February 2009

Christian higher education adds value

February 11 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

The president of Gardner-Webb University believes if those in charge of the banks and businesses whose greed and risky practices have plunged the nation into recession had been graduates of North Carolina Baptist colleges, “we would not be in the mess we’re in today.”

“I believe that emphatically,” said Frank Bonner, president of Gardner-Webb since July 2005.

Bonner made his remarks in a forum of the five North Carolina Baptist colleges during a meeting Feb. 9 at First Baptist Church, Greensboro, that looked toward a “New Baptist Century.”

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Wayne Wike, second from left, moderated a panel of North Carolina Baptist university presidents who discussed the next century of Christian education. They are, from left, Chris White, Chowan; Wike; Dan Lunsford, Mars Hill; Jerry Wallace, Campbell and Frank Bonner, Gardner-Webb.

Celebrating the first four centuries of Baptist history, the meeting sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina asked the presidents to look forward and to quantify the value of a Christian education over a secular education, which is often less expensive.

Wayne Wike, assistant to the president of Wingate University who was on his honeymoon, moderated the conversation among the four other presidents.

While none could offer a confident forecast of Baptist higher education 100 years from now, they all agreed it would be dramatically different. Bonner said in four to six decades, it will be “unrecognizable from today.” Education itself is being reduced to a “commodity” he said, with costs “spiraling past the ability of families to pay.”

As families weigh the value of education against the cost, they will realize in the coming decades that “in education, there must be a moral element, even a Christian element,” Bonner said.

Jerry Wallace, president of Campbell University, said Campbell’s founder originally advertised his school as being “15 miles from the nearest bar.”

“I don’t think that is what the next century of Christian education is going to be about,” he said. Instead Christian colleges must “inform, inspire and challenge our students with a Christian worldview founded on an orientation of the best of what it means to be Baptist.”

Emphasizing several things often assumed to the contrary, the presidents said their student bodies often are more diverse than those of state-sponsored institutions.

Dan Lunsford, president of Mars Hill College, said 71 percent of Mars Hill’s entering students last year were first generation college students, and 40 percent were Pell Grant eligible, indicative of the “highest financial need.” That rate of Pell Grant eligibility, he said, is higher than any state institution, other than that of historically black colleges. “This is a mission field,” he said.

“The value we add is we bring to our campuses young people from all walks of life,” Lunsford said. “Mars Hill has the highest diversity of any institution in western North Carolina, public or private.”

Chris White, president of Chowan University, said it is “fortunate, maybe … providential” that North Carolina’s Baptist colleges are entering the national economic crisis “at a high point” in their history.

“These schools are very resilient,” said White, who also was president of Gardner-Webb. “The issue is not survival. That was set a long time ago. The issue is ministry.”

“We move forward with a sense of optimism laced with reality,” he said.

White said Chowan is taking specific steps to make sure a change in relationship to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina does not lead to a diminishing Christian or Baptist identity. Those steps include scholarships for students preparing for ministry, and three full-time campus ministers.

Wallace said none of the panel would have been on the stage “were it not for the support of North Carolina Baptists.”

At some point in each school’s history, “North Carolina Baptists came around us to meet needs and help us grow and survive.” Today the five North Carolina Baptist schools enroll about 18,000 students and each is strong.

“The tremendous challenge in Christian higher education is to spell out to students the Baptist call in a winsome and attractive way,” Wallace said. “If we will allow expression of freedom our best days are yet to come.”

2/11/2009 6:43:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Hooked: Church uses fishing to reel in people

February 11 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Talk of frying fish spawned the idea for a fishing expo at one church.

“It was a good experience for us to see what kind of outreach is possible,” said Bill Walker, a member of First Baptist Church (FBC) in Black Mountain.

Several men in the church enjoy fishing, and the pastor suggested a fish fry for the church. But as they began to discuss the dinner, the idea began to grow.

The “Get Hooked “ conference, which was held in November, was a first-time outreach event for FBC.

Contributed photo

Kenny Palmer, kneeling, teaches Spencer Davis how to fly cast during a fishing expo at First Baptist Church in Black Mountain. What started as an idea to have a fish fry turned into a ministry reaching to the community.

The expo featured demonstrations on fly tying and fly casting as well as information on where to fish and licensing issues. Pastor David Rayburn also had a brief devotion. A fish dinner with a time for fish tales followed.

While the catch was smaller than they would have liked, Walker said the 24 people who attended “seemed to enjoy it.”

Ten of the participants were from outside the church. They heard about it through word-of-mouth as well as posters placed in various stores.

“What I did learn from the experience is that God can use our faithful efforts to reach out to the community in the name of Christ,” Walker said. “While we were hoping more people would come to the event, we believe God blessed the fellowship, food, and the devotional time.”

The presenters were from the local community as well. Kenny Palmer and Susan Faw were from One Fly Outfitters. Another presenter was Chris Champion, a church member and avid fisherman.

Walker said they began planning three months before the event.

The expo was aimed at building fellowship, said Rayburn, who has been FBC’s pastor for almost eight years.

“Our motivation was in trying to build from resources internally that we had,” said Rayburn, who admits that he is not an avid fisherman but knew that it was an interest of several church members. He said he did learn about certain fishing licensing requirements and seasonal considerations he’d never considered.

