August 2008

Church reaches cowboys, city slickers

August 11 2008 by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

Benny McDonald of Thomasville sings during a cowboy church service.

ARCHDALE — It's a hot Tuesday night at the dirt-floored Triad Livestock Arena and horses are walking, guitars are twanging and Doug Davis is wearing his red shirt, jeans and cowboy hat as he prepares to preach.

The Triad Cowboy Church is rolling.

Some people wear cowboy clothes and others are just comfortable in jeans and T-shirts. They sing southern gospel songs and do the pledges: members on horseback bring up the U.S. and Christian flags inside the corral and the congregation stands to pledge allegiance.

Davis holds up the Bible for the third pledge. He preaches a simple gospel message and at the end, a man comes forward for membership.

After the service, members stand around chatting for quite a while as darkness falls. It's a casual atmosphere, but the gospel is unchanged, Davis said.

Cowboy churches have become a growing phenomenon in North Carolina. Two dozen or more have been started in recent years, many with the guidance of cowboy missionary Jeff Smith, supported through the Cooperative Program and the North Carolina Missions Offering supported by Baptist State Convention churches.

Smith coordinates reaching the cowboy culture in North Carolina with efforts across the country through the Cowboy Church Network of North America.

Cowboy churches are part of the Convention's wider church planting strategy that calls for starting new churches aimed at affinity groups. That involves organizing a church less on geographical terms and more around life interests.

That's why the Convention has started churches for motorcycle riders, skateboarders and cowboys, among others.  These affinity group churches were among the 99 new churches started by Convention-affiliated workers during 2007.

Cowboys are more common in North Carolina than you might think. American Horse Council figures put the state among the top 10 in horse population.  

Smith started the Triad Cowboy Church and moved on to other work; a year ago the church called Davis as pastor. Davis, 58, had served several traditional Baptist churches, including the previous nine years at nearby Glenola Baptist Church.  

For a time Glenola supported the Triad Cowboy Church by letting Davis lead mid-week services. When Triad needed a full-time pastor, Davis said, "I just felt a tug on my heart saying this was where God wanted me to work and serve."

Davis grew up on a farm and loves hunting and fishing, but he does not own a horse. A member with several horses provides him the use of Shadow, a Tennessee walking horse, any time Davis needs a horse for the congregation's frequent trail rides. Horseback riding on trails in parks at Greensboro and other area locations is a standard outreach technique for cowboy churches.  

"The rides are fellowship opportunities for our church members, but we hold Bible studies with the rides to reach people who are non-Christians. And then we take Christian literature to share with people we meet along the trail," Davis said.

Triad has begun to attract farmers and even some "city slickers" outside the cowboy culture, Davis said.

"The important thing about our church is that people can be who they are," he said. "People like that, one, they don't have to dress up and, two, our people are genuine. Some of our people like to look at horses and be around horses, but they would be afraid to actually get on one. But they like our cowboy church. It's not about a building. It's about the people."

Davis tells of a family who moved to the area from the North and has several horses. The man tried to involve his family in area churches but his wife would have none of them.

When the family visited Triad, they immediately fell in love with the cowboy/casual approach to the gospel and have become regular attendees.

Earlier this year Triad began holding Sunday services in the gym of a local school. The location eliminates the use of horses, but in return members get to have Bible study and discipleship lessons in air-conditioned comfort.

Davis dreams of creating the first cowboy-style worship center in the state.

8/11/2008 10:14:00 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC Communications | with 1 comments

'Exclusive' evangelical view may not be holding

August 8 2008 by Raleigh News & Observer

A story in the Aug. 8 Raleigh News and Observer indicates that evangelicals might not hold to as exclusive a position on the way to heaven as assumed. Read it here.
A second story about a Bible printing operation in China reveals one big reason that Chinese officials are restricting Olympic visitors to bringing no more than one Bible with them. There already are plans to distribute 50,000 free Bibles.
8/8/2008 4:49:00 AM by Raleigh News & Observer | with 0 comments

Church helps celebrate Judson Day

August 7 2008 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Contributed photo

Saw Gentle Crown Taw, left, Karen pastor and Mack Thompson, pastor of Ridge Road Baptist Church, Raleigh wearing Karen clothing.

