January 2011

N.C. churches help in Nashville ministry

January 18 2011 by BR staff

Several North Carolina Baptist churches are partners with East Nashville Community Church in Nashville, Tenn., helping that church reach a poor community. The Peoples Church in Franklin, Tenn., is the sponsoring church.

“Times are hard and many churches are struggling to meet their budgets,” said Patsy Costner, East Nashville Community Church development and outreach director. “However, as churches in North Carolina heard of the mission work going on in the ghetto in our community they began partnering with us.”

Costner said Flint Hill Baptist, Boiling Springs Baptist, Pleasant Ridge Baptist, Zoar Baptist, Floyd’s Creek Baptist and Three Forks Baptist churches have sacrificially given. 

“In July we were carrying boxes of clothing into the Martha O’Bryan Center,” Costner said. “A man looked at me and said something that still rings through my mind and touches the deepest part of my heart: ‘Lady if you want to make a difference in our neighborhood, you gotta walk our streets.’ That day we were reminded of a fundamental principal to ministry: that while connecting is important, connecting is only the beginning of making a difference in someone’s life.”

In August, East Nashville planted a church at the Kirkpatrick Recreation Center with more than 100 now attending regularly.

Helping churches through Woman’s Missionary Union, Baptist Men and children’s mission groups have helped in the church’s budget, made Christmas bags, bought Bibles and purchased ministry tools such as sound equipment and puppets.

Learn more about the church at www.eastnashville.cc or contact Costner at pscostner@gmail.com.

(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.)
1/18/2011 9:46:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Conference helps veterans heal wounded souls

January 18 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

GOLDSBORO — The trauma Jim Johnson experienced while serving as an Army chaplain remained with him for more than 20 years after he retired. For years he kept fighting, telling himself it couldn’t happen to him. “I thought I was immune to this because I was a chaplain,” he said. “Yet, my feelings internally were no different than a 19-year-old draftee,” Johnson said. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) “started eating me alive,” Johnson said. “I was in denial for many years. I was gradually spiraling down.” Johnson remained in denial until well into his 60s and did not begin seeking help until he finally got to the point where he knew he could no longer fight the battle alone. Johnson still struggles, sometimes having nightmares, flashbacks and times of sadness, guilt and anger.

Johnson shared some of his experiences with PTSD during the recent “Coming Home” Conference at Madison Avenue Baptist Church in Goldsboro. The conference sought to help pastors, counselors, chaplains and lay persons involved with or interested in ministering to military personnel who suffer from PTSD. The conference was sponsored by the Office of Military and Chaplaincy Ministries of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), the North Carolina Army National Guard Chaplaincy and the Veterans Administration Hospital in Durham.

Organizing the conference was Chaplain (Captain) Tommy Watson, who is assuming some of the responsibilities of Chaplain (Colonel) Larry Jones, BSC senior consultant for military and chaplaincy ministry, who is on an extended tour of active duty at Fort Bragg until fall 2011.  

Coming home challenges

Keynote speaker for the event John Oliver, chief of chaplain services at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, began the conference by setting the scene for what often happens when service members come home. The military produces men and women who are highly trained for jobs of great importance and who experience great responsibility during their time of service. When they come home, jumping back into a routine that includes seemingly less important tasks such as household chores may be tough.

BSC photo by Melissa Lilley

A group at Madison Avenue Baptist Church in Goldsboro work together at the “Coming Home” conference Jan. 7. The event was for people interested in working with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The returning family member may feel displaced, as other family members and friends sometimes step in to help with family activities. Children have grown up and the family structure itself has changed. Oliver said the enormity of war can “shatter one’s basic sense of safety” and veterans struggle with learning to trust again after their lives have been so drastically changed or shattered. Veterans often need to re-learn basic skills.

Sometime veterans are withdrawn and do not want to talk to family or friends, especially about what happened during war. “We have to find a balance of caring for the person and not letting them stay in their hole too long, but also giving them time,” Oliver said.  

Natural reaction
Oliver defined PTSD as “an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to one or more terrifying events that threatened or caused grave physical harm.” Family members and friends should never assume that a loved one has PTSD and should never try to diagnose it on their own.

Those who have suffered a traumatic experience are unable to process information in a normal manner. The brain actually skips the first step of information processing, which is registering the information to the cerebral cortex (the rational part of the brain). Instead, the brain sends the information straight to the amygdala, or the lower brain. 

Thus, the brain labels the experience as fear, and fight or flight response memories are stored differently in the brain. The brain links things such as sight, sound and smell to the traumatic event.

Dissociation from other people or events becomes a means of protection from becoming overwhelmed. Some individuals who have suffered traumatic events begin to dissociate, or separate themselves from the events that occurred. This is a protective mechanism that can help people survive in times of crisis, yet can become a burden when those same individuals are not able to re-integrate the trauma and deal with emotional, spiritual and moral effects of the traumatic event.   

“Reactions from war are normal,” Oliver said. “Trauma reactions are not indicative of moral weakness or sin.”