Rayburn hopes FBC can build on the outreach idea through tapping into other members’ interests. The church is involved in a local gleaning ministry where volunteers harvest crops not being used.  

The church, which averages 120 people on Sunday mornings, has just begun to broaden “their awareness of outreach opportunities.”

Rayburn said he is excited to see his flock begin to take more ownership of their walk with God.

“It’s a beginning process as a church embracing outreach,” said Rayburn, who hopes to engage more members “in things they like to do.”

Rayburn said the church has been through some struggles and cultural shifts like most other congregations.

“The church went through a period of wounding (and) is trying to recover and grow and mature,” Rayburn said. “It’s an effort to help them relearn, rethink, reengage in ways they hadn’t done before.”

Rayburn said the youth pastor has gotten the church involved in a Christmas outreach the first weekend of December. Called Holly Jolly, Black Mountain hosts a time where shops stay open later than usual.

FBC sets up a tent and distributes hot chocolate and cider as well as popcorn for free to the public. One woman sells goodies to raise money for missions.

Rayburn said he is encouraged to see his members “move forward in a way that serves Christ.”

2/11/2009 4:40:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Quiet board considers Caraway land option

February 11 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

North Carolina Baptists’ board of directors will consider a proposal by the Piedmont Land Conservancy that would pay to permanently protect about 200 acres at Caraway Camp and Conference Center from development.

Such a proposal was introduced at the Jan. 27-28  Baptist State Convention (BSC) board meeting held at Caraway, but no action was taken pending development of a master plan for the entire 1,100-acre site, which includes the popular conference center and Camp Caraway, filled each summer with Royal Ambassador campers.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Davis Hooper, left to right, John Baker and Mike Willoughby seek information during the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s board meeting Jan. 27-28.

Fund raising for additional hotel space also will be delayed, pending development of the master plan.

In the proposal the conservancy would pay Caraway to set aside the acreage in the flood plain on both sides of Caraway Creek to ensure it is never developed with buildings and non-permeable surfaces. Setting the land aside in that manner would not prohibit its use for outdoor activities.

The board also elected Allan Blume to a third term as chair; elected a new Executive Committee; heard how Convention staff is adjusting to income below budget; and heard reports from committees, agencies and institutions.

Filling positions
Eddie and Martha Williams, known for their work coordinating North Carolina Baptists’ relief efforts in Gulfport, Miss., have been coordinating the development of Red Springs mission camp, and will be moving to the new Shelby property, where N.C. Baptist Men is building a mission camp on 33 acres inside the city limits.

It will be ready for Deep Impact experiences this summer, according to Dale Duncan, president of North Carolina Baptist Men.

The board continued the pastoral ministries consultant position, following the retirement of Wayne Oakes, because it is deemed “mission critical.”

Oakes led the “sharing system” which helped connect churches and ministers, as well as leading in conflict management and minister’s emergency assistance.

A leader for the new women’s ministry Embrace also is being sought.

John Butler, executive director for business services, said 10 approved positions remain vacant. The 2009 budget internally has been “pared” to “a little less than 90 percent of the approved budget for 2009,” Butler said.

George Cagle, a member of the Executive Committee and of the Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute Board of Trustees, asked permission for Fruitland to submit an offer to buy a house across the street from campus to use as a dormitory for women, of whom five are now enrolled.

He said “Friends of Fruitland” will be able to contribute about $75,000 toward the asking price of $154,000 for the four- or five-bedroom house on .78 acre and he asked for a loan from the Convention for the rest. He was encouraged to investigate a purchase agreement with the implication that if an agreement was reached, funds would be found.

Interim Fruitland President Greg Mathis told the board 175 students were enrolled at Fruitland and that he “wouldn’t be surprised if within months we would have a new president.”

Duncan reminded board members that his organization is about more than disaster relief. Its purpose is to “help churches involve their members in missions.”

He said churches and individuals in crisis tend to turn inward. Instead of “just tying a knot and hanging on,” he said Baptist Men during difficult times will continue their outward focus and, “We’re going to make things happen.”

He said almost $3 million in a variety of seeds was donated and will be repackaged by volunteers at the Red Springs mission camp for distribution in worldwide agricultural ministries.

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, said meeting the North Carolina Mission Offering (NCMO) goal was “cause to celebrate,” even though the goal was $500,000 lower than the previous year because Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) is no longer a recipient of funds. He said combined gifts to the NCMO and WMU-NC’s Heck-Jones Offering demonstrated that “North Carolina Baptist churches gave well to support the ministries that have been included in the NCMO.”

Ruby Fulbright, executive director-treasurer of WMU-NC, reported later that gifts to the Heck-Jones Offering, which supports the operations and programs of WMU-NC, totaled $1,006,000 in 2008. Had that offering been combined with the NCMO, it would have been the largest NCMO offering ever.

Duncan said Baptist Men is planning a rally in each of the 10 regions in August to promote the NCMO and to distribute promotional materials.

“I rejoice our churches are still looking outward and trusting God to supply their needs and they are not giving up on missions,” Hollifield said.