While Americans are familiar with the July 4 holiday, the Karen people celebrate a different day in July.

To the Karen, July 13 is significant because on that day in 1813 Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson arrived in their home country of Burma, which is now called Myanmar.

"That's the day the gospel came to Burma," said Mack Thompson, pastor of Ridge Road Baptist Church in Raleigh.

This year, the church helped a Burmese congregation celebrate the 195th anniversary of that event with a worship service.

Many Karen people are settling in North Carolina after fleeing their homeland where the military government is carrying out what many believe is a program of ethnic cleansing.

After realizing the Karen people in the area had no place to worship, Ridge Road allowed them to use the church chapel. The Burmese congregation now meets at 2 p.m. each Sunday. A few of the Karen people also attend other services at Ridge Road.

The church adopted a Burmese family last year, Thompson said.

"We helped them get settled in Raleigh," he said.

The Burmese congregation hasn't officially constituted as a church, but is instead more like a fellowship, Thompson said. Its leader is a fifth-generation Baptist pastor from Burma.

"We've tried to do everything to help them find their own destiny," Thompson said.

At the July 13 service, the two congregations sang hymns together, with the Ridge Road members singing in English and the Burmese people singing in the Karen language. They said the Lord's Prayer together in similar fashion, and scripture was read in both languages.

Six of the Karen members were baptized by Thompson. "That was one of my finest moments as a pastor being able to share that with them," he said.

Thompson encouraged N.C. Baptist churches to consider adopting a Karen family.
"I think they'll contribute to the country," he said.

8/7/2008 10:14:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

FamilyFEST draws volunteers to Baltimore

August 7 2008 by Shannon Baker, WMU

WMU photo by Shannon Baker

Dog-owner Dave and his pet Sandy enjoy a “Doggy Do-over” from Rachel Minster of Winston-Salem, at Patterson Park in this year’s FamilyFEST in Baltimore.

BALTIMORE - More than 60 volunteers, from ages 5 to 77, traveled from seven states to do ministry in 10 churches and four ministries in Baltimore during this summer's FamilyFEST, a hands-on missions opportunity for families sponsored by the Woman's Missionary Union (WMU).

On June 21-24, several people, including one family with seven children, participated in light construction and beautification projects, Vacation Bible Schools (VBS), block parties, and prayerwalking throughout the metro Baltimore area. Melanie Hart of Pittsburgh, Pa., was WMU's onsite coordinator and Maria Sigmon from Embrace Baltimore coordinated the mission sites.

Tony Rivers, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Wilson, led his team of seven adults and seven youth at Catonsville Church, where 142 people came to a block party, complete with a puppet show, carnival games, food and a moon bounce. Even more spectacular was a double rainbow that hovered over the night's events.

Forty-four adults and children raised their hands to accept Christ, said Bob Lilly, Catonville's pastor. Rivers described the experience as "phenomenal."

He is convinced that families going on mission trips is ideal. Noting the positive pressure on parents, he shared, "As Southern Baptists, we have raised a generation of people who are mission-minded; now we need to raise a generation of missionaries."

He credits the WMU for the right missions opportunity. "I looked at WMU for their history of thoroughness and track record for careful planning. WMU has it all right there for you. It's so easy." 

The careful planning took "a lot of headache out of it" for him, Rivers said.

"This is a lot better than a vacation," said Katie Lucas, who brought along her 11-year-old daughter, Mackenzie. They handed out free water bottles and information from Grace Life Church in the Inner Harbor and participated in a Patterson Park Church-sponsored "Dog Party," handing out free dog biscuits to pet owners.

"Here, we're praying, and we are surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ. And we came here for a purpose," she added, smiling at her normally shy daughter. "She went up to people she didn't even know. I'm so proud of her!"

In their second family mission trip, Dave and Alison Bode of Nanjemoy, Md., brought their seven children to do missions work in Baltimore. They helped to clear out a basement in Seventh Baptist Church's rowhome, which Pastor Ryan Palmer soon hopes to dedicate as the "Annie Armstrong House" for missionaries.

