April 2012

Evangelist Sammy Nuckolls, 33, charged with video voyeurism

April 5 2012 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A 33-year-old evangelist who spoke for years at Southern Baptist youth gatherings is being investigated in three states for video voyeurism.

The evangelist, Sammy Nuckolls, was indicted in February in Mississippi on 13 counts of video voyeurism for filming women in private situations without their consent. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years and will require Nuckolls to register as a sex offender. He has pleaded not guilty to the Mississippi charges.

According to sources familiar with Nuckolls’ speaking schedule, he was being scheduled by an estimated 100 churches or groups per year.

Among those that have used Nuckolls were LifeWay Christian Resources’ student camps, which terminated its relationship with Nuckolls when the charges were revealed last fall.
Nuckolls originally was hired to serve in the role of a camp pastor from 2003-06. In 2007 his role changed to a contract speaker at general assemblies and large gatherings. LifeWay conducts both reference and criminal background checks for those speaking at student camps, an April 4 statement from LifeWay noted.

“Police investigators in Mississippi have reported to LifeWay there was no evidence victims were filmed at any LifeWay events,” LifeWay said in its statement. “However, Mark Kimball, assistant chief of police of the Olive Branch, Mississippi, Police Department, has requested those who may be victims to contact him at (662) 892-9400.”

Last October, Nuckolls was staying in the home of a youth minister for a church in Arkansas where he had been invited to speak. After Nuckolls emerged from the family’s bathroom, the youth minister’s wife went in and eventually noticed several of his items lying around, including his shaving kit, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram April 2.

The woman saw what appeared to be an oversized pen standing upright inside the shaving kit on the counter, and she continued in the bathroom. Later, when the bathroom was unoccupied, Nuckolls returned to retrieve his belongings, the newspaper said, citing a police report.

Once Nuckolls and the youth minister had left the house, the woman found the pen in Nuckolls’ room, took the top off and discovered a flash drive. She plugged it into her computer and saw a video of herself undressing, the Star-Telegram said. She called police, and when Nuckolls returned, he was arrested.

At the time, Nuckolls admitted to videotaping the woman without her consent and also admitted to two other instances of using a hidden camera in Olive Branch, Miss., the police report said. A police chief in Gosnell, Ark., searched Nuckolls’ computer and found several more videos dating to 2007.

A Mississippi prosecutor said the women there were filmed in Nuckolls’ home and were his friends or acquaintances.

According to an Internet search, among the places Nuckolls spoke were the Baptist Campus Ministries at the University of Alabama in November 2009, Blue Mountain College in Virginia in August 2011 and churches in several states.

A nondenominational church in Southlake, Texas, where Nuckolls spoke to youth about a half-dozen times in three years, said he passed a required background check there, according to the Star-Telegram. Officials in Seymour, Texas, also are investigating Nuckolls for video voyeurism.

Bill Cash, one of Nuckolls’ neighbors in Olive Branch, Miss., told the local ABC affiliate last fall he was “totally shocked” when the charges were revealed.

“I would have never thought it,” Cash said. “I would have never even began to think it. He was always a real nice guy.”

Another neighbor, Raymond Clower, was “definitely surprised and shocked.”

“You don’t expect someone who lives next door, seems so nice, to be caught up in something like this,” Clower told the Memphis, Tenn., Fox affiliate.

Nuckolls is married, and neighbors said he and his wife adopted a baby last year.

A trial for Nuckolls in Mississippi is scheduled to begin June 25.

“Based on the length of time this went on, the sophistication of his acts, it was clearly not accidental,” Steven Jubera, a prosecutor in Mississippi, said, according to the Associated Press. “We intend to prosecute this aggressively.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
4/5/2012 3:16:55 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

National WMU introduces new trademark and tagline

April 5 2012 by WMU Communications

National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) introduced new branding elements recently, including an updated trademark and tagline.
Since 2006, the trademark for the national missions organization incorporated the letters WMU with a larger “M” to place emphasis on “missions.” Now missions – the singular focus of WMU – is emphasized in their new tagline, Missions for LifeTM.

