December 2008

Special: Personal financial health

December 31 2008 by BR staff

Jesus talked about our relationship with money more than He talked about any other thing.
Yet, Christian debt burden and divorce rates vary little if any from the world at large.

Fifty-six percent of people divorcing say money was the main reason. Bankruptcies are up; savings are down. For only the third time in history, the U.S. has a negative savings rate. The other periods were 1932-33, and in 2006-07. The average credit card debt per household is more than $9,000, and we spend more than we earn each year.

In the midst of an economic crisis the government’s response is to encourage borrowing.

Is there a better way? Can we gain control of our own impatience to borrow, buy and enjoy instantly? Should a Christian’s relationship with money reflect a different standard?

The Jan. 3 issue of the Biblical Recorder offers a look at some of the issues, and, perhaps, offers some handles for you. Stories from this issue will begin to be posted Jan. 2. Please check our web site in the following days to improve your financial health in 2009.

Several more stories have been held for the Jan. 17 issue and will be posted online later this month.

Financial health package entries:

Intro: Personal financial health (posted Dec. 31, 2008)
Biblical money principles blaze easier path (posted Jan. 2, 2009)
Don’t wait to tackle financial issues (posted Jan. 2, 2009)
Five steps to break the shackle of debt (posted Jan. 2, 2009)
Seminaries act in face of financial woes (posted Dec. 18, 2008)
Southeastern working to keep students in school (posted Jan. 5, 2009)
Which verses do you choose to guide finances? (posted Jan. 5, 2009)
Financial tips help newlyweds avoid credit potholes (posted Jan. 6, 2009)
Do pastors avoid teaching stewardship? (posted Jan. 6, 2009)
Teaching seven pillars of financial wisdom for pastors (posted Jan. 6, 2009)
Holman produces New Testament for family financial health (posted Jan. 6, 2009)
In tight times, clergy counsel patience (posted Jan. 6, 2009)
Estate plan completes financial health (posted Jan. 6, 2009)
Standard procedures help home managers (posted Jan. 7, 2009)
Teach your kids about money (posted Jan. 7, 2009)
Families find financial peace in Ramsey seminars (posted Jan. 7, 2009)
Cary church helps job seekers make connections (posted Jan. 8, 2009)
Using many search methods gets job faster (posted Jan. 8, 2009)
Pastors unite to help job seekers find work (posted Jan. 8, 2009)
Colleges try to help students through tough times (posted Jan. 19, 2009)
Chowan teaches danger of credit card abuse (posted Jan. 19, 2009)
Pastors unaware of members’ debt (posted Jan. 21, 2009)
Church builds, renovates, buys debt-free (posted Jan. 21, 2009)
Should Christians use credit cards? (posted Jan. 21, 2009)
Are there curses for those who take on debt? (posted Jan. 21, 2009)
For some in N.C., food comes from Angel (posted Jan. 22, 2009)
Church loan program edges closer to reality (posted Jan. 22, 2009)
They teach spiritual truths, too (posted Jan. 27, 2009)
Editorial: Encourage each other toward contentedness (posted Jan. 2, 2009)
Editorial: Tithing your estate creates new beginnings (posted Jan. 21, 2009)
Spoke’n: Living debt-free requires choices (posted Jan. 2, 2009)
Guest column: Tough Lessons for tough times (posted Jan. 2, 2009)
Guest column: 2009 — Starting for the finish (posted Dec. 31, 2008)

Electronic page files relating to Jan. 3 Biblical Recorder financial package (Adobe Reader required):

12/31/2008 10:41:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

This could be your final issue of the Recorder

December 31 2008 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

If you have been receiving the Biblical Recorder without a personal subscription or through a church club plan, you likely have benefited from the generosity of the Baptist State Convention which was providing it because you are a “church leader.” Since 2000 the Recorder provided a page in most issues called Church Leader where the BSC could promote the meetings, events, people and programs through which it serves Convention churches.
For each of those issues, the BSC added to the Recorder mailing list the names of about 13,000 persons it wanted to be sure received the Recorder and the special promotional information on the Church Leader page.

