February 2009

SBC Executive Committee delays vote on ouster of Texas church

February 19 2009 by wire reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee has asked a Texas church to clarify its views on homosexuality before determining whether its toleration of gay members violates a constitutional ban on churches that "act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior."

A motion referred to the committee by the SBC last June seeks to declare Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth "not to be in friendly cooperation" with the denomination. Bill Sanderson, pastor of Hepzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, made the motion.

In 2005, Sanderson made a motion at a Baptist State Convention (BSC) annual meeting that the
BSC develop a policy to oust any church that "knowingly affirms, approves, or endorses homosexual behavior." Such a policy was adopted the next year.

While the original motion at the SBC meeting did not state the cause of the action, SBC leaders interpreted it to be in response to news stories about a controversy within the congregation over whether to allow same-sex couples to be photographed together in a church directory. Rather than vote up or down, the church opted for a compromise that used candid photos of members instead of separate family portraits to illustrate the membership.

The full Executive Committee voted unanimously and without discussion Feb. 17 for a recommendation "that the study of whether Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas, should continue to be considered to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention, and further inquiries and continued communications with the church be made, with the goal of arriving at an appropriate report to the convention at its June 2009 annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky."

The vote came after long discussions in two subcommittees open to the press under background rules forbidding direct quotation or attribution.

Much of the discussion during the workgroup and the subcommittee meetings focused on a Jan. 27 letter the church sent to the Executive Committee, which stated in part: "Broadway has never taken any church action to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. Broadway Baptist Church considers itself to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention and has every intention of remaining so."

The letter further stated, "While we extend Christian hospitality to everyone — including homosexuals — we do not endorse, approve, or affirm homosexual behavior." The letter also said the church chose a directory without family portraits because it believed such an action would not send the message the church endorsed homosexuality. The letter was approved by the church's deacons and presented to the church with no objections.

Several Executive Committee members said the church's clear declaration that it does not affirm homosexuality seemed in tension with the admission that five of its 1,400 church members are openly gay and two of the five are assigned to a committee.

Some members of the workgroup and subcommittee said they would welcome a stronger statement from the church on homosexuality so as to further disassociate itself from the church directory controversy. The church is autonomous and must decide the matter on its own.

The Executive Committee asked the church to provide more information about the congregation's views on homosexuality and the church before it reports back to the convention on the referred motion at the SBC annual meeting in June.

"The committee has asked us to sort of strengthen our statement on the matter of homosexuality," said Charles Johnson, Broadway’s interim pastor. "We receive that challenge ... and we're going to take it very seriously and prayerfully and go back to our congregation and follow the light and leadership of the spirit of God."

Church leaders appealed to Southern Baptist leaders to help them to get past a number of difficult issues troubling the church, adding that homosexuality isn't one of the major ones.

"We are not a church where homosexuality is a defining issue," church leaders said in the letter.

The SBC, the nation's second-largest faith group behind Roman Catholics, changed its constitution in 1993 to exclude churches that are welcoming and affirming of gays. In the past, the amendment has been interpreted to apply to churches that take some formal action, like ordaining or licensing a gay minister or conducting a ceremony to bless a same-sex union.

The next scheduled meeting of the Executive Committee is June 22, just prior to the SBC annual meeting scheduled June 23-24..

If Broadway Baptist Church is disfellowshipped, it will have implications for four of its active members who teach at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, including the church's choir director and Sunday morning worship leader. Southwestern requires all full-time faculty members to belong to a Southern Baptist church.

"We are pleased that we were received so graciously," Lyn Robbins, a Broadway member and the church's general counsel, said after the vote. "We believe that we are in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention. Our purpose here today was to express that and also to share who Broadway is and what we are about."

Robbins said the church members at the meeting would relay the Executive Committee's request for more information back to the church, and he anticipates Broadway will be willing to have more communication.

"Nothing happened today that makes me believe that we cannot reach a conclusion that will be in the best interest of both Broadway and the SBC," he said.

