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“Cleveland needs people who love Jesus,” said Dan Ghramm, a North American Mission Board church planter in West Cleveland. Among the 65,000 people in the area where he works, Ghramm says there are “less than 300 to 400 people in a Gospel-preaching church on Sunday morning.”

The numbers don’t get better in other places in metro Cleveland. Forty-two percent of Clevelanders aren’t affiliated with a religious body — Christian or otherwise. Only 5.5 percent are in evangelical churches, compared to almost 40 percent in the state of Mississippi.

Despite the fact that Southern Baptists have been involved in Cleveland since the 1950s, there are only eight Southern Baptist churches within the city limits — or one SBC church for every 53,000 people. Five of those churches are less than five years old. Include the population and churches for all of Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties, and that’s one SBC church for every 42,500 people. 

Southern Baptists in Cleveland and throughout North America are working together to change that through Send North America: Cleveland — an effort to reach the metro area by connecting church planters with established churches in other parts of the nation.

Send North America is the North American Mission Board’s national strategy to mobilize and assist individuals and churches to get involved in hands-on church planting in 29 major cities and other areas throughout the continent. Through Send North America, NAMB will come alongside Southern Baptist churches that are not directly involved in church planting and help connect them to a church plant. And NAMB will partner with Southern Baptist churches already planting churches to help them increase their efforts.

Kevin Litchfield, Send North America: Cleveland’s city coordinator, sees Southern Baptists in the city at the front end of something big.

“I’ve never seen this much God-activity in our area,” said Litchfield, who also serves as a church planting catalyst for Cleveland Hope, the local Baptist association in Cleveland. “This time last year we had two church planters in the pipeline. If we really went at it, we could have 20 right now. We could potentially see 15 to 20 churches planted next year.”

When Litchfield first came to the association in 2006, less than 2 percent of the association’s budget was going toward church planting; today, it’s nearly half (47 percent).

That kind of progress will be required to meet the goals that the Cleveland strategy group has established for the city: starting 100 churches over the next five years and 256 by the year 2020.  via Baptist Press – Cleveland could see 100 new churches in 5 yrs. – News with a Christian Perspective.

The majority of Americans have a favorable impression of Southern Baptists, according to a recent LifeWay Research study. However, 40 percent of respondents have an unfavorable view of the denomination, more than a third strongly assume an SBC church is not for them, and the negativity is higher among the unchurched. The study was conducted in September 2011 after the president of the Southern Baptist Convention appointed a task force to consider a possible name change for the 166 year-old convention. The study indicates a segment of Americans have unfavorable opinions of Southern Baptists in comparison to other faith groups. However, with 53 percent being favorable toward Southern Baptists (including 15 percent very favorable), both sides need to be considered, said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “On one hand it does look like the SBC has higher negatives than other faith groups – and the unchurched numbers are particularly disconcerting,” Stetzer said. “But on the other, most people don’t seem to be concerned either way because there is a level of indifference to denominations or religion in general.” In fact, two-thirds of Americans are without strong feelings in regards to all the Christian faith groups included in the survey with a third or less either very favorable or very unfavorable to them. via Study: Americans have mixed impressions of Southern Baptists’ identity.   Thoughts?

In his June 15 comments at the SBC meeting, Mohler — president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. — said Christians have “not done well on this issue,” have told only “half the truth” regarding homosexuality and have practiced a “certain form of homophobia.” He went on to say it’s “clear that it’s more than a choice” and is “not something that people can just turn on and turn off.” He also was clear in calling homosexuality a sin. via Baptist Press Do you agree with Mohler? Is this a change in his view?  (I’m not sure about him personally)… but it’s the first time I’ve heard any consideration from most conservative folk that homosexuality is ‘more than a choice’.  Have I been missing something, or is this a somewhat significant shift? Todd

