August 2010

Kentucky task force calls for 50-50 CP split

August 31 2010 by Drew Nichter, Western Recorder

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — After eight months of discussions, the Kentucky Great Commission Task Force is recommending the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Mission Board move to a reallocation of Cooperative Program funds that results in a 50 percent split of CP receipts (after shared administrative expenses) between the KBC and the Southern Baptist Convention by 2017-18.

The report, which will be voted on by KBC messengers at the annual meeting Nov. 16, calls for a dramatic 8.7 percentage point shift in the first year of implementation, if messengers approve the recommendation.

The Kentucky Baptist budget that started Sept. 1 is divides CP receipts from churches 62 percent for Kentucky ministries and 38 percent for national and international ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention. The task force, chaired by Hershael York, calls for the KBC to move to a 53.28/46.72 percentage allocation between the KBC and SBC, respectively, for the 2011-12 CP budget.

“That’s a pretty radical cut in the first year,” acknowledged York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort and an associate dean and professor of Christian preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

To accomplish that move, the KBC and all of its partnering entities would be required to reduce their budgets by at least 6 percent starting with the 2011-12 fiscal year.

According to the task force’s report, there would be a KBC Mission Board staff reduction of 12 percent and a total Mission Board budget reduction of 9.85 percent.

KBC institutions, Campbellsville University and University of the Cumberlands would absorb an additional 7 percent budget cut.

The task force also recommends eliminating the convention’s annuity contributions for pastors and church staff members — a $400,000 reduction. York said the task force did not, however, opt to call for elimination of the $400,000 contribution that goes for ministers’ protection, disability and term life insurance.

The report states that to achieve a 50/50 allocation split by 2017-18, the Mission Board would make incremental adjustments in years two through seven of the plan.

According to the CP Distribution Plan document released with the report in mid-August, the CP allocation at the end of the seven years essentially would be a 48/48 percent split between the KBC and SBC, while factoring in 4 percent of shared expenses — money used by the KBC that simultaneously benefits the state and national convention.

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina makes no such allowance for “shared expenses” and divides every dollar with the SBC according to the percentage allocation approved annually by messengers. North Carolina messengers will consider in November a sixth consecutive one-half percentage point increase to the SBC, which would make the NC/SBC split 65-35.

The task force also seeks to increase the size of the Cooperative Program pie by establishing a goal to increase Kentucky Baptists’ overall CP receipts by at least 3 percent per year through 2017-18. The task force calls on all KBC churches to increase their CP giving by 0.25 percent of their undesignated receipts each year for the next seven years.

“We feel it’s wrong for us to merely vote to change the allocation and then not challenge our churches to give more” to the Cooperative Program, York said. If all churches were to accept the challenge, the report states, “the results for missions would be staggering.”
8/31/2010 5:47:00 AM by Drew Nichter, Western Recorder | with 4 comments

Prayer vigil for national renewal begins Sept. 20

August 31 2010 by Dwayne Hastings, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There’s no disputing that most Americans “believe” in God. Studies by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life consistently reveal over two-thirds of Americans are “absolutely certain” there is a God.

The problem, Richard Land says, is that people often live as though there is no transcendent moral authority. In considering the state of the culture, Land observes that “believing” in God apparently doesn’t equate to a person’s wholesale adoption of God’s precepts into his or her life.

“Instead of influencing the culture, it appears on most fronts the culture is influencing us. Too often, instead of being ‘salt’ and ‘light,’ we are being salted and lit by the secular culture around us,” said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, focusing on a theme he often raises when preaching.

“Our churches are in need of a truly spiritual revival, and our nation is in need of a great movement of God’s Spirit,” Land said, noting that this need was the impetus behind the development of the 40/40 Prayer Vigil for Spiritual Revival and National Renewal, which debuted in 2008 in partnership with the North American Mission Board.

“To change lives we must first be changed,” Land said. “We must pray for and experience spiritual regeneration, then recognize and accept our responsibilities as Christians to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the culture,” he said, referencing Matthew 5:13-16.

A great movement of the Holy Spirit will not happen without sustained prayer from God’s people, Land added. The 40/40 Prayer Vigil is designed for people to pray for 40 days, between Sept. 20 and the morning of Oct. 29, and then pray for 40 hours between 4 p.m. on Oct. 29 and 8 a.m. on Oct. 31.

A downloadable prayer guide and more information is available at

The 40/40 prayer guide is written so that it can be used by an individual, a small group or the focus of an entire church body. The vigil focuses on personal and church revival and national renewal, Land said, noting participants are encouraged to heed the truths of 1 Timothy 2 and pray for those in positions of authority in the government.

A pitched spiritual battle rages across the country and around the world, Land said.

“Such warfare must be met first of all with spiritual weapons,” he said. “We must pray for a great outpouring of God’s Spirit on our homes, our churches and ourselves that our moral foundation might be recovered.”

