August 2009

NCMO: ‘Love your neighbor’

August 10 2009 by Melissa Lilley, Baptist State Convention Communications

CARY — North Carolina Baptists are one month away from the annual statewide missions emphasis and the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO). This offering supports ministries that help local churches in their efforts to boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. N.C. Baptist Men, mission camps, new church plants and local associations all benefit from the NCMO.

 “I wish it was possible for more North Baptists to hear the amazing stories of how God is using our ministries that are funded through the NCMO to relieve hurting people and bring salvation to lost individuals,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) executive director-treasurer. “It is not possible to do all that is being done in disaster relief and the planting of international churches without the prayer and financial support North Carolina Baptists give to the NCMO.”

Mike Creswell, the BSC staffer who coordinates NCMO promotion, said, “NCMO enables North Carolina Baptists to collectively put an arm around hurting people and help in the name of Jesus Christ — not with words alone, but with substantial help — help like building a new house or giving out food.”
This year’s goal is $2.1 million. The theme for the offering and Week of Prayer Sept. 13-20 is “Love your neighbor.”

“In the second Great Commandment Jesus commanded us to ‘love your neighbor.’ There is no better way to love your North Carolina neighbors than to sacrificially give so that they can hear the life-changing message of the gospel,” said Chuck Register, executive group leader for church planting and missions development.  

N.C. Baptist Men take this life-changing gospel across North Carolina, the United States and to international mission fields.

“All of our program budget comes from the NCMO,” said Richard Brunson, Baptist Men executive director-treasurer. Baptist Men are known for their work in disaster relief. Earlier this year Baptist Men volunteers, with help from 31 churches in the Johnston Baptist Association, college students and other area churches, built a new home for a family in Kenly after a tornado ripped apart their mobile home. In 2008 NC Baptist Men responded to disasters such as an ice storm in Oklahoma, floods in Iowa, and in Texas, volunteers settled for weeks to help after Hurricane Ike.

Last year more than 2,000 volunteers worked out of the Red Springs Mission Camp in Robeson County.

“Thousands of Baptist volunteers are working in a six-county area to build or repair houses, teach Bible stories to kids and share the love of Christ in many ways,” Creswell said. “The new mission camp being built this year in Shelby will provide the same kind of missions muscle there in a few months. This is a great new way to do missions and it’s your giving to the NCMO that makes it possible.”

Brunson said the NCMO helps make it possible for “North Carolina Baptists to be involved in missions wherever that takes them.” This year volunteers served with churches and ministries in Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Montana and Wyoming. Volunteers also traveled internationally to places such as Ukraine to work with a Gypsy church.

Church planting is critical to carrying out the Great Commission. A new church start is three times more effective than an existing church in reaching out to nonbelievers, and in 2008, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) helped start 108 new churches across the state. A third of the state’s population are members of an ethnic minority group, and last year the BSCNC helped start 26 new Hispanic churches and 17 new Asian churches.

“The 2009 NCMO is critical in providing ministry resources designed to reach the 4.5 million residents of North Carolina who do not have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We need every North Carolina Baptist to give both generously and sacrificially,” Register said.

Visit for offering resources such as lessons for children, prayer guides and videos. Call (800) 395-5102 ext. 5539 or e-mail for more information.
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8/10/2009 10:39:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, Baptist State Convention Communications | with 1 comments

Young people ‘Reach Rowan’

August 10 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Brent Barker, associational missionary for Rowan Southern Baptist Association, has plenty of reasons to be excited about Reach Rowan, an outreach effort July 18-22 in Rowan County:
  • 48 teams of teenagers going door-to-door.
  • More than 7,500 contacts made.
  • More than 1,700 surveys completed.
  • More than 1,000 times the gospel was shared.
  • 134 salvation decisions.
  • Seven “Parties in the Park.”
  • Two basketball camps.
  • Three evangelistic rallies at the local civic center.
  • 28 churches involved.
  • 19 bus and van drivers driving more than 3,000 miles in three days.
But the number that gets Barker the most excited is 15. That’s the number of teenagers who led someone to the Lord for the first time.

