January 2012

Souper service: N.C. Baptists give to curb hunger

January 31 2012 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Asst. Managing Editor

Boxes of macaroni and cheese are piling up at Southside Baptist Church in Lincolnton.
Collecting these boxes is one way Southside is helping to fight hunger in its community. The church is taking part in Souper Bowl of Caring (souperbowl.org), an effort coinciding with Super Bowl Sunday Feb. 5. On the day the New York Giants face the New England Patriots, people across the United States will be participating in efforts to help provide supplies and money for hunger-related ministries.
“We found we get better results if we have them bring a certain thing,” said Ruth Gibson, who leads her church’s efforts for the Souper Bowl of Caring as well as for a local ministry to Lincoln County residents.
The purpose is to donate to a local food bank or shelter in the area.
The church will collect macaroni through Super Bowl Sunday. Gibson said her church has made this local ministry part of its budget year-round, too. The church staggers its giving. Some is set aside for the Souper Bowl of Caring. In 2011, the church gave toward a golf tournament fund raiser for the ministry and then again at Christmastime.
Last year more than 260,000 youth across the nation participated in Souper Bowl of Caring, collecting more than $9.5 million in dollars and food for local hunger-relief charities.
This year’s goal is to empower 275,000 young people to collect $11 million for charities in their communities.
The money and items are donated directly to a local ministry. Souper Bowl of Caring does not receive gifts but instead compiles a report of what people are doing and how much has been given.
On Feb. 4 Charlotte will host a city-wide service blitz.
One of the ways North Carolina Baptists can support Souper Bowl of Caring and give to hunger-related ministries is to donate to the North Carolina Hunger Fund.
“This year we’ll distribute about $200,000 to ministries through the offering (in October) and designated hunger gifts,” said John Butler, executive group leader in business services at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
The Convention, which does not have a ministry directly addressing hunger needs, acts as a “conduit for the generosity of others,” said Butler.
The state received a little more than $400,000 in 2011; $200,000 ended up on the foreign mission field, distributed through Baptist Global Response. The North American Mission Board also received some and reallocates part back to ministries in North Carolina. Butler estimates $200,000 is spent in North Carolina.
With one gift, N.C. Baptists can address hunger on a local, state and international level.
Churches and associations can apply for grants (up to $3,000) to help with hunger-related ministries – anything from food pantries, soup kitchens, food banks, Meals on Wheels, community gardens, backpack buddy programs and shelters.
Butler said churches have even been started through these food ministries.
Each year, N.C. Baptists help fund 80-100 ministries. Some are ongoing outreach efforts or one-time events like holiday meals. Some of the efforts help community organizations, but churches and associations that receive money have to be directly involved in those efforts.
Each recipient must turn in a quarterly report to the Convention sharing the story of the number of decisions for Christ and other related results.
“These are all designated funds,” Butler stressed, adding that none of the grant money comes from Cooperative Program contributions.
With the economy struggling, the amount of donations has declined. The BSC has information to help churches promote the offering as well as applications for funds. Churches or associations are encouraged to plan ahead and apply for a grant next year.
The N.C. Hunger Fund has also made strides in going paperless. Ministries are able to fill out reports and submit them online. This allows the Convention to compile the information faster and easier for the North American Mission Board.
To request materials about the North Carolina Hunger Fund, contact Emily Compton at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5536, or ecompton@ncbaptist.org.
1/31/2012 2:19:53 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Asst. Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Culture Reach conference urges gospel conversations

January 31 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

North Carolina Baptists are invited to attend the annual statewide evangelism conference Feb. 27 at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem for a day of learning how to understand culture and how to engage in gospel-centered conversations.

BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle

Rusty Martin Sr., right, signs his autograph on a “Courageous” DVD Jan. 17 at a LifeWay store in Cary. Martin along with his son Rusty Martin Jr., second from right, and Donald Howze, third from right, were at the store on the day the movie was released to talk with fans. The three are from North Carolina. The Martins are members of Turner Memorial Baptist Church in Garner. Howze lives in Raleigh.

