April 2016

Boko Haram: After 2 years, Chibok girls ‘all well’

April 20 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Esther Yakubu has not seen her daughter Dorcas since Boko Haram kidnapped the girl with 275 classmates from the Chibok boarding school in Nigeria two years ago, but Yakubu professes faith that the Lord is with her child.
“I know that the angel of the Lord Almighty is with you, and He will continue to be with you wherever you are,” Yakubu told the international Pathfinders Justice Initiative for women. “But I would like to advise you, wherever you are, please be strong in the Lord and He will see you through.... The Lord is your strength, and I have that hope in me that I will see you again and I will rejoice in the Lord Almighty.”
With Yakubu’s daughter among the 219 girls still missing two years after the April 15, 2014 kidnapping and raid in the mostly Christian town of Chibok, a Boko Haram video has surfaced that was reportedly given to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as a “show of good faith” that the girls are alive.


Screen capture from CNN.com
A Boko Haram “show of good faith” video shows 15 of the Chibok schoolgirls as of December 2015, asserting that all of the 219 girls are “well.”

“We are all well,” one of the girls on the video says, in what CNN translators described in a news report as a “scripted plea” for Nigeria to cooperate with Boko Haram in securing the girls’ release. The video, believed to have been made in December 2015, only showed 15 of the missing girls but indicated the safety of “all” those missing.
Yakubu told Reuters that the girls in the video were indeed Chibok students, but her daughter did not appear to be among those shown.
“I saw all the girls and they are Chibok girls,” Reuters quoted Yakubu. “I recognize some of them because we are in the same area with them.” Yakubu marched on the anniversary with about 30 other parents and activists to Buhari’s presidential villa in a cry for the girls’ rescue.
In a previous video released a month after the kidnapping, Boko Haram showed about 50 girls quoting the Quran while in Muslim attire, and had threatened to enslave them as Muslim brides. At least one of the girls may have been killed as a forced suicide bomber, the Jubilee Campaign for religious freedom said months after the kidnapping.
On the occasion of the anniversary, Buhari told parents and activists working for the girls’ release that he believed they could still be freed. The government is working “diligently to ensure that the girls are returned home unharmed,” Buhari was quoted in This Day, a Lagos, Nigeria, newspaper.
But the girls likely have been divided into groups and dispersed among various Boko Haram cells that are negotiating separately for the girls’ release, This Day reported April 15.
“One senior intelligence source said that in the course of negotiations for the girls’ release, one cell asked for $50 million in exchange for the 15 girls shown in the video,” This Day reported. “Then yet another group offered another 10 girls for over 1 million euros ($1.14 million) reinforcing intelligence reports that they had been broken up and dispersed to different cells.”
The source, whom This Day did not name, also confirmed that Boko Haram is deadly, “cannot be trusted and is led by maniacal leaders,” but said the large ransoms indicate the terrorist group has been weakened.
Months after Buhari claimed a “technical defeat” of Boko Haram, a regional multinational military force of 8,700 fighters from Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger continues to report successes against the jihadists.
The military has rescued thousands of Boko Haram captives, including 1,275 rescued just days before the anniversary of the Chibok kidnapping; but none of the 219 girls had been recovered. In the attack along the Nigerian Cameroon border, troops killed 22 suspected Boko Haram fighters and arrested three suspected Boko Haram commanders, a Nigerian Army spokesman said April 12 on the army’s website.
“The unprecedented clearance operation swept through over 10 suspected Boko Haram terrorists [sic] hideouts along the border in which they killed 22 terrorists, arrested 3 Ameers (commanders) and rescued abducted persons,” the statement reads. “During the operation the troops cleared Nbaga, Bula, Dabube, Ybiri, Greya and Suduwa towns and other adjoining settlements. The towns and settlements were occupied by suspected fleeing Boko Haram terrorists who escaped from villages previously cleared by troops of the Nigerian Army.”
At least 800 hungry and emaciated Boko Haram militants have surrendered to the military, according to Nigerian government officials planning to open rehabilitation camps for Boko Haram militants who repent of jihad and agree to become productive citizens.
Working to establish strict Sharia law across Nigeria, Boko Haram has been most active in northeastern Nigeria where many of the 20,000 deaths occurred that the terrorists are blamed for since 2009. Boko Haram originally targeted Christians, but has also killed moderate Muslims.
Killings of Nigerian Christians increased 62 percent in the past year, according to the February report “Crushed But Not Defeated,” from the Open Doors religious freedom ministry and the Christian Association of Nigeria. Northern Nigeria Christian communities suffered at least 4,028 murders and 198 church attacks in 2015 from Boko Haram, Muslim Fulani herdsmen and others in 2015, compared to 2,484 killings and 108 church attacks the previous year, the report said.
Between 2006 and 2014, the report estimates, 11,500 Christians were killed in northern Nigeria; and at least 13,000 churches have been attacked, destroyed or abandoned since 2000. The report ranks Nigeria as 12th on the Open Doors 2016 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian, and estimates 30 million Christians live in the region.
“This report shows that extent and impact of the persistent violence on the church in northern Nigeria is much more serious than previously expected. Once Boko Haram is defeated, the problem will not be solved,” a West African Open Doors representative, whose name was not released to protect his identity, said in an Open Doors press release.
“Christians living under Sharia law are facing discrimination and marginalization and have limited to no access to federal rights,” the representative said. “We hope that this report will prompt the Nigerian government and international community to take the real suffering of persecuted Christians seriously and act on their behalf.”
Open Doors marked the two-year anniversary of the Chibok kidnapping by launching an advocacy campaign asking U.S. President Obama to take a strong stance against the ongoing persecution of Christians and other victims of violence in Nigeria, and to urge Buhari to do everything possible to protect those facing terrorism there, the Open Doors press release said.
More than 2.3 million people have been displaced by Boko Haram violence in the Lake Chad region since May, 2013, according to UNICEF, including at least 1.3 million children.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

