February 2011

Tomlin, TobyMac lead Dove nominees

February 17 2011 by Baptist Press

ATLANTA — Chris Tomlin and TobyMac each received six nominations followed by Jason Crabb with five and Francesca Battistelli with four as the nominees for the 42nd annual Dove Awards were announced Feb. 16.

The awards, which honor Christian music’s top artists, will be handed out April 20 at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre and be broadcast on the Gospel Music Channel April 24 at 8 p.m. EST.

Tomlin and Crabb are up for, among other awards, song of the year, male vocalist of the year and artist of the year, while TobyMac was nominated for song of the year and artist of the year. Battistelli was nominated for song of the year, female vocalist of the year and artist of the year.

Following is a list of nominees for some of the top awards:
  • SONG OF THE YEAR: “All of Creation” (MercyMe), “Beautiful, Beautiful” (Francesca Battistelli), “Get Back Up” (TobyMac), “Hold My Heart” (Tenth Avenue North), “Lead Me” (Sanctus Real), “Let The Waters Rise” (MIKESCHAIR), “Love Came Calling” (Triumphant Quartet), “Our God” (Chris Tomlin), “Sometimes I Cry” (Jason Crabb), “Starry Night” (Chris August).
  • MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR: Doug Anderson, Chris August, Jason Crabb, Brandon Heath, Israel Houghton, Marvin Sapp, Chris Tomlin.
  • FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR: Audrey Assad, Francesca Battistelli, Natalie Grant, Britt Nicole, Janet Paschal, Kerrie Roberts, Laura Story.
  • GROUP OF THE YEAR: Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Gaither Vocal Band, Sidewalk Prophets, Tenth Avenue North, MercyMe, MIKESCHAIR, NEEDTOBREATHE.
  • ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Francesca Battistelli, Jason Crabb, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Natalie Grant, Marvin Sapp, TobyMac, Chris Tomlin.
  • NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Audrey Assad, Chris August, Forever Jones, John Mark McMillan, No Other Name, Kerrie Roberts, Kristian Stanfill.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press. Read a complete list of nominees at http://bit.ly/e5mAn5.) 

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)
2/17/2011 3:57:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Report: S. Bapt. membership down

February 16 2011 by Richard Yeakley, Religion News Service

While mainline Protestant churches in the U.S. continue to experience decades-long decline, the memberships of Pentecostal traditions are on the rise, according to new figures compiled by the National Council of Churches (NCC).

The Roman Catholic Church (No. 1) and the Southern Baptist Convention (No. 2) are still significantly larger than all other North American denominations, but Catholics posted minimal growth of less than 1 percent, and Southern Baptist membership fell for a third straight year, according to the 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.

Produced annually by the NCC, the yearbook is considered one of the most reliable recorders of church membership. The figures in the 2011 yearbook were compiled by churches in 2009, reported to the NCC in 2010 and released Feb. 14.

Mainline Protestant churches that have seen a fall in membership since the 1970s continued their decline; the Presbyterian Church (USA) reported the greatest membership drop (2.6 percent) of the 25 largest denominations.

Other denominations reporting declines include the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church as well as the more evangelical Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The membership declines in mainline churches led to a 1 percent decrease in total U.S. church membership, to 145.8 million.

Despite the national decline, some smaller denominations’ memberships are increasing.

“Churches which have been increasing in membership in recent years continue to grow and likewise, those churches which have been declining in recent years continue to decline,” writes Eileen Lindner, the editor of the yearbook.

Pentecostal churches make up four of the 25 largest churches, and both the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) increased in membership.

Only six of the 25 largest memberships increased over the previous year.

Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced the greatest growth percentage overall, gaining 4.37 percent according to the yearbook. Several historically black denominations continued a years-long practice of not submitting fresh figures.

