August 2018

Blackwell celebrated for 35 years of ‘bold’ leadership

August 21 2018 by Biblical Recorder Staff

The Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) honored Michael Blackwell as he passed a 35-year milestone July 1 as executive director of the historic ministry. In a blog post last month, BCH highlighted Blackwell’s “bold choices” over the years to expand the ministry’s reach, even while facing personal difficulties.

Photo by BCH
Michael Blackwell, center, celebrated 35 years as executive director of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina in July. Last year, surgery slowed him for a short time, but he quickly returned to work and the BCH introduced a five-year strategic plan this year – “20/20: A Clear Vision.”

“There’s no doubt that my 35th anniversary was one of the most arduous milestones to reach,” he was quoted as saying.
Blackwell, 76, suffers from a spinal condition that causes chronic discomfort through his back, legs and feet. After undergoing surgery for the condition last year, Blackwell was soon back in the office working as hard as ever, the blog post said.
The commemoration recounted ways that the scope of BCH’s ministry has grown since Blackwell’s arrival in 1983.
The BCH not only provides foster care for children in the state, but also operates homes for people with developmental disabilities, a program for aging adults, support for working families and single mothers, a college ministry and oversight for an orphanage in Guatemala.
This year a new five-year strategic plan was implemented: “20/20: A Clear Vision.”
“What became ‘clear’ to us ... is that we cannot stand still even in the midst of the success that has been achieved,” Blackwell said, according to the blog post.
“The plan will propel growth in multiple aspects of ministry empowering us to impact even more lives.
“If there is a void to be filled, if there is a need to be met, then I want us to be bold enough in our conviction of spirit and our faith in the providence of God to step to the forefront,” he continued. “When we take hold of an opportunity to share the hope of Jesus Christ and see lives repaired and restored, then we are fulfilling our mandate. That is the heartbeat of Baptist Children’s Homes.”
Read the full article at

8/21/2018 12:29:20 PM by Biblical Recorder Staff | with 0 comments

Campers pack 2 millionth meal for Haiti

August 21 2018 by Chad Austin, BSC Communications

Nine years ago, Merrie Johnson sat in the corner of Hatch Auditorium at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell praying that God would show her how she could incorporate a missions component to summer Youth Weeks.

BSC photo
This summer, Youth Weeks participants packed the two millionth meal to distribute in Haiti.

Johnson, senior consultant for youth evangelism and discipleship with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, had already been directing summer youth weeks for a number of years, but she felt that middle and high school students attending camp each summer on the shores of Oak Island could have an impact in another part of the world.
Through a series of events that only God could orchestrate, Johnson connected with a missionary and through a ministry partnership, campers began packing meals that have now been sent to Haiti for the past eight summers.
In 2018, Johnson, her staff and attendees at summer youth weeks surpassed a major milestone since the ministry began in 2011 – the packaging of the two millionth meal that will be delivered to Haiti later this year.
Johnson says the results have been more than she could have imagined, but not more than she knew God could accomplish.
“I said from the beginning if this is what God wants to do, it will all work out,” Johnson said.
Working with Fenel Bruna, a native Haitian missionary, meals packed during youth weeks are delivered to Jacmel, Haiti, and distributed to children living at the House of Abraham, an orphan care ministry that Bruna helps operate. The ministry has now expanded into three nearby villages, local hospitals and two local Haitian schools.
The meals are not only helping address physical hunger. As each meal is distributed, the gospel is shared.
And during a recent trip to Haiti, Johnson got to see and experience firsthand how God is moving and doing more than she could imagine when campers first started packing and sending meals.
“A principal at one of the schools told me, ‘We have seen a rise in the test scores over these years that we believe are a direct result of the nourishment the students are receiving that is helping them pay attention and learn more,’” Johnson said. “She said, ‘This will make Haiti a stronger nation.’”

