August 2019

Cook family ‘doing God’s work’ as they foster through BCH

August 30 2019 by Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications

The Cooks’ house looks different today as does the family that lives in it.
The home of Roger and Shanell, along with seventeen-year-old son Jackson, used to contain both a living room and a separate sitting room. Not long ago, Roger and his son took hammer and nail to the sitting room transforming it into another bedroom – big enough for two children if the need arises.

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Seventeen-year-old Jackson Cook gives his adopted sister Makayla, age 8, a piggy back ride. Jackson shared with his parents that his only regret about becoming a foster care family is he wished they had done it sooner.

For sixteen years of Jackson’s life, there were three members of the Cook household. Now, there have been as many as eight. Their household, and their lives, completely changed in 2018 when the Cooks became a licensed foster family through Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH).
Jackson recently shared his one regret about his family’s new dynamic: “I wish we’d done this sooner.”
“I always tear up when I think about him saying that,” says Shanell.
Roger and Shanell wanted to have more children after Jackson was born, but were unable.
After Roger successfully battled esophageal cancer in 2017, the Cooks began evaluating what they saw as an opportunity for their family.
“Roger’s battle was a long journey, but God is good,” Shanell proclaims. “We always wanted four children, and we saw this as God giving us a second chance.
“We felt the need to foster with the intent to adopt.”
Shanell learned of BCH’s family foster care program as she was chatting with BCH staff members who bank where she is employed. She and Roger agreed that they wanted to learn more about fostering through BCH and what it would look like for their family.
Danetta Christmas, director of Foster Care at BCH’s Mills Home in Thomasville, was at their house the following evening.
Danetta’s role is to train and license families as well as supervise case management staff members who provide ongoing support to those families. Danetta’s team works with families and churches located in counties within the Mills Home service area. BCH has family foster care offices and staff throughout North Carolina.
The Cooks began their training in September 2017 and were licensed in early 2018.
“The calls immediately started coming in,” Shanell says regarding children in need of fostering. The couple included Jackson in the decision-making process as they prayed and discussed the children who could potentially come into their home.

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The Cook family, left to right, Shanell, Jackson, Makayla and Roger Cook. Watch the Cook’s three-minute video below.

“This wasn’t just about myself and Roger, but about Jackson,” Shanell explains. “It needed to be the right fit for everyone.”
That “right fit” turned out to be a timid seven-year-old girl named Makayla.
“We first met her the week of Valentine’s Day and fell in love with her immediately,” Shanell beams. “Within ten days, she was living with us.”
Makayla had suffered a traumatic family history that left a number of emotional scars which the Cooks recognized immediately.
“She was so shy. She had no self-esteem and no confidence. It took a while to build it up,” Roger says.
As the weeks and months passed, Makayla began to see that the Cooks genuinely cared about her.
“She completely blossomed,” Roger continues. “She is very bright, energetic and talkative. She’s the little sparkplug to our family.”
A little more than a year after they began fostering her, the adoption became official.
Makayla became a permanent member of the Cook family on April 26, 2019. The larger family the Cooks always dreamt of was now reality.
However, as they fostered Makayla and continued working with BCH, the couple began seeing foster care through another filter.
“Through Danetta’s training and God working through her, we have seen it’s not all about adoption anymore,” Shanell reveals.
“Fostering is about doing God’s work,” Roger adds. “This may be the only chance a child gets to see a Christian family. No matter how long we have that child, it’s an opportunity.”

That opportunity has presented itself to the Cooks multiple times. In a year and a half, they have fostered seven children ranging from seven months to nine years old. Makayla and the other children attend church and children’s activities which included Vacation Bible School this past summer. It was at VBS that the Cooks’ newly-adopted daughter and two boys they foster accepted Christ as Savior.
“It was the greatest belated birthday gift!” exclaims Shanell, who celebrated a birthday that same week.
The family continues to look expectantly towards God, trusting Him to continue filling the extra room they have built. They are completely committed to fostering through Baptist Children’s Homes.
“Baptist Children’s Homes is a Godly, Christian organization, and I encourage people to foster through them,” shares Shanell. “They offer more resources, more help and more hope than anywhere else you’re going to go.”
“We built the extra room and God’s filled it,” Roger says. “It’s God’s timing and God’s plan. We just have to be willing to answer the call when He makes it.”
If you would like to become a foster care family or if your church is interested in starting its own foster care ministry, call Baptist Children’s Homes at 800-476-3669 and visit to learn more.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Blake Ragsdale is director of communications at Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.)

8/30/2019 10:41:53 AM by Blake Ragsdale, BCH Communications | with 0 comments

Hurricane Dorian: Bapt. disaster relief on alert

August 30 2019 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

Hurricane Dorian missed the island of Puerto Rico. While the storm reportedly appeared to be within striking distance, Dorian took a hard turn northward, providing relief to residents who endured the devastating 2017 Hurricane Maria.
“I was relieved, and I was relieved not for myself or for Send Relief,” said Jonathan Santiago, Puerto Rico director for Send Relief. “I was relieved for hundreds of thousands of families who were not ready for any type of storm. It gives us more time to prepare better and resource better and be prepared for anything that may come along in the future. The storm season is not over.”

