SBC DIGEST: 'The Year of Good News'; 3-state scholarship aid; Ronnie Floyd podcast
Laurie gets Baptist support for 'The Year of Good News'
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (BP) -- Evangelist Greg Laurie, in an initiative proclaiming 2017 as "The Year of Good News," has been joined by a number of Southern Baptist leaders, including the current SBC president, Steve Gaines, and immediate past president, Ronnie Floyd.
"In a time of fake news, distracting news, divisive news, disorderly news, and, sometimes, depressing news, we -- as Christians and as leaders -- want to recommit ourselves to making sure that the Good News of Jesus cuts through it all," a Laurie-initiated proclamation states on the website for the Harvest crusades and church network that he leads.
Gaines is pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church; Floyd is pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. Other Baptist leaders joining Laurie in the initiative are Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board; O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources; Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Jack Graham, a former SBC president and pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church.
The proclamation calls Christians to "share the message of Jesus with everyone they can at every opportunity they can. Pastors must preach the gospel boldly and pray intentionally for national revival.
"Despite the divisions and distractions dividing our nation and disorienting our culture, we believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ remains the hope of the world and is more needed in our nation now than at almost any point in our nation's history.
"This is not to diminish the important good works and example that the church as a whole provides, but it is to emphasize that Jesus has commanded us to 'go into all the world and preach the gospel' and to 'make disciples of all nations.'
"Our message is the Good News that God loved us so much He sent His Son to this earth on a rescue mission. Jesus, who is fully God and fully man, lived a perfect life, died a perfect death, and rose again from the grave.
"We need a national miracle to heal our political, racial, and cultural divisions, and that miracle is found in the power of Jesus to change our hearts. Therefore, we commit to preach louder than our nation's politics, and we aim to make the message of Jesus Christ transcend the monopoly of our media. We confess our only hope of unity is on the level ground at the foot of the cross of Jesus, and our only hope of healing is in the victory achieved through His empty tomb.
"The gospel is the timeless, God-honored, God-ordained message that can change a human heart for time and eternity."
Also signing the proclamation: James Dobson, author and family advocate; Franklin Graham of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; author and speaker Anne Graham Lotz; author Max Lucado; musician Chris Tomlin; Eric Metaxas, author, speaker and radio host; and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
Individuals may sign the proclamation at https://www.harvest.org/campaign/email-signup/yearofgoodnews.
Laurie, in conjunction with the North American Mission Board, is slated to lead a nationally simulcast Harvest America outreach during the Crossover evangelistic outreach prior to the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix in June.
Education fund aids ministry students in Va., N.C. & S.C.
By Brandon Pickett
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (BP) -- One of the biggest hurdles in pursuing higher education is the question, "How am I going to pay for it?"
Much-needed help is available for Southern Baptist students in Virginia, North Carolina or South Carolina who choose to study at certain Southern Baptist-related schools through the Charles B. Keesee Educational Fund, established in 1941 by the late Mr. and Mrs. Charles B. Keesee of Martinsville, Va. Their desire was to make sure pastors and ministry leaders received the education they need to better represent the Gospel. The couple started with $279,000, an amount that has now grown to $67 million in total assets.
"I applied for and received a grant from the Keessee Foundation each and every semester throughout my entire M.Div.," said Nathan Cecil, associate pastor for family ministries at Bacon's Castle Baptist Church in Surrey Va., and a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"I completed my M.Div. in 2011 and can honestly say that, other than the Cooperative Program, no other organization or individual played a more significant role in funding my seminary education than the Keesee Educational Fund," Cecil said.
The fund distributes more than $3 million in grants annually to 700 applicants planning to attend select schools with a Baptist affiliation. In the past, grants have ranged up to $8,000 per year for a maximum of four years for students at the master's degree level and up to $3,000 per year for a maximum of three years for students pursuing a doctor of ministry degree. The amount of the grant can change from year to year. This coming year, the maximum grant amount per student will be $7,000.
Brian Autry, executive director of the SBC of Virginia convention and a two-time recipient, noted, "Several generations of pastors and missionaries have been blessed by Keesee, enabling students to receive a first-class education."
Chuck Lawless, dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., said, "The Keesee Educational Fund, especially when it's combined with the contributions of the SBC Cooperative Program, allows many of our students to attend Southeastern Seminary for minimal cost. This fund not only helps our students earn degrees debt-free, but it also frees them up to focus on their training to take the Gospel to their neighbors and the nations. Our partnership with Keesee greatly assists us in preparing Great Commission-focused ministers and missionaries."
The Keesee Fund grants are administered by a board of trustees who review students' applications and eligibility for aid. Applicants must be residents of Virginia, North Carolina or South Carolina (they must prove 12 months of residency as outlined by the Keesee Fund prior to beginning an undergraduate or graduate degree). They must also be a member of a Baptist church and have the intention to enter the Baptist ministry upon graduation.
One of the latest institutions approved for their students to receive Keesee Fund grants is Liberty University's Rawlings School of Divinity. Students pursuing a residential master of divinity degree, select master of arts degrees or a doctor of ministry degree will be eligible to apply.
Ed Hindson, the divinity school's dean, said the Virginia campus is "truly honored to know that [Keesee has] added Liberty to its list of schools because of our commitment to training Baptist students for the ministry."
To learn more about the Charles B. Keesee Educational Fund, go to cbkeesee.net.
Ronnie Floyd launches weekly podcast on life & leadership
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) -- Ronnie Floyd, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has launched a weekly podcast, "Ronnie Floyd on Life and Leadership Today."
Each Tuesday's 22-minute podcast "we pray will help you live more purposefully and inspire you to lead more effectively," Floyd wrote in an email distribution March 6 announcing the podcast, which began March 7.
"People change the world," Floyd wrote. "Because I believe this, for many years I have operated my life knowing that God desires for me to influence and invest in others."
Floyd has led Cross Church since 1986 during 40-plus years as a pastor. One feature of the podcast, he noted, will be lessons from leaders he has met in all areas of life, including ministry, politics, sports, business and economics.
In the March 7 podcast, Floyd spoke with ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen about his recent fight with Stage IV throat cancer.
Floyd's podcast is available for subscription at iTunes.