New churches
Hollifield said North Carolina Baptists’ church rolls increased by 133 in 2008, including 108 church starts and 25 established churches that affiliated with the Convention. Twenty-six of the church starts were Hispanic churches, a new North Carolina record for Hispanic church starts in a year.

Butler said personnel costs — adjusted for inflation — are the lowest since 2003.

Three at-large members who bring specific expertise were added to the Business Services Special Committee.

They are Concord businessman Raiford Troutman; Steve Briggs, associate pastor of administration, for First Baptist Church, Hendersonville and Judson Hollifield, an attorney in Asheville. He is the son of the BSC executive director-treasurer.

At-large committee members are not members of the board, but are enlisted to ensure business services has access to the professional expertise it needs when considering actions that involve the widely diverse legal, financial, land use and construction areas of Convention business.

In his report, Clay Warf, director of the North Carolina Baptist Foundation, took the long view on investing, following what he called a “pretty devastating” year.

“Be patient,” he said. “Trust the Lord. He does provide for us. We’re going to be continuing to invest with that in mind.”

He said the foundation opened 73 new accounts last year and received $7.5 million in new money. “The Lord’s people have not quit in giving, and they won’t quit,” he said.

Warf introduced Russell Jones, who will direct the new church financial services arm of the foundation. A Wingate University graduate with 25 years in banking, Jones is the son of longtime Durham pastor Crate Jones.

Jones is “working feverishly” to finish developing the final pieces of a church loan program, he said, and looks forward to the day in late spring or early summer when they can receive the first application.

Richard Brunson, executive director-treasurer of N.C. Baptist Men, said more than 2,400 North Carolina Baptists volunteered in national and international projects in 2008.

“North Carolina Baptists are touching people, with the hands of Christ and eyes of Christ and feet of Christ,” he said.

Board members demonstrated the involvement of North Carolina Baptists worldwide when several asked prayer for mission and evangelism trips they are about to leave on to places as distant as Ecuador, Brazil, Nepal, Lebanon, India, El Salvador and Hawaii.

Wayne Key, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Cherryville, asked if the BSC was supporting the annual offering of Baptist Retirement Homes (BRH), since “they are no longer a part of us.”

Hollifield said a committee is working to clarify the relationship between the Convention and BRH. “Until that process is completed and the Convention votes in annual session to accept that process, they are officially a part of the BSC,” Hollifield said.

The Convention has not promoted the BRH offering, but BRH is an “autonomous organization that can promote in churches, just like any parachurch organization could do,” Hollifield said.

Several Convention employees were recognized for tenure, in five-year increments. They are Rhonda Freeman, Larry Jones, Bill Copper and Janice Rores, five years; Betty Pleasant, 10 years; Brian Hemphill and Milton A. Hollifield Jr., 15 years; Wendy Edwards and Marilyn Hill, 20 years; and David Lloyd, 30 years.

2/11/2009 4:35:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Doctor works after mission trip to help girl

February 11 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

RED SPRINGS — A medical mission team to the Philippines two years ago saw hundreds of patients. Dr. Kenneth Locklear remembers two vividly.

One girl had a condition that could not be helped and died about five months later. The other had a mass on her forehead the size of a grapefruit.

“She was the one I could do something about,” Locklear said.

BR photo by Steve DeVane

Dr. Kenneth Locklear, seen here in his office in Red Springs, wouldn’t stop until he helped remove mass from girl’s face in Philippines. Visit Island Grove photo gallery.

He said the mass between her eyes was so large it kept the little girl named Zysa from seeing in front of her.

“She had to look at your from the side,” he said.

Locklear, who practices family medicine in Red Springs, couldn’t help the girl while he was in the Philippines, but what he did when he returned home changed her life.

Locklear, a member of Island Grove Baptist Church in Pembroke, started making calls to various medical facilities and other organizations. Several people told him they could help, but then told him how much they’d charge.

Finally, Locklear talked to a lady from the Philippines who works at Duke University Medical Center. She told him about an organization that sends surgeons to Manila to perform surgeries. The team might be able to help if Locklear could work out several details.

He did, but after the team arrived, the girl was still among more than 150 children in line for about 40 to 50 surgeries.

“The Lord works things out,” he said. “Things fell into place and she ended up getting her surgery done.”

Return trip
Now Locklear is going back to the Philippines on another medical mission trip in late April or early May.

“I’m looking forward to seeing her,” he said.

Sandra Locklear, an optometrist who has an office in Pembroke and is no relation to Kenneth Locklear, also went on the trip two years ago. She took about 2,000 pairs of glasses and would match the person’s eyes to the prescription in the glasses. She is also a member at Island Grove. One man was essentially blind. When he put on glasses he “went to crying,” Kenneth Locklear said.

A 76-year-old lady walked for six hours to be seen and didn’t grumble, he said, adding that some patients in United States are unhappy if they have to sit in a waiting room for an hour.

“It’s a very humbling experience to see how hard the people work and how thankful they are for the least little thing,” he said.

Some barns in the United States would look like mansions in the Philippines, Locklear said.

“It’s very humbling to see those people who work hard who don’t have a lot,” he said.

Most of those on the mission trip were from Island Grove. “We really had a good time,” Locklear said. “Those people are really on fire for the Lord.”