Ahead of the storm, Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), began implementing its crisis response strategy across the island.
Through the Southern Baptist network of churches, pastors and leaders were geared up to utilize emergency packages containing a chainsaw, cooking tools and a generator to minister to the needs in their communities. The storm threat allowed Send Relief to test their protocols, but pastors and leaders on the island were grateful to avoid the need to implement them.
The near miss gives relief volunteers more time to help families whose houses still need attention after Maria’s blow to the island.
“We encourage churches and volunteers to continue to visit Puerto Rico and come and assist us because there are still so many needs,” Santiago said. “Those who could fix their roofs have already repaired them by now. Forty percent of the island live under the poverty line. People from the mainland can come and help with the roof and help them meet needs brought on by poverty.”

Dorian sets sights on Florida

With Hurricane Dorian slowly making its way northward, the National Hurricane Center projects the storm will gain strength, potentially becoming a Category 4 hurricane before making landfall in Florida early Sept. 1.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Aug. 28 and encouraged residents on the state’s eastern coast to begin preparations.
“It’s important for Floridians on the East Coast to monitor this storm closely,” Gov. DeSantis said in a statement. “I will continue to monitor Hurricane Dorian closely with emergency management officials. The state stands ready to support all counties along the coast as they prepare.”
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) has entered the initial stages of planning and readying their response for the anticipated landfall in Florida. The Florida Baptist Convention will set up a command center at their Jacksonville headquarters, and SBDR will have a presence in the Florida government’s disaster response center.
SBDR leaders will test equipment, evaluate their need for resources and contact volunteers so they can ready themselves to serve. If the storm becomes as large as projections state, volunteers from all over North America will travel and respond.
“Florida Baptists are seasoned veterans at hurricane response,” said Sam Porter, national director of SBDR for Send Relief. “They will be ready, and Southern Baptists from all over our nation will be involved in the response.”
Send Relief is preparing to support SBDR if needed in the coming days. Supplies, such as temporary rolled roofing, cleanup kits and mold remediation, are stored at the Send Relief Ministry Center in Ashland, Ky., and will be available. The team in Kentucky will prepare to load those supplies on a truck and, depending on the track of the storm, stage them closer to the affected area for delivery as soon the weather clears.
“We have been in preparation mode all week long, and now SBDR and Send Relief are preparing our emphasis for wherever Dorian strikes. We will continue monitoring the storm throughout the weekend,” Porter said.
SBDR is among the three largest providers of disaster relief assistance in the United States. Southern Baptist churches, associations and state conventions all partner to mobilize volunteers, resources and equipment to provide services. NAMB provides national coordination and assistance in larger multi-state responses.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)

8/30/2019 10:38:14 AM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

Feds find Vt. hospital violated conscience rights

August 30 2019 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

A Vermont medical center has violated federal law by forcing a nurse to participate in an abortion and has 30 days to declare its intention to correct its policies, the Trump administration announced Aug. 28.

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The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) disclosed it had issued a notice of violation to the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) in Burlington. The action followed an investigation into an unnamed nurse’s complaint she was forced to assist with an elective abortion despite her longstanding conscientious objection. The investigation also found the medical center had scheduled other workers to help in abortions though they had religious or moral objections, OCR reported in a news release.
UVMMC – which denied OCR’s findings – could potentially lose federal funding if it does not comply with the notice.
Religious freedom and pro-life advocates praised the federal government action.
“Everything about this situation is beyond troubling,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “What we see here is deception, disregard for the law and trampling over consciences.
“More still, even those who claim to be pro-choice ought also to respect the right of a nurse to choose not to participate in something so shocking to the conscience,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “I am thankful HHS officials are pursuing enforcement of the laws that protect the conscience rights of this nurse.”
In a written statement, Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, applauded OCR “for taking seriously the conscience rights of healthcare providers and enforcing decades-old legal protections. ...  It is imperative that no employee be forced to choose between their job and their beliefs.”
Jay Sekulow – chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which filed the complaint on behalf of the nurse – described it as “by far the most outrageous case” the organization has seen in more than two decades of defending the conscience rights of pro-life medical professionals. “Our client’s most fundamental beliefs about the sanctity of life were simply brushed aside,” he said in written remarks.
The medical center forced the nurse in 2017 to help with an abortion though she had expressed her objection for many years and was on a list of objectors, according to OCR. She was not informed the procedure would be an abortion until she entered the room, when the physician, who knew she objected to participating in an abortion, said to her, “Don’t hate me,” the OCR reported. The nurse again objected, but she was required to assist though others could have replaced her, according to OCR. The nurse “reasonably feared” the medical center would dismiss her or report her to licensing officials, the OCR reported.
While OCR did not disclose the nurse’s gender, ACLJ identified the nurse as a female. The complaint was filed with OCR in May 2018.
In its investigation, OCR interviewed other UVMMC personnel who have been “intentionally, unnecessarily, and knowingly scheduled” by the hospital to help with elective abortions despite religious or moral objections. UVMMC often declined to inform the workers in advance the procedures would be abortions, according to OCR.
UVMMC’s policy violates the Church Amendments and HHS regulations governing the receipt of federal funds, OCR reported. The Church Amendments – enacted in the 1970s and named after the late Sen. Frank Church, D-Ida. – protect health-care workers who object to performing abortion or sterilization procedures because of religious beliefs or moral convictions.
Enforcement of the Church Amendments “has, for all intents and purposes, been nonexistent,” Sekulow said. “[OCR] has, at long last, put teeth in a law that has lain largely dormant since its enactment. The repercussions of today’s action will be felt in every hospital and health care system in the country.”
In a written statement, UVMMC said its investigation of the nurse’s allegations demonstrated “they were not supported by the facts.”
It has “robust, formal protections that safeguard both our employees’ religious, ethical and cultural beliefs, and our patients’ right to access safe and legal abortion,” according to the medical center. “We do not discriminate against any employees for exercising their rights to opt out of procedures to which they object.”
The statement said the medical center had engaged with OCR in the last nine months about the complaint. It had volunteered to discuss its policies and practices, as well as to hear how it might improve them, according to UVMMC.
In its release, OCR said it contacted the medical center repeatedly “in a good faith effort to seek cooperation from UVMMC, but the hospital refused to conform its policies to federal conscience laws, provide all the documents requested by OCR, or produce witnesses for OCR interviews.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

