SBC DIGEST: ERLC names 2020 Leadership Council; MBTS holds youth apologetics conference

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ERLC names 2020 Leadership Council

by Tom Strode

NASHVILLE (BP) -- The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission announced its 2020 Leadership Council of 84 members Wednesday (Jan. 29).

The council, which is named annually, consists of a diverse group of Southern Baptist pastors, ministry leaders and other church members. They will receive training from the ERLC staff to help them, as well as their churches, apply the Gospel of Jesus to all areas of life. The ERLC inaugurated the council in 2014, seven months after Russell Moore became president.

"One of the most important things we do here at the ERLC is working with this group of leaders throughout the year," Moore said in an ERLC news release. "The wisdom and passion they bring to service in our churches is always such an encouragement.

"This year's new members are no different, and I look forward to working with them to equip the church with the truths of the Gospel for the cultural issues of our day."

Among the 2020 council members are:

-- Marshal Ausberry, senior pastor, Antioch Baptist Church, Fairfax Station, Va., and president, National African American Fellowship, SBC.

-- Lauren Ashford, a member of the leadership team for women's discipleship at The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

-- Matt Boswell, hymnwriter and pastor, The Trails Church, Prosper, Texas.

-- Noe Garcia, senior pastor, North Phoenix Baptist Church, Phoenix, Ariz.

-- Carmen LaBerge, radio host and member of Grace Community Church, Nashville.

-- David Prince, pastor of preaching and vision, Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, Lexington, Ky., and assistant professor of Christian preaching, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

-- Courtney Reissig, author, Bible teacher and member of Immanuel Baptist Church, Little Rock, Ark.

-- Raleigh Sadler, founder and executive director, the anti-human trafficking organization Let My People Go, New York City.

-- Jimmy Scroggins, lead pastor, Family Church, West Palm Beach, Fla.

-- Jared Wellman, lead pastor, Tate Springs Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas

-- Afshin Ziafat, lead pastor, Providence Church, Frisco, Texas.

In comments provided by the ERLC, Boswell said he is "personally grateful for the intentionality of Dr. Moore and the ERLC to equip pastors and churches as we navigate the ever-changing current of our culture."

Garcia, a member last year as well, said the council "has developed my leadership in regards to cultural issues in ways I never imagined."

Reissig said she is "most excited about learning from the team at the ERLC, but also learning from all of those who also joined the Leadership Council."

Wellman said the ERLC "has benefitted me greatly from a distance, and I feel that I'll become a better follower of Jesus, family man, pastor and citizen by serving on the Leadership Council."

The ERLC equips council members through conference calls and events. The members provide input to the entity's staff and occasional content for its website. Typically, 50 to 60 percent of the members are new to the council each year.

The entire list of council members is available at https://erlc.com/about/leadership-council.

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MBTS Ready Conference equips youth to defend their faith

By T. Patrick Hudson

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- Midwestern Seminary welcomed MORE THAN 1,000 students from more than 90 local and regional churches on Jan. 24-25 for its annual Ready Conference, which exists to equip the youth of the church to defend their faith.

Christian hip-hop artist, KB, performs during the Ready Conference held at Midwestern Seminary on Jan. 24-25.
MBTS Photo
This conference -- which is based off of Jude, verse 3 -- encourages students to be ready to defend "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." It featured main sessions from speakers Sam Bierig, Cam Triggs, Jared Bumpers and Noe Garcia, and included a number of breakout sessions. Additionally, students were treated to a hip-hop concert with Christian artist KB.

"Existing For the Church means reaching out to all generations, and the Ready Conference offers the next generation of church members and leaders an opportunity to be equipped for the future," said president Jason Allen. "It is encouraging to see the passion these students possess for Jesus Christ, and our prayer is that they'll take what they've learned during this conference and use it to develop their personal walk with Christ and employ it to further His kingdom."

In opening the conference, Bierig, who serves as the undergraduate dean and as assistant professor of Biblical Studies at Spurgeon College, preached from Jude, verses 1 and 2. He noted that the epistle consists of the apostle, Jude, exhorting believers to remember who they are in Christ.

Fleshing out his message, Bierig encouraged the attendees by offering four marks of "real Christians." These marks include that when a person comes to salvation in Christ it completely changes and humbles them. Second, he said those saved by Christ are called by the Holy Spirit, and that's a purposeful act, not an accident.

Third, Bierig noted that those found in Christ are truly loved by God, and the fourth mark was that real Christians are guarded, protected, and never let go of by Christ.