The 10 largest Christian bodies reported in the 2011 yearbook are:
  1. The Catholic Church: 68.5 million, up 0.57 percent.
  2. Southern Baptist Convention: 16.1 million, down .42 percent.
  3. The United Methodist Church: 7.8 million, down 1 percent.
  4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 6 million, up 1.42 percent.
  5. The Church of God in Christ: 5.5 million, no membership updates reported.
  6. National Baptist Convention, USA: 5 million, no membership updates reported.
  7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: 4.5 million, down 1.96 percent.
  8. National Baptist Convention of America: 3.5 million, no membership updates reported.
  9. Assemblies of God: 2.9 million, up .52 percent.
  10. Presbyterian Church (USA): 2.7 million, down 2.61 percent.
(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)   
2/16/2011 1:23:00 PM by Richard Yeakley, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

States caught in crossfire over guns in churches

February 16 2011 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

The way Jonathan Wilkins sees it, members of his Baptist church in Thomaston, Ga., should have the right to carry guns into worship services to protect the congregation.

Wilkins’ Baptist Tabernacle and a Georgia gun-rights association are challenging a new state law that prohibits weapons in houses of worship. A lower court ruled against them in January; the case is now headed for appeal.

“What we’re fighting for is not that just any old body can carry guns in church,” Wilkins said. “We would be responsible. We would want people who are trained, and so forth, to carry, people that we designate for protective purposes.”

Recently, state legislatures in Georgia, Michigan and Louisiana have been caught in the crossfire of the debate between gun rights and gun control as they consider allowing weapons in houses of worship.

Though gun-rights proponents think they have both the First and Second Amendments on their side, they also cite the rights of religious organizations as property owners. Opponents, meanwhile, worry that having weapons in worship is part of a slippery slope to permitting them everywhere.

A month after then-Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the 2010 law listing places of worship among “unauthorized” locations for carrying weapons, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took the opposite tack. Louisiana law now permits trained worshippers to bring guns into churches, mosques and synagogues as long as fellow congregants are informed.

Meanwhile, other states are mulling whether to scale back restrictions on weapons. In Michigan, gun rights activists are pushing for a change in the law that would make it possible to carry guns in worship without prior permission from a presiding official.

Mike Thiede, spokesman for Michigan Gun Owners and a member of a Baptist church, said he spoke to legislators in favor of changing the law after a church secretary was assaulted and a pastor was tied up during a robbery at another church.

“I just thought it was a terrible situation for people to be in,” he said. “Outside that door, they could protect themselves but inside that door, they could be a victim.”

Other crimes have prompted greater interest in new legislation. In 2009 alone, abortion doctor and usher George Tiller was shot in the foyer of his Lutheran church in Kansas; Fred Winters was killed in his Illinois pulpit; and Carol Daniels was found dead in her Oklahoma church.

“When you see things like that happening over and over again, churches are saying, ‘What are we supposed to do?”‘ said Jeffrey Hawkins, executive director of the Virginia-based Christian Security Network.

Hawkins’ organization reported seven homicides in churches in 2010, but while he supports crime prevention techniques, Hawkins does not advocate worshippers carrying guns into church.

“You go into somewhere crowded, like a church, and there’s three people who have guns out that are shooting at each other,” he said. “How’s the police officer going to be able to discern who’s ... the bad guy?”

Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney of the San Francisco-based Legal Community Against Violence, said many states remain silent on weapons and worship. But she said gun lobbyists have become more vocal advocates for permitting weapons not only in churches but in other public places, such as parking lots and bars.

“Guns don’t have a place in public, especially places like churches and bars and places where a lot of people are congregating,” she said. “An unintentional shooting could end up injuring many people.”

Laws about weapons in houses of worship vary widely. Some states forbid firearms in religious buildings but others permit them unless a congregation has posted a sign disallowing them. Still others say they’re permitted if the pastor, priest or rabbi gives the OK.

And the penalties are just as varied, with some “like a traffic ticket” and other violations considered a felony, Hawkins said.

In Virginia, carrying a gun in a house of worship is allowed unless there’s a service being conducted. If there is a service, “good and sufficient reason” — a term left undefined in the code — is required.

“We think our law is actually broad enough that there’s no great urgency to try to change it,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group.