8/21/2018 12:29:06 PM by Chad Austin, BSC Communications | with 1 comments

Bolick lives testimony of brokenness, restoration

August 21 2018 by BSC Communications

Betsy Bolick serves at Perkinsville Baptist Church in Boone as the minister to women. She is also the founder and director of Small Enough Ministries. Betsy is passionate about reaching all women with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and she desires to make disciples for the Kingdom of God while fulfilling the mission Christ has called her to. 

Betsy will be the special testimony speaker at the 2018 N.C. Baptist Women’s Retreat on Oct. 26-27 at Caraway Conference Center in Sophia. She recently took some time to answer the following questions about her testimony, her walk with God and what she’ll share at the retreat.
Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: My name is Betsy Bolick and I am blessed to live in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. I was born and raised in Boone, and I am so thankful that God called me back home to serve Him in ministry two years ago. I enjoy spending time with my family, and I take every opportunity I have to spoil my nieces and nephew. If I am not with my family, I love spending time with friends, watching N.C. State baseball or football, or reading a good book with a great cup of coffee.
Q: In addition to serving Perkinsville Baptist Church in Boone, you also lead your own ministry. Can you tell us a bit about your ministry?

A: When I was younger I used to write in my journal that I was never going to be pretty enough, tall enough or normal enough to be loved or used by God. For decades I fought my disability and begged God for a new body and a new life. (Bolick was born with sacral agenesis, which causes abnormal fetal spine development.)
He answered my prayer by giving me a new heart. My body is still broken, but my life has been restored. It is my greatest joy to share my journey with Jesus to a lost and broken world. I am blessed to travel and share the hope of the gospel in the midst of hopelessness.
Along with sharing my testimony, my passion is to disciple and mentor the next generation. My passion is to teach women about the power of God’s restoration and redemption through the hope of His gospel, creating purpose in their pain and hope in their darkest situations. Small Enough Ministries desires that every woman be discipled, mentored and challenged to use her story for the glory of God and the salvation of many.
Q: As you share your testimony with the women who will attend the retreat, what do you hope they will take away?

A: I often beg God for my sufferings to cease, desiring an easy life. Yet, God calls us to be like His Son Jesus and to suffer well for His kingdom work and eternal purpose. My hope is that women will leave encouraged to suffer well but also understand what eternal work God is doing through their sufferings.
Our pain has a purpose here and for eternity. Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians about the sufferings they are enduring. He writes, “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction carries an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). My prayer is that women will see their afflictions here on earth as light and momentary.

Yet, most importantly, that their suffering carries an eternal weight of glory. My prayer is that they will see that God is at work in their sufferings for His glory and their good. He uses the most horrific and painful situations for His eternal work and our eternal good.
Q: How does being the “holy, chosen, beloved child of God” impact your everyday life?

A: For a girl that felt rejected, broken, lonely and abnormal, this truth is life changing. Through His great mercy He chose to impart His love upon a sinner like me. I did nothing to deserve it, yet He calls me His beloved. I am overwhelmed by the great love of God. This truth has changed the trajectory of my life and the trajectory of each and every moment. My desire is to honor Him with my life and to live a life of holiness as He is holy. Each day I fall short but seek to look through the lens of this truth in every avenue of life. Whether I am walking through sorrow, suffering or joy, knowing I am His gives me peace, comfort and hope. 

8/21/2018 12:28:25 PM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Oakhurst: Replanted church grows through cooperation

August 20 2018 by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor

Four years ago Oakhurst Baptist Church was prepared to close its doors. Located just a few miles southeast of Charlotte’s city center, the once-thriving congregation had weathered a changing demographic and economic climate but retained only a few dozen members.

Contributed photo
Worship at Oakhurst Baptist Church in Charlotte is no longer a picture of a declining church. The church was “replanted” in 2015 and has been growing ever since.