4/20/2016 11:24:33 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Candidates announce for BSC offices

April 19 2016 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Three candidates are in the running to be nominated as officers of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) when the annual convention meets in Greensboro Nov. 14-15.


Cameron McGill

Mark Harris will nominate Cameron McGill for the office of president. McGill is pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church and current BSC first vice president. Rick Speas plans to nominate Joel Stephens, pastor of Westfield Baptist Church and current second vice president, for the office of first vice president. Shannon Scott announced he will nominate David Ethridge for the office of second vice-president. Ethridge is serving as minister to young adults at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Raleigh, where Scott serves as pastor.
In his announcement Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte and a former BSC president said, “Cameron brings a number of qualities to the office of president. He certainly has shown leadership as he has served as both second vice president and first vice president of the convention. I think he also has demonstrated great shepherding skills in the life of Dublin First Baptist Church.”
He has served as pastor at Dublin for 16 years and in ministry 23 years according to the church’s website. His wife, Tiffany, is active in the church’s ministries, in mission projects and in the BSC. They have four children.


Joel Stephens

“The leadership he has shown has been phenomenal,” Harris said. “I think everybody who knows Dublin First Baptist sees this is a man who has shepherded his people in a tremendous way, providing them not only the care and concern, but also the leadership to move forward.”
Speas, senior pastor of Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem and a former BSC president, recently announced, “I am very honored to nominate Joel Stephens to the office of first vice president. I have known Joel for many years and served alongside him in the state convention. Joel is a man who is deeply committed to the Lord Jesus, to the Word of God and to prayer. He is a servant leader with a Kingdom vision.”
Stephens has been in ministry for 19 years and is currently serving his 15th year as the senior pastor of Westfield. The church gives more than 11 percent to missions through the Cooperative Program. Stephens’ wife, Lisa, serves with him in ministry. They have four children.


David Ethridge

“Joel has led Westfield Baptist Church to take the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world,” Speas said. “Locally they are working to impact lostness in the Westfield community and the Piedmont Triad. Internationally, Joel is a founding faculty member of the Roma Bible Institute; a school established by N.C. pastors to train Roma pastors in Hungary, Romania and Ukraine that partners with Baptists on Mission and Hungarian Baptist Aid. I’m convinced he will continue to serve North Carolina Baptists with excellence and integrity as our first vice president.”
Ethridge, whose candidacy for the second vice president was recently announced, and his wife, Janna, are natives of Atlanta and have three children.
“We met over three years ago when he was a volunteer for campus ministry at N.C. State and a member of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex,” Scott said. “We witnessed his heart for reaching the next generation, especially college students, for Christ.
Now he is serving with me as minister to young adults at Mount Vernon. Our convention would greatly benefit by having a leader who will complement our other leaders out of his heart for millennials.”
Ethridge is a graduate of Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as an associate instructor with Walk Thru the Bible, and teaches Old and New Testament studies at the Roma Bible Institute in Hungary.

4/19/2016 10:44:33 AM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Campbell, Wingate install presidents

April 19 2016 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Campbell and Wingate universities officially installed new presidents this month. Both universities invested in opportunities for not only the students to get involved but, the community as well, in activities meant to unify the student body and highlight each university’s opportunities.


