April 2010

‘Letters to God’ film has moving true story

April 9 2010 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Like any dad whose child is undergoing a major health issue, Patrick Doughtie was convinced his son Tyler would recover from medulloblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor.

Though he had doubts about God and questioned his faith at times during Tyler’s fight with cancer, Doughtie envisioned being able to give a marvelous testimony on how his son overcame cancer.

“I thought there would be a happy ending and Tyler would be cured,” said Doughtie, a member of Grace Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn.

Tyler, however, died in 2005 at the age of 9.

Doughtie acknowledged that he went through a period of depression and anger following his son’s death. During those days of dark depression, Doughtie realized his son still left a testimony through his life and his love for God.

“Letters to God,” which opens April 9, was inspired by the true story of a boy in Tennessee who had cancer. His father, a member of a Southern Baptist church, wrote it.


Doughtie began to think about ways he could tell Tyler’s story and also ways to bring attention to childhood cancer. He took a screenwriting class and began writing a script for a fictional movie based on Tyler’s cancer. In fact, Doughtie intentionally wrote himself out of the movie in order to be more creative. In the movie, Tyler’s dad died prior to him developing cancer.

Doughtie’s finished product was entitled “Letters to God.” After the script was written, Doughtie actually found a notebook where Tyler had indeed written two letters to God, which were basically prayers and questions that he posed to God during his fight with cancer.

The hardest part was then finding a production company to film and produce the movie, especially a company that would keep the faith elements in the picture.

Doughtie finally settled on Possibility Pictures. One of the company’s owners is David Nixon, a co-producer of the 2008 hit movie “Fireproof.”

Letters to God shows the love Tyler had for God and his faith, Doughtie. Doughtie’s pastor, André Dugger, said the film also demonstrates the importance of a loving church family in times of crisis.

Dugger recalled that he first met the Doughtie family shortly after Tyler was first diagnosed with cancer. Doughtie’s mother-in-law was a member of Grace Baptist and worked for two other Grace members who asked Dugger to pray for Tyler just prior to going to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

After the Doughties returned from Memphis, they began attending Grace, where Tyler accepted Christ and was baptized.

As Tyler fought the battle for his life, the entire family was going through struggles. The construction company Doughtie worked for let him go because he had to take too much time off.

His wife, Heather (Tyler’s stepmother) was pregnant and could not work. Bills piled up as the family could not pay their mortgage or car payment.

Members of Grace Baptist Church stepped up and helped the family with mortgage and car payments and other bills that mounted during Tyler’s bout with cancer, Doughtie said.

“We have a history of demonstrating love to people,” Dugger said of his church which is now in its 100th year. “There are people here who took the Doughties under their wings and helped to provide for them financially.”

Said Doughtie, “Looking back I can see all the relationships God set up for me even before Tyler got sick.”

He, too, stressed that the movie highlights the role of a church family in times of trouble. “It’s important to have a relationship with a church family,” Doughtie said.

Two other key elements of the movie are prayer and hope, Dugger said. In the movie, Tyler exhibits hope through his letters which are actually prayers to God.

“We are really hoping an entire new way of thinking will develop as a result of this movie,” Dugger said. “We can write letters to God as a form of praying as easily as we can talk to Him.”

What’s more, he added, “with the letters we can be reminded of our deepest, darkest times and be reminded of how God walked with us and blessed us.”

“Five years ago,” Dugger said, “Patrick was at the darkest part of his life. Today, he is at a place where God has given him a platform to touch millions of people.”

The movie, Doughtie said, show the hope that can be found only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

“For those who are left behind (after the death of a loved one), the movie shows the hope of eternity through a life with God,” Doughtie said. “That is the message of hope I most want to get across.”

The former construction worker knows that to have written a movie script that was picked up by a producer so quickly is a testament to God’s hand at work.

“There were so many doors that were opened,” he said.

A typical movie (script to screen) takes anywhere from seven to 10 years, Doughtie said. His “script to screen” took only three years.

“I feel blessed.”

Doughtie also hopes the movie will bring attention on childhood cancer and will inspire people to give money for cancer research. He has developed a wristband that says “John 3:16 — Believe” on one side and “Love, Tyler” on the other. Proceeds from the sale of these wristbands will be used for children’s cancer research. (The wristbands are available on his web site, www.patrickdoughtie.com.)

