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SBC DIGEST: Rainer receives McGavran church growth award; Wright speaks at Southwestern; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, was honored Nov. 11 as the 2010 recipient of the Donald A. McGavran award for outstanding leadership in church growth.

The award from the Great Commission Research Network is named after the founding dean of the School of World Missions at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. McGavran’s seminal books “Bridges of God” (1955) and “Understanding Church Growth” (1970) pioneered scholastic projects on the topic and launched the larger church growth movement.

Conferring the McGavran award on Rainer recognizes a significant voice and leader in the church growth movement, said Bob Whitesel, current president of the GCRN and professor of Christian ministry and missional leadership at Wesley Seminary in Marion, Ind.

“As we considered this year’s award it became clear that only one person deserved to be named, and that was Thom Rainer,” Whitesel said. “Thom’s research and writings have been and continue to be key resources to those who care about church health and growth. This award is long overdue to one who truly deserves it.”

“I’m grateful to receive this award for many reasons,” Rainer said, “not the least of which is because of the name it bears. Donald McGavran insisted that churches focus on ‘effective evangelism,’ a term that is synonymous with conversion growth. I have no doubt that, if he were alive today, he would be deeply concerned that most American church growth is transfer growth.”

Rainer, president of LifeWay since 2005, previously was the founding dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth in Louisville, Ky., and professor of evangelism and church growth there.

Gary McIntosh, professor of Christian ministry and leadership at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology, introduced Rainer and noted that the award carries a notable endorsement.

“Having known Dr. McGavran,” McIntosh said, “I can say with certainty that he would want Thom Rainer to receive this award and he would be proud of Thom for his excellent contribution to our field of interest and study.”

Rainer’s body of work deserves to be recognized for its importance and influence, McIntosh said at the Great Commission Research Network meeting at Indiana Wesleyan University attended by 140 Christian writers, researchers, professors, practitioners and students involved in studying church growth trends and issues and identifying effective evangelistic methods.

Rainer’s catalogue of books includes: “The Book of Church Growth” (Broadman & Holman, 1993), “Effective Evangelistic Churches” (B&H, 1996), “Surprising Insights from the Unchurched” (Zondervan, 2001), “The Unchurched Next Door” (Zondervan, 2003), “Breakout Churches” (Zondervan, 2005), “Simple Church” (B&H, 2006), “Essential Church” (B&H, 2008), and “Transformational Church” (B&H, 2010).

Rainer summed up his acceptance of the award by noting its intrigue throughout his professional career.

“Many years ago I remember thinking that if I ever received the McGavran award it would be a significant life achievement as a church growth researcher and practitioner,” he said. “I am humbled and grateful to be selected as this year’s recipient.”

WRIGHT SPEAKS AT SOUTHWESTERN — In addition to sharing his vision as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Bryant Wright dialogued with students and faculty during a visit to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., engaged in a question-and-answer session on such topics as his views on state conventions’ distribution of Cooperative Program (CP) funds, how to engage younger pastors in a post-denominational world and women in ministry.

“The biggest passion of my life for our convention is that Christians and the local church return to their first love of Jesus,” Wright said. He lamented the ever-present idols of materialism, hedonism, workaholism and technology obsession that pervade the culture, even among professing Christians.

“We have so allowed the culture to influence the church rather than the church being the transforming agent of the Gospel to the culture,” Wright said.

In addition to his passion to see Southern Baptists completely devoted to Christ, Wright said his second desire is to see missions giving and involvement increase on personal, congregational and denominational levels. This includes, he said, Baptist state conventions reallocating CP funds to better support mission efforts outside of their state.

“I’m really convicted that our convention needs a passionately revised reprioritization of our denominational missions giving,” Wright said. He noted the example of state conventions like the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which sends 55 percent of CP funds to the SBC and only keeps 45 percent to support its own ministries.

“I really believe our state [convention] executives have the chance to be the heroes of our convention over the next few years. To be willing to make these kinds of changes in funding will be an incredibly unselfish act on their part.

“If there’s an unwillingness to do that, I just think younger pastors are going to ignore them, and I think you’re already seeing it happen. It will just increase more. Giving for CP would rise dramatically if there were more states like Texas as far as seeking to give out more than what they keep.”

Wright also stated, “We have to realize it’s not only a post-Christian but a post-denominational world. Once we accept that rather than moan and groan about that, then I think we begin to get on the right track of recognizing that unless it is something meaningful for the younger pastors to join with other pastors who are likeminded in our viewpoint as Southern Baptist churches, we’re missing the boat.

“If, within our denomination, there’s a passionate focus on fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission and resources and tools to better do that together as churches, rather than independently, then I believe you’re going to see a positive response.”

Wright said that at Johnson Ferry they like to say they abhor denominationalism but are okay with denominations.

“We’re willing to live with some of the negative stereotypes that all of us deal with as Southern Baptists in order to do more together.”

Also asked about his stance on the role of women in ministry, Wright said, “I feel like we have some very clear biblical guidance about the role of women in ministry leadership in the body of Christ.” While women are created equal with men and there is no discrimination in spiritual gifts, Wright said, God chose to order roles in such a way that men are given spiritual leadership responsibility in the home as well as in the church as elders, pastors and deacons.

