April 2018

Quadrupling CP giving, church plant casts vision

April 3 2018 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

A Denver-area church plant, in only its third year, voted to quadruple its giving through the Cooperative Program, realizing the value of the missions-support system that has aided them – and through which they can help reach the world for Christ.
“It’s one thing to plant a multiplying church in Denver. It’s another thing to be a part of planting multiplying churches all over the country and world,” Ben Mandrell, pastor of Storyline Fellowship in Arvada, told Baptist Press (BP).

Photo courtesy of Storyline Fellowship
Rick Lewis, associate pastor of outreach and missions at Storyline Fellowship in Arvada, Colo., moved to the state 30 years ago as a church planter and has known the vital role the Cooperative Program plays in achieving missions endeavors. In this photo, Lewis leads a Storyline team in prayer before setup for a worship service at a local elementary school.

“Through the Cooperative Program, we can be in a thousand places. Without it, we can only be in one place.”
Mandrell was pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., when God began stirring his heart toward church planting. When Kevin Ezell was named president of the North American Mission Board, Mandrell was “inspired by what was happening.” Ezell, meanwhile, knew that First Baptist Church in Orlando had been interested in planting a church in Denver, and he encouraged Mandrell to see if he would be a fit for the project.
Storyline Fellowship launched in February 2015 with 65 people who had moved to Denver from around the country to help plant the church, Mandrell recounted.
After three preview services at the end of 2014, Storyline was able to see 300 people in attendance for the official launch. Now they have about 900 people in worship.
The church has been meeting in an elementary school but recently purchased an old Walmart building and is in the process of converting that space to a 60,000-square-foot facility on the main street of their target area.
Despite the funds needed for the new location, Ezell encouraged Mandrell to lead Storyline Fellowship to give through the Cooperative Program and specifically to work with the Baptist General Convention of Colorado.
“One of our core values from the start has been teamwork,” Mandrell said. “We not only believe in building teams but in being part of a team, and the SBC [Southern Baptist Convention] is our team. So we want to give back and help other churches get started.”
Mandrell, in meeting last year with Colorado’s new executive director, Nathan Lorick, wanted to set a goal for Storyline Fellowship to be in the top 10 of churches in the state giving through the Cooperative Program.
So with a projected 2018 budget of $1.7 million, Storyline Fellowship plans to give $40,000 to the Cooperative Program through the Colorado convention, $5,000 to their local Baptist association, $20,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, $20,000 to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and $5,000 to the Colorado state missions offering.
Storyline has budgeted another $57,000 to Southern Baptist church planters for a total of $147,000 in missions giving. Combined with dollars they’re investing in local missions efforts and international missions trips, Storyline is sending out 14 percent of its budget.
“We have latched on to some value statements, and one of them is ‘For the Kingdom, not the castle,’” Mandrell said.
“We use that as a fun way to say we don’t want to be just about ourselves and building things for ourselves. ... We need a church home, but even as we do that, we’re going to stay committed to the Kingdom.”
Being a church plant in a city like Denver means Storyline has to work to create credibility, “which means we need to do a lot of good in the city,” Mandrell said. One of the ways they’ve done that is to focus on a local high school that has been struggling with teacher turnover and a lot of at-risk students.
“We’ve bought Thanksgiving meal baskets for 65 families who are registered as homeless but their kids go to the high school,” Mandrell said.
“We’ve donated prom dresses and altered all of them and done free hair and makeup. We’ve made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for athletes who rode on the bus to sports games but couldn’t afford to eat while they were there.”
The way Storyline has grown, Mandrell said, is for people to say, “You should come to Storyline and sit next to me.” The fastest way to grow a church in that context, he said, is for people to walk away and say, “I really felt loved there.”
“In Denver, most unchurched people embrace Christian community before they embrace the Christian faith,” Mandrell said.
“They move here to play and to recreate, but then they experience enormous loneliness and are looking for friends and community, and there just aren’t a lot of places where you can find those kinds of relationships. The church provides that.”
Rick Lewis, Storyline’s associate pastor of outreach and missions, moved to Colorado as a church planter 30 years ago and planted several churches in the state before becoming executive pastor at Riverside Baptist Church in Denver about 18 years ago.
He had left Riverside to pastor in Littleton and was serving as an International Mission Board trustee when he began to talk with David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Orlando, about planting a church in Denver.
That was around the same time God was leading Mandrell to Denver, and Lewis joined the team.
He had grown up around strong Cooperative Program giving in Texas and had modeled it at churches he served in Colorado, so it was easy for him to be on board with Storyline’s recent Cooperative Program decision.
“To whom much is given, much is required,” Lewis told BP.
“We certainly have been given much through Southern Baptist efforts. Our story is one of incredibly being given to – through the North American Mission Board, through the Cooperative Program, through the state of Colorado.
“We’ve had so much support that it just makes sense. It’s just the right thing to do.”
One of the joys of his life, Lewis said, is to now be ministering at a thriving church plant in Arvada, which is the very area he and his wife prayerwalked during their time at Riverside years ago, praying God would reach the families moving into the area.
Lorick, the Colorado executive director, told BP Storyline’s strong Cooperative Program commitment “is a great example to church planters of how each church can make a global impact in any stage of their church.”
“There is nothing that allows a dollar to go further than the Cooperative Program,” Lorick said. “We must understand that the Cooperative Program is not really a program. It’s people and a partnership. It is about partnering together to send people into the mission that God has called us to.
“Storyline is setting the example,” Lorick said, “and I pray many others across the SBC will follow.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is a writer in Nashville. April 8 is Cooperative Program Sunday in the Southern Baptist Convention. Visit sbc.net/cp.)