“Missions for Life sums up the purpose of WMU in a number of ways,” explained Julie Walters, communications specialist for national WMU. “First, it communicates that WMU promotes a lifestyle that is focused on the mission of God. In addition, the word ‘life’ is holistic like WMU in that we offer resources for all life stages from preschool to adults that help develop confident missions disciples. Missions is also the pathway for many to hear and learn about Jesus, the Giver of eternal life.”
The new trademark or graphic is actually an updated version of the original one adopted in 1913. The original contains a number of elements, including the outline of a fish, an early Christian symbol; a flame or light representing the light of Christ in Christians to lead others to Him and to follow His light into the world; an open Bible representing knowledge of Scripture and teaching missions-related passages; and a globe expressing the idea of an outward focus on the peoples of the world.
WMU’s new trademark incorporates two elements from this original version: the fish and a stylized circle or world.
“The colors of blue and green are fresh and appealing to both genders, and used in a stylized circle, they also express the idea of sharing Christ in our world,” Walters said. “We believe this new graphic celebrates our heritage while embracing today’s opportunities by better reflecting the active, friendly, reliable, and invested mindset of those involved in global missions through WMU.”
4/5/2012 3:07:51 PM by WMU Communications | with 0 comments

Anchorage voters defeat transgender proposal

April 5 2012 by Baptist Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A controversial proposal in Anchorage, Alaska, that would have added protections based on “sexual orientation” and “transgender identity” to the city’s code has been handily defeated, defying a pre-election survey and proving once again that voters often say one thing on issues of homosexuality and then do another.

The proposal, known as Proposition 5, failed by a margin of 58-42 percent. A poll conducted March 25-26 that used the exact language found on the ballot showed Prop 5 winning, 50-41 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

The proposal would have prevented discrimination based on both classifications, but the debate focused mostly on the definition of “transgender identity,” and a group opposed to the proposal ran a series of TV ads featuring cartoon characters, showing how far the proposed law could go. In one ad, a depiction of a man curling a dumbbell was shown, as a female narrator says, “Steve owns a gym in Anchorage, but if Proposition 5 passes, Steve will be forced to open the women’s locker room to anyone who claims a female identity.” At that moment, a cartoon depiction of a man with hairy arms and legs, wearing spandex, walks into the women’s locker room. The narrator continues, “If Steve says ‘yes,’ he’ll lose customers, and if he says ‘no,’ he can be fined or imprisoned.”

A second commercial warned that religious bookstore owners could be fined or imprisoned if they refused to hire gays. A third commercial showed a cartoon depiction of a man wearing a pink dress applying for a daycare center job. The commercials, aired in the final days of the campaign, may have made a difference.

Gay groups and their supporters said the ads were demeaning, but the group behind them, Protect Your Rights, said that because the proposal did not define “transgender identity,” privacy and religious freedom truly were threatened.

Austin R. Nimmocks, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, wrote a column for Townhall.com and said the proposal did threaten religious freedom.
“Any proclamation that the addition of ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘transgender identity’ to the law does not impact religious freedom demonstrates a woeful ignorance of the legal landscape where these provisions have been enacted across the country,” Nimmocks said. “... No one should be forced to celebrate behavior that directly conflicts with their beliefs.”

The ballot language asked, “Shall the current Municipal Code sections providing legal protections against discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, physical disability, and mental disability be amended to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender identity?”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
4/5/2012 2:56:52 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

In Cuba, leaders encouraged by Baptists’ perseverance, vibrance

April 5 2012 by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press

HAVANA, Cuba – Walking through the Western Cuba Baptist Convention (WCBC) Seminary’s corridors in Havana, Kevin Ezell heard how home missionaries Herbert Caudill and David Fite were escorted from those halls in 1965 and sent to Fidel Castro’s notorious prison. The two, along with 53 Cuban pastors and lay leaders, were accused of being CIA operatives, yet their only crime was sharing the gospel.

“Their sacrifices were incredible,” said Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board (formerly the Home Mission Board) as he reflected upon the missionaries’ ordeal in the years following the Castro-led revolution. The two men remained in prison until their release in 1969.
Ezell’s March 21-23 visit – on the eve of Pope Benedict’s official stopover on the Caribbean island nation – marked the first time an HMB/NAMB president had visited Cuba since William Tanner traveled there in 1978, more than three decades ago.

Florida Baptist Convention photo by Ken Touchton

Pastor Moisés Redondo and his wife of Getsemani Church in Guanabo, Cuba, are prayed for by Southern Baptist leaders who visited Cuba March 21-23. Also pictured, from left, are Craig Culbreth, lead strategist for the Florida convention’s mission support group, Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, Kurt Urbanek, IMB missionary to Cuba, and Dennis Wilbanks, strategist with the Florida convention’s partnership missions team.

Ezell was in Cuba as a guest of the Florida Baptist Convention to attend the Western Cuba Baptist Convention’s annual meeting at historic Calvary Baptist Church in downtown Havana. The building – located around the block from the country’s capital building – originally was purchased through Annie Armstrong Mission Offering funds.