Campbell University

Campbell University in Buies Creek, which was founded in 1887, installed J. Bradley Creed in a ceremony April 8. Creed, the university’s fifth president, took over as the school’s leader in July.


BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
J. Bradley Creed, right, with his wife, Kathy, by his side, greets a line of people in Campbell University’s Butler Chapel after Creed’s installation service.

He replaces Jerry M. Wallace, who retired June 30 after 12 years as the university’s president and 45 years at the school.
Wallace, along with many others, was part of the installation ceremony. He and Creed crisscrossed the state as they met Campbell alumni and supporters the last few months.
“In all he did he left Samford a far better, stronger, more vibrant place than he found it,” said Andrew Westmoreland, president at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., where Creed served as provost, executive vice president and professor of religion.
Creed was also dean of the George W. Truett Seminary at Baylor University in Waco, Texas and pastor of churches in Texas and Louisiana.
“Through Campbell, we all have an opportunity to make a difference,” Creed said. “Campbell University is your opportunity. When God opens the door of opportunity, walk through it.”
As part of installation week, Campbell hosted a run, worship service, lecture and concert as well as Operation Inasmuch, a community outreach effort to serve its neighbors.


Wingate University photo
Rhett Brown was installed as Wingate University’s president in an April 7 service.

Wingate University

Wingate University installed its 10th president April 7.
Rhett Brown is the first former graduate to hold the office of president at the school, which was founded in 1896.
He received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1989 and a master of business administration in 2001.
Brown took over for Jerry McGee on June 1, 2015.
“Our guiding purpose at Wingate University is to change lives for the better: those who study here, who teach here, who work here, and who live here,” Brown said. “Our pursuit is a knowledge that informs our faith and leads us to serve others. That is the purpose of higher education at Wingate University.”
While Brown was most recently vice president for student life and enrollment services, he has held numerous positions since his college graduation.
Students, staff and members of the community participated in a Day of Service, which included projects to benefit children, the homeless and the poor. Donors also contributed around $76,000 to a One Day, One Dog campaign. Visit campbell.edu or wingate.edu.

4/19/2016 10:37:19 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

National Day of Prayer set for May 5

April 19 2016 by BR staff

The first Thursday in May is designated each year as the National Day of Prayer (NDP). May 5 marks this year’s annual call to people of all faiths to pray for the nation.
A task force organizes the day of observance, which “represents a Judeo-Christian expression of the national observance, based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.”
Tony Evans, 2016 NDP honorary chairman and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, repented personally and collectively for “the spiritual apathy that now engulfs us” in the national prayer. “Enable us, by Your Spirit, to no longer be secret agent Christians but rather to publicly declare and live out Your truth in a spirit of love so that You feel welcome in our country once again.”
The event was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. Each year since, the sitting U.S. president has issued a proclamation designating the special day.
Visit nationaldayofprayer.org.

4/19/2016 10:32:50 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

NAMB readies mobile clinics for Send Relief ministry

April 19 2016 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has purchased two mobile clinics – one for dental services, the other for general medical needs – that will be used as part of its new Send Relief compassion ministry. Both units will be used during Send Relief ministry events in the St. Louis area in the days leading up to the annual Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).


NAMB file photo
David Melber and his wife Tera were introduced to the North American Mission Board’s trustees at the October 2015 board meeting in Salt Lake City. Melber is vice president of Send Relief, NAMB’s new compassion ministry, which will launch at the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis in June.

The clinics will be fitted with state-of-the-art equipment and can be utilized by medical and dental professionals as part of outreach and service events for under-served communities. The units will be part of NAMB’s ongoing Send Relief ministry and will also be available to churches, associations, state conventions and other Southern Baptist entities that want to use them as part of their own ministry events.
“We want to help every church member be on mission with God in their community,” said David Melber, NAMB’s vice president for Send Relief. “We recognize that not everyone will be a church planter or a pastor. We have medical professionals and dental professionals in our churches. This will be an outlet not only for them as an outreach activity but, in a more expanded view, these will give churches an opening to do other outreach projects in the community.”
The two units will be parked outside of the America’s Center, the SBC annual meeting location in St. Louis, during the June 14-15 convention. Southern Baptists in attendance will be able to tour the clinics and learn more about their capabilities.
The units – both state of the art and fully functional – will provide everything medical professionals need to do basic healthcare and dental care in a mobile setting. The dental clinic will include an X-ray machine and two dental operatory rooms. The medical clinic will include two exam rooms, a bathroom, a waiting room and an intake area.
Melber says the clinics can be used to build bridges into a community or build credibility for the group planning the outreach efforts. He pointed to block parties as an example of projects where Southern Baptist groups can use the clinics.


