August 2009

Long recovery for injured missionaries

August 27 2009 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — The Vangsnes family of Spartanburg, S.C., and the Minear family of Marietta, Ga., cling to their strong Christian faith as they continue to pray for their sons’ recovery from serious injuries in an SUV rollover accident on Interstate 90 near Belgrade, Mont. on July 21.

One month following the wreck, 21-year-old Jeremy Vangsnes is still the most critical of the four victims, who included two other Vangsnes brothers and Scott Minear. Jeremy has since been moved from St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings to a nearby acute, long-term care center.

The young men were four of 17 “Innovator” resort missionaries with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) who had been on assignment at Yellowstone National Park since the Memorial Day weekend. Their stint was slated to end in early August. The accident occurred during an eight-hour side trip to Glacier Park.

Dan Vangsnes, far left, and Jeremy, his younger brother, second from right, remain in separate hospitals in Montana, recovering from a serious SUV rollover accident on I-90 near Belgrade, Mont., on July 21. Their 19-year-old brother, Ryan, far right, suffered cuts and bruises but has returned to their home in Spartanburg, S.C. In this photo taken prior to the accident, the Vangsnes brothers are hiking with North American Mission Board resort missionary Brad Lartigue, second from left. The Vangsnes brothers, sons of Mark and Kathy Vangsnes of Spartanburg, are members of First Baptist Church there.on July 21. Their 19-year-old brother, Ryan, far right, suffered cuts and bruises but has returned to their home in Spartanburg, S.C. In this photo taken prior to the accident, the Vangsnes brothers are hiking with North American Mission Board resort missionary Brad Lartigue, second from left. The Vangsnes brothers, sons of Mark and Kathy Vangsnes of Spartanburg, are members of First Baptist Church there.

“Jeremy will open his eyes and can hear us,” said his dad, Mark Vangsnes, who -– along with wife Kathy — left their home in Spartanburg to spend the last month in Billings with their severely injured son. Jeremy’s coma is not as deep as when first injured, and his eye movement is slowly improving.

“I read some Scripture to him (Aug. 19) and he opened his eyes half-way,” Vangsnes said. Mark and Kathy hope to fly their son back to South Carolina aboard a special medical jet soon once they’ve finalized plans with an acute long-term facility in Spartanburg. Jeremy is now off a ventilator and breathing on his own.

“Jeremy has a long way to go but he continues to endure and push on,” Mark said. For the first time in a month, Jeremy is scheduled to “sit up” sometime this week and be wheeled out of his room.

His steps in healing will be small and slow and “we’ll take every one we get,” his dad said. “He’s got so many positives going for him. He’s young, an athlete and all his vital signs are good.” Jeremy was a competitive long-distance runner at Coastal Carolina University prior to the accident.

Vangsnes said in the last conversation he had with his middle son, Jeremy told him how he and NAMB resort missionary Brad Lartigue completed an eight-hour, 115-mile bike ride across 8,000-foot passes through Yellowstone National Park in Montana.

“He was so proud, saying, ‘Dad, you won’t believe what Brad and I did.’”

The elder Vangsnes said support from Southern Baptists -– from their home church, First Baptist Spartanburg, to Baptists in Montana — has been “unreal. Right now, we’re staying with a local family only five minutes from Jeremy’s facility. The Baptist body of Christ has just overwhelmed us.

“Kathy and I are doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances,” he said. “We go to bed at night and go to sleep immediately. We wake up early in the morning, raring to go and face another day. Sure, we have our down days but, overall, we’re doing well. We believe that God is upholding and sustaining us, and the prayer going up for us is amazing.”

Jeremy’s 24-year-old brother Dan remains in the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital in Bozeman, Mont., where he is recuperating from severe knee injuries that will likely require surgery. Unlike Jeremy, Dan faced no life-threatening spine or brain injuries in the accident. Nineteen year-old Ryan, the third Vangsnes son in the accident, suffered only cuts and bruises and is back in Spartanburg.

Scott Minear, 20, a University of Georgia junior, was the driver of the SUV and suffered a fractured skull and a broken C5 vertebra in his neck. He recently was moved to St. Vincent Hospital’s New Hope Rehabilitation Center in Billings. He continues to wear a “halo” to stabilize his broken neck, but his mother, Tammy, reports that all other tubes, IVs and wires have been pulled.

“The results of X-rays this week weren’t as good as we hoped, so Scott will probably have to have some neck surgery. He’ll have to wear the halo until the surgery stabilizes his neck,” she said.

Alert and talkative, Scott gets on his computer every night to communicate with friends back in Athens, Ga.

“Through Skype, Scott’s worshipping with the UGA Baptist Campus Ministry every Tuesday night,” Tammy Minear said. In a surprise visit, several of his friends drove or flew to Billings to see him right after the accident.