Both Doughtie, who also co-directed the film, and his pastor, who served as associate producer, have written companion pieces that can be used in conjunction with the movie or as a stand-alone. Doughtie has written a children’s book and a novel based on the movie while Dugger has written two books, including Prayer: Your Own Letter to God, which is a practical guide to help people better understand the purpose and practice of prayer, he said.

The other book written by Dugger is Dear God, a gift book/devotional book which contains actual letters that were used in the movie and photos of scenes from the movie. In addition to their books there are three other “Letters to God” products being released, including a Bible, a journal and a book on hope.

“How many average Joe construction workers have written a screenplay that glorifies God and honors his son?” Doughtie asked.

Both Doughtie and Dugger are available to speak to church groups. For information, contact Dugger at Grace Baptist Church at (615) 865-6262 or his web site at www.andredugger.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. A review of “Letters to God” is available here.)
4/9/2010 5:12:00 AM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Cattlemen connect in southern Sudan

April 8 2010 by Jeffery Aaron, Baptist Press

AKOT, Sudan — What could a few good ol’ boys from the Deep South have in common with a bunch of hardened, gun-toting, spear-throwing Dinka men in the Sudan?

Cows.

Taking laminated photos from their backpacks, four volunteers from Oakland Baptist Church in Corinth, Miss. — Danny Turner, Kenneth Brawner, Jay Mitchell and Billy Taylor — show some prized cows to the Dinka herders.

IMB photo

A Dinka cattle keeper protects his herd from predators and thieves with an AK-47. Cows are a sign of affluence — the number of cattle owned determines wealth and standing in the Dinka society of southern Sudan.


The young herders surround the Mississippians to view the pictures.

The volunteers, covered in smoke and ash from burning dung to keep mosquitoes and other bugs away, have flown halfway around the world to share Christ with these cattle keepers and teach them about HIV/AIDS prevention.

Their interest in cows is a natural point of connection, with the Mississippians using the few Dinka words they know to begin the conversation.

“These people love their cows and they respect others who feel the same,” says Turner, who once owned more than 100 head of cattle but now works in insurance.

Cows are at the center of life for the Dinka, an animistic, spirit-worshipping people group of nearly 3 million. In addition to providing milk, cows are a sign of affluence — the number of cattle owned determines wealth and standing in Dinka society. The herders carry spears and guns to protect their livestock from thieves and predators.

The four Mississippi volunteers are working in one of hundreds of cattle camps in southern Sudan. Dinka herders travel from camp to camp as they move their livestock from water source to water source, which changes depending on the rains.

“Cattle camps are the heart of the Dinka people,” says Jermaine Edwards, an International Mission Board journeymen involved in the project to connect Dinka herders and U.S. volunteers.

The herders’ traditional lifestyle is to move with their livestock, with the camps having a party-like atmosphere that includes celebratory dances, spontaneous jumping competitions and uninhibited sexual activity.

Though many Dinka have settled in towns throughout southern Sudan, “those who no longer live at the camps wish they could again,” says Edwards, from Cleveland, Ohio.

IMB photo

Danny Turner learns how to throw a spear from a cattle keeper near Akot, southern Sudan. Turner was part of a four-member volunteer team from Oakland Baptist Church in Corinth, Miss., who came to work with International Mission Board missionaries to teach HIV/AIDS prevention in cattle camp.


Because of their promiscuity, the herders are at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, then spreading the disease.

Jennifer Miller, another IMB journeyman, explained, “We wanted to find a way to bring AIDS awareness to them that would hit home, that would connect with their lives and culture and would address their animistic view of the world.”

Most of the herders do not read, so oral stories are used to teach morals and communicate truth.

Miller, 25, and fellow journeyman Whitney Prewitt, 24, both graduates of Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., developed a series of stories the volunteers use to teach in the cattle camps.

Some of the stories come from the Bible while others are based on Dinka folklore and lifestyle.

“The stories range from helping show them how to make wise decisions based on a Dinka folktale to ... God’s control over all the earth,” Prewitt says.

“We also share basic AIDS stories,” she continues. “One is about a man who had five sons; four got AIDS. This story shows the ways to contract AIDS and also how to avoid the disease.”

The journeymen are spending two years on the mission field to focus on the outreach to Dinka herders, funded by Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Prewitt and Miller, as single females, know they have no authority in Dinka society, in which only men are respected, so the male volunteers take the initiative in connecting with the cattle herders.