4/3/2018 12:14:06 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Shelby church merger results in greater gospel impact

April 3 2018 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

When Jeremy Peeler accepted a call to pastor Second Baptist Church in Shelby in 2012, he knew the church was in need of revitalization. Even after experiencing some initial growth, Peeler sensed that God was up to something more.
Around the same time that Peeler began his ministry at Second Baptist, Skip Allen was spearheading the launch of Element Church’s Shelby campus, a church plant of Element Church of Forest City. Although Element’s Shelby campus experienced rapid growth, Allen, like Peeler, sensed that God was up to something more.

Jeremy Peeler, left, lead discipleship pastor, and Skip Allen, lead teaching pastor, talk about the formation of Hope Community Church.

After much prayer and seeking the Lord’s leadership, an unlikely partnership became a reality in March 2016 when Second Baptist and Element Church’s Shelby campus came together to form Hope Community Church.
“If you had told me … we’re going to be merging with a 109-year-old Second Baptist Church, I would have told you, ‘You’re crazy,’” Allen said.
But that’s exactly what happened, and the result has been greater outreach into the community, more people coming to know Christ and more people growing in their walk with Him.

‘God’s doing something’

Allen’s and Peeler’s lives and ministries began to intersect in fall 2015.
Following an extended season of prayer with his congregation and personally, Peeler sensed God raising the possibility of Second Baptist merging with another church. Peeler just didn’t know which one.
Meanwhile, Allen had taken a personal retreat to pray and listen to God at Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville. Two days later, Allen was praying with his staff when his phone rang. It was Peeler.
Peeler had never met Allen, but told him he believed God wanted to do something in Cleveland County, located in southwest North Carolina between Charlotte and Asheville.
Allen responded that he had been coming to Second Baptist’s parking lot to pray for the past two years. Allen also said that he and his staff had just been praying about a possible merger with Second Baptist right before Peeler’s phone call.
“In that moment I thought, ‘God’s answering prayers,’” Allen said. “I’ve never seen him answer prayers this quick and this obvious, but we knew God’s doing something, and we just need to be obedient to it.”

Next steps

Peeler went back to his congregation and shared about his conversation with Allen and the possibility of the two churches merging.
“You’ve been praying all these years, [and] God has answered those prayers,” Peeler told the congregation. “But it might not be in the way you have been thinking that prayer was going to be answered.”
The two congregations began to pray about next steps and explore the possibility of merging. Both congregations took deliberate, prayerful steps each step of the way.
Each congregation held listening sessions with their respective leaders and members to answer questions and address concerns. Second Baptist and Element held joint worship services together.  
Throughout the various meetings, Peeler said one question kept being asked by many of Second Baptist’s members: “Can we reach more lost people by doing this?”
“I said, ‘I believe very deeply that’s why God has done this,’” Peeler said.