Additional tools to encourage participation in the prayer vigil, including an automatic e-mail delivery of each day’s prayer outline, are expected to come online soon, Land said. The 40/40 website also includes a prayer guide translated into Spanish.

The Scriptures are at the heart of this call to prayer, Land said, noting that with each day’s prayer points there is a listing of key Bible verses.

“God draws close to those who call out to Him,” Land said, paraphrasing Psalm 145:18. “It is God’s way or no way. And right now our nation and many of our families are heading in every way but after God,” Land said.

“When our perspective is right, when we are on our knees, when we are obedient, God will use us — His people — for His purposes in our families, our churches and our land,” he said, adding, “That is my prayer for the 40/40 Prayer Vigil–that believers will be renewed and those who don’t know Christ will find him. Our country will never be the same when that happens.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hastings is a vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.)  
8/31/2010 5:44:00 AM by Dwayne Hastings, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Faithful determination amid Katrina devastation

August 30 2010 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS — Five years have passed since Hurricane Katrina hurtled its way across southeastern Louisiana and the rest of the central Gulf Coast.

More than 1,800 deaths were recorded. Thousands upon thousands of people were displaced; in New Orleans, the U.S. Census Bureau reported a 53.9 percent drop in population between April 2000 and July 2006. (The city’s 485,000 population recorded by the Census Bureau in 2000 was estimated at 352,000 by the mayor’s office in mid-2009.) More than $81 billion in property damage makes Katrina the most costly ever of American disasters.

File photo by Norm Miller

Fred Luter, aboard a helicopter after Hurricane Katrina, points to the flood-ravaged Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans where he is pastor.

The emotional toll of the storm on area residents also remains high.

“I talked with a friend in Florida after Katrina who had gone through Andrew in 1992,” said Lonnie Wascom, director of missions for the three North Shore Baptist associations that plan to merge later this year, largely because of Katrina. “He told me it would be 10 years before most people really would get over it, and looking at it from the five-year mark, I’d say he was right on the money.”

Dennis Watson, pastor of what now is the multi-campus Celebration Church headquartered in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie on the east bank of the Mississippi River, noted a tangible effect of the stress still hovering over greater New Orleans.

“Prior to Katrina we had a small counseling ministry in our church,” Watson said. “Following Katrina, however, we became convinced that more than anything else — besides a relationship with Jesus — people needed trauma counseling. We re-launched the Celebration Hope Center which now has more than 25 counselors on staff and ministers to hundreds of people on a weekly basis.”

Two weeks before Katrina, the church, located in what had been an oversized strip mall on busy Airline Drive, had acquired a second location on Transcontinental Drive in Metairie by merging with the former Crescent City Baptist Church. Celebration’s main campus received more than six feet of water in the storm, while the new site received 18 inches. So after repairing the Transcontinental site, the congregation moved there.

The new acquisition, intended at the time to be a satellite congregation, was a God-sent way Celebration managed to hold its devastated congregation together as well as minister throughout the community, Watson said.

The Airline Drive parking lot was in a great location for Celebration to mount its massive disaster relief effort. The church estimated it served 140,000 families in post-Katrina outreach, providing such necessities as food, water, clothing and baby supplies, while also gutting and rebuilding homes.

File photo by Norm Miller

A Sept. 12, 2005, aerial view shows Franklin Avenue Baptist Church and its surrounding New Orleans neighborhood inundated by floodwaters from levees broken by Hurricane Katrina.

The church lost 60 percent of its members due to displacement to other cities, yet “we are much larger than we were pre-Katrina,” Watson said, particularly noting “people who have been won to Christ” through the church’s ministries.

Celebration finally moved back to its Airline Drive location in June.

David Crosby in retrospect sees God’s hand at work in preparing the church he pastors — First Baptist New Orleans — for post-Katrina ministry. The church dedicated its new facilities on 17 acres in the Lakeside district of New Orleans in August 2004.

Lakeside flooded as a result of a broken levee, but the church didn’t because the building committee had made a pre-construction decision for the foundation to be 18 inches higher than city codes required. Floodwaters stopped at the threshold of the doors.

First Baptist, then, was able to host Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, which sat in 13 feet of floodwater in the Ninth Ward for three weeks. Franklin Avenue, where Fred Luter is pastor, had been the largest Southern Baptist church in Louisiana prior to Katrina. Its members began meeting in three groups after Katrina: in Houston, Baton Rouge and at First Baptist. The other two groups became stand-alone churches with pastors mentored by Luter. And after two and a half years at First Baptist, Franklin Avenue reopened its doors in April 2008.

Also in 2004, Crosby implemented a building campaign to construct 40 new homes in a blighted area of the central city he named Baptist Crossroads. The church was ready, then, to work post-Katrina with Habitat for Humanity in the construction of homes — 65 to date. Baptist Crossroads, now a consortium of Baptists and Habitat for Humanity, recently announced a five-year plan broadening its scope to a 185-block area in the Upper Ninth Ward.