“To even begin to describe the body of Christ at work during this is impossible,” she said. “We’re awestruck. How quickly so many people from so many different avenues — the Southern Baptist Convention, NAMB, local churches — responded. Churches here are ministering to us with their presence, with food, drinks, places to stay.

“All the prayers have been so felt.... (W)e have been constantly aware of people praying for us. We feel like we’re wrapped up not only in God’s arms, but in the arms of people around the world, who are praying for us.”

Calling Scott a “remarkable” young man, his mother said she could not be prouder of him. “I’m thrilled that in the insanity of these circumstances, his faith is strong. He continues to trust the Lord for the future. Nothing can do a mom’s heart more good than to see her child respond like that.”

But Tammy admitted that Schott, like Jeremy Vangsnes, has a long road to total recovery.

Scott Minear, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Georgia, was one of four NAMB “Innovator” resort missionaries seriously injured in an auto mishap on July 21 in Montana. Prior to the accident, he is shown here leading a devotional at Teton National Park’s Lake Solitude at an altitude of 9,053 feet. The son of Frank and Tammy Minear of Marietta, Ga., Scott remains in a Billings, Mont., rehab center and will undergo neck surgery to repair a broken C5 vertebra. The Minears are members of Crosspointe Community Church in Roswell, Ga.

“Every move of every muscle is still a huge effort. But they tell us that’s normal and it takes time to build those muscles back up. He still has some paralysis on his left side. But he is moving and walking with the support of someone on both sides. The big thing is his left hand. He plays the guitar and wants to be able to play again. We’re praying that God will restore it.”

Scott’s father, Frank Minear, recently returned to their home in Marietta, Ga., near Atlanta, to take care of Scott’s sister, Shelbie, 17, and Colby, 12, who recently began the new school year. The Minears are members of Crosspointe Community Church, an SBC congregation in Roswell, Ga.

A special fund for the Vangsnes and Minear families has been set up by the North American Mission Board. The NAMB fund can be accessed through its web site,, and then click on “Give Now.” Gifts should be made by selecting the “Emergency Missionary Care Fund.”

First Baptist-Spartanburg also has established a special fund for the Vangsnes family. Checks may be mailed to the church, 250 East Main St., Spartanburg, S.C. 29306. The church’s phone number is (864) 583-7245.

8/27/2009 2:20:00 AM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

For Hmong believers, Jesus is only sacrifice

August 26 2009 by Mike Creswell, BSC

Visiting the Hmong church in Albemarle is like visiting a bit of Asia — the people, their language and their artfully embroidered clothing styles all seem different from most Burke County residents.

But talk a bit and you quickly find these modest, friendly people have much in common with North Carolina Baptists. In fact, they may have a thing or two to teach us about the gospel.

Pastor Neng Hue Yang and his wife, Carine, lead Hmong (pronounced MONG) congregations in Albemarle and Monroe, working to reach the estimated 3,000 Hmong people living in the area for Christ. The Yangs are receiving financial support from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, whose church planting ministry is funded through the Cooperative Program and the North Carolina Missions Offering.

The Yangs came to the United States in 1979 from Laos, a country in Southeast Asia which borders China, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Historically the Hmong people lived in southwest China, but in the 1700s many began migrating to surrounding countries.  

BSC photo by K Brown

Hmong women worship in North Carolina.

In 2008 the Yangs moved to North Carolina, which ranks fifth among U.S. states in Hmong settlement, with the state’s total number of Hmongs estimated at more than 8,000 by a 2006 report by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Some 500 Hmong refugees settled in North Carolina in 2004, joining about 300,000 Hmongs already living in the United States, according to a 2004 report by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

“These are hardworking people who have demonstrated an ability to become contributing members of our communities, finding jobs and paying taxes,” said Carmen Hooker Odom, then secretary of the department.

Pastor Yang estimates almost half the Hmong people of North Carolina live in the Hickory-Statesville area. One Hmong publication reported that two-thirds of the foreign-born children in Burke County schools are Hmong.  

Many Hmong people arrive in America after spending years in refugee camps in Thailand or other Asian countries.

In Asia many Hmong people are farmers in background and often face persecution for being a minority group there. They come to America seeking political freedom and economic opportunity.

But Pastor Yang wants his people to have spiritual freedom as well.

“I wanted to be a pastor because I want people to have a better life. I want them to be saved. I want people to have hope. I want people to be in heaven when they die,” he said.

The religion most Hmong people follow is animism, which means worshipping spirits which may live in rocks or trees.

When a Hmong person becomes sick, the family often will sacrifice a cow or pig to appease the spirits they believe creating the sickness.