‘Obedience and sacrifice’

In March 2016, the congregations of Second Baptist and Element Church’s Shelby campus officially became Hope Community Church. The new congregation averages approximately 850 in Sunday morning worship, and at the end of 2017, the church had baptized 99 people who had made first-time professions of faith in Christ.
“God always honors obedience and sacrifice,” Peeler said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Visit ncbaptist.org/revitalize to learn more about the Church Health and Revitalization Ministry of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

4/3/2018 12:09:13 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Operation Reach shows need for new churches

April 3 2018 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

At least 46 new churches – and probably more – are needed to reach specific neighborhoods and people groups in Union County right now, a Baptist study conference called Operation Reach has determined.
Sponsored jointly by the Union Baptist Association and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, the daylong conference at the association’s office in Monroe on Feb. 13 was divided into two parts.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Union Association Director of Missions Eric Cook talks to Operation Reach participants Feb. 13, while highlighting needs in Union County.

In the morning, some 50 church pastors and lay leaders heard statistical presentations on the county’s needs. In the afternoon, participants loaded onto eight church vans and toured eight different regions of the county. They were looking for pockets of lostness – areas not being reached by existing churches, Baptist or otherwise.
In late afternoon, participants returned to the association office to present their findings on large worksheets posted around the room. An immediate tally from those eight research groups showed 46 churches are needed. But further study on those findings will almost certainly show even more new churches are needed, said Mark Gray, conference leader and team leader for the convention’s Church Planting Team.
Several church planting consultants serving under Gray gave reports based on their extensive church planting ministry carried out across North Carolina and also took part in the survey trips.
Union County, which lies south and southeast of Greater Charlotte, has been part of the rapid growth which has occurred in the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia metro area in recent decades.
Union County now has about 225,000 residents and has added a whopping 30,000 new people since 2010, with more new residents coming all the time, reported Eric Cook, Union Association’s director of missions, as he opened the conference. Those new residents include people from all over the world, he said. “The world has come to us in Union County.”
Further, Cook said, Union County’s rapid growth is almost certainly going to increase as the Monroe Connector, a big toll road project 12 lanes wide in places, becomes operational.
Cook showed an animation video which showed how the road will impact the county. Though designed to bypass the city of Monroe, that new road will, in effect, open new parts of Union County to development and bring in tens of thousands of new residents.
Cook pointed out that Wingate University, located off Highway 74 east of Monroe, has changed its front entrance to face the new Monroe Connector, a recognition of the future volumes of traffic it is expected to carry.
Baptists have to address this challenge, Cook insisted, adding that. “If we planted churches every week for 10 years, we would still be behind the curve.” Many of the county’s existing Baptist churches are largely the same and do things the same way, Cook said. Many new churches are needed which will also incorporate new approaches to bring more people to Jesus, he said.
Cook warned the challenge is too great for church turfism, and he urged Baptists at the meeting to look beyond “our little corner of the world.” They must work together as the early church did, he said. “There is strength in numbers,” he declared.
The Operation Reach approach of pushing church leaders in an area to look with eyes focused on lostness proved successful when one was held in Greensboro in 2007. That study day identified people groups and areas where more than 40 new churches were needed in metro Greensboro. Five years later, Baptists had started new churches to reach 30 of those, said Ken Holland.
Holland, retired Church Planting Team consultant who did two stints as director, helped set up that original Operation Reach concept. Now 88, he was at the Union meeting to lay out the Bible’s firm teaching on the importance of missions. The early church grew quickly and went everywhere, he said.
“The church has been able to go even where Rome could not go,” Holland said.
They did that because as disciples of Jesus, they believed He truly had all authority and so they went where He said to go and make disciples.
“Go make disciples! That’s still His agenda,” Holland said, adding that the early churches understood that their mission was not just birthing believers but growing disciples.