8/30/2019 10:33:15 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

3 Mass. collegians seek to impact peers for Christ

August 30 2019 by Stephen Sargent, Baptist Foundation of New England

College sophomore Victoria Williams saw God change her life a year ago just before entering Bridgewater State University, the second-largest state school in Massachusetts.

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As faith spread from Bayleigh, left, to Victoria, center, and then Kailyn, these students at Massachusetts’ second-largest state university are intent on reaching their campus for Christ.

Victoria’s best friend, Bayleigh Westerlund, had invited her to summer camp. Though Victoria spent countless hours in a Catholic pew growing up, it was first time she ever felt a significant connection with God.
“I loved how everything was modern and fun,” Victoria said. “The sermons were inspirational. They moved me.” On the last night of camp, she asked Jesus into her life.
“I remember thinking, ‘I never want to lose this.’” A few months later she was baptized.
Last fall at Bridgewater State, though the school’s enrollment was nearly 12,000 students, there was hardly any Christian presence on campus or in the town for Bayleigh and Victoria to connect with other believers. Meanwhile, Grace Church – a Southern Baptist-affiliated multi-location church – had just planted a new location in Bridgewater to reach college students for Christ.
The two women soon connected with Grace Church and started serving in the kids’ ministry and student ministry together.
Though Bayleigh had grown up in a Christian family and been walking with Christ for several years, it was the first time she’d ever had a close friend to share her faith journey with each day. “I was so excited when I saw Victoria start to follow Christ,” Bayleigh said. “She was already my best friend, and to see her turn from her sin and follow Jesus – it caused me to cry all the time!”
Both students were passionate about helping their peers at Bridgewater State discover the saving grace that they had encountered in their own lives. Victoria, who played for the basketball team, regularly shared her faith with her team in hopes that God would use her to impact her friends the same way that Bayleigh’s friendship impacted her.
And that’s what happened.
Kailyn Aguiar, a senior on the basketball team, had been actively looking for a church in the area for several months. It had been years since she’d been a part of a faith community. As a freshman in high school, her church told her parents that she could no longer participate because of her sporadic attendance. Crushed and disheartened, Kailyn left the church.

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Victoria Williams is baptized at Grace Church, which has opened a campus near Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.

That is, until she saw Victoria’s Facebook post inviting her to Grace Church’s Easter service.
Kailyn eagerly said yes to attending with Victoria and Bayleigh. Though it was unfamiliar to her, she was comforted in knowing she had two friends to sit with when she arrived.
“The church felt like a family,” Kailyn said. “I loved how much they talked about the Bible.” Just a few weeks later, Kailyn asked Jesus into her life. On Sunday, Aug. 18, she was baptized – with Victoria and Bayleigh cheering her on in the front row.
This is how revival begins: God stirred in Bayleigh’s heart to invite Victoria to church. God rescued Victoria from her sin. Then God used Victoria to reach Kailyn a few months later. Now, these three friends are eager to see what God will do in and through their lives as they start a faith-based student organization at Bridgewater State this fall.
Stories like these are happening on campuses across New England in college ministries and collegiate church plants that draw support from the Baptist Convention of New England and its Baptist Foundation of New England, online at
Terry Dorsett, executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England, noted, “Though campus ministry should be important anywhere, it is even more significant in New England than in other places because of the incredible volume of political, cultural and business leaders educated in the colleges and universities here. Most of our U.S. presidents and Supreme Court justices as well as a majority of our Fortune 500 CEOs were educated in New England.
“If we want to change America, we must meet these future leaders when they are college freshmen and help them discover Christ,” Dorsett said. “Then we can disciple them for four to six years before sending them out across the nation as leaders with a Christian worldview.
“To this end, the Baptist Foundation of New England has partnered with the Baptist Convention of New England in a bold attempt to raise $3,000,000 to bolster the efforts of our 30 New England collegiate ministers.
“Such an effort might sound unrealistic to many,” Dorsett said, “but to New England Baptists, it sounds like a worthwhile investment in reaching our nation for Christ.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Stephen Sargent is development director for the Baptist Foundation of New England. Baptism Sunday will be Sept. 8 in the Southern Baptist Convention. For resources, go to

8/30/2019 10:28:47 AM by Stephen Sargent, Baptist Foundation of New England | with 0 comments

Dakotas, West Virginia set exec. director search deadlines

August 29 2019 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

October deadlines have been set by Baptists in the Dakotas and West Virginia for executive director nominees.
Oct. 9 is the deadline for individuals to submit their names or their nominations to the Dakota Baptist Convention (DBC), Oct. 31 for the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists (WVCSB).