“Culture Reach” is the conference theme, and participants will be challenged to become more aware of how culture is changing and how it impacts evangelism.
While the gospel never changes, the challenge comes in understanding how to communicate the gospel to the present culture, said Marty Dupree, evangelism and church growth team leader for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
“For example, people aren’t necessarily interested in church. Now, for many people, it’s not even on their radar,” Dupree said. But many of them are still curious about spiritual things, he added.
One of the best approaches to evangelism in today’s culture, Dupree said, is to engage people in a conversation.
“Evangelism is an act of compassion and not aggression,” he said. “It’s caring about a soul.”
This year’s conference is organized into three themes: youth and culture, the gospel in culture, and popular culture and media for evangelism.
In one of the sessions, Alex Kendrick will speak about media, culture and evangelism. Kendrick starred in “Courageous,” the latest film from Sherwood Pictures.
Rusty Martin Sr. and Rusty Martin Jr., North Carolina actors who also appeared in “Courageous,” will share their testimony.
Alvin Reid is associate dean for proclamation studies and evangelism professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. He will speak during the event about youth and culture. Reid hopes to help North Carolina Baptists understand how to apply the gospel to a “diverse, digital and changing social media culture.”
Although today’s youth live in a world driven by technology, their desire to connect and to be part of something significant is perhaps greater than any other generation.
“We tend to build student ministry on events and attraction,” Reid said. “This is a generation hungry for truth. They want something real, something that lasts.
“There is a hunger for certainty and community.”
Youth also need godly mentors who speak truth into their lives.
“Too often we’ve given advice to teenagers instead of the Good News,” he said. “Any advice has to flow out of the gospel.”
Merrie Johnson, BSC senior consultant for student evangelism and ministry, will also share about youth and culture.
Alex McFarland, a popular speaker and author on apologetics, will speak on the basics of apologetics and how to apply apologetics for Kingdom impact.
“Apologetics can impact your walk and witness personally, but can also jumpstart the outreach and discipleship of every local church,” McFarland said.
McFarland’s interest in apologetics developed soon after he prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior at the age of 21.
At the time he was a student at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. As he shared his faith, his friends on campus began asking lots of questions about the Christian faith.
“I began to see that God could use apologetics to give believers a renewed understanding and appreciation of the faith,” McFarland said. “I began to see apologetics and Christian worldview content as a two-fold tool for evangelism and revival.”
McFarland’s passion is to see revival in the church.
“I believe this revival will come about as we pray and seek the Lord,” he said, “but also as we return to His Word and prepare ourselves to present, explain and defend the faith before a new generation.”
Speaking during the afternoon session are Don Wilton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., and Chuck Register, BSC executive leader for church planting and missions development. Register will speak about the Find it Here emphasis on missions mobilization. You can learn more at finditherenc.org.
The conference is free and registration is not required. For a complete schedule, visit ncbaptist.org/culturereach.
1/31/2012 2:13:57 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Battleford cowboy church is ‘point of light’ in darkness

January 31 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

You’ll hear lots of country music, and the floors won’t have any fancy carpet or tile – usually just dirt or concrete.
The flavor of the cowboy church in Battleford – located in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan – is a little different than most, said Jeff Smith, a North Carolina pastor and cowboy missionary for the Cowboy Church Network of North America. And since cowboys are usually out on the trails on Sundays, cowboy churches meet on weeknights.
“Cowboy churches that reach people are those that are flexible,” Smith said. “We do what works. If it doesn’t work, we change plans and do something better. 
“We want people to come as they are,” he added.
Earlier this month, Smith preached during the official launch of Battleford. Two people prayed to receive Christ at that service.
One woman accepted Christ at an earlier service before the cowboy church officially launched. The church is the first of its kind in the province – and only the third in the country.
“We are more outward thinking than inward thinking,” Smith said. “We’re reaching lost people. We are thinking about what it will take to reach that lost person.”

Cowboy Church Network of North America photo

One of the ways cowboy churches are planted or grown is through outreach events like rodeos.

