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SBC DIGEST: MBTS church planting center, Luter preaches at NOBTS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — A Center for Church Planting is being launched by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, President Jason Allen announced Sept. 16, naming a noted North American Mission Board church planter as its leader.

Allen said the seminary’s Center for Church Planting will serve as a hub and catalyst for church planting in Kansas City and the Midwest, partnering with the North American Mission Board as well as the Missouri and Kansas-Nebraska state conventions.

The Center for Church Planting “uniquely positions Midwestern to help penetrate lostness in the region, equip church planters for service across the globe, and is a further demonstration of this seminary’s resolve to exist for the church,” Allen said.

Kansas City is among the cities designated by the North American Mission Board for its Send North America initiative to heighten church planting across the U.S. based on density of population, lostness and the low ratio of SBC churches-to-population.

Allen named Joshua Hedger, lead pastor at Freshwater Church in Bolivar, Mo., as the center’s director. In previous ministry and denominational roles, Hedger served as a church-planting strategist for the PlantMIDWEST network and a Missouri Baptist Convention second vice president.

“Josh Hedger is uniquely prepared to lead the Midwestern Seminary Center for Church Planting,” Allen said. “He is a proven church planter, having started and led one the fastest-growing churches in America. He is a leader in the church planting movement, in the state convention, and is increasingly so in the broader SBC and church-planting world. Though young, he is widely respected by pastors of all ages throughout the convention.”

Hedger, on being selected to the post, said, “One of my greatest passions is to see men equipped and sent to pastor and plant. It has been one of my greatest joys at Freshwater to see this happen. [The Center for Church Planting] will assess, teach, train, coach and network church planters.”

John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, said the Center for Church Planting “will provide a way for building and maintaining networks of coaching and mentoring church planters who will become future leaders in the SBC. That is why we must skill them with biblical principles and cooperative strategies.”

Yeats said Hedger is “gifted and skilled in leading others to understand their Great Commission mission of leading people to Christ and planting new Bible-believing, cooperative congregations. He ‘gets it’ as to the Cooperative Program. He has a great family heritage and he has a deep personal belief that when cooperating churches start churches, there is an entire network of people praying, giving and supporting a new church plant.”

Micah Fries, vice president of LifeWay Research and Midwestern Seminary Alumni president, said Hedger is “as passionate about planting churches as anyone I know. What’s more, he is as gifted as anyone I know. His skill set is uniquely married to a brilliant mind, which positions him to be a leader and trainer among church planters.”

Fries, a former pastor in St. Joseph, Mo., added that the Center for Church Planting, located in the geographic center of the country, “is uniquely positioned to influence Americans for Christ. Kansas City, in particular, is a beautiful and strategic city and offers an ideal location through which [the center] is able to educate and deploy God-called church planters to advance the kingdom of Jesus from the Midwest to the four corners of the globe.”

Fred Luter preaches at NOBTS

Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, kicked off a new semester at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, voicing special thanks in chapel to NOBTS President Chuck Kelley.

“When we were leaving the Phoenix convention in 2011, Dr. Kelley pulled me to the side and said…, ‘I would like to seriously ask you to start praying about running for president of the Southern Baptist Convention,'” Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, recounted. “He was the first one to put it into my heart and my spirit for doing this. I just want to thank God publicly again for his support for me through the years.”

Luter preached from Malachi 3:16-17, which begins, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them.”

“As much as we depend on God, as much as we rely on God, as much as we confide in God, as much as we trust in God, as much as we call on the name of God,” Luter asked Aug. 22, “have you ever thought about it: whether or not you’ve ever gotten God’s undivided attention?”

Undivided attention often is hard to come by today, Luter said.

“I’m not denying you’re a busy person. I’m not denying your plate is full. I’m not denying you can multitask, especially the ladies in this chapel. I’m amazed at how you can drive and still put on your makeup,” Luter said. “However, my brothers and my sisters, I must ask you, are you busier than God?”

Luter pointed to Job 38-39 in which God reminds Job of who He is and what He has done.

“‘Job, where were you when I formed the earth? Job, where were you when I said let there be light?'” Luter paraphrased. “‘Job, where were you when I put sweetness in the peaches, bitter in the lemon, tang in the orange?'”

Still today, as in Job’s case, people wonder whether they have God’s attention, Luter said.

“In spite of all God has done, in spite of who He is, in spite of the fact He holds the world in the palm of His hand, the question all of us [are asking] is how can we get God’s undivided attention,” Luter said. “Or for that matter, is it even possible to get God’s undivided attention?”

Luter said Malachi 3:16-17 describes the type of people who get God’s undivided attention, beginning with those who are fearful, akin to verse 16 that begins, “Then those who feared the Lord….”

“Now by fearful, I’m not talking about those who are afraid of God like some ghost or like he’s a madman or a dictator,” Luter said. “I’m talking about those who have a healthy fear of God.” Luter used words like reverence, respect, honor and adore to describe this type of healthy fear.

“A healthy fear of God means you obey the Word of God and obey the will of God,” Luter said, adding, “Oh, brothers and sisters, the problem we have in the world today and the problem we have in the church today is we don’t have enough people who have a healthy fear of God.”

Luter noted a second aspect of followers who get God’s undivided attention, as verse 16 continues: “Those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them.”

“God makes clear those who get God’s undivided attention are those who first speak to one another — uh oh,” he said. “That may be a problem for some of us…. In other words, God says, ‘How do you expect Me to listen to you when you don’t even speak to one another?'”

Luter connected that commitment to speaking to one another to Romans 12:18, which commands believers to “try to live peacefully” with everyone. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, he said.

“It kind of reminds me of a saying, Dr. Kelley, that I heard years ago: ‘To live above with those we love would truly be glory; to live below with those we know, that’s a whole other story,'” Luter said.

Lastly, Luter said people who are faithful get God’s undivided attention. Verse 16 describes a book of remembrance “written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, I dare you, I dare you to be faithful to God,” Luter said. “Look at His promise in verse 17: ‘They shall by Mine, says the Lord of Hosts.’ Not maybe. God says, ‘They shall be Mine.’

“You know what that sounds like to me? It sounds like that song we sometimes sing, ‘Blessed Assurance,'” Luter said. “This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.”
Compiled by Baptist Press staff from reports by Midwestern and New Orleans Baptist theological seminaries. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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