Dakota Baptists, encompassing 83 churches in the two states, are seeking a successor for Garvon Golden, who retires Dec. 31, having led the convention since 2012. A job description can be requested by email to
West Virginia Baptists, with 240 churches, are seeking a successor for Bill Henard, who transitioned to First Baptist Church’s pastor in Athens, Tenn., on Aug. 1, having led the convention since 2015. A job description can be accessed at
For the Dakota opening, names and resumes should be emailed to or sent by mail to Dakota Baptist Convention, P.O. Box 549, Rapid City, SD 57709, Attention: DBC Administrative/Personnel Team.
For West Virginia, the addresses are or Search Committee, WV Convention of Southern Baptists, 28 Mission Way, Scott Depot, WV 25560.
Job descriptions are similar for both conventions. For the Dakotas, the basic responsibility is providing “administrative oversight to all Dakota Baptist Convention personnel, programs and agencies.” For West Virginia, the principle function is to serve as “Chief Executive Officer of the state convention and for the Executive Board, which conducts the affairs of the convention between sessions.”

The Dakota convention’s search is being conducted by the Executive Board’s administrative committee: Dude Garrett, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Fargo, N.D., chairman; Bob Farmer, pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church in Minot, N.D., vice chairman; Sean Donnelly, pastor of Black Hills Baptist Church in Whitewood, S.D., and president of the convention; Jimmie Dettemen, pastor of Hills of Grace Baptist Church in Rapid City and DBC vice president; and Anne Marie Caldwell, member of Calvary Baptist Church in Rapid City.
The 15-member West Virginia search committee was finalized July 30, to be chaired by C.J. Adkins, pastor of Westmoreland Baptist Church in Huntington and WVCSB second vice president, with Ed Goodman, Upper Ohio Baptist Association director of missions, as vice chairman.
The committee includes state leaders and laypeople from all 10 Baptist associations across the state: Paul Harris, pastor of Abundant Hope Baptist Church, Barboursville, and WVCSB president; Nathan Ertel, student pastor, Old Fields Baptist Church, Old Fields, and WVCSB first vice president; Jim Messenger, pastor of Faith Baptist Church, West Union, and WVCSB recording secretary; Mason Ballard, pastor of Resurrection Church, Charleston; Bryan Dugger, pastor of Westview Baptist Church, Martinsburg; Rick Gannon, pastor of Borderland Baptist Church, Williamson; Jim Higginson, pastor of Temple Baptist Church, Moundsville; Kevin Howerton, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church, Princeton; Don Knotts, pastor of Salt and Light Southern Baptist Church, Clarksburg; Dallas Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church of Fairlea, Ronceverte; Lynn Sommerville, member of Southside Southern Baptist Church, Parkersburg; Randy Spurgeon, pastor of Ansted Baptist Church, Ansted; and Jim Strawderman, pastor of Southern Baptist of Philippi, Philippi.
The WVCSB asked Southern Baptists in an Aug. 27 news release to share the executive director national search through their personal, print, web and social channels.
“We celebrate God’s past faithfulness, but believe West Virginia’s best days are ahead,” the executive search landing page states, adding that “it’s time to pull together, expect great things of God, and attempt great things for God.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press.)

8/29/2019 2:07:28 PM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Is the ‘worship war’ ending?

August 29 2019 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

For most pastors, the so-called “worship wars” over the style of the music used in their church have subsided, according to a study released Aug. 28.
The study from LifeWay Research found 15 percent of Protestant pastors in the U.S. say the biggest challenge they face in the area of music is navigating the varying preferences of members. And a similar number of pastors say their most significant challenge is leading people to truly worship God (16 percent), according to the survey that was conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 11, 2018. More pastors say they struggle with finding musicians and vocalists (21 percent).
Fewer say their biggest challenge is finding a music leader (8 percent), lacking the finances to do what they want to do (4 percent), or defining a musical style for their church (3 percent). A third (33 percent) say none of those are their primary obstacle.

A previous study from LifeWay Research found 5 percent of Protestant churchgoers say they would find a new church if the music style changed at their current congregation, far behind issues like the church making a doctrinal shift (54 percent) or the preaching style changing (19 percent).
Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship, believes this is evidence of a worship war peace treaty.
 “The distance between what used to be traditional and contemporary are much closer than what they were 20 years ago,” Harland said. “Disagreement has begun to wane in most churches, and what a wonderful thing that is.”
Pastors of churches with the fewest attendees (less than 50) are the least likely to say their biggest challenge is navigating music preferences (7 percent).
The youngest pastors, those 18 to 44, are more likely than the oldest pastors, those 65 and older, to say finding musicians and vocalists is their biggest challenge (24 percent to 16 percent).