The family removed old pews and personal items and later handed out postcard invitations to "CitiFest," a block party sponsored by Seventh Church on June 28. They also participated in church services at Seventh and Salem Gospel Church and at VBS sites at New Christian Bible Baptist Church and Riverside Baptist Church.

"I am a country girl at heart, but I understand that most of the people live in the cities," said Alison, "so we wanted to come meet them here."

8/7/2008 10:00:00 AM by Shannon Baker, WMU | with 0 comments

Criswell president Jerry Johnson resigns

August 7 2008 by Baptist Press

DALLAS, Texas — Jerry Johnson, president of Criswell College in Dallas, resigned Aug. 5 after a controversy went public about the direction of the College and its relationship with the First Baptist Church of Dallas, which founded the school and maintains active ties through trustee selection.

The discord was publicized Aug. 1 when the Dallas Morning News published an accusation by Criswell trustee Steve Washburn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pflugerville, Texas, that Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, was planning to liquidate Criswell's assets to benefit the church, which established the college in 1970 under the leadership of their late pastor, W.A. Criswell.

The paper also reported Johnson's affirmation of Washburn's accusation. Jeffress, who as pastor of FBC Dallas is automatically chancellor of Criswell College, denied the accusation, saying it was the product of an "overactive imagination." Among the college's assets is an FM radio station, KCBI.

"Neither the deacons nor I have any plan to sell KCBI or the campus of Criswell College, period," Jeffress told the Dallas Morning News.

Johnson resigned during a called meeting of the college's trustee executive committee Tuesday evening.

"The resignation was due to philosophical differences the president had with the chancellor and trustee leadership about the future of Criswell College," board chairman Michael Deahl told the Southern Baptist Texan, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Deahl said Johnson will continue to serve as president until Aug. 15, at which time an interim president appointed by the trustee executive committee will take over.

"On a personal level and on behalf of the entire board of trustees, I want to express gratitude for the leadership Dr. Johnson has provided at Criswell College during the four years of his presidency and for all of the accomplishments that have been achieved at the College and KCBI under Dr. Johnson's leadership, which are too numerous to mention," Deahl said. "I firmly believe that, due in no small part to Dr. Johnson's contributions, the greatest days at Criswell College are yet to come."

The school is incorporated separately from the church and holds the license to the radio station, which one observer estimates is worth $20 million, according to the Dallas newspaper. All the school's trustees, however, must be approved by the congregation and 12 of the 21 trustees must be members of the church.

Washburn's letter asserted that church leaders and college trustees had agreed that the school should move toward separating from the church. The letter also said that recent "financial success of the college is too great a temptation for church leadership." Although the college has "struggled financially throughout most if its history ... for the last three years the school has been especially blessed, ending fiscal year 2007/2008 more than $7 million in the black."

Washburn indicated that leaders of the Dallas church and college trustees have been at odds over a plan to give the college to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and liquidate Criswell's assets, including its radio station. The school's trustees voted in April 2008 not to become part of Southwestern Seminary's undergraduate program.

Criswell trustees passed two significant resolutions in May of this year related to the school. One resolution, as reported by the Dallas Morning News, stated that the college "has no intention of selling 90.9 KCBI, and will not revisit this issue for a period of five years." The trustees also passed a resolution saying that the college would "not to take any action to separate the College and KCBI from the church at this time."

8/7/2008 9:45:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 1 comments

BSC launches 2008 NCMO initiative, website

August 7 2008 by BSC Communications

The eternal impact of mission giving is being highlighted in the 2008 North Carolina Missions Offering, received by most churches in September.

A new Website has been launched as a comprehensive resource including videos, prayer guide for the NCMO Week of Prayer (Sept. 7-14, 2008) and a Bible curriculum for children for use in small groups or Sunday School classes.

“We want to help children understand very early in their lives the impact of God’s Word and its outgrowth of giving through His church, and this guide is a first class effort by so many to do just that,” said Mike Creswell, Baptist State Convention senior consultant for Cooperative Program and NCMO promotion.