“When we sacrifice animals to atone for a disease or sickness, that does not work,” Yang said.

“I guess Satan is also very smart. One day when they sacrifice that person became well, but it’s only for a few days and then the same thing (sickness) comes back and they do a sacrifice again. Back in Laos many people sacrifice and so it gets expensive. It gets so expensive they cannot afford to buy the animals to sacrifice for their family members and sometimes they would sell off their children just to buy a cow or pig, just to sacrifice for their loved one, and it is an on-going routine that will never end,” he said.

In fact, one reason many Hmong families settle in North Carolina is so they can buy farm land on which to raise animals which they will sacrifice to the spirits.

But Yang said the gospel delivers people from that kind of bondage, which is very similar to the situation first-century Christians were liberated from after they accepted Jesus Christ as Savior.

“We want them to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. We want them to know that Christ is the Savior of the world and that He has died for our sins and we don’t need to be in bondage any more,” he said.

“Jesus Christ has made the final sacrifice and we can be free in Him. We don’t need to sacrifice any more animals. Christ is the best sacrifice for us and He has done once and for all. If we just believe in Him and just trust Him and just obey Him, then we are free from all that religion.”

When he and his wife, Carine, visit Hmong families, Yang said, “The Hmong people are very friendly when you come to their house. They will welcome you and offer you food and water. The lady of the house will start cooking a meal for the visitors.”

But the Yangs soon turn the conversation toward spiritual matters. “We were once like you, and we have been delivered from all these sacrificial religions. Christ has delivered us and we have been set free, and Christ can do the same for you,” Yang tells people.

Positive response to the gospel is a cause for joy, the Yangs say.  

“I love the people here, and it’s just a good feeling to know that they are saved. And it will be wonderful to have more people saved as well. So it is a challenge, but it is also a great reward,” Yang said.

“We want to say ‘thank you’ to the Baptist State Convention for supporting our mission here in Albemarle.

Because of your support we can reach out to the Hmong community in this county and tell them about Jesus Christ. So thank you for your support and your prayers,” Yang said.

Pastor Yang is among some 170 church-planting missionaries supported by North Carolina Baptists through the Cooperative Program and North Carolina Missions Offering. The convention started 108 new churches in the state during 2008, an average of a new church every three days.

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8/26/2009 5:11:00 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC | with 0 comments

Ed Tablazon reaches Filipinos in Triad

August 26 2009 by Mike Creswell, BSC

It’s no longer surprising to see Asians in North Carolina; people come here from every Asian country in the world.

But church planter/missionary Ed Tablazon is looking mostly for people from his home country of the Philippines as he works to start Filipino churches in Lewisville and Greensboro.

“There are probably 3,000 Filipinos in the Triad area,” he said, “but the biggest concentration is in the Winston-Salem area.”  

“Many of the Filipinos here in the Triad work in the medical field, such as nursing. Many are trained physical therapists. Many of them are not coming here directly from the Philippines, but come here after settling first in other parts of the United States, such as New York or New Jersey,” he said.

Being Baptist is nothing new for Tablazon. He became a Christian at age 10, not surprising because his grandparents and parents were Baptists and his father was a Baptist pastor on the island of Palawan, one of some 4,000 inhabited islands that make up the Philippines.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

Ed Tablazon preaches to a Filipino congregation. He has started churches in Greensboro and Lewisville.

Tablazon also became a Baptist pastor before he came with his wife, Leah, and their three children to the United States in 1999. They settled first in New Jersey and lived there seven years before they relocated to the Winston-Salem area.

He began to meet people and learn the area and he launched the Triad Journey Church in 2008.

So far about 30 people attend the Triad Journey Church for Filipinos Tablazon started with financial help and guidance from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina through the Cooperative Program and the North Carolina Missions Offering.

The Convention’s Church Planting Team also provided training on church planting and encouragement and guidance through Ralph Garay, church planting consultant and Filipino native who works to start new Asian churches across North Carolina.

“Ralph is a very encouraging minister to work with,” Tablazon said.

Triad Journey Church meets in the fellowship hall of Lewisville Baptist Church in Lewisville, though total attendance at home groups is larger. In January this year Tablazon started a second Filipino church in Greensboro, the Triad Community Church, which has reached four families so far.

Triad Journey Church services are conducted in English, because English is usually the second language spoken by Filipinos after one of their native languages.

Because friendship and relationships are important for Filipinos, Tablazon said small groups usually are more effective for outreach than other approaches.

“Some Filipinos are already Christians when they arrive in the United States, but non-Christians are often responsive to the gospel. They’re looking for connections, relationships,” Tablazon said.

Jun Farnaso, one of Triad Journey Church’s main lay leaders, is typical in some ways of Filipinos. He grew up on the main island of Luzon, south of Manila, the capital city.  