Traveling with Ezell were John Sullivan, Florida’s executive director-treasurer, who preached during the WCBC annual meeting; Carlos Ferrer, NAMB vice president and chief financial officer; and Florida convention staff members Craig Culbreth and Dennis Wilbanks.

The Florida Baptist Convention has partnered with the Western Cuba Baptist Convention since 1996 and funds 51 percent of its annual operating budget, earmarking more than $1.8 million for the past 15 years to underwrite pastoral salary assistance, theological education and leader training.

For Ezell and Ferrer, the trip was the opportunity to see the foundation established by Southern Baptists’ Home Mission Board when it first sent missionaries to the country in 1886. The WCBC, organized in 1905, flourished under the HMB support. Through a letter-writing campaign by home missionary Annie Armstrong, the board purchased the Calvary church property in 1888 as well as the seminary and a retirement home for senior adults to advance Cuban Baptists’ mission.

Then in 1959 after the Castro-led revolution, WCBC churches were persecuted as Cuba was declared an atheistic country until 1992 when it was formally changed to “secularist.”

The Communist Party’s initial crackdown on the spread of Christianity drew the Cuban Baptists together as they sought to survive in a hostile regime.

Despite such adversity, in recent years the work of the WCBC grew as leaders functioned under the government’s regulations and restrictions by focusing on evangelism and church planting. While much freer to worship, the government will not allow Baptists to purchase new buildings for churches or ministries.

So it was the foresight of the HMB and Cuban Baptists in purchasing buildings before the 1960s that enabled the WCBC to prosper today. Ezell said it was “inspiring to see the passion and the vision of Annie Armstrong and others to purchase such property.”

“They did then what they cannot do now,” he said. Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Annie Armstrong offering a century ago “gave them credibility and a sense of permanence that exists today.”

The HMB continued to support the ministry in Western Cuba until 1987 when Southern Baptist work in Cuba was reassigned to the International Mission Board.

Former WCBC President Victor Gonzales, a layperson and respected oncologist at University Hospital in Havana, believes the past two years have been filled with advancements for the gospel.

“The work is doing better and better. We are still living in a revival,” said Gonzales, who has mobilized the convention for the past five years by emphasizing prayer and church planting.

In the past two years, WCBC churches reportedly baptized 4,706 people and planted 60 new churches, bringing total membership to 23,000. The convention has 347 affiliated churches (churches officially recognized by the Communist Party) and at least 1,000 additional missions, house churches, houses of prayer and cell churches.

The Holy Spirit is at work in Cuba today, Gonzales told the group. A 50-day prayer emphasis held annually from Easter to Pentecost is “bringing more people to Jesus every day and revival to Cuba.”

The Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention, which until recently had been served by the American Baptist Convention, now relates to the International Mission Board. IMB missionary Kurt Urbanek said the two Cuba conventions consist of nearly 7,000 churches – 672 affiliated churches, 1,346 missions and 4,901 house churches, houses of prayer and cell churches.

The cooperation of the two conventions will be necessary to reach the 11 million Cubans for Christ, Gonzales said. With recent approval by the government to hold public rallies, even more focus will be given to church planting in the big cities, he said.

While in Cuba, Ezell and Sullivan visited Rebirth Church, a house church that meets in the three-bedroom apartment of pastor Humberto Leal. The Alamar apartments where Leal lives originally were built by the government as a model communistic community. About 1,000 Cuban families reside in the multi-storied apartment buildings located about eight miles from downtown Havana.

The church was planted when one family residing in the massive apartment complex became Christians. At the family’s request, a pastor from Havana rode his bicycle 10 miles each Sunday to lead worship in their home. The congregation grew as neighbors were reached and even lent chairs for church members to use during worship and Bible study.

When the congregation grew to over 200, the government forced the church to downsize and disperse into several other apartments. Now five constituted churches are located in the apartment buildings, evangelizing and ministering to families throughout the community.

Leal’s church serves as the official church and the umbrella for the other congregations. Each Sunday as many as 80 people attend Rebirth Church, holding Sunday School and new member classes in the bedrooms and small den, while worshipping in the home’s covered patio.

David Gonzales, WCBC liaison with the Florida convention, said this type of church multiplication is an example of what is taking place throughout Cuba, noting, “We are able to saturate and penetrate communities with the gospel through this kind of hybrid church planting strategy.”

The model is especially crucial today as the government will not allow new churches to be built or purchase property, Gonzales said. Even renovations of existing buildings must receive approval from the authorities, a long and tedious process.

The group also visited Getsemani Church in Guanabo, a seaside community east of Havana where 70 believers meet weekly in the backyard of a renovated carpenter’s shop. With the words “Solo Cristo Salva” – only Christ saves – emblazoned across the front door, the church has started three house churches in the community, pastor Moisés Redondo said.