“That blesses me,” he said.

Contributed photo

Rowan Southern Baptist Association receives funds through the North Carolina Missions Offering to help with outreach projects like Reach Rowan. View photo gallery.

Barker said a 12-year-old boy led a 68-year-old man to Christ.

The excitement from the event is continuing, with young people continuing to visit homes.

“It’s neat to see these kids excited about sharing their faith,” Barker said. “It’s kind of contagious.”

The association is already planning for a similar event next year. This year’s event took more than a year to plan.

Barker said the association emphasized prayer last year.

“All these fruits of the events are a direct result of God’s people asking Him to do a special work,” he said.

Seventeen of the churches were from Rowan County; two from Forsyth; seven from Yadkin; one from Gaston; and one from Davie. Barker said Union Grove Baptist Church in Yadkinville, which has worked on similar efforts in previous years, helped with planning.

Kenny Gooden, pastor at Union Grove, said about 85 people from the church participated.

“It’s something our church does every year in a different location,” he said.

Union Grove members had some family connections in Rowan County that made it a good fit for this year’s effort, he said.

“It was really a great week,” he said. “They want to do the same thing in our community.”

Related stories
NCMO: 'Love Your Neighbor'
Young people 'Reach Rowan' (photo gallery)
For Hmong believers, Jesus is only sacrifice
Ed Tablazon reaches Filipinos in Triad
Koreans part of N.C. international flavor
8/10/2009 10:32:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

IMB conference focuses on deaf

August 7 2009 by Emilee Brandon, Baptist Press

IMB photo

Tex and Margaret Winsome* were among the eight international missionaries commissioned in July during the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf annual meeting at Ridgecrest Conference Center.

RIDGECREST — A sometimes forgotten people group has stepped into the spotlight as one of the International Mission Board’s (IMB) affinity groups.

The Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf celebrated this milestone, along with its first commissioning service honoring eight IMB missionaries during its annual meeting at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center July 26.

Seven of the missionaries were recommissioned to another term of service, and the eighth is going to the mission field after short-term volunteer service.

The missionaries are among more than 5,600 Southern Baptist personnel worldwide, including 32 missionaries who use sign languages from various countries to share the gospel with deaf people. Of the 32, eight are deaf.

The deaf are one of nine affinity groups — large groups of related peoples that share similar origins, languages and cultures — outlined in the IMB’s reorganization.

Matthew and Virginia Stuart,* veteran missionaries and deaf affinity group leaders, want to recruit deaf people to serve in ministry, empower them to reach deaf communities and then go to places with the most need. Within five years, they hope to increase the number of missionaries to the deaf to 200, including at least 150 deaf workers.

“We are committed to ... lead efforts to bring Christ to every corner of the deaf world,” Matthew said.

The identification of the deaf as an affinity group has not only opened doors for more outreach to the deaf, it also has opened the hearts of deaf who never thought they could or would be involved in missions.

“When we first moved to Russia, deaf Russians told us they couldn’t have a deaf church,” Tex Winsome,* one of the missionaries commissioned at the service, said through sign language. “When we asked them why, the answer was always, ‘The hearing people tell us we can’t because God doesn’t call invalids into ministry.’”

Tex and his wife Margaret* have spent more than seven years trying to discourage this mentality.

“We planted a deaf church, and as a result, three more deaf churches have been established,” Tex said.

IMB photo

IMB President Jerry Rankin, assisted by interpreter Danny Bice, tells participants at the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf that “deafness is not a handicap. It is a gift from God to be used to reach others for Christ with that uniqueness that only you have.” Bice is minister of First Baptist Church’s Deaf Fellowship in Moore, Okla.

For years, the people the Winsomes worked with lost hope because they focused on what people told them they couldn’t do instead of what they could do. “Today the deaf of Russia have begun to understand that there is hope that the deaf can,” Tex said.

Jerry Rankin, IMB’s president, told conference participants that “your deafness is not a handicap. It is a gift from God to be used to reach others for Christ with that uniqueness that only you have.”

With this unique gift, Rankin said, each person has the potential to reach multitudes of deaf for the gospel. Jason Shifflett, one of those attending the conference, hopes to fulfill that potential.