As the Americans walk through the dusty cattle camp, stopping to take pictures of proud Dinka with their prized cows, they invite the herders to their campsite to listen to the stories.

After all the cows are tethered to stakes so they won’t wander away during the night, some of herders gather at the volunteers’ campsite. And as the volunteers talk, the cattle herders listen intently.

“No kawajas (foreigners) have ever come and stayed in our cattle camp,” a young Dinka says. “We are uneducated people, and we have never heard anything of this disease before.

“Thank you for bringing this message to us.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Aaron is a writer with the International Mission Board. To learn of ways for using your talents and interests to share Christ on the mission field, visit going.imb.org.)  
4/8/2010 3:09:00 AM by Jeffery Aaron, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Where’s Molly? Doll's travels teach about missions

April 7 2010 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Sporting a yellow T-shirt and red Capri pants, Molly shows up all over the world.

And she brings other children along with her.

Missions locally, nationally and abroad is very important said Gayle Norris, Girls in Action (GA) leader at Yadkin Baptist Church in Lenoir.

She said her girls are excited to see where Molly goes next and to pray that all she sees are touched by the work of the teams sharing God’s word and love in action.

Norris discovered Molly in the back of her GA leader guide. She found mentioned there the book Molly’s Adventures in Missions by Joye Smith and ordered it from Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU).

Once Molly is cut out and laminated she’s ready to travel. Yes, Molly is a doll.

Contributed photo

Molly gets a look at life in Haiti during a recent mission trip by North Carolina Baptist Men. Created by Woman’s Missionary Union, Molly “goes” on mission trips and shares her trips with children.


People on mission take a Molly doll and photograph her on sites all over the world.

“We are going to track and display her trips on maps,” said Norris, who grew up in GAs and Sunbeams. Her mother’s influence from WMU was also influential in keeping missions before Norris. “I always wanted to be a missionary. God might not be finished with me yet. I see a need to minister to children in our community here and now.”

Terry Barnes, who recently went to Haiti for disaster recovery work, took Molly to Haiti with North Carolina Baptist Men to get a first-hand look at the devastation and the hope being offered that only God can provide.

He will be speaking to the girls this month about her trip and the Haiti work.

Molly also traveled to Georgia with Samaritan’s Purse to a fundraiser for efforts in Haiti. She has been to North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell and Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Molly can and has made a way for our GAs to get involved with missions around God’s world,” Norris said. Norris is thankful she’s teaching children today because advanced technology allows leaders to “have more resources for doing and helping and seeing more than I ever experienced.”  

More adventures to come
Smith, who authored the Molly book, plans a sequel — Molly Meets the Missionaries — this summer.

Using photos from missionaries, Smith said Molly will meet MiKey, an African-American boy. The capital M and K refer to a common reference to missionary kid. While the first book explained what mission teams do, Molly will explore what missionaries do on the field.

“It’s been fun to see where all she’s gone and to get the stories from the folks that have used her,” said Smith, team leader and ministry consultant for WMU’s preschool resource team. “It’s helped the church explain (missions) to the children.”

Smith has been really pleased with the way Molly and the book have been used. She conceived the idea for Molly in the choir loft at her church when the pastor called up persons about to leave on an international missions trip. Smith wondered if the children had any idea what these people would be doing.

“We need to have some way to show children what missions teams do,” Smith said.

Molly has not always had easy trips. Smith said she was confiscated at one airport because someone had cut her directly out of the book, which meant her back was covered with tips for mission teams.

To find more about Molly, visit www.missionfriends.com/molly or search for Friends of Molly Missions on Facebook.com. For more information or to order Molly’s Adventures in Missions or Smith's other books for preschoolers, children, or preschool leaders, visit www.wmustore.com
4/7/2010 8:29:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Cherryville church finds ways to connect

April 7 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Many churches utilize Upward Basketball as a community outreach tool. In fact Upward Sports, with headquarters in Spartanburg, S.C., reports 230 Upward basketball leagues in North Carolina this season.

Churches find Upward one way to fill their gyms with kids from the community, which is one justification for most churches who built them in the first place. Upward leagues can bring a flood of people through your facility for eight weeks who can afford the $65 or so it costs per participant.

