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Amplifying Evangelism—Why Preparation for Evangelism Is More Important than Evangelism

Two nights ago, as I was getting kids ready for bed, I received a phone call from a sweet woman who has been a victim of sexual exploitation for years, perhaps decades. I met her in a bar a few years ago and felt an instant bond with her. “Laurie,” her message began, “I would like to see you.” My friend had just discovered she needed a liver transplant after having suffered quite a bit over the past few months with issues related to a number of organs. “It’s going downhill quickly,” she said.

My heart raced as I listened to her message. Overlaying her words were God’s, telling me I needed to see her. As I texted with her last night I tried to contextualize the gospel message as best I could through my knowledge of her, my understanding of her situation, and the technology I had. I would perhaps best describe my texts as a stream of living thoughts seeking to be the seed that plants itself on good soil (yes, I had just read Mark 4 the night before). At worst, they were a cacophony which beated wildly with the hope that one word would fill my friend’s heart.

Evangelism is like that, isn’t it? When we least expect it, God provides an opportunity to give a reason for the hope that dwells within us. We may open our mouths and out runs streams of living water. More often than not, I have found, we open our mouths and out runs something more like drops of water, a trickle that is sometimes beautiful and unified and other times…not.

We seek God’s face to better know and understand His heart for others.

The older I get in my faith and in my understanding of God, the more I am convinced that our preparation for evangelism is equally if not more important than our evangelism. No, I’m not talking about studying whatever gospel tract we can lay our hands on. I’m talking about the preparation of the heart. In scripture we see repeatedly the idea of setting our hearts on the things of God (1 Chron. 22:19; Rom. 12:11-13). We study to be found worthy of God. We seek God’s face to better know and understand His heart for others.

And I wonder how many of us stumble in our evangelism because we haven’t been nurturing our own souls deeply enough. Scratch that. We haven’t allowed God the space to nurture our souls to the point that they beat wildly at the hope that all would come to know Jesus Christ and their own Lord and Savior.

Elisabeth Elliot once wrote,

Think of the self that God has given as an acorn. It is a marvelous little thing, a perfect shape, perfectly designed for its purpose, perfectly functional. Think of the grand glory of an oak tree. God’s intention when He made the acorn was the oak tree. His intention for us is ‘… the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ Many deaths must go into our reaching that measure, many letting-goes. When you look at the oak tree, you don’t feel that the loss of the acorn is a very great loss. The more you perceive God’s purpose in your life, the less terrible the losses seem.

As we spend time with God, we become more like Him and less like us. As this relates to evangelism, our desire to share the gospel grows from just a wish into forming the character of one that can actually do it and do it well. One of my co-workers, who is also an amazing scholar, recently said it this way: “I believe, with all my heart, that for anyone who has lived one moment of honest life, the message that God loves and forgives is the most significant thing any of us can know.”

Our hearts must be ready for evangelism at all times.

Our hearts must be ready for evangelism at all times. Can we honestly say that we will drop everything at a moment’s notice to minister and care for a friend in need? What about a stranger? What about an enemy? With each passing question, our affirmative yes may turn to a hesitant yes, or even a no. The truth is that unless we spend time preparing our hearts for evangelism, we will never be able to seize the moments as we should.

At the Billy Graham Center, we created this great resource to help you deepen your soul for evangelism. I invite you to sit with these questions and be honest with yourself. And then I invite you to join us for Amplify 2016, which is coming up in less than three weeks. We have created this event to be a place where you can learn and be encouraged by others and hear God speaking to you even as His heart beats wildly for our nation and our world.

By the way, today I go to visit my friend. Pray for me. I walk hesitantly into her life in the hopes of offering her streams of living water. I’d be happy with a trickle if God makes it grow.

Source: Amplifying Evangelism—Why Preparation for Evangelism Is More Important than Evangelism

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[Cfamily]A Tale of Two Billy Graham Statues
« Reply #201 on: June 13, 2016, 07:09:03 AM »
A Tale of Two Billy Graham Statues

Yesterday, contractors working to dismantle the familiar 9-foot statue of Billy Graham outside of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville ran into trouble.

LifeWay, which sold its 15-acre downtown campus last year, plans to move the statue to the entrance of its Ridgecrest Conference Center near Graham’s home in North Carolina.

But today the statue still stands in Nashville, delayed “because it was attached to the ground differently than expected,” LifeWay stated. The removal has been rescheduled for June 25, LifeWay spokesperson Marty King told CT.

