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SBC DIGEST: Church planters meet at LifeWay; also Mohler online, Land on ‘salt & light,’ Floyd on GCR, GuideStone bond fund

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Church planting leaders from more than 30 denominations and organizations, including Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Southern California, convened at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn., to dialogue and share insights.

“Urban church planting” and “Raising up non-clergy church planters” were the focus of the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship (CPLF) sessions organized by Ed Stetzer, LifeWay vice president for research and ministry development.

Denominational variances aside, Stetzer said, “… it is bad stewardship and irresponsible missiology” for church planters not to find ways to learn from each other, which is the purpose of the CPLF.

“The bottom line is, it is a bad idea theologically, with bad results historically, for us to partner and jointly plant churches,” he reflected. “I don’t think that Presbyterians and Baptists should plant churches together — that only works until the first baptism, and then you can’t decide if you need a cup or a tub. But we can learn together.”

The CPLF encompasses evangelical leaders from different denominational entities and organizations that plant multiple churches each year. About three-quarters of the church planting occurring in North America this year is related to the denominations represented in the fellowship.

Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., led the final session at the Aug. 16-17 gathering, speaking from his own experience as a church planter.

Warren, a fourth-generation pastor — whose great-grandfather became a Christian under the ministry of Charles Spurgeon and later was commissioned as a church planter to America — planted the now 20,000-plus-member Saddleback Church 30 years ago. Warren initially was scheduled to speak via live video but then decided to come in person.

“I came to this meeting because I believe in the future of the church,” Warren said. “But if we’re going to see the next wave of church planting for our future, what do we need to do?

“First, we have to change what we reward among our churches,” Warren said, challenging denominational leaders to refrain from rewarding size and start rewarding multiplication.

“Whatever gets rewarded gets reproduced,” he said. “We should judge a church by its sending capacity rather than its seating capacity.”

Warren also noted: “We must plant churches with a maturity process so that they can actually reproduce.” Just as the evidence of physical maturity is the ability to reproduce, the same is true in the body of Christ, he said.

“It’s not just that Jesus expects faithfulness. He expects fruitfulness too,” Warren said. “Otherwise, He wouldn’t have condemned the fig tree for not bearing fruit.”

An extended report from the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship can be accessed at www.lifeway.com/article/170438.

MOHLER LAUNCHES 2 ONLINE PROGRAMS — R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has re-entered the public dialogue with two new online programs.

Mohler announced during the summer he was ending “The Albert Mohler Program,” a daily national radio program, and would be launching new programming in a new format.

Mohler began two new programs — “The Briefing” and “Thinking in Public” — on Sept. 7 which can be accessed at www.albertmohler.com by clicking the Podcast tab.

“As the world of media rapidly changes, I am looking forward to moving to a new media platform and format,” Mohler said.

Via The Briefing, available Monday through Friday, Mohler relays Christian worldview analysis of the news of the day. “Just as leaders around the world receive daily briefings on the important issues of the day, I want to provide Christians with a daily briefing to ensure they are ready to confront the events the world is talking about from a Christian perspective,” Mohler said.

Thinking in Public, meanwhile, is a longer weekly interview forum. “One of the urgent needs in the lives of most people is carving out time to think,” Mohler said. “As an extended-format interview program, Thinking in Public will allow for in-depth discussion about frontline theological and cultural issues with the people who are shaping them.”

Through the programs, Mohler said he hopes listeners will be equipped “to better engage the world with the Gospel.”

The programs also can be found on iTunes by searching at www.apple.com/itunes.

LAND URGES ACTION AS ‘SALT & LIGHT’ — The command for believers to be salt and light does not mean they should withdraw from society, Richard Land said at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, but they should engage culture with truth to prevent decay and rotting.

Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, preached on the importance of Christians acting as both salt and light during a Sept. 16 chapel service at the North Carolina campus.

Reading from Matthew 5:13-16, Land said if believers are to obey the command to be salt and light, “There’s no room for us to fall into the rut of getting saved and going into a holding pattern, of doing nothing and waiting for Jesus to return.

“Jesus says we’re to go out into a world that is decaying, a world that is rotting, and be the salt of the earth.”

Salt doesn’t bring life to anything — it only preserves something that is dead from decaying and rotting, Land said.

