January 2009

Retiree witnesses to 10,000 in 3 years

January 26 2009 by Norm Miller, Baptist Press

LONGVIEW, Wash. — Ted Cotten reached a milestone — witnessing to 10,000 people — on Christmas Eve. By the second week of January: 11,000. “If God lets me live long enough, my goal is to reach 50,000,” said Cotten, an 85-year-old retired pastor.

Cotton believes Christians “constantly get witnessing mixed up with preaching or with sharing the gospel. We have the impression that we're not witnessing unless we’re presenting the plan of salvation.”

Wherever he goes, Cotten simply asks people if they’d be willing to read a short prayer that he says changed his life more than 70 years ago.

The prayer card says: “Dear Lord Jesus, I know I have sinned and done wrong. Please forgive me of my sin and give me eternal life. I now trust You Lord Jesus as my Savior. Help me to have a growing relationship with You, and to become the Christian person that You want me to be. In Jesus' name, Amen.”
 
Keeping a daily log of contacts helps Cotten track the numbers. “In the beginning when I was sharing with only five or 10 a week, I could recall each day how many I had shared with,” Cotton said. “But when it grew to larger numbers, I would put 15 prayer cards in my pocket, then 30. Now, it’s 40 or 50 so I know how many people read the card every day.” He estimates that about 6,000 of his contacts have been in the town where he lives, Longview, Wash.

Cotten’s unusual approach was featured in a 2007 Baptist Press article in which he spoke of his motivation and method of witnessing. At the 2005 Northwest Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Spokane, a speaker challenged the audience to do something significant in the coming year. Cotten committed to tell 100 people about Jesus — a goal he reached in six months. By April 2007, he’d witnessed to 2,500 people.

“I made no conscious effort to design this prayer,” he said, explaining that it was a last-ditch effort some years ago to win a man to Christ whose friendship he had been cultivating. “I asked him, ‘May I share a prayer with you and see how it resonates with you?’” The man agreed, heard the prayer and then gave his heart to Christ.

Carmela Mongold is married with three children and a college student who manages a fast-food restaurant that Cotten frequents almost every Sunday night.

Last December, Cotten asked Mongold if he’d ever given her the card. He never had, but she’d collected 17 copies of it from various locations around town.

“I believe God was speaking to me through those cards,” she recounted, “kinda like asking me, ‘Where are you?’”

Mongold said she came to Christ as a young girl but had spent years away from the Lord and the church. But stirred by Cotten’s card, “I asked God for forgiveness and to renew my life to Christ,” she said.

“It’s not just a card to Mr. Cotten,” added Mongold, who now regularly attends church with her family. “This is his mission — to get people to go to Jesus.”

Approaching another employee, Cotten asked if he’d shared the card with him. “No, you haven’t, but someone else has,” the young man told Cotten. “I realized God was working on him, too, and he came to Christ right there.”

Cotten witnesses with the prayer card at restaurants, grocery stores, sporting events, banks, social clubs “and anywhere else I meet people,” he said.

“I went to Wal-Mart because we needed a few things. But really, I just went there to witness,” he said. “I shared with 43 people. Three were Hispanic, so I used my Spanish prayer cards. Everyone’s responses at the store were so positive that I was near tears.

“I also went to Target and had 50 prayer cards, and I ran out,” he said. “I could’ve shared with 75 people easily.”

Cotten even uses the card on ocean cruises. In May 2008, Cotten and his wife Alice flew to Istanbul, Turkey, and boarded an ocean liner. “We saw it as a true mission field,” Alice said, noting that the 3,500 passengers and crew represented 65 countries.

It didn’t take long for Christian crew members to ask Cotten if he’d lead their off-duty devotional time. Cotten said about 60 of them crowded into a small room for the 11:30 p.m. service.

The staff captain approved the use of the ship’s theater for the next meeting. More than 100 attended. Cotten preached, read the prayer and asked how many prayed it sincerely. Ten raised their hands, he said.

The staff captain, who gave his Christian testimony in one meeting, told Cotten he wished more pastors would do as Cotten had done. “He invited me to take many more of their cruises and do the same thing again,” Cotten said. So, Ted and Alice are planning a 2009 cruise for the express purpose of witnessing to lost people.

Cotten’s method has garnered the attention of numerous pastors as he has visited more than two dozen churches, giving a PowerPoint presentation on how to use the prayer card. Cotten also has received encouraging reports from pastors in several states.