In exchange, the BSC and Recorder shared the cost of providing the additional copies. The Recorder was happy to provide the service because we believe it is vital for every North Carolina Baptist to have the information contained in each issue.

With a decline in Cooperative Program gifts forcing both the BSC and the Recorder to make hard budget decisions, the BSC will no longer share the cost of providing Church Leader and the Recorder cannot bear it alone. So, this is the last issue that will contain a regular Church Leader page.

Therefore, it is vital — especially for church leaders — to be sure you have a personal subscription or that you are included in your church’s club plan. Call the Recorder office at (919) 459-5692.

I am also happy to remind you that your Cooperative Program gifts provide operating funds for the Recorder that enable us to provide a subscription to you at a very reasonable rate. An individual subscription is just $15.50 next year and church club plans are even more affordable.

12/31/2008 10:36:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Study: kids from religious, intact families fare better

December 30 2008 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON — Children living with both biological parents or adoptive parents who attend religious services regularly are less likely to exhibit problems at school or at home, a new analysis of national data shows.

The study by psychologist Nicholas Zill, the founder of Child Trends, and statistician Philip Fletcher found that children in such a situation — when compared to children not living with both parents and not attending religious services regularly — are 5.5 times less likely to have repeated a grade and 2.5 less likely to have had their parents contacted by the school because of a conduct or achievement problem.

Additionally, intact families who have regular religious participation (defined as at least weekly or monthly) are less likely to report parental stress and more likely to report a "better parent-child relationship," the analysis, which focused on families with children ages 6-17, says.

The study, co-released by the Family Research Council (FRC) and more than 30 state family councils as part of FRC's Mapping America project, was based on interviews in 2003 with parents of more than 100,000 children and teens by the National Center for Health Statistics for the National Survey of Children's Health.

The data "hold(s) up after controlling for family income and poverty, low parent education levels, and race and ethnicity."

"An intact two-parent family and regular church attendance are each associated with fewer problem behaviors, more positive social development, and fewer parental concerns about the child's learning and achievement," Zill and Fletcher wrote. "Taken together, the two home-environment factors have an additive relationship with child well-being. That is, children who live in an intact family and attend religious services regularly generally come out best on child development measures, while children who do neither come out worst. Children with one factor in their favor, but not the other, fall in between."  

The authors said that children in an intact religious family "are more likely to exhibit positive social behavior, including showing respect for teachers and neighbors, getting along with other children, understanding other people's feelings, and trying to resolve conflicts with classmates, family, or friends." 

Pat Fagan, the director of FRC's Center for Family and Religion, said the study should impact social policy.

"Social science data continue to demonstrate overwhelmingly that the intact married family that worships weekly is the greatest generator of human goods and social benefits and is the core strength of the United States," he said in a statement. "Policy makers should strongly consider whether their policy proposals give support to such a family structure. Children are not the only beneficiaries but also their parents, families, communities, and all of society."

(EDITOR'S NOTE — Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. The entire report can be read online at

12/30/2008 9:16:00 AM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Billy Graham joins FBC Spartanburg

December 29 2008 by Baptist Press

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Evangelist Billy Graham has moved his membership to First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., the church's pastor told the congregation Dec. 28.  

A long-time member of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Graham told FBC Spartanburg Pastor Don Wilton on Christmas Eve that he wanted to join the Spartanburg church, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal reported.

Wilton and his son were visiting Graham at the 90-year-old evangelist's home in Montreat, N.C., which is about 90 miles from Spartanburg.  

Graham is good friends with Wilton and watches the church's services on television. Graham wrote the foreword to Wilton's 2005 book, Totally Secure: Finding Peace and Protection in the Arms of God.  