The three-day trip was unforgettable for Ferrer, the NAMB vice president, who was born in Cuba and left at age 10 when his family’s property was seized after the revolution. The exiled family eventually settled in California where home missionaries led them to Christ.

“I came here with a spirit of wanting to help the Cuban people,” Ferrer said. “But I leave humbled about what their plans are for the future – and their accomplishments in the past.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)
4/5/2012 2:49:13 PM by Barbara Denman, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Polls: N.C. marriage amend. has 20-point lead

April 4 2012 by Baptist Press

Two new polls that use the exact language citizens will see on the ballot show a proposed North Carolina marriage amendment with a substantial lead.

A survey of 1,191 likely voters by Public Policy Polling has the amendment ahead, 58-38 percent, while a poll of 1,001 by SurveyUSA has the amendment up, 58-36 percent.

Each survey included in the question the language that will appear on the ballot: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

North Carolinians will vote May 8.
The two polls differ dramatically from an Elon University survey that has gotten considerable attention in the state but used different wording in its surveys. Elon surveyed 534 adults and found North Carolinians opposing the amendment, 62-31 percent. But the survey’s question stated the issue in the negative: “Would you [support or oppose] an amendment to the North Carolina Constitution that would prevent any same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships, or civil unions?”

Nationwide, polls have shown that people are more likely to support a marriage amendment if it is stated in the positive – as the ballot language does and as the Public Policy Polling and SurveyUSA polls did – than if it’s stated in the negative, as the Elon poll does. Questions that include the word “prevent,” as the Elon survey does, also tend to decrease the level of support for an amendment. The word “any” also may have led to a lower level of support for the amendment, since it underscores the negative tone of the question.

In a Tweet earlier this year, Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen called it a “fatal flaw” for Elon University not to use the “exact ballot language” that voters will see when they enter the booth May 8. Public Policy Polling’s survey of Maine in 2009 was the only one to correctly predict residents there would reverse a law that had legalized gay “marriage.”

The Public Policy Polling survey was conducted March 23-25; the Survey USA poll, March 16-20; and the Elon University poll, March 26-29.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press. See related stories on the BR Marriage Amendment resources page.)
4/4/2012 3:34:55 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Luter: Humility, mind of Christ must define Christian life

April 4 2012 by Keith Collier, SWBTS Communication

FORT WORTH, Texas – As a teenager, Fred Luter met a quiet girl named Elizabeth, as the two were paired together for a Louisiana history class project at their school in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans. The two eventually began dating and sought to get married a few years later, but finances stood in their way.
Fred took a job parking cars yet maintained an upbeat attitude. His humility and friendliness caught the eye of a financial broker whose car he parked regularly.
When Luter lost his job with the parking company, the financial broker offered him a position at the brokerage firm,which supplied the job he needed to support a wife and family. Soon thereafter, Fred and Elizabeth married.
Over time, as Fred worked his way up into a vice president’s position at the firm, he felt God calling him to preach. After working all week, he would spend his weekends preaching the gospel on the New Orleans’ street corners. Soon, though, the burden to preach was too much. He left a lucrative career in the firm to pastor the small, struggling congregation at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.

BP file photo by Gibbs Frazeur

Fred Luter preaches the convention sermon at the 2001 SBC Annual Meeting in Luter’s hometown of New Orleans. The annual meeting returns to New Orleans in June.

Nearly 30 years later, Luter continues to reflect Christ’s humility as he leads the now megachurch congregation to reach the people of New Orleans as the city rebuilds from the devastating Hurricane Katrina of 2005. He challenged professors, students and guests to model humility and have a renewed mind – the mind of Christ – in his sermon from Phil. 2:5-8 during chapel at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, March 28.
“The only thing that can prevent from reaching your full potential for God in the months and years ahead in the ministry is you,” Luter said.
“There’s not an hour that goes by, not a day that goes by, not a week that goes by when your mind is not being tempted, enticed and lured by the enemy.”
Luter said the attacks of the enemy on the mind of the Christian come regardless of age, marital status, education or level of spiritual maturity.
“None of us are exempt from the attack of the enemy,” Luter said. He added that the only protection against Satan’s schemes is a mind renewed and conformed to the mind of Christ. This renewed mind helps believers think about Christ, their choices, and the cross.
“Jesus did not let His heavenly reputation affect His earthly responsibilities. He made Himself of no reputation,” Luter said.
“Every choice He made in life was to please God the Father, and that’s why we must have the mind of Christ. If you’re going to be victorious in your walk, in your ministry, in your life, in your marriage, you’ve got to make sure that every decision and choice you make pleases your heavenly father. … Every choice you make in life leads to a consequence, and that consequence can either be a blessing or a burden.”
Following Luter’s sermon, Southwestern president Paige Patterson concluded the chapel service by asking for students and faculty to commit to praying for Luter and his family. Patterson explained that Luter will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention in June, and should he be elected, the enemys attacks will only increase.
(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– Keith Collier is director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)
4/4/2012 3:26:24 PM by Keith Collier, SWBTS Communication | with 0 comments

