February 2011

B&H announces strategy, staff changes

February 11 2011 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Selma Wilson, vice president of B&H Publishing Group, has announced strategy and leadership changes to enhance the effectiveness and reach of the LifeWay Christian Resources division.

The changes are built around “a resolve toward missional engagement and ministry and business commitment,” Wilson said in addressing B&H staff members Jan. 28 in conjunction with her first 90 days in her role.

John Thompson, B&H’s vice president of marketing for more than a decade, will assume the role of vice president of acquisitions. In addition to his 20-plus years of publishing experience, Thompson “brings his ministry and marketing partnership strengths to the acquisitions role, as well as his agent/contract capabilities,” Wilson said.

Mary Katharine Hunt, formerly director of LifeWay Kids in LifeWay’s church resources division, will be B&H’s new vice president of marketing. Hunt has more than 15 years of marketing experience and brand management. Wilson said Hunt’s “strengths in new media and digital marketing knowledge and experience as a product development team leader will be a tremendous asset to B&H.”

“B&H exists to impact the world with the truth of the gospel,” Hunt said. “Publishing is moving faster and faster toward the digital realm and this trend will help us take the message of God’s Word to the world.”

The work B&H already has done in digital publishing and marketing “will be a building block for the future,” Hunt said. In addition to the recently launched MyStudyBible.com platform, B&H also has a variety of individually branded applications for Apple’s iPhone and iPad, with several more in development. Six of the apps have been ranked among the top 150 paid apps in the books category.

Wilson also announced the decision to discontinue the Fidelis imprint.

Thompson explained that “B&H launched Fidelis Books two years ago to produce quality books for patriotic consumers. We successfully published titles by individuals who shape national opinion. Despite that success, we feel the need to offer greater focus on our base as a distinctively Christian publisher.”

The changes reflect what Wilson termed “a team model approach that will strengthen the publisher’s mission of engaging people where they live, providing biblical truth that leads to life transformation.”

B&H Publishing Group produces Bibles, trade books by authors including Beth Moore, and a diverse line of church supplies. Recent releases include the New York Times No. 1 bestseller “The Love Dare” and the HCSB Study Bible. B&H is also a leading publisher of Spanish-language Bibles. 

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2/11/2011 1:31:00 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

March 7 new deadline for nominations

February 10 2011 by BSC Communications

The Committee on Nominations of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) has extended its deadline to receive recommendations for the BSC Board of Directors and Convention committees until March 7.

BSC bylaws require the committee to: recommend to the Convention nominees from both small and large churches (over/under 400 members), limit churches to no more than six individuals from a single church serving on all Convention boards and committees, and limit BSC Board of Directors membership to one member from any church. 

Vacancies for the Board of Directors are as follows: Region 1 (1 vacancy); Region 2 (4 vacancies); Region 3 (2 vacancies); Region 4 (1 vacancies); Region 6 (6 vacancies); Region 7 (1 vacancy); Region 8 (3 vacancies); Region 9 (5 vacancies).

The Committee on Convention Meetings has six vacancies to fill. This committee is responsible for planning the annual meeting.

Three vacancies must be filled for the Committee on Resolutions and Memorials. This committee considers recommendations for resolutions and memorials and presents these recommendations at the annual meeting.

The Historical Committee has four vacancies to fill. The Historical Committee encourages churches to record their history, celebrate significant church anniversaries and preserve the history of the BSC.

Recommendations may be sent to Committee on Nominations, PO Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512–1107 or completed online at recommend.ncbaptist.org or faxed to (919) 460-7507. Contact Cynthia King at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5501, or cking@ncbaptist.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.) 
2/10/2011 9:20:00 AM by BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Report says crime up at U.S. churches

February 10 2011 by Richard Yeakley, Religion News Service

Each week brings an average of two arsons, seven thefts, and 19 burglaries at U.S. churches, according to Christian Security Network’s second annual year-end report of church crimes.

The report, which uses news articles, police blogs, and verified personal reports to compile its data, showed a slight increase in most church crimes in 2010 from 2009, for a total of 1,783 incidents.