“Our goal is that in five years all lots in the target neighborhood will be ‘improved,’” according to its web site. “‘Improved’ may be a new home, a renovated home, or a well-maintained vacant lot void of a decaying structure.’” 

File photo by Waylan Owens

Beyond the hard work of clearing homes of mud and debris from Hurricane Katrina’s flooding, Southeastern Seminary students found opportunities to share the gospel.

First Baptist also provided worship space for other Southern Baptists not able to use their buildings after Katrina, and its large worship center became a convenient meeting area/staging area for a variety of efforts to aid the stricken city, including SBC Disaster Relief, the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Several other Southern Baptist churches in Greater New Orleans — including the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain — have similar stories of God’s “pre-K” provision. The common denominator, spoken of with great fervor, is Southern Baptists’ disaster relief organization. “Because Southern Baptists had already done their homework and created a lattice of effective ministry outlets, our denomination responded quickly and effectively to the needs of people,” said Tobey Pitman, a national missionary with the North American Mission Board. He was director of the Brantley Center for the homeless near downtown New Orleans, which was damaged beyond repair by Katrina. After serving through NAMB’s NOAH Rebuild, he relocated to the North Shore where he leads in community ministry.

“Katrina served to refocus denominational thought on New Orleans,” Pitman said. “This is demonstrated in the huge number of volunteers who came immediately and have continued to leave footprints and heart prints here for five years.

“The incredible amount of money given for Katrina relief through NAMB disaster relief is a reliable barometer of how Southern Baptist people felt about New Orleans,” Pitman continued. “In a sense, Katrina reminded Southern Baptists about our roots, our heart for people and the value of the gospel investment into the lives of people — both lost and saved — who are suffering pain and loss.”

Among the strengths of Southern Baptists are a readiness to volunteer, to give until it hurts to meet needs, to share the gospel, and to stay for the long haul, said Freddie Arnold, who led disaster relief efforts through the New Orleans Baptist Association (the new name for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, which now includes the Plaquemines Baptist Association as another effect of the storm).

“The devastation of the storm created such need that the people were open to any type of help,” Arnold said. “To get this help they were willing to hear the Gospel presentations with a greater attention to what was being said than ever before, and there was a greater openness to the gospel than ever before.”

North Shore DOM Wascom spoke of Southern Baptists coming together and putting their needs aside in order to be the hands and feet and arms of Jesus to a storm-stricken people.

“Things changed exponentially for the southeast Louisiana region, and I think that had an effect that covers the entire scope of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Wascom said. “The fact is, the eastern portion of my region received damages just as severe as those in some parts of New Orleans but our churches immediately laid aside their needs and began to partner with churches in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes to assist in relief and recovery efforts there. This selfless cooperation is the most lasting memory for me.”

And Katrina became a teachable moment.

“Going through Hurricane Katrina was one of the most trying times in my life as a believer,” Franklin Avenue pastor Fred Luter said. “It also was a time when I learned the true meaning of ‘waiting on the Lord.’ Tribulation worketh patience!”

God taught First Baptist’s David Crosby that “the planning process is always subject to disruption. Chaos is a rich seedbed for new ideas. People in crisis seek God’s help. Recovery from disaster is largely dependent upon prior character development.”

The lessons Dennis Watson of Celebration Church learned: “Storms — natural, physical, emotional, financial, relational, vocational, spiritual — are a part of life. God is all-powerful and can circumvent the impact of storms. The Lord will be with us through the storms of life. God speaks to us through the storms of life. The Lord uses storms to make us more like Jesus.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

Related story
A seminary’s rise from the flood
8/30/2010 5:53:00 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

A seminary’s rise from the flood

August 30 2010 by Gary D. Myers, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS — Many of the visible marks left by Hurricane Katrina five years ago have been washed away by time and hard work, but the impact of the storm continues to affect New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS).

File photo by U.S. Coast Guard

A Blackhawk helicopter flies past Leavell Chapel on the campus of New Orleans Seminary on Sept. 4, 2005.

Despite deep pain and challenging circumstances, the seminary community overcame. NOBTS President Chuck Kelley has seen those who went through the storm emerge with a deeper faith in God and an unflinching, stubborn commitment to be witnesses in the city and region.

On Aug. 29, 2005, Katrina slammed ashore just east of New Orleans, leaving a path of destruction stretching from New Orleans to Mobile, Ala., and as far north as Meridian, Miss.

Initially it seemed that New Orleans escaped the worst of the storm, but multiple levee failures left 70 percent of New Orleans underwater. The seminary was not spared. Sixty percent of campus housing received significant damage.

Only two weeks into a new semester, the seminary’s primary task of training ministers was put on hold. Main campus students fled to 29 different states; the faculty was scattered to nine states.

The healing process began quickly. Southern Baptists showered the displaced seminary community with financial assistance and places to stay. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) gave the seminary a $6 million gift from its Cooperative Program overage.

File photo by Gary D. Myers

The States Apartments at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, like the one shown here, received significant flood damage and had to be razed. In all, 92 housing units were damaged beyond repair.