But First Baptist Church Cherryville turns the tables on that cost and assumes all the expenses itself. For the 350 boys and girls involved in their fourth season of Upward Basketball this year, the Cherryville congregation foots the bill for more than $20,000.

They involved close to 100 volunteers and saw about 2,000 people through their facility every Saturday. Pastor Vince Hefner says many young people made professions of faith through the distinctly Christian sports activity.

“It’s a recruiting tool for Jesus, not a recruiting tool for our church,” Hefner said. In season and out, Hefner looks for ways to keep his congregation actively involved with ministry, community and personal growth.

“A local church ought to be involved in ministry 12 months of the year,” said Hefner, pastor for eight years in Cherryville. Besides, he said, when people are busy in ministry and personal growth, they don’t complain about the carpet, heat or sermons!

The church launched a personal growth event this winter called 27·30, a challenge to read the 27 books of the New Testament in 30 days. Hefner provided a reading schedule and has given away 1,300 New Testaments with schedules.

When church members wore their 27·30 T-shirts and told friends on Facebook what they were doing, requests for the schedule came from all over.

The shirts are an evangelism tool, said Hefner, a member of the Biblical Recorder board of directors. People naturally ask about their meaning and the wearer can say, “Let me tell you how the Lord spoke to my heart in 30 days of reading His word.”

Church members also demonstrate their giftedness through a prayer quilt ministry in which participants gather twice a week to construct quilts as gifts of love given to terminally ill patients. Hefner secured the loan of several acres of land from a church member on which other church members are going to plant a major garden this spring. When the vegetables are harvested, they will be given at no cost to those in need.

On Sunday mornings some men meet at a local outdoor recreation store the owner lets them use for Bible study with men who avoid a church building like they avoid rickety deer stands. They cook breakfast and study the Bible in an atmosphere where they feel at home.

“We’ve been blessed here not to just have ideas, but to have planning and implementation as well,” said Hefner, who wishes he could help pastors see the need for planning and not just for having ideas. “Lots of people have ideas. I have an idea for world peace, but no plan to implement it.”

Hefner sees his church, with attendance of about 500, as “counter punchers.” They have a steady stream of smaller projects and activities.

Wednesday nights the church has Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action mission groups, and utilizes an Awana program on Sunday nights.

A space in the old fellowship hall has been remodeled into a coffee house that is very popular with the high school crowd. When unemployment started hitting local families a couple years ago, First Baptist held a job fair, matching employers with prospects.

Cherryville Area Ministries (CAM) is a service oriented ministry that helps struggling families. While a silent auction has raised money for CAM before, Hefner thought he could cajole more funds out of supporters with a live auction this year and the event at First Baptist raised $10,000.

Hefner is all about outreach.

“Anything I can do — that’s legal — I’m going to do to find a way to tell people about Jesus,” he said.
4/7/2010 8:26:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments



West Virginia pastors respond to mine tragedy

April 6 2010 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

MONTCOAL, W.Va. — Two teams of about six Southern Baptist pastors each were among the first to respond with grief counseling for families affected by the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in more than 25 years.

“In West Virginia, our clergy is our grief counselors,” West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin told reporters, alluding to the strong faith shown by many of the state’s coal mining families.

A massive underground explosion killed 25 workers April 5 and left four missing in Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch mine near Whitesville, W.Va., about 30 miles south of Charleston.

Officials said Tuesday that rescue efforts could be delayed by another day as rescuers had to bulldoze an access road above the mine so they could begin drilling three shafts of more than 1,000 feet each to release methane and carbon monoxide, the Associated Press reported. The bulldozing and drilling effort, they said, could take up to 12 hours.

Meanwhile, families held out hope that their loved ones, if among the four missing, were able to survive in an airtight rescue chamber containing enough food, water and oxygen for four days of survival.

Photo from Newscom

Policemen block the entrance to Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch mine near Whitesville, W.Va., April 6. At least 25 miners were killed at an explosion in the mine.


Norm Cannada, pastor of West Charleston Baptist Church, told Baptist Press (BP) he was leading a team scheduled to arrive at the site Tuesday night.

“I’m just finding out what I’m doing. We’re taking a team tonight,” Cannada said. “We’re going to the Performance Coal security building and meeting with families and giving them people to talk to because they’re devastated.

“Local pastors were there all day and night, and now we’re trying to get some teams there to give them some time to catch up on some rest because they’re going to be doing this long-term,” Cannada said.