2/19/2009 6:57:00 AM by wire reports | with 0 comments

Professor died of natural causes

February 19 2009 by BR staff

Contributed photo

Dan Goodman

A divinity school professor who died Jan. 13 at age 40 died of natural causes, a coroner has determined.

Dan Goodman, who was professor and Bob D. Shepherd Chair of New Testament Interpretation at Gardner-Webb University’s (GWU) Chris White School of Divinity, died of a blood clot, according to Dwight Tessneer, coroner in Cleveland County. The clot probably went to Goodman’s lungs, Tessneer said.

“They go to moving, it’s not good news,” he said.

While Goodman’s death had been reported earlier, no cause had been determined at the time. He was stricken in his house in the early morning.

Goodman was the fourth staff or faculty member to die at GWU in the last two-and-a-half years. Three of them died unexpectedly.

2/19/2009 6:23:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Clean-up from ice storm continues

February 18 2009 by BR staff

N.C. Baptists have completed more than 210 jobs helping people in Kentucky recover from a major ice storm that hit the state Jan. 27.

Volunteers from N.C. Baptist churches have served about 516 volunteer days, clearing downed trees and providing nearly 300 showers, according to Gaylon Moss, who coordinates disaster relief for N.C. Baptist Men. They have seen seven people make salvation decisions, he said.

More than 30 people died and hundreds of thousands lost power as a result of the ice storm. At one time, more than 90 of Kentucky's 120 counties were under emergency declarations.

N.C. Baptists have been in Kentucky since early February. Most of their work has been in Stanford and Livingston County, which is northeast of Paducah.

2/18/2009 8:38:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

SBC leader: Financial crisis reveals true faith

February 18 2009 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — America's financial crisis has created an unprecedented opportunity for Christians to live out their trust in God before a nation consumed with fear, Morris H. Chapman told members of the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) Executive Committee in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 16.

"Our nation has been brought to its knees financially. Now the question is, 'How shall we respond?'" said Chapman, the Executive Committee's president and chief executive officer. "So many in our generation have tried and tested many gods only to discover none of them has the answer to the emptiness in their hearts. If the financial collapse in the United States has reverberated to every nation on earth, could not the fresh wind of God's Spirit also reach every continent in the world?"

BP photo by Morris Abernathy

America's financial crisis has created an unprecedented opportunity for Christians to live out their trust in God before a nation consumed with fear, Morris H. Chapman told members of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee on Feb. 16. 

Financial crisis can give birth to spiritual awakening but only if Christians are willing "to abandon all of self for all of Christ," Chapman said.

"God's fresh wind can and will happen only when the church is ready to provide real spiritual leadership, to teach kingdom values to the new-born in Christ, to do ministry, and to fulfill the Acts 1:8 imperative," Chapman said.