NAMB file photo
The North American Mission Board has purchased two mobile clinics, one for dental services and one for general medical services. The clinics are currently being constructed and will be part of NAMB’s Send Relief compassion ministries. NAMB will launch the new ministry at the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis this June where Southern Baptists will be able to tour the new mobile units.

“We expect these clinics to be tangible illustrations of how churches, associations, state conventions and the North American Mission Board can partner together in activities that engage church members in missions that ultimately proclaims the gospel,” Melber said.
Though the clinics will be introduced at the convention, they will be used a week earlier in ministry efforts in St. Louis through the work of local Southern Baptists.
NAMB trustees approved the establishment of Send Relief during their October 2015 meeting in Salt Lake City. The mobile clinics have been built with funds trustees authorized during the meeting to start the new initiative.
Melber hopes God uses the two clinics to take the gospel to people who wouldn’t have entered a local church building otherwise. He also hopes Southern Baptist church members with medical backgrounds will realize they can use their gifts to be on mission in their own communities.
“We’re asking Southern Baptists to pray that the unity we demonstrate to the world through events that these clinics support will be a testimony for the sake of the gospel, that people would come to know the Lord through this effort,” Melber said.
For more information about Send Relief, visit namb.net/sendrelief. For more information about reserving the mobile clinics, email Judy Cape at jcape@namb.net.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

4/19/2016 10:25:38 AM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Quakes rock Japan, Ecuador; Baptists assess needs

April 19 2016 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

Powerful earthquakes struck both Ecuador and Japan over the weekend, killing hundreds of people in the two countries and kick-starting local disaster response teams.
In Japan, a three-day series of earthquakes and aftershocks rocked the southern part of the country. The tremors killed at least 42 people, collapsed buildings and caused fires and landslides, news agencies reported. The Ecuador quake caused tremendous devastation on the country’s Pacific coastline. The death toll there has risen to 350 and is expected to climb higher as rescue workers dig through rubble and reach isolated areas.


The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Ecuador on April 16 was the worst in decades, officials there told reporters. The tremor ripped apart buildings, tore up roads and knocked out power in the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Pedernales.
Baptist Global Response (BGR) released a statement that said the initial stages of the disaster response in Ecuador “will be search and rescue, performed mostly by in-country teams.” BGR’s area director is working with national partners to assess the situation and determine whether volunteer teams might be needed. If so, the first line of teams for the response will be comprised of trained nationals from the area, BGR said.
The crisis in Japan began April 14 when a magnitude 6.2 earthquake hit Kumamoto on the main southern island of Kyushu. Additional large tremors continued in the area through the weekend. The Japanese government mobilized 25,000 troops, where rescuers are facing harsh weather conditions.
A statement from BGR said the need for food, water, medical assistance, and shelter is being met by local authorities and non-governmental organizations in the affected areas. “BGR is monitoring the situation and will respond as needed and necessary,” the statement said. “There doesn’t seem to be a need for us to organize a major response at this time. We might respond through local partners, but we have no plans to mobilize.”
About 200,000 people have fled their homes because of the damage caused by the Japan quake, news agencies reported. Earthquake experts believe dangerous aftershocks would continue to occur for more than a week.
This disaster in Japan caused relatively few deaths in comparison to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. That 9.0 magnitude quake killed 20,000 people when it struck 231 miles northeast of Tokyo. A subsequent tsunami with 30-foot waves claimed even more lives and damaged nuclear reactors in the area.
That disaster prompted a sustained response from Japanese Baptists, who were assisted by specially trained volunteers mobilized by Baptist Global Response and Southern Baptist missionaries living in the country.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Kelly is a career Southern Baptist journalist and freelance writer in Marietta, Ga.)

4/19/2016 10:20:53 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Digital prayer map to help churches engage internationals

April 18 2016 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Chuck Register announced the release of a new, interactive, online map to help churches pray for international people groups in North Carolina. The April 8 announcement came as part of Register’s Peoples Next Door NC report to the Executive Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).



