted in an open letter to Southern Baptists released February 16.

Difficult circumstances often are "the platform on which God demonstrates His supernatural activity," the Baptist leaders noted. "What appears to many as a dark day may be the brightest day we have ever seen for reaching this generation for Christ."

The open letter was read by SBC Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman during the opening session of the EC's February 16-17 meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. Released through the Great Commission Council, which consists of SBC entity presidents and Woman's Missionary Union executive director, the letter also was signed by Atlanta-area pastor Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Randall L. James of Florida, chairman of the SBC Executive Committee.

The letter was drafted at a time when Cooperative Program giving is 0.81 percent ahead of the 2008 ye...

The resurrection of our Lord and Savior is more than just the object of sentimental reflection or the center of doctrinal statements.

A single hand rises above a sea of bowed heads covering the outdoor basketball court in San Miguel, El Salvador. An older man makes his way through the narrow row of plastic lawn chairs to place his hand on Alexander Efrain's shoulder. Together, the two walk to a set of cement bleachers where Efrain recommits his life to Christ.

Although he became a believer at age 14, Efrain says he felt the Lord calling him to recommit his life during the evening rally of the San Miguel Encouragement Conference, the first element of a new Southern Baptist initiative designed to forge relationships with other conservative evangelicals around the world.

In El Salvador, Southern Baptist pastors and leaders from the United States joined Salvadoran pastors and church leaders for the purpose of building mutually beneficial relationships across geographic bounds.

"We've come not simply to tell you what we know," Morris H. Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist C...

Adopting People Groups

For years, Southern Baptists assumed that only career missionaries could take the Gospel to unreached people groups in remote parts of the earth.

But today an increasing number of small and mid-sized congregations are dispelling that myth by adopting unreached people groups. These congregations are discovering that one church with willingness and passion can spawn a church planting movement amid spiritual darkness thousands of miles away.

"It's not the size of the church, it's the size of the heart that makes a difference. And I think that's something many of our churches have lost," said Dave Clippard, managing director of the church services group at the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board.


LifeWay Christian Resources

Heartbroken, Gilberto walked down a small village street in rural Chile with his toes busting out of his shoes. His brother had just died, and Gilberto wore the pain all over him.

Kathy Collins couldn't help but notice as she sat in the shade with others from her LifeWay Christian Resources mission team, escaping the noonday heat and munching on sack lunches. As Gilberto passed by, her heart melted at the sight of the despondent man. She chased after him and gave him the rest of her sandwich.

"He was so grateful," Collins said. "I wished I had shoes to give him."

Then Collins and another team member, Sergio Arce, shared the Gospel with Gilberto.

"When he received Christ, he was so emotional about it," said Collins, who serves as an editor-in-chief on LifeWay's children's ministry publishing team. "Tears were running down my face, too, because I realized that God was really providing for him in that moment...

A dozen widows and abandoned women in India's West Bengal state are now better able to care for their families, thanks to a Southern Baptist development project that drew on $22,000 from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund.

The project focused on women in two villages who were living in desperate poverty, some with small children who were suffering from malnutrition. Because they were members of a minority religious group, many of their neighbors looked down on them and would not help.

A Southern Baptist field partner who had seen the plight of these families believed their lives could be dramatically improved if the women were given a dairy cow and shown how to care for it. Not only would the assistance demonstrate Christ's compassion for all people, but it also could be done for as little as $80 per family.

"The gift of a cow to a desperately poor family is an appropriate expression of Christian charity and a tangible demonstratio...

Two Churches, One Lord

For a long time there have been two Stone Creek churches in Dry Branch, Georgia, just east of Macon. Except for the Gospel they preach, surface appearances have them as different as black and white. Beginning on Mother's Day last year it took a storm to bring them together.

That day a rash of fifteen tornados cut across central and north Georgia beginning at 4 a.m. The one to hit Macon around 6 a.m. was classified as an EF2. One of the churches it hit was Stone Creek Baptist Church 1874, destroying the building.

Down the road members of Stone Creek Baptist Church 1808 were relieved the storm didn't cause damage to their property, but they felt for their neighbors. Fifty-five year...

Many churches have giant Easter Egg hunts during this time to attract kids (and their parents). Some are criticized, saying it's a secular activity and the church should not be involved. I think it is great because my church gets lots and lots of names of the children who attend and sign up for prizes. Our FAITH teams love those names. What a way to reach young married families face-to-face, pray for those families (especially in these difficult days), and invite the children to come to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. The best part — we see many begin a new life in Christ. Moms and dads are encouraged to come to church where they will meet other Christian parents who will disciple them. And this "new life" gets stronger.

It may begin with the youngest age, but they will soon grow up to be students for Christ. Kids listen to kids sharing Jesus, as you will see in the testimony from Scott Harris, the pastor of Southside Baptist church in Southsid...

I recently spoke in Pensacola, Florida, with Art Linkletter who is 96 years old. He showed me a set of keys and said that when you don't know where they are, that's old age, but if you don't know what they are, that's Alzheimer's. He has a great sense of humor, and as I listened to him, I thought about how much longer people are now living. I then received a call that my mother-in-law, Jane, had just died. Jane had a great sense of humor.

She listened to and laughed at all of my mother-in-law jokes. Like the one about the man who said he was going on a pleasure trip — he was taking his mother-in-law to the airport. Or the classic one in which a tourist visited a town and saw a very unusual funeral procession. A horse-drawn buggy carrying two caskets led the procession. Behind the buggy was a man leading a dog and behind him walked one hundred men in single file. He was so curious that he just had to ask about the funeral. When he asked the man w...

Reaching First-Generation Immigrants with the Gospel

The largest Southern Baptist study ever conducted on ministry among first-generation immigrant groups is being undertaken by the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Research.

The research project, which will be translated into twenty languages, is surveying twenty-four key denominations and 114 other denominations representing three hundred or more U.S. and Canadian churches on their ministries for first-generation immigrants in the United States and Canada. LifeWay researchers also are conducting interviews with para-church organizations, missions and evangelism professors, missionaries working with first-generation immigrants, ethnic and multicultural church pastors,...