Archive for the 'Events' Category

Published by Mark Morris on 18 Jan 2016

Missions Intensive – RDU

If you are a pastor who wants to start at the beginning of biblical foundations of mission and move toward building your church mission strategy, grab a couple of leaders and make plans to attend the upcoming Missions Intensive in Raleigh Durham area.

David Platt and J.D. Greear will be leading, along with some global missions experts. For more information visit the web site.

Learn about the state of the Kingdom of God around the world. Pray together with other pastors regarding your church’s part in God’s advance in the world. Attend breakout sessions to explore practical handles on your church’s plans and strategies.

More Missions Intensives scheduled for Louisville, Nashville and Riverside, Ca.



Published by Mark Morris on 23 Jun 2012

Not Embarrassed – Pleased

Yes, you heard me correctly. I’m coming away from the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention’s annual gathering Not Embarrassed.

I apologize for making the statement in the negative, but in light of some other annual gatherings, this expression is most appropriate.  Too often, the annual gathering of the largest protestant denomination leaves me with a mixed sense of gratitude and a bit of regret – honestly, downright embarrassment. But this year stood out from other conventions.

My sincere and profound gratitude for the SBC always grows out of our legacy of cooperative, Christ-centered local and global missions advance. I’m always excited to connect with great friends and partners in ministry.

I was excited this year that NAMB raised the bar to a new level in terms of creatively communicating their  mission and message in a setting other than the traditional reporting format; they offered a lunch with a powerful presentation – more effective than the usual business report that occurred late on Wednesday night, when most people had already departed for home.

I was moved by Tom Elliff’s IMB report that 1281 churches have decided to engage some of the remaining unreached unengaged peoples of the world.  As former IMB missionaries, my wife and I are always overcome with conviction and re-commitment to our Lord and Savior – posturing ourselves more strategically for radical obedience.

Unfortunately, the wonderful things about the SBC gathering are countered by sheepish, unspoken embarrassment – usually coming from some whacky resolution that slips through one of the more sparsely attended business sessions. The end result is usually a bitter-sweet taste in many Southern Baptist mouths. In the past, I would be embarrassed if my non-Christian friends were to hear about the contentious way in which Christians behave while “doing business.” In the past I would not want my non-believing friends to know about that one-off polarizing, non-essential, or even  nonsensical business item that surfaced.

In an article in The Commercial Appeal, James Patterson of Union University points out the Landmarkist influence that has been the source of some of my embarrassment. In the Baptist 21 panel, theologians young and old were reminded from representatives of two different theological views that the theological debate and tension is an important factor for denominations. Young pastors were  reminded that the debate needs to be lively but Christlike, even “sweet,” whether it is a debate over Calvinism vs. Arminianism, or a debate over ecclesiology or eschatology.

Al Mohler in his recent post, did a much better job than me in pointing out some of the reasons we celebrate this year’s convention. Personally I can confirm that this year was great and here are three specific examples of why I celebrate.

Fred Luter – I was in the assembly hall when thousands stood unanimously and waved their yellow ballots confirming the first African American president of this old denomination.  Fred Luter is a godly pastor who represents dramatic progress for the future of Southern Baptists. This one is personal for me, since I am the Associate Pastor of a three-year old African American congregation. My wife and I are the only Anglo’s in the congregation so this election makes an important statement to our church.

Great Commission Baptists – I am grateful that Southern Baptist leaders recognized and acted to overcome the barrier found in our historical, legal name. The SBC is no longer exclusively identified with a particular geography. The SBC, like the gospel that we preach, is not limited by location, ethnicity or culture.  Thus it is appropriate that longitude and  latitude yielded to an alternate nomenclature – Great Commission Baptists. What do Baptists who live south of the equator think when when we call ourselves Southern Baptists? What do we communicate in the Northeast or Northwest  when we say we are Southern Baptists? What do we communicate to my congregation of Black Americans when we said, “You can legitimately call yourselves Great Commission Baptists rather than Southern Baptists?”  To say the least, my African American pastor and church are pleased.  It will be easier in the African American community here in Memphis to talk about being a Great Commission Baptist church than to call ourselves a Southern Baptist church.  Thank you Southern Baptists for this wise decision.