Trauma can influence a person’s behavior and their interpersonal life, from inability to keep close relationships to uncontrollable negative thoughts. Sometimes the pain of trauma is more than a person can bear, and some soldiers have resorted to suicide. “This is not a conversation we have the luxury of not having,” Oliver said. “It can happen to those you least expect.” Help is available by calling the National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).  

Pastoral care
Four out of 10 veterans with mental health challenges seek counsel from clergy, so pastors need to be equipped to help. Pastors can offer a calm, non-judgmental or non-anxious presence; they can be a safe haven. “Provide a compassionate space wide enough to encompass the awfulness of war trauma,” Oliver said.

Veterans may need help working through their spiritual reactions to trauma. Trauma can lead to confusion about God, loss of previously held beliefs and confusion about morality and core ethical beliefs.

Pastors must listen. Listening does not mean letting the words “wash over you as you think about the next thing you’re going to say,” Oliver said. Pastors must avoid trying to fix the problem, pushing for details about the deployment or offering platitudes. “They want to tell you where they are hurting if you will just listen,” Oliver said.

Oliver encouraged pastors to, as often as necessary, refer people to mental health professionals. A pastor’s referral can help validate the need for such services and even help destigmatize the use of mental health services. Pastors should avoid prematurely assessing someone’s feelings of guilt. Veterans need to be able to name their fears, shortcomings and strengths. “They need to live through that pain,” Oliver said. “We have to live through the real stuff.”

Oliver said the local church can prove one of the greatest points of grace for returning veterans. “A community that knows and deeply cares for its own war fighters and veterans provides these individuals with the strongest antidote to post-traumatic stress: community. It is incumbent on churches to find ways to provide community outlets and ministry opportunities that match the special gifts and challenges our returning military members and veterans bring with them.”

Attending the conference were staff members from the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center, including members of the Transition for Returning Operation Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) Veterans Team, Women’s Health Team and Suicide Prevention Team.

For more information: www.durham.va.gov.

(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.)
1/18/2011 9:41:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Robber steals from Gold Hill church members

January 17 2011 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

Crime happens.

Even at the local church level.

On a recent Sunday morning while Toney Parsons was preaching to his congregation at Gold Hill First Baptist Church, a man began taking things from cars in the parking lot.

“It’s been a constant battle,” Parsons said.

When the 140-year-old church was building a new building four years ago someone came and stripped all the wiring.

Afterwards, copper was stolen along with two catalytic converters from a church van and a member’s van. Three air conditioning/heating units have also been taken. Someone has even written “666” on church doors.

About three months ago, Parsons said the church installed video cameras near the rear of the church. And three more cameras are being added at the front after this latest incident.

“We had put them in back and are in the process of installing them in front,” Parsons said.

The cameras pick up movement and begin recording. Parsons said the only way they knew to check the video Jan. 9 was because several people reported things missing — cell phones, GPS devices, money, tools, rifles, etc.

The video showed a sport utility vehicle entering the parking lot and the suspect wearing a dark-colored toboggan, dark jacket and a pair of tan or khaki pants, according to a Salisbury Post article.

Parsons and the Gold Hill congregation have taken necessary precautions, said Detective Carl Dangerfield, with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.

The church has added a fence and new lighting as well as the video cameras.

“You could land a plane there with as many lights as we have now,” Parsons said.

With the increased security measures comes increased cost, but Parsons said it is for the safety of the congregation members. The church has added a security team that routinely patrols the lot but the robber came between patrols.

Parsons said he “never would have thought in a million years that something like this would happen” at church.

“There’s not that many trees for people to hide in,” he said. “They’ll come in and strike and they’re gone.”

Suspect Kayce Wayne Adams, 31, was arrested Jan. 14 and is being held in Rowan County Detention Center under $178,000 secured bond. The married father of four was under surveillance by Stanly County authorities and was arrested during a traffic stop set up by Rowan County authorities who had warrants for his arrest. A Salisbury Post article said Adams was an admitted drug user.

Of the 29 charges, six were generated in Rowan County. The majority came from Kannapolis, Concord and Cabarrus counties, Dangerfield said. Stanly and Davidson counties are also continuing their investigations against Adams.

(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.)
1/17/2011 6:56:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

NCBM’s dental ministry meets growing need

January 17 2011 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Last year Jerry and Cecilia Kuiper traveled from the beach to the mountains, from rural areas to cities, helping make sure the North Carolina Baptist Men medical/dental bus got where it needed to go. In 2010, about 4,100 people in 180 different locations across the state received dental treatment on one of the two medical/dental buses.

Jerry first got his commercial driver’s license (CDL) so he could drive the church bus. When he saw an ad in the church bulletin about needing drivers for the medical/dental ministry, he decided to help.

Cecilia travels with Jerry and helps keep the dental instruments sterile, develops the X-rays and makes sure the bus is stocked and cleaned. She sits with patients while they wait and often prays with them.

“They are so appreciative because they’ve hurt for so long,” she said. Cecilia told about an 89-year-old woman who came three different days, all in the same week, to have teeth pulled.

“She never complained. She was so thankful,” Cecilia said.

Care received on the dental bus primarily includes fillings and extractions. Many people who receive care have never seen a dentist before and are not able financially to do so.  