Noting that some people are concerned about the effectiveness of the card, Cotten said, “They don’t realize that many people need the witness of your changed life and how it was done before they can process a longer presentation of the gospel.

“I believe I could’ve led hundreds to make decisions for Christ,” Cotten continued. “But I’ve seen too many situations where people made what I believe were premature decisions. So, what we’re primarily doing is sowing the seed and giving the Holy Spirit something to work with. If we have time to deal with them at length, then we seek to lead them to the Lord.

“We cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “It’s our job to share our witness, however briefly or as long as it takes.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Miller is a freelance writer in Richmond, Va.)   

1/26/2009 9:40:00 AM by Norm Miller, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Blank sign bears big message at Mardi Gras

January 26 2009 by Paul F. South, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS — In the morning’s wee hours, the whole world may be sleeping, but not in New Orleans, not during Mardi Gras.

For New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary alumnus Emerson Wiles, nighttime is the right time to share the life-changing message of Jesus Christ with the multitudes who come to the Crescent City.

Wiles, a pastor on the big island of Hawaii at Waikoloa Baptist Church, has taken the gospel message of hope to the streets of carnival New Orleans for more than two decades.

Between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on the nights leading up to Mardi Gras day (Feb. 5 this year), Wiles and his team walk the streets of the French Quarter sharing the gospel. It took him 15 years to figure out how to do it right.

"The first 15 years, we came with crosses, big ol' crosses,” he said. “In my mind, there are only two responses to the cross: You either love it or you hate it. So we spent more time arguing than we did witnessing."
 
Wiles then read a book that transformed his thinking and his tactics: Out of Their Faces and Into Their Shoes: How to Understand Spiritually Lost People and Give Them Directions to God by John Kramp.

The book "taught me that lost people do what lost people do because they're lost," Wiles said. "Not because they hate God, but because they don't know any better."

Now, Wiles' method conveys the power of God's message. Lives are being changed, in part, due to a blank sign he holds up that makes people curious.

"I tell people, 'That was my life before Jesus came in,'" Wiles said.

"We don't jam anything down anybody's throat," Wiles said. "We don't stop anybody. They come and ask us what we're doing. A lot of times they don't like what we're doing, but they like the way we do it. It's just ways to witness without turning people off."

Wiles, a 1981 NOBTS graduate, was a pastor in Tennessee for 18 years before moving to Hawaii. Even thousands of miles away, Wiles never forgot New Orleans. He began annual visits during the 1985 Mardi Gras season and has missed only one year since.

Some say Mardi Gras is the biggest party in the world, and probably the last place you'd expect to find Jesus. Unlike his past efforts, love is at the center of Wiles' street evangelism.

"We don't want to condemn people," Wiles said. "It's the Holy Spirit that brings condemnation. We just want to tell people about Christ."

"God called me to be a fisher of men," Wiles said. "God called me to go where there's fish. There are plenty of fish in New Orleans during Mardi Gras."

The Mardi Gras also experience has sharpened his church's ministry in Hawaii, Wiles added.

"I'm training my church members to (share the gospel)," he said. "If you can come on the streets of New Orleans and tell ... a total stranger about Christ, then you can go back home and talk to your neighbors, your banker, your doctor, your lawyer. It makes it easier to share the gospel. If you can share at Mardi Gras, doing it at home is a piece of cake."

(EDITOR’S NOTE — South is a writer for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.)

1/26/2009 9:36:00 AM by Paul F. South, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Cooperative Program ends 2008 down 4.8 percent

January 23 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Mission gifts from North Carolina Baptist churches through the Cooperative Program were down 4.8 percent from 2007, according to final figures from the Baptist State Convention (BSC).

This marks the second consecutive year and fourth year of the past six that one year’s gifts were lower than the previous year. The 2008 gifts missed the budget by 11.5 percent, or $4.5 million, which has prompted internal budget adjustments for 2009.

The $34,485,968 given in 2008 was $1.7 million lower than in 2007 and actually $1.1 million lower than gifts in 2002.

Despite the shortfalls, John Butler, BSC executive leader for business services, said the Convention finished operations in the black. Convention, board and board group operations comprise just $14.5 million of a $39 million budget, so the Convention does not suffer the full brunt of a shortfall.

