August 2009

CP analysis laments ‘disparity’ in funding

August 24 2009 by From staff reports

The Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force was expected to look at research showing Southern Baptists spend per capita 33 times more for missions in relatively gospel-saturated North America than they do for the comparatively unreached rest of the world, according to the Florida Baptist Witness.

Daniel Palmer, a development office of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary who did the analysis as a personal project, said the primary reason for this “alarming” distortion in missions funding priorities is Baptist state conventions that “skim” approximately two-thirds of all Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Cooperative Program dollars for their own causes, according to the Witness report.

The missions funding analysis caught the attention of SBC President Johnny Hunt and was to be among the data considered by the SBC’s GCR Task Force when it met for the first time Aug. 11-12 in Atlanta, according to the report, which was published before the meeting.

But the paper reported that one state convention executive director said the analysis is “fatuous” and “meaningless” because “it’s not connected to reality.”

David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and former vice president for Cooperative Program of the SBC Executive Committee, did not think much of Palmer’s data.

Palmer does not “give evidence that he understands” the “history and ecclesiology of Southern Baptists,” Hankins said, which makes an honest conversation difficult.

“I think, also, he could have a more fraternal spirit and positive response to enter into the conversation if he didn’t use what is at best, unprofessional and intemperate language, and at worst, unchristian language about his fellow Southern Baptists,” Hankins said, pointing as an example to Palmer’s use of “skim” regarding the state conventions’ retention of CP funds.

“It’s not true in fact and the word ‘skimming’ means embezzlement, which is an illegal action,” Hankins said.
“I think a better approach is to talk about what’s within the realm of possibility for us to do, to have a strategy for what we want to do overseas, tell our people what the real dollar costs are likely to be and challenge them to reach it,” Hankins said.

Palmer’s analysis said, “The SBC is built more like a government bureaucracy than a conduit for the gospel.”

Created in 1925 in the midst of a financial crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ unified funding effort for state, national and international missionary enterprises.

Churches forward CP gifts to Baptist state conventions, which retain a portion of the funds for state missions work, as approved by the churches of that state, and forward an approved portion for national and international work.

Palmer wrote in his analysis that Southern Baptists spend 33 times more on North American missions than on international missions.

Using 2008 and 2009 data from various sources, per capita missions spending in the United States and Canada was calculated by adding CP receipts retained by state conventions, SBC CP funds for the North American Mission Board and NAMB Annie Armstrong Offering funds ($447.24 million) divided by the total population of the U.S. and Canada (340 million).

The result: Southern Baptists spend $1.31 per person for missions in North America.

Internationally, Palmer added the IMB portion of the SBC CP budget with receipts from the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (total: $243.86 million) divided by the world’s population (6.4 billion, excepting the U.S. and Canada).

The result: Southern Baptists spend $0.04 per person for missions to reach the world. Hunt expressed alarm at the data. He had a warning for states that ignore the desire for greater international missions funding.

“If states are not willing to release greater percentages and greater dollars to the nations, they are going to find people like Johnny Hunt designating their dollars where they want it themselves instead of sending it to them when they’re not listening to us,” Hunt said.

Hankins expressed concern that state conventions may have “their feet cut out from under them by a continuing disrespect for the cooperative methodology, which tends to continue the lowering of the income.”

While Hankins “strongly believes” more money needs to get to the international field, he said it should not be accomplished by the suggestion “we ought to undo valuable, stateside ministries.”

Citing the creation of children’s homes, colleges, hospitals, benevolence, disaster relief, as well as church planting and other ministries, Hankins said state conventions have created ministries at the request of the churches.

Palmer said he does not “wish to malign the men and women currently serving in state conventions or to impugn their motives.”

Rather, he said, “This study is a call for us to assess the status quo and make changes in response to what the study reveals.”

8/24/2009 9:42:00 AM by From staff reports | with 3 comments

Mohler says SBC must change or face decline

August 24 2009 by By Jeff Robinson, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) faces a critical crossroads and must move into the future with denominational structures and methods open to change or face serious decline, the president of an SBC seminary said.

R. Albert Mohler Jr. spoke at a forum on the future of the SBC held Aug. 19 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (Video and audio of the forum) The school's president said the SBC in 2009 continues to operate largely out of a model that the denomination adopted from corporate America in the early 20th century, a model that prioritizes efficiency over theological conviction in carrying out the task of missions.

"Certainly in business, efficiency can be a make-or-break word between profit and loss," Mohler said, "but when it comes to missions and the work of our churches and the work of the Gospel around the world, efficiency has a limited application.

"What this really marked, more than anything else, was an infusion of a business culture into the life of the denomination. ... Churches were now concerned with efficiency; decisions were made on the basis of efficiency."

In the 1950s, the SBC underwent a restructuring calculated to bring greater denominational efficiency, Mohler said; this led to the adoption of a programmatic approach to ministry based more on corporate management practices than theology.

The approach worked because in those days the SBC largely held the evangelical franchise in the deep South and its programs were so vast that a Southern Baptist would develop a "tribal identity" that defined his church life from the cradle to the grave; Southern Baptist children would participate in all of the age-appropriate SBC programs from life until death, he said.

Though American culture, particularly in the Bible Belt, has changed profoundly, Mohler said the SBC has continued to operate out of a 1950s programmatic mentality. He compared the denomination to two American institutions: the General Motors Corporation (GM) and the shopping mall.

For most of the 20th century, more than half of all automobiles sold in America were manufactured by GM. While the car-buying culture changed in the late 20th century, GM continued to operate out of a business model that worked well in the 1950s. Now, the auto giant has declared bankruptcy and has ceased to be a publicly traded corporation.

Similarly, shopping malls exploded in number over the second half of the 20th century, but today, hundreds of the hulking complexes sit empty because businesses want to operate outside of malls so their storefronts will have increased visibility.