Trained as a computer analyst, he moved to Saudi Arabia to work. Many Filipinos leave their homeland to seek work in other countries, including other parts of Asia or the Middle East.

Working at a military hospital in Saudi Arabia, he met his future wife, also from the Philippines, who worked as a nurse.

They were married and continued work in Saudi Arabia for five more years.  

They found life hard in Saudi Arabia, despite having jobs.

“It’s hard if you’re a Christian. You have no freedom to worship,” Farnaso said.

“The most important thing is your personal relationship with God,” he said of those days.

He and his wife came to the United States in 1991 and once in North Carolina they first joined a large Baptist church in Winston-Salem.

“It’s a great church and the fellowship was good, but we were looking for fellow Filipinos. It’s different to have your own countrymen,” he said.

“We were happy when we found the Triad Journey Church. We really like the pastor and we want to help this church grow,” he said.

On a recent Sunday the fellowship hall still had decorations from several high school students who just graduated from high school.

Farnaso’s son was one of them. It was a nice picture: An American dream coming true in a Christian context.

North Carolina Baptists are reaching people in some three dozen language/culture groups across the state as they support the starting of new churches through their giving.  

To learn more about how your church can help sponsor a new church plant, go to

To learn more about how NCMO supports church planting, go to .

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8/26/2009 5:06:00 AM by Mike Creswell, BSC | with 0 comments

Kyrgyzstan suppresses minority religious groups

August 26 2009 by Baptist Press

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Christians in the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan have been told not to meet for worship without registration, but government officials are making it nearly impossible for churches to receive approval.

Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet nation of about 5.4 million people, is 75 percent Muslim and 20 percent Russian Orthodox. In January a new religion law was enacted, and since then officials have checked up on or raided many minority religious communities, telling them they have no right to gather, according to a report by Forum 18 News Service. Officials also are cracking down on the distribution and possession of religious literature.

Forum 18, a religious freedom watch group based in Norway, said pastors and church members have been summoned for questioning regarding their worship services. The religion law requires all approved religious organizations to have no fewer than 200 members, which means church groups must collect 200 signatures in a climate where many are reluctant to be identified as Christian.

Also, in order to obtain a permit to meet in a specific building, the law says the building must be 1,090 yards away from any school and more than six miles from any mosque. Some sources have noted to Forum 18 that the large number of mosques in the country make the guidelines particularly challenging.

Church groups also have difficulty finding space to meet because public buildings are not allowed to rent to them and private owners hesitate to rent to religious organizations, the news service said. Government officials even have sought to keep house churches from meeting in private residences.

Regarding literature, the religion law imposes censorship, stating that “Religious organizations and missions can import religious literature and other printed, audio, and video materials into the Kyrgyz Republic only after passing examination by a state religious expert.”

The religion law also bans, without defining, “aggressive action aimed at proselytism,” Forum 18 said.

Most recently, Kyrgyzstan established a Coordinating Council on the Struggle against Religious Extremism “for the purpose of ensuring concerted action and coordination of activity of state agencies and local governments of Kyrgyzstan in prevention of the spread of and resistance to religious extremism, fundamentalism and conflicts on religious grounds.”

The decree, issued Aug. 5, allows “suppressing the ideas of various extremist and destructive groups.”

A representative from the State Agency for Religious Affairs in Kyrgyzstan told Forum 18 that the council is still formulating its policy but that it is concerned with the “abnormality” of a rising number of people changing faith, especially young ethnic Kyrgyz joining Christian churches.

The same representative said none of the existing registered religious organizations are considered extremist, but he refused to discuss groups that are unregistered or are threatened by the new religion law.

Forum 18 said various religious organizations in Kyrgyzstan have expressed concerns about the council. One pastor said he didn’t understand why the council is necessary.

“We already have law enforcement agencies in the country to detect who breaks the laws. I am afraid they are trying to tighten the noose around our necks,” the pastor said, adding that he believes the council was created to “make life hard” for Protestant churches in the country.

Another pastor told Forum 18 that his house church is in an illegal situation because they don’t have a permit to meet and will either have to go underground or “unite with other groups, despite confessional differences, to gain legal status.”

Joel Griffith of the Slavic Gospel Association told Mission Network News that churches in Kyrgyzstan seemed to have little difficulty meeting for worship and holding children’s ministries until the 2005 presidential election. The same candidate was reelected this summer, ushering in added suppression.

“They’re purposely wanting to make it very difficult for new places of worship to be registered,” Griffith said. “So if they institute an impossible requirement like that, then they effectively have been able to put their thumb down on any new group of believers that would want to come together and form a church.”

One government official told Forum 18 that he didn’t see why religious groups needed to spread out across the country. Instead, they could all gather in one place and achieve the 200-member threshold, he said.

