December 2011

Iowa Baptists add partnership with Mo.

December 10 2011 by Richard Nations

DES MOINES, Iowa (BP) – Messengers to the annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Iowa launched a four-year missions partnership with the Missouri Baptist Convention beginning in January.

Rick Hedger, missions and evangelism team leader for the Missouri convention, explained opportunities the partnership would afford, including participation in joint international mission trips and assistance to Iowa churches. Iowa also has a missions partnership with the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

Meeting in Des Moines Nov. 4-5, the convention registered 121 messengers and 19 guests from 43 churches and celebrated the theme “Hold to One Another” from Galatians 6:1-10. The Baptist Convention of Iowa has 110 churches and missions with nearly 13,000 members.

Thomas L. Law III was introduced as interim executive director of the convention. A former director of the Tarrant Baptist Association in Fort Worth, Texas, Law is slated to serve two years in the Iowa position.

In his report, Law noted that of the 99 counties in Iowa, 48 have no BCI-affiliated church and another 22 have a limited BCI-affiliated church presence.

He challenged the convention to establish a church in all counties in the state and to use strong, healthy churches to reach the states’ 900 cities, towns and villages with little or no BCI presence. Law said strong churches in county seat towns can be used as stack-poles from which smaller communities can be reached.

Law and Hedger encouraged churches and associations in Iowa and Missouri to partner to develop relationships in unreached communities in order to reach residents with the Gospel.

Messengers elected Dan Wiersema, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids, president of the convention. Gene Stockton, pastor of Heartland Community Baptist Church in Sioux City, was elected first vice president. Also nominated for that office was Jack Owens, a member of Cornerstone Church in Ames. Stockton was elected by a 62-14 vote.

Nominees for second vice president were John Jakes, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Indianola, and Lloyd Eaken, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Anamosa. Eaken was elected by a 42-26 vote.

David Barton, pastor of Rolling Hills Community Church in Fort Dodge, was elected convention secretary.

Messengers approved a 2012 budget of $1,708,228, an 8.9 percent decrease from the current year. The convention will continue to forward 20 percent of an anticipated $540,000 in Cooperative Program receipts from Iowa churches to national and international missions and ministries.

Ted Keys, the convention’s president, preached from John 4 about Jesus and the woman at the well.

“God expects results. God expects multiplication,” Keys said. “The lady was at the well at a time when she thought she wouldn’t meet anyone. But she was on a course to meet Jesus and didn’t know it.

“This was an unusual woman that most of us would not consider using. Jesus put her to work. We need to go where people are,” Keys said. “God desires to use unusual people in unusual places to do unusual things in these unusual times.”

Resolutions of appreciation were presented to former executive director Jimmy Barrentine and his wife Joan. Barrentine retired from the convention in October.

Messengers heard reports from Missouri Baptist Homes, Campers on Mission, Hannibal-LaGrange University, GuideStone Financial Resources, the North American Mission Board, the International Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, the SBC Executive Committee and the Missouri Baptist Convention.

Three Iowa Baptist churches were started in the past year, Law said. Baptisms increased by 1.7 percent with Iowa Baptist churches reporting 536 baptisms in 2010. Cooperative Program receipts are down, he said, expressing appreciation for the “sacrificial giving of God’s people in these days of financial strain.”

Law preached the annual sermon from Luke 19:12-27 on “The Risk of Playing It Safe.” He recounted the parable of the king who gave money to 10 servants. Seven were not heard from. Two invested the money and produced outstanding returns. One played it safe and hid the money in a cloth, Law said. The servant did not take any risk, but he also did nothing worthwhile.

Law challenged messengers to look beyond comfort zones and reach Iowa for Jesus. He talked about the need to raise up leaders from within Iowa congregations instead of looking to the outside, and he used the example of a family farm. They can plant corn with the seed saved from last year’s harvest, he said, challenging churches to look for opportunities and risk failure in order to succeed.

“God wants us to do everything we can – to risk everything. He doesn’t care whether we consider it a success. If reaching Iowa means falling down again and again, it is OK,” Law said. “Our choice is to play it safe or risk it all to change the world.”

Next year’s annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Iowa will be Nov. 2-3 at the Holiday Inn and Suites Northwest in Des Moines.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Richard Nations is editor of The Iowa Baptist, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Iowa.)
12/10/2011 2:26:58 PM by Richard Nations | with 0 comments

Mich. Baptists approve strategic plan

December 10 2011 by

WARREN, Mich. (BP) – Messengers to the 54th annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan approved a new strategic plan for refocusing and restructuring the convention for greater effectiveness in the future.

A total of 223 messengers and 48 guests from 13 of 15 of the state’s associations and 91 of 293 congregations gathered at Warren Woods Baptist Church in Warren Oct. 25-26.

The plan set forth by the Future Focus Team includes a new vision statement, “Partners in Advancing God’s Kingdom,” and a new mission statement, “Doing whatever it takes to see lives transformed for Christ through Starting, Strengthening and Mobilizing Churches.”

Also, messengers approved new bylaws to support the future structure and focus of the convention. A revised constitution was presented for consideration at next year’s annual meeting.

“Our primary objective is to resource the vision of our churches to be more effective in reaching the unreached in their communities,” Bobby Gilstrap, the convention’s executive director, said. “We want to be partners in advancing God’s Kingdom through our cooperating churches.”

Michigan Baptists plan to operate in a new way in a new day, Gilstrap said.

“Our refocusing as a convention of churches has tremendous implications on our ability to effectively reach our state for Christ. I am so excited about where God is leading our convention of churches in the future,” he said.

Bert Spann, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Saline and a member of the Future Focus Team, told Baptist Press Michigan Baptists have reached a crucial juncture.