Although Shifflett is not deaf, he grew up between two cultures — his mom is hearing, his dad is deaf.

“My first language (was) sign language,” he said. “It’s really given me a unique position. I don’t want (it) to go to waste, ever.”

Shifflett, who attends Deaf Fellowship Church in Grove, Okla., came forward after the commissioning service to learn more about deaf missions opportunities abroad.

To learn about affinity groups, including the deaf, visit

*Name changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Brandon writes for the International Mission Board.)

8/7/2009 4:00:00 AM by Emilee Brandon, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Crash victim takes center stage

August 7 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

SHREVEPORT, La. — Maggie Lee Henson didn’t live long enough to realize her dream of becoming a star on Broadway, but she took center stage in a memorial service celebrating her life Aug. 6 at First Baptist Church in Shreveport, La.

“My passion is acting and singing,” the 12-year-old victim of a deadly accident involving youth and adults from the church said in an audition video played at her funeral. “My goals are to become a better Christian, a better actress and a better performer and a better daughter.”

Senior Pastor Greg Hunt introduced the daughter of a member of his ministerial staff as “the flashing comet that was Maggie Lee Henson.”

Henson and another member of the church youth group died from injuries they received when a church bus carrying 17 youth and six adults blew a tire and overturned while en route to a church camp in Georgia.

Brandon Ugarte, 14, died shortly after the accident July 12, but Henson clung to life three weeks in a hospital in Mississippi before losing her battle Aug. 2. After her death doctors were able to save two of her organs to be used by other children on a donor waiting list.

Maggie Lee Henson’s mother turned her daughter’s bedroom into a Broadway-like theater for a performance photographed and posted last December on her father’s blog.

Hunt described the girl as “outgoing, friendly, kind-hearted, joyful, faith-filled with a generosity of spirit to go along with her charm” who had dreams of claiming the stage and being a star.

“It’s just like her that her final chapter on this side of time and eternity would end with a worldwide audience of strangers made friends and a graceful bow and then she would exit stage right with the generosity of spirit with which she lived, providing gifts of life from her own body for two other children,” he said.

Henson’s cousin Madeline Richardson fought back tears to tell the congregation and an Internet audience viewing a live webcast the story of how she and Maggie Lee decided they looked so much alike they must be twins. The problem was that twins had to be sisters. The solution: they would be “twin cousins.”

“I remember you telling me you wanted to be famous, to be a star one day,” Richardson said in her tribute to Maggie Lee. “A real star is someone who touches people’s hearts and accomplishes great things. You did exactly that. You have touched the hearts of people you met. You also have accomplished more in the last few weeks than most people accomplish in a lifetime. You have brought families closer together and closer to God. On top of that you have also saved two lives.”

“You provided miracles for two other children through organ donation,” she said. “Maggie Lee, you truly are a star.”

Henson’s younger brother, Jack, read one of thousands of tributes to his sister posted on a web site called

“Anyone who got to know Maggie knew that she wanted to be a singer and actress when she grew up,” he said. “But instead God used her to show thousands of people his love and mercy.”

In words of remembrance and thanksgiving, Hunt described a congregation “gathered in grief and hope.”

“For moments like this God doesn’t give us bumper-sticker bromides,” Hunt said, “the easy answers, quick, question-evading certitudes.”

“But what he does do is line the margins between time and eternity with fabulous promises, declarations of reassurance and hope,” he said.

Hunt said God is not the author of tragedy: He permits, but does not propel, other forces that are to blame.

“We live in a world in which winds batter boats and tires blow and buses roll and mothers and fathers and brothers weep,” Hunt said. “These are the culprits, not God.”

Jason Matlack, the church’s youth minister, led a prayer for the family. He was wearing a neck brace for a fractured C7 vertebra that he suffered when the bus rolled several times on a Mississippi interstate while carrying the youth group to a Passport camp on the campus of Mercer University.

After the service, webcast with technical aid from staff members at nearby Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, Maggie Lee’s body was taken to Tyler, Texas, for private burial.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

8/7/2009 3:58:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Did Crusades get a bum rap?