The new digital tool allows Christians to locate and learn more about foreign-born people living in the state. Seven population centers across N.C. are designated with markers. Plans are underway to include the Wilmington area as an eighth region.
Clicking on a population center marker enlarges the map, allowing viewers to see the 10 “most strategic” people groups in the region.
The interactive tool features people such as Pashtuns of Pakistan in the Fayetteville area, Mexicans in the Blue Ridge region, Romanians in the Unifour region, Eritreans in the Charlotte region and Berbers of Morocco in the Triangle area.
Each people group is represented on the map by a marker. A click on the marker opens ethnographic information and prayer needs for the group. Data for the prayer map came from BSC field research across the state, including information from an ethnographic initiative called The Joshua Project. Peoples Next Door NC plans to keep data current in the future to reflect population increases and changes in receptivity to the gospel.
One example of prayer map information comes from the Wolof people living in North Raleigh. The website reads, “God brings the Wolof people to us from the countries of Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania.
“The Wolof people practice a unique version of animistic (superstitious) Islam. In their home context, they work as farmers, shepherds, fishermen and merchants.
“When they migrate to cities in North America, they tend to work in a variety of entry level jobs in the service industry. Their demanding work schedules leave them with little time for inviting others into their community. The Wolof people live in tight-knit communities and tend to self-sustain and self-exist within their own socio-economic-religious networks.
“In N.C., they struggle to integrate, even though many have lived here for more than 15 years. The Wolof people have few relationships with evangelical believers, but their reputation for kind hospitality leaves them open to cross-cultural friendships. Consider reorienting a portion of your life to fit the life rhythms of our Wolof neighbors. You may find that a gospel-centered friendship with one leads to a gospel-centered friendship with many.”
Register said he believes the interactive tool will help educate congregations about the people groups nearby. The ultimate goal is “prayer mobilization,” he said. “We believe the more [churches] pray, the more the Holy Spirit will lead them to engage that people group.”
Register also hopes the prayer map can serve as “a model tool for other missions organizations to use in their regions of the county to mobilize people to pray and engage the nations with the gospel.”
View ncbaptist.org/prayermap

4/18/2016 4:27:01 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 0 comments

Take note: Music programs engage church members

April 18 2016 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Martin Luther, a theologian known for his involvement in the Protestant Reformation, considered music “the greatest treasure in the world” next to God’s Word.
The Bible stresses that praising the Lord can involve various instruments of praise – voice, harps, trumpets, drums and others.
“Handbells and pipe organs are often considered instruments associated with traditional church music and foreign to band driven modern worship,” said Kenny Lamm, worship and music consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). “For churches that want to fully embrace the standard contemporary worship sound, then those instruments would have no place.”


BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Handbell choirs are one of many ways to engage more people in music ministries at churches. The Baptist State Convention hosts handbell festivals each year for youth and adults to practice as a choir and perform with other choirs. Members learn new techniques and how to follow a different conductor.