Christians in the Philippines are starting churches, holding Bible classes and revivals, and baptizing people, Locklear said.

“It’s just a great thing to see,” he said.

Leading others
Manny Mintac, youth pastor at Island Grove Baptist Church and program coordinator for Burnt Swamp Baptist Association, organized the trip. His main responsibility is to oversee the mission work in the Philippines.

He goes and visits at least once a year and also leads mission teams.

Contributed photo

Zysa's mass was large but still couln't hide her smile. Visit Island Grove photo gallery.

Mintac said the vision for the work started in 1991 when he and his wife went to the Philippines and started a living room Bible study. Mission teams from the association started going a few years later. Now there are 14 churches and a school with 135 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“God has been really wonderful,” Mintac said. “The momentum is even faster now.”

Mintac is going back to the Philippines in early April. He’ll stay six weeks and help three different mission teams. A team of six from Parkway Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., is going to do a sports camp.

A medical team, including Dr. Locklear, is coming in late April and early May. A team of college students is going later in May to do VBS and youth camp. Most of the students are from UNC-Pembroke. In August a team of young professionals is going to work with college students and children, Mintac said. The work is in the province of Aurora in the northern part of the Philippines. The effort has spread to five of the eight major towns in the province.

“We are now saturating the whole province and going in the major towns in the province,” Mintac said.

Mintac went to elementary and high school in the Philippines. “That’s where I was raised,” he said.

He said he is always looking for partners who want to help to help with the mission effort.

“It seems like it’s just scratching the surface, but it’s growing,” he said. “We’ll take any group that wants to go, because we have many ministries that will accommodate them.”

Dr. Locklear was so moved by the trip he hopes to one day take back members of his family. His daughter, Andrea Simmons, works with him in family practice. His son, Brandon, and daughter-in-law, Merideth, are in obstetrics and gynecology. His daughter, Charlene, is a resident in Florence, S.C.

“That’s our ultimate goal in the future,” he said.

2/11/2009 4:08:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

N.C. natives join IWC to bring hope to nations

February 10 2009 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

After just a few days in Dakar, Senegal, “you feel it,” said Thomas Crane. “There’s a great sense of oppression, lostness, spiritual warfare and despair.”

Crane recently traveled to Dakar, a city where 98 percent of its 3 million population is Muslim, in preparation for a 10-day summer missions trip he will lead with International World Changers (IWC).

IWC is a ministry of the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention. This year it will send hundreds of high school, college and seminary students to serve on nearly 29 summer mission projects as requested by IMB missionaries.

Crane, an intern with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Office of Public Relations and student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will serve as a ministry coordinator alongside project coordinator Cindy Nooe. She has served as a journeyman with the IMB in Zambia and last year led the IWC trip to Barbados.

Contributed photo

This year 11 North Carolinians are coordinating groups for International World Changers, which is sending hundreds of high school, college and seminary students to serve on nearly 29 summer mission projects as requested by International Mission Board missionaries.

This year individuals from North Carolina represent a large percentage of IWC coordinators. Crane and Nooe, members of Summit Church in Durham, are two of 11 North Carolinians leading IWC projects.

Nooe’s goal is for students to understand that “God’s heart is for all people, not people just like them.”

The Senegal team will work among the Wolof tribe and the Talibe children. The Talibe children are street children who live under Muslim leaders known as marabouts. They teach them the Koran in the evening and during the day send them out into the streets to beg for money. Some Talibe are severely beaten by the marabout if they do not meet a certain daily quota on the street.

Students who travel to Senegal this summer will distribute medications for ringworm and scabies to these children. They will play soccer with them in the sandy, dirty streets. They will wash their hair with shampoo. They will love them.

The Senegal team will also help refurbish a basketball court and take two hours of language and culture immersion training every day so that they may be better equipped to engage in the Wolof culture.

The team will go through different neighborhoods distributing gospel-related literature.

Crane hopes the students will see just how lost the world is and have their hearts broken for missions, but more than that, he hopes they will understand there is hope for Africa — a hope found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

About 1.8 billion people around the world literally have no access to the gospel. They could leave their house and walk for days, weeks and months and never find a church, a Christian or even a Bible. IWC is helping make the name of Jesus Christ famous among the nations. One of the goals of IWC is “promoting a lifestyle of missions awareness and involvement to students and their leaders in churches, youth groups and campus ministries.”

North Carolina Baptists are invited to minister with IWC and “be part of bringing men and women, boys and girls from every nation, every tribe and every tongue to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

Crane said he prays that as students are exposed to the “lostness of the world” they would come to see that they can have a part in “God’s grand mission to redeem the nations back to himself.”

Visit Dakar project for more information.