Daytona Bike Week draws 500-plus to Christ

April 4 2012 by Barbara Denman/Florida Baptist Convention

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP) – Would you trade three minutes of your time for a chance to win a black 2012 Harley Davidson Road Glide motorcycle?

That was the question posed to bike lovers ambling along Beach Street during the 2012 Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Tattooed and leather-adorned bikers strolled down the sidewalks to ogle the latest bike accessories in equipment and clothes as vendors hawked their wares and services.
Stopped by “catchers” wearing Faith Riders T-shirts, the onlookers considered the request: three minutes of their time. Some left, but most were enticed by the potential prize – unaware that those three minutes could make a difference in where they spend eternity.

With a baby strapped in a carrier on his chest, Stephan and his wife pushed a second child in a stroller along Beach Street. Once inside the Faith Riders’ tent, the young African American began talking to Clayton Reeves, a biker from Harmony Grove Baptist Church in Blairsville, Ga.

Stephan was reluctant when Reeves began sharing his personal testimony, but the Holy Spirit was working.

When it came to the question, “If [you] died today would [you] go to heaven?” Stephan answered that he was a good man. “I explained to him that I was a good man,” Reeves said, “but good ain’t gonna get you in heaven.”

Photo by Dale Stroud/Florida Baptist Convention

Faith Rider Jimmy May, left, associate pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Ardmore, Okla., prays with two bikers during Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Reeves continued sharing the plan of salvation as massive motorcycles cruised along the road, vibrating the ground and sending gas fumes into the air. At the conclusion, Stephan prayed to receive Christ under the Faith Riders tent.

“After he prayed, he didn’t look like the same man,” Reeves said. “His whole demeanor had changed. You could see it in his eyes.”

Given a New Testament Bikers edition, Stephan grabbed Reeves before he left.

“He hugged me and everybody else. He wouldn’t let go. He kept saying he couldn’t thank me enough for taking the time to talk to him,” Reeves said.

“He left here a changed man.”

Stephan’s name and phone number would be forwarded to Reeves to make contact within a week. His name also will be sent to a Baptist church near his home for follow-up.

As Stephan filled out a card indicating his spiritual decision, a bell loudly clanged within the tent and a roar erupted from nearly a dozen Faith Riders staked out there, cheering as another life had been changed for eternity.

During the weeklong effort, the bell tolled more than 500 times – as many as 20 times within an hour – for those who prayed to receive Christ as their Savior. In all, the gospel was shared with 3,744 bikers.

Now in its second year of ministry at the World’s Most Famous Beach, the March 10-17 outreach, sponsored by the Florida Baptist Convention and Faith Riders Motorcycle Ministry, drew 145 volunteers from at least 10 states – Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

“They are so passionate about Christ,” volunteer coordinator Mike Stewart of Hibernia Baptist Church in Fleming Island, Fla., said. “They come all the way down here, taking time from their vacations and paying their own way here to sleep on a church floor, all to share their faith.”

Housed at First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach around the corner, volunteers are trained to witness using their personal testimonies and then are put to work among the bikers.

This is the second year for Rick Weathers as a volunteer, driving 12 hours from The Glade Church in Mount Juliet, Tenn., with seven other Faith Riders.

After last year’s involvement, Weathers said he wouldn’t miss the opportunity to see God work through something as simple as sharing how his life has been changed. He has taught the concept to others in his church.

“It is a blessing to see people share their testimonies in a way that will advance the glory of God – people who in the past would have never even prayed in their own Sunday School class,” Weathers said.

The volunteers are young and old, male and female from all walks of life. Many have overcome addictions and failures in their own lives through faith in Jesus.

As these ambassadors for Christ share their testimonies with mostly receptive bikers, Chris Conley of Richmond, Ky., said the Holy Spirit provides just the right entre, particularly when their lives mirror the needs expressed by the bikers.

“You can’t explain an experience like this. There is something different. If you feel God’s call to speak to a person and don’t, you know you are quenching the Spirit,” Conley said.