That figure was up 546 from the year before and included 970 burglaries, 397 thefts, 102 arsons, and 89 counts of vandalism, the report stated. The report only covered churches and not other houses of worship, such as mosques or synagogues.

“Two years is not long enough to prove any trend,” said Jeffrey Hawkins, the founder and executive director of the Cincinnati-based group. “We will know better after another year or two if this keeps trending up. Maybe this year was just a bad year. Maybe we got better at finding out what had happened.”

Hawkins hopes the upswing in crimes committed against churches will encourage churches to take security more seriously and will help those who have been victimized to realize they are not alone.

“Every church that gets burned down thinks they are the only church. But we see an arson twice a week. That’s the awareness part,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins also stressed the value of the report’s numbers when compared against more recognized reports like the annual Department of Justice’s Hate Crime Statistics and Uniform Crime Report.

The 2009 Hate Crime Statistics recognized only 89 hate crimes against Christians; the Uniform Crime Report reports all incidents that occur on church property even if they are not against the church, Hawkins said.

The 2010 report put an emphasis on verifying crimes: Hawkins said there would be many more incidents in the report if the organization reported every crime they knew had occurred but could not verify.

What’s more, not all crimes are reported to police or the media.

“Security is never 100 percent, but (having) no security is 100 percent vulnerability,” Hawkins said. “It’s all about awareness. Our mission is to bring awareness to the community. No church is immune from this kind of thing and they have to start now. There is no tomorrow.” 

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2/10/2011 9:19:00 AM by Richard Yeakley, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

NAMB trustees approve sweeping changes

February 9 2011 by Baptist Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Trustees of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) approved sweeping changes Wednesday, Feb. 9, altering the focus, strategy, leadership and organizational structure of the Southern Baptist entity. The changes come almost five months to the day after trustees voted last Sept. 14 to approve Kevin Ezell as NAMB’s president.

The package of changes approved by trustees involves four primary areas: NAMB’s national strategy; a regional approach to how NAMB will do its work; an organizational restructuring that will align NAMB’s staff chart with its new strategy; and four new vice presidents who will give leadership to key ministry areas.

“This is a massive overhaul,” Ezell said. “We believe it’s going to be an historic overhaul.”

Strategy shift: ‘Send North America’
NAMB’s national strategy — titled Send North America — will focus on mobilizing missionaries and churches for evangelistic church planting. Once churches or potential missionaries have connected with NAMB, after an assessment, NAMB will provide any needed equipping and training before the missionary or church enters the mission field.

Evangelism and leadership development will be integrated throughout the process.

“Sending” churches that partner with NAMB will have a broad range of participation options, up to and including starting a church themselves. Smaller churches can participate in clusters with other churches. All will be encouraged to send mission teams, volunteers and other resources to directly help and partner with church planters on the mission field.

Both sending churches and new church plants will be expected to contribute to Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program and to minister in a manner consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

“This entire strategy points everything we do toward assisting churches in planting healthy Southern Baptist churches,” Ezell said. “Our desire is to mobilize thousands of Southern Baptists to be engaged in church planting.”

He added, “Right now there are four percent involved, our initial goal is to see 10 percent of churches involved in evangelistic church planting.”

Regional focus

The Send North America strategy will take on a regional focus. NAMB trustees approved a new approach to the board’s work that will divide North America into five regions: Northeast, South, Midwest, West and Canada. Each region will have its own vice president who reports directly to Ezell and will work closely with state Baptist convention leaders in that region.

Ezell said state leaders have been an integral part of shaping the new direction for NAMB, and that he is thankful for the lengths state executives have gone to work with him.

Photo by John Swain

North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell lays out NAMB’s new national strategy — “Send North America” — during the Feb. 9 meeting of NAMB’s board of trustees in Alpharetta, Ga.

“We relate with 42 state association executives. It’s vital we work together — not because we have to but because we want to. They have been incredible. They, too, have a heart to reach North America and they all have a heart for reaching the underserved areas,” he said.

Ezell noted that 80 percent of NAMB’s funding to states already goes to unreached regions and when money starts shifting from Southern states to unreached areas, that percentage will go even higher.