“We will either stand up and start walking on our own two feet and follow where we see the Lord at work or we will hold someone else’s hand and let them lead us,” Spann said. “I believe we are making the right decisions to see Baptist work in Michigan thrive as a people who are set to serve Christ with vigor.”

Wayne Parker, pastor of Merriman Road Baptist Church in Garden City and a member of the Future Focus Team, said, “Everyone knows that Michigan’s economy is terrible. Our unemployment is among the highest in the nation, leaving people searching for answers. I believe that these issues are overshadowed by the real issue: Lostness. Our vote to adopt a new strategy says that Michigan Southern Baptists see these things not as problems but as an opportunity.”

During the annual meeting, the convention highlighted partnerships that began during the past year:

– The Arkansas Baptist News for the redesign of the Baptist Beacon.

– The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s camp ministry for two consultants who are working with Michigan Baptists’ Bambi Lake Conference Center.

– The Missouri Baptist Convention for support of the new Michigan Church Planter Assessment Center.

– The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma for providing the Michigan Southern Baptist Foundation with marketing materials, church loans, estate and trust planning, online planning tools and more.

Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Missions, preached during the closing session of the annual meeting as part of an ongoing partnership between the two state conventions.

The convention’s first vice president, Larry Allen, pastor of Warren Woods, noted in introducing Lance that Alabama Baptists are providing a $25,000 gift to assist Michigan Baptists during difficult economic times.

“We are so grateful for the financial gift,” Gilstrap said, “and even more thankful for the ministry Alabama Baptists have shared with us in these recent years of our mission partnership.”

In a video, Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, spoke on the “1% Challenge,” asking Michigan Baptist churches to consider giving an additional 1 percent of their receipts to missions through the Cooperative Program. A special penny offering was collected to symbolize the added 1 percent-of-receipts.

Messengers approved a 2012 budget of $2,822,598, down from $3 million this year. The budget includes $1,340,022 in anticipated Cooperative Program giving from Michigan churches and a return to forwarding 30.5 percent of CP receipts for national and international missions and ministries. The percentage had been reduced to 25 percent for 2011.

The new budget for the first time implements shared ministry items while eliminating three of 10 staff positions and reinstating cuts to retiree benefits and staff annuity benefits that were made for 2011.

In other business, messengers voted to designate the first Sunday in June as Disaster Relief Sunday.

Roscoe Belton, pastor of Middlebelt Baptist Church in Inkster, was reelected president. The convention’s other officers for the coming year are: Allen of Warren Woods, first vice president; Fred Hubbs Jr., worship leader at Bethel Baptist Church in Niles, second vice president; and Jimmy Jones, pastor of First Baptist Church in Trenton, recording secretary.

“The highlight of the final session of the annual meeting was hearing pastors’ testimonies,” Gilstrap said. “We heard how God was blessing several of our new congregations and about the transformation occurring in established churches. As our convention of churches strives to work together to reach our state for Christ, hearing the victory stories was so encouraging.”

Next year’s annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan will be Nov. 8-9 at Monroe Missionary Baptist Church in Monroe.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on reporting by the Baptist Convention of Michigan staff.)
12/10/2011 2:15:29 PM by | with 0 comments

New England Baptists see record baptisms

December 10 2011 by

MARLBORO, Mass. (BP) – Messengers to the 29th annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of New England celebrated the best membership-to-baptism ratio in the Southern Baptist Convention for 2010 when they gathered in Marlboro, Mass.

Frank Page, president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, told messengers some state conventions only see one baptism per 40 church members in a given year, but the BCNE tallied one baptism per eight church members last year resulting in 1,507 baptisms, the highest in the regional convention’s history.

Bruce James, the convention’s director of evangelism, attributed the surge in baptisms to an increase in church plants, an increase in the number of churches hosting Vacation Bible Schools and more than 100 churches participating in Southern Baptists’ God’s Plan for Sharing evangelism strategy.

A total of 149 messengers and 34 guests representing 63 churches from all seven associations met for the Nov. 11-12 meeting.

Phil Wilkes, pastor of New Colony Baptist Church in Billerica, Mass., distributed books and gifts to each pastor in attendance. He had personally gathered the items from LifeWay Christian Resources and other organizations. Each director of missions received a gift card.

Wilkes, who was serving his second term as convention president, asked evangelist Phil Waldrep to preach during the time allotted for the president’s message.

Waldrep, founder and president of Phil Waldrep Ministries in Trinity, Ala., preached from Mark 1:9-15 and then was recognized for his years of service to New England ministers and their wives. For more than 15 years, Phil Waldrep Ministries has provided an annual retreat.

Messengers approved a 2012 budget of $2,576,652, down from $2.98 million in 2011. New England Baptists will forward 25 percent of an anticipated $659,079 in Cooperative Program receipts to national and international causes after shared ministry items. The North American Mission Board will provide $1.7 million of the budget, LifeWay will add $70,000 and the rest will come from partnerships and investments.

John Scoggins, BCNE’s disaster relief coordinator, reported on the sacrificial work of the convention’s disaster relief teams through the spring floods in Vermont, a tornado in Massachusetts and Hurricane Irene.

Scoggins thanked the scores of disaster relief teams from across the SBC who came to help in the region and said 26 people made professions of faith in Christ through those disasters.

Church planting was highlighted through the Robert H. Brindle Award, which went to First Baptist Church in Sudbury, Mass., and Seacoast Community Church in Portsmouth, N.H. First Baptist has sponsored 19 church plants throughout its history while Seacoast, formerly Screven Memorial Baptist Church, the first SBC church in New England, has sponsored 16 churches during its history.

Steve Nerger, the BCNE’s church planting team leader, said the two churches have been examples of selflessness in church planting, sending forth key leaders for the sake of the Kingdom.