But Holland said new churches are not “one kind suits all.” He told of his years of experience in starting churches which were set up to reach particular socio-economic groups. Church planters tend to be able to reach people like them, Holland said.
Gray expanded on that concept in his presentation.
“We want to challenge you to reach better the kind of people you are reaching. Those who you are not reaching, that’s where we need new churches,” he said.
Gray showed pictures of different kinds of vehicles and houses and asked those present to match them to church buildings ranging from megachurch to a small white church building on a rural road.
Different kinds of churches are needed for different kinds of people, Gray said. Upper income people prefer churches with fewer than 100 members; those in lower socioeconomic levels prefer small churches with fewer than 50 in worship.
Another factor that affects outreach is a church’s identity – or lack of one – in the community, Gray said.
Once he went into a convenience store and asked the owner if he knew where a certain Baptist church was.
No, the man replied, he had never heard of it.
“You could look out the window and see the church, but he had never heard of it,” Gray said, not a positive reflection of the church’s witness.
William Ortega said Hispanics are by far the largest ethnic missions challenge in North Carolina. Their 1 million or so number is now about 10 percent of the state’s total population. By 2050, he said a full 30 percent of the U.S. population will be Hispanic. Ortega is Hispanic church planting consultant with the convention’s Church Planting Team and travels the state to train and coach Hispanic church planters.
Hispanics place a high value on sincere friendship; they work hard and value an opportunity to work; they are loyal and expect loyalty; they come mostly from a Roman Catholic background and tend to be spiritual people, Ortega said.
There are about 190 Baptist churches in the state now, Ortega said, but the goal is to start 135 new Hispanic churches by 2020. Forty of those new Hispanic churches need to be planted in Greater Charlotte.
Five of those new churches should be planted in Union County, because more than 10,000 Hispanics live within five miles of downtown Monroe, Ortega said.
“We cannot close our eyes to 10,000 people going to hell,” he said.
Ralph Garay described the growing missions challenge of Asians: More than 300,000 Asians now live in North Carolina, which has the third fastest-growing Asian population among U.S. states. Garay leads in planting churches among scores of Asian populations in North Carolina for the convention’s Church Planting Team.
Garay and several Asian pastors went out with a group of Union County leaders and visited Asian restaurants and communities. They called for a number of new churches for Asians: an Asian Indian church for the town of Waxhaw, new Korean and Vietnamese churches in Indian Trail, and a Hmong church in Monroe.
Cowboy church planter Jeff Smith, sporting his usual cowboy hat and boots, talked of the need for affinity churches. Smith works with the Baptist state convention and the North American Mission Board. Some people who spend their weekends riding horses “refuse to come to a fancy church with fancy people,” Smith said.
Smith has helped start more than 80 cowboy churches across North Carolina, one of  the nation’s top states in numbers of horses. Union County leads the state in horses and equestrians, Cook said.
Cowboy churches are not just about horses, because 75 percent of the people attend do not even have or ride horses. Rather, Cook said, “It’s a simple church; it fits their world.”
When study groups returned, several reported seeing horse farms and horses in fields that suggested cowboy churches may be needed.
Mark Navey said his group explored rural areas in Union County but saw multiple horse farms that call for cowboy churches. Navey is youth pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church in Monroe.
As the conference closed, Cook reminded those present that lives are at stake.
“If these proposals stay on those worksheets, nothing will happen,” he said.
Cook urged attendees to pray for God’s leadership in planning outreach that would start churches and bring the people of Union County to faith in Christ. Cook said the results of this conference “could start something that will last for generations.”

4/3/2018 12:05:16 PM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Mercy Hill merger expands community outreach

April 2 2018 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Mercy Hill is a multi-site church in Greensboro that was planted less than six years ago by The Summit Church in Durham. On Jan. 28 Mercy Hill launched its third campus in a facility that another church gave them.

Contributed photo
“Our prayer through the process was that we would see at least 500 people be part of Edgefield,” said David McNees, above right, Mercy Hill Church’s Edgefield Road Campus Director. “Our first week we had 474 adults and 123 children attending. That opened more seats for people at our other campuses, so more ministry can happen there.”

