August 2012

Send: N.C. Bapt. among 2,200 challenged to plant churches

August 17 2012 by K. Allan Blume & Shawn Hendricks, BR staff

In the wake of a historic Southern Baptist Convention meeting, many who attended the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send North America Conference, including about 90 North Carolinians, declared it “a new day” for the organization and its work.
More than 2,200 Southern Baptists from across the country attended the event, held July 30-31 at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. Attendance nearly tripled initial expectations and brought together both older and younger generations to learn how they can plant more churches, while revitalizing existing churches.
Among those who led breakout sessions was Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) in Wake Forest. Reid, a former Home Mission Board missionary, described the event as both a “home run” and “beyond expectations.”

Photo by Susan Whitley

J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, told 2,200 participants in the 2012 Send North America Conference that “when we see the gospel properly, church planting will take care of itself.” The July 30-31 event was hosted by First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga.

“They had to expand the enrollment by hundreds,” Reid said. “And just the people I have seen here … you want crowds, and sometimes we settle for that, but it’s not just the crowd but it’s who’s in the crowd. This conference is both quality and quantity.”
Reid quickly added, “I’m prejudiced just because I see a lot of our [SEBTS] grads all over the place ... there’s a lot of North Carolina involvement.”
“I’d say three-fourths of the folks here are probably 20’s and 30’s,” added Lester Evans, a team leader in Church Planting and Missions Development for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
“Huge! You can see a whole new generation coming forward with that heartbeat to reach people.
“When I think about how our country is changing so rapidly – culturally, ethnically – seeing the burden of these [church planters] to get into those high density population areas and cross the cultural barriers and reach the people, it’s just tremendous. It may be a turning point.”
‘A culture of sending’
J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, challenged other pastors and church planters to create a “culture of sending” among their congregations. Greear was among a variety of conference speakers that included David Platt, Johnny Hunt, Louie Giglio and Ed Stetzer.
“At a conference like this the wrong thing to do is to leave here with ‘sending’ as another ‘to do’ thing on your list – another thing to feel guilty about,” he said.
“What we want is a culture where sending becomes natural. The gospel creates that kind of culture.”
Repetition is critical in creating a culture – even if that means repeating yourself “ad nauseam,” Greear said.
“I used to think that once I had said something really good and powerfully that everyone in the church had gotten it.
“Now I say it and re-say it. I repeat the plumb lines (“short, pithy phrases”) over and over and over again.”
Ultimately God’s people have to become “Kingdom minded,” not about building a “self-kingdom,” Greear said.
“[Learning that] was a huge defining point for me,” he said.
“That shifted my focus from asking, ‘How am I growing a great church?’ to ‘How am I growing a sending church?’”

Photo by Susan Whitley

Don McCutcheon, evangelism leader for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina; Joshua Smith of Life Impact Church of Hollywood, Calif.; and Port Wilburn of Cross Culture Community Church in Emeryville, Calif. visit during the 2012 Send North America Conference.

While church planting remained the top focus of the conference, Reid – and NAMB president Kevin Ezell – added that church revitalization also is an important part of the discussion.
Right now, with the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptist churches either plateaued or declining, revitalization cannot be ignored.
“You’re going to hear a growing interest on revitalization, which is a desperate need,” Reid said. “I think the growing interest on revitalization goes hand in glove with [church planting].
“It’s not either the nations or North America. It’s not either church planting or revitalization,” he said. “It’s all those working together.”
And good leadership is critical, Reid added.
“I don’t know a time in my life when I’ve been more excited about the leadership at the top – across the board – seminaries, agencies, state leadership. It’s a fresh day and it’s a good day.” 
Other N.C. Baptist leaders shared their thoughts on the conference.

“Th[e] networking time was like pure gold,” said Chuck Register, executive leader of Church Planting and Missions Development for the BSC.
“It was very beneficial not only for our church planting folks here in North Carolina, but also for our office of Great Commission Partnerships as we had a chance to interact with our field counterparts in Boston, New York City and Toronto.
“I think in subsequent years [the Send conference] will become the premier church planting conference for Southern Baptists,” he said.
“I think it will rival some of the other premier conferences.”
Cooperation is the key, said Don McCutcheon, executive leader of Evangelization for the state convention.
“As we continue to cooperate and find areas where we can be most effective, God’s got a great work for us to do,” he said.
“I think what I also see is the bringing together of not just the convention personnel, but we’re also interacting with various missions and church planters. … It’s definitely a new page – it’s all different – that’s a good thing.”