“It keeps a dead thing from becoming a rotting thing, and it has to come into contact with that which it’s going to preserve or cure,” he said. “Jesus says we have an obligation to go out into the culture and be a moral preserver and to stop the decay.”

Being salt and light in the culture will not be easy, Land said, since salt also is an irritant, such as when poured over wounds. “When we seek to be salt in society, not everyone is going to like it. A non-controversial gospel is an oxymoron.”

Speaking out against the nation’s abortion epidemic, Land said, “In the last 37 years [since abortion was legalized], we’ve killed one out of every three babies conceived. The most dangerous place to be has become a mother’s womb between conception and birth. We didn’t have a 33 percent mortality rate at Iwo Jima or at Gettysburg.

“There’s a 33 percent chance we have aborted the next Billy Graham or the next Francis Schaeffer, and there is a 100 percent chance we’ve killed 55 million babies. God had a plan for every one of them. This wouldn’t have happened without, at least, the acquiescence of Christians.”

Rather than the culture becoming more Christ-like, Land said Christians have become more like culture, equally contributing to some of the issues of moral decay, such as divorce. Although churches have been preaching the Gospel more, Land said people aren’t connecting the dots that it affects every area of life. Speaking to the fact that Southern Baptists divorce at a rate equal to the culture around them, Land said they must recognize the statistics and see that divorce is an affront to the Gospel.

“More than 40 percent of children today are illegitimate,” Land said. This often results in homes with no fathers present, a trend that he sees as the culture saying that fathers are “accessories.”

“They are not,” Land countered. “The single best predictor — better than race or class or education — of whether a boy will get in trouble with the law is whether or not the father is in the home. Girls whose fathers are gone by the time they are 6 years old are five times more likely to be sexually active by age 17.

“Being salt is talking about the evils of divorce and broken homes.”

Land said that contrary to what many believe, these are not political or partisan issues, but moral issues. Protecting and valuing life, from conception to natural birth, is an issue of morality and one Southern Baptists ought to be concerned about. He said the new health care law, which will limit the amount of funding baby boomers can receive as they approach their “twilight years,” is an issue of the sanctity of life and one which Christians are to be salt and light to.

“We’re at a critical turning point in our culture,” Land said. Believers must rebuild American society one person, one family, one church and one community at a time.

“We cannot rebuild without Jesus making the difference. It has got to be people who have understood they’ve been changed by Jesus to be salt and light — then we’ll see a worldwide missionary movement.”

RONNIE FLOYD ENVISIONS GREAT COMMISSION SURGE — The chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force “envisions a surge of Great Commission efforts” in the Southern Baptist Convention, as phrased by a seminary news office.

Ronnie Floyd, in a visit to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, described “the “historic vote [by messengers at June’s SBC annual meeting] as an emphatic statement about the direction of the convention,” the seminary’s news office reported, paraphrasing from an interview with the Arkansas pastor.

“Ultimately, Floyd believes the coming changes [within the SBC] give hope to future generations and will free up more Cooperative Program dollars to be used for the two mission boards,” according to news release from the Texas seminary after Floyd’s Sept. 7 visit to the Texas campus.

“I pray we see a major movement in church planting occur, especially in the metropolitan regions of North America,” Floyd was quoted as saying, “but at the same time in the under-reached and under-served areas in our nation.”

From an international missions standpoint, Floyd stated, “We must make major changes personally, in our churches, and in our convention if we are going to see the nations reached for Jesus. Hopefully, in the future, Southern Baptists will move an even greater percentage of the SBC Cooperative Program dollars towards reaching the nations.”

Floyd, a two-time graduate of Southwestern, described the vote on the GRC recommendations as “a positive sign for future ministers of the Gospel,” the seminary news release stated. “He [Floyd] said he is praying that God will use Southern Baptist seminaries to equip the next generation of Great Commission pastors and missionaries.”

“We need major efforts in equipping church planters to occur now.” Floyd was quoted as saying. “Convicting challenges must be issued for us to go where the people are, especially to those places where the Gospel witness is not as known as it is in America. Our schools must prepare the next generation for being cutting-edge pastors who lead with the world on their hearts.”