Smith is helping lead the way for North Carolina Baptists to plant 10 cowboy churches in Canada.
Church planting is the focus of the partnership that began last year between the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) and the Canadian National Baptist Convention. North Carolina Baptists are committed to helping plant 40 churches in Southern Ontario, 10 biker churches, and 10 cowboy churches throughout Canada by 2021.
“Planting 10 cowboy churches is a key component in the goal North Carolina Baptists have set to facilitate planting these 60 new churches over the next 10 years,” said Chuck Register, BSC executive leader for church planting and missions development. “This new congregation in Battleford is the first step in fulfilling that Kingdom-minded goal.”
“Our prayer is that for generations to come, lives will be transformed by the gospel through the Great Commission ministries of this new congregation.”
Michael Sowers leads the BSC Office of Great Commission Partnerships and is working to help connect North Carolina Baptists with strategic church-to-church partnerships in Canada.
“I’m excited to see all types of North Carolina churches getting connected in Canada for Kingdom impact,” Sowers said.
“We pray that the cowboy church in Battleford is a springboard to many more cowboy churches in Canada.” 
Laborers needed
Thirty-four people attended the launch of the Battleford cowboy church. Though this may seem small to some people, Smith considered it a good turnout for Canada.
“In Canada, there is a lot of terrain and areas with no churches,” Smith said. “We need points of light all over Canada so that people can get to these churches.”
“We’re not worried about building super big buildings,” he added. “We want to plant a lot of smaller churches.”
In the Greater Toronto Area, where the BSC is focused on planting 40 churches, there is one church for nearly every 275,000 people. In that area there are only about 40 Southern Baptist churches.
About 43 percent of Canadians did not attend any religious worship service last year. Baptists statistically, at 2.4 percent, are the largest evangelical group in Canada. Two-thirds of them, though, never attend church. 
“We have towns with up to 2,000 people and no evangelical witness,” said Maurice Tenkink, prairie/rural lead church planting catalyst for the Canadian National Baptist Convention. The word “missionary” is often perceived in Canada as a negative term. Some Canadians are two or three generations removed from any Christian witness at all.
“The church culture is just not here like it is in America,” Tenkink said.
Fewer believers means fewer people to share the work. In North Carolina, Smith can start a cowboy church and then invite pastors from the area to help out.
“You can’t do that in Canada,” he said. “We have to raise up indigenous leaders. We’ve got to reach them, disciple them and train them to be leaders.”
For the next several months, Smith plans to preach once a month during the cowboy church worship service in the city of Battleford. Discipleship groups will meet in the weeks between worship services.
Although the cowboy culture is prominent, Tenkink said cowboy churches are a new idea for the area, primarily due to a lack of leaders. Still, the Battleford church has been well received, and Tenkink expects attendance and interest to increase.
A cowboy culture
About five years ago Smith helped start a cowboy church in Alberta. His first cowboy church was in North Carolina in 2003. He wanted to reach out to the cowboys he met when he began riding horses with his daughter. Cowboys weren’t interested in going to church, but they’d talk with him on the trail about Jesus.
“I was burdened for their soul,” Smith said.
Planting a cowboy church is the same as planting any other church. The theology is the same – the gospel of Jesus Christ is central.
North Carolina Baptists are encouraged to join the cowboy church planting effort in Canada.
“We’re not building on someone else’s foundation,” Smith said. “It’s pioneer work for the churches that want to partner with us.”
To learn how to get involved in cowboy church planting in Canada, visit ncbaptist.org/gcp.

1/31/2012 1:57:42 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Marriage, budget, elections top BSC Board meeting

January 30 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

The budget, election of new executive committee members and the May 8 vote on a marriage amendment were among the top issues of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) Board of Directors meeting Jan. 24-25 at Caraway Conference Center in Sophia.
Directors also heard reports of how their church’s offering dollars are helping start new churches here and abroad, while helping to strengthen existing churches throughout the state.
The economy continues to take its toll on churches around the country and in the state – with unemployment hovering just under 10 percent. But Milton Hollifield, BSC’s executive director-treasurer, said there is plenty to be thankful for – especially in regards to giving to the state’s mission offering, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.
Financial update
The state’s Lottie Moon offering received $12,592,515.44 last year, which is 8.07 percent more than 2010.
The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions received $5,622,011.99, which is a 7.18 percent increase over 2010.
“We can rejoice in that,” Hollifield said.
“North Carolina churches continue to lead all state conventions in gifts to Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong.”
The North Carolina Missions Offering received $1,917,740.06, which is 2.49 percent over the 2010 offering. The goal for 2012 is $2.1 million. The offering helps support church planting in the state, and it also supports the ministries of N.C. Baptist Men, who recently completed four homes destroyed by tornados last April.
Cooperative Program (CP) giving for 2011, however, was 8.78 percent behind budget. N.C. Baptists gave $29, 814,748.77 – a deficit of $2,870,731.23. Preliminary reports for last year, however, show the convention finished the year in the “black.”
In spite of the decline, the actual dollar amount from CP receipts sent from the state to the Southern Baptist Convention has increased by nearly 4 percent since 2006, Hollifield said. See related story here.
“Even though we’ve had less dollars,” Hollifield said, “we’re sending more and I thank God for that.”
Hollifield also addressed concerns from some who contend the convention is investing too many resources in church planting, instead of helping existing churches in North Carolina.
“The staff invests a lot of time in helping smaller [existing] churches,” he said. “We want to create more healthy churches – we’re offering resources. I am in more smaller churches than I’m in larger [churches],” he said. “We can do more by working together than we can ever accomplish separately.”
‘Begging’ for the gospel
Hollifield praised reports regarding ongoing North Carolina mission partnerships in places such as Toronto, Moldova, Southeast Asia and New York. In New York, five new church plants have been started along with two church planting centers.
The Convention also plans to work with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary over the next three years to identify unreached people groups in the state. This research will provide statistical data on people who do not know the gospel of Jesus Christ, said Michael Sowers, who directs Great Commission partnerships for BSC.