In 2014, the leadership of nearby Edgefield Baptist Church approached Mercy Hill’s leaders about the possibility of merging. “It was a pretty healthy church averaging about 120 in weekly services,” said Bryan Miller, missions director at Mercy Hill.
Edgefield’s pastor at the time, Tim Tangen, felt called to military chaplaincy. Miller said Tangen “considered how his departure might affect the church and weighed the church’s options for future outreach in northwest Greensboro. At that point he reached out to Mercy Hill to talk about merger options and gifting the church’s assets to Mercy Hill.”
After several months of discussions, the two churches agreed to move ahead. Edgefield’s property was deeded to Mercy Hill and members were invited to take steps to join Mercy Hill.
“It wasn’t like a mass migration,” Miller explained. “Each person from Edgefield was asked to go through Mercy Hill’s membership process just like everyone else who joins the church.”
About 90 of Edgefield’s regular attenders completed the membership process and “have been very faithful,” said Miller. “Some of the Edgefield people were good church members who attended and gave, but were not serving in the church’s ministry. Now they are.”
Looking back at Edgefield’s decision, Tangen believes the congregation did the right thing.
“Merging with Mercy Hill took a tremendous amount of self-sacrifice and faith,” he said. “We could have chosen the status quo, but our church prayed and in wisdom we found God’s blessing. Merging gave us the opportunity to be part of a movement of God and do something that will outlive our lives.”
For several years, the Edgefield facilities were used as church offices, some special events and a few classes, but not for Sunday services. Early in 2017 Mercy Hill’s leaders began talking about the launch of a third location at Edgefield. Renovations were completed at the site in preparation for an early 2018 launch.
David McNees was assigned as campus pastor. Previously he was a Southern Baptist missionary in West Africa through the International Mission Board and served three churches in Virginia and South Carolina.
“Returning to North Carolina a few years ago, we landed in Asheboro,” McNees said. “I knew pastor Andrew [Hopper] and we had some other connections at Mercy Hill, so it made sense for us to go there – we wanted to be in a solid, gospel-centered church.
“I served as a consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, working with UPGs [unreached people groups] in Greensboro in a pocket of lostness and worked part time with Mercy Hill at the same time. Then I was asked to be full time with Mercy Hill.”
The Edgefield site was the third campus for Mercy Hill. Following the same model they used to launch a second campus, three interest meetings were set so lead pastor Andrew Hopper and McNees could share the vision and strategy. Each of the 150 adults on the final launch team was assigned a place of service and several “practice services” were held to insure the system worked.
“Our prayer through the process was that we would see at least 500 people be part of Edgefield,” McNees added. “Our first week we had 474 adults and 123 children attending. That opened more seats for people at our other campuses, so more ministry can happen there.
“We believe God is going to use us in that part of northwest Guilford County to impact people who are either de-churched, who never heard the gospel at all or who need a fresh encounter with the Lord.”
Seventeen were baptized at the Edgefield site in the first two months.
As Mercy Hill’s missions director, Miller said he focuses on “church planting, national partnerships and mobilizing our people to the nations.” He is also one of several shepherding elders and coordinates eight community groups that meet primarily in homes throughout the week for Bible study.
“I know a lot of churches are struggling with the next life cycle of their church and thinking about merging,” said Miller. “It was such a witness to see how the people of Edgefield were so very open handed and so Kingdom-minded – to see the level of maturity they had, and how that raised the level of spiritual maturity in our young church at Mercy Hill. But now, they have also grown.”
There were two agreements in the merger plan, Miller noted. Randy Titus, Edgefield’s associate pastor, was to be retained for one year. “He stayed on and became one of our executive pastors, overseeing the campuses. Randy has been very valuable to us,” said Miller.
Edgefield was an independent Baptist church, and supported its own missionaries. Miller said, “The second agreement we had was to retain support for Edgefield’s missionaries until they returned to the United States on stateside furlough. Some of them have proved to be our best partnerships.”
“Mercy Hill is on a relentless pursuit of the lost in our community; people are the mission,” said Andrew Hopper. “Planting the Edgefield campus in the northwest community helps us to equip our folks for ‘come and see’ evangelism by placing the gathering place in their backyard.
“Our campusing model is primarily to follow our people. We have hundreds of people coming from that area so we want to give them a place to invite those people with whom they live, work and play. The original church at Edgefield had a desire to reach [its] community, and we desire to honor that legacy through the Edgefield campus.”