In Mississippi, several bills introduced this year to remove churches from a list of prohibited places for weapons died in committee, but at least one continues to be debated.

“It seems to me that our law that explicitly prohibits acts in a church that are perfectly legal outside the church clearly violates the First Amendment in addition to the Second,” said Jeff Pittman, vice president of the Mississippi State Firearm Owners Association.  

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)     
2/16/2011 1:20:00 PM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

‘Russian’ wrestler uses reputation to share Christ

February 16 2011 by John Baker, Special to the Recorder

Ivan Koloff built part of his wrestling career on the rivalry between America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.).

In the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s, the Soviet Union was the enemy of America. Cold war tensions kept folks on the edge of their seats, fearful of a nuclear barrage or an invasion. 

Koloff donned outfits with the Soviet insignia and taunted Americans as soft, weak and spineless.

He was known as “The Russian Bear,” but he grew up farming in Ontario, Canada.

In the Carolina’s, he is best known as the mentor and uncle of Nikita Koloff. Ivan used his shaved head to promote himself among the wrestling industry. He won many titles including the World Wide Wrestling Federation’s title in 1971 in a match against Bruno Sammartino in Madison Square Garden. Sammartino held the title more than seven years, which is the longest continuous title reign in men’s wrestling history, according to Wikipedia.

Promotion photo

Ivan Koloff learned that pursuing worldly titles in the wrestling world was an empty pursuit.

After years of traveling more than 300 days a year, Koloff found himself empty and discouraged and dependent on drugs, alcohol, and tobacco to get through every day. He remained close with Nikita, also not a Russian but a former football player from Minnesota.

“One afternoon Nikita called me and invited me to a service at his church.  He said ‘Uncle Ivan, I found Jesus!’ I told him I know all about Jesus, having been raised in a religious home. But Nikita insisted his encounter with Jesus was personal, real, and life-changing.”

Ivan drove down to Nikita’s church that evening. As the minister preached, Ivan found himself under great conviction. Before the invitation was even given, Ivan was walking the aisle, surrendering his heart and life to Christ.

“I was filled with great warmth and peace,” Ivan said. “My life would never be the same.”

Ivan, who lives near Greenville, now travels to share his conversion experience and to encourage Christians to surrender everything to Christ.

Contact ivan@ivankoloff.com or visit ivankoloff.com.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Baker is pastor at Green Hill Baptist Church, Rutherfordton.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)   
2/16/2011 1:13:00 PM by John Baker, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

GuideStone releases its Ministers Tax Guide

February 16 2011 by GuideStone Financial Resources

DALLAS — Ministers can find additional help in preparing their 2010 federal income tax returns from GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. The annual 2011 Tax Return Preparation and Federal Reporting Guide details recent changes to tax laws and their effect on ministers. The guide includes important tax law changes signed into law by President Barack Obama in December.

The guide was written once again by Richard Hammar, a noted CPA, attorney and widely published author who specializes in legal and tax issues for ministers. The guide is edited by GuideStone’s Compliance staff to address the tax issues that affect the greatest number of Southern Baptist pastors.

“The informative free tax guide includes sample tax returns with step-by-step instructions for active and retired ministers, as well as a special pull-out section regarding the federal reporting requirements for churches,” said O.S. Hawkins, GuideStone president. “Each year, thousands of ministers and their tax preparers rely on the helpful information in this guide to navigate the unique tax status of ministers of the gospel.”

The tax guide can be obtained in PDF format from www.GuideStone.org/taxguide.

GuideStone participants can order a free printed copy by calling Customer Service at (888) 98-GUIDE or (888) 984-8433 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday-Friday.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)   
2/16/2011 1:11:00 PM by GuideStone Financial Resources | with 0 comments

Vision Fulfillment Forums seek input

February 15 2011 by Traci DeVette Griggs, BSC Communications

Changed lives.

That’s how Milton A. Hollifield Jr. wants the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) to be measured.