It was secured by grout, reported The Tennessean.

When the statue does come down, it will be stored until its new site is ready in the fall. LifeWay’s new headquarters is only three acres, making the mountain retreat “the most optimal location,” King told the Nashville newspaper.

The statue depicts Graham in a three-piece suit, standing by a 17-foot cross. His arms are outstretched; his left hand is wrapped around a Bible. The piece was sculpted by pastor Terrell O’Brien and donated to LifeWay by two Southern Baptist businessmen in 2006.

“Ridgecrest is a perfect location for the Graham statue,” stated LifeWay president and CEO Thom S. Rainer. “It is only a few miles from the home where Mr. Graham has lived most of his life, and it will welcome nearly 70,000 men and women, boys and girls who come to Ridgecrest every year for spiritual training and retreat.”

This isn’t the only Graham statue to be delayed.

Last fall, North Carolina governor Pat McCrory signed a bill that will honor Graham with a statue in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., where each state is allowed two statues. Graham will replace the current statue of former North Carolina governor—and white supremacist—Charles B. Aycock.

That statue will also have to wait, because policy dictates that the honor is a posthumous one. Graham, 97, still lives at his home in North Carolina.

“We’re certainly not trying to hasten anything,” Charles Jeter, who sponsored the bill in the North Carolina legislature, told the Charlotte Observer. “We hope Rev. Graham lives a long time. But we can get the authorizing language, and more importantly get the fundraising started.”

Jeter expects the money will be raised by private donations: “We don’t intend to have the state pay for this.”

Despite his age and relative reclusively, Graham is the 16th most admired man in the world, according to a 2016 YouGov poll. He ranks after Bill Gates (No. 1), the Dalai Lama (No. 8), and Pope Francis (No. 13), but ahead of Donald Trump (No. 18) and Bernie Sanders (No. 20). (The chart below shows how he fared in each country YouGov surveyed.)

In Gallup’s annual poll of the Most Admired Men in America, Graham tied Bill Clinton at No. 9 in 2015, down from No. 4 in 2014 and No. 3 (again tied with Clinton) in 2013. It was his 59th year on the list.

Gallup noted in December:

Graham has been among the top 10 most admired men every year since 1955 except for 1962, in addition to 1976 when Gallup did not ask the question. Despite that impressive record, he has never placed first, but ranked second from 1969 through 1974 and again in 1997 and 1999. Graham is now 97 and generally out of the public eye, but still this year made the cutoff for the top 10.

Source: A Tale of Two Billy Graham Statues

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[Cfamily]Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
« Reply #202 on: June 14, 2016, 07:04:14 AM »
Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life

I became a Christian on July 7, 2015, after a very pleasant adult life of firm atheism. I’ve found myself telling “the story” when people ask me about it—slightly tweaked for my audience, of course. When talking to non-theists, I do a lot of shrugging and “Crazy, right? Nothing has changed, though!” When talking to other Christians, it’s more, “Obviously it’s been very beautiful, and I am utterly changed by it.” But the story has gotten a little away from me in the telling.

As an atheist since college, I had already mellowed a bit over the previous two or three years, in the course of running a popular feminist website that publishes thoughtful pieces about religion. Like many atheists (who are generally lovely moral people like my father, who would refuse to enter heaven and instead wait outside with his Miles Davis LPs), I started out snarky and defensive about religion, but eventually came to think it was probably nice for people of faith to have faith. I held to that, even though the idea of a benign deity who created and loved us was obviously nonsense, and all that awaited us beyond the grave was joyful oblivion.

I know that sounds depressing, but I found the idea of life ending after death mildly reassuring in its finality. I had started to meet more people of faith, having moved to Utah from Manhattan, and thought them frequently charming in their sweet delusion. I did not wish to believe. I had no untapped, unanswered yearnings. All was well in the state of Denmark. And then it wasn’t.

What I Already Knew

There are two different starting points to my conversion, and sometimes I omit the first one, because I think it gives people an answer I don’t want them to have. It is a simple story: I was going through a hard time. I was worried about my child. One time I said “Be with me” to an empty room. It was embarrassing. I didn’t know why I said it, or to whom. I brushed it off, I moved on, the situation resolved itself, I didn’t think about it again. I know how people hear that story: Oh, of course, Nicole was struggling and needed a larger framework for her life! That’s part of the truth, but it’s not the whole truth.

