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March 2013 Issue

Supreme Court to Hear Arguments March 26-27, Issue Ruling in June on Same-Sex Marriage

Christians need to intensify their prayers for the Supreme Court in the countdown days to its deliberations on same-sex marriage, according to Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee. Page, who issued a call to prayer for the Court January 11, reminded members of the Executive Committee of the urgent need for prayer during his remarks at the EC’s February 18 plenary session in Nashville.

The Court is set to hear oral arguments on two cases that will either lead to the legalization of gay marriage nationwide or affirm the rights of legislators and voters to protect traditional marriage. It will consider the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 on March 26 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on March 27.

California voters passed Proposition 8 in 2008 by a margin of 52-48 percent. The amendment stated, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” It reversed a California Supreme Court ruling that had legalized ga...

The 1% Challenge for increased Cooperative Program giving has been a surprising success, Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said February 18.

Page had asked the Convention’s 45,000 churches to consider a 1 percent-of-budget increase in Cooperative Program giving, which would add $100 million to the funding stream for Southern Baptist missions and ministries.

“The 1% Challenge began almost two years ago and has received a great deal of positive attention. Honestly, more than I thought it would,” Page told EC members in Nashville. “I thought . . . it might have some traction until we got a more comprehensive strategy in place.”

But the Challenge has caught on, Page said, and at least 15 percent of Southern Baptist churches either have adopted the Challenge or are seriously considering it. “It’s making a difference,” he said.

In his report, Page showed a slide show that highlighted a sweeping initiative still in the planning...

The 1% CP Challenge “is a succinct way to do something more—an understandable way to say, ‘Yeah, we can do that,’” Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said. “It is understandable, is easily acted upon, and can be done without shifting major sections of a church’s finances.”

According to LifeWay Research’s 2012 Cooperative Program Omnibus Survey, 7 percent of cooperating Southern Baptist churches reported they had accepted the 1% CP Challenge. An additional 8 percent of pastors indicated they plan to lead their churches to accept the 1% CP Challenge in the coming year. The survey was taken this past May.

“The Cooperative Program is not a reservoir that we hold; it’s money that we send through the CP to missions and ministries,” Page said. “It’s exciting to see new pastors, younger pastors, ethnic pastors, Anglo pastors, say, ‘You know, it’s time to put more emphasis on the Cooperative Pr...

Fred Luter challenged Southern Baptists to follow Jesus and be known for evangelism, discipleship, and concern for the lost, in his presidential address to the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville.

Using the familiar question, “What would Jesus do?” Luter stood on Matthew 9:35-38 and drew wisdom from the biblical accounts of Jesus’ interactions with Zacchaeus, blind Bartimaeus, the woman at the well, and the woman caught in adultery, emphasizing concern for the lost, compassion, and prayer.

“If the question was asked, WWJD, what would Jesus do about this generation, about this society, about our nation, my answer would certainly be, Jesus would be concerned about them,” Luter, SBC president and pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, preached during the EC’s February 18 plenary session. If Jesus would be concerned “about the unchurched, we also must be concerned.

“We must be concerned about their hurts, concerned about their struggles, concerned about their addictions, ...

Connecticut pastor Bryan Sims understands the potential when Southern Baptists respond together. He has seen it firsthand since the December 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in nearby Newtown, Connecticut, through prayer, counseling services, and material help.

“It has been invaluable to receive support from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and the BCNE [Baptist Convention of New England],” said Sims, pastor of Southbury Baptist Church in Southbury, Connecticut. “Though the Newtown tragedy is somewhat different than a natural disaster, the team adds a wealth of experience in ministering to a hurting community, particularly first responders. Also, our team meetings have generated helpful ideas of potential service to the area.”

Sims and other Southern Baptists in the region have come together to form a Newtown SBC response team to help the community recover. Local churches had already been strivin...

On December 19, the executive editor of SBC LIFE was privileged to interview the commandants of the Army, Navy, and Air Force chaplaincy training centers and four other army chaplains stationed at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Training Center located at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Southern Baptists have a profound influence on our nation’s military chaplaincy, both in practice and development. Southern Baptists have more endorsed chaplains serving in the US military than any other denomination or faith group (1,440). Yet their influence does not come primarily from sheer numbers, but from the character of the individuals who serve.

There really aren’t any “overnight successes” in ministry.

No matter how prodigious they are, effective missionaries—like basketball stars—do not achieve significant results without going through periods of development and mentorship.

For example, during the 2011-2012 NBA season, New York Knicks fourth-string point guard Jeremy Lin appeared as an “overnight” sensation. The Knicks had suffered a dismal season, and in a moment of desperation Coach Mike D’Antoni let Lin take the court.

What happened next was sheer basketball magic.

Lin turned the game around and led a six-game winning streak, averaging twenty points per game. He was named to the “Rising Stars” team during the All Star break and went on to sign a multi-million dollar contract with the Houston Rockets.

But here’s the reality.

The only magic that happened to Jeremy Lin that night was that he saw the payoff for years of hard work and perseverance. In fact, Lin was anything but an “overnight” sensation....

Sharing Good News from Galatians
Can you confess that the Spirit of Jesus dwells in you? Does He bear witness with your spirit that you have a personal relationship with Abba, Father?
Defining the Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God is the central proclamation of both the Old and New Testaments, and yet it is probably the most easily misunderstood phrase in the Christian grammar.

Southerners who moved to Michigan in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s tolerated the cold weather because of good-paying jobs in the auto industry, but they couldn’t endure what to them were cold, non-evangelistic churches. So they started their own.

