April 2012

World’s most manicured mission field is his call

April 16 2012 by Chris Turner, Baptist Press

SPRING HILL, Tenn. – When Scott Lehman stands on the first tee of a golf course, he’s gazing out across one of the most manicured mission fields on earth – his mission field.
And rarely is one’s mission in life embroidered on every shirt, hat, wind vest and jacket one wears, with his logo for In His Grip Golf serving as a constant reminder of his purpose in launching the golfing ministry six years ago: to reach men with the gospel through the game of golf.

Lehman lives the vision because he has lived both sides of it: an empty life constructed around golf, which nearly cost him everything, and an introduction to the saving power of Jesus Christ through golf.

He is wired for golf and wired for Jesus, and he knows there are a lot of other guys out there – millions of them – who are chasing empty dreams, living empty lives, and he wants to connect with them. Through golf, for Jesus.

“Guys are out there on an island dying to be a part of friendship and fellowship,” Lehman said. “There are 60 million golfers worldwide – 20 million male golfers in the United States. We’re looking to connect with these men and their passion out on the course, developing those relationships and ultimately sharing Christ, what He’s done in our lives and in our families.”

Scott Lehman of In His Grip Golf

Lehman is a walking testimony to that statement. A dream trip to the 1997 Masters – and seeing a young Tiger Woods dominate the field on his way to his first major – became a nightmare when he returned home to hear his wife say she wanted a divorce two years into their marriage. Financial debt, isolation and loss of a job had taken a toll.

“It was the first time in my life at age 36 that I started looking to God and asking Him those questions of why am I here? What is my purpose? Do You really have a plan for my life?” Lehman said. “I came across a little devotional book called ‘In His Grip,’ and when I brought it home, I asked my wife Leslie if we owned a Bible.

“She was shocked. Neither one of us had ever cracked open God’s Word.”

Lehman came to Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.” It was the beginning of his faith journey with Christ, “from the deep, deep, bunkers of my life,” as he says.

Involvement in a local church and a men’s small group helped grow his biblical understanding. That small group faithfully prayed for Leslie, who recommitted her life to Christ nine months later.

In His Grip Golf actually began as a local church ministry in Iowa. Lehman’s pastor at the time encouraged people to find a ministry and get involved. Nothing fit Lehman’s personality so the pastor told him to start a golf ministry. For seven years he did, and it became obvious to Lehman that God wanted it broadened.

“We were seeing a lot of unchurched guys participate,” Lehman said. “That was the intent from the beginning. We saw a lot of guys coming to Christ as a result.”

In his passion for golf and for sharing his faith, Scott Lehman founded In His Grip Golf, a ministry focused men who populate one of the most manicured mission fields on earth – the golf course.

Reaching men for Christ through the local church is still In His Grip Golf’s modus operandi.

“We want to equip laymen in the local church to own a ministry they’re excited about and is a natural bridge for them to share the gospel with their friends,” Lehman said. “Statistics show that if a man comes to Christ, 93 percent of the time the rest of the family will follow. That’s a staggering statistic, especially when coupled with the statistic that only 15 percent of churches have a strong men’s ministry. The place those families are ministered to is in the local church so we want what we do to support the church.”

Michael Catt, pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., the church that produced the movies “Courageous” and “Fireproof,” supports that approach. A resounding message in Sherwood’s movies is biblical manhood and leadership, a message championed by In His Grip Golf.

“The vision to reach men for Christ resonates with my heart,” Catt said. “I love the game and I love to see men come to Christ. I love to see their lives changed and their families changed. I believe as pastors and churches partner with In His Grip Golf, they will see some men reached [with the gospel] that they would never see reached through traditional methods.”

Bert Dargie, a member of The People’s Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Franklin, Tenn., has been involved with In His Grip since the church hosted its first golfing event.

“The effort is worth it,” Dargie said. “Guys who otherwise might stay on the periphery of ministry dive in and support [the tournament]. It’s a way to invite friends or co-workers who don’t go to church to something both you and them love. They hear the gospel and get to hang out with other guys. It is definitely a highlight for me.”

Lehman envisions reaching 2 million men with the gospel through the game of golf by 2020. While he has worked with a lot of churches and thousands of men, there is no question he sees the pristine fairways of America’s golf courses “white unto harvest,” and golfers as an unreached people group.

“I totally recognize it is a huge vision to reach 2 million men in the next eight years, but I believe that is the vision God has given us,” Lehman said. “It’s our calling to the Great Commission. I recognize that to get there God is going to have to provide and lead. It certainly isn’t going to happen because Scott Lehman made it happen.

“What we need to concentrate on is making sure everything we do through In His Grip Golf brings glory and honor to Jesus Christ. That means representing Him well in every aspect of our ministry and being faithful to share the gospel while building authentic relationships with other guys.”

And for a constant reminder of that mission, Lehman doesn’t need to look any farther than the embroidered logo on his shirt.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chris Turner is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn.)
4/16/2012 2:46:58 PM by Chris Turner, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

3-D helps build disciple-making culture

April 13 2012 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

Although scripture instructs churches to focus on disciple-making, making the leap from affirming disciple-making as a priority to being a disciple-maker is often easier said than done. 
Lynn Sasser, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) executive leader for congregational services, believes churches can make that leap once they commit to developing a disciple-making culture.
The process of developing that culture begins by identifying the true values of a church. 
“Think about the culture of your church,” Sasser said. “When you consider the calendar and budget, what is it that is really important in your church? What are the behaviors that are rewarded and reinforced?”
When forced to answer those questions, some churches may discover that disciple-making is not as highly valued as they once thought. Sasser said it’s a problem that is manifesting itself in the decline of too many churches.