In the same way, Mohler said the SBC faces a bleak future if it continues to minister out of a business model from the 1950s instead of one driven by theological and missional concerns, neither of which is susceptible to the shifting currents of culture.

"The question we have to ask is the same question that General Motors should have been asking for the last 20 years: What has changed and why have we not?" Mohler said. "Or for those whose business is the shopping mall: Has the logic of this particular organizational pattern been eclipsed by something else?

"Are the people who are actually in our churches today and the people we are trying to reach today, are they attracted to that kind of logic or does it seem like an age gone by?"

Mohler said the SBC faces at least 10 questions, which he put in terms of dichotomies. He said Southern Baptists in the future will be either:

Missiological or bureaucratic. The denomination will be driven by the work of the Gospel mission as set forth in Scripture or it will die a slow death along a path clogged by bureaucratic red tape.

"The missiological logic, I would suggest, is the only logic that fits the church of the Lord Jesus Christ," he said. "Unless the SBC very clearly asserts an unashamed, undiluted and ruthless missiological logic, we are going to find ourselves out of touch with our churches, with the generation now coming into leadership and with the world we are trying to reach, because the logic of bureaucracy will never take us where we need to go."

Tribal or theological. The SBC must be driven by common doctrine and not a "cradle to death" ethos in which one is a Southern Baptist by virtue of being raised in a SBC church. The SBC "tribal identity" no longer exists because the cultural assumptions that underpinned such a nostalgic identity have disappeared, he said.

Convictional or confused. The basis of cooperation among Southern Baptists must be a robust theology, Mohler said. Southern Baptists must not be afraid to discuss and even debate theology, he said. "If we avoid talking about theological issues, if we try to minimize the theological logic of this denomination ... or if we make every issue a first-order issue, we are going to have a very confused people," he said. "Southern Baptists are going to have to grow up theologically in this new age and we're not going to have any choice. Southern Baptists are no longer going to be insulated from the theological and ideological currents around us."

Secular or sectarian. Southern Baptists are sectarian by their very nature, Mohler said. Because of their allegiance to Christ and Scripture, he said that they should be qualitatively different than the world in their mores, ideology and convictions. In the mid-20th century South, Southern Baptists did not have to be sectarian because they were "at home" within that culture, Mohler said, but no longer.

"The South became the Sun Belt and the primary religion of the Sun Belt is materialism," he said. "We have gotten contamination from other worldviews and we are going to have to recover the sense that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is always, in a New Testament sense, sectarian. It is going to be made up of resident aliens who are never fully at home in the culture because the culture itself is a Genesis 3 culture and the church is called to a different worldview under allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ."

Younger or dead. The SBC, Mohler said, is losing two-thirds of its young people between adolescence and adulthood. He said Southern Baptists must reach the younger generation with a theologically robust vision of the Christian life to rescue them from a deadly therapeutic ethos that says God wants their lives to be worry-free, prosperous and happy.

Diverse or diminished. Mohler said studies show that by 2050, 25 percent of all Americans will have a Hispanic grandparent. The denomination will have to become more racially diverse to reach America, he said.

Missional or more methodological. "For a long time when you asked the question, 'Who is a Southern Baptist?' you got a methodological answer," Mohler said. "You got a certain historical answer, a certain minimal theological answer, but by and large, it was a methodological answer. By and large, that's not going to be an option in the future. The church is not methodological but is deployed for the cause of the Gospel."

More strategic or more anemic. Southern Baptists must update their missions strategy at every level. Local churches will have to become individual missiological units to reach their communities, Mohler said. A fast-changing world demands that Southern Baptist be constantly rethinking their missions strategy.

More bold or more boring. "This is a generation that is not going to be satisfied with boring," Mohler said. "The kind of boring logic which is the same thing being said in roughly the same way every time — no surprises — is simply not going to work because that's not the way the New Testament is. The mission of the Lord Jesus Christ is so bold that it can never be boring. ... This means we are going to have to take risks."

Happy or bitter. The SBC has gained a reputation for denominational crankiness, Mohler said, adding that Southern Baptists often seem upset, angry and frustrated even while claiming to be happy.

"Crankiness often erupts on the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention," he said. "We criticize people who are not even there. We raise issues as if this is where the SBC should direct its energies. ... The risk here is that we will be cranky in all the wrong ways. If we stand by the Scriptures, we are going to have to say hard things to a culture around us that will consider us backward, unloving, intolerant, while having to stand by the truth. ... We cannot afford to waste our energy on being cranky about things that are irrelevant and unhelpful and extraneous to the life of the SBC. When we gather together there had better be evident joy and there had better be a unity of purpose and a commonality of heart or people will stop coming."

Regarding the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists' unified giving plan, Mohler said the convention has perception problems and reality problems.

"We have problems in terms of the fact that we say we are sold out to missions and yet the closer you look at the actual infrastructure of the Southern Baptist Convention at every level and all the rest of you trace the dollars, only a small portion of that offering plate dollar ever gets close to the International Missions Board," he said. "It's a perception problem, but the closer you look it's also where we have a lead problem."

Mohler said Southern Seminary would not be viable without the money channeled through the Cooperative Program, but the plan in its current form is simply not enough.

"It's not enough for two reasons. Number one, as it's presented it sounds like our greatest goal is to cooperate. Well, the United States Army can have a Cooperative Program. This needs to be very clearly presented in both its ethos and its reality as a way of reaching the nations with the gospel of Christ, without having to explain what it is. Do we cooperate? Yes, and in 1925 (when the Cooperative Program was founded) the big question is whether the Southern Baptists are going to cooperate. The big question in 2009 is whether Southern Baptists are going to be relevant in the mission of God and the world.

