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December 2013 Issue

SBC President Fred Luter

Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter preaches from Ezekiel 37 on "How to Revive Dry Bones" during the September 16 plenary session of the SBC Executive Committee. Photo by Morris Abernathy.

Proclaiming the Scripture is the most important thing preachers must do if dry bones will live—the only thing that will bring real revival to the Southern Baptist Convention and the nation, according to SBC President Fred Luter.

Genuine revival sweeping through the churches and entities of the SBC is still his heart's desire, Luter told the SBC Executive Committee September 16 in Nashville, drawing comparisons to what he termed the "sad story" of the prophet's vision of dry bones in Ezekiel 37:1-10.

"My ultimate goal is, prayerfully, that we can pray that God will send revival across America and particularly among Southern Baptist churches," he said, "because it's so easy to get sidetracked. It's so easy to get comfortable wh...

IMB President Tom Elliff

Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board. Photo courtesy of IMB.

In an email interview with SBC LIFE on November 15, 2013, IMB President Tom Elliff shared his thoughts about how the historic and the newer ministry initiatives of the International Mission Board assist churches as Southern Baptists work together to reach the nations with the Gospel.

SBCLIFE: In 1997, each of IMB's ministry statements was edited to open with the phrase "assist churches." How does IMB interpret this phrase? How does that shape the future for IMB?

Elliff: Currently IMB assists Southern Baptist churches by bringing effective training, strategy, and cohesion to the nearly 4,900 full-time missionaries (and their approximately four thousand children!) sent out and supported by Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Of...

Frank S. Page

I have recently returned from an arduous period of travel, visiting many state convention and associational annual meetings and fall church events. In many of those meetings, I heard mention of the upcoming emphasis upon international missions during the Christmas season. I have heard our personnel from the International Mission Board give reports, calling Southern Baptists to rise to the challenge of our $175 million Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal. That has been a goal for several years, but has not been met. If it were to be met, our IMB would be able to take international missions to a new level.

I do encourage your involvement in that wonderful effort. Many years ago, in fact, several decades ago, my family decided that the most expensive gift we would give at Christmas would be to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Over the years, we have maintained that practice.

I believe Southern Baptists ought to give sacrificially, even painfully this year. The need has never been greater. The ...

Dear Pastors,

I wrote this letter in late October while ministering to a people we adopted in the Middle East. I woke up at 2:30 in the morning, my heart heavy for the nations. I could not get the recent short-falls of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering off my mind. I got up and wrote what you are now reading. Please read each statement prayerfully and carefully. My wife Janet and I will personalize the challenge before we give it to our church. It is my prayer that God would use our church along with the fellowships of the Southern Baptist Convention to touch the unreached people groups of our world, especially those that are unengaged by anyone for the Gospel.

I have often heard it said that "if you don't see it before you see it; you will never see it." I can see it! Really! I can see Southern Baptists coming together on mission with purpose to empower a called-out people to touch the nations. Do you see it, the fulfilling of the Great Commission? There is a movement, a mighty movement in place in our hearts, our churches, our associations, our states, and our Convention. God is allowing us to join Him in touc...

Our Journey to the Bedia by Stuart Bell; FBC Collierville, Tennessee Reaches UUPG by Ken Carver; Hearing Church Reaching Deaf Malagasy by Don Graham

BeachReach students point the way to free pancakes. Photos by Russ Rankin.

The land of bright sunshine and snow-white sand is an unexpectedly spiritual dark spot each and every spring break. A spirit of recklessness and outright rebellion moves into Panama City Beach, Florida, just as quickly as snowbirds evacuate their winter homes, making way for rowdy weeks of partying.

While locals brace for the invasion and disruption they've come to expect with spring, quiet forces make their way south, forces determined to share the hope of Jesus Christ. Retirees who serve with the Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief Team link arms with college students from churches and collegiate ministries across the country for BeachReach.

BeachReach is a mission trip experience in the heart of Panama City Beach. Servant evangelism takes the form of free van rides and free pancake breakfasts. College students provide simple acts of service that open the door to life-changing conversations about the hope and love of Jesus C...

The theme for the 2014 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore, Maryland, will be "Restoration and Revival through Prayer," according to SBC President Fred Luter.

"We have not had a theme that focused on prayer and revival for many years," Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, told SBC LIFE. "I pray that God will send revival across America and particularly among Southern Baptists."

Luter selected Psalm 80:18-19 as the biblical text to support the annual meeting theme: Then we will not turn away from You; revive us, and we will call on Your name. Restore us, Yahweh, the God of Hosts; look on us with favor, and we will be saved.

Luter will preach during the Tuesday evening session, following last year's annual meeting format. No other business will be presented or discussed in the evening session.

"It obviously had such a great response last year that we decided we wanted to do it again," David Smith, chairman of the SBC Committee on Order of Business and executive ...

Frank S. Page, president and "chief encouragement officer" of the SBC Executive Committee, has challenged Southern Baptists to continue praying in 2014 "like we've never prayed before."
The Changing Face of the Cooperative Program

Click here to view or download this special section of photographs and charts as a PDF.