However, today it is showing signs of new growth, the fruits of an effort rooted in local church partnerships and denominational cooperation.
“We wanted God’s kingdom, not Oakhurst’s kingdom,” said Wayne Deffinger, the church’s former pastor.
Deffinger, now serving as pastor of Flint Hill Baptist Church in Fort Mill, S.C., came to Oakhurst in 2012. He told the Biblical Recorder in a phone interview the church had “lost connection” with the surrounding community and was in decline. In his first two years, nearly two-dozen of the aging congregation’s core members died.
Bob Lowman, executive director of the Metrolina Baptist Association, said a significant number of area churches are in “serious decline,” meaning worship attendance has decreased more than 50 percent in the last 10 years.
Deffinger began to help Oakhurst explore its options, hoping to find a solution that could revive a vibrant ministry. The church considered putting its building up for sale and looking for a more affordable meeting space, becoming a campus of a larger church or merging with another ministry.
An area pastor connected church leaders with David Russell. At the time, Russell was an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He was searching for a church revitalization opportunity.
“We didn’t want to see churches become coffee shops and condos in neighborhoods that are now booming with population growth,” Russell said.
Capitol Hill underwent a long-term revitalization in the 1990s under the leadership of pastor Mark Dever, and that story inspired Russell to invest in a declining church, rather than plant a new congregation.
“It gave me a picture of the power behind helping revive an old, historic gospel witness,” he said.
Russell and Oakhurst’s church leaders began a series of meetings in 2014. They eventually decided to “replant” the church – a term used to describe the process of restarting a church while keeping significant aspects of the ministry, such as the name or location.
The replanting process often includes bringing in a number of new church members and leaders from a “sending” church or churches to unite with legacy members of the existing church. A handful of people, including one staff member from Capitol Hill, moved from Washington, D.C., to join the ministry at Oakhurst.
In consultation with Oakhurst’s deacons and Russell, Deffinger decided to bow out of the process and pursue other ministry opportunities.

Contributed photo
Dave Russell, second from left, pastor of Oakhurst Baptist Church, stands with “three of the many who have been baptized at [Oakhurst] since it was replanted” in 2015.

Russell called it a “powerful example of humility that helped moved things forward.”
Lowman said the whole transition was “one of the most positive experiences, in terms of things going smoothly, that I have seen.”
A neighboring Charlotte congregation, Carmel Baptist Church, provided financial support and “sweat equity” for the replant, Russell said. They sent teams to help make needed repairs and upgrades to Oakhurst’s facility.
“The revitalization of Oakhurst has been a joy to be a part of,” said Carmel’s senior pastor, Alex Kennedy. “The gospel is bearing fruit in that part of Charlotte because of the willingness of brothers and sisters in Christ to partner together. We are hopeful to see this replicated again and again in the Queen City.”
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina also provided financial support to aid the replanting effort. Pastors at both Capitol Hill and Carmel have mentored and stayed in regular contact with Russell.
Russell told Oakhurst’s leaders at the time, “If this church has had a good witness – it’s been faithful to the gospel and has a good reputation in the community – we don’t see any need to rebrand the church or shut it down and start something new.”
Oakhurst welcomed new leadership and expressed their support for the replant, Russell said. Their biggest concern, however, was whether they would continue to feel welcomed after the transition.
“Our response to that was, ‘We’re Christians. We don’t want to run you out of your church. If you want to remain here, we want you here,’” Russell said.
Everyone involved in the replant went through a new membership process and joined the church in September 2015. The church now averages nearly 300 in Sunday worship, which includes “generational diversity” that likely would not have been present in a new church plant, Russell said.
When asked for advice to churches that are considering a replant, Russell gave three tips:

  • Be sure expectations are clearly stated by everyone involved. “We called it purchasing peace on the front end,” Russell said, “so that once we got into the work there could be unity.”

  • Have a group of lay leaders committed to give time and energy. “Without them,” said Russell, “it just would not have been as fruitful.”