"The second reason is because I just don't believe we're going to be able to tell Southern Baptist churches in a new age what you must do and how you must give," Mohler said. "We're going to have to at every level make sure that we are worthy of the support."

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach contributed to this article.)

8/24/2009 2:21:00 AM by By Jeff Robinson, Baptist Press | with 5 comments

Baptists studied board mergers since 1880

August 20 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Southern Baptists have been studying potential merger of their two mission boards off and on for nearly 130 years.

But in the first such study in 1880 and in separate committees and commissions in 1915, 1917, 1924, 1925, 1927, 1928, 1933, 1956-59 and 1995 the recommendation has been the same: keep the national and international mission boards separate.

Now, thanks to an informal proposal by the current chairman of the North American Mission Board; the president of NAMB’s Aug. 11 forced resignation; and work of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, such a merger is again bound to be considered: for at least the ninth time.

Archivist Bill Sumners of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives uncovered an unattributed document in a 1956 folder while looking for information at the request of the Biblical Recorder. The document appears to be a summation compiled for the Committee to Study the Total Southern Baptist Program initiated in 1956. It brought its report in 1959 and became known as the Branch Committee, after its chairman Doug Branch who was executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

The document lists various study committees and their reports. Each was considering the efficiencies of SBC operations, which were considerably different in the formative years than today. Various committees considered the combining or eliminating of certain operations, boards and agencies.

The SBC was founded in 1845 and just 35 years later members wondered if their mission boards should be combined since, “The work among the Indians in the Territory, and the Chinese of California bears as much resemblance to the work of the Foreign as the Home Board.”

That committee was instructed to consider the idea and report later during that same annual meeting.

The report urged state conventions to adopt “some system of co-operation with our Home Mission Board” to decrease the expense of collecting funds, and ultimately said, “We cannot, at present, recommend the consolidation.”

Efficiency has been a byword for all the studies. In 1915 the study committee even took the name The Commission on Efficiency.

It considered combining the mission boards. “But after canvassing the matter thoroughly, a vast majority of your Commission do not think it would be wise or expedient to consolidate the two Boards, either now or in the future,” its report said.

In 1917 a Committee on Consolidation took up the banner again. It decided that “in view of the diversity of opinions” and “the distressing conditions in our country, resulting from the world war,” that all boards of the Convention should “remain separate at present.”

A 1924 Committee on Correlation recommended the Home and Foreign mission boards “continue as now.” It also recommended that the Home Mission Board continue “in charge of the missionary work of the Southern Baptist Convention in Cuba and the Panama Canal Zone.”

1925 Convention action affirmed the 1924 committee report “that the Foreign Mission Board, Home Mission Board, Inter-Board Commission work in student activities, Sunday School Board, Relief and Annuity Board and the Laymen’s Work be continued as at present.”

In 1927 messengers assigned the SBC Executive Committee to “make a complete survey of the work of the Convention and its agencies.” It was to consider each department of work and its financial condition and whether new work should be started or current work discontinued.

Its larger task was to find “a mutually satisfactory basis…for the division of funds between Southwide and state objects in the annual Cooperative Program.”

This also took the name Committee on Efficiency when it brought its report in 1928, and recommended that “the Home Mission Board continue as it is at present organized.”

Virginia Baptists brought to the Convention in 1933 a “memorial” asking the Executive Committee to “look carefully into the question of consolidating our three theological seminaries and the mission work of our two mission boards.”

The introduction to this memorial said “the financial condition of the missionary and education agencies and institutions is, in our judgment, destined to grow steadily worse, unless a new and better co-operation between the several State Conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention can be arranged, or, failing in this, the elimination of some of the Convention activities.”

In response, the Committee on the Virginia Memorial said it would be “unwise to disturb the minds of Southern Baptists by upsetting in any way the machinery of our denominational agencies.” In addition, a growing population and the “legal complications” sure to arise from “combining or moving trust funds,” prompted no changes to be recommended.

The committee did say, however: “We feel that the states that participate in the Cooperative Program, since they make their appeal for all benevolent contributions mainly on the strength of our missionary work, that a more equitable division of funds for Statewide and Southwide causes should be adhered to. We recommend that a fifty-fifty basis be adopted hereafter if possible and that contributions to preferred causes be discontinued wherever possible.”

The committee lamented that “churches of the South are not averaging 10 percent of their funds to state and Southwide causes. This is the major weakness in our financial system and will, if not corrected effect the complete ruin of all state and Southwide causes, and that very soon.”

The Branch Committee, reporting 26 years later, would make recommendations for increased cooperation between the Home Mission Board and state conventions, but again, recommended that the HMB continue as a separate board.

"Though some have suggested the consolidation of the Foreign Mission Board and the Home Mission Board we are convinced that such a union would compromise two different missiological strategies and confuse our missions vision," said the final report of the 1995 Program and Structure Study committee chaired by Mark Brister.



8/20/2009 3:53:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 5 comments

Ex-NAMB leader encourages urgency

August 20 2009 by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Baptist Press

ATLANTA — A week after resigning as president of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), Geoff Hammond said he is glad to have played a role in helping Southern Baptists “live with urgency” in reaching the continent for Christ.

His remarks provide the first public response since the day-long meeting of the NAMB trustee board that led to the resignations of Hammond and three of his close associates.

“The events as they unfolded last Tuesday (Aug. 11) were a shock to me. Although I am not at liberty to discuss the details, needless to say my resignation was not for moral, ethical or fiduciary responsibility but there were methodological differences,” Hammond told the TEXAN in an e-mail he also made available to Baptist Press. “I still feel God led me to the North American Mission Board for a purpose — to help Southern Baptists see North America as a mission field and to live with urgency reaching this continent for Christ.”