Times of crisis call for courageous leaders who will challenge their communities to replace fear with faith, Chapman said.
"Difficult circumstances are the platform on which God reveals His supernatural activity," Chapman said. "When we hold nothing back in the face of difficult circumstances, our response will allow God to demonstrate His supernatural power through us. We must take our eyes off the crisis and fasten them on Jesus. Christ alone can bring calm to the fear of the human heart."
The financial crisis also gives Christians an opportunity to immerse themselves in God's Word, pray that God would raise up prophetic leaders and tune in on the ministries God wants them to undertake, Chapman said.
He cited the example of College Heights Baptist Church in Gallatin, Tenn., which posted a message on their marquee saying people could text prayer requests to a cell phone number. The result was a flood of responses.
Chapman read one of the text messages the church received, from a woman whose son had attempted suicide and the family was forced to make the decision to take him off life support.
"Now I feel like I have murdered my son," the message said. "My mother passed away nine weeks later. My father lives in my home now and is on hospice, suffering from congestive heart failure. My husband is looking at the possibility of closing his business due to the economy and health reasons. We have bills piling up. We have a home in a nearby town that we are trying to sell to pay off our debt. PLEASE PRAY!!"
"That's the desperation of the world," Chapman said. "This open door for ministry we are experiencing in our country may not occur again in our lifetime. ... Start a prayer hot line, restock your clothes and food closet, offer financial counseling and share the gospel with boldness and abandon."
Chapman also called on families and congregations alike to focus on the Acts 1:8 command of Christ to be His witnesses "in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Giving in to fear and drastically reducing missions giving would have severe repercussions around the world — both now and in eternity.
"The financial cost of having to bring missionaries home from the field would only be exceeded by the loss of opportunity to see the Great Commission completed in our generation," Chapman declared.
Chapman offered several suggestions for staying on mission in a time of financial crisis:
  • Replace fear with faith. Allow God to demonstrate His power to provide.
  • Base your budget on your mission. Make every line item in your budget essential to the purpose and vision of your church.
  • Have a spending plan to follow in the event that there will be a lengthy recession. The integrity and wisdom with which the church handles its resources will be a testimony to our people and to the world.
  • Call on everyone to give. "If data is accurate, the church doesn't have a spending problem; it has a giving problem," Chapman said. "Twenty-five percent of the church attendees give 85 percent of its resources."
  • Challenge people to exercise "grace giving" during the "financial famine." "For many of our people, it would be a whole new concept to be generous with what they don't have, so to speak, as compared to being generous when there is an overflow of material things," Chapman said.
  • Exercise boldness when it comes to critical components of our cooperative work. "We could undo in a few years what it has taken years to put in place when it comes to the deployment of missionaries here and around the world," Chapman said. "If we believe we need more missionaries and not less, we must remain the missionary-minded people our forefathers led us to become."
Southern Baptists must not allow themselves to focus inward when it is time to look out onto fields "white unto harvest," Chapman added.
"We have, over a period of nearly 30 years, discussed just about every nuance of Southern Baptist doctrine, and we must always be vigilant, standing upon the Word of God," Chapman said. "But it is time for Southern Baptists to stop doctrinal nitpicking among ourselves. It is time for every leader in the Southern Baptist Convention to talk of Christ and Christ alone.
"Southern Baptists in the pew and on the streets need to hear a word of God that will reverberate throughout this nation and around the world," Chapman declared. "We need men who will stand and point the way to those who are in lostness and darkness and have no light in their souls."
Southern Baptists as a whole have not given as sacrificially as they could have during years of plenty and now face the challenge of lean years, Chapman noted.
"I'm afraid we have squandered the bountiful resources God gave us during the last two decades of prosperity. We spent more on ourselves than we did on missions. We consumed God's blessing rather than conveying it to others," Chapman said. "The crisis of a lifetime is here. One final question we need to ask ourselves: Are we willing to miss the opportunity to model what it means to be a child of the King and a citizen of the Kingdom?"

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.)

2/18/2009 6:14:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hold onto your mics for now

February 18 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Don't throw out your wireless microphones yet.

With the shift of the nation's broadcast communications from analog to digital early indications were that wireless microphones might become outdated or even illegal.

A Federal Communications Commission official told the Biblical Recorder Feb. 17 that rules were still being written to address those issues, even though Feb. 17 was the original day the switch was to be made.

The national switch deadline for switching to digital broadcast is now June 12. Television
stations in some smaller markets made the switch by the original deadline and there will be a "rolling" switchover, said the official who spoke only on condition that he not be identified.

He said rules governing the digital channels that microphones would use will be finalized "soon," which he defined as "in the coming days and weeks."

The background: Signals broadcast through the air occupy a specific band or channel. Digital signals can be compressed much more efficiently and they occupy less air space, or fewer channels. Consequently, a national switch to digital opens space into which will slide new commercial and public digital services, including "interoperable" radios that will put fire, police, rescue and emergency response services on equipment through which they can talk with each other.

Large scale disasters revealed catastrophic inability for response teams to communicate and coordinate.

While television stations occupied the spectrum in channels 2-69, the digital compression is packing them into channels 2-51. Now new services and the interoperable systems will locate in channels 52-69, the empty space in which many church wireless microphone systems lived. The government auctioned that air space for $20 billion.