Related story
NAMB promotes wives as ministry partners
8/17/2012 1:35:43 PM by K. Allan Blume & Shawn Hendricks, BR staff | with 0 comments

Executive Committee approves committee appointments

August 17 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

The Executive Committee (EC) of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) met Thursday, August 16, via conference call for a brief meeting to hear and approve committee reports.
The EC approved the following recommendations from the Committee on Nominations related to appointments on the BSC Board of Directors: Russ Reaves, Immanuel Baptist Church, Piedmont Association, to fill the 2013 unexpired term of Doug Davis; Jonathan Boyd Sr., True Vine Restoration Ministries, Metrolina Association, to fill the 2015 unexpired term of Tim Jernigan; and Steve Williams, Pine Branch Baptist Church, Mitchell Association, to fill the 2014 unexpired term of Danny Hedgepeth.
The Committee on Nominations also recommended Jim Dyer, Christ Church in Raleigh, to fill the 2014 unexpired term of Wiley Doby on the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina Board of Trustees.
Beverly Volz, BSC director of accounting services, brought the financial report. Cooperative Program receipts through July 31 total $17,062,713.26, which is 1.84 percent behind as compared to the same time last year.
Articles and Bylaws Committee chairman Bartley Wooten shared that the Committee recommends no proposed amendments to the BSCNC articles of incorporation, but will bring to the BSC Board of Directors in September three motions for proposed amendments to the bylaws.
The three motions will address the following: first, limitations for non-Board members of special Board committees to serve on other committees and boards; second, requirements of individuals who have been elected to serve full terms on Convention boards and committees, but did not serve the full term, in order that they may be considered for election to another term of service; and third, a change to reflect the title change of North Carolina Baptist Hospital’s School of Pastoral Prayer to the Division of Faith and Health Ministries.
The next EC meeting will be held Sept. 25 in conjunction with the BSC Board of Directors meeting Sept. 25-26 at Caraway Conference Center.
8/17/2012 1:28:32 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Gospel Project available on iPad, eBook

August 17 2012 by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Gospel Project curriculum created by LifeWay Christian Resources has introduced a digital delivery format to serve as yet another way for churches to engage in the three-year study designed for Sunday Schools and small groups of all ages.

The Gospel Project is a Christ-centered curriculum looking at the grand narrative of Scripture and how the gospel transforms lives, said Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project.
With the curriculum’s first printed material debuting this fall, LifeWay has introduced a Gospel Project eBook version for devices such as Kindle and Nook and also has launched a Gospel Project iPad app for adults and an iPhone app for students. An iPhone app for kids eventually will launch, giving parents a view of what their children are learning.

“The launch of The Gospel Project is just weeks away, and we are so encouraged by the initial response,” Wax said. “Thousands of churches from a variety of denominations and affiliations have ordered the curriculum, and it is selling nearly twice what we originally forecast.”

LifeWay is expediting a third printing of the curriculum to keep up with the orders that continue to come in, he said.

The launch of a digital delivery format will enable churches to adjust sessions to their specific needs, Wax said.

The Gospel Project for Adults iPad app gives users a convenient bookshelf to house and access current and past issues of The Gospel Project Bible study. The adult app contains more material than is available in the student book alone with additional facts and commentary pulled from the leader guide. The app also offers interactive charts and visuals to enhance learning.

“I’m excited about the new iPad app for adults and the iPhone app for students because there are a lot of great things we can do in an app that we can’t do in a printed piece,” Wax said. “Both students and teachers will have an enhanced study experience with the app as a supplement to their study. These new resources represent a major step forward for us in how we can serve churches digitally.”

A new “curriculum manager” was launched Aug. 1 and is designed for churches that purchase the digital files (in PDF and RTF formats) in order to keep things orderly and organized.

“We’re very pleased with how Southern Baptists have responded – thousands of churches are ordering hundreds of thousands of resources,” said Ed Stetzer, general editor of The Gospel Project. “However, we’ve also been surprised with how many non-SBC churches have ordered as well.

“At its core, people value the theological depth but also appreciate the fact that we use our confessional statement (the Baptist Faith and Message) as our standard,” Stetzer said. “They are saying they trust LifeWay and the theological guidelines we use to convey the narrative of the gospel.”

Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla., said several factors contributed to his staff’s decision to use The Gospel Project, including the “creative resources” that are provided and the flexibility.
“The curriculum is designed for small groups or large groups, and it is available in print or as a downloadable version,” Whitten said. “The teaching tools are used to free up, not weigh down, a leader.