BSC photo

Brian Upshaw, church ministry team leader for the Baptist State Convention, encouraged church leaders not to skip any of the three phases – discover, develop and deliver – of establishing a disciple-making culture.

“I’m convinced in my heart of hearts that what is wrong with the church today is that we are not making disciples,” he said.
Sasser shared about the importance of disciple-making during the recent “Looking at your church in 3-D” workshop March 20 at First Baptist Church in Rocky Mount. This was the first of four regional workshops scheduled this year.
“Looking at your church in 3-D” is a disciple-making initiative through the Convention to assist North Carolina Baptist churches in these efforts. The initiative calls churches to work through three phases necessary for the establishment of a disciple-making culture. The three phases lead churches to discover, develop and deliver an effective strategy of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
During the discovery phase, churches learn where they are in their efforts to make disciples and where God wants them to be. In the next phase churches develop a comprehensive disciple-making strategy that fits their unique context. During the deliver phase they implement and evaluate the strategy.
‘Simple, but not easy’
Brian Upshaw, church ministry team leader for the Convention, said all three elements are critical in a church’s efforts to make disciples. With that in mind, he cautioned that some churches might be prone to skip one or two of the steps. It’s a mistake he wants churches to avoid.
“3-D wants to take you through all three steps,” Upshaw said. “It’s simple, but not easy.”
During the workshop pastors learned how to identify the efforts in their churches that are contributing to a disciple-making culture and which ones are not. They also spent time discussing ways to implement the 3-D process.
“What we are presenting to you today is a process, not a one-time effort,” Upshaw said. “Hopefully it will become a new way for you to go about all of your ministry planning and execution so that you’re always in a mode of discovery, always in a mode of development, always in a mode of delivery.”
Russ Conley, BSC senior consultant for leadership development, pointed out that some churches need to begin the process with a fresh vision for reaching the lost people in their communities. 
“You can’t make decisions on what ministries to continue or end without a clear vision of what God has called you to do,” he said. “What passes for vision in most churches is manmade, not God inspired.”
Conley said the process of changing the vision in some churches will be hindered by an outdated framework for ministry built around a constitution and bylaws that was constructed decades or even centuries ago.
“The structure in your church is perfectly designed to achieve the results you are achieving,” he said. “The challenge is to have a structure that is appropriate to your vision that does not overwhelm the life of the church.”
As most pastors know, changing the structure of a church is not easy. But it can be done when pastors commit to orienting the life of their church around making disciples of Jesus Christ.
James Clark, pastor of Powells Point Baptist Church, said the 3-D process can accomplish that goal. Prior to participating in the workshop, Clark attended a one-hour presentation of the 3-D material through his local association. That presentation stimulated a desire to learn more, and the workshop experience confirmed his initial assessment. 
“The potential of the program warrants the investment and time,” he said. “I believe that it absolutely holds the key to breaking open our churches.”
For more information on “Looking at your church in 3-D,” including future workshops, visit ncbaptist.org/3d. Two training events are scheduled in September and October.
4/13/2012 2:23:17 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