Church microphone systems will need to find a home in channels 51 and below, and that availability varies city by city, depending on what other services are there.

It actually is not the microphones that will be out of date, but the transmitters that send the signal to the amplifier. Some can be reconfigured. Others will be no good. You will have more flexibility if your equipment is new or high end.

The manufacturer should be able to tell you, as well as help you with what channels are vacant in your area, the FCC official said.

Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina Baptists' largest church and host to many statewide events, fears it will have to replace $30,000 of equipment. Pastor Stephen Rummage said he intends to donate any suddenly outdated equipment to churches on the mission field where they will still be perfectly usable. The church will assist other congregations who would like to send their cordless microphone systems to churches or missionaries overseas. Contact Hickory Grove's creative communication office at (704) 531-4074.

2/18/2009 5:59:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Stetzer calls for end to SBC ‘sniping’

February 17 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Young people will not come to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meetings to hear preachers put down what they’re doing, says SBC researcher Ed Stetzer.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research and missiologist in residence at LifeWay Christian Resources, said the SBC will start attracting young people to its meeting when younger people start appearing on the stage.

“You cannot guilt people any longer into being a part of the SBC,” he said, because the SBC is no longer a tribal culture where it was dangerous to live outside the group.

BR photo by Steve DeVane

Ed Stetzer talks to a group at Binkley Chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary on Feb. 16. Stetzer, along with other speakers were part of the Great Commission Resurgance evangelism conference.

Stetzer spoke and held a dialogue session with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary students during the Baptist State Convention Evangelism Conference Feb. 16 at the school. A second session of the evangelism conference will be held at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Black Mountain next week.

Stetzer responded to a question about how the SBC can attract young people.

“The sniping has to stop,” he said.

Stetzer said he believes the next two big debates in the church are going to be over ecclesiology — what a church is — and missiology — how the church engages culture.

Stetzer said the “methodological consensus,” which led to the similarities of SBC churches, has collapsed. No denomination has survived such a collapse, he said.

Stetzer suggested that cooperation in the SBC should first be built around the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, which he called the “denominational orthodoxy.” The SBC can’t keep “moving the goalposts,” of who is allowed to cooperate, he said.

“If you’re in that denominational orthodoxy, it’s time to cooperate, not caricature,” he said.

Confessional cooperation can then lead to missional cooperation, said Stetzer, who suggested that moderates incorrectly assert that cooperation can be built around missions alone.

Stetzer said Southern Baptists have a high view of scripture and a high view of missions, but have not been able to put them together to engage their communities.

Preaching against innovation gets a “big ‘Amen’” from the amen corner at denominational gatherings, Stetzer said.

“But the amen corner is getting smaller and smaller,” he said.
Advice for innovators

For innovative pastors who face such situations, Stetzer had some advice.

“When someone takes a swing, swing back,” he said. “Say, ‘I believe we can cooperate.’”

Stetzer also fielded a question about a recent Baptist Press article critical of Mark Driscoll, edgy pastor of Mars Hill Baptist Church in Seattle, a city which Driscoll says is America’s most unchurched. The article took issue with Driscoll’s methods, including his straight talk about sex.

Stetzer said he has chosen not to comment about the article, but said he has written about Driscoll on his blog.

In the blog, Stetzer said he and Driscoll disagree about some things but he called Driscoll “a friend who labors for the glory of God, the health of the church, and the redemption of the world.” Stetzer said in the blog that some people take issue with Driscoll’s frank talk about sexuality.

“I do recognize that frank discussion of sexuality is going to be very difficult in our denomination,” Stetzer said during the dialogue at Southeastern.

Most Southern Baptists were raised in a culture where such discussions were avoided, but some who didn’t grow up in church were in effect raised in a “pornified culture,” Stetzer said. When dealing with “sexual brokenness,” the church needs to provide biblical answers, he said.