As NAMB funding to Southern states is reduced, Ezell said state leaders will be able to direct that money to specific unreached regions of their choosing. NAMB activity in the South will continue, Ezell said, noting, “We’d be very remiss if we did not continue to invest in the South and plant churches in those areas.”

Ezell indicated NAMB hopes to have new integrated strategic partnership agreements signed with each state convention by the end of March.

NAMB will prioritize its efforts in 50 population centers throughout North America. The initial 25 cities are New York, Washington/Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the Northeast; in the South, Atlanta, Miami and New Orleans; in the Midwest, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis, Cleveland and Indianapolis; in the West, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Denver; and in Canada, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

New leadership, organizational structure
Trustees also approved four candidates for vice presidents Ezell presented for a vote: Jeff Christopherson, vice president, Canada region; Steve Davis, vice president, Midwest region; Larry Wynn, vice president, evangelism; and Aaron Coe, vice president, mobilization.

Ezell said he would cover the Northeast and West regions until vice presidents can be found. Richard Harris and Carlisle Driggers will be NAMB’s ambassadors to the South region until a vice president can be named. Harris is a retired NAMB vice president who served as NAMB’s interim president in the year leading up to Ezell’s election. Driggers is the retired executive leader of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

Six work groups — all focused on the overarching goal of evangelistic church planting — will exist at NAMB’s Alpharetta office: evangelism, mobilization, equipping, ministry controls, communications and missions support.

Other NAMB ministries such as Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, mission education and social ministries remain but will be more specifically focused on supporting the evangelistic church planting process.

Ezell said there are “some very positive things already happening,” referring to budget reallocations that will put millions more in funding on the field for missionaries.

“To put $9 million more dollars to missions on the field in just six months, that’s much faster than the SBC directed.”

Wrapping up the trustee meeting, Tim Dowdy, chairman of NAMB’s trustees and pastor of Eagles Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., said, “One of the things I really sense from talking to you (trustees) is a lot of excitement about our new direction. It is thrilling to be on the right road headed down the right path — ready to impact America with the gospel. Our president has done a fantastic job of getting us in the right direction.”

(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.) 
2/9/2011 1:49:00 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ex-Christian: Gone for good, or good to be gone?

February 9 2011 by Greg Richter, Religion News Service

Drew Dyck didn’t lose the Christian faith of his childhood when he became an adult, but he noticed that lots of others did. Dyck, an editor of online publications for Christianity Today, talked to some of those who’ve left the faith for his recent book, Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith ... and How to Bring Them Back.

(Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.)

Q: What prompted you to write about ex-Christians?

My friends began leaving the faith. The first was a friend from high school. We had grown up in the church; both of our fathers were pastors. A few years after high school he informed me that he was no longer a Christian. That got my attention. As I moved through my 20s, I witnessed other friends “de-convert.” I realized that these experiences were not unique.

Q: Are a lot of young people really leaving the faith? Won’t they just come back when they’re older?

The answer to the first question is “yes.” In the 2009 American Religious Identification Survey, 18- to 29-year-olds were found to be the least religious age group: 22 percent claimed “no religion.” That was up 11 percent from 1990. Whether or not they will return is where the scholarly consensus breaks down. Some view the exodus from the church as a hiatus, a matter of young Americans “slapping the snooze” on Sunday mornings. They see the trend as a reversible life-phase phenomenon. I’m not so sure.

Q: What’s the main reason they give for leaving?

Most cited intellectual doubts, but there’s often more to the story. One young woman had attended a prominent Christian college, where she’d suffered a mental breakdown after feeling ostracized by the community and betrayed by Christian friends. But it was only in subsequent years that she constructed her elaborate system of doubt. Her intellectual doubts may have prevented her from returning to Christianity, but they were almost certainly not the reason she left in the first place.

My challenge was to watch for those underlying experiences that often push people from the faith. It sounds more credible to say you left on intellectual grounds. But more often, the head follows the heart.

Q: What interesting things did you learn during the interviews?

I encountered some surprising signs of spiritual life. In the interviews, I asked the ex-Christians whether they ever still prayed. Most still did pray. They were angry, conflicted prayers, but beautiful in their honesty and desperation: “God, where are you? Can you hear me? Do you exist? Do you even care about me? I miss you.”

