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April 2011 Issue

From the SBC Executive Committee President’s Address February 22, 2011
I love him and gave my heart to Him many years ago. He is our Lord and I call on Southern Baptists today to be a Jesus people, to be a Jesus Convention, to be a Jesus denomination. It is my true desire that you would forget who I am, but that you would remember our Lord Jesus. To be quite honest with you I do not have much confidence in me, nor do I honestly have much confidence in you as human beings. I am well aware of the daunting challenges before us and it makes me negative, pessimistic, and doubtful regarding our future. However, please listen carefully. I have great confidence in our Lord! Because of that, I can tell you I believe our future can be bright and productive. As Jesus people, we already have the agenda set out for us. I believe that agenda will be accomplished not by the success of the Convention or even churches. I believe it will occur when I and you begin to witness as we should, to give as we ought, and to love as Jesus did. Personal revival will lead to corporate revival, and we will see the accomplishment of our Lord’s agenda.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee released a review of ethnic church and ethnic church leader participation in the convention February 22, setting forth recommendations “to foster conscious awareness of the need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist life.”
Thomas (Tom) D. Elliff, longtime Oklahoma pastor, Southern Baptist Convention leader, and former missionary, was elected as president of the International Mission Board by unanimous vote of the IMB trustees, March 16, in Dallas. Elliff, 67, a longtime pastor, Southern Baptist Convention leader, and former missionary, will lead one of the largest evangelical missions agencies in an era of rapid change at home and around the globe.   The greatest mission challenges, he said, are the world’s overwhelming spiritual lostness and the urgency of mobilizing churches to take the Gospel of Christ to all peoples.
Trustees of the North American Mission Board approved sweeping changes Wednesday, February 9, altering the focus, strategy, leadership, and organizational structure of the Southern Baptist entity. The changes come almost five months to the day after trustees voted last September 14 to approve Kevin Ezell as NAMB’s president.   The package of changes approved by trustees involves four primary areas: NAMB’s national strategy; a regional approach to how NAMB will do its work; an organizational restructuring that will align NAMB’s staff chart with its new strategy; and four new vice presidents who will give leadership to key ministry areas.
The Christian pastor’s responsibility is not to “save the world” but simply to sow the seeds of the Gospel, leaving the results to God, Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright said February 22 in a sermon he called an encouraging text for ministers—the Parable of the Sower.   Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, said it can be discouraging to watch people lose interest in the Gospel after seemingly being sold-out for Christ. But the parable, he said, makes clear that many people will accept Christ and bear fruit. Wright made the comments during an address to the SBC Executive Committee.
Executive Committee members, Southern Baptist Convention entity heads, and other guests gathered in Nashville, Tennessee, Feb. 21 to inaugurate Frank Page as the SBC Executive Committee’s sixth president.   Page officially assumed the position Oct. 1 after serving 30 years as a pastor and in various denominational roles, including SBC president. Guests were led in worship in the Van Ness Auditorium at LifeWay Christian Resources by Travis Cottrell, and several of Page’s colleagues spoke and prayed for him.
When I am asked to describe LifeWay in a phrase, I encapsulate it in this way: “We are a ministry built on a business model.”   These two components—ministry and business—are essential to what we do. The business aspect of LifeWay helps us provide ministry resources to churches and individuals around the world. Our vision statement captures this idea well: As God works through us ... We will help people and churches know Jesus Christ and seek His Kingdom by providing biblical solutions that spiritually transform individuals and cultures.
The Southern Baptist relief effort in Japan has moved forward in spite of uncertainties about the ongoing nuclear crisis in the northeastern part of the country.   In late March, a “second wave” team joined the two-member assessment team who arrived March 12, said Jeff Palmer, executive director of the Baptist Global Response international relief and development organization. Two additional disaster relief specialists, in joining the two assessment experts, will facilitate the launch of an initial Southern Baptist disaster response.
Changes are in store for the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting—including two missionary appointment services, fewer business sessions and no night sessions—in hopes that more people will participate, according to the chairman of the committee planning that meeting. Proposed changes include trimming the program to morning and afternoon business sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 14-15, and scheduling missionary appointment services for both of the convention’s two mission boards, said Will Langford, pastor of Great Bridge Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Virginia, and the chairman of the SBC Committee on Order of Business.
Southern Baptists coming to Phoenix for Crossover 2011 will join a massive network of Southern Baptists cooperating for the Gospel. Together, they will aid an oasis of local churches Saturday, June 11, in ministering to the spiritual thirst in their communities.   Crossover, now in its twenty-third year, is an evangelistic outreach event held the weekend before the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.
The autonomy of the local church has been a central tenet of Baptists since before the foundation of the SBC in 1845.
As we move toward the annual SBC meeting in Phoenix, Southern Baptists should be ecstatic with the rehabilitated and entrepreneurial spirit of missions which is passing through our ranks. Indeed, there is a new wind blowing deep and wide across the Southern Baptist Convention and, like the Santa Ana winds of Southern California, you cannot help but notice its presence or escape its effects. Across the country and at every level in our Convention there is what could be described as a fiercely-held, shared allegiance to the high calling of missions among SBC pastors, churches, associations, state conventions, and entities. It feels like a constant wind, gusty at times, breezy at times, but always welling up, always reminding us that change is in the air.
South Hills Baptist Fellowship in Montana City, Montana, got its start fourteen years ago with help from the Cooperative Program, but it didn’t take the congregation long to forget its Southern Baptist heritage. By the time Steve Young was called as pastor in 2008, the church had decreased its CP giving to 2 percent of undesignated offerings, down from its original 10 percent in 1998 to help support Southern Baptist work in Montana, across North America, and around the world.
I heard a preacher say, “If you hear that I have died tonight, when you bury me, stick up a sign that says, ‘Temporary residence. I’m coming back up. You can count on it!”’ I say, Amen and don’t look for me in the graveyard! That’s good news from the graveyard but it’s also a strange place for good news. That’s what Easter is all about!. If you’re looking for Jesus, don’t look in the graveyard. He isn’t there. He left the graveyard 2,000 years ago and never went back. And if you are looking for a Christian loved one who has passed away, don’t look in the graveyard because Jesus said, “Where I am you will be also.”
A growing number of teenagers and young adults are virgins, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics described as “the largest and most in-depth federal report to date on sexual behavior” in the United States.  What’s more, the mainstream media is recognizing that the trend may be attributable in part to abstinence education. An Associated Press article stated, “...perhaps emphasis on abstinence in the past decade has had some influence.”
Charles Plumb, a US Naval Academy graduate who flew jets in Vietnam, was shot down by a surface to air missile. He ejected and parachuted into the jungle where the Viet Cong captured him and held him prisoner for six years in North Vietnam. Today, Charles Plumb lectures on lessons learned from that experience. One day, he and his wife were sitting in a restaurant and a man from another table came over and said, “You are Charles Plumb who flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!” Plumb asked how in the world he knew that. This man told him, “I packed your parachute!” Plumb gasped in surprise. The man held out his hand and said, “I guess it worked!” Plumb assured him it did and said, “If your handwork had not worked, I wouldn’t be here today.” The pilot couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about the stranger.