January 2009

Church builds, renovates, buys debt-free

January 21 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Asst. Managing Editor

For more than 20 years Tar Landing Baptist Church in Jacksonville has been buying, renovating and building debt-free.

“The word free is so important,” said Jack Marshburn, pastor for 25 years. “The word free does free you up. You don’t have the moral issue hanging over your head.”

This freeness allows the church to “stay focused on ministry and missions,” he said.

In the next year the church should have a new $1.4 million sanctuary built next to their current sanctuary.

“Nothing of our budget has been in any way hampered,” Marshburn said.

The church’s last loan was taken out in 1974 and paid in 1984.

“That was the last time the church borrowed money,” Marshburn said.

In 1987-88, the church paid cash for $125,000 in renovations. In the mid-90s, the church paid $19,000 cash for a church van. In 1999, the fellowship hall was built for $200,000.

“Years ago, the church established a discipline of putting (aside) a percentage for a building fund,” Marshburn said. Since then, monthly amounts have been set aside for future building projects or purchases.

“Monthly discipline has made the big difference,” he said. “When those projects were first planned … that made it much simpler.”

Four years ago, the church paid $50,000 cash for a 26-passenger bus.

About the same time the church started a three-year capital campaign to build a new sanctuary. Since that commitment, Marshburn said the church averages $5,000 a month in addition to the percentage budgeted by the church. When they began they had $240,000 in the building fund. The church expanded the capital campaign another year and has now raised nearly $1.1 million.

Marshburn said the members can now look back and see the favor of God. The capital campaign started before the addition of an associate pastor salary, but he said God has been faithful.

“It’s amazing how God has provided,” he said. “In this time, no missions or ministry has been cut back. In fact, this year has been the best year (in regards to offerings).”

The bounty has been a blessing to Marshburn, who said he tries to model financial health in his personal life as well.

“When you start challenging your people, you start challenging yourself,” he said.
There were “personal moments of hesitation” over the years and cases of the “what ifs?”said Marshburn.

“I had to settle some things in my own life,” he said.

Tar Landing has offered financial classes in the past and hopes to offer more in the future. They have two couples who are certified to do small-group training, and Marshburn plans to utilize those talents for the rest of his flock and the community.

He hopes to do one-day seminars “to help people in a practical way, help them get out of (debt) bondage,” he said.

Marshburn was quick to emphasize that “the giving for the building and so forth has not taken precedence.”
Instead the church has continued to strongly support Southern Baptist missions as well as some independent ministries in the Philippines and Honduras.

“It’s been a tough year (with the economy) but the giving has been very strong,” he said.

The pay-as-you-go mentality has spread throughout the church, and they are moving forward in worship as well, he said.

The church recently switched from two services back to one in preparation for the coming sanctuary, which Marshburn hopes is finished by the end of the year.

In an October newsletter, Marshburn addressed his giving church: “I must also acknowledge the faithful givers in this fellowship. I have no idea who gives or who gives what; but this I know, we have people who give, who give generously, and who give consistently. This allows us great liberty in ministry. We do not know the restraint of having insufficient funds.”

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 5:29:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Asst. Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Should Christians use credit cards?

January 21 2009 by Howard Dayton, Baptist Press

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — There is a legend — whether urban, suburban or rural — about credit cards. It’s brief and goes like this: A person must have one.

The short-version response to the legend is this: Don’t establish credit unless you have a specific purpose for it, and you know how to use it wisely.

Is it wrong for Christians to use credit cards? No. Credit and credit cards do not cause financial problems. It is the misuse of credit and credit cards that create financial problems. Through discipline, any consumer can enjoy the convenience of credit cards without falling into the debt trap often associated with the use of credit cards.

The following suggestions will help you control the use of credit cards.
  • Ask your bank for an extra checkbook register (usually they are free) to keep track of credit card purchases and payments — just as you would record checking account transactions.
  • Use credit cards for budgeted purchases only.
  • Just because you might be able to afford something, does not mean you have to buy it.
  • Carry a credit card with you only if you have a zero or near zero balance. If you have a credit card balance, put the card in a safe inconvenient place and don’t carry it with you.
  • Retain only one all-purpose, no-fee credit card. Cancel all others. Accept a credit limit that you can easily pay in full on your present income, and reject all credit limit increases.
  • If stores add a surcharge to your bill for paying with a credit card, you can refuse to pay it. Most credit card companies don’t allow vendors to add surcharges to credit card purchases.
Credit card interest represents a very large waste of money, so pay your bill off every month during the grace period so you don’t pay interest charges. If your credit card company charges you a fee for not carrying a balance, cancel the card.