Q: You have some interesting categories of unbelievers in your book: Can you explain what these terms mean?

No two “leavers” are exactly the same, but some patterns did emerge.

Postmodern leavers reject Christianity because of its exclusive truth claims and moral absolutes. For them, Christian faith is just too narrow.

“Recoilers” leave because they were hurt in the church. They suffered some form of abuse at the hands of someone they saw as a spiritual authority. God was guilty by association.

“Modernists” completely reject supernatural claims. God is a delusion. Any truth beyond science is dismissed as superstition.

“Neo-pagans” refers to those who left for earth-based religions such as Wicca. Not all actually cast spells or participate in pagan rituals, but they deny a transcendent God, and see earth as the locus of true spirituality.

“Spiritual Rebels” flee the faith to indulge in behavior that conflicted with their faith. They also value autonomy and don’t want anyone — especially a superintending deity — telling them what to do.      

“Drifters” do not suffer intellectual crises or consciously leave the faith; they simply drift away. Over time God becomes less and less important until one day he’s no longer part of their lives.

Q: Has the church played a role in causing this trend? If so, how can it stem the tide?

Over the past couple of decades, business thinking has affected the way many churches minister to youth. The goal has become attracting large numbers of kids and keeping them entertained. Church researcher Ed Stetzer describes most youth groups as “holding tanks with pizza.”

There’s nothing wrong with video games and pizza, but they’re tragic replacements for discipleship and catechism. Many young people have been exposed to a superficial form of Christianity that effectively inoculates them against authentic faith.

Q: What role does contemporary American culture play?

A lot of Christians fear the corrupting influence of “the world,” but when it comes to the spiritual plights of young people, what happens inside the church matters most. Even for those lured away by alternative spiritualities such as Wicca, their “de-conversions” were precipitated by what happened inside rather than outside the church. In other words, it was more push than pull.

Q: You’re a part of the generation you’re writing about. What is different about those such as yourself who didn’t leave?

Young people who have meaningful relationships with older Christians are much more likely to retain their faith into adulthood. I had those connections, and have no doubt they were instrumental in my life. I also sought out the intellectual resources to understand and defend my faith. But I don’t give myself too much credit.

The difference between me and my friends who I now describe as “ex-Christians” may be a matter of degree, rather than kind. We all have the tendency to stray. But God, in his mercy, keeps drawing me back.

(EDITOR’S NOTE —  Richter writes for The Birmingham News in Birmingham, Ala.)

(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.) 
2/9/2011 5:08:00 AM by Greg Richter, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Tebow, Bradford, McCoy benefit from mentors

February 5 2011 by Art Stricklin, Baptist Press

DALLAS — The 2011 NFL season featured the appearance of three highly touted quarterbacks, dedicated to honoring God with their considerable ability.

Those who watched Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford in their first professional year said Thursday at Super Bowl XLV media headquarters they came away impressed with their ability and maturity.

Kurt Warner, who won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams and led the Arizona Cardinals to the verge of another one before retiring, said he was thrilled to see the faith-filled trio carrying on a Christian legacy.

“You always need standard-bearers to set the ground rules,” said Warner, who wore a black and white T-shirt with the large word “Sanctify” on the back, while making the rounds in the media center. “To the extent I was able to make it easier for them, no matter if you’re talking about faith or football or anything else, is great.”

After completing a stellar college football season, Bradford, from Oklahoma, was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft and almost led the Rams back to the playoffs while starting at QB his first season.

Photo by Mickey Noah

Denver Bronco rookie quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow spoke to some 600 at a breakfast July 4, 2010, in Georgia. Tebow, the former Florida Gator, was a first-round pick of the Broncos and worked his way to starting position later in the season.

Tebow, the former Florida Gator, was a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos and was able to start later in the year. McCoy, from Texas, wasn’t picked until the third round by the Cleveland Browns, but also worked his way into the starting lineup later in the season.

“I was pleased with where I was picked, because I know there is always a plan and a purpose,” McCoy said Thursday in the media center. “I feel I’m in the right place with the right team and the right opportunity. I’m convinced it will work out for the best.”

He was married before his first NFL season in Cleveland and now lives in a condo in Austin, Texas, during the offseason with his new wife, a graduate of Baylor University. They still attend their college church.