BSC agencies and institutions and the national mission partners, whose Cooperative Program income is based on a percentage of receipts at the Convention office, share the pain. The $39.3 million budget adopted in 2007 for 2009 still includes $3.4 million for the colleges, which are in the second year of their decreasing income from Cooperative Program, which they gave up in exchange for the ability to name their own trustees. Baptist Retirement Homes receives nothing.

In a press release, Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSCNC executive director-treasurer expressed gratitude “to North Carolina Baptist churches who have continued to support Cooperative Program missions through the BSCNC even when many local church budgets are running at deficit levels.”

He anticipates operating “at reduced levels of income for several months before we see the economy significantly improve. We will adapt, adjust and function with the resources that God provides through the churches of this great Convention. We remain grateful for the work of our churches and their ongoing investment in the work of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.”

The 2009 budget retains the four North Carolina Cooperative Program giving plans, which will be reduced to one for the 2010 budget, following action of Convention messengers in November.

In 2008 Plan A, the original plan through which 65 percent of income is received, was down 3.77 percent, to $22.3 million.

Plan B, which emphasizes North Carolina theological education and special missions, and forwards only 10 percent to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), rather than the 33.5 percent of Plan A, was up 2.8 percent to $2.8 million.

Plan C, which also favors theological education and special missions in North Carolina, forwards nothing to the SBC and sends 10 percent to the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, was down 11.9 percent to $1.7 million.

Plan D, which forwards 33.5 percent to the SBC, devotes just 50 percent, rather than 66.5 percent to the work of the Baptist State Convention, and gives an additional five percent to Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, was up 4 percent to $6 million.

The 33.5 percent forwarded to the SBC in plans A and D increases to 34 percent in the 2009 budget.

Special offerings took a hit in 2008, as well. After a record setting year in 2007, special offerings for national and international missions plunged. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions was down 15.6 percent to $12.8 million. The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for national missions was down 6.5 percent to $6.1 million.

The North Carolina Missions Offering was down 11.7 percent, to $2,004,499. That offering did meet its goal of $2 million, a goal reduced from the previous year’s $2.5 million when Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina was removed as a recipient.

North Carolina Baptist Men is the largest recipient of NCMO funds, at $793,000. Director Richard Brunson said the offering makes possible ministry efforts such as disaster relief, partnerships and the medical-dental bus.

“We’re real grateful that churches gave and we were able to reach the goal,” he said.

1/23/2009 10:49:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Seminarians reach inmates through sports

January 23 2009 by Phyllis Evans, Baptist Press

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — "Walking into the yard at San Quentin, you know you're an outsider," said Bryan Brown, a student at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary who leads the seminary's San Quentin Sports Ministry.
 
"Once you start to play the game, you completely forget you're in a prison and playing with inmates."
 
"It's like walking into a huge middle school playground," said fellow Golden Gate student Sean Donohue, founder of the San Quentin All Stars, a basketball team composed of 12-15 inmates. "There are guys everywhere — jogging, playing baseball, basketball, working out, playing cards, talking — everywhere," he said.
 
Those in the yard are surrounded by 40-foot-high brick walls. Guards are not noticeable; Donohue estimated there are probably two guards for the 1,000 inmates in the yard. In addition, there are manned guard towers.
 
In 2003 Donohue was approached by a local pastor about forming a prison basketball team. He held tryouts. Forty inmates tried out and 15 made the team. They practiced on Tuesdays, with games on Saturdays against other San Quentin teams.
 
"After a year, even though I had moved to a town farther away, I wanted to keep my relationship with these guys," Donohue said. "We would pray together, have powerful conversations and I really put myself out there."
 
Donohue recruited guys from the seminary plus a few friends to play against the All Stars inmate team. Five years later the outreach has grown to include flag football and softball.
 
Serving at the prison has been rewarding for the seminarians as well as the inmates. "I saw a flyer about a prison ministry," said Miguel Rodriguez, a master of arts student who has been involved since spring 2006. "At first it was intimidating and a little scary, but the inmates were welcoming, and we could tell God was doing something."
 
"At halftime, someone shares a devotion or testimony from the Word, and after the game we spend 15-20 minutes with the guys," Donohue said, emphasizing that each person finds one man to develop a relationship with over time: asking him about himself, caring and getting involved and developing a pen pal-type relationship.
 