Bob Brindle, for whom the award is named, served New England Baptists for nearly 40 years as a pastor, church planter, director of missions and interim executive director.

The Raymond C. Allen Award for missions and evangelism was given to Pleasant Street Baptist Church in Worcester, Mass., which was a church restart about five years ago and now sponsors several ministries.

Messengers heard a report on collegiate church planting and testimonies from two churches on the impact youth leadership development was having on their congregations.

Work with Nepalese and Bhutanese was highlighted in the ethnic church planting report.

In the election of officers, Ron Mills, a member of Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, N.H., was elected president and church planter Noel Williamson, pastor of Pleasant Street Baptist Church in Worcester, Mass., vice president. Sandy Coelho was re-elected clerk and Sandy Wideman was re-elected historian.

Two resolutions passed unanimously. The first expressed appreciation to Wideman for 10 years of service as executive director, noting his “consistent modeling of servant leadership” and innovative thinking while upholding the convention’s core values.

The Wideman resolution commended his advocacy for New England within the SBC as well as his wisdom, humility, gentleness and the encouragement he has provided BCNE churches. Messengers also expressed gratitude to Sandy Wideman, who “has unselfishly shared her husband” with the convention and who has shown a commitment to mentoring the women of the convention’s churches.

In addition to the resolution, the convention honored the Widemans with a trip to North Carolina, a love offering and a reception.

The other resolution expressed appreciation to vendors who donated gifts for the annual meeting as well as to those who were instrumental in the planning of the event.

The BCNE encompasses about 315 churches and church plants within the six New England states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Next year’s annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of New England will be Nov. 9-10 in Marlboro, Mass.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on reporting by the staff of the Baptist Convention of New England.)
12/10/2011 2:14:09 PM by | with 0 comments

Penn-Jersey Baptists to evaluate future

December 10 2011 by Fanny Grote

HARRISBURG, Pa. (BP) – Messengers to the annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey celebrated the theme “Forward in Faith,” based on Hebrews 10:38-39, and appointed a task force to evaluate the convention’s future.

A total of 141 messengers and 76 guests from 71 of the convention’s 389 congregations and nearly 48,000 members gathered Nov. 3-4 at The Central Hotel & Conference Center in Harrisburg.

Kim Grueser, the convention’s president, was appointed as chairman of the Forward in Faith Task Force with seven members including state staff.

The task force, which is not tied to the national Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and which was initiated prior to the announcement of changes from the North American Mission Board, will address areas of the convention that need improvement.

No specific timeline has been set for a final report of the task force, but its work will be reviewed at the next Executive Board meeting in February.

Messengers approved a 2012 budget of $3,482,187, which is 5.48 percent less than the current year but increases by .1 percent the amount of Cooperative Program budget receipts forwarded to national and international missions and ministries. Of an anticipated $823,958 in CP giving from Pennsylvania and South Jersey churches, the convention will forward 25.4 percent.

Grueser was re-elected president without opposition, as were first vice president Lou Paradiso and recording secretary Doug Lesher. Grueser is pastor of Pittsburgh Baptist Church in Pittsburgh; Paradiso is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in York, Pa.; and Lesher is a member of Thompsontown Baptist Church in Thompsontown, Pa. Elected without opposition for second vice president was Steve Clifton, pastor of Bread of Life Church in Altoona, Pa.

Bible studies based on the theme were delivered by David Penley, a counseling professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a former pastor of Dallas Baptist Church in Dallas, Pa., and Ashley Shook, pastor of Lake Pointe Community Church in Erie, Pa.

Penley emphasized the encouragement God provides when believers endure difficult times. This is not the time to retreat but to move forward, Penley said.

Shook said at any given time believers either are moving forward or moving backward, individually and corporately. To move forward, believers must be unencumbered by sin, be faithful in endurance and fix their eyes on Jesus, he said.

“God didn’t call Penn-South Jersey to start well. He’s called us together to finish well,” Shook said.

Aslam Masih, a former Philadelphia pastor, brought greetings from the North American Mission Board, and Jeff Christopherson, NAMB’s regional vice president for Canada and the Northeast, explained some changes taking place at the mission board.

Christopherson described some of the partnerships being developed between churches and church plants throughout the nation, and he noted that NAMB trustees were in Philadelphia in October for a Vision Tour. Some trustees, he said, are becoming advocates for the region.

David Waltz, executive director of the Penn-Jersey convention, delivered the state of the convention report, discussing the idea of altering the convention structure to include regions divided equally by population.

“This is a radically new and different way to do our work,” Waltz said, adding that he believes God is leading the convention in that direction in light of NAMB funding cuts.

Waltz also described what sets Southern Baptists apart: a strong biblical foundation and a serious grasp of the missions mandate with a commitment to cooperation.

“If we’re going to do a God-sized task, we’ve got to do it together. That’s what Southern Baptist is to me,” Waltz said.

The convention’s Executive Board affirmed the 1% Challenge given by SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page, Waltz said. Page has asked churches across the SBC to increase their giving through the Cooperative Program by at least 1 percent during the next year.

“Now is the time to step forward, to turn the tide, if you will, and I think we’re just foolish enough to do it here in Penn-South Jersey,” Waltz said. “We’re not so encrusted that we can’t make some changes. We are going to set the pace, and I invite you to do that, move forward to reach the lost world, and together, together let’s reach Penn-South Jersey and the world for Christ.”

Page spoke to messengers about the SBC structure and explained the duties of the Executive Committee. On the Cooperative Program, Page said, “CP only works under a spirit of selflessness. What we do best, we do together.”

During the time allotted for the convention president’s sermon, Grueser hosted a question-and-answer time with Page. He began by asking whether Page has a favorite Bible verse. Page said he has about 15,000 of them but narrowed his choice to Isaiah 40:8, which says, “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.”