August 7 2009 by Tiffany Stanley, Religion News Service

The Crusades, when Christians tried for two centuries to oust Muslims from the Holy Land, left over a million dead, with territory lost and gained and lost again — all in the name of Jesus.

These days, Christians are not so quick to call the Crusades the golden age of Christendom, but a millennium later, their memory still reverberates.

Even so, Rodney Stark, 75, a professor of social sciences at Baylor University, says the crusaders were not all that bad, and certainly not barbaric, greedy warmongers.

In his new book God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, the 1996 nominee for the Pulitzer Prize depicts soldiers who truly believed their military service under God would cover over a multitude of sins — namely all that murdering and marauding required of them in the tumultuous Middle Ages.

“I get tired of people apologizing for the Crusades, like Christians were a bunch of dirty looters that went over there and killed everybody,” Stark said. “It just wasn’t true.”

Of course, apologies on the subject have been many. Pope John Paul II expressed regret for the medieval violence in 2000, the same year Wheaton College, alma mater of preacher Billy Graham — who made evangelistic “crusades” famous — changed their mascot from the Crusaders to the Thunder.

Stark argues that Muslims asked for it, that the Crusades were the first military response to Muslim terrorists and their looming, advancing Islamic empire. “It wasn’t like they were harmless, little people minding their own business and tending their sheep,” Stark said.

Indeed, Islamic powers were mighty before the Crusades, and bounced back after Christian attempts at conquest ultimately failed.

“I suspect that Muslims will hate the book, and I’m sorry about that,” Stark said. “That’s just the way the world is. I make no apologies or real accusations.”

Stark, a sociologist of religion, admits he is no historian of the brutal battles waged between 1095 and 1291. The one-time journalist enjoys making academic writing accessible for popular audiences, and he said his book is merely synthesizing current research by others.

Stark balks at the theory, in vogue 30 years ago, that the Crusades were spurred on by the promise of wealth and land. The Crusades were bloody expensive, he argues, and far from being a profitable, colonial enterprise, they made paupers of princes.

Thomas Madden, professor of medieval history at Saint Louis University, agrees that recent analysis reveals the “crusades were a big money pit.” He said it is important to understand the crusaders on their own terms, and like Stark, he sees faith as their primary motivator.

“These were men who lived by the sword,” Madden said. “They were keenly aware of their own sinfulness and their crusade was a way to get around damnation or at least a very long time in purgatory.”

Despite noble intentions, the crusading onslaught recalls atrocities like the Holocaust for Jews, said Talal Eid, founder of the Islamic Institute of Boston and commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“The term crusade marks a painful time in the history of my kind, a painful era,” Eid said.

Despite that legacy, the word “crusade” resurfaced after both the Sept. 11 attacks and the intense European colonization of Muslim lands in previous centuries.

In 2001, former President Bush called his nascent “war on terror” a crusade, alarming critics. Osama Bin Laden, too, has made use of the politically charged term.

“If you look at the fatwas of Osama Bin Laden or al-Qaida against the U.S. or the Western world, these fatwas are always called against crusaders and the Jews,” Madden said. “They see the United States and Western Europe as crusaders always.”

Stark knows his book will have its critics, including his own academic colleagues. He usually chooses the outsider role, preferring his home office to faculty meetings or campus politics any day.

Stark does not worry about how his sympathetic portrayal of crusaders will be handled.

“If you sit there and worry about people misusing your stuff, you’re never going to have anything to say,” he said.

8/7/2009 3:57:00 AM by Tiffany Stanley, Religion News Service | with 2 comments

3 tortured for proclaiming Christ

August 7 2009 by Aenon Shalom, Compass Direct News

DHAKA, Bangladesh (BP) — At the urging of local Muslim leaders, police in western Bangladesh have tortured a pastor and two other Christians for legally proclaiming Christ.

Habibur Rahman, 45, pastor of Boalia Spiritual Church in Boalia in Cuadanga district, 136 miles west of Dhaka, said he was about to meet with 11 others for a monthly meeting on evangelism June 8 when local police stormed in and seized him and Zahid Hassan, 25, and a 40-year-old Christian identified only as Fazlur.