Young Leaders – I am also grateful for a groundswell of young leaders who appeared at this convention. I attended a robust 9pm gathering of young leaders under the banner 9 Marks, as well as the Baptist 21 gathering of 1000 young leaders. After the Baptist 21 panel discussion I tapped Johnny Hunt and reminded him of a few years earlier when as President he made it a priority to pass the torch to young leaders. He had personally appealed to young pastors to facilitate change, to get involved, and to take leadership in their denomination. Thank you Johnny for calling these young pastors to participation. Thank you young leaders for being there and engaging relevant issues. I was excited to see that young leaders stood during business sessions and called Southern Baptists to wisdom.

So this article is my declaration that I am not embarrassed by any thing that I need to explain or overlook regarding actions of the SBC this year in New Orleans.  In fact, you could say that my feelings are not only not negative – but very positive.

So I leave New Orleans with a full tummy  (too much Mr. B’s barbecue shrimp and beignets from Cafe du Monde) and a full heart.

Published by Mark Morris on 27 May 2011


Published by Mark Morris on 16 Mar 2011

New IMB President

New International Mission Board President

By Erich Bridges

DALLAS (BP)—By a unanimous vote, Thomas (Tom) D. Elliff was elected International Mission Board president March 16 by IMB trustees meeting in Dallas.

Tom Eliff, New IMB President

Elliff, 67, a longtime pastor, Southern Baptist Convention leader and former missionary, will lead one of the largest evangelical missions agencies in an era of rapid change at home and around the globe.

The greatest mission challenges, he said, are the world’s overwhelming spiritual lostness and the urgency of mobilizing churches to take the Gospel of Christ to all peoples.

“We must realize that we’re in a world that is hostile to the message of the Gospel, yet there are so many people who are longing to hear,” Elliff said. “That’s why we must go to the uttermost now. Frankly, I think we live in a generation of students who are asking, ‘Why do we keep hearing about these unreached people groups? Why don’t we just go reach them?’ I believe we are seeing, even in our own convention, a groundswell of men and women of all ages who have the heart and are willing to go to the unreached now.”

Addressing questions about his own age, Elliff added: “I’m not coming as an ‘interim.’ I’m coming with a vision — and I will serve as long as God gives me grace and energy.”

Elliff succeeds Jerry Rankin as president of the mission board, which serves Southern Baptists and the 5,000 missionaries they send worldwide. Rankin retired July 31, 2010, after 17 years as IMB president. Executive Vice President Clyde Meador has served as interim president during the search for a new leader.

“This is the result of many months of missionaries praying, Southern Baptists praying and our trustees praying,” said IMB Trustee Chairman Jimmy Pritchard, who led the presidential search committee. “God has answered our prayer.”

Rankin, who recruited Elliff to a high-level IMB assignment during his tenure, agreed.

“Tom brings an amazing combination of qualities to the task,” Rankin said. “He has a deep personal walk with the Lord that inspires and challenges others. His heart for missions grows out of a personal calling. His understanding of mission strategy comes from years of involvement as a missionary, pastor and senior executive team member at IMB. He has great communication skills, genuine passion to reach a lost world, the favor and respect of missionaries and IMB staff, and he is well-connected with the churches and Southern Baptist Convention leadership.”

Born in Texas, Elliff is a fourth-generation Oklahoman and third-generation pastor. He served with his wife, Jeannie, as a missionary to Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. They resigned in 1983 after their daughter, Beth, was seriously injured in a car accident there.

He was twice elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, in 1996 and 1997. He has led several key churches in the denomination, including First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, Okla., where he was pastor from 1985 to 2005.

Elliff then served as IMB senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations from 2005 to 2009. In that role, he taught and counseled missionaries and helped mobilize churches throughout the convention for missions involvement. Since then he has led Living in The Word Publications, a writing and speaking ministry he founded in 2005. He is the author of numerous books about prayer, spiritual awakening and family life.

Published by Mark Morris on 17 May 2010

A Sixth Option-SBC Rebirth #GCR

LifeWay recently hit us with the latest report on Southern Baptist Decline and Ed Stetzer wrote, Will Southern Baptist’s Ignore the Ongoing Decline?. The article offered five response’s to the continued decline.