When speaking about the future of the SBC, Page praised the Penn-Jersey convention’s intentional inclusion of ethnic groups.

“Good conventions like yours have reached out ethnically and are doing great work in church planting,” Page said.

John Cope, pastor of Keystone Fellowship in North Wales, Pa., delivered the convention sermon, stressing the importance of church planting and discipleship.

No resolutions were presented at the meeting.

Next year’s annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey will be Nov. 1-2 at Faith Community Church Lakeside in McMurray, Pa.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Fanny Grote is associate Editor of the Penn Jersey Baptist, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey.)

12/10/2011 2:11:17 PM by Fanny Grote | with 0 comments

Va. Baptists (SBCV) mark 15th anniversary

December 10 2011 by Brandon Pickett

RICHMOND, Va. (BP) – Messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia marked the convention’s 15th anniversary at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond with the theme “Transforming Churches.”

Mark Becton, the convention’s president and pastor of Grove Avenue, delivered the convention message titled “Transformed by the Adventure with God,” from Acts 1.

“The SBCV annual homecoming is always a unique opportunity to celebrate God’s activity in our churches,” Becton said. “But this year, we really sensed His Spirit was at work even before homecoming started. In talking with many pastors and lay leaders, I see a move of the Father to truly transform our churches through transformed lives.”

More than 1,200 people attended the Nov. 13-15 session, with 838 registering either as a messenger or guest. An additional 300 unregistered guests attended the International Mission Board service Monday evening, including about 100 in a mass choir from four SBCV churches. Tom Elliff, the new IMB president, was commissioned during the service, and several Southern Baptist entity presidents attended.

Steve Bradshaw, director of the SBCV’s maturing churches team, said, “I am not sure we realized the magnitude of this historic occasion. While celebrating a milestone as a convention, we witnessed SBC leadership from all over the country commission the new IMB president.

“What a blessing of inspiration to see in the same room with SBCV messengers from across the state hundreds of missionaries in training that will scatter abroad to proclaim the gospel. The Cooperative Program cannot be more clear than that,” Bradshaw said, referencing Southern Baptists’ channel for national and international missions and ministries.

North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell spoke to the convention Tuesday morning. He updated messengers on his transition as NAMB president and spoke from Acts 20 on the “Missions Legacy of a Transforming Church.” On Monday afternoon, Ezell held a question-and-answer session with dozens of SBCV church planters and their wives.

Keynote speakers during the annual meeting included Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., and Herb Reavis, pastor of North Jacksonville Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

SBCV pastors provided theme challenges throughout the meeting. Speakers included Grant Ethridge, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton; Eric Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk; John Kirwa Maritim, pastor of Sunrise Baptist Church in Arlington; and Rick Ewing, pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Lynchburg.

No Other Name, recording artists from Nashville, Tenn., provided special music throughout the meeting while Paul Randlett and the SBCV convention praise team led worship.

Randall Hahn, pastor of Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, and evangelist Bob Davis were nominated for president, and after a ballot vote, Hahn was elected.

Also elected as convention officers were Danny Campbell, pastor of Wayne Hills Baptist Church in Waynesboro, first vice president; Reggie Hester, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Chesapeake, second vice president; Don Paxton, pastor of Rosedale Baptist Church in Abingdon, recording secretary.

Doyle Chauncey, interim executive director of the SBCV, reported that for the third year in a row the convention budget has remained the same. Messengers adopted a 2012 budget of $9 million, with 50.75 percent of undesignated CP receipts forwarded for national and international missions and ministries. The .25 percent-of-budget CP increase is in line with the Vision 20/20 strategy adopted in 2009 to increase the amount forwarded to SBC causes every year when funds are available.

“Annual homecoming was especially personal to me because it was celebrating my 15th anniversary with this special group of pastors, churches and missionaries,” Chauncey said. “This homecoming reaffirmed to me what was started in 1996. It was a time not just for looking back but for celebrating a very bright future.”

The 2012 ministry investment plan includes nearly $300,000 more for multiplying churches, bringing the total allocated for church planting in 2012 to $1,915,843, or 18 percent of the total money SBCV invests for Virginia mission work.

Mark Custalow, director of the multiplying churches team, underscored the importance of sponsoring churches through an interview with Drew Landry, pastor of Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg. Spotswood sponsors Grace Fellowship Baptist Church in Haysi.

Also during the annual meeting, the SBCV gave 10 awards to churches sponsoring church plants. Custalow said 15 church planters and apprentices were approved to start work in 2011.

Custalow introduced new church planting resources to the convention. “Communities of Hope” is a resource for pastors and churches to empower committed Christians to reach their lost friends and neighbors with the gospel through small group Bible studies.

“Mission Site Digest” is an online resource by which leaders can learn more about new research and opportunities to plant churches in the 120 neediest areas of Virginia.

Chauncey expressed gratitude to God for the new 13,500-square-foot missions support center that the convention staff moved into at the beginning of October.

“The good news is that God has graciously provided the resources to build it without having to borrow money,” Chauncey said. “So after 15 years of paying rent, we are rent-free and debt-free. The savings is about $250,000 annually, which will now be available for planting more churches and other strategic missions.”

The missions support center will be placed into a wholly owned SBCV subsidiary, SBCV Holdings, LLC, which will provide limited liability protection for the building.

Chauncey introduced another subsidiary called Innovative Faith Resources. IFR, formerly Church Ministry Services, has been providing financial services to churches and church plants since 1999. This year it was renamed and retooled to provide media, branding and marketing services for churches, church plants, state conventions and associations as well as other ministries and nonprofits.

Chauncey reminded messengers that the executive director search committee would be receiving resumes through Nov. 30. Committee chairman Kelly Burris, pastor of Kempsville Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, gave a short update and asked for prayer as the committee seeks God’s man for the position.