Resources have been mailed to North Carolina Baptist churches. For further questions call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5547.

The NCMO funds North Carolina church planting, ministries and partnerships with a 2008 goal of $2 million. Among them, is the work of North Carolina Baptist Men in disaster relief, mission outreach and partnerships. 

“The NCMO keeps us moving and growing,” said Richard Brunson, Baptist Men’s executive director-treasurer.  “Without this support from North Carolina Baptist churches, we could not continue our ministry with the same ever-expanding focus which we now employ in our work.  North Carolina Baptists should consider the NCMO the lifeblood for our ministry.”

In North Carolina’s rapidly growing population church planting is a critical component in the evangelism strategy of many congregations and of the Baptist State Convention.

“To effectively congregationalize new believers is not only a command of the Lord Jesus Christ, but we are finding that the assistance we provide to existing congregations to develop a church-planting mentality actually helps renew churches in their Great Commission task of reaching their world for Christ,” said Mark Gray, BSCNC team leader for church planting.

“Alongside the Cooperative Program and the national mission offerings of the Southern Baptist Convention, the NCMO stands as a vital source of intentional engagement with the culture of our state,” said Creswell.

“The genius of the Cooperative Program and the NCMO is the multiplication factor which brings together churches from different regions of the state and forms a gospel alliance to accomplish together what they could never do alone.” 

“And not only that,” said Milton A. Hollifield, Jr., BSCNC executive director-treasurer, “it provides the means whereby this state convention can expand and develop new ways of accomplishing eternal goals through a systematic method of research and development that many other denominations do not possess.” 

“Our focus as North Carolina Baptists remains centered on the solid foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible,” Hollifield said. “But our providential advantage as a convention of churches is the strength we hold together as we learn from one another, grow together, and have the monetary means to actually reach out in new ways of church planting, new associational partnerships, and attempt new projects without the fear of compromising the solid stability that has come to exemplify North Carolina Baptists. The North Carolina Missions Offering helps us to do just that to the glory of the Lord.”

The theme of the 2008 offering is:  Eternal Impact:  Impacted by Eternal Truth – Impacting for Eternal Change.  “This theme stresses our hope as grounded on Scripture – the eternal truth of God,” Creswell said.  “It both focuses our attention on the never-changing Word of God and challenges us again to reach out in ways which would impact our time with eternal truth.”

8/7/2008 7:49:00 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Parts of New Orleans still struggle

August 6 2008 by Jerry Pierce, Baptist Press

Photo by Jerry Pierce

Volunteers Keith Thompson, top, and David Reese work on a house in New Orleans this spring. The two men were part of an 11-man team from Candlewyck Baptist Church in Charlotte.

NEW ORLEANS — In many ways, New Orleans is coming back.

The economy, fueled by rebuilding efforts and open seaports to the Gulf of Mexico, registers unemployment at 3.8 percent. And the annual Jazz and Heritage Festival drew more than 400,000 people this spring.

North Carolina Baptists are still playing a part in helping the hard-hit area recover.

The first week of May, a team from Candlewyck Baptist Church in Charlotte was working at two homes in the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s (SBTC) designated zone. The group included a pharmacist, a college student, an insurance agent, a minister and two tradesmen.

“We are quite an eclectic group,” said David Reese, a Candlewyck member. The group traveled from North Carolina, Reese said, because without a steady stream of Baptist volunteers the volume of work “wouldn’t get done. It’s that simple.”

“It also helps people in our church see that we are involved with North American missions as well,” Reese added.

For every freshly painted, spick-and-span rebuild, there are three, maybe four, that look dilapidated. A few have weeds growing waist-high and the letters TFW (toxic flood water) still spray-painted on the front from the aftermath of the August 2005 disaster.

As Don Snipes drove down an inner-city street, he pointed to a peach-colored home rebuilt by Texas volunteers. But not far away, an elderly woman continues to power her appliances using extension cords running from her neighbor’s house. Blue tarps draped the ceiling to reduce rain leakage.