“We are trying to help churches accomplish what they want to accomplish,” said Hollifield, BSC executive director-treasurer. “We measure what we do by how it’s changing lives.” 

On Feb. 10, the BSC held the first Vision Fulfillment (VF) forum listening session. The attendance was lower than expected but leaders felt the smaller crowd encouraged an atmosphere of dialogue, with attendees and committee members discussing foundational questions, such as how to ensure that the state Convention is relevant and beneficial to North Carolina Baptist churches as they seek to reach their communities and beyond for Christ.

The event, which was held at Scotts Hill Baptist Church in Wilmington, was the first of 14 listening sessions planned across the state. (See www.ncbaptist.org/vf for a list of future dates.)

Several wondered aloud if the lack of participation might be a sign that pastors and church leaders are happy with the BSC’s direction and vision. Phil Ortego, senior pastor at Scotts Hill, said he believes the majority of people agree with the Convention’s vision as outlined in the Seven Pillars for Ministry vision statement. The Seven Pillars was written by Hollifield and approved by the Board of Directors, which is comprised of pastors and lay leaders from across the state. (Any member of a NC Baptist church can nominate someone to be a member of the Board.)

VF committee member Al James, pastor of Carey Baptist Church in Henderson and associate dean of proclamation studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he wouldn’t necessarily read the lack of attendance as, “everything is OK” because it might mean that people feel disengaged from the Convention.

BSC photo by Traci Griggs

Jairo Contreras, right, one of the Vision Fulfillment committee members, was on hand at the first VF forum Feb. 10 at Scotts Hill Baptist Church in Wilmington.

Jimmie Suggs, evangelism pastor and administrator at Scotts Hill said he thinks the Convention needs to ask the question, “What would be lost in Christendom if the Convention didn’t exist?” He said his church is constantly evaluating what they do at their church. “How much more should the Convention being doing that?” he asked.

Mark Harris, committee member and Convention first vice president, responded. “That’s what we’re doing here. We want people to say, ‘Here’s what’s working. Here’s what’s not working.’”

Of course, the best way for the committee to know what people are thinking and feeling about the Convention’s work is to hear from pastors and church leaders at the upcoming VF forums. The next one is Feb. 24 at Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem from 6:30 to 8 p.m. 

Participants will be asked to share with the committee and will also be given the opportunity to fill out a written survey and questionnaire.

VF Committee Chairman Allan Blume considers this an historic moment in N.C. Baptist life.

“We have seen many very positive changes in Convention life over the past five years. Now is the time to ‘fine tune’ the way we invest our resources within the context of our vision to fulfill the Great Commission. The input of NC Baptists is essential if we are going to cooperate as churches to see God’s glory made known to the nations. Please do not miss this rare privilege to share the priorities that God has built into your heart for completing the assignment Jesus left with us. We really want to hear your heart and we commit to you that we will seriously weigh the input of all NC Baptists.”

Visit www.ncbaptist.org/vf.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.)   
2/15/2011 4:49:00 AM by Traci DeVette Griggs, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Leaders want to make disciples, transform lives

February 15 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

From research about why young adults are leaving the church to why so many churches are plateaued or declining, it’s not hard to find evidence pointing out the desperate need for transformation in churches across the country.

The latest study from LifeWay research takes on a different approach. Transformational Church focuses not so much on the negative trends as it does on what needs to happen in order to reverse those trends.

A major part of seeing transformation in the church comes when churches stop measuring success by the numbers and start measuring success by whether or not lives are being changed.

Find it Here 2011: Embracing Christ is an effort to help churches focus not on building a larger budget, or bigger buildings, or better attendance, but to focus on helping people obey the commands of Jesus Christ to follow Him and abide in Him.

This type of life transformation only comes when churches are committed to making disciples.

“Through a simple and intentional discipleship strategy, churches can decide how to customize the Find it Here emphasis to make disciples in their own context,” said Lynn Sasser, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) executive leader for congregational services.