Prior to volunteering with this ministry the Kuipers, members of New Hope Baptist Church in Raleigh, said they were “just like regular people who go to the dentist.”

They came with no experience in dental ministry, but quickly learned ways to help the dentists and other dental professionals.

Jerry said the dentists and the faith they demonstrate in Jesus Christ always encourages him. They are dedicated to the Lord and they “want to share that with their patients,” he said.

Fifty-two patients prayed to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior last year.

Joanne Honeycutt has served as medical/dental bus ministry coordinator for six years. Her responsibilities include assisting churches in planning a free dental clinic, coordinating the schedule for the dental buses, stocking and cleaning the buses, ordering supplies, and when necessary, traveling with the dental buses and working alongside the dental professionals.

Carl Furr at Raleigh Rescue Mission dental clinic. The North Carolina Baptist’s Men dental bus travels to help those in need.

This ministry is made possible because of volunteers willing to drive the buses and serve as hosts for each clinic. The host works with all the dental professionals and other volunteers for that clinic to make sure things run smoothly.

“It takes a lot of lay people to make this happen,” Honeycutt said. Each church or organization that sponsors a dental clinic must not only enlist the dental professionals to work on the bus, but volunteers to help with planning, registration, childcare, evangelism and language interpretation.

“I have seen Christians throughout North Carolina who care enough to give their time and talents to better someone else’s life,” Honeycutt said. “These volunteers put in long, hard days and nights. I am so grateful to God for everyone who is and has been a part of the medical/dental bus ministry.” 

Often sponsoring churches offer not just the free dental clinic, but also free medical screenings, blood pressure checks, eye exams, and counselors and pastors to meet and pray with patients.

The dental ministry began in 1989 with one bus and one driver. Now, the dental buses are in such great demand that churches or other organizations wanting to host a dental clinic should contact Honeycutt a year in advance to secure a date for a clinic.

All dental services offered at the clinics are free to the patients. This is possible because each sponsoring organization pays $7 per patient, 65 cents roundtrip mileage for the bus from Cary to the clinic site, and reimbursement for the bus driver’s overnight accommodations and meals (if necessary).

Still, the amount N.C. Baptist Men requires each sponsoring organization to contribute is not enough to cover all the costs of the clinic. The rest of funding for the clinic comes from the annual North Carolina Missions Offering.

In 2010, Guilford Baptist Church in Greensboro sponsored a clinic for the third year in a row. “Once we hosted a clinic the first time we knew we wanted to continue doing it,” said Rosemary Steed, clinic coordinator. “This ministry has become a passion of mine.”

The clinics remind Steed how great the need is for this type of ministry.

On the morning of last year’s clinic, before the doors even opened, about 150 people were already lined up — many more than could possibly be seen that day. Sometimes the dental hygienists show patients how to care for their teeth because they have never been taught how to do so. Dentists often offer free follow-up care to patients.

Steed started planning and recruiting dentists and other volunteers in January for the November event. Two local dentists have volunteered to serve for the past three years. About 60 church members volunteered to serve and many gave financially to help make the free clinic possible.

Jack Floyd, member of Lifepoint Community Church in Willow Springs, began volunteering as a bus driver in October 2009 and also helps with the hosting of the clinic. Floyd works full time and is a father to teenage children, but still finds time to drive the bus at least once a month. “I enjoy meeting people and learning about them,” he said.

During a clinic in Murphy, Floyd shared the gospel with one of the patients.

Later, the man contacted the Truett Baptist Association and wanted to talk with someone. He prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior.

“There’s always opportunity to share about Jesus Christ,” Floyd said. “We try to love as Christ did and explain why we do what we do.”

For more information about the dental ministry visit www.ncmissions.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.)
1/17/2011 6:51:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Missouri Baptists begin search for new leader

January 17 2011 by Bill Webb, Word & Way

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (ABP) — The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board met in special session Jan. 14 and appointed a subcommittee that will recommend members of an executive director search committee.

The information was released in a press statement following the closed-door session. The convention had been without an executive director since Jan. 6 when David Tolliver tendered his resignation. The MBC noted the resignation in a Jan. 7 press release, saying the resignation was due to “immoral behavior.”

The five men on the subcommittee charged with picking members of the search committee and recommending their slate when the Executive Board meets in regular session on April 12 are all from the southwestern area of Missouri. They include Monte Dunn, pastor, Pleasant View Baptist Church, Highlandville; John Marshall, MBC president and pastor, Second Baptist Church, Springfield; Jim Wells, director of missions, Tri-County Baptist Association, Nixa; Denny Marr, associate minister, Calvary Baptist Church, Republic; and Jody Shelenhamer, a Bolivar businessman and member of Wellspring Baptist Fellowship, Bolivar.

The Executive Board unanimously named Jay Hughes, 40, associate executive director of support services since April 2009, as the interim executive director. A week earlier, Hughes had been named temporary interim. Hughes joined the staff in July 2003 as MBC controller.

