Archive for the tag “Southern Baptist”

Trafficking: ‘Tricked, Trapped, Traded’

Don Graham reports for Baptist Press:

Sandy Wisdom-Martin didn’t realize what she was getting into when she stepped through the doorway of the Diamond Cabaret, a strip club in East St. Louis, Mo.

It was 10 years ago, during Southern Baptists’ evangelistic Crossover outreach that precedes each year’s Southern Baptist Convention.

Wisdom-Martin was part of a Crossover team working to share Jesus with exotic dancers, a job “way outside” her comfort zone. The goal was simple: free these women from the exploitation and oppression of the sex industry through an encounter with Christ that would radically change their lives. Little did Wisdom-Martin know the experience would radically change her life as well.

… Half of the Crossover team remained in the strip club’s parking lot to pray while the other half attempted to enter the club with gift bags for the dancers. To her surprise, Wisdom-Martin easily gained access, and was even welcomed to go backstage to the dancers’ dressing room to deliver the gift bags.

“We told them the story of salvation, that God loved them and God cared about them and had a plan for their lives,” Wisdom-Martin said. “I saw my friend leaning over three naked girls praying for them while tears streamed down their faces. By the time I left I was so overcome by the experience, so overcome by emotion, that I could hardly make it out of the club.”

The dancers were so touched by the kindness of the Crossover volunteers that they placed the gift bags on stage with them while they performed. The bags were filled with lotion, candles and other “girly” presents — as well as a Bible.

“That [response] was so strange to me,” Wisdom-Martin said. “It just seemed they were longing for somebody to connect with them, to care about them.”

Though none of the dancers at the Diamond Cabaret accepted Christ that day, Wisdom-Martin said they were obviously touched by the Crossover team’s unconditional love. But, she said, there were five professions of faith that day at other strip clubs visited by Crossover teams.

“There was a lot going through my heart and my mind. The lifestyles that these beautiful girls were trapped in, the miracle of us getting inside the club, the opportunity to witness and pray in strip clubs,” Wisdom-Martin said. “Not to mention a profound sense of gratitude that God allowed me to have a part in the ministry. And all that exploded on me in the parking lot of the Diamond Cabaret.”

… “If you take on human trafficking there will be struggles,” Wisdom-Martin said. “Just start looking beneath the surface and you’re going to start seeing stuff going on in your own community, but you have to open your eyes.”

Read the full article here.

Learn more about Project HELP here.

Southern Baptists elect first African-American president

Baptist Press reports:

Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, was elected June 19 as the first African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention during its annual meeting in New Orleans.

David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, said the election would send “a great, hopeful, powerful message to our city, our culture, our convention and our country.” Some observers felt it was appropriate that Luter’s election took place on the day many celebrate as Juneteenth, the anniversary of slavery’s end in the United States.

Read the Baptist Press article here.

Will Southern Baptists take this argument to New Orleans?

I am deeply distressed that, just as the Southern Baptist Convention is poised to take a big step forward in New Orleans by electing our first African-American president, another of our long-simmering disagreements is erupting into a full-blown argument. Instead of a badly needed witness to racial reconciliation, the world may watch us in New Orleans as we do what they think we do best — argue about doctrine.

This time the issue is how salvation works. One side insists our founders were convictional Calvinists: lost souls are incapable of responding to God’s grace on their own. The other side argues Southern Baptists have traditionally believed individuals must make a personal and free response to the Gospel. That the argument is coming to a head in the run-up to the annual meeting in New Orleans cannot be a coincidence.

We spent the better part of the past century disassociating ourselves from doctrinal error. When we finally purged our ranks of those who had drunk too deeply at the well of theological liberalism, we turned our sights on each other. Had we become so accustomed to focusing on how “they” differed from “us” that we no longer knew how brothers dwell together in unity? Have we been fighting civil wars so long that we cannot credibly take a message of peace to a lost world?

That lost world doubts any of us still authentically represents the Kingdom of Peace.

Jude exhorts us to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” and that we certainly ought to do. But Jude was warning about false teachers who had wormed their way into the churches, preaching a heresy that because of God’s grace, believers could live in immorality. Is that kind of heresy being taught in our midst today? Of course not! We are going to divide the house over which theory of salvation represents “what Southern Baptists have always believed,” as if that were possible.

Does anyone think a 1,600-year-old disagreement is suddenly going to be resolved by another argument?

Go ahead. Lock and load. Mount up. Do battle. Don’t stop to wonder whether the war you wage against your brother has anything to do with the fact that so many of our churches have dropped out of the denominational scene. It’s probably just a coincidence that while we have been arguing a younger generation has decided it wants nothing to do with the church. Why would our bickering make people think we can’t offer any solutions for the problems destroying their lives?

If only you would lay aside your heavy books for a moment and get involved with the hurting people huddled in the alleyways and under the overpasses of your city. If only you would consider that the “sheep” Jesus will welcome into the kingdom will be those who personally helped “the least of these,” not those who scored the most points in a debate, or racked up the most page views on their blog, or got the most votes at the annual meeting.

I’m brought close to tears by the irony of Jude’s letter. You believe you are earnestly contending for the true faith, as he exhorted, but Jude’s real desire, he said, was to write about the great salvation we share in Christ. How ironic — how sad, how pathetic — that salvation is what you now feel compelled to argue about with each other.

Stop, brothers, I beg you. Don’t be drawn into controversial questions and disputes about words. Return to your first love and do the deeds you did at first. Rediscover the kingdom. Focus your best energies on loving God and your neighbor. Take good news to the poor and proclaim release for the captives, sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed.

I’m not as much worried about embarrassing our good brother, Fred Luter, in what should be a moment of celebration for our great convention of churches — though that embarrassment is bad enough. I’m more concerned that we are in danger of the Lord removing our candlestick from among the churches. I am concerned he will finally grow weary of our arguing and cast us aside in disgust, like salt that has lost its saltiness. I am concerned he will decide to take the talents entrusted to us and give them to servants who will multiply them.

Will we take this argument to New Orleans? I hope not. Lord willing, that gathering might get us so passionate about the Kingdom that we completely forget we were arguing at all.

— Mark Kelly

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