NAMB addressing tensions regarding strategy

April 13 2012 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been amended to clarify two concerns raised by California Southern Baptist Convention leaders after publication. A reference to "jobs" being eliminated has been changed to "ministry positions." Also, a sentence has been added indicating that more than 30 percent of California's budget goes to church planting, and the reference to the California Focus 21 Task Force report that 3.2 percent of the state portion of its CP budget directly funds "church planters" (rather than "church planting") has been clarified. 
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell has explained the board's initiatives in church planting and evangelism in April 9 and March 6 video conferences with directors of missions and church planting catalysts.
A report on the April 9 video conference appeared in Baptist Press on April 11 and can be accessed here.
In the March 6 video, Ezell largely focused on NAMB strategy for increasing the birthrate of Southern Baptist churches, redeploying missionaries and shifting the board's budget.
The Ezell videos come at a time when several state convention leaders have expressed concerns with NAMB's direction. Other leaders, meanwhile, have voiced support for the mission board's strategy.
"Our mission is to penetrate lostness. We feel like the stronger churches are in North America, the stronger our overall mission will be throughout the world," Ezell said in the March 6 video conference. "The International Mission Board is supported by churches in North America, so the stronger the churches are here, we will penetrate lostness literally around the world."
NAMB's goal is 5,000 additional Southern Baptist congregations in the next 10 years, Ezell said. To do that, the convention must increase its birthrate and decrease its death rate for churches. 
By 1900, the Southern Baptist Convention had one church for every 3,800 people in North America, Ezell said. In 2010, the ratio was one church for every 6,100 people. 
"We're losing ground. In the last 10 years, in the Southern Baptist Convention, we have averaged losing 880 churches a year," Ezell said. "Obviously we have to plant 880 just to break even, and we've not been doing that."
Missiologists recommend one church for every 1,000 to 2,000 people, Ezell said, and some state conventions in the South are achieving that goal. Mississippi has one Southern Baptist church for every 1,375 people, for example, but in New Jersey it is one for every 76,384 people. "That's why we're focusing on church planting," Ezell said.
One strategy NAMB hopes to employ is for 10 churches from each association to plant two churches a year for the next decade, and another is to have one church planting catalyst for every 1 million people in new work regions. 
"Part of our problem has been our missionaries were not appropriately distributed across North America," Ezell said. "We have 3.5 million people in Connecticut and do not have a fulltime church planting catalyst there. ... Then we have other state conventions that might have 5 million people and they have 23 missionaries. There was no rhyme or reason about how these were strategically located. 
"So we're trying to go back and strategically place them throughout North America. ... They'll be located in areas with the highest population, and we're encouraging them to shoot for a goal of four new churches every year," Ezell said.
Regarding the board's budget, Ezell said, "We have regionalized. We have downsized our staff in Alpharetta by well over 100 people, and every dime of the money that we have either transitioned out of a state budget or out of our budget here in Alpharetta is going to those regions, going to church planter missionaries and church plants."
NAMB's goal is to devote half its budget to church planting, and currently 42 or 43 percent of the budget goes to those efforts, Ezell said.
"We do a lot of other things than just church planting. I made a mistake from our first year when I wanted to help us refocus on church planting," Ezell said. "... My mistake was I just talked about church planting. The reason I did that was to try to get the Southern Baptist Convention to focus on that need. This year we're going to go back and make certain people understand we're still doing the other things. But we have to have a sense of focus here."
In January, leaders of the California Southern Baptist Convention distributed a report detailing how changes at NAMB will impact their work. The report contained seven specific concerns stemming from NAMB acting "unilaterally," and most of the concerns were about funding. Also included in the report were NAMB's responses to the concerns.
"CSBC is now functioning in an unknown relationship with NAMB that, in many ways, has abandoned cooperation," the report said at the outset. "The current relationship with NAMB is now a top-down decision-making relationship where NAMB dictates its mandates, strategy and financial support outside a formal, cooperative understanding of relationship."
The California convention report noted concern that NAMB's decision to move more resources to church planting will adversely impact many effective ministries in the state, primarily by eliminating ministry positions.
California currently allocates more than 30 percent of its budget to church planting, according to the convention's chief financial officer. The convention gives 3.2 percent of its Cooperative Program dollars to church planters, which the convention's Focus 21 Task Force had signaled a need to increase.
NAMB, in response, said executive directors in various state conventions agreed to draft a new customizable outline for relationships between NAMB and state conventions. That new template is still being formulated, NAMB said.
Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, told board members in February that NAMB's emphasis on church planting inhibits its partnership with Alabama Baptists.
NAMB has not articulated how its church planting model compares with the model utilized by Alabama Baptists, Lance said, and has not satisfactorily honored the historic cooperative agreement process between the mission board and state conventions.
"Does the North American Mission Board want to have missionaries in Alabama who are not church planters?" Lance asked, also expressing concern over reduced funding from NAMB. "... Alabama needs NAMB, and NAMB needs Alabama. But NAMB needs Alabama more than we need NAMB."
Emil Turner, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, also expressed concern about the way NAMB is relating to its partners.
"Of greater concern to me than the impact on Arkansas is the impact on our partners that have to reach the pioneer areas," Turner said. "I am very much concerned that the North American Mission Board strategy for planting churches does not guarantee that churches that are planted will be marked by Baptist distinctives," Turner said. "Their strategy undermines the strength of the churches they plant as they defund associational work and church support."
Bob Mills, executive director of the Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, said two changes that will hit his convention hardest are NAMB's decision not to provide insurance for missionaries in Kansas and Nebraska who receive less than half of their salary from the mission board and NAMB's decision to alter the funding formula for the two-state convention.
"These two changes will cost our convention and local associations significant dollars," Mills wrote in the convention's newspaper in February. Noting NAMB's shift toward a key emphasis on church planting, Mills wrote, "Kansas-Nebraska, other state conventions and local associations do not have the luxury of being so single focused."
In Ohio, messengers to the state convention last fall passed two resolutions dealing with changes being initiated by NAMB. One resolution said the funding formula change "will require an estimated $3 million be added" to the state convention budget by Ohio Baptists. The resolution requested that NAMB reconsider decisions "which will threaten a potentially disastrous impact" on the missions effort of Ohio Baptists. 
The second resolution requested that NAMB trustees "continue their financial support of their missionaries in Ohio," defining missionaries as associational directors of missions, Baptist Collegiate Ministry directors, employees of Ohio's eight mission centers as well as church planters.
Jack Kwok, executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, said at the time his state qualifies as an "under-reached and underserved mission field," using terminology included in the Great Commission Task Force report approved by the SBC in 2010. 
In February, state convention executive directors appointed a special committee "to evaluate how state conventions and NAMB can maximize cooperation during the transition process of implementing the new NAMB initiatives."
Turner, immediate past president of the executive directors' fellowship, said the committee desires to "cooperate with NAMB in a way that helps strengthen new work conventions."
Leaders in at least three state conventions have been on record in recent months supporting Ezell's efforts at NAMB. Garvon Golden, a longtime leader in the Dakota Baptist Convention who was elected executive director in March, said the two-state convention will focus on strengthening churches and planting evangelistic churches.
"... Even with some of the changes that have been made, and some of the directions that NAMB is going, they remain a very valuable partner in helping us reach the Dakotas," Golden said. "We want to see the cities of the United States reached for Christ as well as the rural and isolated areas of the West, and we want to be cooperative partners with NAMB in accomplishing this."
The Dakota convention is facing financial challenges stemming from changes at NAMB, but Golden said the convention will take more financial responsibility for its work and will operate with a smaller staff. 
"We will find a way to thrive in this," Golden said. "I think in the long run it's going to help our churches, our convention, to be stronger. We're going to get to the point  we depend more on God and what He provides, and less on other people, and that has to make us stronger."
Kirk Baker, president of the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention, wrote in a column submitted to Baptist Press that changes at NAMB are spurring his convention to a necessary restructuring that has been put off for years.
"I wanted to encourage Kevin Ezell by letting him know that many pastors like myself see the changes coming from NAMB as positive," Baker, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho, wrote. "We see it as our opportunity to line up our work for Kingdom growth."
At their annual meeting last fall, leaders of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists also were on board with NAMB despite difficulties brought on by changes.
West Virginia approved a reorganization plan that opens the door to a greater potential for starting churches and reaching more people for Christ, Terry Harper, the state convention's executive director, said.
"We had a great team. They worked really hard and made some tough decisions," Harper told Baptist Press at the time. "They were not easy decisions to make because it affected a lot of people -- our 10 missionaries, our collegiate workers and our worker in resort missions. As painful as that has been, I still think it offers great opportunity for us in the days ahead. I think we're going to see church planting like we've never seen before in West Virginia. That's what it's all about, and I believe we will see that."
The proposal focused on priorities of strengthening, mobilizing and planting churches, and organized the state's 10 associations into five regions, bringing it into alignment with NAMB's plan to support five church planting catalysts in the state rather than the previous 10 associational directors of missions, Harper explained.
Seth Polk, the convention's president and leader of the restructuring group, said West Virginia Southern Baptists want to set an example of aggressively moving to increase the portion of missions dollars going to national and international causes.
"We believe that as people catch the vision for taking the Gospel to the nations, God also is going to bless right here where we are," Polk said. "When we're already working off of a streamlined state convention staff and budget, that's a real faith step for us.... I think that's a big statement about what the heart of the West Virginia Convention Southern Baptists is."
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
4/13/2012 2:11:40 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Research: Pastors, laity disagree on gospel’s exclusivity