Not everyone will return and some houses will be demolished, yet the task that remains seems overwhelming, said Snipes, the SBTC’s onsite coordinator for Southern Baptists’ Operation NOAH (New Orleans Area Hope) Rebuild effort.

Snipes, who came to the job from a pastorate in Big Spring, Texas, and experience in the construction industry, said Southern Baptists could continue NOAH for another decade and still have work to do.

The New Orleans population in March was estimated at 71.8 percent of its pre-Katrina level, according to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center.

Homeowners have the option of rebuilding, selling their property to the federal “Road Home” program, or relocating with government assistance to another Louisiana city.

Some people have been on waiting lists (for rebuild assistance) for two years,” Snipes said.

A pressing need is skilled-labor volunteers such as electricians and plumbers, as well as continued help from non-skilled church members willing to grab a hammer or a paintbrush, Snipes said.

“We are in great need of electricians and plumbers all the time,” Snipes said. “There’s not a week that goes by that we can’t use plumbers and electricians. We can’t get a home inspected until we get it plumbed and wired.”

Call Operation NOAH Rebuild at (504) 362-4604.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist Texan, newsjournal of the SBTC.)

8/6/2008 10:24:00 AM by Jerry Pierce, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Survey suggests ‘unchurched’ are a fluid group

August 6 2008 by Ashly McGlone, Religion News Service

A new survey shows that “unchurched” Americans may be worshipping more, and “churched” Americans worshipping less, than many people might think.

Numerous surveys track trends among “unchurched” Americans, but what does “unchurched” really mean? Does it mean never attending religious services, not attending regularly, or to simply be unaffiliated with a particular congregation?

Phoenix, Ariz.-based Ellison Research said the most common definitions “often don’t tell a complete story about how Americans attend religious worship services.”

The Ellison survey, released July 14, showed that 40 percent of the “unchurched” do not entirely stay away from worship services, and 37 percent of “churched” Americans do not make it to religious services every week, even though they consider themselves regular attenders.

“There’s often an assumption that people either do attend worship services or they don’t,” said Ellison President Ron Sellers. “But what we find in this study is that one out of every five Americans is attending worship services at least occasionally during the year, even
though they are not regularly involved.”

Definitions of “unchurched” used by leading researchers are typically based on yes/no questions of membership at a house of worship, service attendance in the last month, or attendance in the last six months apart from holidays, weddings and funerals.

The Ellison study, however, prides itself in more nuanced questions about frequency of worship attendance for churches, mosques, and synagogues.

In a survey of more than 1,000 adults, 29 percent of Americans do not attend religious services at all; 10 percent attend only on religious holidays; 9 percent attend occasionally; 19 percent attend between one and three times a month; and 33 percent attend once a week
or more.

“It is not our intent to say that anything in the research world is wrong, but the ‘unchurched’ is a huge mass of people,” Sellers said. “Some people out there may not regularly attend services, but they do regularly attend every Easter and every Christmas.”

The study also analyzed family history of attendance and parental religious involvement.

The study estimates that 43 million adults typically categorized as “unchurched” will visit a church or place of worship at some point during the year, and suggested that this should be
the focus of outreach for congregations.

8/6/2008 4:03:00 AM by Ashly McGlone, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Fire destroys church buildings

August 5 2008 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Fire destroyed the fellowship hall and educational building at a Baptist church in Waynesville this morning (Tuesday, Aug. 5).

Jack Holland, pastor at Barberville Baptist Church, said firefighters were able to keep the fire out of the sanctuary, which was separated from the other two buildings by a breezeway.

“We’re fine,” he said. “We don’t worship buildings; we worship the Lord.”

Holland’s wife, Beverly, said the couple got a call about 5:45 a.m. saying that someone had seen smoke coming out of one of the church windows. They immediately went to the church, which is across the street.

“It didn’t take long for it to be totally engulfed,” she said.

The fire was devastating but church members are dealing with the loss, the Hollands said.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Beverly Holland said.

Jack Holland said he lost 39 years of records from his ministry, including all his books and sermon transcripts. Also destroyed was a book in which Holland had recorded all the baptisms and weddings he had performed.

“That’s the only thing I regret losing,” he said.