The BSC offers training for churches related to a variety of music outlets, including audio training. Lamm organizes worship boot camps throughout the year to help churches improve music programs.
For handbells, there is a youth handbell festival and two adult handbell festivals (East and West); all were held in February this year. Every five years the adult handbell festival merges to form PraisRing, a larger gathering with even more training opportunities. This year’s East festival was held at Salem Baptist Church in Apex and involved 203 people in 16 choirs while the West’s event in Shelby drew 35 choirs totaling 445 people. The youth festival in Greensboro attracted 80 ringers stretched over seven handbell choirs.
The festivals involve a Friday night and Saturday practice times and a final concert of the music and techniques learned.
“For those churches that seek to bridge the old and new, the ancient and future, etc., and those churches that want to use a tapestry of musical worship expressions in their times of corporate worship, they will find ways to utilize a variety of instruments and talents of the people God has brought together in that specific local church,” Lamm said. “Vocal choirs have fallen to the wayside in many contemporary expressions of worship.”
Lamm says the blame doesn’t fall on the choir members but on the purpose of the choir. Sometimes he notices that happening when the choir becomes more of a performing body rather than a worship-leading group.
“In many more contemporary settings, choirs are still vital to the worship experience,” he said.
“Eliminating vocal choirs, orchestras, handbell choirs and other groups not considered to fit with the band-driven model perhaps disenfranchises many people in our local church bodies from using the gifts God has given them to aid the corporate worship experience of the church. A sensitive worship pastor can find ways to utilize the giftedness of the whole congregation and plan times of corporate worship that will tastefully provide a multi-generational, multi-ethnic worship service that incorporates a tapestry of styles, while staying very in tune to the missional context of the specific congregation.” 
Lamm says he tries to blend a variety of music, especially when planning the BSC annual meeting. He recalls the 2011 meeting where the messengers were led in “Our God.”
“It began with a high energy band made up mostly of teenagers, was joined by full orchestra, handbell choir, and a large formal choir to show the diversity of our congregations and the way that all these different expressions can come together in one voice,” Lamm said.
N.C. Baptist Singers and Orchestra has 153 participants representing 82 churches for the 2015-2016 concert year. A senior adult choir festival in fall 2015 had 195 participants representing 13 churches. This year’s event is planned in October. This year’s All-State Youth Choir – made up of 91 students from 30 churches – just finalized its choir, which will tour July 17-24.
With three weekend services, Salem Baptist Church in Apex uses handbells in its two Sunday morning services. Jeff Olds, pastor for music and worship for Salem, called the church’s Saturday service “casual contemporary” and not a place for handbells.
The first service on Sunday is considered a classic service while the second Sunday worship time is called blended.
“Our congregation is really flexible and loves hearing the bells ring, so I’m not aware of any problems,” Olds said. “Because of the objectives we’re trying to accomplish with our Saturday evening service and the worship leading style, the bells would never play there.”
Olds, who has been at Salem since 1994, was asked to begin a handbell choir when he began his ministry there. Within a year the church had raised the funds to buy bells, and they have been ringing ever since.
The bells provide the call to worship and offertory music in some of the Sunday morning services. Olds leads 13 ringers in the adult handbell choir as well as eight ringers in the youth choir.
Salem recently served as the host for one of the annual handbell festivals hosted by the BSC.
“We were glad to share our facility and resources,” said Olds, who shared that the church’s new multipurpose facility that was completed in 2010 opens the congregation up for more ministry opportunities.
“We participate to learn new music, to learn new approaches to ringing the bells, and fellowship with other ringers. It’s a great experience. I really think participating hones our skills – it helps us identify how to some things better and reinforces what we are doing well.”
With most church plants, a praise band is the only music outlet for members, and that generally is only open to the best singers and musicians.
“Sometimes it’s easier with a new church plant to use a small ensemble,” said Chris Haire, minister of music at First Baptist Church (FBC) in Cary. “What ends up happening is people with a certain caliber of voice are asked to use their gifts. I think there is a place for small, very expert praise band. I think there is also a tremendous avenue for very gifted people to sing alongside people maybe without as much training.
“For churches with large congregations, I think it’s a real shame to not have larger ensembles or choirs.”
Each Sunday, FBC holds an 8 a.m. traditional service and a 10:30 a.m. contemporary service. The church offers a variety of options for musicians
For small churches, Haire suggests a rotation of the praise band would allow more people to have the opportunity to serve.
Haire works with another minister on staff to plan music for the services. Danny Poyner, minister of family life, handles the contemporary service, while Haire organizes the worship calendar, which allows him to plan special emphasis days like Annie Armstrong Easter Offering or Cooperative Program Sunday as well as schedule special music such as soloists, instrumentalists, etc.
FBC’s music program starts with two-year-olds “until the time the Lord calls them home,” Haire said.
“One of our goals for children’s choirs is not only to sing and lead music in a service but to teach them to sing praise to God,” he said, who insists the melodies will remind them days, even years later of the scripture they sang about in their youth.
Haire says he tries to maintain some continuity between the earlier and later services.
“Our choir generally sings an anthem in both services,” he said. “Congregational singing generally fits the genre for each service.”
Haire believes worship wars need to be set aside for the good of the church.
“There are so many issues that are so much more important,” he stressed. “There are some real issues within our church family and within our world.”
He wonders why we spend “so much time and agony dealing with the style of music we are using” when “there are wonderful songs of the faith across all these styles of music.”
Haire and Poyner work together to help their church learn new songs as well as mixing in the standards during a service.
It might start with the choir singing the song as a special one Sunday. Another week, the choir might sing the first stanza and verse and lead the congregation in singing the rest.
“It’s a shame we can’t pull from the heritage of ancient songs … to fresh songs being written today,” Haire said, after all, God’s “the same yesterday today and tomorrow.”
It helps to know the personality of your church and that the song is written in a range that is not too hard for the average member.
“They have to be comfortable singing it so they can focus on the words,” he said.
“People have many opportunities to use their time, to use their talents [and] gifts,” Haire said, but many new churches especially, aren’t using them. “If the church doesn’t give them an opportunity to use that gift, they use it somewhere else outside of the church. I think the church really misses an opportunity when they do away with ensembles.”
Having a variety of musical groups within the church provides the congregation with a “dedicated group of people who will be consistently be at church,” Haire said.
“On a cold winter morning or a rainy summer morning when it’s just as easy to pull the covers back up over your head, it gives them that extra incentive to get out of bed and make it to church.”
Visit ncbaptist.org/worship to find out more about BSC events and training across the state.