“This was the greatest outpouring of grace in the history of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,” Kelley said. “At every level of Southern Baptist life, the individual Southern Baptist, the local Southern Baptist church, the association, the state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention and all of its entities ... everybody participated in helping NOBTS recover. This was one of the things that meant so much.”

Kelley said he hesitates to call out any specific gift, because every SBC entity and every state convention made sacrifices to help the seminary community in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. Even the conventions hit hardest by Katrina — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi — gave to the cause. The gifts — clothing, food and money — allowed NOBTS to provide immediate assistance for students, professors and staffers.

The seminary also soon returned to its theological training mission. Just days after the storm, Kelley, Provost Steve Lemke and other faculty members formulated an innovative plan to re-launch fall classes for students wanting to continue their studies. Faculty members gathered to reformulate their courses into an online discussion-oriented format. Eighty-five percent of the students who had enrolled at the main campus before the storm opted to resume their studies online or at one of the seminary’s extension centers that semester.

The storm provided a powerful affirmation of the educational strategy NOBTS had put in place decades earlier, Kelley noted. The extension center system begun under Kelley’s predecessor, the late Landrum P. Leavell II, played a key role in continuing classes that semester — and the philosophy behind the extension centers — accessibility — made the online courses possible.

As in the immediate aftermath, SBC volunteers played a key role in the restoration of the broken campus. Churches, conventions and individuals sent money to help begin the cleanup and renovation of campus housing. Volunteers came by the hundreds to help clean and paint campus buildings. The volunteer labor alone saved the seminary $2 million in reconstruction costs. The total cost of the restoration swelled to $75 million.

Kelley said Katrina illustrated the beauty of Southern Baptist cooperation.

“If we were an individual school, I just don’t know what we would have done. This marvelous, cooperative relationship of local churches, of associations, of state conventions and the national convention, each doing what they are best suited to do is an unbelievably powerful force,” he said. “It is a powerful force in girding up the church for its witness to the world.

“It means something to be Southern Baptist and it means something to have these cooperative relationships. We saw it in action and it literally held us together.”

While some main campus offices reopened in early January 2006, the entire administrative staff did not move back to campus until April 2006. By August 2006, the campus was fully operational and students and professors were back in the classroom for a new semester.

However, the campus was not the same. The beautiful restoration could not hide the fact that NOBTS lost 92 apartments during the storm. Only 16 new apartments have been constructed since Katrina. Kelley identified student housing as the greatest need facing the school. NOBTS needs between $15-17 million to replace the lost units.

Administrators also noted a shift in main campus enrollment. Before the storm 55 percent of students attended classes on the main campus, while 45 percent attended an extension center.

Now the numbers are reversed, with 45 percent of students attending the main campus. Kelley said the numbers are understandable due to the seminary’s commitment to make theological education more accessible. Giving students more options is not simply a reaction to Katrina, but a continuation of the strategy launched under Landrum Leavell. It is also a response to churches, associations and state conventions looking for ways to train ministers as they serve.

File photo by U.S. Coast Guard

Housing units near the front of New Orleans Seminary, shown here, received 2-3 feet of water. Near the back of campus, floodwaters reached 8-9 feet.

The key issue is funding, Kelley said. “The funding formula for the Southern Baptist Convention is rooted in the traditional model of theological education. It is designed to give almost all funding for traditional on-campus theological education and little or no funding for everything that is not on the campus,” he said.

“Before Katrina, we were able to make it work; it’s just harder to make it work with that shift in our student body from 55 percent on campus to 45 percent on campus. That means less funding. Ultimately one of the biggest legacies of Katrina is the reduction in funding that came from having a larger off-campus student body than we do on campus.”

Many of the lessons learned by the seminary community, however, center around NOBTS’ place in the city of New Orleans. Kelley sees renewed gospel vigor among students, professors and staff. More and more students are looking for ways to stay and serve in New Orleans after finishing their degrees.

“We really learned the role that our seminary plays as a ‘lighthouse’ in New Orleans — as an illustration of the presence of God,” he said.

A few weeks after the storm, the contractor was able to get enough power to light a few large spotlights. By shining them on the Leavell Chapel steeple, workers on campus provided the city with one of the few points of light in a sea of darkness. The lighted steeple, visible from miles away, offered a testimony of the hope of Christ to the hurting city.

Though the seminary campus is restored and enrollment is making a comeback, much work remains to be done in the city. As many as 50,000 homes are still unoccupied. In some areas, entire neighborhoods have not returned. Water marks left by the flooding still stain some buildings. Many members of the seminary family are engaged in the ongoing recovery efforts throughout the city.

“The storm created a great awareness of the fragility of life in New Orleans, but it also created a sense of opportunity,” Kelley said. “Here we had this broken city, let’s be a part of putting it back together. Let’s weave Jesus in the fabric of the new New Orleans.”