The Monroe, La., native earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1992 and a master’s degree in business administration in 1993 from Louisiana Tech University. He is a certified public accountant and a former accounting firm partner in Monroe. Hughes and his wife, Niki, and their two daughters are members of Memorial Baptist Church in Jefferson City. He serves as a deacon.

“I humbly accept this appointment by the Executive Board,” Hughes said after the meeting. “Please pray for me and the MBC staff as we move forward together. I am grateful for the great team at the MBC.”

Tolliver, 60, had served as the chief executive officer of the convention of about 2,000 churches (600,000 member) since February 2009.

(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.)
1/17/2011 6:50:00 AM by Bill Webb, Word & Way | with 0 comments

Ministers have Social Security tax ‘holiday’

January 17 2011 by GuideStone Financial Services

DALLAS — Ministers for tax purposes will receive a small financial benefit from the recent tax compromise legislation signed by President Barack Obama December 17. Their SECA Social Security tax rate will fall from 12.4 percent to 10.4 percent for 2011 only.

The additional Medicare tax rate of 2.9 percent remains in effect. Ministers for tax purposes will see their total SECA tax rate drop to 13.3 percent for 2011 only.

American workers in general will also receive a one-year 2 percent cut in their Social Security taxes under the Tax Relief Unemployment Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010. The bill — a compromise between Republican congressional leaders and the White House — keeps the “Bush tax cuts” in place through 2012. Additionally, it extends some unemployment benefits and reduces the 6.2 percent OASDI (old age, survivors and disability insurance) tax rate to 4.2 percent for 2011 only.

Ministers normally pay the 12.4 percent OASDI portion of their SECA tax because of their “dual tax status” as self-employed for Social Security tax purposes. The total OASDI portion of their SECA tax represents the combined employer and employee OASDI tax rates.

The cut in Social Security taxes is for the 2011 tax year only and will not impact any SECA taxes owed for income earned in 2010.

GuideStone will be releasing the annual Ministers Tax Guide in February 2011, which provides specific information regarding ministers’ unique tax status as well as tips on filing a minister’s 2010 tax return. It will be found online at www.GuideStone.org/taxguide, and participants can request a free printed copy by calling GuideStone at (888) 984-8433. Orders can be placed now for the tax guide, and they will be shipped once they are finalized.

For specific information regarding the 2011 Social Security tax reduction, GuideStone encourages its participants to consult with a tax or legal adviser who is versed in ministerial tax issues.

(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.)
1/17/2011 6:48:00 AM by GuideStone Financial Services | with 0 comments

Q&A: An interview with Bryant Wright

January 15 2011 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The December/January edition of SBC LIFE includes an interview with Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright, who also serves as pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.

Following is a transcript of the interview, which took place Sept. 21 following his address to the SBC Executive Committee.

SBC LIFE: What is your vision for your ministry as president of the SBC?

As I mentioned today, it’s that we would return to our first love, Jesus Christ. That is the starting point. I realize that’s not a measurable goal, but it is the heart of what I would love to see happen — in individuals, but also in the local church and the denomination. In losing our first love we have allowed the “isms” — materialism, hedonism, the workaholism of busyness, and even churchianity versus a true relationship with Christ — to take precedent over the relationship with Him. When that happens we lose our spirit, we lose our heart, and we lose a passion for lost people. We’ve let culture influence us more than we have influenced culture for Christ.

Growing out of that would be a love for the lost. I hope that Southern Baptists will really get serious about a radical reprioritization of the Great Commission. That would first be demonstrated in personal giving. The reality is most who are professing Christians in our churches give little or nothing to the Lord’s work. That shows they really love their money more than they love Jesus. That’s a sad reality. And it’s a huge burden to me, especially when you consider how God has blessed the Christians of America and the impact that we could have on the world in sharing the gospel by using the financial resources that have been entrusted to us. We have a window of opportunity that we need to make the most of and have an urgency about.

SBC LIFE: Do you have any kind of action plan or steps that you would like to take in order to help Southern Baptist churches recapture that first love?

Really, just urging it to happen. It’s why we’re urging local churches to hold solemn assemblies ... in January 2011 as a way we can call on the Lord to help us return to our first love of Jesus. But also, in light of what has happened with people going on mission trips at Johnson Ferry, I’m going to be emphasizing the value of mission trips. And that means having people really go (and) not just giving and praying. A lot of our people at Johnson Ferry have returned to their first love because they really become passionate about the Kingdom enterprise that Christ has us called to. When we step out in faith and are willing to sacrifice time and financial resources to go to another culture to share the Good News of Christ, it has a way of getting our priorities back where they need to be.

SBC LIFE: Earlier this evening you mentioned the role of spiritual training when people prepare for mission trips. Does discipleship training become easier when people are training for a specific ministry event or trip?

It really does. Going back to that first trip during spring break in the early ’90s, I asked our student minister just to get away for a few days of prayer and fasting and to pray about what could be done to give a new vibrancy to the student ministry. I wanted them to have the chance to do something sacrificial and to work with the poorest of the poor. Now that really struck a nerve with them. And we required that they go through eight weeks of discipleship training; it was intensive discipleship — I mean two hours every Sunday night. For all of our trips, each person has to learn how to share his or her faith, we talk about quiet time, and we talk about cross-cultural issues that they’re going to deal with. That really enriches a church when so many go through that.