"Our church is deeply humbled and deeply grateful to accept him as one of our own," Wilton told WSPA-TV in Spartanburg. "And it certainly gives us great joy to do that."  

FBC Spartanburg and FBC Dallas both are Southern Baptist churches.  

Graham turned 90 Nov. 7. In 60-plus years of ministry, he has preached the gospel in person to nearly 215 million people, according to statistics by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

12/29/2008 10:39:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Family opens hearts to adoption — 40 times

December 29 2008 by Scott Barkley, Baptist Press

ADEL, Ga. — Often, a picture in the mail was all it took.  

Word had gotten out about the couple willing to take in children, no matter if they were minorities or a sibling group or had special needs.

Drew and Nancy McDowell — married as teens and childless their first five years — made room. Some came alone, but six times they came in groups of three or more.

Today the McDowells count 41 children, all but one of them adopted.  


Four. One.  

"You might would have to be a little crazy to do it," Nancy, 61, admitted. "But if you're called, you go forward and don't think much about it."  

The average American family has two children. The McDowells have multiplied that by just over 20 — in diapers, pacifiers, toy cars, dolls, bags of school supplies, trips to the doctor or dentist, requests/demands for candy in the checkout line and required deposits for extracurricular activities.  

According to MSN Moneycentral it costs nearly a quarter million dollars to raise a child today. However, finances never stood in the way for Drew and Nancy, members of Massee Baptist Church in Adel, Ga., who adopted their first child, Julie McDowell Hisaw, in 1970.  

"God's always met our needs," Nancy reflected. "Drew had a good job for years and we just learned to manage what we had. Over the years we've had several people feel led to do something for us or give us something. We never bothered to look at the statistics on raising a child."  

Hisaw calls her mother a nurturer and her father a cut-up. Around the fourth grade she wanted a sister, so her parents adopted Sally, nine months older than Julie. A child here and there would be added through the early 90s, at which time there were "only" 10 children.

During that decade, however, more requests came and "kids just came out of the woodwork," Hisaw said.  

All told, the McDowells have adopted from Georgia, Florida, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina. One daughter adopted in Alabama was part Filipino. That made Nancy want to look internationally. Soon enough a daughter and son from Korea had joined the brood.  

A laid-back demeanor certainly helped, but where does one get the stamina in a household where bedroom walls with posters of David Cassidy, Leif Garrett and Journey were eventually replaced by New Kids on the Block and NSync before giving way to the High School Musical kids, Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers?  

"I was an only child, but Nancy had two brothers and a sister with a large extended family," Drew said. "We kind of gradually got into (adopting). One day I look around and there's a T-shirt in my closet saying, 'Who are these kids and why are they calling me dad?'  

"As we became more involved in adoption we realized how many children were in need," he said. "There are a lot of kids people don't know about that need homes. Through the years we've also learned that there is a difference in each individual."  

Like other young couples, the McDowells envisioned a house full of children the "natural" way. A few years without getting pregnant led to a doctor's diagnosis of infertility. So they looked into adoption.

Members of Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins at the time, their Sunday school teacher was a freshman state senator named Sonny Perdue. The future governor introduced the McDowells to the state Senate as examples of those looking to provide stable homes for children.  

Most of their children have been adopted through state services, with more than 30 coming from Texas. Many included sibling groups.  

When Nancy was 35, the doctors were officially proven wrong regarding her ability to get pregnant. Justin, now 24, is a recent graduate of the University of South Alabama with a degree in X-ray technology.  

Many of his siblings have gone on to college, largely through Pell grants or other financial assistance.  

"It had been the desire of my heart to have a baby (biologically)," Nancy said. "Even through all those years I'd never given up on it. Even when I became pregnant and called my mother, she was still concerned and said I shouldn't be telling anyone about it. But when you're dealing with God, you have no idea how far His grace can go."  

The road home

About 13 miles outside Adel, a dirt road leads to a series of homes with plenty of room around them. One driveway snakes past a small horse pasture and grove of pecan trees, winding up at a house bigger on the inside than the exterior suggests.  