Another Christian player, Dallas Cowboy All-Pro tight end Jason Witten, said the experience of older spiritual players has made it easier for the young ones to come along.

“You see some of the older guys like a Kurt Warner and a Jon Kitna set the bar high for sharing their faith and being up front with what is important to them and where they are in their faith,” he said.

Witten, who grew up attending First Baptist Church in Elizabethton, Tenn., and currently attends Valley Ranch Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, said the ability to share to a wide audience was what he was looking for in the spotlighted rookies.

“I think they’re beginning to see how important it is to have the ability and the platform to share in the NFL,” said Witten, who played at the University of Tennessee.

Bradford said he felt blessed to have a productive rookie season. He won the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award, which was announced Friday.

“It’s been great this year,” he said. “I’m very excited for the future.”

Before their first NFL season started, the three players were spotlighted in a unique sports book entitled “Playing for a Purpose,” which chronicled their rise in faith and in sports, by author Mike Yorkey.

Warner said he has been keeping a close eye on the three Christian rookies this year, e-mailing and texting McCoy and the others to encourage them in their faith during the season.

“I’ve been there through that experience. I know what to expect,” Warner said.

Before he became a most unlikely star with the Rams, Warner said he learned from Christian great Reggie White of the Green Bay Packers. Now, he’s hoping to show the talented trio what they can do on, and most importantly, off the field.

“I’m happy to do it because it’s always an honor to talk about Jesus,” Warner said. “I take inspiration from that and know it will always be awesome.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Stricklin is a Dallas-based sports correspondent.)

(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.) 
2/5/2011 10:19:00 AM by Art Stricklin, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Obama brushes off critics who question his faith

February 4 2011 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — President Obama spoke at length Feb. 3 about the daily contours of his Christian faith, brushing off the skeptics who question the authenticity of his beliefs.

“My Christian faith ... has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years, all the more so when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time,” Obama told thousands of political leaders, diplomats and religious officials at the National Prayer Breakfast.

“We are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us but whether we are being true to our conscience and true to our God.”

The president’s remarks come in the wake of polls that showed Americans harbor persistent questions about Obama’s faith, with one in four thinking he is a Muslim, and 43 percent unable to say which faith he follows.

His Feb. 3 speech reflects a renewed emphasis on faith in the president’s public remarks, as when he spoke at Christmas of the birth of Christ being “a story that’s dear to Michelle and me as Christians,” and said the Christmas story “guides my Christian faith.”     

As the son of parents who largely shunned organized religion, Obama said he was influenced by clergy of the civil rights movement, including the late Martin Luther King Jr., and leaders of the Jewish, Muslim and Hindu faiths.

As a community organizer working with churches on Chicago’s South Side, Obama said, “I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace him as my Lord and Savior.”

Obama said he is supported by the prayers of well-known religious leaders and countless unknown grass-roots supporters. He has prayed in the Oval Office with “pastor friends” like megachurch leaders Joel Hunter of Florida and Bishop T.D. Jakes of Dallas, and enjoys “consistent respite and fellowship” in the chapel at the Camp David presidential retreat.

White House photo by Pete Souza

President Obama gives his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 27, 2010. Since polls have questioned his faith, Obama has been more vocal about his Christian beliefs.

He said his children’s godmother has organized prayer circles across the nation to pray for him.

“Once I started running for president and she heard what they were saying about me on cable, she felt the need to pray harder,” he said. “By the time I was elected president, she says, ‘I just couldn’t keep up on my own. I was having to pray eight, nine times a day just for you.’ So she enlisted help from around the country.”

Obama said he prays in the morning for “strength to do right” and at bedtime, “I wait on the Lord and I ask him to forgive me my sins.”  

He also joked that his prayers have shaped his life as a father and husband.

“Lord, give me patience as I watch Malia go to her first dance, where there will be boys,” he said of his older daughter. “Lord, have that skirt get longer as she travels to that dance.”

Obama was greeted outside the Washington Hilton by a small group of protesters who claim that some members of the evangelical organization that sponsors the annual breakfast support harsh anti-gay laws in Uganda.