"If you get into a good conversation during halftime, you don't stop even when the game resumes," said Brown, who plans to graduate with an M.Div. in May 2009. "It's more important to build a relationship than to play the game — that's the main reason we're there." He added that they always make sure there are extra players available to fill in instead of interrupting a conversation.
 
"Our focus has shifted over the years," said Donohue, who in addition to being a seminary student is a high school pastor at Creekside Community Church in Alamo, Calif. "Our original goal was to try to connect with all the guys at the same level for the same purposes: to encourage the believers and lead the unsaved guys to Christ. We've come to realize there is a special dynamic in the prison with which we try to be in sync."
 
Donohue explained that half the inmates on the team are older guys from North Block, who are in their 40s and strong believers, and all have good attitudes. "They treat us well and are respected by everyone in the prison," he said. "Out of 15 guys on the team, eight of them are in this group."
 
The other guys on the team are younger, ranging in age from their late teens to 20s and 30s. They are recently off the streets, not believers and their attitudes are unpredictable. "The older guys from North Block see this team as a ministry for them too," Donohue said, describing how they share lessons and minister to the younger guys who have come into their world.
 
"So in our ministry we recognize these older men. We come alongside them rather than make them the focus of our ministry, and we target our ministry to the younger men, which in the end ministers to the older men," Donohue said. "They feel like they are being encouraged and recognized for the men they have become."
 
San Quentin opened in 1852 just across the bridge from San Francisco and 15 minutes from the Golden Gate's Northern California Campus. It houses more than 2,000 inmates, the majority facing sentences ranging from 20 years to life. Many of the prisoners have been in maximum security facilities for murder-related issues.
 
"They are hungry for interaction with us," noted Rodriguez, an M.Div. student. "And they minister to us — encouraging us, praying for us. It's amazing how you can feel God's love and His presence even in the prison. It's been one of my favorite things at seminary."
 
The inmates greet the students with hugs and handshakes upon arrival. For many inmates, it is the highlight of their week. "They are thankful for these opportunities to interact with us," Brown said.
 
"The San Quentin Sports Ministry has proven to be a great way for seminary students to go into another culture and share the gospel with those who need a relationship with Jesus Christ," Brown added.
 
Rodriguez agreed, saying, "It's a wonderful, beautiful relationship we are developing; we're making a family connection."

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Evans is director of communications at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. For more information: www.ggbts.edu.)

1/23/2009 10:26:00 AM by Phyllis Evans, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Gambia sentences missionaries to hard labor

January 23 2009 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

BANJUL, Gambia — A British missionary couple in Gambia have been sentenced to a year in prison at hard labor for sending e-mails critical of Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh.
 
David Fulton, 60, and his wife, Fiona, 47, pled guilty to the charges after their arrest in late November because their lawyer told them it might result in a lighter sentence, but a judge gave them the maximum sentence, saying he intended to send a message to those who "spread hatred against the government." In addition to the prison sentences, the couple was fined the equivalent of about $9,500 each.
 
The couple apparently sent e-mails to friends and church contacts in Britain that not only discussed their ministry but also described the state of affairs in Gambia and called Jammeh "a madman," according to a report by The Times newspaper of London. A Gambian person in England connected to the Fulton's home church sent copies of the e-mails to Gambian authorities.
 
Jammeh has ruled Gambia since he led a coup in 1994. The country has been criticized for human rights abuses and press censorship and Jammeh has been ridiculed for claiming to have discovered a banana-based cure for AIDS, according to the British newspaper The Independent.
 
The Fultons have lived in Gambia for 10 years, according to International Christian Concern (ICC), a based human rights organization that helps persecuted Christians around the world. Mr. Fulton conducted evangelistic efforts in villages accessible only by boat and served as a chaplain with the Gambian army. Mrs. Fulton trained prison chaplains, cared for terminally ill people and visited hospitalized women.
 
The Fultons have been held in the notorious Mile Two prison since they were sentenced Dec. 30, according to The Independent. Gambian authorities have denied them visitors since their incarceration, in spite of the fact that they both have health problems, according to ICC.
 
After their conviction, the couple wrote a letter to Jammeh, pleading for clemency.

"We certainly had no intention to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the president or the government of the Gambia," they wrote. "We humbly apologise totally, unreservedly and without exception for anything and everything that we have said that has caused offence and we fully and publicly withdraw any such remarks. We apologise to the Security Services for the trouble we have caused them."
 