“As a senior pastor who believes we learn better in circles than in straight lines, and teaches what we need each week in transformation, and application – not just information and explanation -– we are supporting our denomination because they desire to support and serve pastors. It’s more than a project, it’s a Person, and His name is Jesus.”

Nashville church planter Gary Morgan said his church chose The Gospel Project for their kids because the materials fit with the flow of their community.

“We want kids and parents to be engaged together and be connected to the big picture of Scripture and how the story of Jesus is woven throughout,” Morgan, pastor of Mosaic, said.

“The digital resources were a huge plus for us,” Morgan said. “Our numbers fluctuate and as a small church that meets in a building that is not our own, we needed material that is flexible in different settings.”

Each session of The Gospel Project immerses participants – adults, students and kids – in the Gospel through every story, theological concept and call to missions from Genesis to Revelation.

“By year’s end, it’s likely that 300,000 people will be using these materials,” Wax said. “Knowing that we can have a small part in serving so many people is a humbling responsibility we hope to steward well.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russ Rankin is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. Learn more about The Gospel Project at
8/17/2012 1:20:41 PM by Russ Rankin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Iran now open to outside help post-quake

August 17 2012 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Iran’s government is now open to outside help with relief efforts in the aftermath of twin earthquakes that devastated rural villages in northwest Iran Aug. 11, killing at least 306 people. As a result, Southern Baptists are exploring ways to help.

Initially, Iran declined offers of assistance from other countries, but on Aug. 14 Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said Iran is now welcoming assistance from abroad for the quake victims, mostly in the form of direct donations the government will manage.

Southern Baptist disaster relief efforts, however, typically are conducted in cooperation with on-the-ground partners already in country, said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response (BGR). During previous disaster responses in Iran, Southern Baptists formed relationships with humanitarian groups in Iran, and BGR now is evaluating whether those channels might provide an opportunity to help.

It still remains unlikely Southern Baptists will mount an on-ground relief effort, Palmer added.

More than 3,000 people were injured by the earthquakes, according to news reports, and an estimated 50,000 people lost their homes. At least 12 villages were destroyed and 425 others sustained serious damage. Many roads and other infrastructure were heavily damaged. Relief workers are distributing tents, blankets, food and water.

Palmer asked Christians to pray for families affected by the earthquakes.

“We are asking God to make His great love known to all those who are suffering,” Palmer said. “We pray Christ will reveal his compassion and give comfort to people who are crying out in their distress.”

(EDITOR’ S NOTE – You can help survivors of natural disasters by donating to the World Hunger Fund at Baptist Global Response on the Web at

Related story
Iran declining help in quakes' aftermath
8/17/2012 1:16:19 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. seminary’s Akin named to Calvinism advisory team

August 16 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page has announced the members of an advisory team who will help him craft a strategic plan to bring together various groups within the convention who hold different opinions on the issue of Calvinism.

The 16-member group will conduct its first meeting Aug. 29-30 in Nashville, Tenn.
“My goal is to develop a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism,” Page told Baptist Press. The list was announced Aug. 15.

At some point in the coming weeks and months, he said, “most likely there will be the crafting of a statement regarding the strategy on how we can work together.”

“I want to be very clear: This is not an attempt to redo the theological consensus that we have in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000,” Page said. “It is practical in nature, not doctrinal.”

Page emphasized that the group is “not an official committee” of the convention. He also said additional names could be added to the group.

“It’s a group of helpers helping Frank Page come up with some sort of strategy document,” he said.

David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., helped Page put together the list.

“We wanted people who truly represented the various constituencies involved in this theological discussion,” said Page, who in May and then in June publicly said he was working on naming such a group.

Following are the members of the advisory team:

– Daniel Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.

– Mark Dever, senior pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C.

– David Dockery, president, Union University, Jackson, Tenn.

– Leo Endel, executive director, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.

– Ken Fentress, senior pastor, Montrose Baptist Church, Rockville, Md.

– Timothy George, dean, Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Ala.

– Eric Hankins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Oxford, Miss.

– Johnny Hunt, pastor, First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.

– Tammi Ledbetter, homemaker and layperson, Inglewood Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas.

– Steve Lemke, provost, director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

– Fred Luter, senior pastor, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans; president, Southern Baptist Convention.

– R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.

– Paige Patterson, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

– Stephen Rummage, senior pastor, Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla.

– Daniel Sanchez, professor of missions, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

– Jimmy Scroggins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Fla.