Due in part to the work of countless SBC Disaster Relief volunteers and rebuild teams, Baptists in New Orleans are enjoying a larger role in the city.

“People have a very different image of who we are now; I think there is a much greater respect and appreciation and there is a much greater openness to Baptist life and our Baptist witness,” Kelley said. “That has been one of the great redeeming touches that God has brought to our Katrina experience.”

Summing up the past five years, Kelley called the recovery an act of God’s redemption.

“There will never be a moment in my life that I ever call Katrina ‘good,’” Kelley said. “It brought so much hurt, so much disruption; I could never call it good. But I can call it redeemed.

“God is redeeming Katrina in some very beautiful and precious ways. It doesn’t mean it was a good experience — never can we call evil good — but it does mean that there isn’t a situation that God cannot use for His purposes.”

Many personal Katrina stories are found in a new book by Curtis Scott Drumm, associate professor of theological and historical studies in New Orleans Seminary’s Leavell College. In Providence through the Storm: The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Hurricane Katrina Experience, Drumm shares insights gleaned from interviews with more than 100 members of the seminary community — faculty, staff and students — with a goal of preserving a lasting record of the historic disaster for future generations. The book also provides a brief history of the city and perspective on the geography and development of the area around the seminary.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

Related story
Faithful determination amid Katrina devastation
8/30/2010 5:43:00 AM by Gary D. Myers, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. Hispanic pastor facing possible deportation

August 30 2010 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

WINSTON-SALEM — Leaders of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBFNC) solicited urgent prayer Aug. 27 for a Hispanic pastor facing possible deportation for a 15-year-old crime he committed before accepting Christ.

According to media reports, Hector Villanueva, pastor of a Spanish-speaking church in Siler City, N.C., was arrested Aug. 19 by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and taken to Gainesville, Ga., to face an immigration judge.

Villanueva, 40, has lived in the United States since he was 3. He is a legal resident with a green card and Social Security card. He and his wife, Martha, a U.S. citizen, have four children and are in the process of adopting two foster children.

Martha Villanueva told the Raleigh News & Observer that a lawyer alerted her husband several months ago that his green card might be in jeopardy because of a “commercial burglary” conviction in the mid-1990s.

He was homeless at the time and apparently tried to cash a check that wasn’t his. He became a practicing Christian while in jail and dedicated his life to the ministry. His wife admitted that in his former life her husband did some things of which he is not proud.

“He is a man that loves to help people,” his wife told North Carolina television station WRAL. “His passion is just to serve God in the ministry and to help.”

After moving from California four years ago, Villanueva helped CBF-NC Hispanic Leader Coach Javier Benitez start Iglesia Bautista la Roca in Raleigh, one of a dozen congregations that form the state organization’s Hispanic Network.

He recently started a new church in Siler City. His conviction surfaced in a background check after he applied for U.S. citizenship. Under current immigration law, any non-citizen convicted of an “aggravated felony” faces deportation, whether or not they have served their sentence.

“Hector has an immigration lawyer, who is petitioning on his behalf to be released on bond,” noted the prayer appeal from CBF-NC Executive Coordinator Larry Hovis, Missions Coordinator Linda Jones and Social Ministries Coordinator Laura Barclay. “Many of us have written character reference letters, but now we need your prayers. Please pray for Hector and his family in their time of need.”

“We are hoping he will be allowed to stay with his church and family,” Jones said in a separate Aug. 27 e-mail. “He’s a great guy, and this is a real tragic story so far.”
8/30/2010 5:41:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NCMO gets boost from Convention employees

August 27 2010 by BSC Communications

The North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) received a $15,276 boost this month when Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) employees pledged to give that amount.

BSC photo by Mike Creswell

At a recent staff meeting Frank White, left, church planting consultant for eastern North Carolina, collects pledges, as does Mike Sowers, right, as of Sept. 1, senior consultant for the newly created Office of Great Commission Partnerships (GCP) of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).

Approximately 100 convention staffers were present for a staff meeting at the Baptist Convention office when pledge cards were collected. The staffers will make the contributions through their local churches.

“The NCMO is critical to many of the ministries of North Carolina Baptists. Our board of directors and our BSC staff have really stepped to the plate to lead all N.C. Baptists in sacrificially committing to this offering,” said Chuck Register, executive leader for Church Planting and Missions Development, who coordinated the effort.

The NCMO goal for 2010 is $2.1 million. This year’s theme, “every nation ... our generation” reminds North Carolina Baptists that the “nations” referred to in the Bible are now among us. More than 230 language/culture groups now live in the state and few are Christians.

NCMO provides vital funding for several major missions efforts. Just over half of NCMO goes to N.C. Baptist Men and is that organization’s primary funding source.

In addition, 15 percent of the offering total goes to support two mission camps. About 3,000 volunteers worked out of the Red Springs Mission Camp in Robeson County last year. Similar numbers are anticipated for the Shelby Mission Camp, set to fully open in Shelby this year.