“There’s a team there now from the Coalfields (Baptist) association not far from us, and they are going to be there from noon to 5 or 6 p.m.

“There’s a team from Appalachian Bible College that’s going to be there at 5 and stay until 9 p.m., and we’re going to get there at 9 and maybe stay until 1 or 2 a.m. We’re just going to be there to offer assistance to families, to help them make sense of this if that’s possible, to help them see God in all of this, and to love them and point them to Jesus.”

Cannada was waiting to hear from a couple of people, but he said his team would consist of about six people, mostly pastors and at least one layperson.

“We’re waiting to see if this is going to be something we’ll need to do over the course of the week or what the need is going to be beyond this,” Cannada said.

Delton Beall, state director of missions for the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, told BP the group from the Coalfields Association of Southern Baptists is headed by Charlie Minney, a newly commissioned North American Mission Board worker who serves as the associational missionary in Logan, W.Va. Beall said that group consists of about six pastors too.

“We are deeply concerned for the families,” Beall said. “This state largely is a coal mining community, and we are greatly grieved for their struggles right now and pray for God’s sustaining grace in their lives. We call our churches to continue to pray for them and be ready to minister in the days to come.

“We ask all of our Southern Baptist family to pray for these families right now. It’s a horrific event to have to endure,” Beall added. “We want to convey our deep concern and sympathy to the families, and we are looking at some extended care projects, but right now they’re in the formative stages.”

President Obama asked for prayers for the men killed, their families and the rescue workers trying to reach the missing miners, and he said the federal government stands ready to offer assistance.

“May they rest in peace and may their families find comfort in the hard days ahead,” Obama said from the White House.

The Associated Press (AP) said 31 miners were in the area during a shift change when the explosion occurred. Some were able to escape. Eleven bodies had been recovered and identified but 14 had not. A buildup of toxic methane gas, which is believed to have caused the explosion, forced rescue workers from the mine early Tuesday morning.

Manchin said a man who lost his father in the nearby Sago Mine disaster in 2006 now is counseling families in this tragedy.

“The families want closure,” the governor said. “They want names.... These families are good people, hardworking people. They understand the challenges. Right now I told them to do what they do best: Love each other and come together as a family.”

Gary Williams, a miner and pastor of New Life Assembly, a church near the mine, told AP there is always risk associated with coal mines.

“It’s not something you dread every day, but there’s always that danger. But for this area, it’s the only way you’re going to make a living,” Williams said.

The sister of one of the miners killed in the blast said Benny Willingham, 62, was a deacon in his church and was just five weeks away from retirement.

“He was a good man. I know everyone thinks that about their loved ones, but Benny truly was a wonderful man,” she told CNN. “He loved the Lord, and in church the other day, he thanked the Lord for saving his soul, and he thanked Him for watching over him in the mines for over 30 years, and he said, ‘If He takes me tomorrow, I’ve had a good life.’”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.)
4/6/2010 2:47:00 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



GCR Task Force members, state execs meet

April 6 2010 by Baptist Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Several members of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force met with eight executive directors of state conventions Monday in what GCR Task Force Chairman Ronnie Floyd called an “honest and substantial conversation.”

Floyd and six members of the task force met with executive directors of the Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, Northwest, Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana and New York Baptist conventions, Floyd said in an e-mail to GCR Task Force prayer partners. The meeting took place in Memphis, Tenn.

Following is the text of Floyd’s e-mail:

“Committed to a process of learning and thinking together with Southern Baptists, I asked a group of Great Commission Resurgence Task Force members and state executive directors to meet in a conversation session designed to help us work together toward our final report in Orlando. We met for six hours on Monday, April 5, 2010 at the Stephen Olford Center of Union University in Memphis, Tennessee. I am very thankful to David Dockery, president of Union University, for his gracious hosting of our conversation, and to all the men who participated in this meeting.

“We had a great time of honest and substantial conversation about our common concerns and, even more importantly, our common commitment to the Great Commission. These were serious men who met together in a great spirit. We talked honestly, heard each other, and made some real progress.

“I am tremendously encouraged by the passions and vision of these men, and they were extremely helpful to us in clarifying our aims and moving to a set of recommendations that will get us to Orlando together. We spent most of our time talking about the issues that have been of greatest concern and interest to the state conventions. These guys believe in their state conventions and their work for the Great Commission, and we do too. They want to see the world reached for Christ, as we do too. On that common ground we made real progress.