The 20-acre spread works for the family even if the house is barely half the size of their previous one. A 17-bedroom behemoth in Pass Christian, Miss., had served as the McDowell residence for years until Nancy's rheumatoid arthritis — a battle she's fought for 14 years — began acting up. In addition, fluid built up in her lungs. Doctors said the Gulf Coast humidity was no place for her to live, so the couple made plans to place the house on the market.  

In April 2006 the family took a trip to Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Ga. Nancy felt the climate suited her and talked to her husband about selling their current home. Georgia wasn't new to them. Years before they had lived in Dunwoody and Warner Robbins.  

"Who was going to buy a house with 17 bedrooms?" Drew remembered wondering.  

A Bishop Adel (talk about foreshadowing) from a church in the Bronx saw the home and contacted the McDowells, wanting to purchase it as a ministry center. Soon enough the family was relocating.  

Changing what a child has learned the first years of his or her life is tough. Early on, Nancy often would have to convince them they didn't have to eat everything on their plate and ask for more — there would be more tomorrow. Some had been living on the street. One daughter talked about the particulars of dumpster diving.  

"Just like anyone else who's had children, there are going to be ups and downs and good times and bad times. But the kids have quite a transformation from where they came from to being in a stable home environment," she said.  

The McDowells acknowledge that having such a large family — no matter how close-knit — can add tension, particularly during the years of teen angst. Some strained relationships exist between child and adoptive parent. In fact, Hisaw said the majority of her siblings, herself included, at one time or another thought there had to be a different life, a better one.  

"Raising a family isn't cookie cutter," Hisaw said. "There are problems and influences from the outside world. We'd ask why our friend's momma and daddy bought this and we couldn't, then hear how those people didn't have 14 brothers and sisters."  

In the way time reveals and teaches, Hisaw now has a clearer grasp as a mother herself.  

"I find myself repeating things to my children and younger brothers and sisters that I heard from my parents. I see some of the ones who have drifted off coming back because this is the only family they've ever had. Momma and Daddy's dedication to us as their children is a ministry in itself."  

Seeing the results 

"We've tried to give (the children) better than what they had," Drew said. "We wanted them to have an education and take them to church and learn about God."  

"My wife and I marvel at how well they've done with those kids," said Stanley Hendricks, pastor at Massee Baptist. "The children are heavily involved in our youth group and active in the church's ministry."  

Hendricks came to Massee as interim pastor a little before the McDowells moved to Adel. Hisaw was a member at the time and so Hendricks had heard about her rather large family in Mississippi. It didn't prepare him for the initial meeting, though.  

"The first time they came to the church I walked out of the office and stopped," he said. "Those children were coming out of everywhere into the sanctuary."  

He's also noticed the mutual devotion.  

"They love one another; that's obvious. The kids absolutely adore their parents. After the service they all go to their momma and daddy first then go see their friends. They're just an unusually well-behaved bunch."  

Although learning about God can be done at church, Hisaw recalls the level of discipleship the McDowells taught at home.  

"The Bible teaches about unconditional love," Hisaw said. "You may stray from the flock and we may not agree with the choices in your life, but Momma and Daddy love unconditionally."  

Heather, 21, currently works in Colorado as a college financial aid officer. She admits that after moving out she learned to appreciate her parents more.  

"I've come to realize why my parents were strict and always pushed us to do well no matter how hard it was," she said. "I used to always get angry when they didn't let me go out with my friends when I didn't have my homework done or little things like that, but now it's a very different story.  

"The simplest things they did for me that I thought were not fair actually helped me to succeed in the real world."  

While maintaining an ironclad resolve to their calling in providing children a home and family, Drew and Nancy don't gloss over the challenges that come with it.  

"It's easy now that we only have 14 (in the house)," Drew quipped. "There were 32 at one time. With that many you have to run a tight ship."  