  • Legacy members must support new leadership. “The freedom [Oakhurst’s legacy members] gave us allowed us to feel confident to come in and make the necessary changes,” Russell said. “The existing church trusted us enough to let us lead the way.”

Both Deffinger and Lowman encouraged declining churches to work closely with local associational leaders as they weigh options for the future. Lowman added that an interim period, such as a pastoral transition, is a good time to ask trusted leaders for help evaluating a church’s condition.
“The bottom line of all this isn’t, ‘Can we survive as a church?’” Lowman said. “It is, ‘Can we be the church Jesus created us to be to reach the community around us?’”

8/20/2018 1:50:59 PM by Seth Brown, BR Content Editor | with 1 comments

N.C. pastor plans to start Kenyan orphanage

August 20 2018 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor

Because of a trip to East Africa eight years ago and a life of twists and turns, Wesley Wallis believes God has equipped his family to start an orphanage in Kenya.

Contributed photo
The Wallis family, above, including their dog, Liberty, are scheduled to leave for Africa after Thanksgiving to minister to children in Kenya, some of whom are living on the street.

“God has prepared me,” said the pastor of Walstone Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville. “God has prepared my wife.”
Wallis told the Biblical Recorder his previous roles – as a chaplain for Raleigh Rescue Mission, correctional officer in multiple prisons and pastor in Freewill Baptist and Southern Baptist churches – have made him ready for orphan care.
His wife of 21 years feels the same. She grew up in a large family in rural Tennessee. 
“They washed clothes by hand,” he said. “They had goats and chickens and a garden.”
It wasn’t until college that Cindy ate food from a can.
In his early 20s, Wallis lived near the North Carolina coast, in what he called the “beach life.” He had a surfing accident while riding hurricane force winds that left him with a deep gash in his leg. An infection led to gangrene, and doctors recommended amputation.
Wallis argued with the nurse, doctor and God. He refused to believe he would lose the leg. He prayed, “Lord, from this point on, with or without a foot, I will go anywhere anytime regardless of pay or danger.”
Shortly after his foot healed, his father told him about a Freewill Baptist church looking for a pastor. Wallis said it was in a fishing community not far from the coast – “in the middle of nowhere.”
Wallis wrote a note with his name and number on a receipt and left it pinned to the church’s door. He preached the following Sunday, and the 16 people in attendance voted him in as pastor at $100 per week.
It wasn’t much money, but Wallis remembered his promise to God and resigned the following week from his prison job. Less than two years later, the church was averaging 160 people weekly in worship attendance.
Wallis eventually landed in Alabama as a divorce recovery counselor and then made his way back to North Carolina as principal of a Christian school.
Later, he and his wife became house parents for Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina. It was his first introduction to Southern Baptists.
Then, when he became an ordained Southern Baptist pastor, he was called to a church near the coast – Sea Level Missionary Baptist Church in Sealevel. When Hurricane Isabel struck in September 2003, he received a large-scale introduction to Southern Baptists, in the form of Baptists on Mission, also known as N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM).
“I was told, ‘Tomorrow you’re going to have a caravan of yellow hats. Just get out of the way,’” said Wallis.
In November 2003, he represented his church on stage at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting, where an offering was taken to help the church rebuild.