While the church was burning, Holland said he leaned up and asked the Lord what the church could learn from the fire.

“That’s the way we’re approaching it,” he said.

Holland said the church was insured, but no estimates of the loss have been made. Church officials are scheduled to meet with insurance representatives on Thursday.

The church’s homecoming is scheduled for Sunday. The association is loaning them a large tent.

Donnie Henson, moderator of the Haywood Baptist Association and pastor of Rocky Face Baptist Church in Canton, went to the scene of the fire when he heard about it. Every fire department in the county helped fight the fire, he said.

“It was tremendous how they worked together,” he said.

Henson said he noticed the church sign said “Everything we own is on loan from God.”

Holland said the church members have a good spirit. One lady in the church told him, “The church is not gone. We’re still here.”

“I thought that was a good way to put it,” he said.

(EDITOR'S NOTE — The Asheville Citizen Times posted a report about the fire. The Mountaineer, a newspaper in Waynesville, posted photos of the fire.)

8/5/2008 4:06:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

LifeWay cuts 100 jobs

August 4 2008 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

File photo

Thom Rainer

LifeWay Christian Resources will cut 5 percent of its workforce by Sept. 30 because revenues are lower than expected, LifeWay officials said.

The cuts represent about 100 jobs. Officials would not say how many workers will be displaced.

LifeWay revenue last year of $458.7 million was higher than expenditures. LifeWay spokesman Rob Phillips said income this year is ahead of last year’s pace, but below projections on which the budget is based.

LifeWay is also cutting expenses in other parts of its operations, said Thom S. Rainer, president and chief executive officer.

“These are hard but necessary steps to ensure the continued effectiveness of LifeWay ministries,” he said in a written statement.

The organization is funded totally through the sale of its resources and does not receive direct financial support from Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Ranier said.

Phillips would not release specifics, but said the lower income affects all business areas.

According to SBC Life, a publication of the SBC Executive Committee, LifeWay provides income over its expenses to the SBC. Last year, LifeWay contributed $790,000 to the SBC operating budget, according to a story written by Phillips. Those funds were part of nearly $12 million in financial and “in-kind” contributions to the SBC and its entities.

Phillips said in an interview that there is “a whole lot of in-kind contributions” in that total. In-kind contributions are services or products provided for which no payment is received.
Concluding that SBC contributions mean LifeWay has sufficient income to retain the jobs is comparing “apples and oranges,” Phillips said.

“Those are two totally different ways that funds are being spoken of here,” he said.

The economy is affecting all operations at LifeWay, Phillips said. “Most of what is spent at LifeWay is discretionary spending,” he said.

Loses are felt by the organization when fewer potential customers walk into a bookstore, fewer participants attend events at the national conference centers and fewer retailers stock Broadman and Holman titles.

“The economy is basically hitting consumers in their pocketbooks,” Phillips said. “Discretionary spending is down all over.”

Phillips said the 100 jobs would be lost “mostly in Nashville,” and “across the spectrum,” including administrative, professional and support positions. Some employees losing their jobs are eligible for retirement, but he could not say how many.

Rainer said those whose positions have been deleted will get severance pay, some benefits and outplacement services. He said LifeWay is enduring the economic downturn better than many other Christian ministries.

“LifeWay is debt free and in excellent financial condition,” he said. “Although we are adjusting our priorities and scaling back some operations, we are well positioned to continue our ministry to people and churches across the nation and around the world.”

Phillips said LifeWay officials had implemented “some reallocation of resources” in the past year that resulted in a “fairly small number of staff reductions.” He said LifeWay's employment has “ebbed and flowed with the economy throughout its history.”

The most dramatic job reduction in recent memory came in 1992, when revenues were not keeping pace with expenses, according to Phillips. Jimmy Draper, who had recently become head of what was then call the Sunday School Board, instituted a voluntary retirement incentive program, which was accepted by 159 employees. Draper says in his book, LifeWay Legacy, that a number of additional employees left on their own or saw their positions eliminated, Phillips said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — BR Editor Norman Jameson contributed to this report.)

8/4/2008 11:29:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

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