Eight existing churches requested affiliation with the SBCV in 2011. Bradshaw highlighted the evangelistic work of the convention’s churches through Southern Baptists’ national God’s Plan for Sharing initiative with a video from the “ 200” race at South Boston Speedway in Virginia in July.

Mark Gauthier, director of the mobilizing churches team, reported on the expanding Acts 1:8 Network. Churches already working in the same national or international mission field can come together in a specific network to provide synergy, he said. Currently eight networks exist and more are to come. More than 120 SBCV churches are working together in an Acts 1:8 Network.

Messengers approved two resolutions. One resolution thanked God for the “vision, courage, and sacrifice of all those involved in the establishment of the SBCV” on its 15th anniversary. The other resolution thanked Grove Avenue and Becton for hosting the meeting.

Next year’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia will be Nov. 11-13 at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Pickett is director of media services for the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.)
12/10/2011 1:53:21 PM by Brandon Pickett | with 0 comments

Christmas season is prime time for sharing Jesus, leader says

December 9 2011 by BR staff

Amid the hustle and bustle of the Christmas holiday season, it can be easy for Christians to get caught up in last-minute shopping, music programs and parties like everyone else. But Marty Dupree, evangelism and church growth team leader for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), urges fellow believers not to miss one of the best times of the year for sharing Jesus with neighbors, friends and those they meet in stores.
Dupree spends much of his time encouraging and teaching N.C. Baptists how to share their faith daily and not to limit evangelism to mission trips and outreach events.
“Life is a mission trip,” Dupree said, while leading an “Evangelism Crash Course” workshop in November at the BSC annual meeting in Greensboro. 
“Everywhere you go you have opportunities to talk to people, and you share with people as you go.”
But Christmas, he later added, is one of the best times of the year when it comes to inviting others – specifically those who don’t normally attend services – to church.

Marty Dupree, left, talks with Pastor Rick Crouse of Dry Ponds Baptist Church in Granite Falls at the Baptist State Convention annual meeting in November. Dupree led an Evangelism Crash Course workshop at that meeting.

In a 2008 survey, Lifeway Research found that 47 percent of respondents cited that “during the Christmas holiday season” they were more open to considering issues of faith.  The study also found that “67 percent of Americans say a personal invitation from a church going family member would be the most effective method a local congregation or faith community could use to invite them to attend.” Invitations from a friend or neighbor were nearly as successful with 63 percent indicating this type of invitation would be effective.
Dupree shared several ideas about incorporating evangelism into fun and easy seasonal activities in a neighborhood.
- Christmas caroling.
Dupree said his family reaches out to their neighborhood through Christmas caroling each year. The first year they tried it, he said, about nine people showed up to participate. But in recent years the number of neighbors who participate has grown to 40.
- Holding an open house party.
Dupree encourages carolers to invite neighbors to attend an open house for food and fellowship. The host family can use that time to read the Christmas story, as well as share prayer requests and testimonies. Children could also prepare a Christmas skit. The open house soon becomes “ministry time,” Dupree said.
A family also can invite neighborhood kids over for a birthday party for Jesus, where the story of Christ can be shared.
- Share “True meaning of Christmas” tract. Click here to access the material. 
The tract – or as Dupree calls it “a Bible study” – can be shared door-to-door through Christmas caroling or even while shopping. The booklet also can be handed out as Christmas cards, he said.
Flyers for Christmas events, musicals and dramatizations at church also can be evangelistic tools and provide opportunities to invite neighbors and friends to church.
For the upcoming year, Dupree suggested hosting a New Year’s resolution party or incorporating evangelism into other events, such as Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day parties.
For more information or suggestions contact Dupree at (919) 467-5100, ext. 5565, or his ministry assistant at ext. 5565.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brooklyn Lowery, a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, contributed to this story.)
12/9/2011 1:20:59 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