April 13 2012 by David Roach

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nearly eight in 10 Protestant pastors strongly disagree that eternal life can be obtained through religions other than Christianity, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.
The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors asked respondents for their reaction to the statement, “If a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity.” A full 77 percent of pastors strongly disagreed while 7 percent somewhat disagreed. Another 7 percent somewhat agreed, 5 percent strongly agreed and 3 percent were not sure.

“Rob Bell’s book ‘Love Wins’ kicked off a discussion about the exclusivity of the Christian gospel,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “But most pastors are more in line with historic Christian beliefs than Bell, who suggested that other faiths lead to heaven.”
Pastors’ beliefs regarding the exclusivity of Christianity differ from those of their parishioners, according to a new study conducted for the upcoming book “Transformational Discipleship” by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelly and Philip Nation. When presented with the same statement, just 48 percent of adults who attend a Protestant church once a month or more disagreed strongly and 9 percent disagreed somewhat. A total of 26 percent agreed, including 13 percent who agreed strongly and 13 percent who agreed somewhat. Sixteen percent indicated that they neither agreed nor disagreed.
“One fact is clear: pastors are less universalistic than their church members,” Stetzer said. “A few heads nodding or an occasional ‘Amen’ does not indicate everyone believes Christianity is the only way. Church leaders will never know where their congregation stands unless they ask.”
According to the survey of pastors, those in large cities are more likely to believe that other religions lead to eternal life than their counterparts in other settings. Eleven percent of pastors in large cities strongly agreed. In comparison, 4 percent of pastors in small cities, 4 percent in the suburbs and 3 percent in rural areas feel the same.
Pastors identifying themselves as evangelical are less universalistic than those self-identifying as mainline. Compared with mainline pastors, evangelicals are:
– Less likely to strongly agree that other religions can lead to eternal life (evangelical pastors, 2 percent; mainline pastors, 11 percent).
– More likely to strongly disagree (85 percent to 57 percent).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is a pastor and writer in Shelbyville, Ky.)
4/13/2012 2:00:31 PM by David Roach | with 0 comments

Nathan Lino to be nominated for SBC 1st VP

April 13 2012 by Tammi Ledbetter & James A. Smith Sr.

HUMBLE, Texas (BP) – Texas pastor Nathan Lino will be nominated to the office of first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention during the annual meeting in New Orleans this summer.
Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla., told the Florida Baptist Witness of his intention to nominate Lino, saying, “I believe Nathan’s vision and leadership are exactly what we need in Southern Baptist life.”
Lino, 35, has served as senior pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble, Texas, for 10 years and has formerly served as first vice president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Whitten, who served with Lino as a trustee of the International Mission Board (IMB), said he has “witnessed a man who has a deep commitment to Southern Baptists, and an even deeper commitment to the Lord and to the gospel being taken to all the peoples of the world, beginning in his Jerusalem – Houston.”
According to Whitten, Lino will be nominated as IMB trustee chairman at its May meeting. Previously he served as moderator of the South Texas Baptist Association.