The first time that you have a credit card bill you cannot pay in full, charge no more and then pay the balance as soon as possible. Make the payments as early in the billing month as you can or else make two smaller payments a month if you can’t pay early. Most banks calculate interest on the average daily balance, so the larger the payment and the sooner in the month you make it, the more will apply to the principal.

To steer clear of financial problems, avoid the traps that cause those problems — for most families that means the misuse and abuse of credit cards. If you can function without credit cards, it’s to your advantage. If you really need a credit card, discipline your use and pay off the balance monthly; that will ensure that your credit card privilege will not be abused.

If you must have a credit card, try using a debit card. A debit card works like a check and it debits your checking account the amount you charged. If you need a credit card in order to confirm hotel and car rental reservations and they will not accept a debit card, store the credit card in a difficult-to-access place so you will not be tempted to use it for other things.

Finally, if you are not interested in those unsolicited or pre-approved credit applications you receive in the mail, don’t throw them in the trash. A thief may find them and take out an account in your name and begin charging.

Destroy these applications, cut them up and dispose of the pieces in different waste receptacles. Or, mark through the application and mail it back to the sender in the postpaid envelope that came with the offer and note on the application that you want to be removed from their mailing list.

To stop other offers from being mailed to you write to: Equifax Options, P.O. Box 740123, Atlanta GA 30374-0123, or call (888) 5-OPT-OUT. Along with a request to remove your name from credit application mailing lists, include your name, full mailing address, Social Security number, and signature. Equifax is one of the three major credit reporting agencies. They will remove your name from the list they provide and will forward your request to the other two agencies: Experian and TransUnion.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Dayton is co-founder of Crown Financial Ministries, which partners with the Southern Baptist Convention and Baptist State Convention of North Carolina to offer free money map counseling services to individuals.)

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 5:25:00 AM by Howard Dayton, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Are there curses for those who take on debt?

January 21 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Although credit card debt and loans are part of everyday vernacular in today’s society, scripture sometimes had harsh words for those who borrowed money.

“Scripture is very clear that debt can be enslaving and that the borrower is the servant to the lender,” said Russell Woodbridge, a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.

While the Bible never explicitly encourages incurring debt, Woodbridge said, “it strongly discourages taking on debt.”

Pedro Rosario, eastern North Carolina area director for Crown Financial Ministries, agrees.

“One of the things that keeps people from asking for help is pride instead of allowing the body of Christ to help in (these) situations,” Rosario said.

But many churches are slow in helping their members with finances, even though “giving goes up 70 percent in those who go through (the) 10-week biblical financial study.”

Rosario shares Malachi 3, Proverbs 28:27 and Matthew 25 as key passages on debt and possible curses.

Malachi deals with robbing God and emphasizes the importance of tithing. The verse in Proverbs shows that those who ignore the poor and do not give to them will receive “many curses” (NIV).

“What Christians need to realize is that we miss many blessings when we do not follow God’s financial principles,” Rosario said. “You can also look at Matthew 25 — Parable of the Talents — and see the third servant missed out on a blessing. The two other servants were blessed because of what they produced for the Master.”

The servant who buried the Master’s talent was stripped of the talent and was cast out “into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:29).

An article from Crown Financial Ministries emphasizes debt elimination as a way to spread the gospel. Becoming financially sound makes better church members, better tithers, Rosario said.

Another Crown article said borrowing seemed to be “a consequence of disobeying God’s statutes of economics and principles of finance.”

Related verses include Deuteronomy 28:44-45 and Psalm 37:21.

Romans 13 tackles governing authorities and stresses the need to pay what is owed, and verse 8 says: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law” (NIV).

While paying debt and bills is important, this section in Romans emphasizes the heart of the person towards another.

“In everything (Crown has), we always present the gospel,” Rosario said. “The most important thing is the relationship with the Lord.”

Many people need to realize what God owns.

“We have to understand that God owns it all,” he said. “Our part is to be faithful stewards … because we will be accountable someday. That’s tough for a lot of people. It’s easy to say that God owns it all but it’s a lot tougher to live that.”