I want to offer a sixth option with two divergent paths. First of all, read Ed’s article to see where Southern Baptists are heading. To quote from the article,

Despite adding 162 churches across 42 state conventions, total membership slid from 16,228,438 in 2008 to 16,160,088 in 2009, a net loss of 68,350 members. The decline has occurred in spite of an increase of 7,539 baptisms year over year. The Annual Church profiles revealed a tiny (.36%) rise in total number of churches and a .37% increase in primary worship attendance.

In response to this irrefutable downward trend of the mammoth Southern Baptist denomination, Stetzer offers four ridiculous options which include denial and blaming of other factions including blaming the lost themselves. His fifth option is posited as the only viable choice.  His fifth choice is stated below.

We are a denomination in decline. Some don’t like to admit it.  But, the decline of SBC membership is not a matter of debate.  It is a matter of math.  And, if trends continue, it won’t end soon. Expect to hear “membership decline” more times than “membership growth” over the next few years.

The 5th and final option, and really the only option for us to really impact the world, is a serious self-examination as to whether how we make disciples is rooted in Scripture and delivering the gospel effectively to our mission field. We can scarcely hope to impact the world if we do not approach the gospel and kingdom of God in the same way that Christ did.

Do we value the kingdom as He did? Do we love sinners as He loved them? Do we serve as He served? Do we remind our neighbors of Jesus and tell them of His gospel?

If we cannot answer in the affirmative to these questions, then we will continue on the present path. If we can or will embrace these concepts (and others), then we can trust that God will work through us to affect a move of gospel influence across North America and the world.

Now I want to offer a sixth option with two divergent paths.    Our choice is Willing Rebirth, or Rebirth By Splintering. Yes as Ed states we must do serious self-examination. But self-examination is only profitable if it leads to the correct result.  In essence, the GCR Task Force is a group of visionary leaders who engaged in some serious self-examination on behalf of all of us.  They have given Southern Baptists as a whole the opportunity to join them in that process of personal assessment.  Now they are offering some solutions that move us, as I see it, in the correct direction.  And would the work of the GCR Task Force ever have occurred through our existing SBC structure?  Absolutely not.  There is no question in my mind that Johnny Hunt was absolutely correct in pulling together this task force for this purpose.  However, there is no way that the existing proposal gets us all the way to where we need to be in order to reverse the downward trend.

Reforming the SBC is not enough to reverse the spiraling trend. The GCR task force recommendation is a kind and gentle prodding in the direction of reform. I suspect that the GCR task force wisely ascertained that if they proposed complete overhaul of the denomination, the result would be utter upheaval and failure of their recommendations. But I assume that they know this proposal is just the beginning of what is really needed to turn away from our declining posture.  We need an SBC rebirth, not merely reform.

Remember your own salvation. If you turned to Christ as an adult you may remember this more clearly. Remember your miserable lifestyle before following Christ,  and remember the revolution that Christ brought about in your life.   He radically turned the old creature into a new one.  He took your old nature and transformed you into a new creature in Christ.  You have been radically reborn, yet you have the same physical body. Your spiritual rebirth transcends the physical dimension  into the eternal.  You and I Have Been Amazingly Reborn.

The Southern Baptist Convention needs to be completely reborn and the GCR Task Force is offering a plan which sets us up for either reform or rebirth. It is up to us to choose which one it will be.

Southern Baptists may chose the easier path of reform. Unfortunately, like salvation, we cannot be reborn partially or incompletely (reform). Rebirth is total and complete but at the same time salvation is an ongoing process of sanctification.

After spiritual rebirth, we practice the symbol of physical immersion. Complete and total immersion in water signifies the death to the old and the birth of the new in Christ.   We don’t merely dip a hand or foot in the water. We dip our entire body.

If a lost sinner can be reformed rather than reborn, then maybe  I’ll buy the same argument for the SBC. Granted, the analogy breaks down for many reasons.  But my point is this, I’m not buying the assumption that we can tweak this ship and it will stop up the leaks. If this vehicle is to take us to the next 150 years, it needs the same Biblical imperative as the old SBC, but today we need to rebuild the ship with the latest structural engineering, the most advanced technology, and the latest materials available to mankind.