Texas pastor Nathan Lino will be nominated to the office of first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention during the annual meeting in New Orleans this summer.

“He has proven he can lead,” Whitten said.
“Nathan would describe Northeast Houston Baptist as a church of 1,000 people with a heart for the city and the nations,” Whitten said. “They are a giving church both in possessions and people.”
Lino’s congregation has planted seven churches in Houston and overseas, Whitten said. The church has baptized 46 people over the past year.
“The church’s desire, through Nathan’s leadership, is to give away 2,000 people in the next 10 years through church plants and struggling local churches in the Houston area,” Whitten said, noting that Lino’s goal of sending 2,000 members to other congregations is equivalent of a megachurch.
Born in South Africa, Lino’s family immigrated to the United States when he was 11, settling in Texas where he attended Humble schools. He received his bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University. After completing his master of divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, Lino returned to Texas and pastored Union Baptist Church in Normandy before planting the church he currently serves. He is completing a doctorate of ministry from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

Lino serves on the editorial board for baptisttheology.org, a department of the Center for Theological Research at Southwestern Seminary. He has traveled to 26 countries for mission trips and preaching engagements.
Lino and his wife, Nicole, have been married 13 years and have four children.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This story first appeared on the websites of the Southern Baptist Texan TexanOnline.net and the Florida Baptist Witness GoFBW.com.)
4/13/2012 1:43:13 PM by Tammi Ledbetter & James A. Smith Sr. | with 0 comments

SBC meeting theme to spotlight ‘Neighborhood & Nations’

April 12 2012 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – “Jesus: to the Neighborhood and the Nations” is the theme for the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) June 19-20 annual meeting in New Orleans, SBC President Bryant Wright has announced.
Drawn from Luke 24:47-48, the theme is worded to convey the importance of dual missions at home and abroad, Wright said.
“Sometimes people feel like it’s either/or, that they must focus on those at home to the neglect of those in the uttermost parts,” Wright said. “Sometimes people are so focused on the uttermost part that they neglect their own neighborhood, their own mission field.
“Some people think unless they are reaching their neighborhood first, they don’t have the right to focus on going to the nations,” Wright continued, noting: “This is a specifically-worded theme. Christ is clear. We are to focus on both. It is not either/or. It is both/and.

“They ought to be our focus all the time.”
A radical reprioritization of Christ’s Great Commission is Wright’s prayer for the mission focus of the annual meeting, to be held at New Orleans’ Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
“I’m praying this will be Spirit-led,” Wright said, that there will be “a powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit as we focus on carrying out Christ’s Great Commission in a unified spirit.”
Wright chose the passage from the book of Luke to expound on the disciple Luke’s frequently quoted rendering of the Great Commission in Acts 1:8.
“That’s the beauty of the Gospels, to look at parallel teachings in different Gospels. It gives us a sense of freshness, an understanding of what Jesus is teaching us. Lord willing, I intend to preach on this expression of the Great Commission in my convention sermon,” Wright said, referring to the president’s address on Tuesday during the convention. “I think it just allows us to expound more on the very crisp, clear mission Jesus gives us in Acts 1:8.”
Wright, pastor of the Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., will conclude his second one-year term as SBC president during the New Orleans annual meeting.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is a staff writer for Baptist Press.)
4/12/2012 2:02:39 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Charlotte churches choose to change, reach community for Christ

April 12 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Every week on the way to the hospital for visitation Jack Homesley drives through the neighborhood where he spent his childhood. Only now when he drives by Hoskins Avenue Baptist Church in Charlotte, which he remembers as always having a full parking lot, it looks almost empty.
Church attendance has dwindled, with about 15 people present on Sunday mornings. The community looks different, too. The once white, blue-collar neighborhood is now more diverse and home to many Hispanics and African-Americans.
The senior adult congregation of Hoskins Avenue is no longer reaching the neighborhood, which changed around them before they knew what to do.
About two years ago Homesley, pastor of Christ Community Church in Huntersville just 15 miles north of Hoskins Avenue, began praying for Hoskins Avenue.