SBC LIFE: That is such an important component. If we suggest that merely going on mission trips will bring people back to their first love, it’s not just going on the trip ...

That’s right, it’s also the preparation. In that discipleship training, you’re developing a Kingdom vision.

SBC LIFE: Do you have any other ideas to help churches recapture their first love?

There’s nothing more important than the pastor preaching the Word and feeding the flock. At Johnson Ferry, one of our core values is an unchanging message with an ever-changing methodology. With every generation, even every few years, the methods in doing ministry change; but you never compromise the message. It’s hard to overestimate the impact of a church hearing the Word of God from the pulpit in a way that they can apply in their everyday life. When you do that through Bible study classes, from children all the way to senior adults, then you’re really building disciples. It means having Bible teaching as central to who you are. We don’t have any better discipling tool than the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. My style of preaching is much more a teaching style. I realize historically in Southern Baptist life we’ve been very strong on evangelistic decisions, and I think as you look at what’s happening at Johnson Ferry, you see that. But I think people would tell you that my style is really more teaching with an evangelistic dimension to the teaching.

SBC LIFE: Do you have any other strategies for cultivating a return to the first love?

Well, I would hope that in all of our teaching of the Word, the major focus is Jesus. The danger is, the longer we’re in the church, if we are not careful, we can become like the elder brother in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. The longer you’re in the church, the more you tend to become like the elder brother. That’s as true of Baptists as any denomination. I’m just haunted by Jesus’ story — not just what happened to the younger brother, but what happened to that lost sheep — Jesus taught about leaving the 99 sheep and going out to get the one. That’s the heart of God. And I just hope that’s the heart of people in our churches.

SBC LIFE: In some churches it’s almost as though Jesus has been reduced to merely being the way to enter into heaven, but after you get your “heaven pass” we focus on all these other things in the church. The ongoing significance and centrality of Jesus can be overlooked.

That’s right. Jesus must be central to our message. He must be central to our Bible studies. We must always be reminded of how He dealt with sinners. One of the things I love about Jesus is that there is obviously nobody more devoted to the Father’s will than Jesus, but He was totally loved by lost sinners, and they loved Him. The religious people didn’t like Him, but He was so loved by sinners. If we can have that kind of spirit — the spirit of Jesus, that spirit and character of Jesus and the mission of Jesus — then that’s where we need to be.

SBC LIFE: For more than a year, the Executive Committee has been working in response to a motion made at the 2009 Convention encouraging the SBC to have a broader ethnic representation in its leadership. What steps can you take as president to increase visibility and participation of individuals in convention leadership that would reflect the reality of our convention’s multi-ethnic makeup?

I’m asking the folks on the Committee on Committees to seek to have dedicated Christians who love the Lord, love the Word, but look more like the Christians who make up our convention — not just the Christians who make up the leadership of the convention. And it’s not just black and white — there are also Hispanic and Asian — we’re a very diverse lot. But when you look at the leadership out front in the convention, you don’t really see an accurate reflection of the ethnic diversity in our convention as a whole. We’ve got to be very intentional at this point in reaching out, and I hope that will be the case.

SBC LIFE: I don’t think most Southern Baptists know how ethnically diverse our convention is.

Some of our African-American pastors feel like they are on the fringe. That is very unhealthy; it’s not good for us and it makes us a poorer people spiritually. We want to get a taste of heaven to see what it’s going to be like when every ethnos (ethnic group) and tribe gather around Jesus.

SBC LIFE: Currently, almost 95 percent of Cooperative Program funds received by the Executive Committee go to fund the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and the six seminaries. You are on record saying that your church divides its support for SBC ministries at 5 percent to CP and 5 percent directly to IMB. If Southern Baptists across the land follow the example of Johnson Ferry, some are concerned that funding for these other ministries could be dramatically impacted. Given what you have led your church to do, what would you say to pastors concerning the priority of funding IMB, NAMB, and seminary training through the Cooperative Program?

Well, the reason Johnson Ferry has chosen to give equally through the Cooperative Program and directly to the IMB is so we can give more to international missions. But we definitely know the seminaries need more money. They are training the future leadership of our churches for carrying out the Great Commission in our churches and on the mission field. Certainly we want to be a part of that. Our burden is how much is staying in the states, especially in the Bible Belt states where there are so many SBC churches. But we certainly don’t want to leave the seminaries and NAMB out of the equation.

SBC LIFE: So, with that in mind, what do you say to pastors as far as encouraging them to support the ministries of IMB and NAMB and seminaries?

Obviously, the Cooperative Program is our flagship of overall mission support. That is the genius that started in 1925, and we certainly want to continue to support it. I just think there needs to be a radical reprioritization of the Cooperative Program funding so that more winds up going out of the states.

SBC LIFE: If the CP is restructured this way, state conventions obviously are going to have to reduce some of their ministries. Currently, some of the key ministries in state conventions include disaster relief, evangelism training, language missions, Christian higher education, collegiate ministries, children’s homes ministry, and ethnic church planting. What state convention ministries would you see as expendable so more money could be sent out of the states?