Standing outside in the south Georgia twilight recently, he pointed out the importance of not simply viewing his children collectively.  

"You have to understand that each one of them is an individual, even in sibling groups," he said. "They have different needs, ideas and wants. You've got to deal with them accordingly. I've drawn a line in the sand with every one of them, and every one has tested it. Some test it every day."  

With a mixture of focus and contentment, Nancy's observation sounds somewhat like a mission statement.  

"When we were contacted with a group we'd just take them in. Looking back over 36 years it hasn't been that hard.  

"It's our calling." -

(EDITOR'S NOTE — Barkley is production manager of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

12/29/2008 2:51:00 AM by Scott Barkley, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Religion in presidential race tops '08 news

December 28 2008 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Baptist journalists and observers ranked religion in the 2008 presidential election the year's biggest story for Baptists. Faith in politics played a major role in the year's news cycle, according to an annual ranking of top stories compiled by Associated Baptist Press.  

North Carolina Baptists' vote to eliminate a giving option through the Convention budget to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship made the top 10 list at No. 8.

Religion stories ranged from the surprising emergence of Southern Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee as a contender for the GOP nomination, to questions about whether Mitt Romney's Mormon faith would be a turnoff to evangelical voters, to problems for John McCain over comments by his supporter John Hagee and to the Jeremiah Wright controversy that prompted President-elect Barack Obama to divorce himself from both his former pastor and home church.  

Respondents to an annual informal survey by the independent news service based in Jacksonville, Fla., ranked religion in the 2008 presidential election the year's top story.

The rest of the rankings were as follows:  

2. The New Baptist Covenant Celebration. The historic gathering held Jan. 30-Feb. 1 in Atlanta drew 15,000 participants from 30 Baptist conventions and organizations to hear addresses from speakers including former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and former vice president Al Gore. Carter, one of the meeting's principal organizers, called it the "most momentous event of my religious life."

The movement toward a unified Baptist witness in North America picks up again in 2009 with a series of regional New Baptist Covenant gatherings beginning Jan. 31 in Birmingham, Ala.  

3. Election of African-American president suggests shift in religious voters. Though opposed by the Religious Right for his pro-choice views on abortion and support for civil unions for gays, Obama found strong support from African-American and Hispanic religious voters. Some observers said the election marked waning influence of the Religious Right, while others said it is too early to tell if the trend is permanent.   

4. Saddleback civil forum features presidential candidates. Southern Baptist mega-church pastor and Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren made headlines in August when he invited both major presidential candidates to a Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency at his church in Lake Forest, Calif. The first time nominees of both parties appeared on the same stage, the event provided one of the most embarrassing moments of the campaign for Obama, who tried to dismiss a question about abortion by saying that answering a question about when a baby gets human rights is "above my pay grade."

McCain, meanwhile, cemented his support among Religious Right leaders previously suspicious of him for past comments critical of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.  

5. The economy. One writer predicted a faltering economy would top next year's ranking, but effects are already being felt in Baptist life. Two Southern Baptist seminaries — Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas — recently announced budget shortfalls, while Woman's Missionary Union in Birmingham, Ala., plans cutbacks including placing workers on a four-week unpaid furlough in 2009.  

6. Baylor removes president for failure to unite campus. Trustees fired President John Lilley July 24, saying he had failed to reunite a university community divided by differences over leadership by his predecessor, Robert Sloan. Lilley, who took Baylor's helm in January 2006, ran into his own problems after denying tenure to several faculty members, despite recommendation by their departments. Outcry from alumni also forced him to back off from a proposal to replace Baylor's "BU" interlocking logo on the school's football helmets with the word "Baylor" in an attempt to push the Baptist school's brand name to a national level.  

7. Georgia Baptists reject church with woman pastor. The Georgia Baptist Convention changed a policy to authorize leaders to refuse funds from First Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., because it called woman as pastor.