In early August, Page was part of a panel discussion where he and other panelists said Southern Baptists should and can unite, despite differences on the issue of Calvinism.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
8/16/2012 2:08:10 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

The Creek and other N.C. church plants: A small part of something big

August 16 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

God burdened Matt Rice’s heart for northwest Cary when the area was nothing more than dirt roads.
“Nothing was there; I started praying along the dirt roads,” said Rice, the pastor of The Creek Church of Cary that started in 2008. “I prayed for God to do something in this area.”
Now, schools, neighborhoods, grocery stores and highways have replaced the dirt roads, and people continue moving in to northwest Cary. The area is already diverse, with Asians representing 25 percent of the population, and the African-American population is projected to increase 55 percent by 2017.
By 2017, the total population is expected to increase by nearly 24 percent.
Before starting the Creek, Rice was the evangelism minister at Apex Baptist Church, where he served for nine years. Rice said the church and the Raleigh Baptist Association had a vision to reach northwest Cary, located west of Raleigh, with the gospel. And so, Rice left Apex to plant The Creek Church.
The church, which averages around 160 people each week, gathers for Sunday morning worship service at Mills Park Middle School. For two and a half years the church held services at Carpenter Elementary School before moving to Mills Park.
The Creek is one of many young church plants in North Carolina seeking to impact lostness.
In 2011, the Baptist State Convention Church Planting Team worked with 89 new church plants across the state. The North American Mission Board  (NAMB) reports that the number of church plants reported by state conventions increased 27 percent between 2010 and 2011. NAMB also has set a challenge to see a net gain of 5,000 Southern Baptist congregations by 2022. With an average of 890 congregations dying off each year, more than 13,500 new churches will need to be planted in the next 10 years.

BR photo by Shawn Hendricks

Matt Rice leads The Creek Church, a church plant in Cary. The church meets at a middle school.

Reaching the unchurched population of North Carolina – alone – is going to take a lot more churches than that, said Tom Billings, executive director of Union Baptist Association in Houston, Texas. Billings spoke during a meeting in July with N.C. directors of missions. He said in order to reach the unchurched population of the state, a minimum of 25,815 churches – each averaging 200 in attendance – will need to be planted to reach more than 5.6 million unchurched people who live in the state. According to one report, new church plants reach people for Christ at three times the rate of existing churches, contended Milton Hollifield, the state convention’s executive director-treasurer, in a recent column he wrote for the Aug. 4 issue of the Biblical Recorder.
“Therefore, if we do not plant churches, we miss a critical opportunity to reach people with the gospel,” Hollifield reported. “Our prayer is that healthy church plants will multiply by planting other healthy churches.”
Last year new N.C. churches reported 2,651 professions of faith. Church plants also report an 82 percent survivability rate over four years, which Hollified contended, makes the average survivability of church plants in the state higher than the national average. Pushing back spiritual darkness through church planting requires planters to maintain a perspective that goes beyond themselves and their church. “It’s not about your kingdom,” Rice said. “It’s about what is best for the Kingdom of God.”
Life together
The Creek Church is focused on reaching their community with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rice said they have learned that “doing life” with people is one of the best ways to accomplish that, especially among the many internationals in northwest Cary. “I never realized how important it was to develop relationships until I got to northwest Cary,” Rice said.  “The people really want to build relationships, it just takes time. You have to be patient, be faithful. Live in the community with them.”
Much of the church’s outreach is done through small groups, or “huddle groups,” that meet throughout the week. Each group is encouraged to reach out to a business, neighborhood and school. The church partners and serves in various community events. For instance, this past spring the church held an Easter egg hunt at Mills Park Middle School. The event, which attracted hundreds of people from nearby neighborhoods, featured free food and games.
Reaching a community requires investing time, Rice said. He coaches basketball and baseball teams for the town of Cary, which provides opportunities to meet different people and have conversations that turn to spiritual issues.
He encourages other church planters not to focus too much on the numbers.
“Don’t put so much pressure on yourself,” Rice said.
“Rest in the gospel and live in the gospel. At the end of the day, you know God called you to do this. Don’t allow the low or high numbers to discourage you or fill you with pride.
“The measure of success is not in how many are coming, but in how many are being sent and discipled,” he said. “We’re able to invest in people to make sure they are disciples and not just converts. We have a great community. There is a great unity among the body at The Creek.”
Committed to stay
Rice grew up in Connecticut, moving to North Carolina to attend Gardner-Webb University. In Connecticut, in the late 1980s, Rice’s parents planted a church. “I saw the beauty of staying through the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said. That same mentality transferred to Rice, as he is committed to Cary for as long as God will allow him to serve.
“This church plant is the best, and the hardest, thing I have ever been part of. But I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” he said.
“I want to be able to watch the tree in my driveway crack through the driveway; I want to be here that long. I love being pastor of The Creek Church.”
8/16/2012 2:00:55 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Acts 1:8 leaders focused on missions strategy, holistic outreach