I do not think it is my place to tell the state conventions where they should make their cuts. That is going to be a matter of prayerful consideration the state convention leadership will go through in deciding how to prioritize their funds. Let me explain it this way. Over the last two years, for the first time in our history, we have seen a decrease in our budget at Johnson Ferry. We have really had to consider what we needed to focus on and what we could cut out. We put it back on the staff. We didn’t have someone go to the children’s minister and tell him what things needed to be cut. That’s very poor management. We simply said, here’s how much money you will have. Now you decide how you are going to prioritize the use of the funds. I think it would be a wonderful, healthy exercise for the state conventions to ask themselves, “How can we best carry out Christ’s Great Commission through the states that we are representing with less funds?” And they will have the expertise about where to make those decisions.

SBC LIFE: The situation with our state conventions is a little different than that. They receive the first portion of CP funds. Their messengers instruct them what percentage to send to the national Convention. Plus, many of the states routinely conduct reviews of their ministries. Since the states determine what percentage is forwarded, how would you encourage them, other than just saying that they need to do a very careful study?

I would hope their priority would be on what is more intentionally Great Commission oriented, in the sense of truly mission-oriented, versus ministry-oriented. I realize sometimes that’s very difficult to differentiate.

SBC LIFE: We’ve mentioned such things as disaster relief, evangelism training, and language missions. So far, I think we’re in agreement that these are probably primarily Kingdom-oriented missional enterprises. We can add Christian higher education, collegiate ministries, children’s homes ministries, ethnic church plantings, and a litany of others things. Our colleges and universities take a pretty good chunk of CP money at the state level.
In terms of your distinction between mission-oriented and ministry-oriented ministries, would you consider Christian higher education as worthy of support?

I think it is. I’m on the Truett-McConnell board, and the way those kids are coming to Christ and really being discipled at Truett-McConnell, that’s very exciting to me. But I think that Baptist institutions of higher learning can no longer be dependent just on the denomination. They’re going to have to increase their fundraising. I just really believe that Southern Baptist churches, and especially these younger pastors with the new church plants, would be much more willing to give generously if they saw that more and more of their dollars are really going to unreached people groups and if they saw that the state conventions were keeping less percentage of the dollars. I really believe that, and then you would see more giving to the Cooperative Program for the states if there was more passion about it.

SBC LIFE: What you’re saying here is if younger pastors see value added to Cooperative Program contributions — and not just younger pastors, but pastors in general — they would be more inclined to give through the CP. If so, how do we communicate value-added that would cause them to then believe that their contributions are meeting Kingdom purposes?

I really believe if they saw CP dollars focusing on largely unreached areas where there are few SBC or evangelical churches, they would be more excited about giving to the CP.

SBC LIFE: We hear some churches saying that we need to get everything overseas. The problem is you don’t see that in their own budgets. They say we need to send more Cooperative Program money overseas, but they are keeping 95 percent of their budget in their own communities.

I don’t agree with that approach — and that is what I was trying to share today in the challenge, for local churches to give sacrificially.

SBC LIFE: There seems to be a growing movement to encourage state conventions to go to at least a 50-50 model, 50 percent in the state and 50 percent outside the state. If the churches are keeping the bulk of their money for local mission and ministry, wouldn’t it be consistent for the states to follow that same strategy?

I don’t think so. I just think the church is a missional agency for that local mission field where God has planted them. The amount of money that is given to denominational missions is a different matter. I just don’t think that 55 to 65 percent of denominational missions should stay within the state. I think the majority should go to international missions.

SBC LIFE: We are commanded to reach Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the uttermost. Where do the Judea and Samaria components come in?

The witness you have for Christ in the southern United States, with so many Southern Baptist churches and so many evangelical churches, versus the witness for Christ in Portland, Ore., or New York City, San Francisco, Bombay — there’s just no comparison. And that’s what our burden is at Johnson Ferry. I realize everybody can be different, every local church has to decide if they want to give more to Judea, but where we are in the United States, especially in the southern United States, I feel like there are just so many existing resources for a witness of Christ that we need to focus where there’s less witness. I don’t look at the local church the same as denominational missions. I think they’re two different entities there.

SBC LIFE: Thank you, Bryant for your time tonight — we pray the Lord will richly bless you and your ministry in the months ahead.

Thank you. I want to keep putting that word out there encouraging our churches to recapture their first love for the Lord and the lost and to give sacrificially and go to reach the peoples of our world. If the local church becomes passionate about that, that’s what really matters.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — For more information about SBC LIFE, visit SBCLIFE.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.)
1/15/2011 12:29:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

In Vietnam, Lottie gifts leave lasting legacy

January 13 2011 by Don Graham, Baptist Press

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — Tears streamed down Sam James’ face as he stared out the airplane window into the abyss. Somewhere in the darkness below lay the country he risked his life — and the lives of his wife Rachel and their four children — to save. But unlike so many American men and women who came to Vietnam, James wasn’t a soldier.

Sam James, 78, a retired Southern Baptist missionary who served in Vietnam from 1962-75, believes: “We are standing right before a time when Vietnam is going to be open to the gospel in a way that it hasn’t for many, many years.” See video.

