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June 2009 Issue

Actions do speak louder than words — and Johnny Hunt believes it's time a lost world sees Southern Baptists match their words with love in action.

That's the conviction behind the theme of the 152nd session of the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, June 23-24 — LoveLoud: Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

"Across America, people are thinking less and less of Christian groups," said Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock and president of the Southern Baptist Convention. "I think it's because we always talk about what we believe and don't spend near as much time demonstrating it. If it's really all about the glory of God, we ought to be doing things that cause people to see our good works and glorify our God in heaven."

With that in mind, Hunt said, the watchword for the annual meeting is Matthew 5:16 — In the same way, let your light shine before men,...

This summer The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will play host to the Southern Baptist Convention as the denomination holds its June 23-24 annual meeting in Louisville to commemorate its flagship seminary's anniversary.

The seminary will hold several events to mark its 150th anniversary, including an alumni and friends luncheon on campus at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24, in Heritage Hall and the main gym.

At 2 p.m., the seminary will hold a dedication ceremony for its new Duke K. McCall Sesquicentennial Pavilion, named in honor of the seminary's seventh president who held office from 1951-1982.

A campus-wide open house will follow from 3-5 p.m., with a book signing at the LifeWay Christian Store on campus.

SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. will host his Albert Mohler Program live radio broadcast from the Kentucky Exposition Center, site of the SBC annual meeting, on June 22 and 23. The radio show will originate from campus on...

North American Mission Board

The North American Mission Board will host an Annie Armstrong Easter Offering Appreciation Luncheon on Tuesday to honor the top SBC churches in giving to the annual North American missions offering in 2008, both in overall dollar amount and per capita giving. The luncheon, at 11:40 a.m., will be held in Room South B104-105 of the Kentucky Exposition Center.

NAMB Chaplains

The NAMB Chaplains Luncheon is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Monday in Room South C205 at the Exposition Center. The luncheon is sponsored by the North American Mission Board and typically is attended by some 150 SBC chaplains. This year's featured speaker will be Gary Chapman, noted author (The Five Love Languages) and family life minister at Calvary Bapti...

The Southern Baptist Convention's exhibit hall seeks "to promote and celebrate SBC work on the national and international level." The words of R. Clark Logan Jr., SBC convention manager and Executive Committee vice president for business and finance, reflect how the exhibit hall complements the SBC annual meeting. The exhibits' focus is on the work of the SBC's entities and seminaries, not as a profit-making venture for scores of vendors.

An update on shuttle service and parking information has been issued for the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, June 23-24 in the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.

One of the shuttle routes has been consolidated, convention manager R. Clark Logan Jr. has announced.

Logan, vice president for business and finance with the SBC Executive Committee, noted that shuttle service for the annual meeting is still scheduled for all specifically named hotels in two areas: KFEC/Airport Hotels and Downtown Hotels.

However, shuttle service has been consolidated for the Hurstbourne Area Hotels "due to low registration in several hotels and in an effort to be the best stewards of resources," Logan said, noting that four hotels will receive service instead of the original eight. Specifically, shuttle service will be provided for guests at the Courtyard by Marriott East, Drury Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn Hurstbourne, and Baymont Inn & Suit...

In 1961, John W. Peterson wrote Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul, a Gospel song that was to become wildly popular among Baptists and other evangelical Christians. It ultimately made its way into the 1975 Baptist Hymnal. Part of its appeal was a blending of what some older Baptists called "experimental religion" with sound biblical doctrine. Its third verse drew from a Bible verse rich in visual imagery:

Born of the Spirit with life from above into God's family divine,
Justified fully thru Calvary's love, O what a standing is mine!
And the transaction so quickly was made, when as a sinner I came,
Took of the offer, of grace He did proffer, He saved me, O praise His dear name!1

The verse from which this song's stanza is taken is visually gripping. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with ever...

