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Keith Collier

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Reach Houston initiative set before SBTC messengers

HOUSTON (BP) -- Two of the core values of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention -- being Kingdom-focused and missionally driven -- took center stage at the SBTC annual meeting, Nov. 10-11 at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston. Messengers were challenged to join the Reach Houston church planting and church revitalization initiative; they approved a motion to forward 2016 budget surplus directly to Southern Baptists' Cooperative Program and joined with the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas for a historic worship gathering.

Transgender ministry, gender roles discussed

COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) -- The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood hosted a breakfast panel discussion in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which addressed issues surrounding biblical complementarianism, including gender roles in the church and how churches can effectively minister to individuals who identify as homosexual or transgender.

Marriage equality advocate visits seminary class

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary ethics professor Evan Lenow recognized the risk of inviting Michael Saltsman, co-founder of Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, to his classroom to discuss whether evangelicals should support same-sex marriage. But he also viewed it as a learning opportunity for those called to ministry. Lenow and Saltsman dialogued on the topic during Lenow's Bible & Moral Issues class at the seminary Oct. 15.

Discoveries made amid Israel & Hamas conflict

GEZER, Israel (BP) -- Tensions and conflict between Hamas and Israel -- including Palestinian rocket-fire on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Israeli air strikes on Gaza -- have escalated in recent days. But Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's archaeological teams at Tel Gezer, located between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, continue to work and unearth valuable historical data about the region.

Patterson, Page offer advice to German pastors

GERMANY (BP) -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson and Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page challenged and encouraged more than 900 pastors from 170 European evangelical churches during a pastors' conference in Lemgo, Germany.

Motivating, mobilizing churches addressed

BALTIMORE (BP) -- The advancement of the Great Commission will never be accelerated without Christians engaging in personal evangelism, newly elected Southern Baptist Convention president Ronnie Floyd said during an evangelism panel discussion at the SBC annual meeting in Baltimore.

‘God’s still working in the military,’ Navy chaplain says

FORT WORTH (BP) -- After 40 days and 40 nights in the Kuwaiti desert, the First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment crossed the line of departure into harm's way in Iraq on March 20, 2003 -- the start of what would become known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. "We had the first man killed in action in the whole war in our unit and fought what many believe is the most decisive battle in the fall of Baghdad," said Carey Cash, a Navy chaplain assigned to the regiment. Yet in the midst of physical war, a spiritual battle for the lives of these Marines was already underway as God brought revival to the unit. In the battalion of 1,000 men, Cash said, "about one out of four had a profound spiritual awakening." At the beginning of the deployment, Cash asked the men, "Who's thinking about baptism and would like to explore what it means to follow Christ? Join me for a 12-week study." Six of the 12 weeks took place in the Kuwaiti desert. During those 40 days and nights, Cash conducted classes and counseled daily with Marines as they wrestled with the claims of Christ on their lives. Just before crossing into combat, 60 Marines were baptized as new Christians. Several others were baptized while in combat, including one inside Saddam Hussein's palace on Palm Sunday. In all, more than 250 men either made professions of faith or rededicated their lives to Christ. In addition to those baptized during the deployment, many more were baptized in their churches upon returning to the U.S. The experience served as one of many points along the way where Cash felt an affirmation of God's calling on His life. His 2003 book "A Table in the Presence" chronicles the story of these spiritual victories. Call to ministry However, a medical crisis nearly prevented him from serving in the military. Cash grew up in a military family, his father a career Naval officer and fighter pilot who served as a commanding officer at the prestigious "Top Gun" flight school. Military blood always coursed through Cash's veins, but football was his passion early on. Cash received a football scholarship as an offensive lineman to The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, but during his final season, doctors found an inoperable tumor at the base of his brain stem. "The rug was completely ripped out from under my wife and me," Cash recalled. "I'd always identified myself physically, and the very thing where I'd always found my identity was gone. But it was during that season of incredible struggle that I began to hear God's call to ministry. "All this is happening at the same time. I've got this issue going on with my head, this deep sense of calling to ministry that I'm feeling certain about ...