“I would stop from time to time and tears would fill my eyes,” he said. “That neighborhood desperately needs the gospel. I wanted to help revitalize the church.”
For nearly a year Homesley met with leaders from Hoskins Avenue and they prayed about what God would have them do. Their leadership also wanted the church to start reaching the people around them; they just didn’t have the resources or manpower. 
Mary Hoyle has been at Hoskins all her life. Her parents joined the church when she was six months old.
“Over the years we realized we weren’t reaching the community and outreach wasn’t effective,” Hoyle said. “I’m stunned that we reached the point we did. We had no idea where to turn. We had to step back and say, ‘Lord, you’re going to have to handle this. We’re going to die as a church; we need for you to take over.’”
Hoyle and the Hoskins Avenue congregation decided the church must change or it would eventually die.
Homesley worked with the congregation to develop a plan to help turn things around. Homesley calls the plan a three phase “progressive partnership plan.”
“We’re building trust,” he said. “We’re helping out, but not taking over.” 
Last fall the two congregations began phase one, which included pastors and staff from Christ Community helping preach on Sunday mornings. “This enabled Hoskins and Christ Community to build fellowship, trust and familiarity with one another in the process,” Homesley said. In phase two, Christ Community began helping with Sunday morning music worship and provided ushers and greeters.
Christ Community also provided additional pastoral care assistance and help with interior and exterior renovations and repairs. Now, in phase three, the congregations are working together to develop and implement a strategy for community outreach, Bible studies, prayer gatherings and other ministries.
Homesley is prayerful that in a few months Hoskins will be ready for a full-time pastor who can help the congregation continue moving forward in their efforts to share the gospel and make disciples.
Feeding the multitudes
Another unique partnership in the Charlotte area between Westmoreland Baptist and Eastside Baptist is now moving forward with strategic changes after six months of prayer, transition and adjusting.
Eastside Baptist merged with Westmoreland in an effort to not only keep the church doors open, but to care for the community.
“I felt God wanted us to merge with another church because we were not being as effective in carrying out the Great Commission as we should have been,” said Eastside pastor Michael Snyder.
When Snyder became pastor the church averaged 25 in attendance for Sunday morning worship, and that’s how it had been for the past six or seven years. For about three years Snyder attended a support group at Westmoreland when he met with Westmoreland pastor Todd Marlow and other area pastors. The day came when Snyder knew it was time to talk with Marlow about Eastside merging with Westmoreland.
Snyder and Marlow prayed for 30 days before talking to anyone else about a possible merger. “The more we prayed, the more in agreement we were,” Marlow said.
On both ends, the transition continues to be a smooth one. “I’m amazed at how easy the transition has been. That can only be a God-thing,” Snyder said.
When the churches merged the church changed its name to HOPE Community Church of Metrolina, with a West Campus (Westmoreland facility) and East Campus (Eastside facility).
Marlow preaches at the West Campus Sundays at 9 a.m. and then drives 30 minutes across town to preach at 11 a.m. at the East Campus. He will continue doing this until a pastor is on staff for East Campus.
Although the back-and-forth travel has not been easy, to Marlow, seeing people in the community come to know Jesus makes it worthwhile. “We’re not loving people for what they can do for us. It’s not about saying ‘look at us.’ We want to feed the multitudes with the love of Jesus,” he said.
The merger will bring facility renovations at Eastside, a worship pastor to help lead at both campuses, weekly home life groups at Eastside and community outreach. Snyder is now responsible for pastoral care and senior adult ministry at both campuses. When talk of a merger began Marlow didn’t make many promises. “We just said we would love them and preach God’s Word,” he said.
In the last six months or so the Westmoreland campus has grown and attendance has nearly tripled at East Campus.
A Hope Caring Center was launched in March at East Campus so that the church can offer food and clothing to people, build relationships, and share the gospel. “Everything is for His glory and not ours,” Marlow said. “Colossians 1:27 says we have Christ, the hope of glory, in us. That’s why we exist. That’s who we are.”
4/12/2012 1:39:08 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Retired dental clinic finds new life, meets needs in western N.C.

April 12 2012 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

A dental bus retired by North Carolina Baptist Men after 22 years of service is finding a second life as a stationary dental clinic operated by Truett Baptist Association in Marble.
See a dentist for a toothache? It’s routine for many North Carolinians, but it can be a challenge for many living in Cherokee and Clay counties in the far western part of the state.
That’s why the new dental clinic is big news, said Mitchell Shields, Truett’s director of missions.
The new clinic also stands as a lesson in how Baptist partnerships can help meet needs.
The 1989 Bluebird bus now sits to the right of the association’s office building on N.C. Highway 141, permanently parked on a concrete slab under an awning with steps to the entrance.  
The engine and other parts of the vehicle’s mechanical parts were worn out. This was its second engine, and it had more than 100,000 miles of service. But the interior clinic with two chairs, X-ray machine and storage for supplies are all in good condition. Its interior was completely refurbished in 2001.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) originally provided a $140,000, interest-free loan to N.C. Baptist Men to buy the bus in 1988. It was soon being driven by volunteers all over the state for clinics to provide medical and dental care.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

The North Carolina Baptist Men recently retired a dental bus from its ministry. Julie Ledford, left, a volunteer dentist from Hayesville, and Mitchell Shields, director of missions for Truett Baptist Association in Marble, pose for a photo in front of the now permanent fixture in western North Carolina. A few dentists have volunteered to help with this ministry in the Bluebird bus.