Floyd also had advice for seminary students: “Seize these moments! Sharpen yourself! Do not miss this moment. You are in the greatest work in the world, so prepare with all you have to be the best you can be with the gifts God has given you. At the same time, be humble, prayerful and leave your future in the hands of God.”

Additionally, Floyd encouraged younger Southern Baptists to “get involved, attend our conventions, pray, give and support in every way the endeavors of expanding the Gospel.”

Floyd said his studies at Southwestern shaped him for his present pastoral ministry and his denominational service as GCRTF chairman.

“Southwestern prepared me in many ways. It taught me discipline. It taught me how a rigorous academic schedule with major expectations could be achieved while pastoring a local church at the same time.

“It taught me to have a great heart for evangelism personally and in the church,” Floyd continued. “It taught me to love the Great Commission and to do all I could with all I am to make a difference for the Gospel. Southwestern helped prepare for me the ministry, and I am grateful for its influence upon me.”

As for his role on the GCRTF, Floyd sees Southwestern’s influence on his life in several aspects: “First, it is in this school that I began to understand the SBC in a greater way. Growing up in a very small church, I had little knowledge imparted to me about the SBC. Second, the school taught me to love the Great Commission. I had reaching North America and the world on my heart from the time I left Southwestern. Third, it prepared me as much as it could at that time to pastor a local church. The church is where the action is, and every decision I made in GCR, I made from the heart of a local church pastor motivated by the Great Commission with my target being to reach the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Fourth, Southwestern taught me how to communicate God’s message more effectively. I will always be grateful for the wise counsel I received in helping me to be a communicator of God’s Word. Without my time at Southwestern, I would not have been even close to being prepared to have led in this huge task.”

SPRINGDALE CHURCH CHANGES NAME — Cross Church is the new name of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., and its campus in Rogers, The Church at Pinnacle Hills, effective Sept. 26.

“We are changing our name, but strengthening our identity,” senior pastor Ronnie Floyd said in a news release. Floyd served as chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.

“We are more excited about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention than ever before and with our name change, we are strengthening our identity and commitment to the theology and global work of Southern Baptists,” Floyd said. “We wholeheartedly join Southern Baptist churches around the world in our mission to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.”

Cross Church also will encompass a campus in Fayetteville scheduled to open in January 2011 as well as other future campuses. The website for the church is www.crosschurch.com.

Floyd’s son, Nick, who will be the campus pastor in Fayetteville, said the name change “will allow us to give a clearer picture to our community that we are one church that simply meets in multiple locations. We are united in our mission and believe this change in name will allow us to simplify in many areas.”

GUIDESTONE BOND FUND GETS BLOOMBERG NOD — The GuideStone Funds Extended-Duration Bond Fund ranked No. 6 among U.S.-based bond funds as of June 30, according to Bloomberg.

The Bloomberg ranking is determined by equally weighting several measurement factors: the fund’s total returns for one, three and five years (after fees and before taxes), along with its performance in Sharpe ratios for three and five years, which adjust for risk, according to a news release from GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Bloomberg ranking “provides a more complete picture of the nature of the returns made in a fund,” the news release stated, noting that the rankings include U.S.-domiciled open-end retail bond funds with total assets greater than $250 million.

GuildeStone also reported that the Extended-Duration Bond Fund (GS2 class) ranked No. 1 in its Lipper Universe for the 1-, 3- and 5-year periods ending Aug. 31.

“We believe that our funds rank and compare favorably against the largest and best-known names in the mutual fund industry,” said Rodric E. Cummins, GuideStone’s chief investment officer.

“These recognitions help illustrate the value added to GuideStone’s investors through our professional management, sub-advisers and manager-of-managers approach,” Cummins said.

The Extended-Duration Bond Fund, along with the other 24 GuideStone Funds, are made available to participants in retirement plans provided by GuideStone, including employees of Southern Baptist and likeminded churches, colleges, universities, seminaries, children’s and retirement homes and affiliated institutions, such as hospitals and mission-sending entities. The family of Christian-based, socially screened mutual funds also is available to institutional investors and for investing through personal and individual retirement accounts offered by GuideStone Funds.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston from reports by Micah Carter of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; the communications office of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Lauren Vanderburg of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Curtis D. Sharp of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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