“Now of course, logic says if you have a group that lives in one part of the country, how in the world could you try to bring somebody from the other side of the country to gather in one place to try to worship?” Griffith said.

The Slavic Gospel Association, Mission Network News said, partners with 64 registered Baptist churches in Kyrgyzstan, which have a membership of more than 3,000. Griffith said there is hope that the Kyrgyz Parliament could reconsider parts of the religion law, and he asked Christians worldwide to pray for the situation in Kyrgyzstan.

“When you look back over history, the more pressure they try to apply on the churches, the more the churches grow,” Griffith told Mission Network News. “We have hope and trust that the Lord’s going to continue to build His church in those countries and that they are going to continue to see growth, even if they have to function underground, as many of them do. They’re going to continue proclaiming the Gospel and worshiping the Lord no matter what.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.)

8/26/2009 5:05:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptist schools make 2009 rankings

August 25 2009 by From wire reports

Four N.C. Baptist colleges have been listed in the 2009 rankings of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News and World Report.

U.S. News and World Report, which began ranking America’s best colleges in 1983, bases its college ratings on data provided by the institutions and by a survey of administrators at peer colleges and universities. Institutions are grouped into four categories according to a system developed by the Carnegie Fund for the Advancement of Teaching.

The two larger categories, Universities-Master’s and Baccalaureate Colleges, are each divided into four divisions, North, South, Midwest and West.

Two N.C. Baptist schools — Mars Hill College and Chowan University — were ranked in the Baccalaureate Colleges category. Colleges in this category focus on undergraduate education but grant fewer than half of their degrees in the liberal arts disciplines.

The 574 institutions listed in the “Universities-Master’s” category primarily award bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Campbell University and Gardner-Webb University were both listed among the top-tier schools in the Universities-Master’s-South rankings.

Thirty-eight other member institutions of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities were listed in the rankings by U.S. News and World Report or a list put together by introduced its first ranking of America’s Best Colleges in 2008. In conjunction with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity at Ohio University, Forbes ranked 569 undergraduate colleges and universities, primarily institutions from the top tiers of the U.S. News list of best colleges.

Forbes based its rankings on the quality of the education provided by the institutions, and how much their students have achieved. Forbes describes its college rating system as an alternative to the popular U.S. News & World Report rating on America’s best colleges.

No N.C. Baptist schools were on the Forbes list.

8/25/2009 8:36:00 AM by From wire reports | with 0 comments

Koreans part of N.C. international flavor

August 25 2009 by Mike Creswell, Baptist State Convention

People from around the world are moving to North Carolina.

In Huntersville, just north of Charlotte, many of these new neighbors are Koreans.

BSC photo by K Brown

Korean Baptist Fellowship members chow down at Lake Norman State Park on May 19 in Huntersville. The congregation is one of many international churches that the North Carolina Mission Offering supports.

Because many newcomers are still learning English, they cannot easily attend one of the many churches in the area to hear and understand the gospel.

“A language problem should not be an obstacle (to) getting closer to God,” says Korean-born Dae Yim, pastor of the Korean Fellowship Church here.

Since he naturally speaks Korean, Yim is able to witness to the growing number of Korean newcomers to Huntersville. “We hope to bring people to God, establish a personal relationship with God and become (unified) under God,” he says, citing Ephesians 4.

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina supports Yim’s work through its Church Planting Team. Asian church planting consultant Ralph Garay visits Yim often to offer advice and encouragement, support aimed at getting a strong Korean church started.

And the Convention also provides financial support to Yim as he visits people and works hard to get his church to grow and become self-supporting. That financial help is made possible in part through the North Carolina Missions Offering, to which North Carolina Baptists contribute each fall.

The Korean Fellowship Church has become a real family for Yung Semmler, one of the original members who offered her home for the church as a meeting place in the early days. Semmler says many Koreans are moving into the area, but their church is the only church for Huntersville and the northern Charlotte area.

“We really need to reach out to the Korean community of this area,” she says. “It is a joy to see Koreans finding Christ here,” she said. “God is good. That’s all I can say. God is good.”

As North Carolina Baptists invest in church planting through the North Carolina Missions Offering, they will help many find the unique joy available in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. And as the Korean Fellowship Church grows in coming years, that joy will spread to thousands of others.

The return on investing in church planting will be long-term, with eternal returns.  

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Parentheses in story represent slight changes in wording to correct English, a second language for the Koreans quoted.)

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8/25/2009 8:23:00 AM by Mike Creswell, Baptist State Convention | with 0 comments

N.C. pastor blogs about new assignment

August 25 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in many ways operates like a “bad parachurch” organization, a prominent young N.C. Baptist pastor on the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force said in his blog, following the first meeting of the GCR Task Force.