The second starting point is usually what I lead with. I was surfing the Internet and came across John Ortberg’s CT obituary for philosopher Dallas Willard. John’s daughters are dear friends, and I have always had a wonderful relationship with their parents, who struck me as sweetly deluded in their evangelical faith, so I clicked on the article.

Somebody once asked Dallas if he believed in total depravity.

“I believe in sufficient depravity,” he responded immediately.

What’s that?

“I believe that every human being is sufficiently depraved that when we get to heaven, no one will be able to say, ‘I merited this.’ ”

A few minutes into reading the piece, I burst into tears. Later that day, I burst into tears again. And the next day. While brushing my teeth, while falling asleep, while in the shower, while feeding my kids, I would burst into tears.

I should say here I am a happy, even-keeled soul. If this were the Middle Ages, I would be in a book under the heading “The Four Humors: Sanguine/Phlegmatic.”

Therefore, it was very unsettling to suddenly feel like a boat being tossed on the waves. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t frightened—I just had too many feelings. I decided to buy a Dallas Willard book to read anthropologically, of course. I read his Hearing God. I cried. I bought Lewis Smedes’s My God and I. I cried. I bought Sara Miles’s Take This Bread. I cried. It was getting out of hand. You just can’t go around crying all the time.

At this point, I reached a crossroads. I sat myself down and said: Okay, Nicole, you have two choices. Option One: you can stop reading books about Jesus. Option Two: you could think with greater intention about why you are overwhelmed by your emotions. It occurred to me that if Option Two proved fruitless, I could always return to Option One. So I emailed a friend who is a Christian, and I asked if we could talk about Jesus.

Now we reach the part of the story that gets a bit hand-wavy. About an hour before our call, I knew: I believed in God. Worse, I was a Christian. It was the opposite of being punk rock.

I instantly regretted sending that email and if humanly possible would have clawed it back through the Internet. Technology having failed me, my message reached its recipient. She said she would be very happy to talk to me about Jesus. You probably already know this, but Christians love talking about Jesus.

I spent the few days before our call feeling like an idiot, wondering what on earth I planned to ask her. Do you … like Jesus? What was Jesus’ deal? Why did he ice that fig tree?

And now we reach the part of the story that gets a bit hand-wavy. About an hour before our call, I knew: I believed in God. Worse, I was a Christian. It was the opposite of being punk rock.

Now, if you’ve been following along, you know already. I was crying constantly while thinking about Jesus because I had begun to believe that Jesus really was who he said he was, but for some reason, that idea had honestly not occurred to me. But then it did, as though it always had been true. So when my friend called, I told her, awkwardly, that I wanted to have a relationship with God, and we prayed, and giggled a bit, and cried a bit, and then she sent me a stack of Henri Nouwen books, and here we are today.

Since then, I have been dunked by a pastor in the Pacific Ocean while shivering in a too-small wetsuit. I have sung “Be Thou My Vision” and celebrated Communion on a beach, while weirded-out Californians tiptoed around me. I go to church. I pray. My politics have not changed; the fervency with which I try to live them out has. My husband is bemused by me, but supportive and loving.

No More Chill

I am occasionally asked by other Christians, “What happened during that hour?” I answer that God did not speak to me. Rather, like the protagonist in Memento putting his past together with Polaroids, I figured out what I already knew. What happened during that hour was the natural culmination of my coming to faith: I had been cracked open to the divine, I read books that I would have laughed at before the cracking, and the stars lined up and there was God, and then I knew, and then I said it out loud to a third party, and then I giggled.

I am more undone by love, or kindness, or friendship than I would have thought possible.

This is why apologetics, in my opinion, are hugely unconvincing. (Dallas Willard, for the record, never debated unbelievers.) No one could have in a billion years of their gripping testimony or by showing me a radiant life of good deeds or through song or even the most beautiful of books brought me to Christ. I had to be tapped on the shoulder. I had to be taken to a place where books about God were something I could experience without distance. It was alchemical.

I have been asked if deciding to become a Christian ended my exciting new crying-multiple-times-a-day hobby. The truth is that I continue to cry a lot more than I did before either Be-With-Me-Gate or the Dallas Willard Incident. I am more undone by love, or kindness, or friendship than I would have thought possible. Last night I tried to explain who Henri Nouwen was to some visiting cousins, and they had to bring me Kleenex, which they did sweetly and cautiously, as though I might melt in front of them. This morning I read a piece in Texas Monthly that literally sank me to my knees at how broken this world is, and yet how stubbornly resilient and joyful we can be in the face of that brokenness. I never possessed much chill, to be honest. Now I have none whatsoever.