“When I presented the interim report of our task force back in February, I said that we wanted to hear from Southern Baptists as we worked toward our final report. I meant what I said, and I am so thankful to the many Southern Baptists who are helping us think and work through these crucial issues. These state convention leaders were generous with their time and so honest in their thoughts. We are determined to get to Orlando together in a way that unifies Southern Baptists and propels us toward greater faithfulness at every level of our Baptist work.

“I tried to bring together representative state leaders from various regions of the country and representative members of the GCR Task Force to foster this important conversation.

In addition to President Johnny Hunt, participants included:

“GCR Task Force Members

“Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Chairman of the GCR Task Force; Dr. David Dockery; Dr. Jim Richards; Dr. Ted Traylor; Dr. Robert White; Dr. Ken Whitten; Dr. Albert Mohler.

“[State Convention] Executive Directors “Dr. Rick Lance, Alabama; Dr. John Sullivan, Florida; Dr. Anthony Jordan, Oklahoma; Dr. Bill Crews, Northwest Baptist Convention; Dr. Stephen Davis, Indiana; Dr. Jim Futral, Mississippi; Dr. David Hankins, Louisiana; Dr. Terry Robertson, New York.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
4/6/2010 2:43:00 PM by Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Black pastor not planning to run for SBC post

April 6 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana pastor says he has no plans to be nominated as the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) first African-American president this summer in Orlando, Fla.

Fred Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, was mentioned publicly as a possible candidate in a March 31 blog by Texas pastor Dwight McKissic.

McKissic, who is also African-American, said electing a black president would go a long way toward unifying a denomination long divided by issues including race, the role of women and attempts to silence dissent.

Luter said in an e-mail April 3 that McKissic isn’t the only person who has suggested that he seek office, but he has not agreed to be nominated. “There are a lot of guys throughout the convention who would like to see that happen,” Luter said. “I truly appreciate their trust and confidence in me, however that will not happen this year.”

Luter has broken ground before for African-Americans in Southern Baptist life. In 1992 he was the first black elected to the Louisiana Baptist Convention executive board and in 2001 was the first African-American to preach the annual sermon at the SBC.  

Started as an all-white Southern Baptist church in the 1940s, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church turned its building over to the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans during “white flight” in the 1970s as white people moved out of the neighborhood and black people moved in. When Luter came as pastor in 1986, there were 65 members on the roll. Today the church has grown to more than 7,000 worshippers and describes itself as the largest Southern Baptist church in Louisiana.

Fred Luter has been mentioned as a possible candidate for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, but he says it isn’t going to happen this year.


McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, cited in his blog a reference in a book written in 2002 by Paige Patterson, a co-founder of the “conservative resurgence” that led a leadership change in the nation’s second-largest faith group in the 1990s, supporting the idea of an African-American SBC president by 2005.

“Why not now?” McKissic wrote. “Why not Fred Luter?”

The SBC passed a resolution in 1995 repenting of past racism, including lack of support for and sometimes opposition to the civil rights movement. The statement, coinciding with the convention’s 150th anniversary, pledged to “commit ourselves to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry.”

While much of the convention’s growth since the 1980s is attributed to ethnic churches, relatively few people of color serve in leadership roles.

McKissic was elected a trustee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, but he resigned over controversy about a 2006 chapel sermon at the seminary in which he said he had used a “private prayer language” in his personal devotions since his days as a student at the seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

McKissic said the practice, commonly associated with charismatic and Pentecostal churches and problematic for many traditional Southern Baptists, isn’t anything controversial in African-American churches.

That didn’t stop fellow trustees from trying to expel him in March 2007 for publicly criticizing decisions by the board’s majority. Trustees later decided not to remove him, but McKissic resigned that June saying the controversy had become a distraction to his ministry at his church.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)
4/6/2010 2:35:00 PM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Silsby spends Easter in Haiti prison

April 6 2010 by Baptist Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The last remaining Baptist volunteer still in a Haiti prison spent Easter Sunday in jail but remains confident she will be released.

Laura Silsby, in prison for more than nine weeks after she and nine others were arrested in late January on charges of child kidnapping, told NBC News her faith has sustained her. The nine other Americans have been released and are back in the United States. Silsby was considered the group leader.