“I just think the whole ‘let’s pretend it’s not there’ isn’t working,” he said.

Later at the conference, Stetzer preached from 2 Corinthians 5 on how to represent Christ well. He said the passage offers Christians a new perspective.

Christians should not see those who aren’t saved as enemies but instead as prisoners of war that the gospel can set free, Stetzer said. Too often those in the church have an “us versus them” attitude, he said.

“Too often we are known as people who are mad all the time,” he said.

Christians are sent on a mission of reconciliation, Stetzer said. The old way of inviting people to church so the minister can present the plan of salvation will no longer work, he said.

“Come and see isn’t as effective,” he said. “Go and tell has to be our future passion.”

Stetzer said the church has spent the last 30 years “fixing up the barn” by sprucing up buildings and spicing up music “but the wheat is still not harvesting itself.”

Stetzer said Baptists need “a breakdown of factionalism.”

Jesus’ work on the cross “changes everything” and makes it possible for Christians to carry out their mission.
2/17/2009 9:41:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 1 comments

Ark. House OKs bill allowing guns in church

February 17 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas House of Representatives approved a bill Feb. 11 that would allow people with concealed-weapon permits to bring their guns to church.

The bill, approved by the House by a vote of 57-42, now goes to the state Senate. If passed, it would amend to state's gun laws to remove "any church or other place of worship" from a list of places where firearms are currently banned.

Rep. Beverly Pyle (R-Cedarville) said she introduced the measure, which has 14 co-sponsors, in response to a series of church shootings across the country.

"It is time we changed our concealed-handgun law to allow law-abiding citizens of the state of Arkansas the right to defend themselves and others should a situation happen in one of our churches," Pyle said, according to the Associated Press.

Proponents of the bill point to incidents like the 2007 shooting at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., where a gunman killed two and wounded three others before he was shot down by an armed security guard while heading toward an auditorium packed with 7,000 worshipers.

Opponents say it flies in the face of the centuries-old tradition of the church as a "sanctuary" free from the fear of violence.

Drew Smith, director of international programs at Henderson State University and a Baptist minister, called House passage of the bill "a hasty and tragic response to our need to feel safe everywhere we go."

If the bill passes into law, Smith said in his blog, "I would hope that faithful Christians and faithful churches would reject the need to arm themselves, reject the attempt to create false security, and most importantly, reject violence and the system that promotes it as necessary."

2/17/2009 5:18:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 1 comments

Pastor: Faith sustains dead pilot’s family

February 17 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

LUTZ, Fla. — The pilot of a deadly plane crash Feb. 12 in upstate New York was a Southern Baptist.

Marvin Renslow, captain of the Continental Connection commuter flight that went down and crashed into a home while trying to land at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, attended First Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla. The 900-member congregation is affiliated with the Florida Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist Convention.

Alan Burner, an associate pastor at the church, read a statement from the Renslow family.

"They're very proud of Marvin's accomplishments as a pilot," Burner said. "They know that he did everything that he could to save as many lives as he could, even in the accident."

He continued, "They want you to know that their faith is that God is sovereign and God is in control even when it seems that everything is out of control.

"They want you to know that their faith, their trust, their hope is in the Lord, the one true and living God," he said. They know — through their faith — that life does not end on this earth, but life continues as believers with God in heaven. They know that Marvin's physical life as ended, but his eternal life has just begun."

All 49 people aboard the aircraft perished in the fiery crash, along with one person on the ground. The flight originated in Newark, N.J.

Renslow, 47, was an Iowa native who lived in the Tampa suburb of Lutz with his wife and two children. He had logged more than 3,300 flying hours since joining Colgan Air, the company operating the flight, in September 2005.

Investigators don't know what caused the plane to drop off the radar and nosedive to the ground amid light snow and sleet around 10:20 p.m. Crew members did not indicate there were any mechanical problems and no distress signal was given — but other pilots around the same time reportedly complained of ice building on their wings.