“The perception is that local churches should give, send people, and allow the institutions to do the work,” said J.D. Greear, pastor of the Summit Church in Durham.

All three task force members with N.C. ties — Greear; Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest; and Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem — deferred questions about the group’s first meeting Aug. 11-12 in Atlanta to Ronnie Floyd, the task force’s chairman.

But Greear posted a blog about the task force the day after the meeting ended and Akin mentioned the meeting on Twitter, a web site that allows him to send short messages to people who “follow” him.

Akin called the meeting “excellent” on his Twitter site after the meeting ended and sent a message during the
meeting just before hearing Al Mohler addressed the task force.

“I believe it will be a major moment!” Akin said.

Greear’s post didn’t reveal much about the meeting, but did speak about the group’s role and his take on it. He said it is a “great honor” to serve on the task force.

“The task force is assigned the task of praying and ‘dreaming’ about what a more efficient, more effective SBC would look like,” Greear said. “How can we realign our agencies, refocus our spending, repent of our wrongdoing, and re-present ourselves to our community?”

Greear says the he believes that one key for a “Great Commission Resurgence” is for the SBC “to restore the initiative in ministry to the local church.”

“The local church is the primary institution of the New Testament,” he said.

Parachurch ministries, denominations and networks exist to facilitate the ministry of the local church, Greear said.

“Denominations are not biblical institutions,” he said. “That is not to say they are unbiblical institutions … denominational networks are simply functional tools that churches can use to accomplish the mission given to them (as, after all, Christians have historically found they can accomplish more cooperating together than they can acting independently).”

Greear said good parachurch ministries facilitate the church’s ministry, while bad parachurch organizations take ministry from the local church.

“Bad parachurch says, ‘Give us money and people and we’ll do ministry for you,’” he said. “In my opinion, the SBC has, in many places, descended into a ‘bad parachurch’ model.”

Greear said younger pastors “want to use cooperative networks to plant churches, but they don’t want the networks to do the work for them.”

“Furthermore, they question whether or not giving money to the Convention is the best use of their resources,” he said. “They see what they believe to be a great deal of bureaucracy, inefficiency, and activity in the Convention not related to church planting.”

Most younger pastors will not give to the SBC out of a sense of loyalty, Greear said.

“While some of us are young, arrogant, and naïve, we also have the understanding that we must be more committed to the Great Commission than we are the Convention,” he said. “If the SBC is an efficient tool in fulfilling that commission, we will use it. If it is not, most younger pastors will discard it.”

Greear said many younger pastors will support seminaries and other efforts to train and produce church planters, but they want those institutions to be partners, not take over the work.

“Part of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s assignment is to address the issue of how younger pastors can be brought back in,” he said. “How can we align the Convention so that local Baptist churches see the SBC as an effective partner for accomplishing their commission?”

8/25/2009 8:21:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 3 comments

Snapshots from the seashore

August 25 2009 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

FORT CASWELL — A quick survey of the auditorium after an evening worship session during Youth Weeks 2009 indicates that for some, the evening is far from over.

Youth linger about, some clustered in corners of the room. Heads and arms are draped over pews as prayers and counseling continue.

A line forms to meet with the speaker for prayer and guidance. The precious minutes of free time before bedtime tick away, but for those remaining in Hatch, they don’t seem to want to be anywhere else.

BSC photo

One of the options during free time at Caswell is painting. The activities, scenery and spiritual guidance available make Caswell a memorable place.

Since its dedication in 1968, Hatch Auditorium has been the home of many stories. The building continues to host children, youth and adults at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell. This year Caswell celebrates its 60th anniversary of being owned and operated by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).

Youth weeks continue to draw the largest crowd at Caswell. Nearly 7,000 youth in middle school and high school came to Caswell this year for eight youth weeks, 400 students made first time professions of faith, 3,600 students rededicated their life to Jesus Christ, and 71 students surrendered to full-time Christian ministry.

Taking it home
Jeff Foster and Paul Welborn sat outside Faith Baptist Church’s cottage talking with a few youth. Foster, a church member and second-year chaperone, and Welborn, youth pastor, are best friends. Last year Foster experienced Caswell and youth weeks for the first time, and one week is all it took to push him into action.
Foster did not want youth week to be a week soon forgotten once they arrived back in Archdale, so he organized “Feed the Need.”

The all-day event held earlier this year included a food drive, clothing drive, blood drive, car wash, concert and message from Welborn. “Instead of just having another event we wanted to focus on what we could do to meet needs in the community,” Foster said. “We wanted it to be outreach. It can’t be about us.” The Faith Baptist youth group and local churches worked together to host the event. Foster described “Feed the Need” as one of the “most impacting” events in his life.