Convention leaders said calling Julie Pennington-Russell as pastor in 2007 violated the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message doctrinal statement and rendered the historic congregation "not in harmony" with the state convention.  

8. North Carolina Baptists nix plan that forwarded funds to CBF. Capping several years of challenges to a multi-track giving plan, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina voted Nov. 12 to end an option that allowed churches to forward money through the state convention to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and other entities unrelated to the Southern Baptist Convention. While supporters of multiple options said the system respected church autonomy, opponents said it put forth a divided witness for the state's Southern Baptists. Churches in North Carolina that want to contribute to the breakaway moderate group will in the future have to send funds directly to the CBF.  

9. 'Evangelical center' forming in U.S. politics. David Gushee, a regular ABP columnist, began 2008 with a book arguing a "political center" is emerging in American's white evangelical community — one that seeks a broader moral agenda than traditional family values concerns and prefers consensus solutions to polarization between the secular left and Religious Right. Groups including the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative sought to define social problems like poverty, torture and the environment as moral issues.

Exit polls showed that religious voters want a broader agenda than opposition to abortion and gay marriage to best reflect their values, and prefer common-ground solutions like working to reduce instead of outlawing abortion.  

10. Violence targets Christians in India. Baptists worldwide denounced violence targeting Christians in an overwhelmingly Hindu state in northeastern India. Religious violence is nothing new in Orissa, where in 1999 a mob burned Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons to death while they slept in a car. In November U.S. Christian leaders including Daniel Vestal of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and William Shaw of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., urged President Bush to take action against sectarian violence described as "ethnic cleansing" of religious minorities.   

12/28/2008 9:19:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Gallup: Americans see religious influence waning

December 28 2008 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Two-thirds of Americans think religion is losing its influence on U.S. life, a sharp jump from just three years ago when Americans were nearly evenly split on the question, according to a new Gallup Poll.


Sixty-seven percent of Americans think religious influence is waning while just 27 percent say it is increasing.


That perspective demonstrates a continuing downward trend, Gallup said. But the 27 percent figure is still higher than the record low, set in a 1970 poll, when just 14 percent of Americans thought religion was increasing in influence.


Those who regularly attend worship services are more likely to say religion is losing its influence; three out of four weekly attenders (74 percent) said religious influence is falling, compared to 24 percent who thought its influence is on the rise.


At other times in American history, religion has been perceived by more Americans as having increasing significance. In 1957, 69 percent thought its influence was increasing, compared to 14 percent who thought it was declining.


Likewise, in 2001, three months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 71 percent saw an increasing religious influence, compared to 24 percent who said it was decreasing. The latest poll also finds that the percentage of Americans believing that religion "can answer all or most of today's problems" has reached an all-time low.


Slightly more than half of those surveyed — 53 percent — held that view, while 28 percent say it is "largely old-fashioned and out of date."


The poll results are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 4-7 with 1,009 adults; the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.  

12/28/2008 9:10:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Southeastern secures creation care grant; Merritt will consult

December 25 2008 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

WAKE FOREST — Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has been awarded a  $126,500 grant from The Energy Foundation for initiatives toward creation care.

Jonathan Merritt, who initiated the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative in 2008, will consult with Southeastern as it implements and promotes “better care of God’s creation through increased awareness and increased opportunities to get involved,” according to a seminary news release.

The money provided by The Energy Foundation will be used for a recycling program at Southeastern; a national conference in November on creation care; funding Merritt’s position for a year through Southeastern’s L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture (CFC); and an endowment to provide creation care materials for the library and classroom.

The majority of the new efforts will be done in conjunction with the Center for Faith and Culture, which seeks to engage culture as salt and light, presenting and defending the Christian faith and demonstrating its implications for all areas of human existence.

As a consultant for the CFC, Merritt, a recent graduate of Southeastern, will travel to promote creation care and Christian stewardship of the environment.

“This grant is another testament to the great job that Dr. Akin and our fine faculty are doing here,” said Merritt. “If it were not for the Bible-based, intellectual freedom that Southeastern provides, I would never have been able to attempt something this big.”