"We are greatly saddened by this accident," said Philip Trenary, president and CEO of Pinnacle Airlines Corp., parent company of Colgan Air. "Our prayers are extended to the family and loved ones of those aboard Flight 3407 and those affected on the ground. Please know that we will commit all needed resources to assist the (National Transportation Safety Board's) investigation of this accident and work to ensure that a tragedy such as this does not occur again."

Renslow and four other crew members died in the crash. So did 44 passengers, including an off-duty airline pilot, the widow of a man killed in the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, one of the world's leading experts on genocide in Rwanda and two members of jazz musician Chuck Mangione's band. Two other people in the house escaped with minor injuries.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

2/17/2009 5:14:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Songwriter poses ‘What If We’ challenge

February 17 2009 by Leann Callaway, Special to the Baptist Standard

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For singer/songwriter Brandon Heath, “What If We” is more than just the title of his newest CD. It’s also a challenge to Christians to put worship into motion and put their faith into action worldwide.    

Furthermore, Heath hopes the message behind the music will serve as a reminder to share Christ’s love in everyday surroundings and bring unity to Christians.

“Every part of that phrase, ‘what if we,’ is important,” Heath says.  “The ‘what if’ part is about possibilities, and the ‘we’ part is saying: ‘Let’s do this together. Let’s not do this alone.’”

By living out this “what if we” message, Heath has been able to take a public platform and merge it with his heart for community by working with missions organizations such as Young Life, Blood:Water Mission, Restore International and other human rights groups.

Recently, Heath participated in the Art-Music-Justice Tour, benefiting both the International Justice Mission and Food for the Hungry. The tour raised more than $35,000 for IJM and Food for the Hungry received sponsorships for 560 children.

“One of the core goals of my ministry is focused on striking up conversations about social injustices around the world and being a voice for those who have often been silenced by poverty or lack of influence,” he said.

At Heath’s concerts, he shares valuable lessons he’s learned in hopes of inspiring others to take action.

“What I am learning, what I am finding, and what I am observing — those are the things I am putting into songs,” Heath said.  “And if I can lead people into the spirit of the Lord and maybe reveal some things in their life that God wants to be a part of as well, that’s the ultimate goal.”

Heath’s message and music are being well received. He garnered New Artist of the Year honors at the 2008 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, and this year, he received two Grammy nominations—“Give Me Your Eyes” for Best Gospel Song and “What If We” for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album.

“The song ‘Give Me Your Eyes’ was inspired from the idea that every once in awhile, God gives us his eyes,” Heath said.

“I think that the longer I get to know the character of Jesus, the more compassion I personally have for others. When you see someone at, say, like an airport or wherever, you never know what that person is struggling with at the time. They may have just lost their job or be at a really low point in their life.

“‘Give Me Your Eyes’ is saying, ‘Lord, give me your eyes so that I can see people the way you see people, so I can love people the way you love people and reach out and minister to them.’

“I want to challenge people more, through songs like this one. It is one thing to have compassion and quite another to act on it. Most times, it starts with the people around you.”

2/17/2009 5:10:00 AM by Leann Callaway, Special to the Baptist Standard | with 0 comments

NAMB gains in missionaries, church plants

February 16 2009 by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — As North American Mission Board (NAMB) trustees looked toward the 2009 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions (AAEO), they celebrated news that NAMB's missionary count topped 5,600 at the end of 2008 and Southern Baptist church plants increased 6 percent over 2007.

NAMB President Geoff Hammond highlighted the upcoming Annie Armstrong Offering season during the trustees' Feb. 11 meeting at NAMB's offices in Alpharetta, Ga.

BP photo by John Swain

NAMB President Geoff Hammond uses an ear of corn as part of his comments to trustees.

Citing the partners who promote the offering, with a goal of $65 million, Hammond said, "(W)e're grateful to Woman's Missionary Union, all the state conventions and local associations, but ultimately it's the local pastor who must challenge people to contribute."

This year's Annie Armstrong theme, "Sowing Together For Harvest," calls Southern Baptists to pray for, give to and ponder together to reach North America for Christ," he said.

