NAMB Resources for Ministering to Military Chaplains

Honoring Military Service Members and Chaplains banner

Last week, I wrote a post titled “Pray for Our Military Chaplains.” I received some great feedback from readers, all of which was very positive. At the end of that post, I made the following recommendation:

One closing suggestion. In partnership with our International Mission Board, many local churches have adopted unreached people groups in recent years. This has been a great way to connect our churches with our Southern Baptist foreign missionaries. Perhaps our churches could also partner with NAMB in adopting a military chaplain. Imagine if every chaplain had one or more churches praying for him by name, offering him personal spiritual encouragement, and partnering with him as he proclaims Christ to our Armed Services personnel.

I received an email from Mike Ebert, who serves as vice president for communications at North American Mission Board. Mike pointed me to a section on the NAMB website that provides resources to help churches more closely minister to chaplains in particular and military personnel in general. Those resources include prayer cards, videos, and a forthcoming guide for holding a chaplain commissioning service. I hope many of our churches will avail themselves of these resources and adopt one of more of our Southern Baptist military chaplains.

Reflections on the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, Part 1

Danny Akin preaching the Convention sermon

Last week, Southern Baptists held their annual Convention in Houston, Texas. In general, I think it was a very good gathering. I returned to Wake Forest very hopeful about the direction Southern Baptists are heading, with one important exception (see below).

Every year, I try to offer some reflections on the SBC Annual Meeting from the perspective of one who is a scholar of Baptist Studies in general and a student of Southern Baptist life in particular. This will be the first of two posts to that end. What follows are my thoughts on the Convention. I will not offer any sort of systematic summary, but rather will focus on some of the happenings and themes that I wish to emphasize.

1. Declining Attendance. I will begin with the one negative, at least from my perspective. According to Baptist Press, approximately 5100 messengers were present for the Houston Convention. While I was not expecting 10,000 messengers, I’m quite surprised the attendance was so low. Consider the messenger counts (approximate) since 2005:

  • Nashville (2005) – 11,500
  • Greensboro (2006) – 11,500
  • San Antonio (2007) – 8600
  • Indianapolis (2008) – 7200
  • Louisville (2009) – 8700
  • Orlando (2010) – 11,000
  • Phoenix (2011) – 4800
  • New Orleans (2012) – 7800
  • Houston (2013) – 5100

We are clearly in the midst of a participation free-fall. From 2005–2007, we averaged 10,500 messengers. This is down considerably from the hottest days of The Controversy in the 1980s and 1990s, but still solid average attendance. From 2008–2010, we averaged just under 9,000 messengers. Keep in mind Orlando was especially well-attended because of the debate concerning the Great Commission Resurgence. From 2011–2013, we averaged 5900 messengers. Keep in mind that New Orleans was generally well-attended because of Fred Luter’s nomination for Convention president.

I will not take the time in this post to tease out the possible reasons for this trend or to offer any possible solutions. (Feel free to offers some in the comments, so long as you play nicely.) I simply want to point out what many observers already know: the number of meaningfully engaged Southern Baptists is shrinking at an even faster rate than our gradually declining membership numbers. We are on pace to average only 3000–3500 messengers in the next three or four years.

2. The Convention Sermon. If you will allow me to be a Southeastern “homer” for just a minute, one of the biggest highlights for me was hearing Danny Akin preach the Convention sermon. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; many of our finest preachers never have the chance to preach the Convention sermon. Akin preached a powerful message titled “Will Southern Baptists be Great Commission Baptists?” We posted the manuscript and video last week at Between the Times. I hope you’ve taken the time to read the manuscript or, even better, watch the sermon. A transcript will also be published in the SBC Annual from the Houston Convention.

Those of us who are part of the SEBTS family have heard Akin sound many of his sermon’s themes over the past seven or eight years, but it was a great encouragement to hear him make his case before the entire Convention. The response I heard was very positive, especially from everyday Southern Baptists who don’t pay much attention to social media. My prayer is that we will heed Akin’s words so that Great Commission Baptists isn’t just an alternate descriptor for a few of us, but is the vision owned by all Southern Baptists.

3. LifeWay and the North American Mission Board. I am supremely impressed with the leadership of Thom Rainer (LifeWay) and Kevin Ezell (NAMB). These men lead strategic ministries that are heading in a healthy direction. I’m especially encouraged when I hear younger Southern Baptists in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who are energized by initiatives and emphases such as The Gospel Project, Ministry Grid, Disaster Relief, and Send North America. Several younger messengers told me that the highlight of their Convention experience was attending the Send North America luncheon.

It wasn’t that long ago that many of my generational peers were suggesting that LifeWay was specializing in curricula and products that a decreasing number of churches cared about. I don’t hear that complaint much there days. And then there is NAMB. I’m delighted that NAMB has gone from being a mostly dysfunctional ministry just a few years ago to being the denominational ministry that tends to elicit the most excitement from younger ministers (and many older ones, too).