In their three minutes with the bikers, the volunteers seek prayer needs, often hearing emotional stories. Several have been on the brink of divorce while others have lost loved ones and jobs. Still others have found their addictions have cost them dearly.

Each night at the church, the Faith Riders gather and share the day’s victories.

This is the 10th year of Faith Riders, a national organization envisioned by Buddy Newsome, who was led to Christ as an adult through the ministry of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla. Newsome, a retired policeman, serves as national coordinator for the organization, which has grown to 226 Southern Baptist chapters in 21 states.

An avid biker himself, the quiet and reserved Newsome wears tattoos of the cross and an eagle on his upper arms. With more than 6 million motorcycles registered in America, bikers are an unreached people group who need the gospel, Newsome said. They represent their own culture and lifestyle.

“Ninety-five percent of them are average persons – doctors, lawyers and businessmen who come to a week like this and dress the way they do to assume a different identity. They are desperately seeking a new identity,” Newsome said, noting that a new identity can be found in Christ.

The Harley that served as the week’s enticement was purchased by donations from Faith Rider chapters and other organizations.

The witnessing model utilized by the Faith Riders at Bike Week can be replicated in almost any setting, said Harley owner David Burton, lead strategist for the Florida Baptist Convention’s evangelism group. While few churches can afford a motorcycle, other items can be used as a raffle prize at local fairs and other events.

When he left Daytona last year, Clayton Reeves believed God was calling him to preach. He began serving in a jail ministry and chaplaincy ministry, determined to be the church not just inside but outside the walls. “That’s what God has called us to do,” he said.

“People ask me, “How can someone be saved in three minutes?” You don’t know what has gone on in their lives,” Reeves said. “It could have been a Sunday School teacher or someone else who planted that seed. And we get to see it reaped by the Holy Spirit.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.)
4/4/2012 3:21:11 PM by Barbara Denman/Florida Baptist Convention | with 0 comments

Carey pastor: ‘They wish they had ... our Cooperative Program’

April 3 2012 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

When Al James drives up to Carey Baptist Church near Henderson, his head is uncovered but actually he wears two “hats.”
He is pastor of the church and also professor of missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, some 30 miles to the south at Wake Forest. He also serves as the school’s associate dean for proclamation studies.
It seems fitting that James leads this 400-member church, which has been firmly focused on missions since it was founded in 1896.
The church was named for William Carey (1761-1834), the famous English missionary. His preaching and writing helped launch the modern missions movement before and after he went off to India for a trailblazing career as missionary, translator and educator.
“Missions has always been an important part of this church’s heritage,” James said.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

Pastor Al James stands in front of Carey Baptist Church. The church was named for William Carey, a famous English missionary, and gives 13 percent of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program.

James became a pastor at age 19 and later served as Southern Baptist missionary in Southeast Asia and the Philippines. He earned degrees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, La., and later joined the Southeastern faculty.
Considering that missions is major both for Carey Baptist and for James, it’s no surprise either that the church is a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program (CP).
The church currently contributes 13 percent of its undesignated receipts through CP, James said.
Although Southeastern is one of six Southern Baptist seminaries supported through the Cooperative Program, James is quick to say his is not a self-serving attitude.
“It’s that I really believe this is the most effective way of promoting who we are as Southern Baptists and what we want to accomplish. It doesn’t matter if you are in a church with 10 people or 100 people or 1,000 people. We all have a way of giving together,” he explained.
He does think the percentage a church gives of its undesignated receipts is important.
“I have heard people say, ‘You spend dollars, you don’t spend percentages,’ but percentage giving is a way for us to all be in this together with equal sacrifice. In the Bible, when you have a woman giving her widow’s mite, Jesus wasn’t looking at who gave the most money, He was looking at her heart. The Cooperative Program is a way we can all give sacrificially and we are united together so that we can do more,” he said.
Keeping a church focused on Cooperative Program support takes some effort, even for a seminary professor.
James credits “excellent pastoral leadership” in earlier times at Carey, plus past and present Woman’s Missionary Union leaders. He commends Linda Kelly and Pat Peoples as current missions leaders who support the Cooperative Program and the church’s many other missions activities.
James brings in Southern Baptist missionaries, both North American and international, plus staff with the Baptist State Convention and other professors from Southeastern to speak.
He said he hears some churches say they want to support missionaries they know, but counters that they can bring in Southern Baptist and North Carolina Baptist personnel to put faces with financial support. James says pastoral support for CP is crucial.
He preaches and teaches on missions and frequently mentions the Cooperative Program in his messages and announcements; he connects Carey’s CP giving to people or places in the news whenever possible.
“I try to keep them informed on what those CP dollars are actually doing,” he said. “I remember when I was growing up I often heard, ‘You don’t give to the Cooperative Program, you give through the Cooperative Program.’ It’s still the truth,” he said.
CP giving is part of Carey’s overall missions program, he stresses.
Carey members both give to missions and do missions. They gave more than $11,000 to the 2011 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions; he expects they will meet their $5,000 goal for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions in 2012 as well.
Carey members give 3.5 percent of their undesignated receipts to Cullom Baptist Association and also give offerings to the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, North Carolina Baptist Hospital and GuideStone’s Mission:Dignity, which supports retired ministers. Carey members fill Samaritan’s Purse boxes with gifts for children at Christmas and take part in local ministries in the Henderson area. Some serve in the disaster relief ministries of N.C. Baptist Men. Carey’s young people serve in North Carolina and other states through the North American Mission Board’s World Changers program.
During his overseas service, James recalls meeting independent missionaries who had to raise their own support. It usually took them between 18 to 24 months just to raise their support and then they had to make frequent trips back to the United States to keep their support going. “I just stayed out there and did my ministry. Those other missionaries told me they wish they had something like our Cooperative Program,” he said.
For more on the Cooperative Program, go to ncbaptist.org/cpemphasis.
4/3/2012 4:13:05 PM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