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 5:22:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Colleges try to help students through tough times

January 19 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Wingate University  president Jerry McGee was so concerned about how students would make it through the economic downturn that he recorded a video for students that was posted Dec. 9 on YouTube. In early January the video had been viewed more than 1,200 times.
McGee said that while the school was experiencing success he realized that the economy is creating difficulties for students. He said the school wants to be sure that every student has the financial aid he or she needs to be successful. The school will help students “look under every rock” for potential aid, he said.

All five North Carolina Baptist colleges are addressing economic events to help their students return, and to remind high schoolers that a college education is still vital preparation for an uncertain future.

On campus jobs

Wingate has created additional employment opportunities on campus for students who want to work, McGee said.

“We want you to know we’re sensitive to your issues and problems,” he said. “There are plenty of people here who are available to help with those issues.”

Bob McLendon, vice president for admissions at Mars Hill College said the financial aid office at Mars Hill is setting up one-on-one counseling for students. School officials want to make sure students understand all potential sources for aid.

“We want to help,” he said. “We’re in this together.”

McLendon said federal loans are available, but alternative loans that look at a student’s or a family’s credit are tightening up.

“That worries us,” he said.

Stephanie Harrell, director of financial planning at Chowan, said the financial aid office at the school shares options and information with students and parents on how to pay for college. The office’s web site includes information about scholarships, work-study and loan opportunities with links to search for additional scholarships or grants.

“We have even set up a FaceBook page, to try to reach students more on their level,” she said.

John Roberson, vice president for enrollment management and marketing at Campbell University, said student financial aid packages for the current academic year at Campbell were complete in August.

“The reality of the current situation on students applying for loans and other sources of financial aid will not be fully understood until the second or third quarter of this year,” he said.

Roberson said students feeling the crunch should remember that the greatest investment one can make in oneself is education.

“Financial aid packages will no doubt contain larger loans than in previous years,” he said. “However, with a college degree one’s earning potential is greater and the prospect of being more competitive in the marketplace is enhanced. Students should not fear accepting loans.”

The number of students returning this semester could impact how hard the economic crisis hits the schools. Final enrollment for the spring won’t be known until mid-January.

McLendon said Mars Hill is bracing for a potential enrollment decline. “We’re trying to stay a half a step ahead of the curve because of this economic crisis,” he said. “We’re not taking anything for granted. We have to skillfully prepare for this.”

Mars Hill president Dan Lunsford and other top leaders at the school have talked about how best to handle the issue.

“There’s not anything that’s not being discussed,” McLendon said.

Campbell leaders have placed restrictions on equipment and supply purchases, travel, and vacant staff positions.

The measures were put into place in mid-December, Roberson said.

Chuck Taylor, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Wingate, said the school’s budget has not been impacted dramatically, the school’s leaders are being proactive about cost-saving measures. Over the winter break, the school did not turn on the heat in the academic buildings, resulting in significant savings on utilities.

“Thus far, our cost savings efforts have not directly impacted our students,” Taylor said. “We won’t do anything that will take away from the Wingate student experience.”

Endowments at the colleges took significant hits when the economy went sour recently, but all five schools are taking steps to be sure they make it through the downturn.

“Like virtually everyone else, endowment return has been significantly affected negatively,” said Frank Bonner, president of Gardner-Webb University (GWU). “From what we are hearing and reading, it is no worse than the experience of other schools and may not be as bad as some.”

McLendon said the Mars Hill endowment was $50 million before the economic downturn. Losses weren’t as much as they could have been because of a “pretty conservative investment strategy,” by the college’s foundation made up of trustees, he said.

“This crisis hasn’t impacted us as much,” McLendon said. “We’ve had a 20 percent drop, which is significant, but we didn’t get run over because of our investment strategy.”

John Tayloe, vice president of development for Chowan University, said that despite what’s happening in the stock market, the school is having its “best days.”

“Chowan has experienced impact from this downturn, but to a much lesser extent than the market as a whole,” he said. “Decisions made by the administration and the board of trustees, in concert with the advice from portfolio managers, have lessened the decline of the Chowan Endowment.”

Roberson said because of Campbell’s conservative investment policy, the loss in value of the university’s portfolio has fared much better than institutions whose investment policy was more speculative.”

Taylor said that in June Wingate’s endowment stood at around $30 million. Since then, it has lost about 25 percent of its value, he said.