First Baptist Church of South Lyon, about forty miles west of Detroit, was among them. Started by Southern Baptists in 1955 in the upstairs of a Kroger grocery store, the church quickly became a magnet for Southerners eager to find a church that reminded them of “back home.” Even until the mid-1980s, as many as 250 people participated in Sunday morning worship and eagerly contributed to missions at First Baptist South Lyon. They gave nearly 13 percent of undesignated offerings through the Cooperative Program in 1986.

But then the decline began.

“They were very evangelistic over the years, but whether intentional or not—and I think it was not as intentional as it was sub-conscious—their evangelistic fervor and practice was most effective with other Southerners,” said Rob Fresho...

Northeast Church,
Braselton, Georgia

Russ Harbin, pastor of Northeast Church in Braselton, Georgia, came to see the importance of the Cooperative Program through the merger of two churches into the one he currently pastors.

Harbin became pastor of Hoschton Baptist in Braselton in January 2010. Located just down the road was Zion Baptist Church, a congregation with dwindling membership. Each church had a need that the other could meet.

“They [Zion] had what we needed, a building,” Harbin said. “They [Zion] wanted what we [Hoschton] had, people.”

So Zion and Hoschton became Northeast Church, which formally launched in December 2011.

“God has done more . . . by bringing us together than when the churches were on their own,” he said.

Despite his love of cooperation, CP wasn’t at the forefront of Harbin’s thinking when he began his pastorate. As an itinerant evangelist for fifteen years before arriving at Hoschton, his focus was on other aspects of Southern Baptist life.<...

A Sermon on the Church at Antioch

In Matthew 28, Jesus gave the discipleship directive: go into the world and make disciples, with the outward expression—baptizing them—and the process of accomplishing the task—teaching them—included in the command.

A New Testament church that fulfilled this directive was the church at Antioch—truly a disciple-making community.

To grasp fully the amazing aspects of what this church accomplished, we must understand both its setting and how it started. Some anonymous preachers from Cyprus and Cyrene arrived in Antioch and preached the Gospel for the first time broadly in a Gentile community. These evangelists preached where there was no prior Gospel witness. No prior converts! Antioch was a city of six to eight hundred thousand people. It had a small Jewish community, but no prior reference to the Gospel at all in the Gentile community. It was religiously pluralistic, with temples to all kinds of pagan deities. In that context, large numbers of people were converting to Jesus.

The Jerusalem church heard w...

As a young man, I worked in a small, family-owned meat market. Our primary business was to cut and wrap meat from livestock local farmers raised, slaughtered, and brought to us. We would start early in the morning, take a quarter of beef or half a hog from the cooler, and within a matter of an hour or so, we would have it cut, wrapped, and boxed for the owner to take home.

Most of the work we did revolved around using very sharp knives to section, break down, debone, and process the meat. It did not take me long to learn that having a sharp knife made the work easier, safer, and faster. In fact, I learned within the first week that the fastest way to keep my knife sharp was to use a “steel” to re-shape the edge of my blade. Just a few well-placed and well-timed honing strokes really made a difference.

Over the years as I have studied the book of Proverbs, I have noticed how often the simplest phrase can carry the greatest meaning. Proverbs 27:17 is a great case in point. I have often thought of the lessons I learned in using a steel to sharpen a knife. Many who are ...

A newly formed Asian American Advisory Council will meet with SBC Executive Committee and NAMB leadership to communicate the perspectives of churches and church leaders from several Asian cultures.

SBC President Fred Luter was at the February 18-19 Executive Committee meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, where he preached to the EC members and guests. While he was in the SBC building, SBC LIFE talked with him about the theme he has chosen for this year’s SBC annual meeting in Houston, Texas.

SBCLIFE: You have selected the theme for this year’s SBC annual meeting, “Revive Us . . . That We May Be One.” What drew you to this theme? What do you hope to see as an outcome of the annual meeting?

Luter: As I travel across the country and look at what’s going on in America, what’s going on in our society, even in our churches, I think America is primed for revival. It’s time that the people of God understand the great need for revival in America. If it’s going to happen with us though, the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention must come together as one. So that’s what drew me to this theme: there’s a desperate need for revival in our nation and, if it&rsqu...

Protecting Your Church Against Violence by David Roach; MASS MURDER AT US CHURCHES: A HISTORY by Carl Chinn

God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:7

There’s nothing like trying to worship while wrestling with a preschooler. Helping a three-year old adjust to “big church” can be a challenge. I had a friend whose boys slept through every service, morning or evening. I wondered how church could have such a sedative effect on her boys while having just the opposite effect on our daughters. Occasionally I had the urge to pinch one of her boys just so she would know what it was like to wrestle during church like the rest of us. I never did it, but it wasn’t because I didn’t think of it!

One Sunday morning the children, including our three-year-old Emily, went forward for the children’s sermon—you know, the kind that you get more out of than your child. Some folks from church had been to Guatemala on a mission trip and had brought back coins for all the children.

The minister talked about missions for a few minutes and then said, “Today, boys and girls, I am going to give each one of you a Guatemalan coin that y...

March 2013
Youth Week (March 3–9)
North America: Week of Prayer and Mission Study and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (March 3-10)
Substance Abuse Sunday (March 17)
Church Planting Emphasis Sunday (March 17)

April 2013
SBC Seminaries Sunday (April 7)
Cooperative Program Sunday (April 14)
Baptist Doctrine Study (April 14–19)
Life Commitment Sunday (April 21)

May 2013
Senior Adult Sunday (May 5)
Christian Home Week (May 12-18)
Baptist Association Emphasis (May 19-25)