CP ahead of pace at fiscal year midpoint

April 3 2012 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee are $4,764,590.68, or 5.12 percent, above the year-to-date budgeted goal, and are 0.75 percent behind contributions received during the same time frame last year, according to a news release from SBC Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Frank S. Page.
The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2011-12 SBC Cooperative Program (CP) Allocation Budget.

“This stands in marked contrast to the first quarter of our fiscal year when CP contributions languished in a double-digit decline from the previous year,” Page said. “We praise the Lord that we have seen this significant rebound in CP support for the missions and ministries of the SBC.”

As of March 31, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget totaled $97,764,590.68, or 105.12 percent of the $93,000,000 year-to-date budgeted amount to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. The total is $736,653.49 less than the $98,501,244.17 received through the end of March 2011.

The convention-adopted budget is distributed 50.2 percent to international missions through IMB, 22.79 percent to North American missions through NAMB, 22.16 percent to theological education, 3.2 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). If the convention exceeds its annual budget goal of $186 million dollars, IMB’s share will go to 51 percent of any overage in Cooperative Program allocation budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC will receive their adopted percentage amounts and the SBC operating budget’s portion will be reduced to 2.4 percent of any overage.

“The Cooperative Program is the fuel that drives what we do together as Southern Baptists,” Page said. “While I am grateful for everything we do collectively, I am especially thankful that more than $49 million in CP contributions has been distributed for international missions and another $22 million has been used for North American church planting and evangelism.”

Designated giving of $116,862,719.30 for the same year-to-date period is 0.34 percent, or $394,841.17, above gifts of $116,467,878.13 received at this point last year. The total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities.

The Cooperative Program is a channel of giving through which a local church is able to contribute to the various ministries of its state convention and to the various missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention with a single contribution.

Traditionally, state and regional conventions have acted as collecting entities for Cooperative Program contributions. They retain a portion of church contributions to the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution from the states is at the discretion of the messengers of each state convention through the adoption of the state convention’s annual budget.

CP allocation budget receipts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state offices, to the denominational papers and are posted online at www.cpmissions.net/CPReports.

March’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $16,142,489.90. This is the fourth successive month that contributions exceeded monthly budget projections. Designated gifts received last month amounted to $29,682,787.57.

The end-of-month total represents money received by the Executive Committee by the close of the last business day of each month. Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the number of Sundays in a given month, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions and the timing of when state conventions forward the national portion of their CP contributions to the Executive Committee.
4/3/2012 4:05:04 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Page “cautiously optimistic” about CP’s future

April 3 2012 by Benjamin Hawkins, SWBTS Communications

FORT WORTH, Texas – The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Executive Committee president Frank Page discussed the future of the Cooperative Program during a Q&A session with students and faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, March 23. The seminary welcomed Page to this session immediately after he spoke in Southwestern’s chapel service.
“I am cautiously optimistic,” said Page, a graduate of Southwestern Seminary. “There is caution because in the 21st century world, most every movement is toward societal giving, back to where we were before the convention started the Cooperative Program in 1925. And that is, each entity, each organization, seeks its own donors for its own causes. And we are moving in that direction. That is the 21st-century mentality. We’re in a time when everybody knows better how to do it themselves than trusting others. So there is some caution there.
“I am also optimistic because there are some seismic shifts going on. … There are some changes, not only among the younger demographic but in leadership and in how we promote the Cooperative Program.”
Page encouraged faculty members and students to model faithfulness to the CP, as well as encouraging them “to study and evaluate” the program for themselves. The CP has had its flaws, but by studying the program, Southern Baptists can see its overwhelming advantages and repair any defects it may have.