There are times I feel a bit like a medieval peasant, in that I believe wholly in God now, but don’t always do what he wants, or, like Scarlett O’Hara, put hard conversations with him off until I’ve done the thing I wanted to do. It’s a thrumming backdrop to the rest of my life. My Christian conversion has granted me no simplicity. It has complicated all of my relationships, changed how I feel about money, messed up my public persona, and made me wonder if I should be on Twitter at all.

Obviously, it’s been very beautiful.

Nicole Cliffe is cofounder and coeditor of the website The Toast and lives in Utah.

Source: Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life

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[Cfamily]More Church Planting—Not Less—Is Needed
« Reply #203 on: June 15, 2016, 07:04:21 AM »
More Church Planting—Not Less—Is Needed

Among the best ways for us to reach people with the gospel is personal evangelism and church planting. Even with all the changes in culture this remains our best option for reaching unbelievers.

Church planting efforts need focus. A scattershot approach will not be the most effective.

Here are five things we are going to need to increase church planting capacity.

1. We’re going to need more engagement from more churches.

Let’s face it, most churches are cul-de-sacs on the Great Commission highway. But if we are going to increase church planting efforts, we need more churches hopping onto the highway.

In order to merely break even in membership growth, we need a church plant growth rate of about a 3 percent per year. To put it into perspective, at 100 churches, there needs to be three new churches per year. While 3 percent is the minimum, I encouraged the SoCal Network to aim for a 10 percent church planting rate, which is the best denominational statistic we have out there for a movement.

It’s doable right now.

I know that it is easier said than done, but when the Vineyard, Calvary Chapel, and Hope Chapel movements were launched out of Southern California a few decades ago, they often planted at a 50 percent rate.

So in our lifetime we’ve actually seen a rate far beyond 10 percent!

But the key is having more churches engaging in church planting.

2. We’re going to need more planters.

If we are going to have more churches engaging in church planting—especially to keep up with the population increase—we will need more planters. It’s that simple.

My prayer is that more men and women will say, “Yes” to Jesus, or “Here am I Lord, send me,” and be a part of church planting teams.

I also pray that as more planters answer the call to go and plant, the leaders in our churches, networks, and denominations will show great grace to them. I’ve seen it over and over again, where a church planting network or denomination looks for a self-starter, a go-getter, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a maverick, but becomes easily agitated, offended, and upset when the church planter doesn’t always listen to their advice or fit within the system they are trying to create.

In increasing our capacity for church planting, think running lanes not boxes. Boxes stifle and hinder creativity and flexibility. Running lanes provide boundaries with freedom.

Thus, church planting networks and denominations must create running lanes for church planters to run passionately forward for the glory of God and the good of the city or community in which they are planting.

3. We’re going to need more sacrifice.

Answering the call to “go” requires sacrifice. It will require sacrifice for all parties—individuals, churches, networks, and denominations. Individuals may have to sacrifice the comfort and stability of an established church. They may have to sacrifice the comfort of a suburb and move into the urban core.

Churches may have to sacrifice their best leaders—along with some of their best members—to plant. J.D. Greear, in his book Gaining By Losing, talks about both the pain and joy of sending their best to plant churches. Sacrificing a church’s best for the sake of God’s mission is scary and painful; yet it is an investment that potentially leads to great dividends for both the kingdom of God and the sending church.

Networks and denominations may have to sacrifice good things for main things. I like what I heard Rick Warren say once, “too many irons in the fire can put out the fire.” When it comes to being committed to church planting, networks and denominations may have to say “no” to some things in order to stay committed to the task of church planting. Trying to do a lot of good things may hinder doing some great things well—especially church planting.

I truly believe that a non-sacrificing version of church planting and mission will not reach the world for Jesus. If sacrifice was required for Jesus to save the world, sacrifice will be required for us to reach the world.

4. We’re going to need more models.

There needs to be openness to more new and different models. Some church planters aren’t going to plant churches like we’ve seen planted, or that we would plant. That’s a good thing.

Reaching a changing and diverse culture will require the implementation of new church planting models. [I have actually written an entire blog series on church planting models.]