Obama did not mention the controversy, as he did at last year’s breakfast when he condemned as “odious” proposed legislation in Uganda to impose the death penalty on HIV-positive gays and lesbians.

The bill, which has not been voted on, was drafted by a Ugandan lawmaker with ties to The Family, the evangelical organization that sponsors the breakfast. On Jan. 26, prominent gay-rights activist David Kato was murdered in his Kampala home after he and other “known homos” were displayed on the front pages of a Ugandan newspaper.

“It is an absolute affront to my faith to say they stand for Christianity and then to stand for hate and bigotry as well,” said one of the protesters, Joey Heath, a second-year student at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington.

(Richard Yeakley contributed to this report.)

(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.) 
2/4/2011 5:30:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Ky. Baptist Convention reducing staff

February 4 2011 by Robert Reeves, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky Baptist Convention’s (KBC) Mission Board will eliminate five full-time and 19 part-time positions in its next budget in order to send a larger percentage of church gifts to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) causes throughout the nation and around the world.

The reductions are being made in response to a KBC Great Commission Task Force report approved by KBC messengers at the 2010 annual meeting in November. The report recommended changing the formula for allocating Cooperative Program (CP) gifts to an even 50 percent-50 percent split between the state convention and SBC over 10 years with the bulk of that shift occurring in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Three of the five full-time positions being eliminated are already currently unfilled while the other two positions will become vacant due to retirements on Aug. 31. The 19 part-time positions are a mix of filled and unfilled contract positions. Seven other part-time contract positions will be reduced.

The staffing adjustments go into effect with the start of the new fiscal year on Sept. 1. Lowell Ashby, the KBC’s Business Services Team leader, said salaries of current staff will also be frozen for the new fiscal year at 2010-11 levels.

KBC Executive Director Bill Mackey told the Mission Board’s Administrative Committee Jan. 27 that the part-time position reductions will come largely from two areas — the elimination of seven part-time campus ministry positions and the elimination of funding for the part-time consultant positions from the worship and music department.

Mackey said ministry in these areas would continue.

“We regret having to give up these positions and the ministry that takes place through them,” Mackey said. “But we will do our best to meet these ministry needs through effective and faithful volunteers and assignments to current personnel.”

Evangelism Growth Team Leader Ross Bauscher said that in the case of several of the seven campus ministry position reductions, the persons currently serving will continue their work as volunteers. The college campuses affected are Ashland Community College, Berea College, Centre College, Elizabethtown Community College, Hopkinsville Community College, Mid-Continent University and the University of Kentucky.

The UK position eliminated is a vacant intern position. That school will continue to have a full-time campus minister. Ministry at Berea College will continue through the work of a ministry intern based at Eastern Kentucky University, Bauscher said.

In regard to the Worship and Music Department positions, Mackey said that the five consultant positions being affected will actually continue at least temporarily into the new fiscal year. The department director position is currently unfilled but will remain in the inventory to give the KBC’s next executive director flexibility in making decisions about the department. In the meantime, the funds from that unfilled position will be used to support the consultants’ work.

Mackey is retiring in May and a search committee is seeking his replacement.

Mackey said the staffing adjustments will result in a net savings of approximately $486,000.

There will be a total of 90 full and part-time positions in the Mission Board’s job inventory at the start of the 2011-12 fiscal year.

The CP allocation change is one of several funding challenges facing the Mission Board. Additionally, the nation’s recession is now taking a toll on church giving. Ashby reported that CP giving for the current year is running just over 9 percent behind pace for reaching this year’s $23.5 million CP budget.

Currently, 38 percent of CP gifts are sent to the SBC while 62 percent are used for missions and ministries in Kentucky (36.4 percent by the Kentucky Baptist Mission Board and 25.6 percent by KBC agencies and institutions).

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Reeves is communications director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.) 

(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.) 
2/4/2011 5:22:00 AM by Robert Reeves, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

In Egypt, Christians pray, hope for freedom

February 4 2011 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

CAIRO — A thunderous roar went up from hundreds of thousands of Egyptians jammed into Cairo’s Liberation (Tahrir) Square Feb. 1 as Hosni Mubarak announced he will not run for another term as Egypt’s president.