SBC name change task force reaches decision

December 9 2011 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

ATLANTA (BP) – The task force appointed to study the possibility of changing the Southern Baptist Convention’s name has reached a decision that they believe “will please the Father and greatly strengthen our ability to reach more people with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The 20-member group appointed by SBC President Bryant Wright gathered for its second meeting Dec. 7 in Atlanta.
“Every member was represented in this important meeting,” task force chairman Jimmy Draper said in a statement to Baptist Press following the meeting. “Again, I was impressed with the seriousness of the group as we discussed vital issues related to this issue and the openness to discuss every aspect of the assignment given to us. There was a unanimity both in the discussions and in the decisions we made.”
The task force, Draper said, has been asked by Wright to present recommendations “with full explanation and rationale” during the president’s report to the Executive Committee meeting Feb. 20 “so all Southern Baptists can understand how we arrived at our conclusions.”
“We are excited to make these recommendations believing that we have come to decisions that will please the Father and greatly strengthen our ability to reach more people with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Draper said. “From the beginning we have desired only to discern God’s will in this matter.”
Draper, president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources, expressed gratitude for prayers on behalf of the task force during the process.
“We wrapped our meeting in prayer and could feel the prayers of Southern Baptists for us in this endeavor,” he said.
The task force meeting came on the same day a study was released by LifeWay Research saying the majority of Americans have a favorable impression of Southern Baptists but 40 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of the denomination. More than a third strongly assumed an SBC church was not for them, and the negativity was higher among the unchurched, the study found.
In comments to Baptist Press Dec. 8, Draper said the task force had the study results in hand when they met in Atlanta.
“I had them send me a copy of it the night before, and we shared copies with the committee but we didn’t discuss it in detail,” Draper said. “It pretty well confirmed things that we expected, and I don’t think it was necessarily a surprise.
“When you’ve got a culture where 35 to 40 percent of the people have repeatedly said they would not even consider an evangelical church, it’s not surprising that 44 percent of the people said the Southern Baptist name would impact them negatively,” Draper said. “We’re not sure how significant that is, but it was good to know.”
The flip side, Draper said, was positive in that more than half of the people surveyed had a favorable impression of Southern Baptists.
“It was helpful to reinforce things that we had felt and that we had discussed,” Draper said, adding that LifeWay Research conducted the study at the request of the name change task force.
Frank Page, president of the Executive Committee, expressed appreciation for the task force members “who seriously and prayerfully wish to advance the work of God’s Kingdom.” Page told Baptist Press that although he is not a part of the group, he “knows the heart of those in the group and looks forward to hearing their report in the days ahead.”
Wright announced the formation of the task force during the Executive Committee meeting in September, prompting a lively debate across the convention.
The task force first met Oct. 26 in Fort Worth, Texas, and Draper said then they spent “a great deal of time in prayer,” believing they needed God’s guidance and divine wisdom. The committee’s work, he said at the time, centers on whether the Southern Baptist mission would be advanced by a name change.
“We are driven by only one great question how can Southern Baptists be most faithful in reaching people for Jesus. Our concern is not public relations, politics, positioning or personal agendas,” Draper said in October. “We must ask ourselves constantly if there is anything that would help us to reach more people, plant more churches, and penetrate lostness here in the United States and around the world as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission.”
Draper also said the task force understands its charge is limited to reporting back to Wright and that no one believed the word “Baptist” should be removed from the convention’s name.
The full text of Draper’s statement follows:
The Task Force appointed by President Bryant Wright to study the possibility of changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention met on Dec. 7th in Atlanta, GA. Every member was represented in this important meeting. Again, I was impressed with the seriousness of the group as we discussed vital issues related to this issue and the openness to discuss every aspect of the assignment given to us. There was a unanimity both in the discussions and in the decisions we made.
We will have recommendations with full explanation and rationale at the Executive Committee [meeting] in February so all Southern Baptists can understand how we arrived at our conclusions. Several of the Task Force members will share in the presentation at the request of President Wright during his time to speak to the Executive Committee on Monday night, Feb. 20th. We are excited to make these recommendations believing that we have come to decisions that will please the Father and greatly strengthen our ability to reach more people with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. From the beginning we have desired only to discern God’s will in this matter.
Thank you for your prayers for us during this journey. We wrapped our meeting in prayer and could feel the prayers of Southern Baptists for us in this endeavor.
Jimmy Draper
President Emeritus
LifeWay Christian Resources
Task Force members, in addition to Draper as chairman, are:
–  Michael Allen, pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago;
–  Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C.;
–  David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.;
–  Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board;
–  Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board;
–  Ken Fentress, pastor of Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Md.;
–  Micah Fries, pastor of Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church in St. Joseph, Mo.;
–  Aaron Harvie, pastor of Riverside Community Church in Horsham, Penn.;
–  Susie Hawkins, speaker, Bible study teacher and missions volunteer from Dallas;
–  Fred Hewett, executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention;
–  Cathy Horner, Bible teacher and pastor’s wife from Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C.;
–  Benny Jo, pastor of HANA Korean Baptist Church in Las Vegas, Nev.;
–  Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.;
–  Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas;
–  Bobby Sena, church development specialist with the Church Starting Network;
–  Roger Spradlin, co-pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., and chairman of the SBC Executive Committee;
–  John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention;
–  Jay Wolf, pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press.)
12/9/2011 1:15:36 PM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Factories make impact in China

December 9 2011 by Susie Rain, Baptist Press

DONGGUAN, China (BP) — The taxi races down the elevated 10-lane highway. There’s not much to look at on this journey. Endless rows of blank-faced factories barricaded behind 6-foot metal fences line both sides of the road. Off in the distance, high-rise apartment buildings and unfinished construction projects create a snaggletoothed skyline.
The view is disappointing. When entering a city nicknamed, “The World’s Workshop,” you expect something grand. Instead, Dongguan is practically invisible. There are no tourist attractions — just factories.
Factories are the bus stops and the monuments and the landmarks. Everything exists to serve them.
The city is divided into 32 districts, each one specializing in a different kind of manufacturing. Cang-an produces electronic components, Humen is famous for high-dollar fashion and Houjie makes shoes. The list goes on and on with more than 3,000 factories crammed into one city.
Every district looks the same: construction sites, cheap restaurants, factories, factories and more factories. Southern Baptist worker David Rice* sees this city through different eyes. His mental map of Dongguan is a labyrinth of ministry possibilities — a medical clinic here, management training classes over there and maybe a Christian coffee shop in the heart of a red light district.
The possibilities are endless. The impact on China is immeasurable. Rice believes that by reaching the factories with the gospel an entire generation of migrant workers will take the message back to their villages — often so remote that they are not even on a map, let alone on the radar of Christian strategists.
“People come here from all over the country looking for a job,” Rice says, noting in one year’s time he has met at least one person from all 34 provinces.
The name used for migrants — liudong renkou or floating population — implies an aimless mob, but Rice sees a potential army of church planters. The Southern Baptist worker and his ministry partners see this group primed for making major changes in their lives. They are away from the strongholds of their culture back home. They are lonely and searching for meaning.
Floating Population