When the EKG initiative was still in the dreaming and planning stage, I was privileged to be in a meeting with Dr. Morris Chapman as he presented the emphasis to several agency heads. While there was a genuine level of excitement about refocusing our denomination on the advance of God's Kingdom, there was one area of concern. No one wanted the title Empowering Kingdom Growth to suggest that any denomination could do anything to "empower" churches or individuals. Everyone agreed that the "empowering" for growth was the sovereign work of God through the Holy Spirit. Thus, this month we turn our attention to the work of the Spirit.

My focus intentionally will be somewhat narrow since other articles in this and future issues of SBC LIFE will deal with th...

Sojourn Community Church

When Sojourn Community Church assessed the physical and spiritual need in its neighborhood, one fact became clear — no church could meet such massive need alone.

So the Louisville congregation began to partner with fellow Southern Baptists and other likeminded believers to counter the poverty, racial tensions, and spiritual darkness around it. Sojourn's efforts culminated recently in a free medical clinic that harnessed volunteers from twenty-six churches to provide free medical services to 182 of its neighbors. At least 120 of those neighbors were not Christians and thirty-two requested that Sojourn follow-up with them in some way.

"As we have been exposed to the needs of the city, we have found that we cannot alone carry the weight of t...

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

On a sultry July day in 1856, an up-and-coming professor at Furman University stood before his faculty colleagues and delivered his inaugural address.

In his presentation, the 29-year-old James Petigru Boyce set forth a comprehensive vision for theological education in terms of "three changes in theological education;" its seismic impact upon the Southern Baptist Convention could hardly have been imagined on the day nearly 153 years ago.

A robust theological education, Boyce argued, must be open to all men who are duly called to and gifted for ministry without a prerequisite course of study, it must produce the best-trained men in the world, and it must be lashed to a clear, fulsome confession of faith.

Boyce's three-pronged vision continues to reverberate through the halls of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2009. Boyce founded Southern Seminary in 1859 in Greenville, South Carolina, upon those three changes and as it celebrates its se...

When I was in the sixth grade at a Christian school, one of the boys called me a "fag." I was standing with some girls, and he was standing with some boys, and the boys laughed and looked at me like I was not one of them. I did not even know what a fag was, but I knew it wasn't good. When I finally did find out what it was, I wondered myself: "Am I a fag?"

I was a good boy, raised in a Christian family. I certainly didn't want to be gay, but I also had to admit that for as long as I could remember I did not feel like I fit into the world of boys. My friends were girls, and my interests were more like their interests. I had a good relationship with my parents and a happy, secure home — but I identified more with my mother and felt very different from my dad and my younger brother.

My church clearly taught that homosexuality was a sin. I believed that to be true, but I couldn't distinguish between homosexual behavior and these strange...

Your Church and Homosexuality

When I first realized I needed more information on ministering to people who struggled with same-sex attraction, I really didn't know where to turn. Conversations with friends revealed that they didn't know much more about the subject than I did. I looked in Christian bookstores but at that time they had very little on the topic.

Today, I often hear from pastors who face that same difficulty. While there is definitely more material available today, that in itself can create as much difficulty as the dilemma I faced. How do you determine what is accurate and helpful? What will help me minister effectively to those who struggle with this issue? What will equip me to deal knowledgeably with the cultural claims? And, while we may feel confident that we are familiar with the relevant Scriptures, how prepared are we to answer the new gay apologists?

Answers to some of these questions will require hours of study, attending or sponsoring workshops, and time dialoguing with t...

Southern Baptists are continuing to provide desperately needed relief to families suffering in Zimbabwe's unprecedented economic disaster.

"The current unemployment rate is reported to be 94 percent and the annual inflation rate was estimated this past October at 2 trillion percent," said Mark Hatfield, who with his wife Susan directs work in Sub-Saharan Africa for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization. "One expert put the rate in December at 516 quintillion percent — the highest ever recorded."