Does anyone remember seeing the old foot long, half pound cell phones?   We don’t need to keep using them do we?  Let’s use iphones and PDAs.  The SBC needs to trade  in our old outdated cell phones to at least get the updated free phone that comes with the renewal plan.

So, what does total rebirth look like for the SBC? Good question and it is the question that our new leaders must address together – how can the SBC be born again?

Another blogger recently wrote, I am in favor of the GCR final report because it kicks the can down the road a little further on having the conversation in our churches that we need to have. I don’t see how we can go backwards from here.

I agree that the GCR gets the can further down the road, but, remember someone must keep kicking the can. The GCR proposal is just the first kick. And, it actually can go backwards from here.  Someone can kick this can the wrong direction.  It would not be the first time for that to happen.

Rebirth will require that over the coming years we must willingly raze (utterly destroy) some of the vestiges of our old life. That’s right, death to the old.  The truth is that the people most willing to destroy the old are those who will experience the least amount of loss.  These people, are perhaps the best ones to build a new structure.  New leaders are needed who respect the traditions but who have no ties to the old way of carrying out the vision.

Those with the most to lose are those who get fed by the SBC machine. People like me who get paid by the existing system must choose to place our own security on the altar. We will either choose temporal well-being (and fight for partial reform), or we will choose personal financial uncertainty (and at our own peril, fight for total rebirth.)  That’s right, total rebirth could mean the end of the IMB, NAMB, The Executive, as we know them. I pray that it doesn’t but if that is what God requires, so be it.  It could mean the end of some other Southern Baptist icons that we think are at the heart of who we are.  Wow!  Did I really say that?

Total Rebirth means that anything short of throwing out the Bible is to be placed in the Lord’s hands, on his altar to either preserve or set aside for the birth of a new creation.

I’m ready for rebirth, because we as Southern Baptists are on our way to becoming Johnson Avenue Baptist Church (name changed to protect the innocent.)  JABC was a great church in her day. But after 120 years she gradually declined and her remaining members tried to hold on to the property, sustain the building, and to meagerly pay a retired pastor.  The goal became, “I just want my church to be around long enough to bury me when I die.”  Eventually the last two members sold the property and a Wendy’s restaurant is now sitting on the once glorious property of the Johnson Avenue Baptist Church. The only monument which hails the glories of JABC is a sign which reads, $1 Menu Daily.

So this sixth choice is our best option – lay everything, I mean everything short of Scripture on the altar and be reborn. Then we can let God rebuild us into His new creation.  Honestly, that is not a frightening proposition. It is an awesome place to find oneself – in God’s hands to reshape us as He pleases.

There is a second part to this option of rebirth, and this is where the paths diverge. This is the one I don’t really want to mention or see materialize.  However, if we don’t willingly allow self-sacrifice to bring new life to this cooperative body of Baptists, then…

…a different kind of rebirth will occur.

It could be a rebirth into dozens of splintering groups. Perhaps a significantly large group of young leaders will form a new group that can start fresh and birth a new SBC.  Maybe they can throw out the geographical nomenclature and be global rather than Southern.  Perhaps they will become something other than a convention?  Perhaps they won’t have “boards” at all?  Perhaps they will not be able to afford six seminaries or even to sustain fully-funded missionaries?  Perhaps they will not have three different headquarters in three different cities? Maybe they will all share one administrative plan for staffing and logistics?  Maybe they will start from scratch and build a new mechanism that will take them on a century and a half journey of new growth reaching the neglected, the lost and the least reached.

But we’ve been down that painful road so many times. Do we really want that?

So my choice, is Willing and Purposeful Rebirth, rather than a spiraling, splintering rebirth.