Lanying Wu* openly admits she has no objectives or goals in her life. The 19-year-old factory worker deftly snips away at her sterile workstation, cutting the outline of a garment. A pile of hot-pink satin sits at her right while a crate of her finished work sits on the left.
She left her village to make money for her family and to experience something different. Wu is a second-generation factory worker and part of the largest migration in human history. For the past three decades, Chinese migrants flocked from remote villages and farms to factories in an effort to make money and to better themselves. The government estimates nearly 210 million migrants work in various “boomtowns” throughout the country.
When the economy is good, these migrant workers push Dongguan’s population above 10 million. When times are bad, it can dip below 6 million. The only constant number in this city is the 1.7 million local residents. To put Dongguan’s “floating population” into perspective, imagine the entire city of Los Angeles packing up and fanning out across rural America while a new set of 17- to 35-year-olds replaces them.
A government system of internal passports, or hukou, prevents migrant workers from settling formally in the city without losing their family plot back home. Most return after two years. Nearly all return by the time they are 35, an age considered “ancient” in the nimble-fingered factory world.
This constant turnover makes Delun Kao,* a factory counselor and mentor, feel like he’s always starting over and constantly training new leaders. In the past 12 years, Kao has watched more than 600 migrants come to Christ. He works with Rice to disciple the new believers and train them to start churches.

Young factory workers in Dongguan work long hours each day, hoping to make enough money to send home to their families, many of whom live on farms in China's interior provinces. Southern Baptist worker David Rice (not his real name) hopes to see the gospel travel along the potential "highway" between China's farms and factories.

“We know they won’t stay here forever,” Kao says. “So, the goal is to train them to be a catalyst for a new church.”
Through the years, Kao has seen the training model work as migrants return to their villages and start new fellowships. Still others switch factories and start churches in their new workplaces. Lately, it’s been hard finding someone who will commit.
“We are sharing the gospel in the hardest time — when hearts are not as pure or open,” Kao says. “We have to pray and open their hearts so they will hear and receive.”
Wu, like most migrants, scoffs at the thought of any type of religion — her parents’ Buddhist beliefs or any other. She attended a birthday party at her factory where she heard Jesus’ name for the first time. The stories piqued her interest but not enough to give up overtime hours to go hear more.
For now, she depends only on herself and concentrates on earning as much money as she can.
Money, Money, Money
Whether you are a poor migrant worker or a rich factory owner, the measurement for success is the same in this city — money.
“This city is all about money,” an American factory owner says while sitting in the lobby of a lush, five-star hotel. “Things are cheap here — cheap production costs, cheap labor, even the girls are cheap.”
A young woman walks across the lobby wearing a stylish T-shirt with glittery, gold letters proclaiming, “I’m expensive.” With vacant eyes and a plastered smile, the black-haired beauty clings to a businessman three times her age.
Sex is part of the business climate in this factory town. Deals are brokered in the private rooms of saunas and karaoke bars as scantily clad women parade past.
To the casual observer, the prostitutes look like businesswomen, not the typical hookers you see in movies. Most of these young women left the factories to earn more money and work fewer hours.
“I think the men and women here are more open about greed and lust because they don’t have religion,” the 72-year-old American says with a sly smile as his “girl” comes to escort him to a business meeting. “They don’t have to hassle with the guilt of sin.”
Rice sadly confirms the American’s description. The city is known not only for the endless number of factories, but for its sex trade as well. The American is also correct about religion. Dongguan’s evangelical population is listed in the Urban Demographic Profile as less than 1 percent. More specifically, less than 43,000 in a city of millions claim Christ as their Savior.
“This is a never-ending task,” Rice sighs and leans back against the taxi’s bucket seat. His dreamy optimism about sending Chinese missionaries back to remote villages wavers, but only for a second as he spies something new out the window.
“Look over there!” the Southern Baptist worker exclaims. “That would make a great spot for some volunteers to cut and style hair for the factory girls. The volunteers could tell the girls Bible stories while they get pampered.”
Everywhere you look, there are still factories, construction sites and, of course, more factories. A closer look, though, reveals an old section of town in the process of being reduced to rubble and replaced with modern high-rise apartments. On another stretch of road, people pour out of the factory gates after work, hitting the streets in search of meaning.
That’s when it hits. Dongguan isn’t invisible. It’s unfinished, a city where everything — and everyone — is in the process of becoming something else.
Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist workers around the world share the gospel. Give to the offering through your local Southern Baptist church or online at, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at

Prayer Requests:

1.    Pray for Wu’s heart to open. Pray that in the process of recreating herself in the city, she becomes a new creation in Christ. Pray that other migrant workers will hear and receive the gospel message.

2.    Pray for those returning to villages with the gospel message. Pray for resolve and spirit-filled words as they seek to bring abundant life to friends and family. Pray that as migrants return home, new communities of believers will be planted in villages that otherwise would never have opportunity to hear the gospel.

3.    Pray the young women involved in the sex industry in Dongguan will turn from the desire for physical wealth and seek spiritual wealth in Christ. Pray for the men dominated by greed and lust that breed in hearts empty of Christ. Pray God will give Christian businessmen the strength to stand firm against the city’s two biggest temptations and remain faithful to Him and their wives.

*Name changed

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Susie Rain is an IMB writer/editor living in Southeast Asia.)
Adopt a district in Chinese factory city

DONGGUAN, China (BP)—They’ve already impacted your life. Now it’s time to touch theirs.
The influence of Dongguan’s factories is all over your house. You don’t have to look much farther than your cell phone or computer. Most likely, your favorite knit shirt was made here, even the shoes you wear.
Southern Baptist worker David Rice* challenges you to make an eternal impact on this city that “supplies the world.” He’s looking for partners to adopt each of the 32 districts in Dongguan, China.
“I’m looking for long-term volunteer partners. The idea is to establish relationships,” Rice says. “This city is too big for just me. I need some help.”
Rice sees teams cutting the factory workers’ hair. Middle management-level classes based on biblical morals taught in factories. Men playing golf with factory owners. Medical teams offering clinics in the factories.
The list of ideas is endless. All lead to the common goal of sharing the gospel message.
So, as you pick up that toy off the floor, think about where it originated. When you sit in your favorite chair, labeled “Made in China,” pray about how you and your church can impact Dongguan.