4/18/2016 4:23:45 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

Bible vetoed as Tennessee state book

April 18 2016 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a bill April 14 that would have made the Bible the official state book, but the measure’s sponsors are hopeful a veto override will occur.
Rep. Jerry Sexton and Sen. Steve Southerland, both Republicans, told The Tennessean they plan to lead an override effort, which would require only a simple majority in both chambers. The bill passed earlier this month by a 55-38 margin in the state House of Representatives and a 19-8 margin in the Senate.  
An override likely would have to take place the week of April 18, which is expected to be the Tennessee General Assembly’s last week in session.
If the veto is overridden, Tennessee would become the first state in the nation to make the Bible its official state book, according to The Tennessean. A similar bill in Mississippi has died in committee each of the past two years, according to information on the state legislature website.
Randy C. Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said he is “disappointed with the governor’s veto” though “Holy Scripture needs no human affirmation.”
“The authority of the Word of God has not been diminished because a state hasn’t declared it ‘official,’” Davis said. “Personal affirmation of the Bible and regularly reading the Bible is far more important than state-sanctioned recognition of the Bible. Living by the principles and precepts of the Bible and knowing the Jesus of the Bible brings purpose, peace and joy.”
According to The Tennessean, Haslam, a Republican, defended his veto by citing Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s 2015 opinion that designating Scripture as the official state book could violate the state and federal constitutions.
“In addition to the constitutional issue with the bill, my personal feeling is that this bill trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text,” Haslam wrote in a letter to House Speaker Beth Harwell, The Tennessean reported.
Haslam wrote, “If we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then we shouldn’t be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance. If we are recognizing the Bible as a sacred text, then we are violating the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee by designating it as the official state book.”
Sexton, a former Tennessee Baptist pastor, disagrees.
He told the Baptist and Reflector last year when the Bible bill was first introduced but not reported out of committee, “Making the Bible our official state book isn’t a violation of either our [Tennessee constitution] or the U.S. Constitution. ... To preclude the Bible simply because it is religious in nature is anathema to the First Amendment.”
Designating the Bible the state book “doesn’t require that people read it any more than making ‘The Tennessee Waltz’ the state song would require people to sing it,” Sexton said. “It is about recognizing the Bible’s historical role in Tennessee, and that history is undeniable.”
Southerland told the B&R last year the bill “in no way” violates either the Tennessee or U.S. Constitution.
“This action doesn’t impose a religion on anyone,” Southerland said. “People don’t have to read it, and they don’t have to believe it. The bill doesn’t even prescribe a particular version of the Bible. It is the most read and most sold book in history, and its role in [Tennessee] history is undeniable.”
A poll conducted by icitizen April 1-4 of 513 registered voters in Tennessee ages 18 and over revealed a two-to-one majority favored making the Bible the state book.
David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, noted that throughout debate on the Bible bill, “we have said we understand why some believe, as the governor does, that the designation of the Holy Bible as the state book ‘trivializes’ its sacred character.
“We have also said that of all the books published or used throughout the history of the State of Tennessee, the Holy Bible has played a unique role both historically and economically,” Fowler said.
The state attorney general, Fowler noted, “did not issue his opinion on the legislation as passed, but on the original version of the bill” from 2015. He added that if the state “cannot recognize its religious heritage without supposedly violating the Constitution, then our heritage will be lost and hostility toward religion will have replaced tolerance.
“Nevertheless, the legislature has spoken and so has the governor. Now the ball is back in the legislature’s court, and, as before, we defer to their judgment in this matter,” Fowler said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. With reporting by Chris Turner, director of communications for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

4/18/2016 4:19:09 PM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments

August event focuses on reaching the nations in U.S.

April 18 2016 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Last August a sold-out crowd of more than 13,000 people from all 50 states and four Canadian provinces flooded into Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for the 2015 Send North America conference. Sponsored by the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the popular event called Southern Baptists to celebrate the call of Jesus on all believers and to examine their personal response to life on mission for Christ.