August 16 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Southern Baptist Convention missions leaders are turning their attention to how they can help local churches carry out the Acts 1:8 Challenge initiative in practical ways that result in life transformation.
The Acts 1:8 initiative launched in 2004 by Southern Baptist state conventions, local associations, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB). It focuses on helping churches develop a holistic missions strategy that includes local and global outreach.
Acts 1:8 state coordinators, state leaders and entity representatives discussed how churches can best create this missions strategy during the annual state coordinators meeting July 18-19 at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina offices in Cary, N.C.
“Acts 1:8 is not something where churches sign a piece of paper, or it just becomes rhetoric,” said Terry Sharp, IMB director/lead strategist for state and association relations and urban mobilization strategies. “It’s something they can actually live out. It’s local and global reach; it’s not either/or. We’ve compartmentalized missions for too long.”
Sharp explained that the intent of Acts 1:8 has always been to encourage churches to embrace a comprehensive missions strategy. “It was meant to be very strategic,” Sharp said. “We want to help churches connect the dots.”

Missions leaders shared how they are helping churches connect the dots among local, statewide, national and global missions opportunities, all for the sake of being more intentional about impacting lostness.
In Virginia, Mark Gauthier is working with a group of churches to begin reaching the more than 140 people groups in Washington, D.C. Gauthier is director of mobilizing churches and state disaster relief director for Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.
“We know [these people groups] are there, but we don’t know where,” Gauthier said. “We are trying to gather information. We’re excited to see the excitement the churches have to reach people in D.C.”
Churches are mapping the area to identify where different people groups live, and will then choose a people group among whom they will serve.
Florida Baptist leaders are assisting ethnic church plants in reaching people beyond their own ethnic group, and the state convention is hosting an “ethne-CITY” conference in Miami with a Spanish track.
Sharp also shared practical ways churches can make connections among missions opportunities and live missionally. One of the most effective ways missions leaders can do this is by helping new church starts get Acts 1:8 “in their DNA” from the beginning.
Southern Baptists also have a tremendous opportunity to reach the nations by engaging locally with international students. Of the 750,000 international students living in the U.S., 75 percent will never be invited into an American home, and 85 percent will not be invited to church or have any meaningful relationships with Christians.
Another way churches can connect the dots is by reaching out to unreached people groups in their neighborhoods and communities. Churches ready to embrace an unreached people group living overseas may discover that people from a certain people group, or area of the world, are already living among them. Engaging that people group then becomes more effective when contact is being made locally as well as globally.
“Acts 1:8 is a conduit to how we can approach pastors who are not involved in missions,” said Mark Emerson, director of missions involvement for the Illinois Baptist Convention. “We can help them identify that they aren’t just planning a project, but they can plan a strategy to take the gospel to all the mission fields.”
Phil Young, church missions/ministry specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said the initiative offers a means for pastors to connect.
“Acts 1:8 could be a way for me to go to that local pastor and to say that part of the Acts 1:8 network of resources is to help you connect in these different ways,” he said.
“The perception is often that the agencies and state conventions aren’t talking to each other. My desire is for this group to find the best way to articulate to the local pastor that we are talking to each other, and that Acts 1:8 is a way to bring Embrace ( and Send North America ( all together.”
NAMB and IMB are ready to assist churches in these efforts. Eric King, director of missional church strategists team for the IMB, said IMB is not driving Acts 1:8. “We’re serving it,” he said.
“[NAMB] represent[s] the Samaria content, through the context of Send North America,” added Neal Hughes, mobilization coordinator for NAMB.
Acts 1:8 leaders expressed interest in expanding their tent of partners, to include more focus on associations and possibly working with state missions partnership leaders.
For more information about Acts 1:8 visit
8/16/2012 1:21:47 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Former Charity and Children editor dies

August 16 2012 by Baptist Press/Baptist Courier

GREENVILLE, S.C. – John E. Roberts, longest-serving editor in the 143-year history of The Baptist Courier in South Carolina, died Aug. 15 at a Greenville retirement community following a brief illness. He was 85.