“Through Find it Here we pray that North Carolina Baptist churches across this state will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, develop a disciple-making culture in the church that leads to radical lifestyle changes. We pray this will produce disciples who are ready to follow Christ no matter the cost.”

Find it Here 2011 includes two emphases: Following Christ (spring 2011) and Abiding in Christ (fall 2011). With each emphasis churches are encouraged to commit to:
  • Pray for disciples.
  • Preach on discipleship.
  • Teach discipleship in classrooms and in homes.
  • Make disciples by participating in a 2011 Easter evangelism emphasis.
  • Be disciples in the community by serving.
Free resources to help churches carry out the Find it Here emphasis are available for download at www.finditherenc.org. This site features videos, sermon outlines, Bible study lessons and prayer/devotional guides. Churches can also sign up and pledge support to making this a year marked by intentional disciple-making.  

Easter Evangelism

Find it Here 2011 is the second year in a three-year emphasis on evangelism, discipleship and missions. The first phase of Find it Here, evangelism, kicked off last year. Churches committed to intentional evangelism and to baptizing new believers.

Discipleship cannot happen without evangelism because discipleship cannot begin until a person has heard the gospel and received Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior.

Therefore, pastors and church leaders are asked this year, as they were last year, to lead their churches to do the following:
  • Pray for non-believers (family members, friends, neighbors and work associates) by name.
  • Invite those non-believers to attend the Easter Sunday morning worship service.
  • Preach an evangelistic sermon and extend an evangelistic invitation.
  • Baptize new converts on Easter Sunday or the Sunday following.  
Missions in 2012
The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 does not end with baptism, nor does it end with making disciples. Believers are commanded to make disciples of all nations — which means believers are to take the gospel to those who have never heard, whether crossing the street to talk with a neighbor or crossing the ocean to share the gospel in a place void of any evangelical witness.

Missions is the focus of the final Find it Here phase. This phase will be introduced to North Carolina Baptists later this year so they will be ready to launch a missions emphasis in 2012.Similar to last year’s Find it Here evangelism focus and this year’s discipleship focus, resources will be available to help North Carolina Baptists learn what it means to be on-mission. “The biblical command from the Lord is to live missional lives,” said Chuck Register, BSC executive leader for church planting and missions development. “Missions involves a strategic, intentional, verbal communication of the gospel. We must develop a missions lifestyle.” 

When all three aspects of Find it Here — evangelism, discipleship and missions — work together to produce life transformation among believers, churches are changed, communities are changed, and more people hear about the salvation that only comes through Jesus Christ.

For more information about Find it Here visit www.finditherenc.org, e-mail findithere@ncbaptist.org or call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5648.  

Related story
Lake Norman: Discipline produces disciples

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
2/15/2011 4:28:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Lake Norman: Discipline produces disciples

February 15 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

The opening line from an article featured last year in Christianity Today read, “Americans love their Bibles. So much so that they keep them in pristine, unopened condition.”

Perhaps harsh, yet according to research, perhaps quite true. The article mentioned a Time magazine cover story reporting that only half of adults in the United States can name one of the four Gospels and fewer than half can identify Genesis as the first book in the Bible.

In a Barna research study, American Christians were asked to rate their spiritual maturity based on activities such as worship, service and evangelism. “Christians offered the harshest evaluation of their Bible knowledge, with 25 percent calling themselves not too mature or not at all mature,” noted Christianity Today. “Even weekly churchgoers who know the names and places struggle to put it all together and understand the Bible as a single story of redemption.”

The issue at hand is more than biblical illiteracy: it’s a lack of discipleship. Believers who have not been discipled may not understand the necessity of studying God’s Word and applying the truths of scripture to their lives.

Pastor Bobby Blanton and the staff of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville recently decided it was time to get serious about really studying the Bible. Instead of just encouraging all the church members to read through the Bible, the staff made this a collective focus for the entire congregation for an entire year.  

The Voyage
Last year members of Lake Norman were challenged to participate in The Voyage, a one-year read through the Bible in chronological order. Every member who committed to taking on the challenge received a one-year chronological Bible and journal. Lay leaders in the church were enlisted to write a curriculum to run parallel to the daily Bible readings. This curriculum was used in all the adult Sunday School classes for the entire year.