Board chairman Tim Patterson of Florida would not elaborate on the cause of the disagreement with Hammond, stating in Aug. 11 remarks that they “worked through some very difficult issues” and “carried out their responsibilities today in a way that has been honorable, thorough and fair.”

Patterson thanked Southern Baptists for their prayers and appealed for God’s guidance, adding “NAMB will play a key part in the Southern Baptist effort to reach North America for Christ.”

Hammond was elected president by a unanimous vote of the NAMB board in March 2007 following a nine-month search to replace the previous president, Robert E. Reccord, who resigned as president in April 2006, citing “honest philosophical and methodological differences.”

In response to questions posed by the TEXAN, Hammond noted: “Just the week before we hosted our State Summer Leadership meeting with state (convention) partners. In talking with hundreds of those partners, I felt we had incredible momentum and synergy and were set to have one of our greatest years ever. One of the greatest joys of my life was to lead NAMB as we created, developed and introduced the national evangelism initiative to Southern Baptists, GPS — God’s Plan for Sharing.

“However, despite what occurred, I am still grateful to have had an opportunity to influence Southern Baptists to reach North America for Christ and to help them understand that it will take missionary thinking and practices to achieve that goal. I praise the Lord that Southern Baptists are still so mission minded and we are still planting a new church in North America every six hours,” he said.

“Southern Baptists have some of the most effective servants of the Lord in their North American missionaries and partners.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)


8/20/2009 1:17:00 AM by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

800-plus profess Christ at Sturgis rally

August 19 2009 by Keith Collier, Baptist Press

STURGIS, S.D. — As motorcycle engines roared, more than 4,200 leather-clad motorcyclists and their friends at the 69th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally heard a three-minute testimony of how Christ could radically change their lives. Just for listening, they also were given a chance to win a brand new, black Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

For the fourth year in a row, the Sturgis Motorcycle Giveaway sponsored by the Dakota Baptist Convention (DBC) and North American Mission Board (NAMB) used volunteers from across the nation to give personal testimonies Aug. 3-8 about how they met Christ and to invite rally-goers to invite Him into their lives. By the end of the week, 835 people made professions of faith in Jesus Christ.

Photo by Randy Hughes

Thousands of motorcycles, their riders and onlookers fill the streets for the 69th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, attended by an estimated 400,000 bikers and wannabes from across the nation. See related story.

For one week in August each year, the small, quiet towns of the South Dakota Black Hills transform as approximately 500,000 motorcyclists and wannabes descend on the region for the bike rally. The atmosphere promotes raucous parties and sinful living, but it is into such darkness that God calls Christians to shine the light of Christ.

In 2006, the DBC decided to do something about the sea of lostness.

“We talked about wanting to put together some kind of intentional evangelism event at Sturgis,” Garvon Golden, the convention’s associate executive director, said. “We felt that if our two states are drawing such a large crowd of people from all over the world, we have the responsibility to try to share Christ with these folks and have some type of evangelistic presence.”

Partnering with evangelist Ronnie Hill of Texas, the DBC staff decided to use the motorcycle giveaway to draw people to the booth so the staff and volunteers from the Dakotas and across the nation would have the opportunity to share the Gospel.

“You have to start with relevance,” Golden said. “You have to start with something that’s going to get their attention, something that’s going to make them stop and say, ‘Yeah, I’ll listen to you for three minutes.’”

Regardless of his or her response to the testimony, each individual was allowed to fill out a raffle ticket for the Harley.

“Our main focus is to share with people the gospel,” Golden said. “We have no problem with Christians signing up for the motorcycle. We just want to be able to share with people who have never heard the gospel and we try to make sure we have an opportunity to do that.”

Photo by Randy Hughes

“Give me three minutes, just three minutes, to tell you my story,” a volunteer in the Dakota Baptist Convention’s evangelism tent at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally seems to be saying to a young woman whose body language says, “Yeah? Why should I?” See related story

Jim Pratt, area missionary for the Siouxland Association of Southern Baptists in eastern South Dakota, said each witnessing opportunity was a chance to plant a seed.

“I was hellbound and was going to bust hell wide open, and God used some people in a similar fashion to love me, and their love allowed me to hear the message,” Pratt said. “Up to that point, I wouldn’t listen to the message because I didn’t feel that it was genuine. So, I’m hoping that people will see that we’re genuine.

“Sometimes people are hurting, and they don’t realize it,” Pratt said. “They’re trying to find satisfaction in everything but Christ — whether it’s motorcycles, alcohol, drugs or relationships — but the only satisfying relationship is with Christ.”

David Badger, a member of the F.A.I.T.H. Riders Motorcycle Ministry, saw Sturgis with new eyes this year as he shared Christ with people who came to the booth. Although he had been to the rally many times before, this was the first year he came as a Christian.

“This is the first year I’ve come with Christ in my heart,” Badger said. “The other years I came, I should have been one of the ones walking into this tent. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’ve done alcohol. I’ve chased women. I didn’t care about people. Now I care about them.”

Follow-up for those who prayed to receive Christ is a high priority for Golden and his team. Names are sent to the Evangelism Response Center at NAMB, which in turn sends the names to churches in the areas where the people live. Golden also sends names to state evangelism directors.

This year, Calvary Baptist Church in Rapid City, S.D., hosted three evening events during Sturgis designed to encourage and disciple new believers. Sponsored by several Set Free churches in the Dakotas, Montana and Colorado, these events provided a Christian environment with free food, music and a discipleship-based message.

The DBC enlisted nearly 200 volunteers to help with this year’s rally. Several state conventions, including the Georgia Baptist Convention, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and the Conservative Baptists of Virginia, offered financial support, and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma sent trained chaplains to minister to and pray with vendors throughout the week.

Golden said he is thankful for the support of Southern Baptists from across the country and is excited about the growing number of churches and individuals from the Dakotas who volunteered.