Current Events
Southern Baptists recently called hell an “eternal, conscious punishment” for those who do not accept Jesus, rebutting a controversial book from Michigan pastor Rob Bell that questions traditional views of hell. Citing Bell’s book “Love Wins,” the resolution urges Southern Baptists “to proclaim faithfully the depth and gravity of sin against a holy God, the reality of hell, and the salvation of sinners by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.” OK… I get it.  Affirming hell.  A good thing. But did anyone question whether Southern Baptists didn’t believe in Hell?  I’ve definitely never heard anyone say that. So, the statement, to me, seems to be totally reactionary to one book published by someone not in your tribe. Which begs the question to me… who was this statement for? If it was for Rob Bell, then I’m not sure what it accomplishes, other than to say that you have profound impact on the Christian community, especially our own SBC pastors. If it was for the SBC pastors, then it says that you need to preach against hell.  Most do, as far as I can tell. If it was for the SBC congregations, that’s good, but I don’t know that Rob Bell’s book was read by tons of congregational people.  Their too busy reading Stephen King and John Grisham. And if it was for the public at large, I don’t know that it will have much of an effect.  It could be seen as ‘we still believe in hell and we still believe you’re going there’. I’m not trying to be too harsh… I’m just wondering what the real purpose of the resolution was.  Was it necessary?  And should resolutions by such a large body be made over one isolated published work? You tell me. More here… Todd

Catch these words from Peter Lumpkins, a SBC pastor who recently wrote the book:  Alcohol Today:  Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence:
“One would be hard-pressed to locate a belief — outside believers’ baptism by immersion itself — which reflects more unity among Southern Baptists than abstinence from intoxicating beverages for pleasurable purposes…
According to a report from Associated Baptist press, Lumpkins says that younger Southern Baptist leaders do not appreciate that history and instead view teetotalism as extra-biblical and nothing more than “Pharisaical legalism.”  He says that ‘relaxed attitudes’ about social drinking is the biggest controversy to hit Southern Baptists since the big showdown in the 80s over conservative vs. liberals in the SBC. He continues…
“Make no mistake: the popular, trendy appeal for Bible studies in bars; pastors leading men’s groups at cigar shops to puff, preach and partake; conference speakers who openly drink alcohol nevertheless are invited to college campuses as they carve out yet more influence into the youngest generation of Southern Baptists — all this makes an impending moral crisis among Southern Baptists predictably certain.”
This paragraph in the article stood out to me:
Without the abstinence standard, he argues the church either consciously or unconsciously helps promote a message in the larger culture that drinking is “cool.”
What do YOU think? Is social drinking wrong?  If you’re a Southern Baptist… what’s your personal view on social drinking? And finally… where will the SBC finally come down on this?  What will the stance of the SBC be on social drinking be, in say, 10 years, in 2021?  What’s your guess? Read more here… Todd

Current Events
Each week, I try to find the best ‘stuff’ out there that I think you should take a look at. I share this throughout the week on Twitter. I also encourage you to send me news items and stories that you think other leaders should know about. Here’s this week’s list: Ten Reasons Why Churches Stall 7 Reasons Your Leaders are Quitting! The world’s deadliest four letter word Our traditional religious formulas and beliefs too quickly limit God only to our self-centered imaginations Five ways to know if you’re really a Christian “It’s disciples we’re after, not statistics” 5 Warning Signs of a Personality-Driven Church Almost anyone can become a leader… but… If you stop jumping to conclusions, you’ll avoid a good amount of personal conflict Are Southern Baptists facing an identity crisis? The PCUSA joins boycott against Arizona The GENIUS of AND The NINES Church Building Spree ala Huffington Post If you have a 14 year old girl around your house, you’re probably sick of this Free Vuvuzela Concert Check out the “Jesus Loves Strippers” ministry Drive-Through Prayer Rick Warren is expected to make a full recovery Robert Schuller’s daughter is OUTRAGED! Doug Oldham dies at 79 Oral Roberts Presidential Compound sold for 1.5 million Church has to cut staff after $210,000 goes missing This may help your church staff meetings Cross Point is looking for a Campus Pastor How to scan your print documents to Google docs Annoying Email Habits Finally… add images and html to your Gmail signature 60% of evangelical pastors say they don’t drink 5 of the world’s 10 largest churches are in Seoul, which is home to the world’s biggest Baptist, Methodist & Pres flocks Survey says: 1 in 6 women caught up in internet pornography Church sponsors “International Burn A Quran Day,” on Sept. 11 this year Inside Westboro Baptist The Christian Shopping Channel Finding Out Your Pastor is a Murderer What should Christians do with Mel Gibson? Not to be out done by Rick Warren, TX pastor has stomach pumped after eating poisonous leaves of rhubarb plant Reading your Bible could bring you lots of mone Feeling is not the admission price for worship. Jesus’ blood is