Visit to Kenya

Wallis, 50, has been at Walstone Baptist for 12 years. Eight years ago, Wallis visited an orphanage in Kenya at the invitation of a pastor he had met who was visiting the Fayetteville area.
“I cried and cried and cried” after watching a video of the 12 orphans they had, Wallis said.
Wallis received permission from Walstone to travel for three weeks. The first week, Wallis said, he felt peace about raising funds for an orphanage. But over the next week, he began to have concerns.
The third week, Wallis said, “I didn’t know what to do. Going over there and starting an orphanage was the last thing on my mind.”
A gospel illusionist, Wallis performed shows while in Kenya at orphanages. After one event, Wallis stopped for coffee when he saw a girl who pierced his heart.
Dressed in a tattered, filthy T-shirt down to her knees, this girl was obviously malnourished. Wallis bought her a drink and fries and asked about her parents. Her parents had died of AIDS, and she was obviously not under anyone’s care.
“Show me where you sleep,” he said to her. They walked behind a building and “there was a bush with a hole dug out … just enough for her body. She climbed in the hole. She laid down and ate her fries with her eyes closed.”
He picked her up and started back to the orphanage but was told that there are 20,000 orphans in this area.
Wallis was told, “Put her back where you found her.”
He suggested adopting her because he felt like he couldn’t leave her, but no American adoptions were allowed.
“I just can’t leave her there,” he said. The response he heard was, “You have no choice, Pastor Wallis.”
The man also said Wallis would take pictures, but likely return to the U.S. and forget what he saw.
When Wallis was asked to return on another trip, he told the orphanage leader, “Next time I come, it will be to come help, not just put Band-Aids on.”
Returning home, Wallis was broken. “I fasted for 21 days” before sitting down to talk with his wife.
Wallis contacted the International Mission Board (IMB) for help. He was told the IMB does not build orphanages, and that he could consider launching a nonprofit ministry. The conversation led to the creation of Helping Orphans Thrift Stores to raise funds for the mission.
What started as one thrift store has grown to six locations with 35 employees in Hope Mills, Carthage, Fayetteville, Spring Lake and Red Springs.

Plans for Kenya

Wallis wants 100 acres to be used for an orphanage, church, school, garden and other resources, with a goal of 300-400 workers. While the couple has four children, two of the children are adults and will be staying in the U.S.
Their oldest son is in the U.S. Army, and their oldest daughter will continue to manage one of the thrift stores. The Wallises will take their two youngest to Kenya with them when they move after Thanksgiving. Their youngest daughter has been diagnosed with autism, but Wallis said she is high functioning and eager to make the trek overseas.
“When you come to Africa to start an orphanage, you can’t leave until you die,” Wallis was told.
His family plans to stay at least two years before returning stateside for fundraising and visiting family. But the goal is to live there long-term.
Running a nonprofit has been a learning experience for Wallis, but now that things are stable, the hope is for four of the stores to support the remaining two, with profits from those stores going straight to Kenya.
Wallis went to Kenya this month to find a short-term housing arrangement for their arrival in November.
Elim Ministries International, Inc., is the name of Wallis’ organization, which operates three ministries: Helping Orphans Thrift Stores, Orphans of Kenya Project and Kids Helping Kenya Kids.
“We’ve already got people saying they are going to come help,” he said.
Walstone has been supportive of his efforts.
“My church has been the best, to allow me to build thrift stores,” Wallis said. “Our goal is to provide physical education and [for the] spiritual needs of the orphans of Kenya.”
He prays his family is there to help every step of the way.
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8/20/2018 1:48:36 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Production Editor | with 0 comments

‘Queen of soul’ Aretha Franklin rooted in gospel

August 20 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

From the submissive surrender of her “Amazing Grace” to the womanly exclamations of “Respect” and other provocative hits, the late queen of soul Aretha Franklin is widely remembered for the gospel music foundations she learned at her father’s Baptist church.