“One of the things that we’re hoping to see happen over the next few years is that more of the people from our own churches in the Dakotas will become involved in the ministry,” Golden said. “I’m looking for the day when we can devote two full days of just Dakota people working the booth and sharing Christ. We’ve already been talking about that among our regional and area missionaries to try to pull people from our own churches to be a part.”

David Kirchoff, a 23-year-old college student from Gillette, Wyo., won the motorcycle.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Collier writes for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. To learn more about the motorcycle ministry, visit

See related story

8/19/2009 5:27:00 AM by Keith Collier, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Ministry to bikers conveys gospel message

August 19 2009 by Baptist Press

STURGIS, S.D. — Groups from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and LifeWay Christian Resources were among those ministering in Christ’s name at the 69th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.

Students and faculty from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary joined the Hellfighters Motorcycle Ministry in street evangelism, bike parking and a free gas giveaway July 31-Aug. 8 in order to share Christ with bikers from around the world who attended the rally.

“It was awesome to see so many groups, from different walks of life, partnering together to share the gospel for the week,” Adam Covington, a recent Southwestern graduate and president of the Hellfighters chapter in Fort Worth Texas, said.

BP photo

Hellfighter and Southwestern Seminary alumnus Adam Covington shares the gospel with teenagers during the 69th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. See related story.

“We had bikers, seminary students and church members on their first mission trip ever, all here with the same mission: to seek out the lost and introduce them to Jesus Christ. It doesn’t get more exciting than that.”

Hellfighters, founded by Richard and Gina Headrick in Laurel, Miss., runs The Mission at the Cross, a facility used to meet the physical, mental and spiritual needs of the underprivileged. Located only blocks from downtown Sturgis, the mission served as a base for ministry for 130 volunteers during the week.

Teams traveled on motorcycles and in cars to various stops in the Black Hills to engage people in personal evangelism. The region boasts many popular, scenic rides and towns, including Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, the Badlands and Deadwood. At stops along each of the routes, teams passed out gospel tracts and Bibles as they shared Christ.

Hellfighters also operated a parking lot in downtown Sturgis, where bikers could park for a donation. As people parked their motorcycles, students and volunteers shared Christ with them. Donations were given to the Mission at the Cross and local churches to use in ministry to children and the homeless throughout the year.

On Aug. 7, Hellfighters sponsored a gas giveaway at a station in downtown Sturgis. After purchasing $1,000 worth of gas, they filled up people’s bikes as they shared the gospel with them.

Photo by Keith Collier

Southwestern Seminary student Michael Martin shares the gospel with a biker as Blane Jeffords, a Hellfighter from Jacksonville, Fla., pumps gas during a free gas giveaway during the 69th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. See related story.

When people asked why they would give away free gas, teams responded, “We want to show you God’s love. Just like we are freely paying for your gas, Jesus Christ freely gave His life to pay the debt of your sins.” More than 20 people prayed to receive Christ during the gas giveaway.

Keith Burkhart of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma said God moved among more than 50 chaplains from Oklahoma who volunteered at the bike rally.

For the fourth year in a row, the Sturgis Motorcycle Giveaway used volunteers from across the nation to give personal testimonies about how they met Christ and to ask rally-goers to invite Him into their lives. By the end of the week, 835 people made professions of faith in Jesus Christ. Just for listening to a testimony, everyone was given a chance to win a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

“The decisions in the evangelism tent weren’t quite as high as they have been, but we had more than 800 for the week and more than 4,300 Gospel presentations,” Burkhart, a family and men’s ministries specialist, said. “Out of that, our Oklahoma folks led 149 people to the Lord.”

Burkhart was among a large group of F.A.I.T.H. Riders who received training as chaplains and then worked in Sturgis, Custer, Keystone and Hill City during the week ministering to vendors, rally attendees and local residents.

“Our chaplain work made me a believer,” Burkhart said. “I was a bit unsure of the difference we would make, let’s say, at the beginning, but in the end, I was blown away by the impact it made. People’s lives were touched, and it really showed me how valuable chaplaincy is.

“We went into Custer, Keystone and Hill City and of course worked the streets of Sturgis as well. We ministered to a lot of local of people and we won those little communities over. It was so special. We were so well received in the stores and out in the street.”

The ministry expanded into a local hospital when a vendor in Custer had a need.

“One of the vendors in Custer had an emergency situation, so we spent some time with her,” Burkhart said. “She said, ‘We do the circuit, travel all around and do all the motorcycle shows, and we’ve been around various motorcycle ministries, but you guys are just different and so much better.’ We got a lot of great compliments like that.”

Burkhart said as exciting as it was to see how the ministry changed the lives of those in South Dakota, it was just as exciting to see how it changed the lives of the Oklahomans who went.

“The most exciting thing was seeing people lead someone to Christ for the very first time and what it did to change their life,” he said. “We had several who had never led anyone to the Lord before who led up to 15 to the Lord that week, and they’re changed forever.”

Don Hunter, pastor of Grand Boulevard Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, led the Oklahoma chaplaincy ministry to Sturgis for the third straight year.

“God was awesome to us,” he said. “The numbers were down as far as decisions go, but the vendors were happy. People were busier this year. And we were up in the number of people we were able to contact.”

Hunter said the number of overall contacts made by the chaplains increased by at least 200 over last year, although he was still compiling his report.

He said the chaplains’ impact was immediate this year as they talked with vendors and other people.

“We had a lot of requests to pray with folks on the spot, not just to take a prayer request to do later. They asked us, ‘Will you pray with me right now?’

“Also, a good third of them wanted to talk about the Lord as we went about our daily encouraging with them,” Hunter said. “Our work went beyond the usual seed planting that we usually do and moved into the actual harvesting stage this year. We had some folks who really got on fire for the Lord during the week.”