It was one of two mobile units maintained by the ministry.
When the ailing bus was replaced last October by a new truck-mounted Lifeline Mobile medical dental unit, it was decided to let Truett operate the Bluebird.
Joanne Honeycutt, N.C. Baptist Men coordinator for the statewide mobile medical/dental ministry, visited the association in December to train the Baptist volunteers who will be working with the new dental clinic, which will become an on-going ministry of Truett Baptist Association. It will be staffed and operated by them.
“I found the folks to be just as excited about their 1989 bus as we were excited about our 2011 mobile unit,” she said.  
Honeycutt coordinates the schedule of the two mobile medical/dental units and the thousands of professional and lay volunteers required to keep them functional.
The ministry delivers free care to more than 4,000 patients in scores of clinics held across the state each year.
“We are so grateful that Truett Association had a desire to use a stationary dental clinic to meet the needs of people in that part of the state,” said Richard Brunson, executive director of N.C. Baptist Men.
“God will continue to use this dental bus for many years to meet the physical and spiritual needs in the western part of the state,” he said.
Shields said there’s a tendency for local Baptists to think North Carolina Baptists imagine the state stops somewhere around Asheville.
“But having the clinic has a tremendous impact on an increased sense of cooperation,” he said.
“We are working together.”
Shields has worked hard on still more partnerships to get the clinic into operation.
A $6,000 grant from the N.C. Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) provided the concrete slab the clinic sits on.
“Many of our patients are older adults who have trouble getting access to dentists willing to accept their Medicare/Medicaid coverage,” Shields explained. “They have to drive 60 or 70 miles to get a Medicare dentist.”
A local church member donated the shelter.
Local construction workers and builders provided the excavation and grounds preparation.  
“What you see right here has been a partnership with NCBAM, N.C. Baptist Men and local churches, coming together and working cooperatively,” he said.
Shields said they are also working cooperatively with the Clay County Health Department, which also operates a dental clinic.
“This morning they brought some dental burrs over because we didn’t have what was needed,” he said.
But the Truett clinic will usually have needed supplies, because they are working with a company that provides free dental materials to non-profits.
Twelve patients were seen by volunteer dentist Julie Ledford, DDS, on its first day of operation, Feb. 24 this year.  
Four dentists have committed to provide free dental care through the dental clinic, and a fifth dentist has said he will help after his upcoming retirement.
Such numbers are needed for the ministry, because the overall number of dentists in relation to the population is low in the area, Shields said.
“Our primary concern is relieving pain,” he said. “We have a lot of folks who are just hurting. We’re trying to relieve that pain.”
Currently the association has a list of about 175 prospective patients.
The medical/dental ministry of N.C. Baptist Men is funded through the North Carolina Missions Offering, taken up by many churches during September each year.
But, the new Lifeline Mobile unit has been partly paid for by gifts from the Duncan Foundation, the Friess Family Fund, the Goodwill Foundation, churches, summer camps, dental offices and individuals.
Honeycutt said $49,000 remains to be paid on the $450,000 cost of buying and equipping the new unit.
For more information on the medical/dental ministry or to make a contribution for the new mobile unit, contact Honeycutt at jhoneycutt@ncbaptist.org or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5603.
4/12/2012 1:26:30 PM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Camp celebrates 50 years, challenges churches to ‘Send 1 for Him’

April 11 2012 by BR & Caraway staff

Walking the trails and hills around Camp Caraway in Sophia, N.C., isn’t as easy as it once was 40 years ago for C.J. Bordeaux.
“When did you all move Mountain View so far back up in the woods?” Bordeaux joked during a more recent visit to the camp.
Those trails bring back a flood of memories from when he led young boys as a camp counselor. It’s Bordeaux’s experiences at the camp that he believes helped fuel his calling to the ministry.
“Many of those [counselors] … now serve in the pulpits and positions of leadership in our N.C. State Baptist Convention,” said Bordeaux, who now is pastor of Gorman Baptist Church in Durham and first vice president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. “I am proud to say that I am one of them.”
This summer the camp program, which is led by N.C. Baptist Men, will celebrate 50 years of ministry among boys ages 9 to 17. Caraway will celebrate this milestone through various events from June of 2012 until June of 2013.

BR file photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Counselors at Camp Caraway work hard to ensure boys have fun at camp while also teaching them God’s Word. This year Camp Caraway celebrates 50 years. Through the years, about 7,000 campers have made a decision to follow Christ.

Located on nearly 1,100 acres, Camp Caraway began as a camping ministry for RAs (Royal Ambassadors) in the summer of 1963. Since then, more than 67,000 boys have spent a week at the summer camp. About 7,000 of the campers made a decision to follow Christ.
Though the camp has helped change lives through the years, the number of boys who attend has slowly dwindled over time. Some speculate the economy is a factor to a lower turn out.
This summer, in conjunction with the 50-year celebration, Caraway and N.C. Baptist Men are sponsoring a special emphasis entitled “Send 1 for Him.” 
The emphasis focuses on challenging every Baptist church in the state to send at least one boy to camp.
Bordeaux said he hopes churches will respond to the challenge and find at least one boy in their congregation who could go.
“I know the economy is tough, but pastors, parents and churches … will get more bang for [their] buck at Camp Caraway than any place I know in this state,” he said. “[They] will not find a better place to send your boys this summer.”
On July 21, Caraway will host a reunion of summer camp staff and also a ceremony commemorating the anniversary.
A commemorative wall will be dedicated in honor of all the summer camp directors who have served through the years. This summer the camp dining hall will be named after Clyde L. Davis Sr., who died in 2003. Davis was known for his help with founding the camp and his involvement in Southern Baptist life.