In addition to the Senegal trip other projects being led by North Carolinians include:
  • East Asia (June 15-26) — Cris Alley is the church planter and now pastor at New River Community Church. Alley and Pao Ly, who also attends New River Community, will lead students as they share their testimonies at universities in East Asia and seek to share the gospel with college students. The team will serve among people who are atheists but who are spiritually hungry, seeking to understand the truth. Ly is a second-generation American who has a heart for the world and eager to lead others to be on mission. Alley has nine years of experience in East Asia with the IMB. Both look forward to watching as students on the trip are discipled and learn more about missions.
  • Thessaloniki, Greece (July 4-12) — Students traveling to Thessaloniki will lead English as a Second Language classes, prayer walk and help out a local festival by face painting and playing games with children. They will also serve Somali refugees by assisting in construction projects to help improve their living quarters. Dave Miller, student pastor at Richland Creek Community Church and a trip coordinator, “wants students to see that God is a global God” and hopes they will “get a taste of missions which God can use to call them into a lifetime of service to the nations.” Harold Lessner is also a member of Richland Creek and a trip coordinator.
  • Tokyo, Japan (July 4-16) — Jeff Moore and Kyle Patton are Carolinians who will lead a team to serve among the 33 million people in Tokyo. Less than one percent of the city’s population is evangelical. For nearly 10 years Moore led mission outreaches to places such as Greece and South Africa. In Tokyo students will get to know high school and college students by inviting them to dinner and leading games and balloon art in parks, all for the purpose of having opportunity to share the gospel.
  • Lima, Peru (June 12-19; 20-27) — Kathy King attends Summit Church in Durham and works at the local YMCA’s after-school program. King, coordinator for this IWC trip, served as a journeyman in Spain for two years and as an IWC coordinator for mission trips to Ecuador and the Czech Republic.
  • Krakow, Poland (July 18-25) — IWC students will host Bible studies and games as they sponsor a family camp for the Roma people. The weeklong camp will be the closest thing to a vacation for most of the Roma people, who are from rural communities and typically very poor. For some, this will be the only time they sleep in a bed. Despised and treated as outcasts, the Roma people, also known as Gypsies, are viewed by the Polish as the lowest class among the country’s population. The high employment rate forces many of them into crime. “Even though the world treats them as second class citizens, God loves them and as Christians we want to show them the love of Christ as we live with them,” said Kevin Minix, Poland trip coordinator. Minix is minister of education and youth at Haymore Memorial Baptist Church in Mount Airy.
  • Braila, Romania (July 25-Aug. 10) — Project coordinator Meghan Wood of Raleigh will serve with students as they build relationships with the Roma people in rural villages. They will share the gospel through children and youth ministries in areas where a ministry plant has not been started.
2/10/2009 5:13:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

NAMB missionary leads drive to win bikers

February 10 2009 by Mickey Noah, NAMB

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Call it “Sturgis South.”

Just like the infamous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D., each August, a similar rally in Myrtle Beach, S.C., also draws a half-million bikers in May. And like Sturgis, some bikers drive to the rally — their tanks physically and spiritually on empty — and depart with a life changed by Jesus Christ.

NAMB photo

Pastor Tony Wright, left, of The Wright Ministry in Christ, Inc., based in White Plains, Md., prays with a fellow biker to receive Christ during the gas giveaway at the Myrtle Beach, S.C., Bike Rally.

Some with ZZ Top-sized beards, tattoos and assorted piercings — and most decked out in black leather, straddling shiny, pricey motorcycles — they roar into this beach resort town to spend up to 10 days partying hearty. The last thing these tough men and women expect is to meet Jesus in Myrtle Beach. But almost 200 did during last year’s rally.

While some ministry had been going on during the annual rally for several years, Todd Wood, the North American Mission Board’s resort missionary based in Myrtle Beach, wanted to have a greater impact and touch more lives at the rally.

“It’s amazing to serve as a resort missionary here at Myrtle Beach,” Wood says. “These bikers come here looking for a good time to party, but it gives us the opportunity as Southern Baptists to step up and share with them the real hope in life, and that’s Jesus Christ. The only problem is that the rally is spread 40 miles up and down the coast, from the North Carolina line down to Garden City (South Carolina). It’s a big area to cover.”

Wood — with support from the local Waccamaw Baptist Association, the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the Carolina Faith Riders of North Carolina and the South Carolina Faith Riders — studied Christian ministry at the Sturgis motorcycle rallies.

“We saw that in Sturgis, they were touching a lot of lives with three-minute testimonies,” said Wood. “So we took that and transitioned it into giving away free gasoline to bikers. We felt like if we could give every person that comes through our line $10 worth of gas, we’d have three minutes to share our faith story with them. And we would ask them if they knew what it means to have a relationship with Christ.”

So with a gasoline budget of $10,000, Wood and about 100 volunteers — representing 12 different Christian motorcycle ministries — turned a Citgo gas station on nearby U.S. 17 into a filling station for Jesus.

“The first thing bikers would ask is ‘What’s the deal? Why are you doing this?’ Then we told them that the gas had already been paid for, that someone had purchased it on their behalf. Then we translated that into what Christ did — how he paid for our sins committed in the past, present and future,” said Wood.

NAMB photo

Todd Wood, North American Mission Board missionary, Myrtle Beach, S.C., talks to a biker during the free gasoline giveaway during the annual Myrtle Beach Bike Rally.

Wood said many had never heard the gospel message before. But who better to share the gospel with these rough-and-tough bikers than Christian bikers — some tattooed with crosses and images of Jesus, and who had escaped their own past lives of despair and hopelessness by accepting Christ.

“I came here to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ with my peers,” said one big, middle-aged biker sporting a full, salt-and-pepper beard and bandana. His sleeveless vest identified him as a biker chaplain. “He gave me a testimony because of my past life. Today is the day to glorify Him.”