There will be the need to plant simple organic house churches in areas that are disenfranchised with the institutional church, missional incarnational churches that meet in local cafés they may own and operate, launch big churches that use public and private schools for their gatherings, or satellite campuses that saturate a region in desperate need of the gospel.

Regardless of the model, the common element present (or that should be present) in each model is the gospel.

Although the models or manifestations of church may be different, the gospel is the same. We shouldn’t be bothered by the various models in existence now or in the future. I have said before, and I will say again, we need to hold our models loosely and our Jesus firmly.

5. We’re going to need more power.

This, by far, is the most important need. Acts 1:8 states, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” In addition, after Jesus told His disciples, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you,” He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21, 22).

Jesus knew His followers needed a power far greater than what they humanly possessed if they were to fulfill the mission to which they were called.

If we are going to see an increased capacity of church planting, we must be empowered and equipped by the Spirit.

To a degree, we can manufacture church planting, but we cannot manufacture a church planting movement. In order for a church planting movement to occur—one that advances the gospel, makes much of Jesus, and transforms communities—the Spirit of God must be powerfully working in us so that He can powerfully work through us.

I don’t know the future of church planting among the SoCal Network, nor of the many other North American church planting networks and denominations. But I am optimistic as long as we have the power of the Spirit filling us with and leading us to show and share the love of Jesus. I believe when this happens more churches will jump on the Great Commission highway and engage in church planting as opposed to being stuck in the safe cul-de-sac.

Here the excerpt from what I wrote today on Southern Baptist Church planting:

Source: More Church Planting—Not Less—Is Needed

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Saturday is for Seminars—Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting

The Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, June 14-15, 2016—St. Louis

Here’s an excerpt from a recent article I wrote for Baptist Press on evanglism in the SBC:

If you are coming to the SBC, here’s the full list of events.

Wwe’d appreciate your prayers over our time together.

Coming Soon

June 28-30, 2016Amplify Conference
Wheaton, IL

July 18, 2016Church of God General Assembly
Nashville, TN

August 12-13, 2016Gideons Global Impact Conference
Toronto, Ontario, CA

September 9, 2016Capacity Conference
Atlanta, GA

September 16, 2016American Association of Christian Counselors National Meeting
Dallas, TX

September 30, 2016MissioNexus
Louisville, KY

October 3, 2016Lutheran Congregations on Mission for Christ Annual Gathering
Denver, CO

October 4-5, 2016Exponential West
Irvine, CA

October 6, 2016Summit University Alumni Fall Bible Conference
Clarks Summit, PA

October 25, 2016Sojourn Pastors Network
Louisville, KY

Source: Saturday is for Seminars—Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting

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[Cfamily]11 Portraits of Charleston Survivors' Grief and Grace
« Reply #205 on: June 17, 2016, 07:12:41 AM »
11 Portraits of Charleston Survivors' Grief and Grace

Two unfathomable things happened, more quickly than almost anyone could have imagined, one year ago this June.

First, the terror: A young man named Dylann Roof, armed with a .45-caliber handgun, sat through almost an hour of the Wednesday night Bible study at Charleston, South Carolina’s venerable “Mother Emanuel” AME Church. Then he opened fire. Within minutes, nine—Depayne Middleton Doctor, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Singleton, and Myra Thompson—were dead. Five survived. In an instant, wives lost husbands, fathers lost daughters, children lost parents, and a church lost its pastor.

Then, the mercy: Two days later, as the nation simmered with outrage and disbelief, the families of those murdered by Roof were allowed, in accordance with the law for bond hearings, to speak by closed-circuit television to Roof. Television networks carried the feed from both rooms: the room where Roof stood, nearly expressionless, flanked by police; and the room where his victims’ relatives were gathered. One after another, they spoke words of forgiveness even as their voices shook with grief and anger. Perhaps the baldest declaration of forgiveness came from Nadine Collier, daughter of slain member Ethel Lance:

I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to her ever again—but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul. . . . You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. If God forgives you, I forgive you.

Of all the evidence in recent years that white supremacy remains imprinted on American life, the shootings were the most indisputable. A white boy had come of age in the 21st century drinking from the same poisoned spring as lynch mobs across the country in the 20th. He had stepped through loopholes in gun laws broad enough to allow a 21-year-old with a criminal history to purchase a Glock, and carried it into the sanctuary of a church in hopes of avenging imagined wrongs and inciting a race war.