“God will release me. I’m confident that God will overcome all of this and ultimately enable me to be released,” Silsby said during the interview that was taped several days before Easter.

Silsby faces a new charge — “organizing irregular travel” — that the other nine Baptists did not face. It is not known how much longer she will be in jail. The 10 originally were charged with child kidnapping and allegedly did not have the proper documents to take kids from the earthquake-ravaged country to an orphanage Silsby was starting in the Dominican Republic.

Silsby and the others say they simply were trying to help children.

“It was one week after the earthquake when we left home,” Silsby said. “The news at that point was absolute devastation. People dying everywhere in this country. Our desire was to help, was to go into those tent communities, into those collapsed orphanages and bring children out.”

She added, “We were lied to by people who brought children to us and claimed to be either a neighbor, a distant family member. They did not honestly tell us who they were.”

Members of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, say they are standing behind Silsby.

“We all still stand right beside Laura and support her in everything that she did and everything that’s happening now,” Corinna Lankford, a member of the church who was one of the 10 team members arrested, told KTVB-TV in Idaho. “We’re all right with you, Laura.”

Nine of the 10 team members are members of Southern Baptist churches.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
4/6/2010 2:33:00 PM by Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Macedonian call rings out from NYC

April 5 2010 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

After living in any one place for a long time it is easy to forget that the rest of the world doesn’t look like home.

If you get used to traveling certain routes and shopping at the same places and seeing the same faces you can forget that not everyone drives to work each day; some take a train then the subway and then catch a cab.

It can also be easy to forget that the church scene is not as popular in other places. While an estimated 5.5 million people in North Carolina do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, spirituality, which is a broad term, is popular. A recent Gallup poll reports that just over half the state’s population attends church, synagogue or a mosque.

This year the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) entered into a partnership with the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (MNYBA), an association affiliated with the Baptist Convention of New York. The BSC serves a state of nine million and has about 4,200 churches. The Baptist Convention of New York (BCNY) serves a state with three times the population and just over 400 churches.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

George Russ, right, seen here with Richard Brunson of North Carolina Baptist Men, hopes the partneship will be fruitful for both conventions.


In New York less than five percent of the population is evangelical and 27 million do not go to church.

The BSC has been around since 1830, 139 years before the BCNY began in 1969 with 70 churches. This 31st Baptist state convention included churches from New York, western Connecticut and northern New Jersey.

While North Carolina includes 80 Baptist associations, the New York convention includes only eight, the largest being MNYBA. Twice as many people live within the boundaries of this association as live in North Carolina. With 260 churches in the association, MNYBA serves more than half the churches in the state convention. These 260 churches represent 500 people groups. 

North Carolina is a diverse state, but few places in the world can compare to the diversity of New York City.

Eighty percent of the churches in MNYBA are ethnic churches. Within a 50-mile radius of Times Square live 20 million people. More Jews live in New York City than in Jerusalem and more Muslims live in New York City than in Bahrain. Hispanics are the largest minority group; one million Asians live in the city and in the past two decades African immigration has doubled.

A few more statistics and comparisons:
  • Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city, with a population of 687,456 in 2008 (according to US Census data). The Metrolina association, which serves the Charlotte area, has 115 churches, or one church for every 5,798 people. By contrast, MNYBA has one church for every 76,923 people.
  • Brooklyn is New York City’s most populous borough, with more than 2.5 million residents. Brooklyn is home to 33 association churches, or one church for every 77,473 people.
  • Wake County, home to North Carolina’s second largest city, Raleigh, has 866,410 people. The Raleigh association includes 130 churches, or one church for every 6,665 people.
The need in New York is great, as is the ability of North Carolina Baptists to help. Helping New York churches reach their communities is an Acts 1:8 kind of task.

As a convention that has from its formation been committed to fulfilling the Great Commission, a partnership to assist MNYBA churches is not a new idea. The theme verse for the 2010 North Carolina Missions Offering, Acts 1:8, continues to challenge North Carolina Baptists to work in local, national and global mission efforts.

The MNYBA has sounded out the “Macedonian Call” (Acts 16:6-10) and specific requests for help are already coming in. To learn how to get involved, visit www.ncmissions.org.