On Wednesday morning, I will publish a second post with my reflections on the Houston Convention.

(Image credit)

Guest Post (Greg Mathias): Is Bad Sex Killing the Great Commission?

[Editor’s Note: This guest blogpost is written by Greg Mathias, Associate Director of International Missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes about an ever-pertinent issue in Southern Baptist mission efforts.]

“The Smuttiest Cities in America” is the title of a recent article in Men’s Health Magazine. The article uses statistics of the number of DVDs purchased, rented, or streamed; adult entertainment stores per city; rate of porn searches; and the percentage of households who subscribe to a cable channel that shows soft-core porn to come up with a snapshot of the most ‘pornified’ cities in America. [1] The findings are disheartening on many levels, but what troubles me is that Raleigh, NC ranks as the #4 smuttiest city.

This troubles me because I am employed at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) which is in Raleigh’s backyard. A large number of our students and seminary employees live, raise families, and work in the Raleigh area. Every year we send many men, women, and families to the mission fields of North America and the globe.

God continues to bless SEBTS, yet I wonder if the numbers of those going overseas could be much, much more. Our primary international mission sending partner at SEBTS is the International Mission Board, SBC. According to their estimates 70-80% of applicants every year have some sort of pornography history, and many of these applicants are either slowed down in the application process or stopped all together.* A legitimate assumption is that these numbers are similar with the North American Mission Board, SBC as well.**

At SEBTS we are committed to equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission. Yet, according to this study, bad sex is undermining these efforts. Some fundamental issues are at stake when it comes to the corruptive nature of pornography:

  1. Questioning God’s Goodness. When you engage in pornography a fundamental assumption is that God is not good. James 1:17 reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father. God gave us the sexes as a good thing. He gave us sex within the bounds of marriage as a good thing. God is good. Pornography in any shape or form judges God’s provisions as not good enough.
  2. Living too Long on Fantasy Island. The world is not about you and your fantasies, nor is it a playground for your personal pleasures and desires. 1 John 2 tells us that this world, along with its desires, is passing away, but the mark of a true believer is one who is captivated by the will of God not the things of this world. It’s time to leave Mr. Roarke, Tattoo and “The plane!” behind and get back to reality!
  3. Laziness Trumps Self-denial and Discipline. It’s easy to click a mouse, type in a Google search or rent a DVD. Real relationships take time, work and energy. The Christian life is one of sacrifice and perseverance. Jesus reminds us of this very point in Luke 9:23. Paul urges us to be self-controlled lest we be disqualified in 1 Corinthians 9.
  4. Enslavement. Pornography is a common sin among many men and women in today’s world. Too many settle for an identity of sin and struggle. You are not your sin. In Romans 6, Paul tells us of our new identity as slaves of God, not slaves to sin. If you are in Christ, you have been set free indeed! Live like who you REALLY are.

We all need to live a confessional life before God and others. If you are one of those who struggle with pornography, I urge you to love God more than pixels or images. Sin always overpromises and under delivers. After the rush of adrenaline and excitement, you are only left with guilt and shame.

With any sin pattern, there are times when true freedom seems hopeless. If this describes you, the situation is not without hope. There is a way forward:

  1. Seek out help. This seems obvious, but there are people who can and will help you. Seek them out. Go to your pastor, your small group leader or another mature, trusted friend. Seek out those Proverbs 17:17 people. 1 Corinthians 10 reminds us that temptation does not automatically lead to sin. There is a way out.
  2. Get serious about God, your sin, and you. God hates sin. He is also better than anything that sin promises. Repent. Call your sin, sin and bring it into the light. 1 John 1 helps us see the need to live in the light. If we confess our sins God is the faithful one who forgives and cleanses us.
  3. Kill sin, don’t simply anesthetize it. John Owen powerfully states, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Run from your sin. This will mean a radical lifestyle change and some brutally honest and invasive accountability with your spouse and others, like those people in number 1 above. Jesus is harsh on sin in Matthew 5. You should be just as harsh with your own sin. Remember, this will most likely take time. Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us to guard our hearts. This is a long and arduous process. For some, repenting of a certain sin is a onetime thing, but for most, a continual struggling repentance is the means to defeating sin and its entanglement.
  4. Consider NOT going…right now. Pornography does not automatically disqualify you from being used of God. God wants His name glorified among the nations, not your sin. Mission work often intensifies struggles and sin. Deal with your sin; allow time for healing and a new pattern to be formed in your life. The point is not to simply put off sin, but to also put on godly character (Colossians 3). Then consider where God may have you serve.

The Great Commission is our mandate. God is great and He has given us a Great Commission. Why aren’t more going? The complicated answer might be bad SEX.

*These are rough estimates. More research needs to be done in order to provide an accurate picture of pornography usage among IMB applicants. Also, these numbers do not take into account other sexual sins and deviations which hinder or stop applicants in the process.

**Research needs to be done to verify numbers with the North American Mission Board, SBC.