Baptist Life

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — With the Super Bowl this weekend, don’t expect many pastors to place a bet on Kansas City or San Francisco to win the game, but a few may have more than a rooting interest riding on the game. Despite its legalization across many states, U.S. Protestant pastors remain opposed to sports gambling, but they’re not doing much about it, according to a Lifeway Research study. Few pastors (13%) favor legalizing sports betting nationwide and most (55%) say the practice is morally wrong. 

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Brad Whitt, pastor of Georgia’s historic Abilene Baptist Church, will be nominated for president of the 2025 SBC Pastors' Conference. Dean Inserra, founding and lead pastor of CityChurch in Tallahassee, Fla., announced Tuesday that he plans to make the nomination. “He has displayed strong integrity, unwavering biblical convictions, and has shown himself to be about the kingdom of God and our cooperative efforts as Southern Baptists,” Inserra said.

ATLANTA — Hindsight shows that refusing to order churches to shut down at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was the right move, Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday. “I’m glad we never wavered on that,” Kemp told some 200 Georgia Baptist pastors gathered at the Capitol for an annual prayer breakfast. “If there was ever a time people needed to worship, that was the time.”

The International Mission Board needs churches. Missionaries can’t get to the mission field without churches, and churches enable missionaries to remain in the places God called them to serve. Churches also play a crucial role in raising up a new generation of missionaries.  

Who are your go-to people when you have news to share? A spouse, coworker or lifelong friend may provide receptive ears and attention when you have something exciting or even difficult to share. Do you have a separate set of people you would call if there was a tragedy or if you were in an accident? What if you need reassurance while dealing with discouragement or failure?

Abram had been following God obediently for several years. God’s promises of being a great nation and a source of blessing to all the peoples on earth had not yet been realized. After Abram’s experiences described in Genesis 14 of the rescue of Lot and an encounter with the mysterious Melchizedek, God renews Abram’s faith by a vision.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. — Baseball superstar turned evangelist Darryl Strawberry had a simple message for the 600 people at a men’s breakfast Saturday at New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville. “If you fall in love with Jesus, you realize you don’t need anything else,” he said. Strawberry played most of his 17-year career with the Mets and New York Yankees and knows about the heights of success and the depths of failure. The 1983 National League Rookie of the Year, eight-time All Star, and four-time World Series champion had all the fame and fortune the world could offer and lost everything to drug addiction.

A Baptist preacher who lived in bondage in colonial Georgia would go on to help wipe out the final vestiges of slavery in the British Empire. George Leile, with the help of the young deacon Samuel Sharpe, kicked the door closed on slavery through what became known in Jamaica as the Baptist War. Leile became a pioneering African American minister and missionary ater his conversion around age 21. He was ordained by the Big Buckhead Baptist Church in Georgia’s Burke County in 1775, becoming the first African American in America set aside for the ministry.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A year and a half into church planting, Daniel Carter was ready to quit. The members of his church were being deployed or assigned to different military bases all around the country faster than new disciples were taking their spots, and he and his wife, Rachelle, were left to stare at the empty seats.

ATLANTA — Over the objections of Georgia Baptist leaders, a proposal to legalize sports betting in Georgia cleared the state Senate on Thursday, but gamblers may not want to reach for their wallets just yet. A series of legislative hurdles still remain, meaning sports betting remains a longshot in the state. Senate Bill 386, which passed 35-15, would empower the Georgia Lottery Corp. to award 16 licenses to sports betting facilities, but only if voters first approve an amendment to the state's constitution to specifically allow sports betting, just as they did with the state lottery in 1992.

DULUTH, Ga. – The Georgia Baptist Foundation staff is working diligently after the holiday season to plan their annual Church Financial Conferences (CFC24) – formerly named Financial Compliance Seminars. Year-end giving tends to add more excitement to the Foundation office as stock and qualified charitable distribution gifts are processed in December and January.

PHOENIX — Beginning the new year, Lifeway President and CEO Ben Mandrell presented the organization’s trustees with the direction that will guide Lifeway into the next decade.  “At Lifeway, we want everyone to catch the vision for where we’re going and to clearly see how they fit into that vision,” Mandrell said. 