The Cooperative Program has always been about three things. It is about people—training ministers, planting churches, deploying missionaries, serving the needs of others.

It is about the Gospel—announcing the Good News of redemption through Jesus Christ to those in our neighborhoods and to the nations.

It is about cooperation—believing we can accomplish more by working together than any of us can accomplish alone . . . and building mutual trust to work together around our common tasks of evangelism, service, and missions.

These themes are captured in the Convention's purpose statement—"It is the purpose of the Convention to provide a general organization for Baptists in the United States and its terri...

Note: This is an extended edition of the article that appears on page 17 of the print edition of SBC LIFE.

Elkton Baptist Church

Worship at Elkton Baptist Church. Photo courtesy of Elkton Baptist Church.

Each Christmas Elkton Baptist Church raises enough money to support one international missionary family for a year. But that's only a fraction of what this Western Kentucky church does to advance God's Kingdom locally and globally—fulfilling its purpose statement of "Reach, Teach, Serve."

For the fourth year in a row, the 275 Sunday morning worship participants of the downtown church in Elkton, Kentucky, are on track to meet or exceed their $40,000 goal for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. That is the amount Pastor Mark Keith learned in 2010 was the starting salary of an IMB missionary family.

Shortly after he was called as pastor in May 2009, Keith learned the church – with limited promotion and wi...

When First Baptist Church in Oxford, Mississippi, passed a resolution apologizing for its 1968 decision to exclude African Americans from worship services, it opened the door for racial reconciliation in its city.
True Love Waits

On July 29, 1994, more than 210,000 True Love Waits commitment cards from students pledging to remain sexually abstinent until marriage were displayed on the National Mall. Photo courtesy of LifeWay.

In July 1994, more than 210,000 cards from teenagers pledging to remain sexually pure were displayed on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Twenty years later, the iconic True Love Waits program is being relaunched through a new resource called The True Love Project, a video-driven Bible study for students written by author and speaker Clayton King.

"Over that twenty years, one of the unintended consequences of the True Love Waits movement was that it became more about the commitment card and virginity than about Jesus and His Gospel," said Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry at LifeWay Christian Resources, the organization behind TLW.

Personal Purity

While Trueblood agrees sexual purity is an important issue for students today, that alone cannot drive the conversation. He mai...

Bob Fu seemingly was born to right wrongs. The same determination that led the young activist to Tiananmen Square in 1989 to protest Chinese government policies led him to become one of the leaders of the house church movement after his conversion to Christianity. Fu, who with his wife was imprisoned for proselytizing and fled China after she became pregnant in violation of the country's one-child policy, today oversees the operation of China Aid from his office in Midland, Texas. In God's Double Agent: The True Story of a Chinese Christian's Fight for Freedom (Baker Books, 2013), Fu tells the fascinating personal story that informs and motivates his passionate defense of religious liberty for all, especially the people of China.
Every day, two thousand women wake up with an unplanned pregnancy, according to Care Net, a pro-life Christian ministry that seeks to educate and inform pregnant women about their legal options. Many of these women are young, vulnerable, confused, afraid, and often ashamed. Meeting women at this point of need is where Christians have the opportunity to live out the grace they have been given and help shepherd these women toward good choices, good parenting, and ultimately, peace with God through Christ. Sunday, January 19, is three days before the forty-first anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision of the US Supreme Court that made abortion the law of the land. It is a day to mourn the deaths of more than fifty-one million innocent children, killed before they ever had a chance to experience life outside their mothers' wombs. It is the day set aside by thousands of churches as Sanctity of Life Sunday.
Encouragement When Facing a Difficult Pregnancy

If your name is Sheila Ross, stand up and take a bow. I want to thank you for helping me through a difficult childbirth. Though we have never met, you encouraged me.

I was apprehensive at my first pregnancy. Sharing my anxiety with an acquaintance, she said, "I was afraid the first time, too, but I knew if my friend Sheila Ross could have a baby, I could, too."

I don't know why her statement about Sheila stuck in my mind, but it did. Throughout my pregnancy when doubts would arise, I would just say to myself, "If Sheila Ross can have a baby, I can, too."

The months rolled by. Before we knew it, the forty-week mark arrived! But nothing happened. For three long weeks, I experienced no labor. An x-ray revealed that our baby was breech. The doctor hospitalized me and induced labor, anticipating it would take twelve hours before our daughter made her debut into the world. He wanted to avoid a C-section—something that would be done in a heartbeat today...

Winter 2013/14 Issue

Open Meeting

Open Meeting is a feature that originated in SBC LIFE's predecessor, The Baptist Program. You'll find a new topic to discuss in every issue. Join the conversation:

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A few responses will be printed in the next issue of SBC LIFE.

This issue's Open Meeting:

Jerry Drace, past president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE) and current bivocational pastor, recently shared some thoughts with SBC LIFE about the use of vocational evangelists in ministry:

"Recently, I was in a conversation with a number of young pastors when the subject of evangelism came up. When I told them I have been in full time evangelism for thirty-...