He was a missionary.

It was April 1975, and the city would fall to North Vietnamese forces within a week. He’d spent the past few months bargaining with God for more time, but there was no more room for negotiations. Two weeks earlier, his family had flown to a safer place; James would join them there.

Doubt flooded the North Carolina native’s heart as his plane circled Saigon and turned toward the South China Sea. How could he abandon the Vietnamese people after living among them for nearly 14 years? What would happen to the newborn churches he helped start? Or to the hundreds of Vietnamese Christians who filled them, some of whom he personally led to faith?

These weren’t just converts. To him, they were family. They had laughed together over dinner while their children played. They had carried each other’s burdens when the horrors of war came close and the sadness seemed too great to bear. James had taught them, baptized them, counseled them, officiated marriages and led funerals through the course of their lives, all in the process of sharing the most sacred and intimate aspect of his life — his relationship with Jesus Christ.

But God had a plan to protect, preserve and grow the seeds that James and his fellow missionaries had planted during their years of sweat and sacrifice. Through their efforts, more than a dozen Vietnamese churches were started and hundreds of people led to Jesus.

Enduring icons of a romanticized Vietnam, women work rice paddies near Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Less than 2 percent of the Southeast Asian country’s 91 million people are evangelical Christians, but the gospel is spreading through a growing network of Vietnamese Baptist churches.

Only one of those churches — Grace Baptist in Saigon (today, Ho Chi Minh City) — would survive what James calls the “dark years” that followed Vietnam’s communist revolution. But God would eventually use that one church to give birth to a growing, vibrant network of Baptist churches that today are making Christ’s name known in Vietnam.

All of this was possible, James said, because Southern Baptists were willing to answer God’s Great Commission call (Matthew 28:19-20). Their prayers and generous giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Cooperative Program supported more than 24 missionaries who served in Vietnam between 1959 and 1975 — including Sam and Rachel James.

“We always knew that there were literally millions of Southern Baptists who cared and who prayed, who sacrificed and who gave so that we could go and carry the gospel to a very lost people,” James said. “I can remember in those last hours in Vietnam when things were so desperate ... it came to me over and over again how many people in America know what we’re going through here, are interested and really care... It meant everything in the world.”

Southern Baptists also gave $25,000 to help feed more than a million refugees who flooded into Saigon. James and other missionaries used the funds to set up kitchens and buy rice. In 1962, Lottie Moon funds also provided the $50,000 needed to buy the land and building for Grace Baptist — where the church remains today.

“When the end came and South Vietnam collapsed, this church was here,” James said. “And it became the identity of Baptists in Vietnam.... When people in America gave sacrificially ... 48 years later, this church building stands as the home of the (Vietnamese Baptist) convention, as a training center for the (Vietnamese) Baptist Bible Institute, as the home of Grace Baptist Church and as a source of church planting in this country.

“With the Cooperative Program on one side and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering on the other, you have two sides of a coin,” James said. “When they go together there is just no limit to what the Lord can do around this world.... I just pray that every Southern Baptist and every Southern Baptist church can get a divine vision of what they can do in this world, personally and by cooperating with others, to see that the world comes to Christ.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supplements Cooperative Program giving to support more than 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the gospel overseas. To find resources about the offering, go to imb.org/offering. View related video below.)

(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.)
1/13/2011 9:13:00 AM by Don Graham, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Overseas YWCA drops Christian affiliation from name

January 13 2011 by Al Webb, Religion News Service

LONDON —  The British branch of the YWCA has dropped “Christian” from its official name because it “no longer stood for what we are or what we do,” the women’s charity has announced.

After 155 years, the Young Women’s Christian Association will now be known as Platform 51, the charity says in an announcement carried on its website.

The organization said its new name “more accurately represents what we are or what we do — 51 percent of people are female, and girls and women use us as a platform to have their say.”

There was no immediate indication that the YWCA’s male counterpart, the Young Men’s Christian Association, or YMCA, was considering a similar name switch in the area.

Last summer, the U.S. branch of the YMCA decided to rebrand itself as simply the “Y,” although officially it still identifies itself as the YMCA.

The YWCA of England and Wales, however, decided that the original name coined in 1855 by its founders, a pair of English women, “no longer stood for who we are or what we do” in the 21st century.

But according to the Daily Mail newspaper in London, the name change underscores a growing rift between the charity’s members in England and Wales and the global YWCA.

The newspaper quoted YWCA spokeswoman Sylvie Jacquat at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva as saying none of the YWCA’s other 124 branches around the world are contemplating a similar change.”

“The name has been there for more than 150 years,” Jacquat said, “and we are not even discussing a change.”

Erasing “Christian” from its name drew fire from the Christian Institute research organization, whose spokesman, Mike Judge, told journalists that “many believe there is an anti-Christian bias among those who decide which charities get (British) state funding.”

“It was the Christian character of the YMCA that made it great,” the spokesman said in a statement. “It is a shame that it is turning its back on those values.” 