Pianos top church charts

The piano remains the primary instrument used in churches. Around 4 in 5 Protestant pastors (79 percent) say piano music is a regular part of their worship service music. Songs using hymnals (69 percent) also remain popular.
More pastors say their services regularly feature songs led by an individual worship leader (60 percent) than songs led by a praise team (52 percent) or songs led by the choir (33 percent).
Around half of churches regularly feature organ music (47 percent) or a praise band (46 percent).
Fewer pastors say songs featuring only the choir (32 percent) or songs using accompaniment tracks (22 percent) are a regular part of their worship service music. Close to 1 in 10 (9 percent) say they regularly include orchestra music.
“With all the changes in church music over the past few decades, there are also many similarities between worship services today and those from past decades,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Like printed books, hymnals are far from obsolete. Individuals and groups are still leading congregations in singing together each week.”
African-American pastors (48 percent) are more likely than white pastors (32 percent) to say their church regularly includes songs featuring only the choir in their worship services.
Pastors of the smallest churches (less than 50 in attendance) are the least likely to say they regularly have songs featuring only the choir or songs led by the choir (both 21 percent).
More than twice as many churches with less than 50 in attendance (85 percent) say they use hymnals in their worship service as churches with 250 or more (41 percent).
Churches with 250 or more in attendance, however, are the most likely to regularly feature a rhythm section or praise band music (75 percent) and songs led by a praise team (79 percent).
Pastors at Pentecostal churches are most likely to say their church worship services feature songs led by a praise team (82 percent) and praise band music (73 percent). Pentecostal church pastors are also the least likely to say they regularly sing songs from a hymnal (32 percent).
Lutheran pastors (88 percent) are the most likely to say their worship services regularly have organ music.
Pastors of churches in the Northeast (58 percent) and Midwest (54 percent) are also more likely to say they have organ music than those in the South (43 percent) and West (36 percent).

Working together

Most Protestant pastors say they maintain a harmonious relationship with the church’s music leader.
More than 9 in 10 pastors (92 percent) say they and their church music leader have high levels of mutual respect, while 71 percent say they collaborate a lot in planning worship services.
Nearly 3 in 5 pastors (57 percent) say they spend time with the church music leader beyond where their church work overlaps.
Fewer pastors describe their relationship with the music leader as one where they tolerate each other (51 percent), work independently (40 percent), or often only see each other at worship services (27 percent).
A small number of pastors say the relationship is often tense (4 percent) or that they serve as the music leader along with being the pastor (3 percent).
“Because the worship service is a shared ministry with the pastors and worship leader, it’s vital they be on the same page,” Harland said.
“The dynamic of their relationship is vital to the worship leadership being done the right way. The church greatly benefits when this relationship is right, but it can be hindered when the relationship is less than it could be.”
Pastors of churches with 250 or more in attendance are the most likely to say they collaborate a lot with the music leader in planning the worship service (84 percent).
Smaller church pastors, those with worship service attendance of less than 50 (37 percent) and 50 to 99 (29 percent), are more likely to say they often only see the music leader at worship services than larger church pastors, those with attendance of 100 to 249 (22 percent) and 250 or more (16 percent).

Pay to play

Within the past year, most churches (73 percent) have paid for at least some of the musical portions of their worship service.
Nearly half of pastors (47 percent) say their church has paid the music leader or minister. Two in 5 (40 percent) say they’ve paid special musical guests.
Churches are nearly twice as likely to say they’ve paid musicians and accompanists who are members of their church (33 percent) than musicians and accompanists who play regularly but are not members (18 percent).
Fewer say they paid for vocalists who are members of the church (15 percent) or vocalists who sing regularly but aren’t members (10 percent).
Around a quarter of Protestant pastors (27 percent) say they haven’t paid for any of those in the past year.
“Many churches are able to meet their typical musical needs without paying musicians and vocalists,” McConnell said. “But churches are not isolated. They tap into talent from other churches when needed, and many intentionally use musical guests to enhance worship experiences.”
Pastors of churches with attendance of 250 or more are the most likely to say they paid their music leader or minister (68 percent).
Presbyterian or Reformed pastors are the most likely to say they paid vocalists who sing regularly but are not members of their church (24 percent).
African-American pastors are the most likely to say they paid musicians and accompanists who are members of their church (53 percent).
“Singing corporately with the body of Christ is something every disciple should care about because it is something God commanded us to do,” Harland said. “Colossians 3:16 says, ‘Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.’”
For Harland, this gives churchgoers motivation to worship with their voices. “We sing because we have a song,” he said.
“We sing because we teach and admonish one another,” he noted. “We sing because it inspires us to be faithful in our following of Christ. We sing because He is worthy of the song.”


The phone survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors was conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 11, 2018. The calling list was a stratified random sample, drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called.
Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
For more information on this study, go to or view the complete report.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

8/29/2019 2:03:36 PM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

TRUSTEES: Mandrell celebrates ‘new day’ at LifeWay

August 29 2019 by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources

In his first trustee meeting as president and CEO, Ben Mandrell gave board members an optimistic vision for the future of LifeWay Christian Resources.