The first question the police commander asked him, Rahman said, was, “Why did you become Christian?”

“Using a lot of filthy words, he charged me that I was teaching the Bible and converting people to Christianity in this area,” the pastor told Compass Direct News.

In May, a police patrol chief had threatened to seize him at a church meeting but was misinformed about the time it would take place, Rahman said.

The commander who seized him and the two others was a sub-inspector with the name Khaleque on his badge, Rahman said. Police dragged them to a nearby parked vehicle and transported them to Shamvunagar police camp.

“Police told us, ‘We will teach you in the camp how to forget your Christ,’ while dragging us to the vehicle,” Rahman said.

Police blindfolded them after reaching the camp and took them to three separate rooms.

“I heard blood-curdling scream from other rooms,” Rahman said. “I was sitting on the floor blindfolded. I could not understand what was happening around me. Later several police came to me and one of them kicked me on the back of my head, and my head ricocheted off the wall. They also kicked my waist.”

Ordering him to say how many people he had converted to Christianity in the Muslim-majority nation, the commander said he would kick him a like number of times. The official told him to call out to Jesus, saying he wanted to see how Jesus would save him, Rahman said.

“While beating us, police told us there will be no Christian in this area,” the pastor said. “Police hurt our hands, lips, thighs and faces with burning cigarettes. They beat me in the joints of my limbs with a wooden club. They beat us for one hour, and I became senseless at some point.”

Police officers told Rahman to admit that whatever he had done in his life was wrong, he said. When they sent them to Boalia police station early the next morning, dozens of Christians arrived to try to obtain their release.

Police, however, were reluctant to release the detained Christians.

“Some Christian villagers then said, ‘We are also criminal because we believe in Christ like Habibur Rahman and the other two Christians,’” Rahman said. “They told police, ‘If you do not release them, then arrest us and put us in jail.’”

Police did not release the three Christians until later that night.

The next day, June 10, thousands of Muslim villagers demonstrated in front of a local government office called the Zamzami Union Council chanting, “We want a Christian-free society,” and “We will not allow any Christians in Cuadanga.”

The frenzied mob called for Rahman to appear at the local government office, and a sub-district administrative chief called in 10 Christians and 10 Muslims including imams to try to resolve the matter. In that meeting, the administrative official told everyone to practice their religion freely without disturbing others.

“The administrative chief also said nobody should interfere in other religions, but even now we cannot attend our churches for worship,” Rahman said. “Local people said, ‘You will come in the church alive but return home dead.’“

Police denied carrying out any torture, saying they arrested the Christians for interrogation because villagers had informed officers that some underground Maoist terrorists had gathered in the house.

Jotish Biswas, executive director of Way of Life Trust, said the marks of torture were unmistakable.

“There were streaks of blood on their legs, hands and faces,” said Biswas, who interceded with police on behalf of the arrested Christians. “I have seen marks of cigarette burns on their bodies. They were beaten so severely that they could not walk properly.”

Biswas said he had learned that a local official and some Muslim clerics had prompted police to torture the Christians because they objected to their evangelistic activity.

“Police violated the rights of minorities enshrined in the Bangladeshi constitution,” Biswas said. “It was a gross violation of human rights.”

Chanchal Mehmud Kashem, a Christian journalist who visited the area, told Compass that the area is lacking in freedom of religion.

“Torture by police suggests that those Christians are not citizens of Bangladesh,” Kashem said. “It suggests they are illegal, alien and that evangelism is a crime.”

Kashem added that the notion that “underground terrorists” had gathered in a house was a pretext for harassing the Christians. “Rahman has been working as an evangelist in this area for one and half years,” he said.

There are more than 170 Christians in the area where Rahman works as an evangelist and pastor, he said.

“The local government council chairman told me two times not to come in this area,” Rahman said. “He said, ‘There is no Christian in this area, so why do you come here to make Christians?’“

Local Muslim villagers have since refused to give work to area Christians, most of whom are day laborers dependent on obtaining daily jobs to survive.