Roberts joined the Courier staff in 1965 as associate editor and business manager. He succeeded S.H. Jones as the Courier’s editor in 1966, serving in the post until his retirement in 1996.

After renting space from its printer for years, the Courier purchased property under Roberts’ leadership for its own facility in Greenville, constructing its first offices in 1967-68 and expanding them in 1978-79. While he was editor, the Courier’s circulation reached its highest point at more than 120,000.

Don Kirkland, who succeeded Roberts as editor, said his predecessor “raised the bar of professionalism significantly higher,” adding, “his professionalism coupled with a love for and a commitment to Christian journalism and denominational service deserve highest praise and appreciation.”

John E. Roberts

Roberts, a native of Shelby, N.C., was a graduate of Gardner-Webb College (now University), Furman University and Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. He began his career as a public schoolteacher in Gastonia, N.C., and subsequently worked at the Gastonia Gazette and Gardner-Webb College.

Before coming to the Courier, he was public relations director for Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina in Thomasville and editor of its publication, Charity and Children.

Roberts served as president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention in 1979-80. He also was chairman of trustees for the former Radio and Television Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, and president of the Southern Baptist Press Association, which now is the Association of State Baptist Papers. He had also been a trustee at Gardner-Webb and was a veteran of the United States Army having served in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

He was awarded the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest citation for a civilian, by then-Gov. Carroll Campbell in 1992.

As he approached retirement, Roberts wrote in an editorial that it had been “a high honor and a special privilege” to serve as the Courier’s editor.

“For as long as I can remember,” he wrote, “I wanted to be a newspaper editor. I had a growing awareness also that God had a claim on me. As the two merged, I have been the most fortunate of men.”

In his last editorial dated Feb. 29, 1996, his final day at the Courier, Roberts turned his thoughts to the denomination he had served for three decades. “South Carolina Baptists,” he said, “have the potential for greatness” with the approach of the 21st century.

“My prayer,” he wrote, “is that we will go into the 21st century as a strong, inclusive convention. Anything less holds the seeds of ultimate and utter failure. On the other hand, working and worshipping together with nobody pushed aside can glorify God as we become his church.”

Roberts is survived by his wife Helen, three daughters, Jonna R. Hamrick, Jill R. Gibbs, and Julie R. Freeman, all of Greenville; three sons, Wayne Roberts of Lexington, Mark Roberts of Greer, Glenn Roberts of Greenville; a sister, Bonnie R. Price of North Carolina; and eight grandchildren.

Visitation will be held Friday, August 17, 2012 from 9:30 a.m. until 10:45 a.m. in the Narthex of First Baptist Church, Greenville, with the funeral service following at 11 a.m. in the church sanctuary officiated by the Baxter Wynn. Burial will be in Woodlawn Memorial Park. Memorials may be made to First Baptist Church Greenville, 847 Cleveland Street, Greenville, SC 29601, or The Paladin Club c/o Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, SC 29613. The family will be at the home of his daughter, Julie Freeman, 424 E. Seven Oaks Drive, Greenville.
Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by the staff of The Baptist Courier, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.)
8/16/2012 1:11:59 PM by Baptist Press/Baptist Courier | with 0 comments