At the same time, in a way without any obvious parallel in recent decades, the offers of forgiveness, prayers, and mercy in the face of judgment were an extraordinary public reminder of the holy power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, its persistence even in an increasingly secular nation, and its capacity to change hearts, minds—and legislatures. Within three weeks of the shooting, the debate about the Confederate flag flying over South Carolina’s State Capitol, a debate that had been entrenched in stalemate in the South Carolina House of Representatives, was over. On July 10, 2015, the flag was removed. As South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley noted, the grace shown on June 19 helped to change the minds of wavering officials.

All this happened in a few terrible and memorable days. And it all deserves to be remembered and commemorated, lamented and honored, as CT seeks to do with the following story.

But none of it is over.

Trauma and Grace

“I have not grieved yet,” said Shirrene Goss, whose brother, Tywanza Sanders, is numbered among the Emanuel 9. “It hasn’t been life as usual. When life still has to go on—what can you do?”

One year is nothing in the face of grief. Trauma can be inflicted in an instant, but it takes a lifetime—perhaps more—to be healed. The first debt owed to the survivors of the massacre at Mother Emanuel is to recognize the grief they still carry, and will carry for years to come. More deeply, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Charleston requires seeing the ways that it simply re-inscribed the legacy of violence against Americans of African descent, a 300-year-old trauma that has not healed and oftentimes is not even acknowledged. The shootings in the basement of Mother Emanuel happened in an instant, but they recalled and perpetuated centuries of history—as, indeed, does the church itself, founded by African Americans and burned to the ground after Denmark Vesey’s slave revolt of 1822. To truly heal this most basic laceration in our body politic will likely take centuries more.

Source: 11 Portraits of Charleston Survivors' Grief and Grace

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Evenly Split, Southern Baptists Pick President after Candidate Quits

In an unusually contested race, Southern Baptist messengers elected Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines as their next president this morning.

Gaines replaces Ronnie Floyd, who has served the maximum two consecutive terms. SBC presidents are elected one year at a time; the post is largely honorific, except for its ability to fill certain leadership positions.

The SBC actually meant to elect a new president yesterday. But a rare tight race between the top two out of three candidates—North Carolina pastor J. D. Greear (45%) and Gaines (44%)—led to a runoff vote. (A candidate must receive just over 50 percent of the vote to win.)

Steve Gaines
Bill Bangham / Baptist Press

Steve Gaines

Yesterday’s runoff vote was also too close to call, with Gaines receiving 49.96 percent of the votes and Greear receiving 47.8 percent. (More than 100 ballots were disqualified, yet were included in the determination of the total number of votes needed for a victory.)

This morning, in a surprise move, Greear pulled out.

“I spent a good amount of time last night praying, and believe that for the sake of our convention and our mission we need to leave St. Louis united,” he told the messengers. “In this room, we have various minor points of difference between us … but we are united by a gospel too great and a mission too urgent to let any lesser thing stand in our way. And one of the candidates leaving the convention with a 51 to 49 victory on a third ballot is just not going to serve our mission well. So I am respectfully withdrawing my candidacy as president.”

J. D. Greear
Bill Bangham / Baptist Press

J. D. Greear

Gaines and Greear both said they felt the urge to pull out after the runoff vote in order to preserve denominational unity. They prayed together, and decided that Gaines should take the leadership position. The messengers approved the move with a near-unanimous standing affirmation.

Gaines is “a traditionalist on evangelism, the need for personal commitment to Christ in salvation, and the commonly held Baptist soteriology of the past century,” noted Eric Reed, editor of the Illinois Baptist,while Greear’s leadership is more contemporary and more Reformed.

Reed continued:

Yes, this election may appear to be about the passing of boomers and the ascendance of Gen-X and Millennials to top leadership in the convention. But more important, it’s about theology and the breadth of the SBC tent. The denomination took a decided step to the right when Patterson, Rogers, and the leaders of the 1970s and 80s planted a firm stake for biblical inerrancy and social conservatism. But the convention has continued inching right as a generation of pastors inspired by Southern Seminary president Al Mohler and other reform theologians assumes leadership.

A 2012 survey found that about equal numbers of SBC pastors identify their congregations as Calvinist/Reformed (30%) or Arminian/Wesleyan (30%). More than 60 percent of pastors were concerned about Calvinism’s influence on the denomination.

Gaines has spent the last 11 years as pastor of Bellevue, the largest church in the Memphis area.