“We have a conservative endowment spending policy which will reduce the impact in the short term,” he said. “Of course, if the downturn in financial markets continues for some time in the future, our ability to assist students with scholarship aid will be tested.”

Fundraising at the schools continues to be strong, though some are seeing decreases in larger gifts.

McLendon said colleges must face the reality of the current situation like any other corporation or business. The schools should look at their operating models and consider how to lower costs and improve their product.

The schools need to learn how to do more with less and do it more efficiently, McLendon said. Private schools have an advantage over public institutions in this area, he said.

“We can change at a little faster pace,” he said. “We don’t have to go through the legislature. We make our own decisions.”

Bonner said students should not abandon important educational goals and plans.

“If anything, the economic situation has magnified the importance of a good education and a degree from an outstanding university,” he said. “If students will work with us, persevere and do their part we will all get through this.”

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.

1/19/2009 9:35:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Chowan teaches danger of credit card abuse

January 19 2009 by Joshua Barker, Chowan University News

While some students are earning class credit, others are ruining their financial credit, so Chowan University is educating students to the dangers of credit card abuse.

After seeing the documentary film “Maxed Out” students learned the extreme horrors of credit card debt.

“At the end, it showed these two college students who ended up committing suicide just because of their credit card debt,” said Michele Reedy, Chowan’s director of student activities. “It really left a bad taste in my mouth.”

According to Reedy, credit card education should begin before students ever reach the college campus to stop such tragedies.

“It’s something every parent should have a few conversations about with their students when they go off to school,” she said.

As part of its Perspectives Program, Chowan is trying to expand students’ knowledge of subjects that they may not find in text books.

Drew Joyner, a 1983 Chowan alumnus, is financial services officer for the North Carolina State Employees Credit Union, and a former “repo man.” During an interactive lecture Joyner explained the importance of paying more than the minimum due and the hazards of high interest rates and fees accrued from not paying on time.

Joyner spoke of students’ financial futures in the work place.

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.

1/19/2009 9:32:00 AM by Joshua Barker, Chowan University News | with 0 comments

Southern Seminary eliminates 35 positions

January 19 2009 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), in response to the national economic downturn, has reduced its administrative staff by 35 positions: 20 full-time and 15 part-time, effective Jan. 30.

Each person will receive a severance package, including placement assistance, according to a Jan. 15 news release from the seminary.

No faculty members were included in the staffing reductions.

The workforce reduction, combined with budget cuts made in December, are to close a projected $3.2 shortfall in the seminary's $30 million budget, the news release stated, and will "place the seminary in a stronger financial position for 2009."

Tuition for the 2009-10 academic year will increase by just under 10 percent according to current projections, SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. wrote in a letter e-mailed to the Louisville, Ky., seminary community. The increase, he said, is akin to the tuition increase for the current academic year.

Work will continue on capital projects that already have been contracted and funded, but no new projects will begin until economic conditions improve, according to the news release. On Dec. 18, the seminary announced that it had reduced its budget by $1.7 million, including the halt in various capital projects along with reductions in travel expenses.

"The national economic downturn has resulted in reductions in Southern Seminary's primary revenue sources, a situation common to higher education at this time," the Jan. 14 news release stated.

SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr., in a letter to the seminary community, said of support from Southern Baptists' Cooperative Program:

"There is good news to report in that we have experienced good support from our churches channeled through the Cooperative Program. We are certainly watching the Cooperative Program income as directed through the state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention into Southern Seminary's budget. We can never presume upon the performance of the Cooperative Program in troubled times, but I am confident that our churches will do everything possible to maintain their own stewardship and investment in this important work and mission."

As of Dec. 31, the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget, the year-to-date total of $47.3 million was just 91.9 percent of the $51.4 million budgeted to support Southern Baptist ministries.

To date, the North American Mission Board, another of the SBC's six seminaries and Woman's Missionary Union also have announced budget cuts.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, announced Dec. 16 that it will be cutting its budget by approximately 10 percent, or $3.5 million to $4 million. Among reductions being made to the budget are "temporary suspension of many overseas travel programs and adjustments to campus facilities."

On Aug. 1, 2008, LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom S. Rainer told employees the ministry was reducing its workforce by 5 percent and cutting expenses throughout the organization.
1/19/2009 9:12:00 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Is Warren new iconic evangelical image?