LifeWay photo by Aaron Earls
In his first address to trustees as LifeWay president and CEO, Ben Mandrell described the current season as a new day both himself and the 128-year-old organization. “I truly believe God built me for this job.”

He described the current season as “a new day” for both himself and the 128-year-old organization, during LifeWay’s Aug. 26-27 trustee meeting.
“I truly believe God built me for this job,” Mandrell said, noting his excitement about his calling to LifeWay.
Mandrell announced several strategic areas on which he would focus during his first 90 days. Among his top priorities are re-energizing employees and building strong relationships throughout the organization.
“I pray the Lord uses these early months to build trust, momentum and a culture of care,” Mandrell said.
He also spoke of developing a strategy to connect relationally with pastors and leaders across the country.
“I think there are things we can do to be more intentional about building relationships with church leaders as we look at connecting with them in a personal way,” he noted.
One of the questions Mandrell said he’s been asking is how LifeWay can begin investing in churches across the country, intentionally reaching new territories and helping churches outside the Bible Belt.
“I’ve had so much fun learning and discovering the many different things LifeWay is doing,” Mandrell said of his first few weeks as president. “It’s energizing to me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to lead this team of creatives.
“The celebration service yesterday represents a new day for me and for LifeWay as we begin what I hope is a season of incredible creativity and relationship building with LifeWay,” he noted.

Divisional reports

That sense of optimism was echoed by LifeWay senior vice presidents who delivered their biannual reports to trustees.
Chief financial officer Joe Walker said sales through the month of July through LifeWay direct channels, not including stores, have increased 6 percent over 2018.

LifeWay photo by Dale Sandberg
LifeWay trustees Darron Edwards, left, Matt Crawford, center and Judy Sonich listen as President and CEO Ben Mandrell shares his vision for the future of LifeWay during its Aug. 26-27 trustee meeting.

Trustees approved a $281.3 million budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year.
Prior to an update from Earl Roberson, acting senior vice president of the resources division, trustee Darron Edwards informed his fellow trustees that the resources committee did not hear “recommendations, but a revival” in the future of LifeWay.
Roberson shared that LifeWay’s reach and impact is not waning with the closure of brick-and-mortar stores. In July alone, traffic to LifeWay websites was more than four times larger than the normal monthly traffic to LifeWay Stores.
Roberson noted that while the organization was still grieving the loss of stores, they were excited about new opportunities moving forward to expand the reach of LifeWay.
He recognized long-lasting and strong partnerships with retailers such as Walmart, Mardel, and Books-a-Million, as well as digital channels like that they would continue to build upon to expand distribution of LifeWay resources.
Roberson also unveiled a new LifeWay Authorized Dealer program that launched on June 1. The initiative involves partnering with independent bookstores to set up dedicated sections of their store containing LifeWay branded content – including, for the first time, LifeWay imprint Bible studies.
To date, 277 stores have signed up for the program, placing LifeWay products in 14 new states and 90 new markets.
Roberson also said LifeWay is reinforcing its commitment to serving pastors and the local church.

LifeWay photo by Aaron Earls
Craig Featherstone, director of LifeWay Global, reported to trustees that over the past year LifeWay has distributed resources and developed on-the-ground relationships in more than 160 nations.

Bill Craig, director of publishing, detailed the history of LifeWay’s relationship with the Kendrick brothers and their films, including the recently released “Overcomer.”
He also introduced a video message from Stephen and Alex Kendrick to LifeWay trustees. “Thank you for being our partners,” the filmmaking duo said. “Let’s keep going!”
Craig Featherstone, director of LifeWay Global, reported on strides made to reach the nations with biblical content. Over the past year, LifeWay has distributed resources and developed on-the-ground relationships in more than 160 nations.
There’s also been a rapid expansion of international authors in the publishing space. Five years ago LifeWay had one indigenous author, Featherstone said. As of now, there are 45 indigenous authors representing their global contexts.
Other highlights of LifeWay’s international reach include:

  • Training for pastors, including several varieties of virtual training, downloaded more than 300,000 times, and live events with thousands in attendance.

  • VBS has reached more than 100,000 children in India this year, and more than 30,000 Telugu-language kits have been distributed.

  • LifeWay Global has reached more than 5 million total people over the past year through offerings tailored to fit the needs of their contexts.

“The field really is white for harvest around the world,” Featherstone said. “And this is one of the most exciting, exhilarating things for LifeWay to be involved in.”
Chief human resources officer Connia Nelson shared how LifeWay continues to draw and retain top talent. “Culture is our most significant competitive advantage,” she said, noting the motivation of LifeWay employees to serve God’s Kingdom. “Team LifeWay is focused and excited on the future.”
Brad Waggoner, executive vice president, highlighted the Discipleship Pathway Assessment project from LifeWay Research as a tool churches can use to measure more than simply quantitative numbers, but qualitative markers of discipleship and spiritual growth among their members.
Chief information officer Tim Hill, who announced his departure last month, highlighted accomplishments and achievements of LifeWay IT during his six-year tenure and praised his team.
“We built a solid foundation. There’s a bright future for LifeWay,” he said. “It’s now my time to pass the baton.”