Photo from
Aretha Franklin, 1942-2018

New Bethel Baptist Church (non-SBC), the Detroit congregation where Franklin grew up singing in the choir and performing solos, grieved her death Aug. 16 at age 76 of advanced pancreatic cancer.
Franklin’s popularity in African American gospel predates her first album at age 14, “Amazing Grace,” but “gospel music influenced her more than she influenced gospel music,” Southern Baptist pastor Marshal Ausberry told Baptist Press. Ausberry, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax, Va., leads the National African American Fellowship of nearly 4,000 Southern Baptist congregations.
“[She] was a child of the church. She had that authentic deep gospel sound that was rooted in her from the church,” Ausberry said. “She sang in the church choir up to the age of nine and from the age of nine to 18 she recorded gospel music. Then at around 18 she began to record secular music, but never forgetting her gospel roots.”
Mark Croston, who works with many African American congregations in his leadership post with LifeWay Christian Resources, believes Franklin’s “soulful and spiritual sounds” will likely remain an inspiration for ages.
“I have almost 100 songs by Aretha Franklin in my library,” said Croston, LifeWay’s national director of black and western church partnerships. “She blazed trails, crossed [cultures] and climbed the ladder of success, always remembering and drawing strength from the roots of her Christian faith, nurtured at the New Bethel Baptist Church.”
Franklin’s late father C.L. Franklin, who encouraged Aretha in her music, pastored New Bethel from 1946 until his retirement in 1979. Known as the man with the million-dollar voice, he first delivered in 1953 his famous sermon “The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest,” which was added to the National Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress in 2010. Aretha Franklin’s late mother Barbara Siggers Franklin also was a gospel singer.
Ausberry recalls being introduced to Franklin’s music during his childhood by an older brother who “had nearly all of her albums.

Image from Amazon
From the submissive surrender of her "Amazing Grace" to the womanly exclamations of "Respect" and other provocative hits, the late queen of soul Aretha Franklin is widely remembered for the gospel music foundations she learned at her father's Baptist church.

“I remember her soulfulness exuding through her voice as she sang ‘Respect;’ ‘The House That Jack Built;’ ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ and a host of other songs. And, oh, could she sing ‘Amazing Grace,’” Ausberry said. “Every time I would hear her sing, I would just feel the spirit within her. There was a deep soulfulness about her that moved her audiences. Aretha Franklin had that certain sound of the trumpet! Unmistakably gospel!”
Bill Carpenter, author of Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia, told Religion News Service that Aretha Franklin is “one of the few artists who is universally accepted in the black church.... The church often shuns artists who sing R&B as backsliders and rejects them when they come back and sing gospel. However, Aretha’s always been given a pass.”
In Ausberry’s words, Franklin’s “gospel roots were evidenced in her improvisational style. She did not just sing the words on a page, she exuded authentic emotional experience that her audience could identify with in their own lives. That is gospel music!”
She often sang “Amazing Grace” during her secular career and sang other gospel selections and hymns on the international stage. She sang at the memorial service of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and the inauguration of the first African American president of the U.S., Barack Obama.
“She brought what was in her naturally and poured it out from the depth of her soul,” Ausberry said. “While some artists are only a flash in the pan, Aretha was timeless, because she was authentically soulful.”
Her award-winning 1999 “Gospel Greats” album, including such beloved selections as “Amazing Grace,” “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Mary Don’t You Weep” and “Give Yourself to Jesus,” was essentially a rerelease of the 1972 “Amazing Grace” album comprised of two LPs.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/20/2018 1:48:24 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Vision team to help implement SBCAL recommendations

August 20 2018 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

An 11-member vision team will study ways to help Southern Baptist state associations implement recommended changes including a new title and system-wide professional proficiencies for directors of missions (DOMs).

