Shane Pruitt named NAMB next gen evangelism director
ALPHARETTA — Shane Pruitt, an evangelist, Bible teacher, and director of evangelism for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, has been named director of next gen (generation) evangelism for the North American Mission Board (NAMB).
“My prayer is to see a movement of God and a revival among students,” Pruitt said. “I want to continue to preach to the next generation and help churches think through how to reach them.”
Johnny Hunt, NAMB’s senior vice president for evangelism and leadership, called Pruitt an exceptional communicator who is blessed with a gift for relating to students.
Pruitt begins his role in November. He will continue speaking at evangelism and outreach events and also focus on serving and resourcing Southern Baptist churches as they seek to more effectively reach students.
Pruitt said the overall drop in baptism numbers Southern Baptists have seen in recent decades is concerning, but the drop in student baptisms should set off even more alarms. A recent Wall Street Journal poll found that among Americans age 18-38, only 30 percent listed religion or belief in God as “very important” compared with 50 percent overall, and two-thirds of those age 55 and older.
“But similar polls show that 80 percent of young people place a high value on self-fulfillment,” Pruitt said. “The only way toward that is setting aside self and living for something bigger. To me that is a door wide open for the Gospel.”
Pruitt said he hopes to show churches that there is not a secret code to reaching students.
Pruitt and his wife, Kasi, have five children.
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Man accused of swindling money as false church planter
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP) — Memphis police are investigating a report accusing a man of swindling people out of money by saying he was planting a Southern Baptist church, sponsored by Bellevue Baptist Church in nearby Cordova, Tenn.
Police are investigating an incident report filed Sept. 16 by Latoya Nicole Hare of Memphis against 22-year-old Jaycolby Marchel Robinson, according to a copy of the report Memphis Police emailed Baptist Press. Identified as additional victims are Ricquel Lanette Hull and Regina Taylor Osei.
Robinson allegedly hired Hare as his personal assistant for $46,000 a year, Osei as an associate pastor at $48,000 a year, and Hull as director of hospitality for $25,000 a year. But he never paid them for the few weeks they worked, according to the report. Instead, they paid him $20 each for background checks, they told police.
Bellevue Baptist Church Pastor Steve Gaines told Baptist Press he is familiar with the accusation.
“We have not sponsored his church,” Gaines told BP Wednesday (Oct. 2). “Allegedly, he said that we were sponsoring him and he had talked to a relatively small group of people and told them that. And we have never sponsored him and we are not going to sponsor him.”
BP confirmed with Memphis police that its Economic Crimes Division is investigating a “false pretenses/swindle/confidence game” complaint filed in the matter. No charges have been filed in the case.
Robinson allegedly identified his church plant as Greater Victory Church at 84 E. Fairway Ave. Robinson told the women Bellevue Baptist had committed $1.8 million to the plant over a two-year period, Memphis FOX 13 News reported Sept. 30, but the amount was not listed in the report.
BP was unable to reach the alleged victims. According to FOX 13, Robinson also hired a Charles Lyles as a security director at a salary of $2,500 a week, which was allegedly never paid.
Robinson allegedly operated the church Aug. 2–Sept. 8, according to the police report.
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IMB worker Andy Leininger dies at 56
RICHMOND (BP) — Andrew (Andy) N. Leininger, who served as a Christian worker in the former Soviet Union for 22 years, died in his home state of Missouri on Oct. 13, 2019. He was 56.
In November 2016, Leininger was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive cancer that caused a brain tumor. In the months that followed, he had multiple surgeries and treatments. On Oct. 12, 2019, his wife Elizabeth shared an update on Facebook that Leininger had moved to hospice care. On Oct. 13, she wrote, “Andy is in Glory with our precious Savior.”
During their last months of service, before a second surgery left Leininger paralyzed, Andy and Elizabeth helped plant a new church and shared the Gospel with 60 people.
Born September 29, 1963, in El Paso, Texas, Leininger considered Bolivar, Missouri his hometown. He received two Bachelor of Science degrees in general engineering and general biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also received two master’s degrees in marriage and family counseling and religious education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
He served as a minister of education and administration at First Baptist Church, Carthage, Mo., before he and his wife were appointed in August 1996 to serve among the Russian peoples. The Leiningers have three daughters: Hannah, Rachel, and Rebekah.
A funeral was held Tuesday, October 15 at South Haven Baptist Church, Belton, Mo.
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Veteran Southern Baptist journalist James A. Smith Sr. joins Southwestern Seminary staff
FORT WORTH (BP) — Veteran Southern Baptist journalist and communicator James A. Smith Sr. has been appointed director of public relations at The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, President Adam W. Greenway announced Thursday, Oct. 17.
In this role, Smith will oversee the newly formed Office of Public Relations. He will serve as executive editor of Southwestern News, the seminary’s magazine; executive editor of Seminary Hill Press; and will manage all coverage of seminary news and events. Smith will also serve as the primary point of contact for external media.
Smith is no stranger to Seminary Hill and the Fort Worth-Dallas metroplex. In the fall of 1979, at the age of 14, Smith moved to Fort Worth and lived on campus for two years as his father pursued theological education. Smith’s father, Floyd Smith, went on to become a two-time alumnus of Southwestern Seminary. The younger Smith went on to graduate from a Fort Worth high school and Dallas Baptist University.
Smith comes to Southwestern Seminary having recently served as vice president of communications at the National Religious Broadcasters Association in Washington, D.C., where he led all communication functions for the historic evangelical organization. Prior to his service at NRB, Smith served from 2013–2016 as executive editor and chief spokesman at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., having previously served at the seminary from 1997-2001.
From 2001 to 2013, Smith was executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness. In this role, Smith expanded the newspaper’s coverage to emphasize missions, theology, and moral concerns. In 2011-2012, Smith served as president of the Association of State Baptist Publications, the fellowship of Southern Baptist newspaper editors.
An ordained Southern Baptist minister who has served also in pastoral ministry, Smith, 54, earned a Master of Divinity degree from Southern Seminary in 1999. The Smiths are parents to Lauren (and Chris) Garner and James A. Smith Jr., and are proud grandparents to Benjamin and Stella Garner.
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SBC Executive Committee restructures communications department, seeks new leadership for Baptist Press
NASHVILLE (BP) — Vice President for Communications for the SBC Executive Committee, Jonathan Howe, announced Oct. 16 the reorganization of the communications department. Included in the reorganization will be a new position to lead Baptist Press, the Conventions news arm.
“Since 1946, Baptist Press has faithfully served Southern Baptists by providing news and information through a variety of methods,” stated Howe. “For decades, Baptist Press focused on print journalism, and many of our methods still follow a schedule compatible with that platform. While our journalistic standards must remain high, we also must improve and diversify our communication to best serve the next generation of Southern Baptists through all means possible.”
The reorganization will delineate the communications office into Convention news and Convention communications. Baptist Press will represent the Convention news arm, while SBC Life will represent the Convention communications arm. Today the Executive Committee will launch a nationwide search to fill the position of Associate Vice President for Convention News, mirroring a similar position recently filled by Amy Whitfield.
Several new technologies are also in development, including a complete overhaul of all Convention websites as well as an update to the Baptist Press app. Included in the technology overhaul are improvements to the daily email and the coming launch of a new morning briefing email.
“Nearly 75 percent of our website visitors are consuming our content on a mobile device,” noted Howe. “We have to provide our content in a way that is both visually appealing and best communicates the story of Southern Baptists. Our goal for redesigning our websites should accomplish both of these.”
Those interested in the Associate Vice President position can find out more information here.
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