I’m not proposing this second kind of rebirth. I’m just saying, if we aren’t willing to die on the altar…

Published by Mark Morris on 06 Jan 2010

Avery Willis Diagnosed with Leukemia

Avery Willis, giant of Southern Baptist missions, diagnosed with leukemia Print E-mail By Bob Allen Wednesday, January 06, 2010 BELLA VISTA, Ark. (ABP)

— Avery Willis, a former Southern Baptist missionary and administrator best known as developer of the MasterLife discipleship materials used around the world, has been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. Willis, who retired in 2004 as senior vice president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, said in a Jan. 6 prayer newsletter that a doctor told him he likely has one of two types of the disease. Depending on which type, he said, the average life expectancy after diagnosis ranges from six months to four years. Avery and Shirley Willis reside in retirement in Bella Vista, Ark. Willis said doctors planned additional DNA testing on a bone-marrow biopsy taken the week before to determine whether to proceed with treatment for chronic monocytic leukemia or the more problematic chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. Willis, who lives with his wife, Shirley, in Bella Vista, Ark., now works as executive director of the International Orality Network, a partnership of mission organizations using oral methods to evangelize and disciple the roughly 70 percent of the world’s population that is functionally illiterate. An Arkansas native, Willis served as a missionary in Indonesia for 14 years before returning to the United States in 1978. While serving as president of the Indonesia Baptist Seminary, he created an intensive small-group discipleship study process named MasterLife. During 15 years he worked as head of adult-discipleship programs for what is now known as LifeWay Christian Resources of the SBC, MasterLife became a staple of Sunday-night and midweek study groups in Southern Baptist churches. It also was translated into 50 languages and used in 100 countries around the world. In 2008 Willis was one of six candidates nominated as president of the Southern Baptist Convention in an election won on the first ballot by current SBC President Johnny Hunt. Hunt himself is scheduled soon to undergo surgery for prostate cancer. Willis recently was invited to give input to a Great Commission Task Force appointed last June by Hunt to study ways to make the SBC’s church-planting and missionary efforts more effective. Willis said his doctors have been trying for six months to discover what caused a low white-blood-cell count that spiked to 10 times what it should be. In his regular January 2010 prayer letter, he reported excruciating pain in the hips that had been going on for three weeks. He is seeking admission to M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for treatment. Willis asked supporters to pray for his healing if that is God’s will, and for a successor at the International Orality Network and other causes with which he is involved. “In the midst of your concern for me I want you to compare my situation with the 4 billion oral learners who haven’t heard and don’t understood the Words of Life,” he concluded. “At least 1.5 billion people have never heard of Jesus. They are the ones who need our attention and prayers.”

-30- Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Published by Mark Morris on 19 Dec 2008

Non-conference Conference on Missions

Someone directed me to a post at a site called Downshore Drift. The posting was from Nov 25 and you can find it at the following link January 12,13 Gathering.

The article points to the fact that increasing numbers of church leaders are waking up to the responsibility we have to be proactive in missional living and leadership.

So a group of folks are gathering January 12 and 13 in St. Louis not in the form of a formalized conference, but as a small gathering of people concerned about sharing vision and resources to impact our cities and the nations for Christ.

Cool to see God moving churches to action in missional living.

Can’t wait to see what happens?  I wonder what other spontaneous movement are occurring as God stirs peoples hearts?

Published by Mark Morris on 20 Aug 2008

My Conclusions on The Shack

You may be wondering what I think about The Shack. By the way in Josh Davis’ interview with the author we learned that he goes by Paul not William P. Young. Josh’s interview opened my eyes to the nature of the author, not for an audience of three million, but for his children.  Later friends convinced him to self-publish 10,000 copies and to put up a web site. With ZERO marketing budget – its a best seller. Paul called it a God thing. He’s a very humble man.

So here’s what I think about the book.

First of all – it’s fiction, and then some. In fact, it is superbly written fiction. Man! Paul has an uncanny ability to string together fantastic images that illuminate the beauty, power, and majesty of the One True God. This fiction kept me glued to the book and drew me personally into God.

The edgy imagery, which has raised questions in Christendom, accomplished its purpose. I’m reminded of my favorite worship leader, Miller Cunningham. He’s a gifted worship leader not only because of his musical ability, but because God uses Miller to lead people humbly, deeply, personally, repentantly, and delightfully to the throne of Grace.

When I finished the book, I found myself drawn to my Savior sitting and talking to God for an hour or more – just enjoying my relationship with Him. So I guess you might call Paul, author of The Shack, a very effective worship leader, at least for me.

Finally – yep, I only needed a “first” and a “final” here- Paul used trinitarian dialog (among the persons of the trinity) to make some profound theological statements.