8/7/2009 3:55:00 AM by Aenon Shalom, Compass Direct News | with 0 comments

‘Christmas in August’ welcome for now

August 6 2009 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — While additional gifts for missions are welcome, the “Christmas in August” special offering being promoted across the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) will not solve the long-term funding needs of the International Mission Board (IMB), that organization’s leader says.
“We are grateful for the passionate response we are seeing on the part of so many churches when it is obvious they have other critical needs and many families in their churches are hurting,” Jerry Rankin told Baptist Press. “But one-time gifts are not the solution because missionary support must be maintained. It would be unfortunate to send out additional missionaries this year and then have to bring them home next year because we could not sustain this level of giving to missions. As churches take special offerings, we must have faith to believe that they will continue to give at this increased level in the future.”
The idea of taking up a special Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in August was proposed by Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in June during the SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky. Akin proposed the special offering to help the IMB make up a shortfall in the 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International missions. The $141 million collected for that offering fell $29 million short of the $170 million goal and more than $9 million short of receipts for the 2007 offering. As a result, IMB trustees suspended new appointments to two short-term missionary programs and cut back on the overall number of missionaries to be appointed for the remainder of 2009.
Akin told messengers at the annual meeting: “It breaks my heart that people want to go, but we don’t have the funds to send them. I am not going to tell our students to look for a home assignment just because of a shortage of funds. I am going to tell them to look for a movement of God to get the necessary funds to get them to the fields.”
A number of concerns have been expressed about raising money for an extra missions offering in August, among them the impact on state and associational missions offerings, some of which are conducted in September, as well as the still-ongoing Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions and even the 2009 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which will be promoted in December.
Some also have noted that “Christmas in August” is the trademarked name of an established partnership between Woman’s Missionary Union and the North American Mission Board (NAMB). Since 1927, Christmas in August has mobilized WMU groups in local churches to provide supplies like school supplies, personal hygiene items, Christian music and movies and Bibles that NAMB missionaries need for their ministries.
“We understand and appreciate the intent of some Southern Baptist leaders to encourage giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this August,” national WMU president Kaye Miller told Baptist Press. “However, we are greatly concerned that calling the effort ‘Christmas in August’ will confuse many in our churches, since there is no offering associated with (WMU’s) Christmas in August and it supports North American missionaries rather than international field personnel.”
In a July 28 column in the Florida Baptist Witness, Ken Whitten, a former International Mission Board trustee, responded to some of the concerns that have been raised.

Saying he is “in full support of taking special offerings like many are doing today with ‘Christmas in August,’” Whitten, who is senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla., urged other pastors to “do ‘Christmas in August’ and ... do it big!” He also exhorted them, however, to be sure the special offering isn’t raised “at the expense of another worthy ministry” and to be sure the 2009 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is “bigger than ever in December.” He also encouraged churches to remain faithful to the annual offerings for local Baptist associations and state missions.
While the international missions offering fell short of its goal, the $141 million that was raised may represent serious sacrifice, given the state of the nation’s economy, said Wanda S. Lee, executive director/treasurer of WMU.
“Naturally, we are concerned that the goal for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering was not met,” Lee told Baptist Press. “However, in a year of financial hardship for many families and churches, we are grateful for the sacrificial giving of Southern Baptists to missions. This year’s giving to these offerings may be more sacrificial for some than ever before considering the level of unemployment and loss of income experienced by many in our churches.”
“While many continue to focus on our nation’s economical plight, the real issue here is stewardship,” Lee said. “Ever since WMU began the annual offerings that support international and North American missionaries, we have underscored the importance of supporting them so missionaries can follow God’s call to service. More importantly, however, since our inception in 1888 WMU has instilled the biblical principles of stewardship in all areas of life. What is needed is an ongoing infusion of these principles through the teaching of the church through missions education. Then, and only then, will stewardship of our resources become a part of the fabric of our daily living.”
Rankin said Southern Baptists “are unique in that they have chosen to do missions cooperatively” through the Cooperative Program.
“It has enabled us to become the largest missionary-sending agency in the world because we can do more together than churches can do independently,” Rankin said. “While we greatly appreciate every special offering, the ultimate solution will not be found in additional special offerings, but in individual church members and families practicing better stewardship; it is only as churches and the denomination give a higher priority to reaching a lost world and find ways to consistently allocate more to missions on an ongoing basis will we be able to be obedient in sending the missionaries God is calling from our churches.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.)
8/6/2009 8:50:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Funeral of La. girl to be webcast live