Mubarak’s pledge likely will do little, however, to calm the social revolution sparked by protests against his rule. And the euphoria in Liberation Square turned to rage and fear Feb. 2 as Mubarak supporters violently clashed with protesters who continue to demand his immediate departure.

Rival groups threw rocks and chunks of concrete at each other as injuries mounted.

Mubarak loyalists wielding whips and clubs rode horses and camels into the crowd — and were themselves attacked by angry demonstrators. Shots were heard in some areas of the square; members of several foreign news crews reportedly were beaten.

Soldiers circling the square didn’t immediately attempt to stop the fighting. The army had appealed to protesters to go home the night before, but promised not to harm those who refused. It was unclear whether the hundreds of Mubarak supporters were acting on their own initiative or on orders from the government, but they reportedly were bused to the square and allowed to enter it by the army. Similar reports of organized pro-Mubarak groups instigating clashes came from the northern coastal city of Alexandria.

Elsewhere in Cairo — and in other Egyptian cities — living conditions continued to deteriorate as food shortages grew worse. Clashes and looting were reported in upscale neighborhoods as the “have-nots” confronted the “haves,” according to sources reporting from Cairo.

Rays of hope
But rays of hope and unity also emerged as events brought together Egyptian followers of Christ — who also are forging new bonds of friendship with Muslims as citizens stand together for peace, freedom or simple personal safety.

“Neighbors are having to side together to protect their homes, and in so doing, a new community spirit is developing,” said one observer.

The Nile River may be the only peaceful thing flowing through Cairo, Egypt, these days as political unrest continues.

A Southern Baptist representative based in the Middle East offered this perspective: “Folks are concerned about their future, about their safety, about their country. We are praying that the changes don’t create a greater animosity or enmity between the 10- to 15-percent Orthodox Christian population and the majority Muslim population. It’s not at root a religious conflict. It’s political, and we just pray for greater freedom to come out of this for (Egyptian Orthodox and evangelical) believers to be able to not only practice their faith but to share it with others.”

One tangible demonstration of new unity: During Friday prayers Jan. 28, Coptic Christians offered to guard Cairo’s Islamic mosques from potential attacks or vandalism as Muslims entered them to worship.

“I think this has a great potential for being a unifying thing on a grass-roots level between (Christian) congregations and the communities that surround them,” the representative said. “The offer, quite frankly, was really more of a gesture, because you are talking about literally thousands of mosques and a very small Christian population. But just the fact that they made that offer was an attempt on the part of the Orthodox community to say, ‘We want what’s best for our country.’”

In one Cairo neighborhood, according to news reports, a group of young Christians with sticks were seen patrolling the streets all night. The neighborhood church, they said, was protected by local Christians and Muslims. “The bamboo sticks we used to scare off the looters were used previously to build our Christmas Nativity scene,” they told a reporter.

Caution and prayer
Elsewhere in the region, movements for political change continued to spread. Protests in Jordan prompted King Abdullah II to sack his cabinet and name a new prime minister Feb. 1. Demonstrations also continued in Yemen, where longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced he will not extend his presidency beyond 2013. The Palestinian government in the West Bank promised long-delayed municipal elections “as soon as possible.” Organizers in Syria called for protests. And in Israel, the government and the public looked on with wary concern.

As calls for change spread across the Middle East and North Africa, however, one Christian leader with long experience in the region cautioned against over-optimism about an increase in personal freedom.

“I think it remains to be seen if this is a move toward democracy or not,” he said. “One of the things that has clearly changed in many of the (Egyptian) cities is that neighbors are getting to know each other and figuring out how to work together for their common defense. I think that’s an amazing change, because people who have just sort of amalgamated together from many different places within a country now suddenly are connecting. That will change the internal fabric of the country.

“Whether they actually achieve anything in terms of democracy, though, still has a long ways to go. The kind of change to be brought about by popular uprising is quite unclear. It could bring an even more authoritarian type of government. Right now in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood (the largest Egyptian Islamist group, currently outlawed) is far more present and out in public making demands than they would have been if the secular government kept them under control. So the likelihood of the country becoming more Islamic is probably greater than it becoming more secular.”