The country's new national unity government emerged from a weekend retreat April 6 with a visionary 100-day plan to bring Zimbabwe out of its downward spiral. The agenda focuses on five "clusters" — the economy, security, infrastructure, social services, and interests and rights.

The challenge they face, however, staggers the imagination, Hatfield said. The only goods available...

The Evangelism Response Center

When you think of evangelism, you might not automatically link it to computer technology, phone banks, and Web sites; and you might not associate it with witnessing by phone to a person on the other side of the country. But that could change as the North American Mission Board's (NAMB) Evangelism Response Center (ERC) connects churches and people within a growing network of technological resources.

Dr. N.S.R.K. Ravi, coordinator of the ERC, delights to tell of Southern Baptist volunteers who, from their own homes, have led thousands to faith in Christ over the phone through this cooperative effort between NAMB, local churches, phone volunteers, and LifeWay Christian Resources.

Patricia Zimmerman, a 71-year-old widow in Arkansas, was the ERC volunteer of the year for 2007. She has led nearly three hundred strangers to Christ. But the retired registered nurse and substitute teacher never had to leave her home in the heart of the Ozarks to do so.

Samuel Hill, an 8...

Bad research travels fast ... especially when it relates to the younger generation.

"The end is in sight," bemoans one journalist in his daily column. "Eighty-eight percent of evangelical children are leaving the church shortly after they graduate from high school," declares another publication. One prominent Web site warns, "Christianity in America won't survive another decade unless we do something now."

Unfortunately, people are impacted and swayed by what they hear. And these alarmist statements (all of which have no research validation) lead many to conclude that Christians in America have no future in an increasingly dark world. Reports like these can cause some to question if even a minor presence of Christianity will remain in future generations of Americans. Looking toward the horizon, some might be tempted to conclude that the church looks bleak and dying in a place where it once flourished. If the reports were true, we would b...

Friends, here is a powerful testimony I heard recently. Teresa and her husband, Dr. David Ritter, know the urgency we have before us. Consider — and be challenged by — their story.

My brother, Benji, was only 3 when he died. He was the baby, and our whole family — my two sisters, my Mother and Daddy, and I — loved him so much.

Benji and I were playing with a turtle outside one day, not knowing how dangerous it could be. Turtles can seep disease through their skin, and he contracted encephalitis from that turtle. He became very ill, and we had to take him to the hospital. We believed he would get better but he got worse, and they had to put him on a breathing machine.

Then the doctor called my sisters and me to the hospital to say good-bye to Benji. We thought he was coming home, but he was still on the ventilator and when we grew older we realized that he was brain dead. I still remember where his crib was in the ICU and the doctor ...

Most of what I do is Sunday Relationship Conferences (which, by the way, hasn't been happening very much recently; the economy has resulted in my calendar having more holes than Swiss cheese). One message in the conference is "I Am Woman Hear Me Roar, I Am Man Tell Me More." One church changed it to "I Am Woman Hear Me Roar, I Am Man Watch Me Snore." I guess that's why another message title is "Helping the Handicapped — Men." Men need help in their relationship and communication skills. Couple that with the fact that many women think that if they can just find the right man, they'll live happily-ever-after. So the result is many become frustrated and desperate housewives. Our society doesn't help the problem — we just produce a TV show about it.

Most women are disappointed to discover that the goo of the romance will not be the glue of their marriage. Unfortunately, many women turn to the wrong people for advi...

Youth Camp at the Southern Baptist Convention

Students who go with their families to the Southern Baptist Convention's June 23-24 annual meeting in Louisville will have the opportunity to experience Centrifuge on site.

Churches from the Louisville area and SBC entity employees also are invited to bring their students to Fuge as a day camp.

LifeWay has offered Centrifuge for the past five years as an event for rising seventh-graders through college students to attend while their parents attend the convention.

"Offering Centrifuge at the SBC annual meeting location corresponds directly with the SBC initiative to minister to the whole family,&qu...