Jonathan Racho, ICC's regional manager for Africa, said his organization was asking the government to release the Fultons, "considering their relentless effort to help the poor and the marginalized section of the society in the country and considering the poor state of their health."
 
The organization also asked Christians worldwide to pray for the couple.
 
"Please pray for the safe release of David and Fiona and for their health," Racho said. "Pray that God will give them comfort and courage as they go through this difficult time."
 
Individuals who want to intercede with Gambian authorities on the Fultons' behalf may contact the country's embassy in the United States by calling (202) 785-1399 or e-mailing info@gambiaembassy.us.

1/23/2009 10:23:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Graham grandson tapped as Kennedy successor

January 23 2009 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

A grandson of Billy Graham has been nominated to succeed the late D. James Kennedy as pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

A pastoral search committee on Jan. 18 gave the congregation its recommendation of the Rev. Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of nearby New City Church, as Coral Ridge's next senior pastor.

Tchividjian, the son of Gigi Graham, the evangelist's eldest daughter, seems ready to consider the position as long as he can bring his current church members with him.

"Because he is committed to his congregation at New City Church, he has requested, and the (pulpit nominating committee) has agreed, to consider merging the two churches," the Coral Ridge search committee announced on the church's web site.

The search committee considered more than 150 candidates to succeed Kennedy, who died in 2007 at the age of 76.

On his blog on New City's web site, the 36-year-old Tchividjian said the decision, which will be preceded by joint meetings on legal, financial and structural issues, will be up to God.

"Only if agreeable terms on all of these fronts can be reached and those terms approved by both church sessions would the two become one," Tchividjian said. "This due diligence process is not simply a formality to ‘close a deal' that's already been made. All of us are willing to walk away at a moment's notice if God says ‘stop.'"

Coral Ridge has given Tchividjian 30 days to consider the invitation, and if an agreement between the churches can be reached, he will preach at the church and then be voted on by the congregation.

Tchividjian, an author and radio broadcaster, is one of Gigi Graham's seven children. His father, Stephan Tchividjian, who is divorced from Graham, attends New City Church, said Lana Trombly, Tchividjian's assistant.

Started in 2003, New City attracts about 500 worshippers each week and meets in a high school in Coconut Creek, Fla. It is affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Coral Ridge has about 1,800 regular worshippers and is affiliated with another conservative denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America.

1/23/2009 7:46:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments



For some in N.C., food comes from Angel

January 22 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Asst. Managing Editor

In tough economic times, food costs, along with gasoline and other expenses, continue to rise.

But for those involved in Angel Food Ministries, food comes at a discounted rate.

“I really saw it as being needed and being a great help to the folks in the community,” said Ruby Casanova, director of Angel Food for Brunswick Baptist Association.

Casanova said Brunswick became involved in Angel Food Ministries in February 2007.
 
Angel Food Ministries is a non-profit organization based in Georgia that provides relief through distributing boxes of food at a discount to buyers in 35 states. Each month people can preorder a box of food (menus available online or at a distribution site) for $30. At the grocery store, the food would generally cost around $60-$70. There is also a senior box available with 10 nutritionally balanced meals (protein, starch, two vegetables or fruit). Ten desserts are also included.

“With the economy in the condition it’s in it has become a greater need,” Casanova said.

She shares stories from people about how they’ve been helped through Angel Food: “if it hadn’t been for angel food this month, I wouldn’t have been able to pay the power bill, the pharmacy bill, etc.”

When the food arrives it’s all about organization, Casanova said.

More than a dozen churches pick up at the association office each month. Casanova said an assembly line of volunteers boxes the food and distributes it to the churches. The churches take the food back to their site and distribute the orders.

Toni Clear, who is a nail technician, heard about Angel Food from a client.

“When I came to Catawba Heights (Baptist Church in Belmont), I was touched by women who were single parents,” Clear said.

She mentioned it at church and “it just kind of snowballed.”
 

Providential start

The start of the ministry at Catawba Heights was providential for Clear and her family.

“The day that I picked up our food was just a couple of days after my husband lost his job,” she shared. “It was a real godsend. We ate almost everything in the box.”

Some of the church members take menus to work, and they share it with their neighbors.

Catawba Heights picks up their food from Flint Grove Baptist Church in Gastonia.

Clear said interest in Angel Food spiked as the economy worsened in the fall.

“We just think it’s really wonderful,” said Clear, who admits it’s a lot of work to unload and organize the food.