Although some 200 bikers accepted Christ during those brief three-minute stops for free gasoline, Wood said,
“It just breaks my heart that we could only share with 1,500 or so who came through for gas.”

Wood and his volunteers also handed out 2,500 free gift bags, each filled with a Biker’s Bible and a DVD featuring Pastor Joe Covino, a Columbia, S.C., pastor and former biker himself.

“Many of our folks, even within our local association here in Waccamaw, don’t understand who the bikers are,” Wood said. “A lot of times we’ll see the big, bushy hair, the beards and we see the rough-cut guys in black leather and we don’t understand who they are.

“But this is somebody’s dad, somebody’s mom, somebody’s child. And we begin to understand how Christ pictures every one of these people. They all mean the same to Him. It’s a lost soul, another person He desires to have a relationship with,” Wood said. “For us, it’s so desperately important that we get out there and share the message of Christ with as many bikers as possible.”

Todd and his volunteers are already working on the 2009 Myrtle Beach Bike Week set for May 11-16. Instead of free gasoline, this year his Intracoastal Outreach ministry will be giving away a brand new $12,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycle. They also will serve bikers 1,100 lbs. of free barbecue. The attending bikers, of course, also will get a strong dose of the gospel.

As a NAMB missionary since 2002, Wood, 38, serves as director of intracoastal outreach with the Waccamaw Baptist Association. He and wife Amy are the parents of three daughters: Ellyn Kate, Caroline and Abby.

A native of Greenville, S.C., Wood is a graduate of Carson Newman College and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

The Week of Prayer for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is March 1-8.

Goal:  $65 million

2/10/2009 5:01:00 AM by Mickey Noah, NAMB | with 0 comments

Evangelist's vehicle giveaway attracts 10,300

February 10 2009 by Lee Weeks, Baptist Press

CUMMING, Ga. — Last fall, when Carol Gray entered the drawing to win a new vehicle at www.threeminutestory.com, she said she prayed "selfishly" to win before confessing her selfishness to God.

Gray's prayer was answered — and then some.

Before evangelist Ronnie Hill handed Gray the keys to a new Chrysler 300 LX, more than a dozen people professed their faith in Christ in response to Hill's invitation after preaching at First Baptist Church in Cumming, Ga.

"That's the whole thing right there," said Gray, a member of Alpharetta (Ga.) First United Methodist Church. "The car is secondary."

Hill's year-long evangelistic campaign via the Internet — which he's offering again this year — resulted in more than 10,300 people watching his three-minute gospel presentation and registering for the free vehicle drawing. More than 3,200 people recorded professions of faith in Christ after watching the video.

BP photo by Gibbs Frazeur

Carol Gray celebrates with Southern Baptist evangelist Ronnie Hill, left, and her husband Don. Hill presented Gray with a new car after she won the vehicle through a drawing on Hill's evangelistic web site. More than 3,000 people registered decisions for Christ through the outreach.  

People from all 50 states and 29 countries entered the online drawing. And Gray, a 65-year-old prayer group leader from Cumming, Ga., was randomly selected as the winner. But she almost forfeited her prize by hanging up the phone when Hill called her around 10:30 p.m. in December to tell her she was the winner.

"I thought this was someone talking crazy and was concerned that he knew my name, so in my fright I hung up on him," Gray said.

On Hill's third call-back attempt, Gray stayed on the line. The Grays' new car will replace her husband's 1986 Cadillac sedan, which they donated to a local ministry.

"God dropped this car right into my lap," she said. "What an awesome provider and awesome answer to prayer."

Hill arranged to present the new car following worship services at First Baptist Cumming on Jan. 25 because the church had promoted the Internet evangelism campaign locally. Gray was encouraged to enter the online drawing by her son-in-law, Tracy, who is a deacon at the church.

First Baptist Cumming, whose motto is "The Church That Gives Itself Away," began promoting the threeminutestory.com web site in August as an evangelistic outreach by posting a link on its web site and asking members to distribute small web site cards and e-mail links directing people to the site.

Church members distributed more than 7,000 cards at a free face-painting booth during the 10-day Cumming Country Fair & Festival and included the cards in Halloween treat bags containing candy and gospel tracts.

Bob Jolly, pastor of First Baptist Cumming, said Hill's Internet evangelism strategy helped energize and mobilize nearly the entire congregation in evangelistic outreach.

"After witnessing the curiosity of a car giveaway and the results of Ronnie's evangelistic preaching, God has given me a vision for what He can do when we use our God-given creativity to fish for men," Jolly said. "After hearing Ronnie's preaching, any questions about a car giveaway as a gimmick were erased and the ministry was enthusiastically embraced."

About 60 churches across the country partnered with Hill to promote the vehicle giveaway at county fairs, music festivals, block parties and football games. Optional expenses incurred for participating churches included costs for promotional banners, web site cards and registration tickets.

Information for churches interested in partnering with Hill's giveaway this year is available at www.threeminutestory.com/church.php.