A funeral in Appalachia is an emotional and wonderful thing.  If you’ve never attended a mountain farewell celebration, there’s much to be appreciated. Last weekend, the funerals of two of my beloved’s cousins were held back home in Belfry.  At the first, cousins from all over hugged, laughed, and cried as they reminisced.  They hadn’t been together in years.  I watched and listened as they talked at once, catching up for lost time.

Wayne and I had dinner with some friends one night last week. We drove separate cars since I went directly from work and he just met me there. I will be the first to admit that I am a terrible night driver and it’s even worse when it is raining.

VILLA RICA, Ga. — An organization that exists to prevent and resolve conflicts in churches will hold a southern regional conference in Georgia in April. “I am aware of no greater threat to the gospel and the North American church than internal conflict,” said Todd Wright, co-lead pastor at Midway Church in Villa Rica, the setting for Relational Wisdom 360’s conference April 18-20. “The trauma of a single conflict is often passed down two additional generations. Sadly, for many people, their most vivid church memories center around conflict, instead of the transformational power of Jesus.”

In James 3:18, God makes a marvelous promise: “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” This “sow to reap” metaphor reminds us that the more diligently we teach and nurture God’s relational principles, especially the gospel itself, the more we will see a harvest of peace, unity and godly relationships in our families, churches, ministries, schools, and businesses.

DALLAS — GuideStone has released its most popular annual publication, the 2024 Ministers’ Tax Guide for 2023 Returns prepared by Richard Hammar, available now for GuideStone members at GuideStone.org/TaxGuide. The tax guide includes tax highlights for 2023 along with step-by-step filing instructions for ministers’ personal taxes and comprehensive examples and sample forms.

LAWTON, Okla. — Mike Keahbone, senior pastor of Lawton, First will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the 2024 SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis, Ind. Victor Chayasirisobhon, senior pastor of Anaheim, Calif., First, announced he plans to make the nomination when Southern Baptists gather for the annual meeting June 11-12.

BELFRY, Ky. (KT) — It was a baptism service Sunday unlike any other that Belfry First Baptist Church Pastor Mike McCartney has ever been involved in. McCartney baptized three people — 85-year-old Bruce Collins, his son, B.J., and his grandson, Bo. All three came to faith on the same day earlier this month.

SWAINSBORO, Ga. — A wild game dinner where 55 men committed their lives to Christ is one of the early indications that Georgia’s post-pandemic spiritual movement is continuing into 2024. Billy Brinson, missions strategist in the Emanuel Missionary Baptist Association, said 1,100 men gathered in Swainsboro for the wild game dinner,  some 200 of them standing along walls because all the seats were filled.

ATLANTA — Georgia’s largest religious organization is taking aim at the latest proposal to legalize sports betting in the state. The 1.4 million-member Georgia Baptist Convention, which has long opposed any expansion of gambling, is mobilizing its forces to urge lawmakers to defeat the legislation. The measure cleared the Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee on an 8-2 vote Tuesday morning and now goes to the Senate Rules Committee, which will decide whether to call it for a floor vote.

NEWARK, Del. — Over 200 Disaster Relief leaders and volunteers from across the nation arrived at Ogletown Baptist Church for the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Roundtable last week. The annual training conference/business session was planned this year by the four Northeast state conventions, with Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Disaster Relief director Ellen Udovich and volunteers hosting.

With the release of the 2023 “Jesus Revolution” movie, many senior adult believers relived the period. I preached and then went to the theater to watch the movie. I mistakenly thought that many younger believers would be attracted to the movie, but I felt young again as the youngest person in the theater.

GLENWOOD, Ga. — On weekdays, Robert Rogers is a pharmacist, dispensing prescriptions to southeast Georgia residents, but, on Sundays, he is pastor at Stuckey Baptist Church, delivering sermons to many of those same people. Rogers is one of a much-in-demand band of bivocational pastors who feel a calling to Georgia’s small rural congregations. Most of the roughly 300 Georgia churches that are without permanent pastors right now are in rural communities that simply don’t have the resources to support full-time clergymen, which makes bivocational pastors especially hot commodities.

Next Sunday morning before you attend the worship services at the church of your choice, ask yourself this question: “Am I predicting or expecting?” Far too many times believers arrive on Sunday mornings with predetermined expectations. It is usually a safe assumption that a few songs will be sung, a sermon will be delivered and even some baptisms or new members choosing to join the church will complete the time together with your church family.

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