Hunter said the door is opening wider every year.

“I had calls from at least a half dozen vendors before the rally even started wanting to know if we were going to be there this year. They wanted to see us again. It’s encouraging to know they want us there every year.”

Photo by Randy Hughes

A LifeWay volunteer shows one of the 3,000 Biker New Testaments that was donated to two young men. LifeWay employees paid for the Bibles and sent 15 volunteers to help. See related story.

Ron Chandler and Mark King of LifeWay Christian Resources led a team of 16 employees on a mission trip to Sturgis for the motorcycle rally. Six of them rode their motorcycles up to South Dakota, and three of the team members loaded their motorcycles on a trailer for the trip.

The LifeWay group worked in the Sturgis Motorcycle Giveaway tent sponsored by the Dakota Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board. The team also prayerwalked the streets of Sturgis for a couple of hours each day and gave away 3,000 Biker New Testaments paid for by contributions from LifeWay employees.

Chandler, manager of the direct sales section at LifeWay, first heard about the ministry a couple of years ago and attended by himself. Last year, he took King, director of LifeWay’s direct marketing department.

“We came back and talked it up, and several other people started getting excited about going, and it just kind of mushroomed from there,” Chandler said.

The two men tried to prepare the team for what to expect, but Chandler said the other members still were surprised by how warmly the crowd embraced their efforts.

“I think they were surprised at the number of people who came into the tent and the positive responses they got from the people,” he said. “Everybody since they’ve come back has expressed the feeling that they had a really good experience, and I’d say most of them want to go back next year.”

LifeWay, marking the first time it had sent a team to minister at the rally, paid half the cost of the trip and allowed the employees time off work.

“It was a really good trip. We had a good experience,” Chandler said. “The one thing I think we didn’t prepare them well for was the intensity of the three-hour shifts.

“When you’re in the tent, it’s one person after another coming in and you’re sharing with them,” guiding them in prayer or getting them signed up for the giveaway,” he said, “and as soon as you’re finished with one, there’s somebody else there waiting for you. Three hours sounds like a short shift, but it’s very intense.”

(EDITOR’S NOTES — Based on reports from Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Bob Nigh of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger and Erin Roach of Baptist Press.)

See related story
8/19/2009 4:42:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘City Uprising’ service projects blitz NYC

August 18 2009 by Joe Westbury, Baptist Press

NEW YORK — Rubbing graffiti from a public school desktop, scraping chewing gum from under a table, preparing a wall for painting or enlisting individuals for HIV testing may not sound like the best way to spend a few vacation days, but that’s how some people put feet to their faith this summer.

On a Monday leading up to the Fourth of July weekend, Beth McCart found herself in the Bronx, putty knife and can of spackle in hand, as she filled holes in a wall in a clinic that provides mentoring support to children of parents living with HIV/AIDS.

A few miles away in the heart of Manhattan, college student Sarah Beth Clark was painting a stairwell in a four-story apartment building. And over in Harlem, Jim Bass and Hill Boyett were standing on a sidewalk passing out brochures and encouraging passersby to enter a clinic for free HIV testing.

The volunteers from Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon, Ga., and First Baptist Church of Snellville, Ga., were among 270 volunteers from several states who responded to a call to minister in the five boroughs of New York City. The outreach was sponsored by Gallery Church, an up-and-coming inner city congregation sponsored by Ingleside and others nationwide.

Photo by Joe Westbury/Christian Index

Rich Walker of Belle Aire Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., scrapes gum from under a desk as part of “City Uprising,” a community service event sponsored by Gallery Church in New York City.

Gallery’s pastor, Aaron Coe, and his staff worked for most of the past year to identify ministry sites throughout the city where volunteers could provide community service in the name of Christ. Georgians who participated said seeds were sown that will help the church develop a higher profile among those with whom they served.

“Events like ‘City Uprising’ — what we are calling this week’s outreach — have a strong future with our congregation,” Coe said as he drove between ministry sites citywide. “We already have dates for 2010 on the calendar and are hoping to have even larger groups from Georgia and other states next summer.”

In addition to the New York event, the congregation sponsored a similar City Uprising in late July in Baltimore, where the church has planted a second congregation.

“Whether we are scraping gum or performing arts ministry in Central Park, we are leaving New Yorkers with a sense of the presence of Gallery Church and that we love them but, more importantly, Jesus loves them. That’s the bottom line in what we are wanting to accomplish,” Coe, a Kentucky native, added.

Gallery members were scattered among more than 40 ministry sites the first week of July. Among the most grateful were the health clinics that strive to test residents for HIV/AIDS. Coe said he and other members determined the clinics were ideal places for the volunteers to offer their services.

The spread of HIV/AIDS is explosive in portions of New York City. The Bronx, with an estimated 20,000 cases, has the highest death rate of any of the five boroughs because of the poverty among minority populations such as Hispanics and Latinos. The sharing of needles through widespread drug use spreads the virus as much as unprotected sex.

“We discovered that one of the biggest needs of the clinics was to get people in off the streets to receive the free tests. So many individuals are living with the disease and have never been tested. ... You can’t do an adequate job of stopping the spread of the disease if those who have it do not change their risky behavior,” Coe said.

“The clinics are there to help the physical need, but we want to be there to help with the spiritual care that comes when individuals are told they are HIV positive. There is probably no greater life-changing event for some people than to be told they have the virus. We, as the church, feel we need to be there when an individual’s world suddenly changes when they get that diagnosis,” Coe said. “We want to be part of that conversation when people begin to ask the hard questions about life.”

The volunteers provided a simple yet priceless community service. They stood on sidewalks and handed out leaflets urging individuals to stop briefly for a free HIV screening. At some point, if the opportunity presented itself, they said they were from a local church and invited people to attend a worship service.