Church planter leads by example in outreach

August 15 2012 by Joe Conway, North American Mission Board

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA – Someone forgot to tell Jason Williams* that you can’t plant churches in Muslim communities. Or share the gospel with Muslims. And see them come to faith in Christ and change a community.
Since Williams didn’t know he could not do all that, he also skipped the part about not training other people to do it too. Now there are people in Southern California going to mosques. They are sharing the gospel with their Muslim and Hindu friends. If Williams isn’t careful, this might lead to something big.
The activity led Aslam Masih to coordinate two events with local churches. The interaction included Williams, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) church planting missionary.
“The purpose was to learn, encourage and cast a vision of mobilizing churches to engage Muslims and Hindus, and plant churches among them,” said Masih, national coordinator for South Asians and Muslim people groups for NAMB’s church mobilization team.  
“The first church is doing a great job living out the Great Commission in local and global missions,” said Masih. “They are engaged in several ethnic plants as a sending church. The Middle Eastern, Iranian and South Asian pastors shared their ministry experiences. They told of how their churches are making a difference in the community, and in reaching different nations.”
Those pastors told Masih they estimate the number of Iranians in the area at 50,000, with another 50,000 immigrants from the Middle East.
“The pastors shared several important points for evangelism and planting churches among Muslims and Hindus,” said Masih. “They have seen progress using gospel tracts, visiting temples and universities, asking Muslims and Hindus their prayer requests, and starting Bible study groups.”
Masih and Williams led another training at a church with a vision to reach Muslims.
Williams shared about his ministry among Afghans and challenged the participants to join him on mission.
“People there told interesting reasons why they were there,” said Masih. “They said a large number of Muslim students attend schools in their communities. They are working with Muslims and want to understand who they are. Mosques also are opening in their neighborhoods.”
Following the training, Masih, Williams and the pastor visited a local mosque. Leading by example is one of Masih’s favorite methods of teaching.
“The Muslim leaders welcomed us, and served us Somali tea,” said Masih. “A young African American man who converted to Islam in 2001 was very hospitable. I asked him what made him convert from Christianity to Islam. He said Islamic values caused him to become a Muslim.
“While we were in the Mosque, a group of Muslims shouted, ‘Allah-hu-Akbar!’ ‘Allah is great!’ We turned to see the reason. They were expressing excitement because an Hispanic young man had converted to Islam.”
Masih is sold on teaching people to reach Muslims by showing.
“I believe the best way to make an impact is not just to teach how to reach Muslims but to model it,” said Masih. “If God’s people will live out the call of reaching nations intentionally, and engage them in their neighborhoods with the unconditional love of Christ, the landscape of North America would be changed forever.”
One church, in Maryland has taken Masih’s training to heart. They began by asking other churches in the area to partner with them. Next they contacted a local mosque, expressing an interest in touring the new facility and being part of activities open to the community. But they did not stop there. They extended an invitation to the leaders of the mosque to be their honored guests at the church’s Christmas Eve services.
The church launched an adopt-a-business strategy where churches can “adopt” Muslim-owned businesses, praying for the owners and staff regularly and making visits to build relationships. The goal is for church members to invite Muslims to their homes for meals and fellowship.
Whether in California, Maryland or somewhere in between, Masih attempts to capitalize on peoples’ curiosity about Muslims and Hindus and move them to action. Making the effort to reach these people groups practical is Masih’s aim. He begins with the Send North America strategy, shares practical models for reaching Muslims and Hindus and shows how churches are being planted among these people groups in North America.
Masih shares five ways churches can reach out to their Muslim neighbors with the goal of sharing the gospel. The same principles apply when attempting to reach Hindus.
– Pray for Muslims, particularly Muslims in your community.
– Research and understand the need.
– Take short-term mission trip.
– Befriend Muslims.
– Host international students for a holiday dinner in your church.
Want to learn more about reaching Muslims and Hindus for Christ? Visit To help church planters in North America, visit and click on “mobilize me.”
*Named changed due to the sensitive nature of his work. 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aslam Masih contributed to this story. He serves as national coordinator for South Asians and Muslim people groups on the North American Mission Board’s church mobilization team.)
8/15/2012 3:42:49 PM by Joe Conway, North American Mission Board | with 0 comments

‘Railway boys’ in India find a home

August 15 2012 by Baptist Press

INDIA – Life for boys living in India’s railway stations is a real-life “Hunger Games.” If they don’t fight, they’ll be killed. If they don’t find food and survive in this arena, they’ll starve on the train tracks.

Railway boys are those who have run away from home and joined gangs who live in India’s train stations. They travel the country, jumping from train to train and stealing from passengers. Nine boys have left this life behind and found earthly and heavenly family.

The boys sitting at this breakfast table survived the war. The glue sniffing, the razor blade scars, the rape and the murders have knit them together.

“This is my family,” Shad Khalil* says, gesturing to the eight other boys in the hostel kitchen. He slings his arm around the youngest boy, pulling him close.

Photo by Graham Hill

Shad Khalil (name changed) has a new life now. “God healed my broken heart,” he says. Khalil learned God’s plan included him knowing and believing he is fearfully and wonderfully made. He enjoys playing basketball and reading the Bible in his free time.

At 16, Khalil is the oldest boy living in this Christian hostel. His smile seems innocent, but he lost his innocence a long time ago.

Life on the railway
Khalil, like most of the other boys in the hostel, ran away from home. Khalil left his home in Delhi at age 10. His mother came from a Catholic background but married a Muslim.

“There was no unity,” Khalil says. “They were not like family at all.”

Khalil’s father spent many days drunk, beat Khalil’s mother and forced himself on her. He beat Khalil too, throwing household items at him. When Khalil tried to protect his mother, he was nearly beaten to death.