Bierig explained what believers are protected against, saying, "Primarily Satan, sin, and death. These are unconquerable foes for you and me, and this same cosmic muscle that God the Father, by the person of the Spirit, taps into to raise Jesus out of the grave strapping on him invincibility, that same power, He now deploys on your behalf as a Christian."

Garcia, who serves as senior pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, Ariz., preached the second main session from Jude, verses 3 and 4, and warned attendees that culture is always changing and shifting, and if they are not careful, their identity will shift and change with culture too.

Cam Triggs preaches to more than 1,000 students and student leaders during the Ready Conference held in the Daniel Lee Chapel at Midwestern Seminary on Jan. 24-25.
MBTS Photo
Speaking of Generation Z, Garcia said, "One of the big things they are concerned about is identity. So, part of Generation Z goes like this, 'be whoever you want to be.' 'It's not wrong to be whoever you feel like being.' 'Let's just all love and get along.' However, that's countercultural from Scripture. And if we're not careful, we begin to believe those lies. You, then, believe you. You begin to substitute the truth of God for the lies of the enemy. It is incredibly important that you know the truth of Scripture and that it becomes your foundation."

Garcia added that once a person comes to faith in Christ, there then becomes a daily struggle not to conform to the world and to contend for the faith. This is a vital component to their growth as a believer.

Kicking off the conference's second day, Bumpers, who serves as director of Student Life & Events and assistant professor of preaching and ministry at Midwestern Seminary, preached from Jude, verses 5-16.

He shared that everyone has made sinful decisions, and often people take their sin too lightly. This cheapens what the Bible says about sin, which is lawlessness and rebellion. In essence, sin is following one's heart and not the heart of God.

Jude, in this passage, warns readers that following their hearts leads to destruction because the bottom line is that God judges sin.

In looking at what he called a "heavy text," Bumpers exhorted attendees to remember that God judges sin, sin is serious, false teaching is real and dangerous, and the ungodly will experience judgement.

Bumpers' message, however, ended with hope. He said, "The reason it's important for us to feel the weight of this text, and the sinfulness of our own heart, is so that we can see the beauty of the Gospel in the grace of Jesus Christ -- that Jesus Christ takes people who have sin, who've rebelled, and He loves them. He lavishes His grace on them. He gives them His Spirit, and He enables them to live the life that they were meant to live."

Triggs, who is lead pastor of Grace Alive Church in Orlando, Fla., preached from Jude, verses 17-23. His message was for listeners to see what it means to have a calling, to contend and be ready to fight for the faith, and to understand it's not coming from their own strength or their own willpower, but that it comes from the mighty and scandalous grace of God.

He noted that it's easy to come and celebrate Jesus together at a youth conference, in youth group, or church settings, but it's difficult to contend for the faith in life's difficult situations. He added that it's important to understand that the strength one needs to contend daily for the faith is not our own.

"I cannot rely on my good works, my attendance in church, my self-righteousness, or my success. It can only lead to pride or despair," Triggs said. "What's great about the good news of Jesus Christ is that He demonstrates His love, affection, and commitment to you and that is what keeps you in the faith."

Triggs further urged listeners not to fall for the bribes of the false teachers in our culture, but instead to be about the business of sharing Christ with those around us.

Bumpers concluded the Ready Conference by preaching a message from Jude, verses 24-25. He noted that this passage was a doxology to the prior 23 verses. He said the intent by Jude was for his readers to leave with a greater sense of awe and appreciation for who God is and what God has done in our lives.

"What he (Jude) does is take their eyes away from the false teachers. He takes their eyes away from themselves, and he lifts up their heads and points them to God. He wants to redirect their gaze so that they're not looking at the danger of false teaching or the struggles in their own life, but that they would see this God who loves them, this God who's called them, this God who's captivated their lives, and that they would then worship Him because He is worthy.

"Listen students, Jude knows that the only person who can carry the believer through life and death is God. Don't look at yourself. Don't love yourself. Don't live for yourself. Fix your eyes on this glorious God who's redeemed you through Jesus Christ. Fix your eyes on Him. Live for Him, love Him."

The conference's first evening concluded with students enjoying KB's hip-hop performance. The artist is known for the track "100" from the EP of the same name, which took home the Dove Award for Rap/Hip-Hop Song of the Year in 2014. His last LP, 2015's Tomorrow We Live, garnered both critical and commercial acclaim, earning a Stellar Award nomination for Rap/Hip-Hop Gospel CD of the Year and debuted on the Billboard charts as the No. 1 Christian album and the No. 4 Rap album overall.

To view the main sessions of the Ready Conference, visit: www.mbts.edu/ready20.

Tom Strode is Washington D.C. bureau chief for Baptist Press T. Patrick Hudson is assistant professor of communications and history at MBTS.
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