“It’s a joint effort,” she said. “All the churches pitch in, and it takes about two to three hours.”

The first month Flint Grove offered Angel Food (August 2006) about 130 boxes were ordered. The site peaked at around 250. Since more churches in the area have started distributing Angel Food, the numbers for Flint Grove’s orders have declined but still hover at around 110.

For Flint Grove, “it’s more of an outreach than anything,” said Chris Howell, youth pastor. “A majority of people who buy from us are from outside the church.”

Grace Baptist Church in Wilson was receiving so many calls, the voice mail now has Angel Food as the first option for callers.
 

Box member

Cindy Pierce, a volunteer at Grace, credits her membership at the church to ordering food from this ministry. She saw the pastor volunteering the day she picked up her food and that inspired her to visit almost three years ago.

“I felt that God was calling me to open the ministry,” said Jewel Rivers, wife of Grace’s pastor.

The first month Grace offered Angel Food, 60 boxes were ordered. Now they fill two tractor trailers and will have to add a third if orders continue to increase, Rivers said.

“When we were in seminary, there were times when we wondered if we would run out of food,” she said.

Angel Food has allowed the church to meet a similar need in Wilson.

“It has been a gradual increase very steadily,” she said.

Eleven churches, from various denominations, come to Grace each month to pick up boxes. Rivers said the church averages 20-25 volunteers each month on distribution day.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful way to do ministry,” said Rivers, who said their youngest volunteer was four years old.
 

Helping homeless

Rivers said the church has also been helping the local homeless shelter. They raised money for meats and other foods and filled the shelter’s freezer. The church has also made the local social services office aware of the cost and that the ministry accepts food stamps.

The addition of the senior citizen box has been a big success at Grace.

“It’s hard to find frozen foods that don’t have sodium,” said Rivers, adding that the senior box also has the exact amount of protein a senior is supposed to eat.

Casanova said the senior meals keep restrictions from the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association in mind.
 

About Angel Food Ministries

  • Main office: Monroe, Ga.

  • Who: Angel Food Ministries is a non-profit, non-denominational organization dedicated to providing grocery relief and financial support to communities throughout the United States.

  • Cost: $30 for main food box (other boxes are available for various amounts)

  • What: Each food box contains fresh and frozen food items that would cost about $60 (or more) at a regular grocery store. One unit of food assists in feeding a family of four for about one week or a single senior citizen for almost a month. It is open to anyone who can pay for a box. In most locations food stamps can be used to purchase boxes as well. Most sites accept cash or money orders.

  • When: Orders have to be made in advance at a local host site and must be in early each month and are delivered one to two weeks later. Check local site for specific delivery instructions.

  • Where: North Carolina, along with 34 other states, have nearly 4,500 sites to distribute food. Check the web site to find a location near you.

  • Phone: (888) 819-3745

  • E-mail: angelfood@angelfoodministries.com

  • Web site: www.angelfoodminstries.com

Financial health package

Across three issues of the Biblical Recorder and numerous postings online, the BR staff compiled stories dealing with financial health, budgeting, teaching children about money, stewardship issues, etc. For a complete list, click here.

1/22/2009 3:49:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Asst. Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Church loan program edges closer to reality

January 22 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Although no loans have been distributed yet by the North Carolina Baptist Foundation (NCBF), it is making preparations for assisting churches with loans.

Dubbed Church Financial Services, Clay Warf, NCBF executive director, said lists are already being compiled to call when funding and the program is organized.

“(The response) has been really excellent,” he said. “We have some who’ve called also who want a call when we’re ready to receive investments for their money to be used to lend to churches.”
 
Warf said he is “thrilled” when a church can renovate or build without incurring debt. But when ministry needs are too immediate to wait, he said the Foundation will be able now to help.

“I encourage churches to conduct a capital campaign among their members to raise all the money they can before borrowing money,” Warf said. The Foundation is considering offering a capital campaign service but would not launch such a service until at least 2010.

A staff person began Jan. 15 to set up the loan program and begin taking applications.

Attorneys are already drafting documents to make sure the NCBF remains responsible with the money it will be distributing.

“The person we have coming will be working directly with the churches,” said Warf. “He has lots of experience with commercial lending and working with churches. He’ll be able to counsel churches on what’s appropriate.”