August 5 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

SHREVEPORT, La. — People from around the world who went online to read about and pray for a 12-year-old victim of a church-bus crash during the last three weeks of her life will also be able to watch her funeral, compliments of a neighboring Baptist church.

“The interest worldwide has been so extraordinary that we thought it would be nice to make the service available to those who couldn’t be here,” said Greg Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Shreveport, La.

Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport is handling a live webcast of Thursday’s 1 p.m. funeral service at First Baptist Church for Maggie Lee Henson, who died Aug. 2 from injuries she received July 12 when a bus carrying members of Shreveport First Baptist Church’s youth group to a weeklong camp flipped several times on Interstate 20/59 near the Alabama/Mississippi state line.

Alan Hendrix, Broadmoor’s minister of communications, said there are cultural differences between his church, which affiliates with the Southern Baptist Convention, and First Baptist, which identifies with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, but there is little the two congregations won’t do for one another in times of need.

Hendrix said a high percentage of staff leadership at First Baptist Church was directly affected by the accident, which claimed two lives and injured 21 others, and they need to be part of the service remembering Maggie Lee’s life. Her father, John Henson, is associate pastor of emerging ministries at First Baptist. Jason Matlack, minister of youth, is recovering from serious injuries he received in the wreck.

“The staff at First Baptist needs to be cared for and loved on,” Hendrix said. “Anything we at Broadmoor can do help ease their work load so they can focus on this event is something we believe we should do.”

Hendrix also has personal connections. His son attends First Baptist Church’s K-8 grade school and is close friends with Maggie Lee’s younger brother, Jack, so he knows the Henson family through, school, sports and other activities. Hendrix’s father, Gene, also serves on the staff of First Baptist Church, as minister of Christian formation and administration. The two congregations are located about a mile and a half apart.

First Baptist once broadcast its worship live on television but went off the air some time ago due to market changes and available time slots. The church kept its video cameras and switching equipment in order, however, to record and reproduce services when needed.

Hendrix said First Baptist will use its normal video operators to record the funeral service. Broadmoor’s team will then convert the signal to a streaming feed and send it on the church bandwidth to a company that will take the single feed and put in on their servers around the country.

Hendrix said anyone with an Internet connection a browser like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Apple’s Safari or Mozilla’s Firefox will be able to view it, but the faster the connection the better. More importantly, he said, viewers won’t need a special media player like Windows Media Player or QuickTime, and it will cross platform for both Mac and PC users. He did suggest that viewers make sure they have the most up-to-date versions of their specific operating system and browser software before trying to log on.

Hendrix said a link will be placed on the First Baptist Church web site ( that people will click to view the service. He said the webcast will begin at about 12:45 p.m., CDT, on Thursday, Aug. 6, and end about 10 minutes after the service ends. An archived copy will be provided for people who have buffering problems or cannot watch live and will remain available through the end of August.

There have been more than 236,000 visits to Maggie Lee Henson’s web page on At least 11,000 people followed her story on Facebook.

“We think God has a plan to touch many lives during this service,” Hendrix said. “We will do everything we can to make sure everything is set up and working correctly and then trust God for the rest.”

Margaret Lee (Maggie Lee) Henson was born Oct. 29, 1996, in San Antonio, Texas. She attended First Baptist Church School in Shreveport, where she was a cheerleader and getting ready to enter the seventh grade.

She enjoyed singing in the school’s Show Choir and anchoring Patriot TV. She dreamed of starring on Broadway and took weekly voice lessons and acting lessons each summer in pursuit of that goal.

Loved ones described her as funny, talented and deeply committed to her Christian faith. In keeping with her spirit, her parents donated her organs. Many were badly damaged due to the accident, but two were passed on to other children waiting for a donor.