His main prayer request: “That we won’t blink. That we will find ways to join the Lord in the midst of this chaos and let the Good News ring out in ways that will help people find true freedom in Christ. That’s what I want to see more than anything else. I want people to know Him — and in knowing Him, to know what it’s like to really be free.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board.)

(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.) 
2/4/2011 5:09:00 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Brown reflects on lifetime of ministry

February 3 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

As Joe Brown prepared to move on from his career in the Navy, God made his next step very clear. “God literally came to my room one night and He spoke to me just like He did Samuel. He said, ‘preach,’” Brown said. So, Brown did just that. That next Sunday night he preached and within one month he was pastoring a church.

Brown has devoted his life to pastoring and preaching God’s Word, and poured much of his life into shepherding Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte. Brown recently retired from 26 years of ministry as the church’s senior pastor.

Throughout his time at Hickory Grove Brown saw the Lord do many great things, and he saw many changes happen in the life of the congregation. When Brown came to Hickory Grove in 1984 attendance was about 2,155. By 2010, that number had increased to 16,827. Since 1984 the church has baptized nearly 8,000 people.

As the congregation grew Brown learned the importance of working with a staff who shared his same vision for the church.

The senior pastor cannot do all the visitations and cannot preach all the sermons. Brown encouraged pastors to “replicate your vision in the hearts of other people” and to ensure the staff is onboard with the vision.

“You cannot carry people who have no vision,” he said.

Brown led Hickory Grove to become a multi-site church because he saw a need in the local community and knew God had laid this next step of ministry on his heart. For nearly three years he prayed about starting this multi-site campus in an area of Charlotte that was growing rapidly but had no church nearby.

Hickory Grove photo

Around 5,550 people attended two services Jan. 23 to honor Joe Brown, retiring senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte.

On that first Sunday of worship at the multi-site campus more than 300 people came and most were from the community; they were not already attending Hickory Grove.

As the landscape surrounding Hickory Grove changed, Brown said the congregation had to be willing to also change. They never changed the message of the gospel, only the strategies in which they sought to share that message.

As the Hispanic population increased, Hickory Grove started a Latin American congregation. As more people became interested in faith-based education, Hickory Grove started a school on its campus.

Brown said the key to continuing in effective ministry for the sake of the gospel comes back to a piece of advice someone shared with him years ago: remember who called you. “People will try to pull you away from God,” Brown said. When that happens, “you absolutely cannot function. Don’t get so busy doing the work of the ministry that you forget the One who called you.”

With busyness can often come, whether intentional or not, a tendency to forsake personal time with God.

“You get so busy you forget to feed yourself,” Brown said. “Burn out is literally a soul deficit.”

Brown did not plan to stay at Hickory Grove 26 years.

Not that he wanted to leave, but he kept his focus on the One who called him and determined to serve wherever and however God led. “I knew I did not own the church. I wasn’t the proprietor,” Brown said. 

Something Brown has tried to maintain as priority throughout his ministry is mentoring and helping develop young preaching pastors. “I wanted to always multiply,” he said. Brown also made sure to keep his family a priority. As balancing work and family is a constant struggle, Brown had to be intentional in scheduling his time.

Just as Moses knew when it was time to go into the desert, so Brown said he knew when it was time to retire from serving at Hickory Grove. “If we are really truly God’s people and His Spirit lives within us He will guide us,” Brown said. Brown knew well before it was actually time to step aside, and so he began planning for that transition. Brown urged pastors to plan ahead for when that day comes.

Although his time of serving as senior pastor of Hickory Grove has ended, Brown’s ministry is far from over. “God is not finished with me,” he said, and he is ready to serve however God leads. Brown still wants to be involved in serving the local church and is interested specifically in helping churches going through a difficult time.

Brown said he hopes this next phase of life will allow him to be a “restorer of the faith” for other churches and pastors.

Brown speaks as one who knows personally God’s grace and does not forget it. “Every day is a gift,” he said. “I am a person most blessed.”

On Jan. 30, the Sunday after Brown’s retirement, Clint Pressley, who had been serving as the preaching pastor, was affirmed as the church’s new senior pastor.

(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.) 
2/3/2011 8:26:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

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