Listen to podcasts with MNYBA leaders and pastors at www.ncbaptist.org/index.php?id=1596.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Lilley is a researcher and writer for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)
4/5/2010 6:49:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments



Six GCR components would reallocate work, funds

April 5 2010 by Baptist Press and The Alabama Baptist

The six components of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s preliminary report presented by chairman Ronnie Floyd to the SBC Executive Committee in February:  

‘Rally toward missional vision’
Calling Southern Baptists “to rally towards a clear and compelling missional vision and begin to conduct ourselves with core values that will create a new and healthy culture within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).”

The “missional vision” is “as a convention of churches, ... to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations. Our culture represents 1 Corinthians 3 much more than 1 Corinthians 13.

“Envy, strife and division need to become unacceptable. Instead, let this world know us by the depths of our love for Jesus, the gospel and one another.”

The eight core values are Christ-likeness, Truth, Unity, Relationships, Trust, Future, Local Church and Kingdom.  

NAMB ‘reinvented, released’
Recommending the North American Mission Board (NAMB) prioritize efforts to plant churches in North America to reach the nation’s cities and underserved people groups.

NAMB needs to be “reinvented and released by implementing a direct strategy for planting churches that reflects the entity’s role to lead a national strategy to reach North America with the gospel. The plan calls for Cooperative Agreements between NAMB and Baptist state conventions to be phased out over a four year period with funds redirected toward church planting.

Nurturing state conventions in new work areas would become the responsibility of mature state conventions.

NAMB would directly appoint missionaries rather than work in cooperation with other Baptists in order to have supervision of its missionaries and to ensure that funds are spent according to its national strategy.

NAMB would decentralize its employees to serve in seven regional centers across North America.  

Remove geographic limits
Requesting Southern Baptists “entrust to the International Mission Board (IMB) the ministry to reach the unreached and under-served people groups without regard to any geographic limitations.”

“Globalization has flattened the world,” Floyd said. “While years ago a people group was located within a specific geographical location, this is no longer reality. Reality today is that these people groups are located all over the world, including the United States.”

“Most of the 586 people groups that do not speak English in the United States have (IMB) strategy coordinators working overseas with the same groups,” he said.

“With geographical limitations removed, a new synergy can be created in international missions.”

Floyd added: “We believe that with this bold and needed change, we are positioning our convention of churches for a major evangelistic harvest, a discipleship revolution and an unprecedented, exponential explosion in church planting.”  

CP promotion passed to states
Moving the primary responsibility for Cooperative Program (CP) promotion and stewardship education ministry assignments from the Executive Committee to the state conventions.

Historically promotion of the CP was seen as the responsibility of the state conventions, Floyd said.

The task force’s plan envisions state convention leaders creating a consortium that, in cooperation with the president and CEO of the Executive Committee, would “plan and execute an annual strategy that will promote the Cooperative Program to our churches as well as challenge our churches in biblical stewardship.”

While the plan envisions state conventions reassuming the stewardship assignment, “it is the responsibility of local churches to challenge their people to walk in obedience to God by honoring Him weekly with at least the first tenth of all income as well as additional offerings to our local churches,” Floyd said.  

Recognize Commission Giving
Reaffirming the CP “as our central means of supporting Great Commission ministries” and establishing a broader category of “Great Commission Giving” to celebrate all the financial support — CP giving and designated giving and direct support — local congregations provide to Southern Baptist missions work in associations, state conventions and the SBC.

“We are urging Southern Baptists to celebrate what all churches are doing for the Great Commission.” This is not seen “as being competitive with CP … but complementing it for the sake of the gospel.”

The new designation would be added to the Annual Church Profile.

“When churches give more … and state conventions keep less of it within their respective states, and a compelling unified gospel vision is cast for Southern Baptists, we will see giving … increase in a major way.”  

Raise IMB’s CP percentage
Raising the percentage of CP received by the International Mission Board in the 2011–2012 budget year to 51 percent and funding the increase with monies previously allocated to the SBC Executive Committee for CP promotion and stewardship education.

The proposal would reduce the SBC Operating Budget allocation of 3.40 percent by 1 percentage point, or roughly $2 million, and add it to the IMB’s budget, currently at nearly $320 million.

Calling the proposal “both symbolic and substantial,” Floyd explained, “This means that for the first time in our history, more than one-half of all monies that come from our churches through the SBC Cooperative Program will go to the reaching of the nations.”

“We believe this is a great move forward and we need to do all we can to reach the nations,” he said.
4/5/2010 6:44:00 AM by Baptist Press and The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments



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