In addition to funding Merritt as a consultant, the grant will also enable Southeastern to host a conference in November 2009 on earth stewardship, as well as a lecture series on environmental stewardship practices.

“We are grateful to The Energy Foundation for the grant to develop a conference on creation care,” said Bruce Little, director of the Center for Faith and Culture. “The conference gives us a platform from which to address a very important topic in our culture, a topic Christians have a stake in — not because there might be a crisis, but because our Christian worldview requires us to be concerned.

“We hope to be able to put the discussion in a proper theological context, showing that Christians should first be concerned about the environment for theological reasons, and then see how that commitment informs us on the issue before us.”

Merritt first became involved with efforts for good environmental stewardship during a Southeastern theology class, an experience that “lit a fire for creation care” in his heart. He said he is excited about the opportunities the grant presents to Southeastern and Southern Baptists. 

“This grant enables us to leap to the front lines and speak with a voice that is rooted in God’s word and adequate to the tasks at hand,” he said.       

12/25/2008 5:38:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

N.C. churches spread Christmas message

December 24 2008 by Dianna Cagle and Patty Shaver, BR staff

Battling cold weather and numb appendages, members of Fairview Baptist Church in Statesville, caroled through neighborhoods, to shut-ins and at a local nursing home and hospice on Dec. 7.  
Birgit Padgett, a member of Fairview, went with a group that took a “hayride without the hay” in a wagon through a local neighborhood. A couple of men went door-to-door to invite people to listen to the carolers and distribute material about the church and its upcoming events.  

“Most people were so thankful,” Padgett said. “They had not seen carolers for years.”  

One family brought hot chocolate and coffee out for the group.  

Padgett, who sings with the choir and praise team at church, said she and her family went to the nursing home last year. 

“That was a neat experience too, but completely different,” she said.  

Padgett’s group extended their hour-long adventure by 30 minutes to visit about 15 houses. Many of the houses they passed had their lights turned off, hopefully indicating their lack of presence not lack of enthusiasm for carolers, Padgett said.  

“We just stopped because it was so cold,” she said. “Our feet and hands were like ice blocks.”  

Shannon Deaton, minister of music, prepared a handout with six or seven songs. Many ended with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”  

About 100 people went out in 10 different groups around the community.  

Traditionally, the church had been visiting just the shut-ins and a local nursing home. Each year the ministry involved about 25 people.  

“I believe the Lord laid it on our heart to do more with something that was very simple for us to do, did not cost much money and would be effective for the kingdom of God,” Deaton said.  

Tony Craver brought his whole family to the caroling outreach. With his wife and three children, ages five to 10, Craver said they’ve been doing this since their youngest could crawl.  

“I think people were pleasantly surprised,” Craver said of the caroling visit.  

Devotion booklet

Most years, members and staff of Hominy Baptist Church in Candler contribute items for an advent devotion book for the church. Amy Rice, ministry assistant for Hominy, said people contribute poems and stories as well as devotions.  

Rice said they added home worship ideas as well as a guide to what advent means.  

“This is our biggest one,” she said of the booklet, which is more than 50 pages and has entries dated through Jan. 1.  

The devotions are “intended to encourage your spiritual preparation,” she said.  

The church also celebrates advent at the beginning of Sunday morning services.  

Making Chrismons

For those who enjoy holiday crafts, Chrismon making may be a creative option.  

A Chrismon is a Christ monogram — a symbol intended to represent aspects of the person, life or ministry of Jesus Christ through a single image.  

“Many older Chrismons were made of Styrofoam, but they break and deteriorate easily,” said Robbie Erickson, who teaches a Chrismon making workshop at First Baptist Church in Reidsville. “Ours are made of pearls, gold beads and wire.” Others may be cross-stitched.  

Chrismons cannot hang on a tree with secular ornaments, said Erickson.  