Bob Lowman

The Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders (SBCAL) vision team will research ways to help state associations implement a study team’s recommendations that were adopted during the SBCAL annual meeting in June. The new vision team will report its findings to the SBCAL executive team in advance of the 2019 SBCAL annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., June 9-10.
Included in SBCAL-adopted recommendations are the use of the title “associational mission strategist” for all directors of missions and the adoption of certain foundational, relational and strategic proficiencies for the job description.
Vision team leader Bob Lowman, executive director of the Metrolina Baptist Association in Charlotte, N.C., told Baptist Press (BP) the proficiencies are more important than the name change.
“The title is an important factor,” Lowman told BP. “The proficiencies discovered and recommended as well as the partnerships that can develop to help promote those proficiencies – those are really the more important factors to be emphasizing.”
Among recommendations are six foundational, five relational and six strategic proficiencies deemed essential for the DOM position.
Each DOM, or associational mission strategist, should also be called by God to associational leadership and be a person of character, spiritually mature, committed to learning, emotionally intelligent, authentically vulnerable, a supportive coach, an active listener, a vision caster, a leadership multiplier (developer) and a consultant, among other proficiencies, according to the study team report posted online at
“Our goal will be to take the findings of the study team ... and do our best to implement those and encourage implementation of those findings in associations across the country,” Lowman said. “We really want to take what was learned through the team’s work over the past year and then translate that into action and vision and renewed mission on behalf of associations across the convention.”
Partnerships between associations, state conventions and SBC entities, as well as changes in the name and structure of the SBCAL itself, are being considered, Lowman told BP.
“Right now we’re the Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Leaders, but that name may be adjusted. It has been adjusted in the past, but it may be adjusted to better fit the findings of the study team and what the vision team recommends to SBCAL.”
Joining Lowman on the vision team, announced in the August SBCAL Encourager newsletter, are ex-officio member Ray Gentry, SBCAL executive director, McDonough, Ga.; Stan Albright, pastor, First Baptist Church, Oxford, Ala.; Mark Dance, director of LifeWay Pastors, Nashville; Dale Fisher, executive director and associational missionary, Caldwell Baptist Association, Lenoir, N.C.; Steve Holt, church services director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board; and Jason Lowe, DOM of the Pike Association of Southern Baptists and executive pastor of First Baptist Church, Pikeville, Ky.
Completing the team are Mark Snowden, director of missional leadership, Cincinnati Area Baptist Association, Cincinnati; David Stokes, executive director and lead church consultant, Central Kentucky Network of Baptists, Lexington, Ky.; Rick Wheeler, lead missional strategist, Jacksonville Baptist Association, Jacksonville, Fla.; and Tony Wolfe, director of pastor/church relations, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Related story:
‘Associational Mission Strategist’ suggested DOM title
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/20/2018 1:47:57 PM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Greg Laurie on censored ad: ‘Hold the Bible high’

August 20 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

After promotional materials for the SoCal Harvest crusade were taken down from two Southern California malls because they showed Pastor Greg Laurie holding a Bible, Laurie is asking attendees of the event to hold up their Bibles in a show of support for God’s Word.

Screen capture from Twitter
Billboards advertising Pastor Greg Laurie's SoCal Harvest crusade were removed from two Southern California malls following complaints they were offensive.

“Apparently, in our intolerant culture, we no longer can display the Bible in public,” Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., wrote in an Aug. 17 op-ed for the Los Angeles Times. “The art in question was a tribute to my hero and mentor, the late Rev. Billy Graham, who often lifted the Bible high over his head as he preached to stadiums full of people. We hold the Bible high, just like Billy did, because it has changed our lives.
“The same is true for millions of other people; and it has been true for centuries.... And yet, here we are, having to tiptoe around some who find it offensive,” Laurie wrote.
Laurie has asked SoCal Harvest attendees to bring their Bibles to the Aug. 17-19 event as part of the #StandWithTheBible social media campaign in response to the Irvine Company’s decision earlier this month to pull billboards promoting SoCal Harvest from its malls in Irvine, Calif., and Orange County, Calif. The billboards provoked complaints, according to media reports, including a “serious threat.”
Harvest redesigned the billboards’ artwork to exclude the Bible – which did not have any writing or religious symbols on it in the first place – but that did not resolve Irvine Company’s objections, CBN News reported. Laurie’s Harvest organization was refunded its money when the billboards were taken down.
Laurie asked SoCal Harvest attendees Aug. 17 “to hold the Bible high over their heads in a show of support for the ‘book of books,’” CBN reported.
An identical billboard in The Galleria at Tyler mall in Riverside, which is owned by a separate company, is still on display, according to CBS’ Los Angeles affiliate KCAL.
SoCal Harvest is expected to draw as many as 100,000 people to Angel Stadium in Anaheim, and will feature Christian recording artists, a freestyle motocross show and gospel presentations by Laurie.
The #StandWithTheBible campaign launched Aug. 11 with a tweet by Laurie and asked people to post on social media photos or videos of themselves holding a Bible with the campaign hashtag.
“I’m offended by things I see all the time – in malls, things I see in billboards,” Laurie told KCAL. “But I’m not out to boycott or stop people from having that art displayed, especially if they paid for it.”
During SoCal Harvest’s 29 years of existence, more than half a million professions of faith in Christ have been registered, Laurie wrote in an Aug. 7 blog post.
Laurie, a Southern Baptist, has partnered with the North American Mission Board the past two years to hold Harvest America crusades in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. This year’s event in Dallas yielded more than 3,000 salvation decisions from in-person and online attendees.
(EDITOR’S NOTE ­– David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press. Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/20/2018 1:46:51 PM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Dave Miller ‘on the recovery trail’ after cancer surgery