Hammond showed a video of eight NAMB missionaries in North America who are being featured as part of this year's Annie Armstrong Easter Offering Week of Prayer, March 1-8.

Willie Jacobs, a national missionary in Memphis, Tenn., featured on the video, was on hand to speak to trustees about the challenges of his ministry amid the crime and violence in Memphis' inner city.

"In Memphis, 1 million people do not know Jesus as their personal Savior," Jacobs said. "We're challenged with going into places where people don't look like us, act like us or think like us. But they need the Gospel. I'm glad God has chosen me to be part of it. Pray for me as we go into drug-infested areas. Remember that He loves the drug addict, the one on skid row, the prostitute and the homosexual."

Hammond called for "a renewed urgency in North America about the gospel and the need to sow the gospel in North America. We have enough Southern Baptists to reach all the people of North America. Through GPS, (the SBC's new evangelism initiative) God's Plan for Sharing, we want every believer sharing and every person believing by 2020."

Referencing John 4:35-37, Hammond outlined seven principles of sowing the gospel: "We must sow to reap. We reap where others have sown. We sow where others will reap. We reap what we sow. Those that sow in tears will reap with joy. We must sow together for harvest. And you always reap more than you sow."

Holding up a kernel and an ear of corn in each hand, Hammond illustrated the last of the seven principles. But he said, "For too long, we have tried to reap in rows that have never been sown. With GPS, we're trusting God for one of the greatest harvests Southern Baptists have ever achieved during the next 12 years."

Much of the trustees meeting focused on GPS, the strategic evangelization initiative Hammond introduced at last year's SBC annual meeting and which is beginning to gather steam.

Earlier in February, NAMB announced its plan to invest $1.2 million in 2010 on a strategic media buy to implement GPS, including TV, radio, newspapers, outdoor media and the Internet. The media campaign will be coordinated with state convention partners to ensure the most effective approach is used in each region.

In the first of several committee reports, NAMB's chaplaincy team reported that 2,875 NAMB-sponsored and endorsed chaplains are now serving in military and civilian roles. The number of serving chaplains should exceed 3,000 in 2009, trustees were told.

In 2008, NAMB-endorsed military and civilian chaplains serving in more than 17 countries made 38,000-plus gospel presentations and recorded more than 8,600 professions of faith and 4,000 baptisms.

NAMB's Sending Missionaries Team recorded a net gain of 212 long-term missionaries during 2008, bringing the total to more than 5,600. Trustees were told that 125 US/C2 missionaries are now serving in the field, the largest number ever. Also, an unprecedented 1,973 students served last year as summer and semester missionaries.

The board's church planting group reported that new church plants increased 6 percent in 2008 — from 1,445 church plants to 1,538. Even so, more than 400 counties out of some 3,000 in the United States do not have a Southern Baptist presence.

NAMB's evangelization group recorded a significant increase in hunger ministry volunteers, 104,000 in 2008 compared to only 67,000 in 2007. The World Hunger Fund portion for North America was down 3 percent, to $1,195,922 in 2008 from $1,238,817 in 2007. But despite fewer resources, the hunger ministry marked 36,074 professions of faith in 2008 compared to 35,336 in 2007. Hunger ministry baptisms were up to 5,763 last year, an increase over 2007's 5,024.

Carlos Ferrer, NAMB's chief financial officer, reported that the board's 2008 income — primarily from Southern Baptists' Cooperative Program gifts and the Annie Armstrong Offering — came in $8.3 million below budget projections. However, the board finished the year $457,066 to the good thanks to under-spends, larger than expected designated gifts and asset sales, including the former Radio and Television Commission building in Fort Worth, Texas.

As for 2009, NAMB team leaders have been told to limit spending to within 90 percent of their approved budget; a hiring slowdown also has been in place since the beginning of the year.

(EDITOR'S NOTE — Noah is a writer for NAMB.)

2/16/2009 12:13:00 PM by Mickey Noah, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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