Announced during the Baptist State Convention in November 2008, NCBF hopes to offer loans at better than commercial rates.

Initial investments from NCBF’s reserve funds and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) will fund early loans, which Warf hopes will happen by the end of the first quarter but definitely by the second quarter of the year. Warf said some people have called already to invest when the program begins.

“What we’re doing with this ministry is simple, and we’ll have to work this out as we go along,” Warf said. “What we’re planning to do is simply cover our cost.”

Warf said it is important for this non-profit ministry to be responsible and not be a burden.

NCBF looked at similar programs and noted that a program in Florida had just one defaulted loan in 10 to 15 years.

NCBF currently receives less than 10 percent of its budget from the Cooperative Program.

“Our intent is for that to be less and less,” Warf said, “and at some point down the road to be self-sustaining.”

Warf expects many good, sound candidates for loans, but stressed that application criteria will have to be met.

One advantage to the NCBF program is that a new church start with no financial or credit history will still be able to get a loan as long as a sponsor can be found. This could be another church within the association or a planting partner.

For more information, call NCBF at (919) 380-7334 or (800) 521-7334 or visit www.ncbaptistfoundation.org.
 

Financial health package

Across three issues of the Biblical Recorder and numerous postings online, the BR staff compiled stories dealing with financial health, budgeting, teaching children about money, stewardship issues, etc. For a complete list, click here.

1/22/2009 3:45:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments



Coach takes team to church to show love

January 22 2009 by Philip Timothy, Baptist Press

NATCHITOCHES, La. — The day after his basketball team suffered a 100-63 loss, Coach Mike McConathy took his entire squad to church.

"I'm sure some of the kids were upset that I made them get up and go to church following the lopsided loss and long bus ride home" to Natchitoches, La., from Troy State in southeastern Alabama, McConathy said.

"But I was trying to make a point" to his Northwestern State University (NSU) team, McConathy said.
 
On this particular Sunday, he gathered his team before entering First Baptist Church in Natchitoches. "I said, 'Guys, I know you think I brought you here as punishment, but you are wrong. I want you to know people here (at First Baptist) love you whether you lose by one or by 20.

"'God doesn't care whether you win or lose, but whether or not you have used your talents and skills to the very best of your abilities,'" McConathy said. "'Therefore, you need to spend time to honor and thank Him.'

"It was interesting to see how the people in the church really did reach out to the team," McConathy said. "I thought it was important for (the team) to see this, because we had another big game the next day."

Now in his 10th season at Northwestern State and 26th overall as a coach, the former Louisiana Tech standout (1973-77) looks at coaching as his calling.

"I look at this job as a call to coach much like a missionary being called into the field," McConathy said. "God has put me in a position to influence a lot of people and I take that very seriously" — beginning with his family (he has two sons) and his prayer life and church involvement.

"I'm an early riser, so my quiet time is usually in the morning whether I'm at home or on the road with the team," McConathy said. "When I am home, I teach a junior high Sunday School class (at First Baptist) and my wife Connie teaches a children's class. With as many road games as we have each season, I still make sure I'm there 75 to 80 percent of the time."

While he doesn't push his Christian faith on his team, he does make sure they attend Sunday services as a team and quietly encourages them to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

"I do not directly get involved in their spiritual walks with Christ, but indirectly. Through positive reinforcement, devotionals before practice and games and, hopefully by my example, I encourage them to have a relationship with our heavenly Father," McConathy said.

The coach acknowledged he's "a little unusual by today's standards."

"When I'm recruiting a prospective player in their homes, I tell them and their parents, up front, there will be no braids, no Mohawks, no rings and no piercings.

"Why would I do this? Because I want to first let them and their parents know I am a no-nonsense type of guy. And, secondly, it builds a relationship that is centered around trust," McConathy said. "I just don't tell them what they want to hear, but I tell them the truth from day one. I tell them you will be cared for, respected and treated the way I would want my own sons treated.

"Everyone you come into contact with deserves the same, whether it's a teammate, a student trainer, a janitor, a bus driver or a waitress in a restaurant hundreds of miles away from home."

In addition to being a straight shooter, McConathy has gained a reputation as a talented coach. In 1999 when he arrived at Northwestern State — where his father and uncles had starred in the 1950s — he found a program in disarray.

In 24 years of Division I competition, NSU had just five winning seasons and had never been close to a conference championship or an NCAA tournament berth.