4/2/2018 2:37:59 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 1 comments

SEBTS’ Link Conference to foster multicultural ministry

April 2 2018 by BR staff

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SEBTS) Office of Kingdom Diversity is hosting a one-day event April 13 on its campus in Wake Forest, N.C., to offer training for current and future Christian leaders interested in developing ethnically diverse ministry teams.
The Link Conference will address practical issues organizations face as they diversify, such as assessing multicultural leadership readiness, preparing for cultural change, avoiding tokenism, applying best practices for kingdom ministry and understanding the struggles of minority leaders.

The idea for the inaugural event came in response to numerous calls and emails to the Office of Kingdom Diversity from churches requesting training.
Walter Strickland, SEBTS associate vice president of Kingdom Diversity Initiatives (KDI) and first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he receives up to 10 requests per week from Southern Baptist congregations and other organizations seeking help in developing multicultural ministry teams.
Strickland discussed his excitement for the apparent interest in racial harmony on a recent episode of the podcast hosted the Kingdom Diversity office, called “From the Lectern.”
“I think that is the hand of God working in the hearts of people,” he said.
Courtlandt Perkins, KDI content strategist, joined Strickland on the show.
Both men affirmed the positive changes happening in many Christian organizations, but also expressed concern about attempts to diversify without anticipating potential difficulties.
“Many well-intended attempts to diversify leadership teams are unsuccessful due to a lack of cultural awareness and underestimating the complexities of fostering racial harmony,” Strickland said. “I’m not sure they know how to translate this multicultural passion into informed practice.”
He identified cultural assimilation and tokenism as possible dangers.
Perkins explained why many ethnic minorities are hesitant to work in majority white ministries.
He referred to racial tensions that were stoked in the United States during the controversial 2016 political cycle, in addition to America’s long history of ethnic strife.
“There is a lack of trust ... and a lack of credibility,” he said, when ministries say they support diversity but do not want to make or accept the needed changes to support multiethnic teams.
“Unfortunately,” Perkins said, “multiethnic church has been more of a fad than a biblical conviction for many people.”
He outlined the Bible’s cover-to-cover vision for diversity – “God’s heart for the nations” – and warned of cultural uniformity in Christian ministries.
“If you are only doing ministry with people who look like you, act like you, share the same ethnicity, language and background, then you are going to have blind spots,” said Perkins. “Having the diversity of other people helps you to see the places you have missed thus far in your spiritual journey. ... We need one another.”
Strickland and Perkins both emphasized the unique ministry networking opportunities that will be available during two sessions of the Link Conference.
Speakers include Jerome Gay, pastor of Vision Church in Raleigh; Andy Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham; Aaron Anderson, pastor of Vintage Church in Durham; Matthew Hodges, lay minister at Christ Our King Community Church in Raleigh; and SEBTS President Danny Akin.
Visit kingdomdiversity.sebts.edu for more information.

4/2/2018 2:34:38 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptist communications survey underway

April 2 2018 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

All North Carolina Baptists are invited to take a brief survey that is designed to gauge how you receive information and resources from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), as well as provide input and suggestions for content that you would find helpful.
The communications survey should take approximately 10 minutes to complete and is available at ncbaptist.org/survey.
The survey is open through Fri., May 18. All responses are confidential and anonymous.
Each N.C. Baptist church was mailed one printed copy of the survey in late March along with a self-addressed stamped envelope to return the completed survey to the convention.
The survey is open to pastors, directors of missions, church staff, lay leaders and laity. Pastors, church leaders and associational leaders are encouraged to promote the survey in their services, bulletins, newsletters, Sunday School classes, small groups or other avenues. Any N.C. Baptist may take the survey online.
BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. said the survey will help the state convention better meet the needs of churches while also being good stewards of financial and other resources.
“Your responses will help us not only evaluate our current communications strategies, but also help us to plan for the future,” Hollifield said.
“Your feedback will help us determine the best way to communicate with you and what types of content and resources you would find most helpful.”
Questions may be directed to a member of the BSC Communications Team by calling (800) 395-5105 or emailing communications@ncbaptist.org.