For information on how you can adopt a district in Dongguan, contact

Related story
Tentmaker spreads gospel by working in Chinese factory
12/9/2011 1:01:50 PM by Susie Rain, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Tentmaker spreads gospel by working in Chinese factory

December 9 2011 by Susie Rain

DONGGUAN, China (BP) — Everything about Fa Hsing* is quiet. His voice. His countenance. His strength. He is a man of few words. His actions speak for him.
He puts in no less than 12 hours a day, six days a week, on the factory floor in Dongguan, China. It’s physically and emotionally draining work, yet he perseveres so he can accomplish his real task — sharing Christ with fellow workers.
Hsing is a “tentmaker.” He lives and works among the people God called him to serve.
“The idea is to work inside the factory and witness by example and lifestyle,” Hsing quietly explains.
Southern Baptist workers believe that by reaching the factories with the gospel, an entire generation of migrant workers will take the message back to their remote villages.

Uniforms of factory workers line the small porches of a dorm-style building on a street in Dongguan. The factories are home to people from across China, mostly rural farmers. The dorms serve as training grounds for sharing the gospel.

Sharing the gospel “cold turkey” in this factory environment doesn’t always work. Most have never even heard the name of Jesus. Sometimes, it’s better to slowly introduce the gospel. Hsing does this by gaining trust and respect through experiencing the same daily challenges.
Life in a factory is not easy. The pay is low, around $175 or less a month, and the hours are long. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd when there are hundreds with identical backgrounds: born in the village, badly educated, poor. Most workers live on the factory grounds in dormitories, often 12 to a room.
The tentmaker explains that new workers who don’t make a close friend will pack up and move on to another factory. He tries to make friends with the new workers, but admits that what ultimately keeps them from going back to their villages is pride. They want to change their fate … strike their fortune.
Most believe the quickest route is to trust no one and make money fast. The assembly line pays by the piece; working faster during busy times means a bigger paycheck.
This is when it’s hardest for Hsing’s ministry. Everyone, including the tentmaker, is so busy, there’s no time for anything but work and sleep. Often the only time to squeeze in Bible study groups is during a 45-minute lunch break.
Hsing savors “slow season” when he has time to visit and share — a chance to get to know people outside of work. Gaining the trust and respect of fellow workers is a slow process. The tentmaker contends that sharing the gospel here is not about a time schedule but about breaking barriers to hearts — one at a time. When this happens, Hsing is certain the gospel will make it back to the villages via the factory floor.
Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist workers around the world share the gospel. Give to the offering through your local Southern Baptist church or online at, where there are resources for church leaders to promote the offering. Download related videos at

*Name changed

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Susie Rain is an IMB writer/editor living in Southeast Asia.)

Related story
Factories make impact in China
12/9/2011 12:56:46 PM by Susie Rain | with 0 comments

Making fruitful disciples of the next generation

December 8 2011 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

A recent study by the Barna Group found that nearly 60 percent of young people leave the church either permanently or for extended periods of time after age 15.
A 2006 Barna study ( found that 61 percent of young adults involved in church as teenagers no longer attend church, read the Bible or spend time in prayer.
Brain Upshaw, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) church ministry team leader, and Steve Wright, pastor of Family Discipleship at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, believe there is a way to reverse the trends.
During a breakout session Nov. 8 at the BSC annual meeting they shared how the church and parents can partner together to make fruitful disciples of the next generation.
Upshaw and Wright said the root of the problem is that many parents and churches fail to embrace the biblical mandate that requires the participation of both the faith community and parents in the discipleship of children.

Steve Wright, pastor of Family Discipleship at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh

In recent decades too much responsibility has been placed on the church.
“We have unintentionally communicated to parents that if you will bring your children to church we will disciple them and give them back to you as informed disciples,” Upshaw said.
Wright suggested the next generation will be reached if parents and churches each do their part.
He told parents to share with their children the glorious truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to follow the example of how families in the Bible lived on mission for God.
“In scripture, family would be engaged in the mission of God whereby eternity would be weighed in the balance,” he said.
For example, parents can model missional living by devoting family time to studying God’s Word, praying with their children for the lost people in their neighborhoods, and by sharing their testimony with their children.
In doing so, parents will teach their children how to live boldly for Jesus Christ.
Wright said that churches using the attraction model for youth ministry need to rethink this strategy. The attraction model calls for the youth pastor to build the youth group around numerous fun activities and to organize exciting outreach events in an effort to get young people involved in church.
During the past three or four decades, the attraction model has been a mainstay of youth ministry in many churches. 
According to Wright, the problem is that the attraction model can send the wrong message to children because it often appeals to the flesh rather than placing an emphasis on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Appeals to the flesh set kids up for disaster, especially when they go off to college,” Wright said. “If there is any hope of reaching the next generation, they must know and understand the gospel. Only that message will endure [for] eternity.”
In addition, Wright told the audience that young adults are leaving the church in part because too many of them have been involved in youth groups that are segregated from the rest of the faith community. As a result, many teenagers do not have a basic understanding of the church’s role in the life of a believer and as the bride of Christ. 
“Our kids graduate from those types of youth groups and they go off to college having never been incorporated into the life of the church,” Wright said.
“The last place they want to be on Sunday morning is in a boring, dull church.”
Wright said the solution to reclaiming the next generation for Jesus Christ is to approach youth and children’s ministry from a biblical perspective. “The church and parents are not barriers. They are part of the God-given solution.”
To learn more about how churches and family can partner together, listen to the Church and Family Connect Podcast. Visit; click Resources and under Audio, choose “NC Church & Family Podcast.”
12/8/2011 1:11:24 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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