NCMO also provides nearly a third of the budget for the Convention’s church planting ministry. That ministry provides support, training and coordination for nearly 150 church planters and started 98 new churches during 2009.

About half of those new churches were among ethnic/language groups, including 20 new Hispanic churches. Ten percent of NCMO will be sent to the state’s 79 Baptist associations, who use the funds in a wide range of missions and ministry projects.

More details on the offering are available at

Orders for NCMO promotional materials are being filled daily as churches request free bulletin inserts, offering envelopes, prayer guides and other materials. Prayer guides and promotional suggestions enable a church to promote NCMO throughout September or to tailor the prayer/information emphasis to a particular week. Some churches choose to put NCMO into their missions budgets.

NCMO videos and print materials are available from or by calling (800) 395-5102. A new “What If” booklet is available for churches not familiar with NCMO.
8/27/2010 7:09:00 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Vacationing Chinese receive Bibles

August 27 2010 by Susie Rain, Baptist Press

SOUTHEAST ASIA — The Greyhound bus hisses to a stop and the door flaps open. Ethan Gillmore positions himself at the foot of the stairs so he can watch everyone file off. He’s looking for someone.

The shy 10-year-old glances down at the ground, embarrassed by the fact that his brown hair and fair skin makes him stand out in this crowd of Chinese. He tries to make himself smaller than his 4-foot, 9-inch frame. When someone looks his way, he tentatively holds up a red packet written in Mandarin.

A Chinese man smiles, points to his heart and then at the red packet. Ethan stares in disbelief and then gives it to him. This is the person Ethan’s been waiting all night on — someone who wants a Bible.

“Mom! Mom! I gave a Bible to that man,” Ethan shouts, running three steps to his mother, Carianne Gillmore, for a high-five. “This is the BEST mission trip ever! Quick, I need more Bibles. People need to read God’s Word.”

Ethan returns to his station next to the bus stop loaded down with Chinese Bible packets and a new sense of confidence. This time, he throws out a few Mandarin phrases he learned just for this volunteer mission trip to Southeast Asia with Church at Canyon Creek from Austin, Texas.

“Free Gift. Free Bible,” he says to everyone walking past. “Jesus loves you.”

Carianne Gillmore watches her 10-year-old, amazed at the transformation from quiet and shy to boldly sharing his faith. This is the exact reason she signed them up for a family mission trip with three other families from their church — to watch him grow in his walk with the Lord while experiencing a different culture.

The Texas families took advantage of a partnership their church has with the Southern Cross Project, a Bible distribution program in Asia. Due to Chinese government regulations, Bibles are difficult to legally obtain in China. However, the Chinese are allowed to bring one Bible home with them from a trip abroad. Church at Canyon Creek normally sends two volunteer teams a year to hand out Bibles to Chinese tourists on vacation. This is the first time for the church to send families with children under the age of 15.

Family missions
No one planned for it to be a “family only” trip, it just turned out that the only people signed up for the annual summer mission trip happened to be all families.

James Rinn says he and his wife, Kristen, started praying about taking a family mission trip instead of a normal family vacation a couple years ago. His son, Josh, turns 13 soon and they wanted something they could do together to mark his approaching “manhood.”

BP photo

Trish and Courtney McCarthy, 15, pray together during a family mission trip to Southeast Asia through their church, The Church at Canyon Creek, Austin, Texas.

“Part of discipling our kids is putting God first in our own lives. When we go on a mission trip like this, it gives our children a chance to see Mom and Dad caring about others beyond our little community,” James Rinn says. “Mission trips can be a fun part of a parent’s discipleship with their kids as they work side-by-side.

“The kids will learn and grow, as well as the parents,” James Rinn says. “Or at least, that’s what happened with me. God used Josh to teach me a lot this week.”

Josh just shrugs and smiles. He never knew handing out Bibles could be so much fun. To be honest, it sounded boring when his parents first told him about it. But once Josh hands out his first Bible, he’s hooked. He and his best friend, Colin Rasmussen, 12, work as a team to distribute more than 200 of the 750 Bibles given out by the Texas volunteers.

The young Texan even gave away his personal Bible to a homeless German man on the side of the road. Just mentioning it brings tears to his father’s eyes, but for Josh, it’s no big deal — after all, that’s why they took this mission trip.

“I’ve had that Bible since I was a little kid,” Josh says nonchalantly about the Bible the “Easter Bunny” left him years ago. “We probably have 10 or so Bibles at our house and there are people in the world who don’t even have one. You should see people’s faces and how excited they get the first time they open it. You’d give your Bible away, too.”

More than distribution
This “family-friendly” mission trip not only includes handing out Bibles to Chinese tourists at night but also working with local ministries during the day. The team hands out food at jails and slum areas. The highlight of one afternoon is playing on the colorful playground at an orphanage.