His first team posted NSU's first winning season in eight years and became the first Demon team to reach the Southland Conference (SLC) tournament championship game.

The next year, Northwestern State won the 2001 SLC tournament title, reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history and notched an opening round win. McConathy and his squad suddenly were thrust into the national spotlight.

His faith helped him and his team to stay grounded.

"Satan could have filled my head with all sorts of things if I had let him," McConathy said. "But I let two pieces of Scripture — Philippians 4:6 and John 3:16 — guide me through it all, and I kept focused on God."

Success has continued for McConathy and his teams, but he continues to credit God for it all.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Timothy is a staff writer for the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

1/22/2009 3:40:00 AM by Philip Timothy, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Pastors unaware of members’ debt

January 21 2009 by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press

While nearly two-thirds of Southern Baptist pastors have preached on stewardship in the past year, a new study shows that some of those pastors may have a disconnect with the financial struggles of America’s families.

The survey of 3,500 Southern Baptist senior pastors was conducted by LifeWay Research on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) between November 2007 and February 2008. The study revealed that 65 percent of pastors had preached on financial stewardship during the previous year but only 25 percent said their church members have “a significant amount of personal debt.”
 
That stands in stark contrast to national statistics about the debt load American families are carrying, said Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research.

“In 2006, household debt in America grew by $1.2 trillion — a one-year increase larger than the total amount of household debt just 30 years ago,” said McConnell.

“The average American is struggling with oppressive debt; they are spending $1.26 for every dollar earned,” said Bob Rodgers, vice president for Cooperative Program and stewardship with the Executive Committee of the SBC.

Crown Financial Ministries, which the Southern Baptist Convention partners with to provide personal financial counseling, uses the figure $1.04 spent for every dollar earned.

Church members tend to look within their own congregation for guidance on promoting and teaching stewardship, according to the survey. Nearly three-fourths of the pastors surveyed (74 percent) said the congregation looks to them for guidance and 31 percent said their church turns to members of their church. Only 2 percent said church members look to an independent stewardship consultant and 9 percent look to a preferred author, while less than 1 in 4 look to their associational or state convention leadership.

The SBC Executive Committee is trying to address this disconnect between pastoral perspective and church member reality with the “It’s A New Day” financial management workshops. “It’s A New Day” is a “how-to” workshop to help pastors and churches learn strategic skills to manage their money more effectively, work their way out of financial bondage and achieve a sense of spiritual well-being about the financial side of their lives.

In North Carolina, these workshops are a partnership with the SBC, Crown, and the Baptist State Convention. Mike Creswell coordinates the events for BSCNC. Contact him at (919) 459-5539.

Church members appear to be open to teaching or preaching on the subject of stewardship. A full 67 percent of the pastors describe their congregation as open on the subject and another 22 percent did not see church members as closed to the matter.

Besides preaching on the subject, congregations had used other activities in the last year to promote stewardship, the pastors said. An emphasis on planned giving or estate planning had been conducted by 48 percent; 32 percent had faithful or sacrificial givers share testimonies; 24 percent had offered Sunday School lessons; 20 percent had used a bulletin insert; and 18 percent had conducted a Stewardship Sunday emphasis. Six percent of churches had offered a small group study on financial stewardship, money management or debt reduction. Only 15 percent of the pastors said their congregations had not conducted any type of stewardship emphasis in the preceding 12 months.

The study concluded that 40 percent of the congregations had used resources offered by leading stewardship resource providers in the previous year. Churches that had used such materials were divided, in descending order: 14 percent, Crown Financial Ministries; 13 percent, Dave Ramsey; 9 percent, Larry Burkett; 6 percent, Empowering Kingdom Growth; 5 percent, Stewardship Development Association; 3 percent, Ron Blue; 2 percent, It’s A New Day.

According to Rodgers, one of the greatest needs of the church is for pastors to have a greater awareness of the debt load many of their church members carry and to provide resources to help them.

“When God’s people understand and practice biblical principles of money management and debt reduction, it not only increases their joy in the Christian life,” Rodgers said, “it also strengthens the church financially and enables it to minister more effectively in its community.”

Financial health package
Across three issues of the Biblical Recorder and numerous postings online, the BR staff compiled stories dealing with financial health, budgeting, teaching children about money, stewardship issues, etc. For a complete list, click here.

1/21/2009 5:32:00 AM by Mark Kelly, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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