The idea to structure this process of reading through the Bible in the format that came to be known as The Voyage came from associate pastor Landon Horton.

“People were looking for an opportunity to read through the Bible and looking for the accountability they would get from the church and their Sunday School class as they did that together,” Blanton said.

Blanton used the Wednesday evening services as a time to work through with the congregation key issues or themes from that week’s reading. In addition, his sermons last year focused on scripture from the weekly reading.

This required Blanton to stay a good two months ahead of the congregation in his reading. “It was a daily discipline,” he said. “I was able to work through things I knew the congregation would be going through. This brought a greater accountability to me as well.”

Blanton first introduced the idea to his staff and then to Sunday School leaders. In early 2009, writers were enlisted to develop the curriculum. At the end of 2009, The Voyage was presented to the congregation and members were asked to consider participating.   

“We wanted them to make the connection between what is in the scriptures and how it impacts their personal life,” Blanton said. “The Word of God is very relevant to what we do every single day. No matter what profession you’re in, what your walk with the Lord is, the Word of God can address your needs.”  

Acts 1:8
This year Lake Norman is “building on the foundation” established in 2010. Last year this time Blanton and his staff were already looking ahead as to how they would continue with The Voyage.

While the 2010 Bible reading plan maintained an intense pace, this year’s approach will move more slowly, allowing more time for the texts. Following a similar format, the congregation is reading through three books of the Bible this year: Mark, Acts and Revelation. 

The congregation is starting with Mark and reading one chapter in Mark each day of the week for an entire week. When Mark concludes at the end of April they will begin with Acts.

Blanton said these books were chosen because the 2011 voyage is a “missions-focused voyage” that will help the church learn from scripture how and why they need to step up their intensity and focus on missions. The Voyage is part of the church’s 10-year, Acts 1:8 strategy for discipleship. Blanton hopes the church will see through their Bible reading this year that everything they read “relates to our going out and being faithful to take the gospel to our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and uttermost ends of the earth.”

Other churches are now using Lake Norman’s curriculum. “God took this idea and helped to enrich not just the lives of people around Lake Norman, but throughout parts of the world,” Blanton said.

For more information about The Voyage visit www.lakenormanbaptist.com or e-mail Landon@lakenormanbaptist.com.

Related story
Leaders want to make disciples, transform lives

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
2/15/2011 4:23:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Women’s ministry embraces precious girls

February 15 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

From Ruth and Naomi to Lois and Eunice to Jesus and the Samaritan woman, scripture teaches that ministry to women is valuable and necessary. Ministry to girls is also important, and in order for girls to mature into godly women they need to be taught the truths of scripture and how to practically live out those truths.

This is why the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) recently launched GEM: Girls Embrace Ministry. GEM seeks to encourage seventh through 12th grade girls to walk with Jesus Christ every day and to begin now, at an early age, building a legacy of faithfulness.

Just as gems often experience a refining process before they become precious, valuable stones, so must all believers go through times of learning and growing as they seek to become devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. GEM desires to teach girls that they are precious in God’s eyes and He wants to refine, mold and shape them into women who reflect His character and who are equipped to serve Him.

“As female leaders invest in the lives of teenage girls, they disciple the teenage girl and help her with life issues from a biblical perspective,” said Ashley Allen, director of Embrace women’s missions and ministries. “GEM recognizes that the girls of today’s church are the women of tomorrow’s church. There is an important responsibility for female leaders to teach and train the next generation.”

GEM, like BSC’s Embrace women’s ministry, is based on three intents found in Matthew 28:19-20: evangelism, discipleship and missions.

“GEM, in working within the context of the larger youth ministry, needs to help young women not only foster a lifestyle of sharing Jesus Christ with the lost people they meet, but also help teenage girls come to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” Allen said.