At each site, the team takes time to pray and share about God’s love. The parents try desperately to get one of the children to give their testimony. Ethan is the best bet with his new, bolder personality. The translator asks him to speak or pray with the gathered crowd but he reverts back to shyly ducking behind his mom. However, when the food comes out for distribution, the 10-year-old forgets about hiding and is the first to give a helping hand. The other children quickly follow suit, while fathers carry heavy packages and mothers fan out to pray.

Elbow deep in dry rice, Ethan chats with a man working next to him. It doesn’t matter if the man knows English or not. Ethan is set on making sure he knows that Jesus loves him — the exact thing the adults tried to get him to do just moments earlier.

“I can’t believe this is called ‘ministry.’ It’s so much fun,” Ethan says, his voice raspy and tired.

The 10-year-old grabs his throat and makes a funny face. He looks at his mother for an explanation. She gives him an affectionate “you’ve got to be kidding me” look.

Of course her normally quiet son is losing his voice. He spends four hours every night yelling, “free Bibles” to Chinese tourists. Yesterday he played at the orphanage for two hours — screaming at the top of his lungs with 70 other children on the playground. He’s literally talked nonstop since getting off the plane.

“I hope it comes back by tonight,” he croaks.

Carianne Gillmore studies her son for a moment. Ethan’s definitely not the same little boy she brought to Southeast Asia. Nor is she the same. They’ve both grown in their love for missions.

“Me, too,” the Texas mother answers. “It’s our last night and we need to tell the Chinese that Jesus loves them.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Rain is a writer for the International Mission Board living in Southeast Asia.)

Related story
5th-grader pens Asia mission trip journal
8/27/2010 7:01:00 AM by Susie Rain, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

5th-grader pens Asia mission trip journal

August 27 2010 by Ty Rasmussen, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Ten-year-old Ty Rasmussen shares journal excerpts from a family mission trip to Southeast Asia where the Church at Canyon Creek in, Austin, Texas, distributed Bibles to Chinese tourists. These excerpts document his first international volunteer mission trip.)

BP photo

Ty Rasmussen writes in his journal each day, documenting his first international volunteer mission trip. The 10-year-old from Austin, Texas, traveled to Southeast Asia with his family and other members of The Church at Canyon Creek to distribute Bibles to Chinese tourists.

Day 1: This is the first “official” day of our mission trip. Yesterday, we had two days all rolled into one. We spent it flying. I never got any sleep because we chased the sun. For almost two days, I never saw darkness.

I am about to distribute my first Bible. We sit on the sidewalk practicing our Mandarin phrases.

We wait quite a while, and I still haven’t handed one out. We go get something to eat. (Almost everything here smells different — mostly bad!)

Finally, I hand out my first Bible. Here’s how it works: the bus parks in the parking lot so the Chinese people can go to a tourist attraction. While they get off or on the bus, we hand them Bibles if they want one.

Day 2: Our visit to the jail was very successful. There were six men in one cell and two women in another. One man spoke some English. His name was Jom. We were able to speak to him about Christ. One lady accepted Christ.

“Dear God: I pray for Jom and Ning (from the jail). Keep them safe. Amen.” Finally, we go to the ultimate Bible-passing-out-place. So far, I’ve passed out 30 Bibles. “Dear God: I pray for all the Chinese people here today and everyday that they will hear and read Your Word. I pray that because of one Bible we hand out, 10 people will read it and at least half of them will come to Christ. Amen.”

Day 3: We go to the orphanage. The kids crawl all over us. There was one kid who will not let go of me. I play with him a lot.

Day 6: Tonight is our last night handing out Bibles.

Our team gave away 750 Bibles this week. Bible distribution was definitely my favorite thing we did. It is fun to see people make a big decision in their life. They are so excited to get a Bible.

We don’t get that excited about a Bible in Texas — maybe we should.

Related story
Vacationing Chinese receive Bibles
8/27/2010 6:57:00 AM by Ty Rasmussen, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Christian views get counselors in trouble

August 27 2010 by Maggie Hyde, Religion News Service

It’s a question being raised by counselors and educators across the country: When are religious views on homosexuality an issue of religious and academic freedom, and when are they discrimination?

On Aug. 20, a federal judge ruled against Jennifer Keeton, a student at Augusta State University who was ordered to either undergo “diversity sensitivity” training after she expressed conservative Christian views on the issue of homosexuality, or leave the school’s counseling program.

Her attorneys announced Aug. 23 they were appealing the case.

In March, a federal judge supported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its dismissal of a Georgia counselor who ended a session with a lesbian client and referred her to another counselor because of her religious views. And in Maine last year, a school counselor received complaints for appearing in a TV ad that opposed the state’s gay marriage law.

As homosexuality becomes more acceptable in American society, some Christian counselors say they are being persecuted for their views as the pendulum, in their eyes, swings too far toward political correctness.

Professional groups, meanwhile, say counselors are duty-bound to be able to handle any number of cases, including those that present situations that might conflict with the counselor’s personal religious beliefs.