Here’s some favorites:

We (the trinity) are already fully fulfilled within ourself. You are designed to be in community as well, made as you are in our very image.

Judgment is not about destruction, but about setting things right.

In a discussion between Jesus and Mack on Jesus’ passion for his bride, the church, Jesus (in The Shack) said the following, Mack, that’s because you’re only seeing the institution (of the church), a man-made system. That’s not what I came to build. What I see are people and their lives, a living breathing community of all those who love me, not buildings and programs…My church is all about people and life is all about relationships. You can’t build it. It’s my job and I’m actually pretty good at it.

God the Father speaking on the central role of Jesus and his nature – being fully God and Man and fully one with the Trinity – Like I said, everything is about him. Creation and history are all about Jesus. He is the very center of our purpose and in him we are now fully human, so our purpose and your destiny are forever linked. You might say that we have put all our eggs in the One (Jesus) human basket. There is no plan B.

I couldn’t help but make notes one some of the more outstanding dialog on the following topics:

God is Spirit, neither male nor female- p.93

Green living – p.132,144

Evil – p.136,137

Personal Rights?, p.137

Fear -p.142

Submission – p.145,149

Spirit Empowerment & Relationships – p.148-149

Purpose of Judgment – p.169

Church as The Bride – p.177-178

Trust – p.180

Anti-pluralism – p.182

Grace & Suffering – p.185

Jesus – p.192

Perceptions & Assumptions – p. 197

The Self-fulfilled Nature of God – p.201

The Old Law – p. 202

Freedom in Christ – p.203

God is a verb! – p.204

Forgiveness – p.225-227

So, I guess you could conclude that I really like this book because it drew me into the nature and the person of God who is a verb. To quote The Shack, God says,

I am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active, and moving. I am a being verb.

Published by Mark Morris on 12 Aug 2008

Questions about “The Shack,” Ask The Author Yourself – Noon Central

So what do you think about the NY TImes best seller, The Shack, by William P. Young?

The book is a craze among students. They are swarming it like ants to a church picnic.

However, many our concerned that the theology falls short.

Many are aghast at the author’s presentation of God in the form of a woman. The storyline makes it clear that God presents himself in such a form to the main character because Mack grew up under a father figure who was an abusive, alcoholic who beat his 13 year old son for two days straight. Ultimately Mack ran away from home after nearly being beaten to death by his father. With that background, how could Mack be receptive to a male representation of the Eternal Father?

If you can get over that issue, there are a few more hurdles.

Another issue discussed among Christians is the fact that the author presents an absolutely equal state of each person of the Trinity. The Trinity is therefore, completely non-hierarchical.

Still others are concerned that the teachings put forth in the book are contradictory on the sovereignty of God.

The list of concerns goes on and on, but others retort:

“This is fiction and it is harmless. Besides, it is markedly Christian and the book holds great potential to draw non-believers into a conversation that could lead to redemptive faith.”

Regardless of what we may think, students and non-students are reading this book like crazy.

If you and I are familiar with the most popular book among students, maybe you and I can speak into their pursuit of the One True God?! Besides, don’t stats show us that of all age groups, young people are the most receptive to the Gospel? Shouldn’t we be ready to speak to them about what they are reading rather than simply condemning the book and closing the door to any conversation?

So, my wife finished the book yesterday and immediately started reading it. I read 100 pages last night and plan on finishing it by Thursday. Why am I pushing to read it by Thursday?

Because I want to understand the craze and I want to be able to speak into the conversation students are having about God. But that’s just one reason.

The other reason I’m pushing to finish it by Thursday is because a friend of mine, Josh Davis has scheduled a 45 minute radio interview with the author at noon Central Time here in Memphis on Kwam 990. Josh’s show is called “The Josh Davis Show: Shining The Light of Truth on our Culture” and it airs just prior to The Dave Ramsey Show. For those not in Memphis you can Listen Live on line at 12pm Central Time on Thursday.

Better yet, if you have questions about the book, send them to Josh tomorrow. I’ve heard him tactfully ask some tough ones so write Josh and he’ll try to work them into the 45 minute interview.

So, if you have an opinion or concern or question about The Shack, don’t ask me, ask the author on Thursday.

Published by Mark Morris on 06 Aug 2008

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