Focusing on discipleship helps girls grow in their relationship with Christ and learn how to prayerfully study and then apply God’s Word in their lives. As girls are discipled and learn more about what it means to follow Christ, they will learn that scripture instructs them to tell others about Christ.

Photo by Alexandra King

Girls play a game during fellowship time at a Girls Embrace Ministry kickoff event.

“GEM desires for women to be equipped to do Kingdom work through service locally and globally,” Allen said.

The GEM kick off event was held Jan. 28-29 at Great Wolf Lodge in Concord. Girls and female youth leaders gathered for fellowship, worship and times of teaching. Merrie Johnson, BSC student ministry consultant, joined Allen in leading the event. Rachel Lee Carter, Mrs. North Carolina USA 2009 and founder of Modeling Christ, brought the keynote address.  

Becoming women of purity
Carter shared with the girls and leaders gathered for the kick-off event that although she grew up in church, went to youth group and prided herself on being “good,” she cared more about popularity than about influencing her friends with the gospel.

By the time Carter was 18 she was living in her own apartment in New York City, making $150 an hour as a professional model and, as she described, “having the time of my life.” Yet, before long Carter was in trouble. She began listening to music she should not have listened to, her language turned filthy and she started practicing New Age religion. Her habits of staying out all night at clubs and not taking care of herself physically caused her career to suffer. “I felt helpless, hopeless and like a failure,” said.

When Carter had nowhere else to turn she turned to Jesus. One night in her New York apartment, Carter “surrendered it all” to Jesus Christ. 

Carter is still a professional model, but has turned her career into an opportunity to share the gospel and how Jesus changed her life. She teaches on what it means to be a woman who is not only pure with her body, but also in her heart and mind. Carter shared that in all things, just as taught in 1 Tim. 2:9, girls should regard the spiritual things and seek to honor Christ in all they say and do.    

Start GEM in your church
Allen shared with the girls and their leaders that the intent of GEM “is not to have event, event, event. It’s about starting from the foundation of scripture.” As older women teach the girls how to walk with Christ, they do so in order that “the word of God will not be dishonored” (Titus 2:5).

GEM will look different in each church, just as Embrace looks different in each church. With that in mind, ministry leaders can follow seven steps to begin GEM:
  • Prayer — Leaders should pray for God to reveal His purposes for GEM and for girls to put their trust in Him.
  • Connect — Meet with the pastor and youth pastor. Ask about their direction and vision for the ministry. Do not go forward with this ministry unless the pastor and youth pastor agree that this is God’s will for the church.
  • Network — Talk to the girls who will be involved in GEM about what they would like to see included in the ministry.
  • Refine — Create a GEM leadership team; one person cannot do all the work.
  • POG — Determine the purpose, objectives and goals for GEM.
  • Engage — Get the girls involved in GEM through Bible studies, events and mission projects.
  • Reflect — What went well? What can be done differently? Always be looking for ways to make the ministry more effective.  
Regional training
Four one-day training events are being held to help equip women’s ministry leaders to start GEM in the local church. Each event starts at 7 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m. on a Friday evening. Cost is $10. Girls and women’s ministry leaders are invited to attend.

During the regional trainings Ashley Allen, director of Embrace, will meet with ministry leaders to discuss the how-to’s of starting GEM, and Johnson and Carter will meet with the girls to talk about modesty and purity in Christ.
  • Feb. 18 — Apex Baptist Church
  • March 4 — First Baptist Church, Dublin
  • March 18 — Old Town Baptist Church, Winston-Salem
  • April 8 — West Asheville Baptist Church
For more information about GEM or Embrace, visit www.embracenc.org. To register for a regional training, call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5561.

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
2/15/2011 4:14:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Egyptian crisis helps believers build bonds

February 11 2011 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

CAIRO — Two weeks ago, Mina Peter* didn’t know a soul in his Cairo apartment building. Like many young Egyptians, the 22-year-old computer science major was simply too busy to make the effort. And as the only Christian in the building, Peter wasn’t sure his Muslim neighbors cared to know him.