"I would like to continue [Floyd's] emphasis on seeking God for a spiritual awakening and revival,” Gaines told Baptist Press (BP) when he was nominated. “I've been praying for an awakening for a long time, and that's really my heart. I want the manifest presence of God in our churches and also in our denomination.

The SBC has “a real problem with our baptisms,” Gaines told BP. "We need to get back to personal evangelism and soul winning.”

Not only have baptisms declined the last 9 years out of 11, but weekly attendance has also dropped to 5.6 million, according to the SBC’s annual church profile. On the other hand, 2015 was the 17th year that the number of SBC churches has grown, and undesignated giving was up by more than $400 million.

Greear is pastor of The Summit Church, which has grown in worship attendance from 350 to almost 10,000 during his 14 years there. Summit is a member of the Acts 29 church planting network, and has planted 26 churches in conjunction with the SBC’s North American Mission Board.

"One of the things God has put on my heart is that my generation needs to take personal responsibility for the agencies and the mission boards of the SBC and not just think of them as the SBC’s, but think of them as ours,” Greear told BP after he was first nominated.

“Missions is more effective when done in cooperation with like-minded churches, and we feel really good about the [entities] of the Southern Baptist Convention and how they’re leading,” he told BP.

Greear had laid out his four “biggest passions” for the SBC in a blog accepting his nomination: to continue and deepen the focus on gospel-centeredness in theology and mission; to engage culture with grace and truth; to encourage congregations to engage in the entities and boards of the SBC; and to equip non-Anglo pastors and members.

Greear released a rap video promoting his presidential run, which led International Mission Board president David Platt to say he didn’t intend his participation to be an endorsement of the candidate, but would “be thrilled” to serve alongside Greear or Gaines.

Greear, 43, would have joined David Platt, 36, and Ethics and Religious Liberty president Russell Moore, 44, in a trifecta of younger SBC leaders.

Source: Evenly Split, Southern Baptists Pick President after Candidate Quits

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[Cfamily]How Grandparenting Redeemed Our Family
« Reply #207 on: June 19, 2016, 07:05:57 AM »
How Grandparenting Redeemed Our Family

“We’re playing huckle-buckle-beanstalk!” My six-year-old beamed at me, bouncing on the balls of her feet. My younger daughter skipped around the living room. In the kitchen, my mother pulled a small, plastic princess doll out of the sugar canister and dusted off the toy. “I found her!” she called out, laughing. I stood in the doorway smiling, even though I’d never heard of the game before. My mother walked over to greet me, shrugging her shoulders. “It’s a silly game my sisters and I used to play,” she said. “I don’t remember why we named it that.”

My parents recently bought a house in our neighborhood to be close to me, my husband, and our two daughters, their only grandchildren. No longer serving in the “sandwich generation” role of caring for their own aging parents, my parents are exercising their freedom by spending their golden years close to my girls. They’re part of a growing trend. As Harriet Edleson writes in The New York Times, geographic distance is a major factor in family relationships these days. “With families increasingly far-flung,” she writes, “those who want to establish or maintain a bond may have to go where their grandchildren are.”

What has surprised me the most in this new season of life—more than calling my parents “neighbors”—is how my relationship with them has been transformed. They’re not my parents anymore. They’re now my kids’ grandparents.

Five years ago, my mother was in the delivery room for the birth of my first child, and a few years after that, my parents drove up from New Jersey in the middle of the night to babysit her when her younger sister was born. The moments that changed my life forever and shaped my family also changed and shaped my parents, as well. Now they’re living next door, and while everything isn’t perfect, the relational benefits are reciprocal. My parents regularly help us with childcare, while we helped them after my father’s hip replacement surgery. Now my parents are the ones I turn to for advice about so many things, from diapers to discipline, because they, too, are invested in my children. They’re among the few people I can talk openly with about my hopes and fears for my kids.

The funny thing is, I never expected it to be this way. Except for some rocky patches in my teen years—and, really, my husband may be the only person who never had those—my parents and I had a pretty good relationship while I was growing up. I did, however, feel like the weird one—the dreamy one, the introvert, the runner, the one who earned a degree in women’s studies instead of something, say, marketable. None of that has changed, but I no longer feel the pressure to conform to their ideals for me, and they no longer bear the responsibility of raising me. Despite our differences, we all turned out okay. And despite years of wondering if I’d really been left by the fairies, a changeling child who seemed such an oddball in my family, I automatically have something in common with my parents now: my children.

Source: How Grandparenting Redeemed Our Family

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