August 17 2018 by Compiled by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Iowa pastor Dave Miller, president of last year’s Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, has reported he is “on the recovery trail” after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on his kidney June 26.

BP File photo
Dave Miller, presiding at last year’s Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference in Phoenix, underwent surgery for kidney cancer June 26.

Miller, senior pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, underwent surgery to remove his gall bladder and spleen on May 3, when the tumor was discovered. His wife Jeni also underwent surgery to remove a growth on her thyroid that turned out to be cancerous.
The tumor on his kidney, as assessed by a specialist, was “small, found early, and ... my chances of full cure ranged in the neighborhood of 99%,” Miller recounted in an Aug. 13 blog post at the SBC Voices website he edits.
As summed up by Miller “... in the space of two months, we had three surgeries to remove two organs and treat two cancers.... This has been a tough year – 6 months of illness, more pain than I can imagine, and the challenge of a mountain of medical bills.”
Yet, he noted, “God has walked us through this and we are blessed.”
One of the writers at SBC Voices, Brent Hobbs, lead pastor of New Song Fellowship in Virginia Beach, Va., initiated a GoFundMe account that raised about $5,750 toward the Millers’ medical bills.
And, Miller noted, “I saw two doctors, neither of whom are believers, talk about how amazed they were at the way that my surgeries went. When I told them that people all over the country were praying for them, they looked a little uncomfortable, but I had to give credit where credit was due. Both of them did a great job (and I told them that), but I believe they had some help!”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/17/2018 11:09:25 AM by Compiled by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Betty Dilday, wife of former SWBTS president, dies

August 17 2018 by Compiled by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Betty Dilday, 87, wife of former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Russell H. Dilday, died Aug. 9 from pulmonary fibrosis complications, according to an obituary in the Dallas Morning News.

Baylor University photo
Betty Doyen Dilday was named a Woman of Distinction 2011-2012 by Baylor Dallas Women's Council.

Betty Dilday served with her husband during his 16 years as Southwestern's president (1978-1994) and his 17 years as pastor of churches in Texas and Georgia. They met during their undergraduate years at Baylor University.
She became a Christian at age 9 and was baptized at First Baptist Church in Houston. A longtime public schoolteacher, she taught Bible and missions in their churches and was a choir assistant.
In 2011, she was named a Woman of Distinction by the Baylor Dallas Women's Council and in 2017 the R.H. Dilday family was awarded the title Baylor's First Family by the Baylor Line Foundation.

Russell Dilday currently is chancellor and professor of philosophy of religion and preaching for the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute, an accredited seminary based in Arlington, Texas, with a network of online platforms, ministry partners and teaching churches.

In addition to her husband of 66 years, survivors include their son Robert and daughters Nancy and Ellen; nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A memorial service was held Aug. 14 at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reprinted from Baptist Press,, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

8/17/2018 11:09:15 AM by Compiled by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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