(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.)
1/13/2011 9:09:00 AM by Al Webb, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

Gypsies, treated as outcasts, look for hope

January 12 2011 by Trent Parker, Baptist Press

BUCHAREST, Romania — Florin smiles deferentially as the Romanian police officer unleashes a tirade of curses at him in front of the Bucharest airport.

A Roma woman who has just arrived at the airport in Bucharest, Romania, receives a CD containing Christian music and the gospel message from a Roma believer. France recently deported the young mother and her family, along with thousands of other Roma, in attempt to rid the country of Gypsies. Several Christians were on hand at the airport to offer transportation and help the new arrivals connect with family members.

“You are the reason for Romania’s bad name!” the policeman yells. “You Gypsies go to France and steal, murder and prostitute yourselves. Now you are our problem again. You are a disgrace!”

Since the beginning of 2010, France has deported more than 8,000 Roma to Romania in an attempt to dismantle Roma camps and sweep Gypsies out of the country. Florin and his family were among the last wave of Gypsies to be expelled in October. Many Roma had gone to France in search of work, but French authorities now cite rising crime rates and financial burden as reasons for ousting them.

The French government provided Florin, who was working as a brick mason, and other Roma with 300 euros and a flight back to Romania. While they were waiting to be deported, the Gypsies were directed to holding camps. Those who did not comply were arrested.

Florin, 21, does not respond to the policeman as he looks for his mother and brother among the colorful river of Roma flowing from the airport terminal. Just as Florin and his people were unwelcome in France, the sentiment in Romania will not be much better.

The Roma Gypsies are a transient people, though not always by choice.

“Every opportunity is closed for you when you are a Gypsy,” Florin said.

“Gypsy” is a term commonly used for the Roma people. Europeans, who thought they came from Egypt because of their dark skin, first called them Gypsies. The Roma people actually migrated to Europe from India hundreds of years ago. Many Europeans still view the Roma with suspicion because they stick to their own cultural practices and beliefs.

Cornel Tuns, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, is familiar with the constant challenges facing the Roma people. A Romanian-American, Tuns was 14 when his family moved to Los Angeles from Bucharest in the 1980s to escape communism. He said the Romas’ hardships have led to ministry opportunities.

“The biggest challenge in working with the Roma, as it is with any group, is dealing with sin,” said Tuns, who served in Romania as a short-term missionary in 2005 and then returned in early 2010 as an apprentice missionary with his wife Erica.

Roma Gypsies are a transient people, though not always by choice. Since the beginning of 2010, multitudes of Roma have arrived at Romania’s Baneasa International Airport in Bucharest carrying all their worldly possessions.

Tuns joined several Roma believers at the Bucharest airport to meet the throng of expelled Gypsies, offering rides and helping them connect with family members. Knowing that music is an important part of Roma culture, the missionary also handed out CDs containing Christian music and the gospel message.

Tuns’ efforts received a mixed response. While some of the Roma were thankful for the help, others were suspicious of ulterior motives.

“Many Gypsies are skeptical about getting anything for free,” said Tuns, a native of Ames, Iowa.

IMB missionaries have started two significant ministries with the Roma. From Everywhere To Everywhere (FETE) trains Roma believers to go across Europe and share the gospel with other Roma. Far Away Romany Missions (FARM) is a summer program to provide biblical and evangelism training to the Roma. Florin is a believer who served with FARM in previous summers.

The Roma are the largest minority group in Europe with an estimated 6 million spread across the continent. Often the targets of prejudice and suspicion, their involvement with theft, prostitution and drug use do little to alleviate stereotypes.

“The sin issues the Roma struggle with are often manifested very obviously and outwardly,” Tuns said. “Because of this, their appreciation for forgiveness of sins is sincere and heartfelt.”

Despite the Roma people’s wariness, Tuns and other IMB missionaries across Europe are seeing a response to the gospel. Rugul Aprins (Burning Bush) is a rapidly growing Roma church with 3,000 members located in a Romanian town with a population of 7,000.

Tuns was surprised to see Florin among the Roma arriving at the Bucharest airport. He knew Florin from working with him at FARM and offered to give Florin and his family a ride to the train station. As they drove, Florin told Tuns the problems the Roma had faced in France and the bleakness of their return.

“Not all of us were (in France) committing crimes,” Florin said. “We needed work and there was none for us here in Romania.”

While many Roma are originally from Romania, they no longer see it as their home and, now, must once again find a way to make a living in the face of discrimination and hatred. Florin remains hopeful for his people, despite their circumstances.

“God created us to be this way,” he said. “We were made by Him and He knows why.” Tuns is asking other Christians to join the task of reaching the Roma with the love of Christ.

“Southern Baptists can be involved through praying for (the Roma) and through taking initiative and concrete steps to be part of God’s answer to those prayers,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Parker writes for the International Mission Board. For more information on how you and your church can pray for the Roma people, go to www.imbeurope.org. Missionaries like Cornel Tuns are supported in part through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, which supplements Cooperative Program giving to support more than 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries as they share the Gospel overseas. This year’s offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, go to imb.org/offering.)

(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.)
1/12/2011 7:13:00 AM by Trent Parker, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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