New trustees

Mandrell wasn’t the only new face among those gathered at the LifeWay headquarters in Nashville. The board welcomed five new trustees who began their terms in June. New trustees include Doug Falknor of Fayetteville, Ark.; Brad Graber of Fishers, Ind.; Sharon Greer of Kalkaska, Mich.; Judy Sonich of Clay, N.Y.; and Billy Stewart of Decatur, Miss.
Jimmy Scroggins, chairman of the LifeWay board of trustees, presented Mandrell with a letter embosser containing the Baptist Sunday School Board emblem that belonged to James M. Frost, the first president of LifeWay.
“I think looking into the future is so important for a CEO and president,” Scroggins said. “But looking into the past and standing on the accomplishments, leadership and lessons of the past are also very important.”
Scroggins concluded the meeting with remarks on Mandrell and the future of LifeWay:
“I’m praying God is going to give Ben strength not just from inside himself, but God will give him strength outside of himself – and fill him with it so he can take us where God wants us to go.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. Carol Pipes and Joy Allmond contributed to this story.)

8/29/2019 1:57:07 PM by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Beth Moore simulcast to emphasize mentoring

August 29 2019 by Joy Allmond, LifeWay Christian Resources

Five years ago, Karen Francka never would’ve believed where she’d be today. A vibrant Christian life seemed out of reach for her, as she reeled from grief after losing her best friend to cancer.

Beth Moore

“I felt very lonely, like I had no purpose,” said Francka, a member of First Baptist Church of Bolivar, Mo. “I thought I was done. Then this woman gave me a ticket to the Beth Moore simulcast.”
Since accepting her friend’s invitation to a Living Proof Live Simulcast in 2014, Francka became a Christian and has been going on international mission trips, teaching Sunday school, volunteering for Vacation Bible School, and serving in women’s ministry.
“What a life-changing day,” Francka said. “He’s taught me to love. He’s taught me to trust. He’s given me kindness. He’s restored so many things in my life.”
On Sept. 28, LifeWay’s Living Proof Simulcast event with Beth Moore will continue the work of reaching women like Francka all over the globe with a custom, gospel-centered message.
The event will be broadcast live from First Baptist Church Woodstock, Ga., with a message from Moore and Travis Cottrell leading worship. It will mark the 16th Living Proof Simulcast since its inception in 2003.
The theme of this year’s Living Proof Simulcast is “Strong Sisters,” based on Proverbs 31:25, which reads, “Strength and honor are her clothing, and she can laugh at the time to come.”
Moore will teach on what it looks like to be secure in Christ in order to teach the next generation how to be dressed with strength and dignity. There will also be a special emphasis on mentoring.
“Beth has always had a passion to reach younger women,” said Darilynn Keith, digital event coordinator for LifeWay. “And bringing up the next generation has become especially important to her during this season of her life and ministry.”
There are different levels of simulcast registrations – ones for large churches, small churches, small groups and individuals. The only requirement is an internet connection, a computer and a space to host a simulcast. From church worship centers to private homes, anyone can access the live event.
Church and small group registrations will include technical and planning support, along with promotional tools like videos, customizable signage and printable decorations.
Registrants will also have access to an exclusive Facebook group for idea swapping or encouragement and will have the capability to replay the simulcast for up to 30 days after the event.
Spanish channels, American Sign Language and open captioning are provided at no additional cost.
Churches, small groups and individuals can register on LifeWay Christian Resources’ simulcast event page.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joy Allmond is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.)

8/29/2019 1:53:30 PM by Joy Allmond, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Multisite church ID shift to help SBC ties

August 28 2019 by Aaron Earls and Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is built upon relationships between local churches, associations, state conventions and national entities. A new change to church tracking could help strengthen those relationships and provide more information to better reach communities with the gospel.

Photo from Google
A change to how churches are tracked in the Annual Church Profile could help provide more complete information about churches with multiple campuses, like Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Florida.