4/2/2018 2:22:41 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

MLK50 in Memphis to seek ‘repentance and unity’

April 2 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

More than 3,600 registrants plan to gather in Memphis to pursue racial unity on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and The Gospel Coalition (TGC) will co-host the event – “MLK50: Gospel Reflections From the Mountaintop” – at the Memphis Convention Center half a century after King’s slaying on April 4, 1968, in the Tennessee city. The April 3-4 conference’s goal is to consider the state of racial unity in the American church and culture, as well as to examine what is required to achieve solidarity amid the country’s ongoing division.
ERLC President Russell Moore said he hopes the event “will remind us afresh of the gospel we believe.”
“Not only that, but my hope is also that it will drive all of us toward gospel consistency on issues of human dignity,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “In all, I pray it will bring a word of gospel hope, repentance and unity to many brothers and sisters in Christ.”
The church “should be leading the way” on “issues of racial justice and unity,” Moore said, adding that the gospel “reconciles the sons of slaveholders with the sons of slaves.”
King, only 39 at the time of his death, was the leader of and spokesman for the civil rights movement from his time as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., in the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. He led the movement to practice nonviolence in its pursuit of change, helping produce the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In Memphis to advocate for sanitation workers on strike, King gave what became known as his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech the night before he was killed.
Among the MLK50 conference’s topics, speakers and panelists will focus on racial justice as a gospel issue, celebrate King’s legacy, remember the civil rights movement, address the inconsistencies of white evangelicals on issues of race and discuss racial tension in the United States.
In addition to Moore, the diverse lineup of speakers and panelists includes:

  • H.B. Charles, pastor-teacher of Shiloh Church in Jacksonville and Orange Park, Fla.
  • John Piper, founder and teacher of Desiring God.
  • John Perkins, longtime civil rights leader and founder of the Christian Community Development Association.
  • Benjamin Watson, newly signed tight end for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League.
  • Don Carson, co-founder of TGC and research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
  • Karen Ellis, president of the Makazi Institute and writer/lecturer on international religious freedom.
  • Matt Chandler, lead teaching pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and president of the Acts 29 Network.
  • Ralph West, senior pastor of The Church Without Walls (Brookhollow Baptist Church) in Houston.
  • Charlie Dates, senior pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago.
  • Mika Edmondson, pastor of New City Fellowship in Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Jackie Hill Perry, poet, rapper and speaker.
  • Eric Mason, lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Juan Sanchez, senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, and president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

In addition to speakers, panels and breakout sessions, MLK50 organizers said special features of the conference will include:

  • A time of corporate lament and prayer the evening of April 3 as the conference’s speakers and advisory board members gather on stage to repent of past failures, pray for healing and ask God to work in and through churches to produce racial harmony.
  • The unveiling of the Dream Forward Scholarship Initiative, which involves 15 Christian colleges and seminaries that have committed to investing in a new generation of minority leaders from the Memphis area.
  • An offering to support the Memphis Christian Pastors Network and its work to foster racial unity in the city.
  • Joint participation with the city of Memphis and others gathered to honor King during a ceremony April 4 at the Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis. The conference will pause from 4 to 7 p.m. CDT so attendees can gather for the tolling of bells at 6:01 p.m., the time when King was killed at the motel. Conference planners have consulted with the National Civil Rights Museum, the King family and local pastors, leaders and law enforcement officials to coordinate plans with the other events honoring the late civil rights leader, according to the ERLC.
  • Local involvement, with more than 10 speakers from Memphis, hundreds of attendees from dozens of area churches and performances by the Tennessee Mass Choir.

Also convening the MLK50 conference with the ERLC and TGC is an advisory board of more than 50 Christian leaders, including: Steve Gaines, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president and senior pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church; Byron Day, president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC; Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Justin Giboney, co-founder of The AND Campaign; Ray Ortlund, lead pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville; Felix Cabrera, senior pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City; Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware; and Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy for World Relief.
A simulcast of the event may be accessed at mlk50conference.com/live.
Conference information is available at mlk50conference.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

4/2/2018 10:06:47 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Bible study in a garage: At 83, he fills a niche

April 2 2018 by Amanda Phifer, California Southern Baptist

Harold Neal, 83, a retired airplane builder and bivocational pastor, as well as the caregiver for his wife of 66 years, has found “what the Lord wants me to do” in leading a Bible study in his garage for 15 years.
Says Neal, matter-of-factly, “What else could I do that could please the Lord? Teaching is God’s calling. I can’t do anything else. If I can’t teach or preach the Word of God, I think I might as well go on to be with the Lord.”