Pastor draws from seminary education for urban ministry

BALTIMORE (BP) -- Ronjour Locke would meet his girlfriend Annie at McDonald's for a breakfast date every Monday morning during college. He would grab a napkin as they talked to scribble down their brainstorm sessions filled with dreams and what-ifs for the future. [QUOTE@left@180="With all the violence and things I've encountered ... I think, 'What did I learn at seminary?'"
-- Baltimore pastor
Ronjour Locke]"We discussed if we were ever going to do ministry somewhere, where would it be?" Locke says of the morning conversations when they talked about where they might live and minister after they married and completed their studies at Washington Bible College near Washington, D.C. Having gone on their first date and gotten engaged in Baltimore, they thought it would be a "pretty cool" place to settle. "We knew the need was there," Locke says, "and the diversity was something we were passionate about -- being someplace where people from different walks of life and different backgrounds could worship the Lord together." In January 2012, the Lockes, their dreams and their four children made their way to one of Baltimore's southernmost neighborhoods, Brooklyn, where Ronjour, a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, became pastor of First Baptist Church, the only Southern Baptist church in the area. Baltimore encompasses more than 200 individual neighborhoods. Whether it is the trendy, up-and-coming Federal Hill filled with young urban professionals or the iconic Inner Harbor with its waterfront shops and restaurants, each neighborhood reflects a distinct history, culture and personality. Brooklyn is an ethnically diverse, mostly low-income and lower-middle-class neighborhood. "I initially thought that this was an older neighborhood based on how many folks in our church lived in the area," Ronjour says, "but I was wrong. It's actually a lot more generationally diverse than I thought." Over the past few decades, government-constructed Section 8 housing left a densely populated neighborhood. "They put houses everywhere, squeezing them in all kinds of places," Locke says, "... and of course, within them are people." FBC Brooklyn encompasses "people who are making good money and we have people who are struggling," Locke says. "We've got some folks who have lost their jobs over the last couple of years, who cannot find a job for the life of them. We've got some folks that are homeless and we're trying to help them." As with many urban communities, Brooklyn also suffers from crime, drugs and broken homes. "You'll have homes where the mom is there and you have, say, five or six kids, and each kid has a different dad. That's not uncommon around here," Locke says. While the streets immediately surrounding the church are quiet, Locke says, "you go down [a couple streets] and you're going to see a lot more drugs, a lot more violence, a lot more stuff going on." "It's really sad," Annie Locke says. "It's a lot of theft, but it's usually a family member to a family member because of their addictions." "It's sort of the personality of Brooklyn that we are the forgottens," Ronjour says. "We're not the cool Federal Hill. We're not the Inner Harbor." Many of Brooklyn's churches have closed in recent years, leaving an even greater need for Gospel-centered lights in the community.

New apologetics degree approved at SWBTS

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary approved a new master's degree in apologetics, appointed faculty to academic chairs in evangelism and biblical theology and received reports of double-digit enrollment increases during their spring meeting.

Family’s faith grows while launching church in Vancouver

VANCOUVER (BP) -- Billed as North America's most diversity-dense city, Vancouver, British Columbia, boasts 200 language groups among its population of 2.3 million. Naturally, this Canadian region, which includes nearby Vancouver Island, has become a strategic city for the North American Mission Board's Send North America church planting initiative. In the shadow of this towering urban melting pot, across the Strait of Georgia, sits the picturesque seaside town of Sidney, a year-round tourist destination known for its fishing and natural scenery. "Most people here are enamored by the natural beauty of creation but reject the Creator. We are working hard to help people connect the Creator with His creation," says NAMB church planter Matthew Bond. Less than 2 percent of Vancouver Island claimed Christianity on a 2011 census, and 40 percent claimed "no religion." Bond and his wife Heather and their two teenage sons Ethan and Joseph landed in Sidney in 2012 to plant Ekklesia Church. In less than a year, they established a thriving congregation and have branched out to planting additional churches across the island, which claims a population of 770,000. "We have wonderful conversations beginning with God," Bond, an alumnus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, says, "but when the conversation turns to Jesus the people become defensive and turn away. We are definitely not in the Bible Belt anymore!