The clinics test up to 10 individuals in an average month, while providing other services. When they are given funding to pay someone to distribute the leaflets, they may administer 10 tests a day. But experience has shown that when volunteers from Gallery pass out the leaflets, the clinics test up to 40 a day, Coe said.

There was more to City Uprising than HIV testing. Volunteers worked in public schools to move furniture and scrape bubble gum, paint walls in social services centers like Health People in the South Bronx, and provide arts ministries in Central Park and Battery Park, overlooking the harbor and the Statue of Liberty.

Wherever they went, volunteers told strangers about Gallery’s ministry and invited them to attend worship services or small group meetings. Jonathan Rich, pastor of the arts at Atlanta’s 1027 Church, was right at home engaging tourists and city residents in conversation about art in some of the city’s parks.

Armed with a simple notepad and pencil, he asked individuals to make a quick sketch and to explain what they attempted to draw. Then he invited them to visit the church later that week when the sketch and others from throughout the city would be displayed as community art.

“New York City is very arts-centered and people love to view and discuss art in various forms. Gallery’s presence in one of the arts neighborhoods plays into that and is a natural way to reach into the community,” Rich said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention. For more information on Gallery Church or next year’s “City Uprising,” visit

8/18/2009 9:55:00 AM by Joe Westbury, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

One tomato at a time, church seeks change

August 18 2009 by Dawn Ferguson, Baptist Press

OLD HICKORY, Tenn. — Members of First Baptist Church in Old Hickory, Tenn., plowed ground and sowed seeds this past spring in anticipation of a harvest of zucchini, squash, lettuce, radishes — and relationships.

It all started a little over a year ago as part of the church’s refocusing effort, Pastor Jud Hays said. A community needs task force started looking for ways God wanted the congregation to reach out into the community in a practical way. Originally, the thought was to grow a garden to provide food for the needy.

First Baptist member Tina Waller spearheaded the task force and worked diligently to make the garden happen.

“There’s a big sunny field across the street from the church that the church owns and wasn’t being used,” Waller said. “With the economy like it is, it just seemed like a good time to do something like this. We weren’t sure how many people would get involved, if any. But we thought we could just raise produce and take the excess to our community help center if nothing else.”

As it turns out, the community responded in a big way. All 30 of the garden plots currently are claimed, and more people want to know how to get involved.

As the garden grows, so are the relationships among the neighbors. Twenty-one of the 30 plots are being used by people who are not members of First Baptist.

One of those individuals is Laura Gore, who has lived in the area about three years.

“I love the community aspect of the garden,” Gore said, who has enjoyed sharing radishes with her co-workers. “We’re helping each other by taking care of each other’s plots when we’re away, and we’re meeting our neighbors and coming together more.”

Photo by Dawn Ferguson

Tina Waller and James Askins, members of the community needs task force of First Baptist Church, Old Hickory, examine the “fruit” of their labor in the church’s community garden.

Gore, who has visited several churches in the area but doesn’t have a church home, said that now when she walks her dog in the neighborhood, she speaks to more of her neighbors and stops and shares with them along the way.

Most of those participating in the garden are novices. So Waller has brought in master gardeners and representatives of the Davidson County Extension Office. They also have offered classes on composting and other gardening techniques and plan to follow those up with classes on canning and preserving.

Most of the homes in Old Hickory are located close together and, as a result, not many of the residents have a suitable garden location. That has contributed to the success of the church’s community garden.

Cindy Hudson, who moved to Old Hickory two years ago from Los Angeles, said she has no sunlight in her yard. “I just love the community spirit of all this,” said Hudson, who grew up in a Baptist church but no longer attends. “It’s so much fun. Every time I come here, there’s somebody else working, and we stop and share about what we’re doing and tell each other what’s going on.”

Heather Throneberry had never gardened in her life, but as the mother of a 21-month-old child she’s become more interested in organic products. “I’m originally from Ohio, so I had to plant corn,” she said.

Throneberry, who attends the Old Hickory Church of Christ, said she called her mother to learn more about what she should plant and how. Her mother suggested the “three sister’s mix” — a stalk of corn with beans growing up the stalk and squash planted at the base. Throneberry was excited to see four-inch ears of corn on her stalks.

In fact, everyone’s excited, according to James Askins, who’s lived in the community about three years and is a member of the church’s task force. “I’m here about two times a day, and there’s always someone here working and it’s just fun to stop and share with each other,” he said.

About twice a week, Askins runs a water hose from the church and fills the two water tanks that were donated for the garden. Each tank takes about an hour to fill. “One of the guys who’s got a plot here is a friend of someone with our fire department,” Askins said. “They’ve actually volunteered to come over and start filling up our tanks. It’s exciting to me to see the community spirit that this small piece of land has generated.”

Waller, who was laid off in March, has worked hard to solicit the community’s support. She worked to get the water tanks donated, as well as a composter, wood chips and landscape fabric. As the garden started blooming, she and others worked on a fence to keep out four-legged critters.

Askins has been doing his own pest control naturally by combining garlic and hot pepper sauce and spraying it around the garden. “It irritates the critters,” he said.

One Thursday night, as many of the gardeners were tending their plots, Askins was telling them about an upcoming blood drive at the church. “I’ll be there,” one gardener hollered across her plot. “I’m O-negative.” “Me too,” said another.”

The church is out to change the community “one tomato at a time,” Waller said.

For more information about First Baptist, Old Hickory’s garden ministry, visit and click on the community garden link.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ferguson is a correspondent for the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)

8/18/2009 9:53:00 AM by Dawn Ferguson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NAMB task force dissolved

August 17 2009 by Mike Ebert, NAMB

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — A North American Mission Board (NAMB) task force commissioned by former NAMB president Geoff Hammond is being dissolved, but members have been asked to be available for input and involvement as NAMB leaders ask key questions about the effectiveness of the entities evangelism and church planting efforts.