Submitted photo
Harold Neal, 83, a retired airplane builder and bivocational pastor, as well as the caregiver for his wife of 66 years, has found “what the Lord wants me to do” in leading a Bible study in his garage for 15 years.

Through the years, the class, attended by 8 to 12 people each week, has studied much of the Bible verse by verse. Neal produces all the teaching materials himself, from detailed outlines of each passage to large charts, maps and timelines. Some students in the class have amassed literally years’ worth of Bible outlines at their fingertips.
“This class remains because a group of Christians wants to search God’s Word,” Neal said in his booming voice – an asset, he said, when senior citizens with hearing issues comprise most of the attendees.
“Some folks have a limited knowledge of scripture, but some are dedicated Bible students. If they keep the detailed outlines, they can go back any time they need to and have basically a commentary on that passage.”
Not all who attend are believers, however. Neal tells of a neighbor in his Downey, Calif., neighborhood who started attending because “he thought one of the ladies in the class was his girlfriend.” He came for about six months and heard the clear plan of salvation many times.
“I talked to him, but he said he didn’t like my God,” Neal said. “I said, ‘Well, one day you’ll be standing at the gate and will face Him.’
“[He] didn’t like that and he stopped coming, but then, a few months later, when my wife had another stroke, he called out to me from across the street and said, ‘I’m praying for Martha!’
“I’m not sure where he was spiritually, but about three weeks ago he died. I just pray that he had come to know the Lord Jesus as his Savior first.”
Another participant was a wary visitor at First Southern Baptist Church in Downey, where the Neals were members at the time.
“This man – who was from a Catholic background – had sworn not to go back to church ever again,” Neal recounted, “but after a couple of weeks his wife talked him into coming to our home study. I encouraged him to ask the church about becoming a member, and he did, and he made a profession of faith, and he got baptized.”
About two years after beginning the study in 2003, having relocated from their living room to an adapted space in their garage, Neal and his wife moved their membership and involvement to First Baptist Church in Santa Fe Springs and decided to discontinue the class. But within a week, Neal said, they’d gotten calls from every person in the class who said they didn’t care where he and Martha went to church. So the Bible study continued and now includes people from four area churches.
“The most exciting part of the week is Thursday morning – getting up, making coffee, cleaning the floor, getting the room ready for our class,” Neal said. “We start with a few minutes of prayer requests, have coffee, sing a song or two, and then I offer a 45-minute lecture that I’ve typed up word-for-word. Of course they can ask questions, but mostly I lecture because that’s what they want.”
Neal said that despite a degree from Liberty University and “Bible courses from one end to the other under my belt,” he couldn’t find curriculum or material that really suited him. So he began drafting his own verse-by-verse outlines. Those, and the selection of topics and scriptures to study, are born primarily out of his personal daily time with God.
“I take care of Martha, of course, since she’s bedridden after eight strokes,” Neal said. “So when she goes to bed each night about 6, I go with her, get to sleep about 7, take care of her during the night every couple or three hours, and then almost every morning the Lord wakes me up around 4, and I spend a good solid three hours alone with the Lord. It’s just wonderful, that time.
“When I was a bivocational pastor I couldn’t study with the Lord like that, but now I can. And the Lord always makes it clear what we’re to do next.
“I’ll just keep teaching as long as I can,” Neal said. “Some people want to live to be 100, but I say, what can you do at 101 that you couldn’t do at 99? I’ve found what the Lord wants me to do, and I don’t want to do anything else.
“I wish everybody could do the same.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Amanda Phifer is a correspondent for the California Southern Baptist, csbc.com/news, news journal of the California Southern Baptist Convention, where this article first appeared.)

4/2/2018 10:01:28 AM by Amanda Phifer, California Southern Baptist | with 0 comments

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