Hill purchased the vehicle with donations by individual donors and funds from his nonprofit ministry. After shopping for the best deal, Hill bought the vehicle from Family Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep in Cleveland, Ga., following a referral by a staff member at First Baptist Cumming. The dealership sold the vehicle to Hill for $3,700 less than the closest competitor, a savings that nearly equaled the amount Hill lacked for the purchase from another auto dealership.

For Kelly Chadwick, general sales manager at the north Georgia dealership, Hill was an answer to his prayer as well. Chadwick, who attends Airline Baptist Church in Gainesville, Ga., said that while praying during his drive to work he asked God to help the dealership sell a vehicle the same day Hill called to buy the vehicle for the giveaway.

"It shows you that there's nothing God can't do," Chadwick said. "There's nothing that He can't handle."

Hill, of Fort Worth, Texas, quickly dismisses criticism that coupling the gospel with giving away a new vehicle is a manipulative gimmick.

"I don't care what people's motives are for signing up for the car, just that they hear the truth," Hill said. "People came to Jesus in the Bible for the wrong reasons, such as to be healed, for free food or to be entertained. But Jesus still told them the truth."

Jolly said the free vehicle giveaway "proved to be a creative and effective way" to share the gospel to many who wouldn't listen otherwise.

"One car is a small investment to reach thousands for Christ," Jolly said. "Many churches spend much more than that on church fellowships, which amount to little more than Christian entertainment and reach no one for Jesus."

Hill, an evangelist for 21 years, travels about 40 weeks each year preaching revivals across the United States and Canada, as well as leading mission trips to Africa, Europe and Central and South America. He also does evangelism training and leads evangelistic outreach events at youth camps, NASCAR races, rodeos and motorcycle rallies.

Hill said the online drawing for the vehicle giveaway enables him to multiply the reach of his evangelistic ministry while providing Christians and churches an opportunity to help share the Gospel with those who aren't likely to attend a church event.

"All you have to say is, 'Hey, you want to win a brand new car?'" Hill said.

This year, Hill has expanded the web site to include five additional video clips from which to choose a testimony, including that of an African American male, a Hispanic woman, a NASA engineer, a country music Grammy award winner and a woman who was a victim of sexual abuse.

Hill partnered with the North American Mission Board's Evangelism Response Center (ERC) so that those responding to his video testimony could speak with a spiritual encourager if they so desired. ERC volunteers referred callers wanting additional contact to Hill's partnering churches based on the zip codes of callers and those who completed online information.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Weeks is a freelance writer and associate pastor for evangelism and missions at First Baptist Church in Cumming, Ga.)

2/10/2009 4:55:00 AM by Lee Weeks, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

200 years later, Lincoln’s faith remains an enigma

February 10 2009 by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — Seven score and four years ago, Abraham Lincoln stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and said North and South alike must suffer for the sin of slavery.

“If God wills that (the war) continue until ... every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, so it still must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether,’” Lincoln said in his second inaugural address, quoting the Psalms.

Called “Lincoln’s Sermon on the Mount,” his 1865 address has been deemed the most religiously sophisticated presidential speech in American history. It was delivered by a backwoods lawyer with just one year of formal schooling who never joined a church.

As the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth nears Feb. 12, the 16th president and his unconventional faith continues to inspire and to confound. Churches, community centers and colleges across the country are celebrating the bicentennial by pondering the Great Emancipator’s words and mounting exhibits exploring his dealings with various faiths.

Meanwhile, a raft of recent books attempt to restore religion to historical accounts of Lincoln’s life after a generation of scholars shrugged off his spiritual side.

“I call it ‘the presence of an absence,’” said Ronald C. White Jr., author of A. Lincoln, a biography published in January that aims to restore the missing pieces of Lincoln’s “spiritual odyssey.”

“People don’t deal with his religion. It is the great hole in our study,” White said in an interview.

Historians disagree
Lincoln didn’t make things easy for historians. He was reticent and often inscrutable about his personal faith.

RNS photo by David Jolkovski

Part of the famous Lincoln Window at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., depicts frequent parishioner Abraham Lincoln.

Moreover, his ideas changed over time, as he dealt with the deaths of two sons and the pressure of the presidency amid the Civil War.

Most historians agree on this much: Lincoln was never baptized, never joined a church, and rarely, if ever, talked about Jesus.

“He was a religious man always,” said Lincoln’s widow, Mary, after his death, “but he was not a technical Christian.”

That hasn’t stopped every stripe of believer — including Christians — from claiming honest Abe as one of their own. Spiritualists, atheists, and even Jews have all tried to cast Lincoln as a member of their tribe as well.

“Sometimes the battles over these things are rather sharp, very sharp as a matter of fact,” Dewey Wallace, a professor of religious history at George Washington University, told a conference of religion reporters last fall.

Like the Jesus Seminar, the academic search for the “historical Jesus,” scholars endlessly sift through each chapter of Lincoln lore, Dewey said.

Younger years
Ironically, the man who became one of the most religious American presidents had little use for faith as a young man, according to historians. Mocking the emotional sermons of the evangelical preachers who blazed across the frontier, Lincoln often angered his pious Baptist father.

When Lincoln ran for Congress against one of those preachers, Methodist circuit rider Peter Cartwright, in 1846, his early apostasy became a political handicap. To fight a whispering campaign that he was an “infidel,” Lincoln published a handbill denying that he was “an open scoffer at Christianity.”