January 19 2009 by Jeff Diamant, Religion News Service

Rick Warren, the California pastor chosen by Barack Obama to pray at his presidential inauguration ceremony Jan. 20, is so influential a Christian leader and author that he has dramatically affected thousands of churches without ever stepping inside them.     

Jim Miller, pastor of First Baptist Church in Metuchen, N.J., has seen the impact firsthand.    

"I normally baptize 12 people a year, give or take," said Miller, whose church is one of 400 in New Jersey and tens of thousands nationwide to have participated in one of Warren's "40 Days of Purpose" workshop. "We have up and down years. Following that `40 Days of Purpose,' I had about 25."    

The president-elect's selection of Warren — a social conservative seen as less partisan and more mainstream than the likes of James Dobson and Pat Robertson — was widely viewed as an effort to reach out to conservatives who opposed Obama in the election.    

Yet it outraged a group of Obama's supporters: gay-rights advocates who complained that Warren's persistent opposition to same-sex marriage made him an inappropriate choice.    

Days later, Obama tempered some of that outrage when he picked Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, to open a star-studded concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 18.    

Warren's slot at the inaugural, however, is more prominent, and so is he.    

With the runaway successes of his Purpose-Driven Life books and as founder of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., Warren is probably the most popular American Christian leader — "certainly the best-known exponent of evangelical Christianity of the megachurch variety," said William Martin, senior fellow for religious studies and public policy at the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.    

Warren shares some traits with the man known as the "pastor to presidents," Billy Graham, who participated in the inaugurations of every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, although poor health is expected to keep the 90-year-old Graham away this time around.    

Like Graham, the most famous American evangelist of the 20th century, Warren has reached across political lines. Last year, he invited both Obama and GOP presidential nominee John McCain to his church for a public forum.    

In his introduction, he said both were patriots.    

"Warren takes some fairly firm positions that might work against universal cooperation, but he shares with Graham that he's not mean-spirited," Martin said, noting Warren's support for programs to help people with AIDS.    

"He is a person of broad spirit and is capable of adjusting. (He has) said, `We're going to be concerned less with how people got this disease than with ministering to them as Jesus would.'"    

Warren, like Graham, has drawn criticism over the years from conservative Christians for not being conservative enough. Sixteen years ago, a group of evangelical leaders complained about Graham's decision to accept Clinton's invitation to pray at his inauguration.    

After Obama selected Bishop Robinson for the inaugural kickoff, Warren praised the choice, saying in a prepared statement that Obama "has demonstrated his genuine commitment to bringing all Americans of good will together in search of common ground. I applaud his desire to be the president of every citizen."    

Gay critics of Warren's selection noted the pastor's recent comments to Beliefnet.com comparing same-sex relationships to ones involving incest, pedophilia and polygamy.    

Harry Knox, director of the Religion and Faith program for the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay civil rights group, said: "I certainly applaud the Reverend Warren for the difficult work he has done in bringing other evangelicals along on poverty issues and the environment and, to a certain degree, around HIV and AIDS. He is different than some of his colleagues on the Religious Right. But he doesn't deserve not to have close scrutiny.    

"On the one hand he extends a hand of love, and then reaches out to slap with the other, where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people are concerned."    

Robinson, who had called Obama's selection of Warren a "slap in the face," offered a gentler assessment last week.    

"Being a supporter of Barack Obama doesn't mean that we don't critique certain decisions that he might make," the bishop said on MSNBC. "And so many of us in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community were just stunned, really, by this choice. But I must say that in the intervening days, it appears that Barack Obama is being the person he told us he was, and that he intended to be, by including all voices in this inauguration, and indeed in his administration."

(EDITOR'S NOTE — Diamant writes for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.)

1/19/2009 4:50:00 AM by Jeff Diamant, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Baptists, Muslims dialog at Andover

January 19 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

NEWTON CENTER, Mass. — Several dozen Baptists and Muslims gathered Jan. 9-11 to work toward repairing a relationship better known for harsh anti-Islamic rhetoric by high-profile Baptist preachers than by dialog or cooperation.

Baptist pronouncements about Islam include a 2002 statement by former Southern Baptist Convention President Jerry Vines calling the Prophet Muhammad a "demon-possessed pedophile" and evangelist Franklin Graham's description of Islam as "an evil and wicked religion" in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The event was held at the Islamic Center of Boston and Andover Newton Theological School in nearby Newton Center, Mass. Scholars from each tradition offered presentations on their own faith's holy book, doctrines and practices.