Painting and chatting
When Sara Caulder sits down with her canvas painting class during free time, technique isn’t what is foremost in her mind. Caulder, a third-year BeDoTell staff member and recent graduate of Appalachian State University, asks the students about what they learned in worship. Before long they are sharing with Caulder about the challenges of being a teenager in middle school. It seems that with a little care and attention, youth open up.
Caulder said conversations with campers are priceless and she has seen campers “confessing their sins and laying down their pride.”

Week after week she watches as students are broken — broken at the thought of their sin and the power of God to transform their life.

“It is an honor to be here,” she said. “We are learning and growing just like the students. God’s working in my life, too.”

Three generations
During lunch one day, chaperones from Mount Beulah Baptist Church in Wadesboro shared about what it’s like to a veteran camper — and counselor. Michele Hinson came to Caswell every year in grades 7-12 and at Caswell she prayed to receive Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior.

The first year her oldest son was old enough to come she attended as a chaperone. That was seven years ago, and this year makes seven years in a row for Hinson as a Caswell chaperone and counselor.

She has two sons, a nephew and a niece attending Caswell this year.

“The minute you step on the grounds — I just love the atmosphere,” she said. “My boys now know what I felt like.”

BSC photo

The drama team crew of Amanda Parmley, Dave Thomas and James Lind take part in a skit at Hatch Auditorium.

From pictures as screensavers to old meal tickets, “our home is full of Caswell memories,” Hinson said. More than that, Hinson said her family leaves Caswell knowing God more, because at Caswell, youth are taught how to live a Christian life.

Mercy and grace
“Do you think more about your pain than you do about His resurrection power?” asked Derwin Gray during a Wednesday evening worship service. All week long speaker Gray challenged students to model purity in their lives, and to lay all their hurts, struggles and sins at the cross.

He asked students to consider whether or not their life reflected sexual purity.

At the end of the service student after student came to the front of Hatch to pray with a youth leader and to confess sin.

“What’s in the darkness Satan controls,” Gray said.

Rising high school junior Jamie Buckley heard those words and was the first youth to stand and walk to the front after the service.

“There were secrets in my life I had to get out,” Buckley said. “I’d been wearing this mask for so long.”

Later that night the youth from Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem met for church group devotions, males meeting together and females meeting together, and Buckley again confessed his sins to his friends. What happened that night during devotions Buckley described as life-changing.

After that night, “we weren’t a youth group — we were a bunch of brothers,” he said. “I cried my eyes out.” That night Buckley shared sins he struggled with and one by one, other youth group members also shared.

They realized, some for the first time, the importance of accountability.

Buckley knows that what he learned at Caswell and the commitments he made will change the way he lives. He has friends he needs to talk with back home. Yet, he is no longer afraid of rejection. He is no longer afraid of stepping out of darkness and into light, for he knows that by God’s grace and mercy, God is changing his heart.

8/25/2009 8:15:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Fruitland installs eighth president

August 24 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

David Horton was inaugurated as the eighth president of Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute during a service on campus in Hendersonville Aug. 21.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Baptist State Convention President Rick Speas prays for David Horton during his inauguration Aug. 21.

Horton, elected to the role by the Baptist State Convention board of directors May 19, has been serving since June 1. He succeeded Kenneth Ridings, who retired Dec. 31 after 11 years as president and 40 years association with Fruitland in the classroom and administration.

The ceremony was much like a worship service, with messages, song and prayers. Scott Thompson, vice president for academic affairs, said Horton “wanted this to be a day to celebrate God’s work.”

Greg Mathis, evangelism professor at Fruitland and pastor of Mud Creek Baptist Church, brought the charge to Horton, citing characteristics the biblical David exhibited earlier in the day in which he slew Goliath.

From 1 Sam. 17 Mathis said he saw in the young David obedience, readiness, courage in the midst of great conflict, responsibility and peace that could not be taken away by family or foe.

“People will question and doubt you,” Mathis told Horton. He said others will try to instruct and challenge him, but “God has raised you up for this time.”

“God can use anything in your hands if you have the right things in your heart,” Mathis said.
Horton’s son Michael, associate pastor at First Baptist Church, Dublin, led the invocation. Horton’s father-in-law David Sechrist, pastor of Oak Ridge Baptist Church in Cana, Va., led the benediction.

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, challenged Horton to cast vision, to challenge faculty in teaching, mentoring and modeling a life of Christian service, to oversee the development of curriculum that is biblically accurate, challenging and relevant and to establish, maintain and protect an effective atmosphere of learning for future ministers and missionaries.

Horton responded from Jeremiah 29 and 33. He told about his nearly three months in office and of his hopes for the future.