“My grandfather was a very dirty man.” Khalil says, looking out the window. Tears begin to well in his eyes. “I have a sister. I feel my grandfather is spoiling her life.”

Guilt consumes his face. “I was young and wouldn’t express myself,” Khalil says, fixing his gaze on the breakfast table.

“I miss my sister. Pray for me and my family.”

Khalil ran away and jumped on a train headed out of town. He eventually landed in a train station on the other side of the country, where he collected water bottles to sell, begged and stole from passengers. He gave a portion of the profits to his gang leader for protection.

Gang leaders are boys in their late teens or early 20s who manipulate new railway boys by introducing glue-sniffing, creating a cycle of dependency and control.

Gang leaders in Khalil’s train station were notorious for throwing boys in front of moving trains. Khalil was thrown onto the tracks and hit his head. He remembers that a man dressed in white helped him off of the tracks. He has no idea who this man was and has never seen him since.

Not long after that, Khalil met Prabal Dey,* who offered Khalil a life outside the railway.

Changed by prayer
Prabal and Debjani* Dey have opened a Christ-centered hostel for railway boys like Khalil.

Glue withdrawals hit Khalil and his new brothers the first couple of weeks after they left the railway. The Deys substituted food, sports and television for glue. Yelling, fighting and cursing were commonplace in the hostel.

“Satan was working so much, I couldn’t come out of those addictions,” Khalil says, shaking his head at the memory.

Dey said it took some time for the boys to obey adults who didn’t threaten to kill them as punishment for disobedience. Now, though it’s been several years, the boys still act out, Dey says, since so much in their life needs redeeming.

“Good food, good things can’t change them,” Dey says. “One thing can change them: Jesus.”

The Deys teach God’s Truth to Khalil and his hostel brothers throughout the day and in devotional times.

“They are completely changed because of prayer,” Dey says. “They can’t sleep if they don’t have prayer.”

The Deys and the railway boys are active members of the house church that Gary and Cynthia Follen,* International Mission Board representatives, lead. Follen mentors the railway boys and helps them work through emotional scarring.

Follen played a pivotal role in Khalil’s journey to Christ. “When he came to a Christian worship place, he [Khalil] was very different,” Dey says. “He was anti-Christian.”

Khalil came to the hostel timid and emotionally scarred. But now, more than two years later, he’s quietly confident, and his smile illuminates his face. When visitors come, he’s the first to engage them in conversation.

Khalil talks about God’s provision in his life in almost every sentence. “God healed my broken heart,” Khalil says.

Struggling to persevere
During a nightly tutoring session, Khalil’s brow furrows – the English words swim around the page. He’s not following.

Khalil is 16 years old in the fifth grade. His years of sniffing glue hinder his memory and learning abilities, and a lack of nutrients in his formative years has made him small for his age.

“He has a lot of hurt in his life,” Dey says. Khalil puts himself down because of the years lost on the railway.

Though he has trouble studying, Khalil’s cappuccino-colored eyes and olive skin make him popular among the girls at school.

“I’m not interested,” he says, blushing. He’s got more on his mind, he explains. He wants to focus on his relationship with God. When he grows up, he wants to open a hostel just like this one.

Photo by Graham Hill

In India, electricity is never a guarantee. Hem Mouly and Makhan Roy (names changed) entertain themselves by candlelight. Both left the streets for this Christian hostel.

But some days in the hostel are still hard.

The railway is freedom, Dey explains. The boys can jump from train to train and journey anywhere in India. Coming to the hostel means a life of structure and schedules. There’s no glue or alcohol, and misbehaving has consequences – a difficult adjustment.

Four of the boys who were the first to come to the hostel have returned to the railway, making Khalil the oldest.

“I’ve been here since I was little, and I’ve never left,” Khalil says wistfully.

Lost in thought, Khalil gazes down the road that leads to the neighborhood’s exit. Today, he’s thinking about leaving the hostel.

He isn’t sure where he would go – but never back to the railway. “That’s a bad place,” he says.

A new family
Khalil perseveres. Though he doesn’t make high scores on his report card, his spoken English is the best in the hostel.

“He knows by heart the word of God.” Dey says. Khalil was also the first boy to give his testimony in church and has plans to be baptized.

Unlike gang leaders in train stations, Khalil tries to protect the younger hostel boys. “These are my brothers, I must watch out for them,” Khalil says. “This is a beautiful family – there’s love here.”

The redeemed railway boys are the family he never had.

*Name changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Caroline Anderson is an International Mission Board writer based in Asia.)

Related story
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8/15/2012 3:06:10 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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