Conversations centered around the theme of both traditions' emphasis on love of neighbor.

Participants said the interfaith gathering began with a Middle Eastern meal and fellowship Friday night at the Islamic center and ended with a Baptist-style worship service on Sunday morning. The idea for the dialogue began in 2007, when Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, visited the Republic of Georgia and Lebanon. Baptist and Muslim leaders in both places implored him to seek to improve relations between the two faith groups in the United States. 

Rob Sellers, a professor at Logson Seminary at Hardin-Simmons University, said the organizers reached an early consensus that talks should focus on Baptist-Muslim relations rather than broader Christian-Muslim dialogue.

They did that to "make the important point that there are other kinds of Baptists than those who get the headlines," Sellers said.

The Baptists found a willing partner in Sayyid Syeed, national interfaith director of the Islamic Society of North America. Syeed said U.S. Muslims and Baptists share commonalities including commitment to separation of church and state and respect for religious tolerance, but "there are people on both sides who speak louder than others and demonize each others' religions and ensure the two stay apart."

"This can be addressed only if we create forums and situations that help the well-meaning Muslims and Baptists to come closer and recognize their passionate allies in each other," Syeed said in an e-mail interview. "We can jointly work to fight against injustice, poverty, death and disease rather than be ignorantly scared of each other and further contribute to injustice and tyranny around the globe."

Charles Kimball, director of the religious-studies program at the University of Oklahoma, told participants in the recent dialogue that Islam has presented Christians with unique challenges since the time of Muhammad. He said recent events, starting with the 1979-81 Iranian hostage crisis and the rise of violent extremism in the name of Islam, have fed a popular image that Islam is inherently violent and dangerous.

Often, he noted, Christian leaders have jumped on the Islam-is-violent bandwagon. Kimball said a more appropriate Christian response to Muslims is education, dialogue and cooperation in community efforts.

Kimball said in many communities around the country, Jews, Christians and Muslims have come together to build Habitat for Humanity Houses and work on problems like public education, crime and prison reform.

As the nation's second-largest faith group, Kimball said Baptists should be at the forefront of such efforts. In another paper presented at the dialogue, Sellers cited traditions common to both Muslims and Baptists including championing religious liberty, meeting human needs, advocating for justice and educating the people.

Other Baptist groups represented in the talks included the Progressive National Baptist Convention and Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention, both predominantly African-American Baptist bodies; the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Alliance of Baptists. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, professor of sociology and African-American studies at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, identified "seeds and connections" between Islam and the experiences of Baptist-derived slave communities in the South. Such connections led to the rise of African-American groups like the Nation of Islam.

She said those connections, such as an emphasis on prayer and other black Baptist commonalities with Islam less prominent in the white Baptist traditions, have an important role to play in cultivating and strengthening future Baptist and Muslim ties.

"We need to foster dialogue that allows us to see ourselves in the other, affirm what we share, and speak respectfully and gently about those things over which we must agree to disagree," Gilkes said.

The event follows on the heels of a formal response from BWA leaders to a 2007 overture to Christians from a broad group of Islamic thinkers. Called "A Common Word Between Us and You," the Muslim scholars' document has inspired other responses from centrist and progressive evangelicals. Those responses, in turn have drawn some criticism from conservative evangelicals.

The BWA letter affirmed much of the Muslim initiative, while noting important theological differences like the Trinity that Baptists regard as non-negotiable. 

1/19/2009 2:49:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

NCMO goal reached

January 16 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

North Carolina Baptists surpassed the 2008 North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) goal of $2 million.

The Baptist State Convention (BSC) announced passage of the goal in a statement released on the BSC web site. The statement did not release the amount of the offering, but said final tabulations of contributions will be available by Feb. 1.

Richard Brunson, the head of N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM), said the last he heard the offering was about $4,000 more than the goal.

“We just barely made it,” he said.
NCBM is scheduled to receive more than $793,000 from the offering, making it the biggest recipient.

Also scheduled to get money from the offering are church planting and evangelism, $474,040; missions education and promotion, $384,695; associational projects, $200,000; and mission camps, $175,000.

Brunson said the offering makes possible ministry efforts such as disaster relief and the medical-dental bus.