She is survived by her parents, John and Jinny Henson; her brother Jack Henson; her maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather; aunts, uncles and cousins.

Following Thursday’s service, her body will be taken to Tyler, Texas, for private burial.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

8/5/2009 8:46:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Divinity School honored for student help

August 5 2009 by Campbell University

A national magazine for seminary leaders has highlighted Campbell University Divinity School’s efforts to help its graduates complete their theological education without the burden of student debt.      

Contributed photo

From left: Jenny Lee, Holly Raby and Jessica Condrey pose after the Fall 2008 Commissioning Service at Campbell University. Campbell’s Divinity School was recently recognized for its record of “graduating students with essentially no seminary debt.”

The spring 2009 issue of In Trust magazine, a journal covering trends and issues in leadership for theological schools in North America, noted Campbell Divinity School’s record of “graduating students with essentially no seminary debt.” By comparison, a 2006 Auburn Seminary study found that 2 out of 3 students in North America require educational loans to finish seminary, and that 21 percent of seminary graduates borrow more than $30,000.  
Excessive educational debt is a major issue for divinity school students since substantial loan payments may prohibit graduates from serving in poor communities.
Kelly Jones, the Divinity School’s director of admissions, cited the generosity of Campbell University donors as a major factor in helping students avoid debt. During the current academic year, the Divinity School awarded aid to students from 225 endowed scholarship funds. In addition, Jones noted key partnerships with churches in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, and also the Charles B. Keesee Educational Fund of Martinsville, Va.
 “Campbell Divinity School is proud to receive this national recognition of the work we do to assist our students to graduate free of the burden of educational debt,” added Michael Cogdill, dean of the Divinity School. “It is our hope these newly commissioned ministers can serve more faithfully and effectively in first ministry positions without the distraction or the worry of debt.”

8/5/2009 4:03:00 AM by Campbell University | with 0 comments

LifeWay offers background checks

August 5 2009 by Brooklyn Noel Lowery, LifeWay Christian Resources

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — LifeWay Christian Resources has entered an agreement with to provide discounted screenings for churches.

“It is so important in this day and time to run these checks,” said Barbara Strong, church secretary at Jubilee Worship Center in Westmoreland, Tenn. Strong runs the checks for Jubilee, which began using about a year ago. “We just don’t know who is coming into our church. We’d like to think everyone is a good Christian, but we can’t know that.”
reported that about 450 churches have requested more than 5,000 background checks on volunteers and prospective employees since LifeWay began offering the service in 2008. Most of those searches returned clean records or minor traffic-related offenses, but 80 screenings uncovered serious felony offenses, and more than 600 people had some type of criminal history that may have disqualified them from volunteering or working at a church.

First Baptist Church, Estero, Fla., has had to turn away a few volunteers due to the information uncovered by Associate Pastor Wayne Rogers runs the checks for FBC Estero, which he said is a church that welcomes a lot of “snowbirds” who are only present during certain times of the year.

“It’s important that we let new folks know we will be running checks (if they volunteer),” Rogers said, adding that the church stresses the confidentiality and necessity of the process. “When we have a negative screening result, we deal with it in a loving way. We know that people make mistakes, and we know we’ve been made new creations in Christ.”

“Children are our precious commodity,” Rogers said. “They’ve been entrusted to us, and we have to protect them at any cost.”

Greg Young is a buyer for LifeWay Christian Stores, but he also serves as the minister of education at Cedar Hill Baptist Church, Cedar Hill, Tenn. Cedar Hill began using the screening service about a year ago and has so far screened 50-60 people. Young said all church staff members and all volunteers who will be working with individuals 18 years old and younger are required to submit to the screening.

In spite of church budgets that are shrinking in the current economy, Young said his church did not even consider cutting back by nixing background checks.

“We’re trying to make sure we provide the safest environment possible for youth and children,” Young said. “ helps us with our due diligence, and I think that’s being a good steward.”

For more information about background screenings, call (866) 300-8524 or visit

8/5/2009 4:01:00 AM by Brooklyn Noel Lowery, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 2 comments

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