Julea Ward, a conservative Christian student at Eastern Michigan University, was a few credits away from finishing her master’s degree in counseling in 2009 when she was assigned a student who had previously been counseled about a homosexual relationship.

RNS photo courtesy Gene Parunak/Alliance Defense Fund

Julea Ward was dismissed from Eastern Michigan University after she declined to counsel a patient in a homosexual relationship as part of her counseling degree program.

“She went to her supervisor and said, ‘I may not be the best person for this particular client,” said Jeremy Tedesco, Ward’s attorney, who has advised his client not to speak publicly about the case.

Ward was later brought up on disciplinary charges, and eventually dismissed from Eastern Michigan for violating the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics and demonstrating an unwillingness to change her behavior.

On July 26, a federal judge upheld the school’s dismissal of Ward. Her case will be appealed, said Tedesco, an attorney with the conservative legal firm Alliance Defense Fund, which has taken up at least four similar cases in the last year alone.

Tedesco thinks the appeal could take the case all the way to the Supreme Court, bringing the issue to further prominence.     

“The judge here definitely got it wrong, in our opinion,” he said. “In my view we’re going to see a trend of more universities doing this.”     

Ward’s and other cases have left some professionals wondering whether Christian views opposing homosexuality are compatible with the counseling profession, and whether such views are protected under the auspices of religious freedom.

The question of how much students and professors should be allowed to express religious views that frown on homosexual behavior remains unresolved, but cases like Ward’s and others seem to indicate little tolerance for personal religious views within academia.

Students in psychology and counseling programs are subject to the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics instead of university rules that may allow greater room for academic freedom.

Ward’s legal team says the professional codes are unconstitutional and should not be a basis for discipline, especially at public universities.

“It’s a big difference between teaching a code of ethics and enforcing them,” said Tedesco. “Those kind of policies can’t withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

University administrators disagree, saying they have to abide by professional standards if they want their students’ degrees to be taken seriously in the workforce.

“We have to go through accreditation standards,” said Walter Kraft, Eastern Michigan’s vice president for communications. “We have to honor whatever guidelines might exist.”

Psychology and counseling professionals it is sometimes appropriate for them to deny their services, as Ward did — when there is a conflict of interest, a close relationship, or unchangeable bias. In practice, they say counselors and psychologists need to be as open-minded as possible, given the myriad of personalities they encounter.

“A professional needs to be able to work with a wide range of populations,” said Clinton Anderson, director of the office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns at the American Psychological Association. “That’s a necessary thing when you’re talking about competence.”

Anderson said Ward’s actions were inappropriate given her chosen specialty in school counseling. He said school counselors, like those working in rural or poor communities, often don’t have another provider to whom they can refer a student.

Anderson and others say Christian counselors shouldn’t be surprised by the rules — a sexual orientation anti-discrimination clause has been in the American Psychological Association’s ethics code for more than 20 years.

“What may be new about it,” he said, “is that there are very active law firms who are prepared to file suits.”
8/27/2010 6:53:00 AM by Maggie Hyde, Religion News Service | with 6 comments

Wright urges churches to up Lottie goals

August 26 2010 by Baptist Press

MARIETTA, Ga. — Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Bryant Wright is challenging individual churches around the convention to set record goals for this year’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta, was elected SBC president in June and launched where he is posting monthly videos directed at SBC pastors and church leaders.

“There’s no doubt when we give more to missions we have a greater heart for going on missions,” Wright said in his August video. “... No matter what size church you pastor, think of what it will do for the Kingdom of Christ for us to exceed the Lottie Moon Offerings that we’ve had in our churches in the past. It will allow us to do more for international missions, as well as more for missions, than perhaps in the history of the convention.”

BP file photo by Bill Bangham

Bryant Wright, senior pastor of the 7,600 member Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, wants more churches to set record Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goals.

Wright read from a letter from Kyle Waddell, pastor of Pine Level Baptist Church in Early Branch, S.C. Several years ago Waddell’s church had a Lottie Moon goal of $2,500, but Waddell challenged the church “to think about the money they spent around Christmas” and to give a special gift to missions. That year the church gave more than $10,000, an amount it has exceeded twice during the past three years. Waddell said he hopes the church can give $20,000 this year.

Wright’s August video, at eight minutes, also features an interview with Roswell Street Baptist Church pastor Ernest Easley, who helped lead his church to increase dramatically its offering to missions.

Roswell Street, in Marietta, Ga., has one missions offering each year which funds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for the International Mission Board, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for the North American Mission Board and state missions.

By having a combined offering, Easley said, “we’ve been able to give more to each one of those (offerings) annually than we’ve ever given before in the history of our church.” In an example Easley cited, the church had a goal of $150,000 for missions but gave $318,000.

In the video, Easley also gave examples of how he and the church staff sparked members to give such a large amount.

In addition to the video, features a daily devotion written by Wright, as well as the opportunity for church leaders to join Wright’s prayer team.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
8/26/2010 5:21:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Displaying results 1-10 (of 53)
 |<  < 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6  >  >|