Each year, Caraway Conference Center and Camp hosts more than 8,000 guests through camps, retreats and environmental education programs.
Caraway is in the middle of raising support for a $7.5 million campaign to build a new three-story facility in its conference center area that will be used to accommodate more guests.
In September of 2011, Caraway also dedicated the Powell/Warren Mountain House that serves as a minister’s retreat.
 “[Caraway] is becoming even more of a place where we need to invest our dollars and in the lives of those who will lead this great convention and our churches of tomorrow,” Bordeaux said.
“[Camp Caraway] is where they will get camping skills, swimming, fun and games, but more than that they will hear that Jesus Christ loves them.”
 To register or for more information go to campcaraway.org.
Contact N.C. Baptist Men at (800) 395-5102, or call Mark Moore at Caraway at (336) 629-2374.
4/11/2012 1:41:39 PM by BR & Caraway staff | with 1 comments

Starnes combats ‘war on Christianity’ with satire

April 11 2012 by David Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A new book by Fox News journalist Todd Starnes chronicles approximately 100 instances of political correctness gone wild and religious freedom encroached – what Starnes dubs a “war on Christianity” and traditional values.
Titled “Dispatches from Bitter America,” the book’s subtitle – “A Gun Toting, Chicken Eating, Son of a Baptist’s Culture War Stories” – reflects its satirical, humorous and at times irreverent tone. The title is based on remarks made by President Obama on the 2008 presidential campaign trail when he referenced some white working-class voters as “bitter” and clinging “to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

Much of the political left wing, Starnes writes, fails to understand the overwhelming Christian sentiment among Americans and the foundational importance of Judeo-Christian values for the nation.

“Friends, I hope you know that Christ alone is the author of our freedom,” Starnes writes. “Without Him, without His guiding hand, our nation will cease being free.”

One example of a battle against Christianity occurred in Taunton, Mass., according to Starnes, when an 8-year-old public school student was told by his teacher to draw something that reminded him of Christmas. Because the boy drew a stick figure of Christ on the cross, he was sent home from school and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation for creating a violent picture.

Though Taunton’s mayor eventually ordered the school superintendant to apologize to the boy’s family, Starnes sees the episode as exemplifying the anti-Christian mentality of some liberal politicians and activist judges.

A former Baptist Press assistant editor, Starnes is host of “FOX News & Commentary,” a daily segment aired on FOX News Radio. As a FOX reporter, his stories from Wall Street to the White House have aired on hundreds of stations around the country. He is a frequent contributor to “FOX & Friends” and “Hannity” and authored the 2009 book “They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick,” a chronicle of his battle with weight control and open-heart surgery.

Coinciding with the release of Dispatches from Bitter America by LifeWay Christian Resources’ B&H Publishing Group, Starnes launched into a book tour in February that included speaking engagements at notable Southern Baptist venues such as First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., First Baptist Church in Dallas and Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

Among the recent culture war episodes noted in the book:

– In 2008 the Defense Department burned Bibles on an American military base in Afghanistan out of concern that they might be used to convert Afghans to Christianity.

– Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, was disinvited to speak at the Pentagon’s 2010 National Day of Prayer event because he called Islam an evil and wicked religion. Similarly, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, was disinvited to speak at a national prayer event at Andrews Air Force Base over his opposition to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding homosexuality.

– The Obama administration opted in 2009 to have a “nonreligious Christmas” at the White House, featuring an official tree that included ornaments depicting the Chinese dictator Mao and a drag queen. The administration even considered not displaying the traditional White House nativity scene.

– When a Massachusetts public middle school class toured the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, male students were invited to participate in traditional Muslim prayers. In the same vein, the Tulsa, Okla., police department investigated a captain who refused to attend an Islamic event because he said it would violate his religious beliefs. As Starnes puts it, “Islamic radicals are coming to town, and I don’t believe they’re interested in hosting a potluck dinner with the Presbyterians.”

– The city of San Francisco banned Coke, Pepsi and Fanta Orange from vending machines on city property but permitted public fornication at the traditionally sordid Folsom Street Fair. When some citizens alerted the police of their shock and concern over public sex acts, they were told that “the unwritten rule for the fair was, live and let live.” At times, Starnes brings a graphic and comedic tone to the topic of sexuality, including one chapter that begins with a warning regarding its language, counseling, “You might want to set down your iced tea.”

– City officials in Indianapolis called a private bakery’s actions “unacceptable” when it refused to bake rainbow-themed cupcakes for a gay rights group on National Coming Out Day. Likewise, some individuals who gave money to oppose gay marriage in California found their businesses protested. Many activists, Starnes writes, “want to attack religious beliefs that conflict with their own.”

In fictional satirical chapters, Starnes envisions a billion-dollar government bailout of the barbecue industry, a day when animals have the right to sue human beings, the potential results of government-rationed health care and an incident where government officials taser a middle school student for eating chocolate at school.

On several occasions Starnes turns a humorous critique against those who want the state to outlaw junk food, warning, “The government is coming after your Nutter Butters.” He also comments on trends in modern church life, including the overuse of technology and preachers talking excessively about sex.

Kelly Boggs, editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, said Starnes “exposes the liberal influence present in America” with “a chicken leg in one hand and a sharp pen in the other.” He noted that the use of sarcasm to critique sin falls within the biblical tradition.

“It is in the mode of a prophet to use some sarcasm and humor to call attention [to sin], but to do it in a roundabout way that’s not too terribly blunt,” Boggs said.

Joni Hannigan, managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, said the book “has put in one place a collection of some of the most egregious examples of where religious liberties are being violated.”

Starnes’ sense of humor “helps us to laugh at what can be so ridiculous ... so we can gain an understanding of the issue without being driven to desperation,” Hannigan said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is a writer and pastor in Shelbyville, Ky.)
4/11/2012 1:33:06 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

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