North Carolina Baptist State Convention Executive Director-treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. is a member of the task force.

Hammond announced the task force — originally called the North American Great Commission Task Force — in May saying it would “study the actions and activities that will impact this continent for Christ in more effective ways.” When members of the task force met for the first working meeting July 28, they decided to change the name in order to avoid being confused with the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force which messengers to the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville voted to approve in June.

Under the new name — North American Missiological Task Force — the 30-member group discussed areas it would study and how it would go about reporting its progress publicly.

With Hammond’s August 11 resignation, the Missiological Task Force is being dissolved, but NAMB’s current acting interim president, Richard Harris, and LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer, who served as a co-facilitator as the task force, have asked members of the group to keep a future webinar meeting date open on their calendar so the group can have input into the direction of NAMB’s church planting and evangelism efforts.

“This is a critical time for NAMB,” Harris said. “It is essential for us to look at our church planting and evangelism areas and ask, ‘What is our current involvement? What is working? What is not?’”

With that in mind, Stetzer, in his role as LifeWay Research president, will work with NAMB staff to embark on a study of NAMB’s church planting and evangelism efforts. “We will then share this information with NAMB’s current and future leadership, as well as the GCR Task Force,” Harris said.

Stetzer said he thinks the research will play a helpful role.

“Facts are our friends. I’m glad to be working with NAMB to look at where we are so we all can think more clearly about where we need to be.”

Stetzer will meet with NAMB evangelism and church planting staff Aug. 18 to begin identifying specific areas to be studied. “NAMB has done good work in many areas, but it is always good to take a fresh look at what we are doing and what can be done better.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ebert is on the communications staff at NAMB.)


8/17/2009 6:17:00 AM by Mike Ebert, NAMB | with 0 comments

3 pastors killed, 20 churches demolished in Nigeria

August 17 2009 by Baptist Press

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Twelve Christians, including three pastors, were killed and 20 churches were demolished in Nigeria amid escalating religiously motivated violence, prompting a call for government intervention.

Conflicts between Christians and Muslims have gone largely unchecked by the Nigerian government, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) this year placed the African nation on its list of “countries of particular concern.”

International Christian Concern (ICC), a U.S.-based human rights group, is asking people to sign a petition calling on Nigerian officials to bring perpetrators to justice and work to prevent further attacks. The petition is accessible at ICC also is asking concerned citizens to contact the Nigerian Embassy in Washington at (202) 986-8400.

In a report Aug. 6, ICC said the attacks that occurred July 26 in Maiduguri were instigated by Boko Haram, a group that opposes Western education and fights to impose sharia law throughout Nigeria, including areas that are largely Christian.

Sabo Yakubu, a husband, father of seven and pastor of a Church of Christ congregation, was hacked to death by a machete, ICC said. Also killed were Sylvester Akpan, pastor of National Evangelical Mission, and George Orji, pastor of Good News of Christ Church.

“Mohammed Yusuf, the Islamic sect leader who initially said their targets were government property and security agencies, later changed and started setting ablaze churches and killing pastors who had nothing to do with their activities,” Yuguda Zubagai Ndurvuwa, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said in a statement reported by ICC.

In the fighting, 700 people including police, Islamic militants and civilians were killed. In the city of Potiskum, Islamists attacked First Baptist Church and Church of the Brethren, burning musical instruments and sound systems before being chased away by police, ICC said.

Since 2002, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has been on USCIRF’s watch list because of a significant pattern of restrictions on religious freedom. Since 1999, more than 10,000 Nigerians reportedly have been killed in “sectarian and communal attacks and reprisals between Muslims and Christians,” USCIRF said. Local groups have clashed over issues steeped in tribal identity, religion and land.

“The response of the government to such violence, particularly bringing perpetrators to justice, continues to remain inadequate,” the commission said.

Last fall, at least 12 Nigerian Baptists were killed and five Baptist churches were burned during riots sparked by local election results in Jos. Southern Baptist International Mission Board (IMB) workers in the area worked alongside several Nigerian Baptist congregations to comfort and house victims of the violence.

More than 300 people were reported killed and thousands were injured in the riots while dozens of churches, mosques, businesses and homes were burned. At least 10,000 people were displaced because of several days of violence in Jos, which is located between Nigeria’s largely Christian south and Muslim north, USCIRF said.

“One Baptist church lost five members and one deacon. At least one pastor’s home was burned down. It was a very, very sad day,” a local Baptist pastor said in a report released by the IMB in December.

In March and April, a USCIRF delegation traveled to Nigeria to assess religious freedom conditions and expressed concern over the expansion of sharia law into the criminal codes of several northern Nigeria states.

Since October 1999, 12 northern Nigerian states have expanded or announced plans to expand the application of sharia law in their states’ criminal law, USCIRF said. Punishments include amputation, flogging or death by stoning, often after trials that fall short of basic international legal standards.

Women have faced particular discrimination under the sharia codes, USCIRF said, and Christians in the northern states have complained of being viewed as second-class citizens.

“In addition, there continue to be reports of foreign sources of funding and support for Islamist extremist activities in northern Nigeria, activities that threaten to fracture the already fragile relations between the two main religious groups,” USCIRF said.

Despite evidence of mistreatment, the Nigerian government has done little to address sectarian and communal violence, including no serious efforts to investigate or prosecute perpetrators.

“There are reports of specific instances of failures to heed warning signs of violence on the part of various government leaders, and failures on the part of federal police to respond effectively and appropriately — at times, if at all — to violence once it has erupted,” USCIRF said.

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

8/17/2009 3:20:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 1 comments

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