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

BSC Executive Director-treasurer Milton Hollifield said in the BSC statement that NCMO will continue to focus financial investment in areas where ministry is most vital.

“I am grateful that during times of economic hardship North Carolina Baptists have stepped up and sacrificially given to the work of gospel in this state,” he said. “God has brought the world to our doorstep, and we must not fail to impact North Carolina with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1/16/2009 9:52:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Church remembers blessing since 2006 fire

January 16 2009 by From staff reports

A Baptist church in Snow Hill found multiple blessings in the two years since its sanctuary was destroyed by fire.

The sanctuary at Davis Grove Baptist Church, which was more than 100 years old, burned Dec. 3, 2006.

“What started out as one of the most devastating events a church could possibly face has in time proven to be a blessing and an opportunity to see the wonderful provision of a loving God,” Doug Nalley, the church’s pastor, said in a written statement.

The old sanctuary with a seating capacity of not more than 115 people has been replaced with a debt-free, $600,000 sanctuary with a seating capacity of more than 230. While the old sanctuary was beautiful, it had few modern conveniences or technologies. The new building has a top of the line sound and projection system.

The church was landlocked on less than an acre of land. It now owns six acres.

Before the fire, the church had a small 2,000-square-foot fellowship hall. Now it has added a 5,000-square-foot family life center.

“The old church was a historic and beautiful structure that the members had treasured through the years,” Nalley said.

“The sentimental attachment to the old church was strong and the loss was great. However, care was taken in the design and construction of the new church to incorporate ... many features of the old building into the new.”

Nalley said the new sanctuary already holds a special place in the hearts of church members because of its own uniqueness and character.

Eighteen of the 22 stained glass windows from the old church made it through the fire, but all were severely damaged. Myers Stained Glass, which made the windows, restored the ones that were damaged and remade those that were destroyed.

Three new windows were added. One is an image of the original church in the grove of oaks.  The other two were added in memory of two children who died tragically in separate incidents during the course of the rebuilding.

Solid oak pews in the old church building survived the fire but were damaged and too small for the new church.

They were cut into boards and incorporated into the new church as the chair rail that makes up the wall trim.

Pulpit furniture severely damaged in the fire was restored by a family in the church and is used in the new sanctuary. Most pieces still bear visible burn marks that serve as reminders of the fire.

The original 1902 pulpit chair and a single pew from the 1902 church survived the fire. They were carefully restored and now sit in the corridor that connects the old fellowship hall to the new sanctuary.

A Bible stand that sits on the communion table is the centerpiece of the new church, Nalley said. It holds a Bible that replaces one severely damaged in the fire. The surface of the Bible stand is made from five oak boards, each one taken from one of the five oak trees the founding members gathered under in 1902.

For 100 years, the old church had a large oak on either corner of the front of the church.  Hurricane Isabel took one tree down, while disease required the other to be cut. Two large cabinets, each made from one of the old trees, sit in the new church on either side of the vestibule. One is a display case with artifacts from the fire, including the severely burned Bible opened to the book of Job. The other cabinet holds bulletins and literature.

“While the new building is beautiful and contains many precious treasures that give testimony to the history and heritage of the church, the greatest testimony of all is the testimony of the church family and the community to the faithfulness and provision of God,” Nalley said.

After the church building burned, the members prayed and sang together, “Because He Lives, I Can Face Tomorrow.”

“Christians everywhere sing this song all the time; some not giving much thought to the profound message it contains,” Nalley said. “However, we have lived it and as we close each service singing it, it reminds us just what God has done, is doing and will do for us as we trust Him.”

Nalley said that in the weeks leading up to the fire, church members were studying verse by verse through Psalm 73.  The day of the fire the scheduled text was verses 23-26.

“Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards You will take me up in glory. Whom do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.”

“What better promises could the Lord give us on the day our church burned than these promises?” Nalley said. “Just as the psalmist believed at the beginning of the psalm that God had somehow forgotten Him in all his troubles, we too could have been tempted to feel the same thing. But God had already prepared us and gave us on our darkest day, these precious promises that have sustained us through this long process.

“Our church family has learned and knows that whatever they face in their life, they can face with confidence because God is right there with them; He holds them by their hand; He guides them with His counsel; and when He is finished with them here on earth, He will take them up in glory!”

1/16/2009 5:11:00 AM by From staff reports | with 0 comments

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