NOBTS HOSTS DISCIPLESHIP CONFERENCE — Chuck Kelley, speaking at a discipleship conference at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, noted, “I truly believe there is no issue more important in the life of my church and in Southern Baptist life today than discipleship.”

Kelley, NOBTS’ president, was one of several featured speakers at an annual “Replicate” held at the seminary.

Reflecting on Southern Baptists’ success in the mid-20th century and the downturn in baptisms since the 1950s, Kelley lamented Southern Baptists’ attention to the methods of ministry at the expense of personal discipleship.

“Southern Baptists are a harvest-oriented denomination, but we are living in an unseeded generation…. Aggressive evangelism without aggressive discipleship will eventually undo itself. This is what is happening to the Southern Baptist Convention,” Kelley said in a message titled “The State of the Church and the Need for Discipleship.”

The Replicate conference is led each year by Robby Gallaty, who is originally from the New Orleans area and now is pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., president of A Word From His Word Ministry and an NOBTS doctor of philosophy student.

Gallaty said his focus on disciple-making stems from two people who took the initiative to disciple him.

“The last six years I’ve dedicated my life to making disciples, mainly because someone invested in me,” said Gallaty, who described how his life was radically changed about eight years ago when someone came alongside him and helped him overcome addiction. “Two men came into my life and mentored me, so I’m a product of discipleship.”

In addition to Kelley and Gallaty, featured speakers at Replicate’s Oct. 29-30 sessions included Bill Hull, author of “The Complete Book of Discipleship” and “Jesus Christ Disciplemaker”; Nicholls State University campus minister Tim LaFleur, who also is the teaching pastor at First Baptist Church in Thibodaux, La.; and Tony Merida, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss.

An extended story on the Replicate conference is posted at NOBTS website, www.nobts.edu/Publications/News/Replicate2010.html. A separate story on a chapel message by Robby Gallaty at NOBTS can be viewed at www.nobts.edu/Publications/News/GallatyChapel10.html.

DIASPORA EXPLORED AT GGBTS — “Dialogue + Diaspora” focused on the Jewish Diaspora as well as an understanding of the larger global diaspora Nov. 1-5 as part of the Intersect series at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s Mill Valley, Calif., campus.

“We are all people of diaspora in some way,” Rick Durst, GGBTS director of online education, said in a theme interpretation. Diaspora literally means to be scattered, Durst explained as he quoted Deuteronomy 28:25, “… and you shall be a diaspora (dispersion) in all the kingdoms of the earth.”

“Today in the United States, when any group of people are gathered together,” Durst continued, “you will find that one in eight people is not native born” -– people who are part of a global diaspora, having been disbursed from their homelands.

Sponsored by the seminary’s Kim School of Global Missions, the sixth annual Intersect week provided the Golden Gate community with an opportunity to dialogue about significant intercultural issues and to promote intercultural understanding. This year’s keynote speakers were Messianic rabbis Harlon and Joyce Picker from Phoenix. Intersect also included films, question-and-answer sessions, a campus-wide international luncheon, an art exhibit and music.

Faith Kim, who chairs intercultural education at the seminary and founded and developed the Intersect program, noted, “Just as the Christian faith intersects the language, location and cultures of people wherever they are, Christians are called to intersect with people — wherever and whoever they are — sharing the Good News of Jesus.”

Through programs such as Intersect, Kim said the seminary is “creating conversations for people to experience God in the intersection of cultures.” GGBTS President Jeff Iorg described Golden Gate as “the most multi-cultural seminary in North America” in one of his Intersect messages. “The world is becoming more diverse and we are training those in ministry to serve in this environment,” Iorg said. “We celebrate and learn from this diversity, rather than being divided by it.”

WMU’S NEW HOPE PUBLISHES ‘CAREGIVER GPS’ — “Finding Your Way: A Spiritual GPS for Caregivers” by Sandy Lovern is a new release from New Hope Publishers, an imprint of WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union).

“Everyone knows someone who has cared for, or is currently caring for, an aging parent or loved one,” the New Hope news release stated. “Caring for aging parents while respecting their independence can be exhausting emotionally and physically,” Lovern, who has cared for elderly parents, “offers inspiration and hope for the uncharted path ahead” rather than focusing on the clinical aspect of taking care of loved ones.

Writing from experience, Lovern “shares sound advice regarding the physical, mental, relational and other seemingly endless issues that arise for caregivers,” the news release stated. “She sheds light on how to lovingly address the emotions of both the cared-for and the caregiver, adding ideas and examples to help the aging person process his or her present changes, while encouraging caregivers to navigate the future.”

Caregiving is a significant issue for the Baby Boomer generation, Lovern said, noting that “the figures are alarming as to the growing number of individuals who will inevitably find themselves in this situation.”

Lovern, a wife and mother of two in Mulberry, Fla., also is the author of another New Hope book, “Engaged! A Devotional to Help a Bride-to-Be Navigate Down the Aisle.”
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston from reporting by Micah Carter of LifeWay Christian Resources; Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Frank Michael McCormick of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary; and Ashley Stephens of WMU’s New Hope Publishers.

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