After the event Chuck Register sat in the Nashville airport with a few other North Carolina Baptist leaders and began a discussion that many hope will draw Baptists to a cutting-edge mission conference one year later. Register, executive leader of the Church Planting and Missions Partnerships for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), talked with Steve Hardy and Caleb Bridges* as they waited to board their airplane.
“We began talking about the people we met at the Send conference who are engaged in people group discovery and engagement across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC),” Register said.
“Clyde Meador happened to walk by so we invited him to join the conversation.” Meador is an International Mission Board (IMB) executive leader with three decades of overseas field experience.
“As we talked it became obvious to us that there really are few Southern Baptist institutions, agencies and state conventions that are engaged in people group discovery and engagement that we were aware of. So we began to talk about how we could heighten the awareness of Southern Baptists to the 45 to 50 million foreign born residents now living in our nation.”
The conversation led to a round table discussion in Atlanta four months later with representatives from IMB, NAMB, Global Gates Network, the Tennessee Baptist Convention, the BSC and Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. Each group was asked to come to the meeting with the tools and resources they use for people group discovery and engagement.
Register said everyone sitting at the table concluded, “We are, as Southern Baptists, way behind the curve in understanding what nations have come to the United States, understanding the population base of people groups within the U.S., and in the development of resources to use to engage them with the gospel for disciple-making and church planting.”
The Atlanta meeting led to discussions on how to bring denominational leadership in SBC life to a clear-focused mission conference.
They also asked, “How do we bring local church practitioners to one conference to heighten the awareness of Southern Baptists about the nations and to equip people to reach and engage [internationals] in their communities?”
From that roundtable the Reaching the Nations in North America conference was born. The unique missions event will be held at Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, Tenn., Aug. 26-27, 2016. Ed Stetzer, J.D. Payne, Jenny Yang and other speakers highlight the program.
The promotional brochure says the conference is designed to “heighten the awareness and focus of Southern Baptists upon diaspora missions. Church leaders will be equipped with practical tools for engaging immigrants, refugees and international students with the gospel for disciple-making. The summit will include three main sessions, practical breakout seminars and peer group strategy development.”
Two different tracks are set. One is for denominational leadership – state convention executive director-treasurers, convention directors of missions, Send city missionaries and pastors. A second track is for local church practitioners of diaspora ministries – ministries to immigrants, refugees and international students.
The term “diaspora missions” refers to ministries targeted at people and people groups who are living outside their country of birth – people who have been dispersed to other nations.
The Reaching the Nations conference will focus on unreached people groups from other lands who now live in North America according to Register.
Enoch Wan, professor of Intercultural Studies at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, is considered one of the leading global experts in the area of migration and missions. He pioneered the study that he labeled “diaspora missiology.”
Wan said more than 230 million are counted among those who have been dispersed across the globe. Reasons for relocating include the search for a better standard-of-living and education, while others are fleeing persecution, war, disease and famine.
Register wants state executive leaders and missions leaders to ask, “In our state, what is the first step and next steps we need to take to assist our churches and associations to engage the nations in our communities?” So after the plenary sessions and breakouts, organizers have scheduled a peer group session. It is reserved for peer group strategy development.
“In that hour we are going to put together peer groups so there will be local church practitioners in one peer group,” he explained.
“There will be seminary and college professors in Baptist life in one peer group. There will be state executive director-treasurers and state mission directors in one peer group.”
The final session features J.D. Payne, pastor for church multiplication at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. His topic is the subject of his latest book, Apostolic Church Planting: Birthing New Churches from New Believers. Payne will underscore how attendees can develop a strategy to reach the nations in their environment.
Terry Sharp is one of the organizing team for the Brentwood conference. He serves as state, association and urban mobilization strategy leader for IMB.
“If people are interested in reaching diaspora people groups, this should be the one conference they attend this year,” Sharp said.
“We want to see people go overseas and reach the unreached people groups – the least reached peoples of the world. But while we must continue to go overseas, we cannot miss the opportunity the Father has given us to reach the nations He has brought to North America. As we love and share the Good News with the immigrants, the refugees and international students, and as they come to Christ, they will ... literally become gateways for spreading the gospel to their homelands.” 
Sharp said he believes many Baptist churches are “connecting the dots” between international and national missions.
“In recent years IMB, NAMB and some state conventions like North Carolina have been working to map people groups in North America,” he said. “As churches see this they are saying, ‘Okay the same people group we have been praying for and engaged with overseas, are now living here in North America.”
The result, Sharp said, is that many churches have begun working simultaneously with their adopted group overseas and the same people here in the states.
“This is going to be a very practical conference,” Sharp added. “It’s going to provide tools and best practices on how to reach the nations next door. I am very, very excited about this. Missiologist Ralph Winter said something many years ago that I think people are just now understanding. He said, ‘Diaspora missiology may well be the most important undigested reality in mission thinking today.’”
Visit ncbaptist.org/index.php?id=1898.
*Name changed

4/18/2016 4:07:56 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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