BP file photo

Frank Page, seen in this file photo, recently shared with students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I do believe the Cooperative Program is worth studying,” Page said. “If you study it and don’t like it, that is fine. But I believe it has worth, so I challenge people: Study it. Look at it. I believe there are biblical reasons why the Cooperative Program is good. I believe there are compelling logistical reasons why it works well. In fact, I do believe that if we were to go to a totally societal method, I don’t believe it would even be another generation before people would come back and say, ‘Give us that Cooperative Program back.’ There is economy of scale in it. There are logistical reasons, and I think if people really study it, they will see that it has worth.”
Noting some of the advantages to the Cooperative Program, Page said that Southwestern Seminary and its students benefit greatly from Southern Baptist cooperation.
“I believe that we need students who can leave here and not be ridden with school debt, so that they can be serving [in small churches] and be on the mission field without having to pay back tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars in school debt.”
After hearing these preliminary statements, Southwestern Seminary students and faculty members were invited to ask questions. Southwestern president Paige Patterson brought the first question.
"Have you ever noticed,” Patterson asked, “the strange parallel between the Cooperative Program and Communism? … Communism has never worked anywhere it has been tried. It has always been a colossal failure. And yet people keep on propping it up and trying it. But by comparison, the Cooperative Program, certainly not a biblical concept by that name, has worked incredibly.
“And yet the only people that seem not to appreciate it are Southern Baptists. And so Communism doesn’t work and people keep trying it. The Cooperative Program (CP) does work. Unbelievably, it has worked, now boasting the largest mission movement in the history of the world funded by the CP. Out of the 10 largest theological seminaries in America, six of them are ours, and they’re funded largely by the Cooperative Program.
“All that to set up the question: How on earth are we going to get our people to appreciate the Cooperative Program as much as all the rest of Protestantism appreciates it?"
In response, Page noted that many Southern Baptists “think they are giving to a program instead of giving to a [missions] project in Zimbabwe or in Beijing.” They will appreciate the Cooperative Program if they see the students, church planters, missionaries and the lost around the world who are impacted by the Cooperative Program.
“We have got to do a much better job of putting a face on missions,” Page said.
Page added that “the Cooperative Program, unlike communism, is the voluntary submission of ourselves to the needs of others. The Cooperative Program will only work in an atmosphere of Christlike selflessness.” Prior to the Q&A session, Page urged believers to be characterized by such selflessness and humility in a chapel sermon based on Christ’s parable of the Pharisee and publican in Luke 18:9-14.
Humility not only undergirds the Cooperative Program, but as Page said in his chapel sermon, it is required if Southern Baptists will ever see revival.
“There is a blessedness in prayer and revival when one opens up with humility before the Lord,” Page said. “There is a relationship necessary for revival, but there are requirements. And the first is humility. … If revival is going to fall in the convention, in our churches, in our campuses, it has got to start with me. Revival has got to fall on me. … God, give us humility. God, grant us humility.”
Putting a face on the Cooperative Program
According to Page, Southern Baptists must put a face on the Cooperative Program.
“People in the pew give to a face. They give to a project,” Page said, but few can be excited about giving to an amorphous, cloudy program.
But, according to Page, Southern Baptist cooperation is about much more than a program. The Cooperative Program, he said, consists of “a strong home base with an aggressive global mission.” When a Southern Baptist tithes, a percentage of his gift goes to the state and then to the national conventions, where it is deployed to undergird Southern Baptist efforts to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world.
In fact, the Executive Committee, which manages the business of the SBC throughout the year, distributes gifts to the Cooperative Program almost immediately to the work of Southern Baptists.
“We never hold it more than five days,” Page said. “It goes straight to Southwestern Seminary, to the International Mission Board, to the North American Mission Board, etc.”
The Cooperative Program supports the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in its mission to uphold religious liberty, to preserve the sanctity of marriage, and to defend millions of the unborn put to death in abortion clinics. It supports students training to preach the word and reach the world at the SBC’s six seminaries. And it supports thousands of missionaries, whom Southern Baptists send throughout North America and to the ends earth to share a message of hope with lost men and women.
To put a face on the Cooperative Program, watch the “Empty Hands” video on cpmissions.net/2003/default.asp.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Benjamin Hawkins is senior news writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)
4/3/2012 3:51:04 PM by Benjamin Hawkins, SWBTS Communications | with 0 comments

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