But that was before a massive revolt calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak plunged the city into chaos. Demonstrations turned violent; police threw tear gas while protestors traded rocks and Molotov cocktails. Businesses were looted and vandalized. Tanks rolled down Cairo’s streets.

Instead of turning on each other, the violence brought many Egyptian communities together. Neighbors improvised checkpoints at their apartment buildings to ensure safety. And in the process, Peter says, they inadvertently began to get to know one another.

“(I) have been building relationships with people who have been living in the same building with me for years and I haven’t known them,” he says. “Now I get to know them all, I get to speak to them, we drink tea with each other ... (and discuss) what’s happening in the country.

“I believe that God has been opening doors for us in this time of trouble that we can have bridges with people — that we can build more relationships that can open doors and we can deliver the message of Jesus.”

BP photo

Egyptian believers worship at Kasr El-Dobara Evangelical Church near Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The square has been the epicenter of more than two weeks of sometimes violent protests calling for the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who stepped down today (Feb. 11). Kasr El-Dobara is among the largest evangelical Christian churches in the Arab world.

Peter adds that the crisis also is creating opportunities for sowing the gospel. On Sunday, Feb. 6, a large evangelical church near Cairo’s Tahrir Square — the epicenter of the protests — held an open-air worship service before thousands of protestors, many of them Muslim.

“(The church) had a lot of demonstrators in Tahrir Square supporting them. (There were) a lot of people shouting, even if they didn’t know the words for the songs ... but they were joining them,” Peter says. “All the Muslims around them were listening ... they’re seeing that Christians are loving the country, that they don’t have any (intentions) except love and mercy for the Egyptian people.”

Samir Abdou* is the pastor of the evangelical church in Cairo that Peter attends. Abdou is working to help his congregation navigate the crisis in light of their faith. Though no one in the church was physically harmed during the violence, a shop owned by two church members was looted and burned. Abdou doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that the theme he chose for the church in 2011 is “affliction and growth.”

“Maybe this is what the church needed ... to regain our vision and stop being silent,” he says. “If we want (Egyptians) to know the Lord we need to be close to them.... We are happy with the closeness (the crisis has brought) and we are seeking that the Lord might use it to serve and help our Muslim brothers.”

Abdou believes prayer is critically important during this potential period of transition in Egypt’s history. His church is holding daily prayer meetings, and he covets the prayers of Christians around the world — but not only on behalf of Egyptian believers.

“Pray for all Egyptians because at the moment we are all in the same boat and that’s a positive thing,” he says. “Pray that the change will bring more freedom for (Christians) to share our faith and to be able to build churches, and for those who come from other backgrounds to be able to become Christians and to declare their faith without fear.”

But freedom isn’t the only thing Egypt’s Christians are yearning for. Peter wants something bigger.

“We have been praying for years for revival in Egypt,” he said. “We have been praying for the church, especially for the young people to have a real revival.... I believe that God is using (the crisis) for everybody to speak and maybe, weeks later or months later, these relationships will be used for them to see how Christians live and how they love God and how they love nonbelievers. ... That’s what I hope I see God doing.”

Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman announced today (Feb. 11) that Mubarak had stepped down and given control to the Higher Council of the Armed Forces. Mubarak had been president for 33 years. His resignation came after 18 days of protests.

Prayer requests:
  • Pray that the gospel spreads to millions of Egyptian families during this crisis.
  • Ask God to inspire Egyptian believers with creative and appropriate ways to share God’s Word. Pray they seize every opportunity, with wisdom, to tangibly love their neighbors and to share the hope that is within them.
  • Pray that Egyptian believers will be filled with God’s strength and be encouraged.
*Names changed

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board, online at IMB.org.)

(SPECIAL NOTE — Thank you for your continued support of the Biblical Recorder site. During this interim period while we are searching for a new Editor/President the comments section will be temporarily discontinued. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this. If you do have comments or issues with items we run, please contact dianna@biblicalrecorder.org or call 919-847-2127.) 
2/11/2011 1:34:00 PM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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