Chrismon making is growing in popularity. Erickson’s classes have grown to the point that she now holds workshops in her basement so she doesn’t have to transport all her materials to other locations.  
Chrismons vary in complexity and “can take 30 minutes to 12 hours to make,” Erickson said. Techniques can be learned right away in workshops like the ones Erickson teaches. Erickson said she likes the fellowship the workshop brings. “We share ideas and give each other advice, she said.  
So far, Erickson has made close to 200 Chrismons. “It is endless as to what you can do,” said Erickson.  

For more information about Chrismons, go to Betts leads Chrismon making workshop at Guilford Technical Community College in Greensboro. Many of her designs are copyright protected. For more information, contact Betts at  

Hand-made gifts

Recently First Baptist Church in Mount Airy held its third annual gift workshop.  

Members were encouraged to take part in making gifts for all of the church’s homebound members and others in nursing homes, retirement centers or “who might be in need of a little extra cheer,” said Barbara Blood, who heads up this ministry.  

Blood noted that the church writes letters and visits throughout the year, but this workshop is done once a year.  

This year the group of 18 made about 50 gifts over about three hours.  

“We have been told that these gifts mean a lot,” Blood said. “These folks like to be remembered, and I think sometimes they feel left out.”  

Tables were set up with six different gift projects.  

Children could also make gifts for family members for a minimal cost. There was a fee to cover the supplies.  

“We place the gifts in an easily accessible spot near the office,” Blood said. “Some are taken on youth visits or caroling nights. We just try to make sure that each gift gets delivered before Christmas.  

“The workshop is a lot of fun and hopefully our children are learning to give in to others in the process.” 

12/24/2008 6:45:00 AM by Dianna Cagle and Patty Shaver, BR staff | with 0 comments

Cabarrus Association launches holiday stress webinar

December 24 2008 by BR staff

Cabarrus Baptist Association launched a telephone/webinar Dec. 18 about holiday stress and how to deal with it. Tom O’Neal, pastoral counselor from The Counseling Center at Charlotte (, led the webinar titled “Stress during the holidays.”  

General stressors associated with the holidays

According to O’Neal, the general pace of life can be dramatically increased during the holiday season. This can occur in both church life and family life. Ministers and laypersons can get wrapped up in increased activities, special services and programs. This can amount to additional time added to an already overloaded schedule, especially for clergy who tend to be involved in everything, so that they are unable to spend time with their extended families.  

With families, “memories of past Christmases naturally flow into present,” O’Neal said.  “Sad times, lonely times, disappointed times and happy times are triggered by the gathering of clans or the anticipation of such gatherings.”  

Some family gatherings are not always happy — dysfunctions show up and suppressed conflicts may come to surface. Gift-giving can add to that stress, especially if one deviates from the family’s unwritten rules on the subject.  

Holiday stress can occur in an ideological sense also. “Guilt regarding the commercialization of the birth of   Jesus haunts us,” O’Neal said. “Yet we participate in the cultural revving up.”  

Dealing with holiday stressors

Here are some strategies O’Neal suggests for dealing with holiday stress:

  1. Monitor your stress level and find one suitable for you. Set limits.

  2. Capitalize on the potent experience with your faith. Ask yourself: “What does all this have to do with the good news of God’s love?”

  3. Establish family rituals, such as advent wreaths or Christmas Eve services.

  4. Accept that your celebration will not be perfect; that it doesn’t have to be perfect. You fall short of the essence of God’s love, but your falling short need not add to your stress.

  5. Accept your family as they are. You can’t change them. Try to appreciate your history together, even if it is no more than that you have survived your history.

  6. Be open to the idea and potential of birth during this part of the church year. How is God coming again to you?

Due to the current economy, there may be less to go around this year, but it may “get us to the core” of what Christmas is all about, said O’Neal.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — The “Stress during the holidays” webinar will be available as a web cast at at a later date.)

12/24/2008 6:39:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

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