A growing trend in the SBC is the multisite church – a single church that meets in multiple locations. Until now the SBC has not addressed this trend in the way the convention tracks congregations.
“We know of at least 500 multisite campuses of [Southern Baptist] churches based on what’s been reported in the Annual Church Profile survey,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “However, we know more exist, but haven’t been counted.”
As of now, a multisite campus could meet in one area of a local community and other churches or the local association might have no idea, McConnell said. He hopes that will change soon.
Beginning immediately, campuses of multisite churches will be given a unique SBC ID number. Currently, more than 51,000 congregations have an SBC ID number.
This shift will enable local associations to directly contact campus pastors in their area to better engage them. It can also encourage those local campuses to connect with other churches and pastors around them.
Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, believes the change will benefit state and local leaders in a number of ways.
“Making sure the campuses in a multisite situation are counted is a good mechanism for tracking both progress and needs,” he said.
For Davis, the growth of healthy campuses of multisite churches is similar to previous times when churches may have “‘mission sites’ or ‘preaching points.’ It all is accomplishing gospel advancement,” he said.
Each campus having its own unique identification number will also help convention leaders and entities to see geographically where Southern Baptists are gathering, worshiping and serving.
It will particularly benefit the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in church planting strategy, according to Kevin Ezell, president of NAMB, who expressed gratitude toward LifeWay and state convention partners for making the tracking change possible.
“Currently, we can’t tell where church campuses are located unless we contact each church in the area and ask,” Ezell said. “This addition will be a great enhancement to us as we track the presence of gospel congregations throughout North America.”
Each campus having a unique ID will also enable SBC entities to better evaluate the long-term health and impact of those campuses.
“Assigning an ID number to each campus of a multisite church would allow us to track the life cycles of those campuses,” McConnell said.
A church with multiple campuses can contact their state convention and request an SBC ID number for each campus. The state convention will create a new campus organization in SBCWorkspace (the database of Southern Baptist congregations) and LifeWay will assign the SBC ID to that record.
While this change will grant the SBC more information, McConnell noted, it will not require changing the definition of a church or church-type mission in the Annual Church Profile (ACP).
McConnell said churches will still complete one ACP survey regardless of how many campuses they have. The ACP is a statistical survey of SBC congregations compiled each year by LifeWay in cooperation with Baptist state conventions.
It also will not impact the number of messengers each church can send to the SBC annual meeting. Those allotments will still be determined by the size of the church as a whole. Individual campuses will not be able to send messengers separately, said Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee.
“Our missional vision is to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the United States and around the world,” Floyd said.
“Tracking multisite campuses will help us have a better grasp of where Southern Baptists are already shining as lights of the gospel so we can plan expansion and growth in each community more strategically,” he said. “It will not in any way change messenger representation at our annual meetings.”
In the new tracking method, campuses are defined as “an additional site or location where a congregation meets for worship, discipleship, fellowship, evangelism and ministry. This is not an additional worship service or venue at the original location, but an ongoing expression of the congregation in a different community or another part of the local community. A campus is not autonomous but exists under the authority of the entire multisite congregation.”
Many may see the change in data collection as insignificant, but it can have far reaching implications, McConnell said.
“At the end of the day, yes, it is just a number,” he said. “But it does give us a better view of where Southern Baptists are meeting and hopefully will strengthen the ties between churches within our convention.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. Carol Pipes is director of corporate communications.)

8/28/2019 5:52:04 PM by Aaron Earls and Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

Send Relief, Puerto Rico prepares for oncoming storm

August 28 2019 by Brandon Elrod, NAMB

Tropical Storm Dorian is staring down the islands of the Caribbean, two years after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.

NAMB photo
Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of the North American Mission Board, are prepared in Puerto Rico for a weather crisis should Tropical Storm Dorian create havoc as it crosses the Caribbean. With thousands of meals ready for distribution and local churches prepared with crisis response equipment, Send Relief has a plan in place should disaster strike.

Current projections from the National Hurricane Center have the storm making landfall on the southwestern side of Puerto Rico around 8 p.m. Aug. 28.
While Dorian is not expected to strengthen to the levels of the 2017 storm, its impact could still be significant to an island that is still in a weakened state.
“Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria,” said Jonathan Santiago, director of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send ministry center in Puerto Rico. “As a result, it doesn’t take a lot of wind and rain to damage homes covered with blue tarps and already needing repair.”
Along with the physical toll comes the fact that many who endured Hurricane Maria still wrestle with the emotional stress.
“The sense on the island is mixed,” Santiago said. “You have those who are suffering from post-traumatic stress. They know what they went through. So, this is just a reminder of the experience they went through.”
Over the last two years, Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of NAMB, has been investing in the island. Mission teams have been rotating in and out of Puerto Rico almost non-stop to repair roofs, paint homes and serve local communities, completing roughly 700 recovery and repair jobs affecting hundreds of properties.
Part of Send Relief’s strategy has been to store more resources on the island in case of emergency and establish a stronger foundation for cooperation among the churches there.
“The church network in Puerto Rico is much stronger than it was two years ago before Maria,” said Sam Porter, Send Relief’s national director for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. “We are encouraged that they will be as ready as they can be.”
Send Relief currently has 150,000 meals stored in a warehouse on the island. Pallets of that food are being distributed to 10 locations central to previously designated zones. Should the worst occur, they will be accessible for the affected areas, but those pallets can be recalled if they are not needed.
Along with storing food, dozens of churches have the emergency packs Send Relief delivered in 2017 for the response to Hurricane Maria. Churches will be ready to activate those packs, which contain chainsaws, propane powered heating plates for cooking and a generator, should the storm ravage their neighborhoods.
Along with contacting and meeting with the pastors of those churches to ensure their preparedness, Santiago has also been in contact with local Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) leadership and government officials to discuss any potential response.
“Regardless of whether Puerto Rico gets a direct hit, we are still going to get a lot of rain and at least some wind,” Santiago said.
To learn more, go to
(EDITOR’S NOTE – UPDATED 8/28/19 9:12 a.m.: The storm is expected to make landfall on Puerto Rico’s eastern coast late Wednesday morning/early afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center’s projections. The center of the storm will cut across the middle of the island, following a path similar 2017’s Hurricane Maria. Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)

8/28/2019 5:47:45 PM by Brandon Elrod, NAMB | with 0 comments

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