He has been pleased, he said, to find Fruitland staff a praying staff and he said they pray together often and regularly, as do students.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Lisa and David Horton

“It would please me if God chooses to lead this institution not from the president’s office but from the prayer room,” Horton said.

He said Fruitland’s foundation lives in the words of a plaque in the hallway by his office that says, “Keep Fruitland true to God’s word and loyal to His purpose.”

“The future will be built on that foundation,” he said.

He already has initiated some moves to utilize “every means available to tell the story of what God is doing at Fruitland.” The Fruitland website has been overhauled and will now contain the sermons and addresses of chapel speakers. Students will be able to register online and the first edition of a new electronic newsletter called The Fruitland Experience was sent in August to more than 700 initial subscribers.

He is “exploring the possibility of satellite campuses and offering online courses” and said at least five associations or churches already have expressed interest in hosting classes.

Horton acknowledged Fruitland’s unique place in preparing men for ministry. “The primary subject you’ll learn at Fruitland is expository preaching of God’s holy word,” he declared, holding aloft a red, leather bound Bible.

He said because “the world seems to be coming to North Carolina,” there are great opportunities to start churches and impact the international community.

“God is doing something powerful in this place,” he said, “and I don’t want to miss out on it.”

8/24/2009 9:47:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

CP floor raised to keep staff eligible for benefits

August 24 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

A number of North Carolina Baptist churches will need to increase their Cooperative Program giving in 2010 to qualify their staff members for matching retirement contributions and protection benefits provided by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).

The Executive Committee Aug. 13 approved an annual increase of $220 — to $640 — per qualifying staff member. Actual costs are increasing for the BSC to provide a basic annuity, life and disability benefit and too many churches give just enough to qualify their staff members for the coverage without actually supporting the work of the BSC, according to John Butler, BSC executive leader for business services.

Churches that give $420 to CP per staff member in effect contribute nothing to the work of North Carolina Baptists because their entire contribution is utilized for benefits to their own staffs.

“A lot of churches know how this works,” Butler told Executive Committee members before their vote. “They give the exact minimum in order to qualify their staff for this benefit.”

In other words, “the annuity is good enough for them, but nothing else is,” said board member Greg Barefoot.
More than 800 churches affiliated with the BSC give nothing to the Cooperative Program. According to Butler, in “a significant number of those the pastor still receives this benefit.”

An undetermined number of other churches make CP contributions that simply equal that required for staff coverage.

Recognizing the difficulty of small churches to adequately fund retirement and protection benefits for their pastor, the BSC historically has provided an automatic exemption from the contribution minimum for churches with a $50,000 budget or smaller.

That automatic exemption is being eliminated, but such a church can still apply for exemption as a “hardship case” and be considered individually, Butler said.

Because church gifts in one year qualify the staff for coverage in the succeeding year, the increased minimum will be tallied in 2010 to qualify staff for coverage in 2011.

The biggest concern expressed by Executive Committee members during discussion was that small budget churches would lose their automatic exemption. The BSC staff will notify every church by letter of the new requirements, according to Butler.

GuideStone Financial Resources Consultant Johnny Ross will make calls and notify churches as he does every year if their gifts do not meet the minimums for coverage.

Butler said the move is not to eliminate church participation. “We want churches to participate,” he said. But if the current pricing structure were to remain, other churches would be subsidizing with their mission gifts the retirement and protection benefit of those churches that would not fund their own.

“It’s not about getting money from them, it’s about getting them to take responsibility for their staff,” Butler said. “And it’s an opportunity to talk about the value of cooperative giving.”

Executive Director-treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr., knows “this will be a major issue because of the practice we’ve had in our history.”

“But it doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do now, simply because we’ve been doing it another way,” he said.

“I also share the concern where I don’t want pastors to be left out just because they are in churches with small budgets.”

Butler said there are “very few churches of any size that cannot budget $54 a month to go to the Cooperative Program. That’s not asking a whole lot for a church to be able to say, ‘I’m a part of the BSC and all its ministries and services.’ If you’re not willing to do that, then are you really a part of the BSC?”

After hearing a budget report that shows receipts through July 3.2 percent below the same period last year, Hollifield said, “The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is financially healthy.” Cash flow remains “in the black” through the first eight months, Butler said.

After that meeting, the Executive Committee went into executive session, where members finalized with staff the final steps leading to the announcement the next day of the elimination of six positions on the BSC staff, resulting in the layoff of three persons.

Although the 2010 budget is not finalized, documents distributed at the meeting show a fifth consecutive one-half percentage point increase to ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention.

That would make the North Carolina-SBC split of Cooperative Program gifts from churches 65.5/34.5, compared to the 68/32 division of five years ago. Based on a $36 million budget, the half-point difference is $180,000.

8/24/2009 9:45:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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