“That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true,” Lincoln wrote. “But I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or any denomination of Christians in particular.”

Despites his doubts, Lincoln had great respect for the Bible, one of the few books his parents possessed. He memorized large portions of it and consulted the book often in later years as he struggled with the “mere quiet power” of God.

Still, Lincoln never joined a church. Some say he just wasn’t a “joiner.” Others argue that he couldn’t abide by complicated creeds. Many agree Lincoln wasn’t the type to open himself to the spiritual scrutiny often expected of church members.

“He was a very private man,” biographer David Herbert Donald said. “And not likely to get up in front of congregation and say, ‘Let me recite the sins I have committed,’”

Turning to God for answers
Nevertheless, when Lincoln’s son Edward died in 1850, he turned to a Presbyterian pastor for answers. “Why did God take my son?” he asked James Smith of Springfield, Ill., at the beginning of their friendship.

Lincoln had a similar relationship with Phineas Gurley, pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, where the president occasionally attended services.

Lincoln wrote that his faith began to crystallize at this time, and White argues that bits of Gurley’s sermons can be found in the president’s speeches, including his famed second inaugural address.

Both Presbyterian churches Lincoln attended preached predestination, a belief that he inherited from his Baptist parents and held in one form or another for most of his life.

Broadly put, it means God, not man, is in charge. It was the source of Lincoln’s humility, historians say — the force behind his refusal to condemn enemies.

“Lincoln believed God was the author of his life and history,” said Jack Van Ens, a Presbyterian pastor, historian, and actor.

“God drew out the plot and allowed Lincoln to punctuate the sentences.”

2/10/2009 4:36:00 AM by Daniel Burke, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Frank Page picked for faith-based council

February 6 2009 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON — President Obama named Joshua DuBois Feb. 5 to head the newly named White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and established an advisory council that includes former Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page.

Obama signed an executive order bringing changes to what was known as the Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives created under President George W. Bush. Under the Bush administration, the office sought largely to help remove barriers to faith-based organizations competing for federal funding as they provided social services.

The White House said the newly designed office would be a resource for secular and faith-based organizations as they serve their communities. The office also will have a role in helping the administration address such social needs as reducing "the need for abortion" and in assisting the National Security Council in fostering interfaith relationships globally.

DuBois, 26, served as director of religious outreach for Obama during the presidential campaign.

Page, SBC president from 2006 to 2008, will serve as one of 25 members of the advisory council for the initiative. The council of religious and secular leaders will include 25 members serving one-year terms. Page is pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C.

"The Office's top priority will be making community groups an integral part of our economic recovery and poverty a burden fewer have to bear when recovery is complete," a White House release said. "It will be one voice among several in the administration that will look at how we support women and children, address teenage pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion.

"The Office will strive to support fathers who stand by their families, which involves working to get young men off the streets and into well-paying jobs, and encouraging responsible fatherhood. Finally, beyond American shores this Office will work with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world."

2/6/2009 3:37:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Former Wingate president, Tom Corts, dies

February 5 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Former Samford University President Tom Corts died unexpectedly Feb. 4 of an apparent heart attack.

Corts, 67, died after being taken by ambulance to Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala., accompanied by his wife of 44 years, Marla.

Thomas Corts, 67, died unexpectedly of an apparent heart attack.

Corts held the title of president emeritus at Samford, a Baptist-affiliated university in Birmingham, which he led from 1983 until his retirement in 2006. After that he served briefly as executive director of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities.

Samford University photo

Tom Corts

He was president of Wingate College (now Wingate University) in North Carolina for nine years before becoming Samford's 18th president. An ordained minister, Corts originally aspired to a career in journalism.

He also served as interim chancellor of the Alabama College System in 2006 and 2007.

He had recently returned home to Birmingham after serving the Bush administration as coordinator of basic education for all United States government assistance to the developing world, an appointment he accepted in 2007.

Corts' 23 years at Samford's helm were some of the brightest in the school's history.

During his tenure Samford's endowment grew from $8 million to $258 million. Thirty new buildings were constructed on campus, and Corts signed and presented more than 17,000 diplomas at Samford.

"There is no way to measure the impact of Tom Corts' life and ministry on this university and the thousands of lives whom he touched," said a statement from Samford President Andrew Westmoreland, who succeeded Corts at Samford in June of 2006. "We have all lost a great friend."

Corts was born in Terre Haute, Ind., the fifth of seven children in his family. He grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio, and graduated from Georgetown College in Kentucky in 1963. He went on to earn a master's degree and doctorate from Indiana University.

He was a former president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting agency for 11 states spanning from Virginia to Texas, and a founding director of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Corts also formerly chaired Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform. The public-interest group formed in 2000 to seek to replace the state's 1901 constitution, which critics say institutionalizes racial and economic inequalities from the days of segregation.

Despite backing from many centrist and progressive religious leaders, the effort failed at the polls after strong opposition from the Religious Right and some business interests.

Along with his widow, Corts is survived by two married daughters, a married son and six grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.

He was a member of Brookwood Baptist Church in Birmingham.

2/5/2009 1:44:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 2 comments

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