BR photo by Shawn Hendricks

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., left, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention, presents a gavel to Bobby Blanton, pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville, for his service as president of the Board of Directors.

“A lot of times we go to the airports, and we pass by the very people we’re getting on a plane to go and take the gospel to,” Sowers said.
Marriage Amendment
The Board also heard a report on how they can become involved with the May 8 vote on a marriage amendment that would define marriage to be only between a man and a woman. Last November, the Convention voted unanimously to support the amendment.
Jarrod Scott, newly elected chairman of the Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee for the Board of Directors, challenged pastors to “hold up marriage” in the pulpits. 
“We need pastors who will champion marriage – not only by their lifestyle, their personal life but also from the pulpit to teach what does the Bible have to say about marriage,” Scott said.
Scott cautioned the Board to be aware of legal limits that prohibit them from using their influence as Board members or as pastors to tell people how they should and shouldn’t vote. He encouraged them to preach on how God defines marriage in the Bible. To read more about legal limitations on this issue, see the guest column by Brian Davis, BSC’s executive leader for administration and convention relations.
“This is a very emotional debate for a lot of folks,” Davis said. “It would be very easy for media outlets to contact you as a member of the board and draw you into a debate and emotionally charge it.”
Each member of the Board was given a binder with articles from opponents and proponents of the amendment and information on its history and comparisons with other states. Steve Corts, pastor of Center Grove Baptist in Clemmons, compiled the information.
It is available by contacting Davis at the BSC at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5506, or bdavis@ncbaptist.org. To read more on this issue, go to clpablog.org.
New officers
Michael Barrett, pastor of Pleasant Garden Baptist Church in Pleasant Garden, was elected president of the Board. Phil Qualls, retired pastor of Apex Baptist Church in Apex and vice president of the Board, was reelected as vice president and nominated Barrett.
Barrett has pastored three churches in North Carolina and has pastored for more than 36 years. He has served at Pleasant Garden for the last 24 years as well as on various Baptist committees in the state and on the Board of Directors. He served as an IMB (International Mission Board) trustee for eight years. He and his wife, Teresa, have been married for 38 years, and they have two grown daughters. He and his wife were foster parents for 13 years and cared for 52 children. Barrett replaced Bobby Blanton, pastor of Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville, who completed his four-year term on the Board.
Teresa Jones, executive assistant for administration of the BSC, was reelected as Board secretary. All officers ran unopposed.
Executive Committee
Four members of the Board were elected to serve as at-large members of the Executive Committee.
Todd Marlow, pastor of Westmoreland Baptist Church nominated Mike Ivey, pastor of West Cramerton Baptist Church in Cramerton. Ivey nominated Tracey Bolick, of Laurel Springs Baptist Church in Deep Gap. Mark Brady, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Moyock, nominated Rob Roberts who is the associational missionary in Chowan Baptist Association. Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, nominated Sandy Marks, pastor of Alexis Baptist Church in Alexis. All ran unopposed.
Vision Fullfillment
Hollifield gave an update regarding the Vision Fulfillment committee. He named three study committees to focus on communication, church planting and existing churches, and strategy. 
The first committee will be chaired by Davis, and the facilitator will be Tom Howe, chief executive officer of Unleashed by Design. The study committee is expected to complete its work by April 1.
Chuck Register, BSC executive leader of church planting and missions development, will serve as chair of the second committee. Brian Upshaw, church ministry team leader with congregational services, is the facilitator. They are expected to complete work by May.
The third committee will also be led by Davis, along with facilitator Russ Conley, who works with congregational services. They plan to bring their report to the Executive Committee in August.
The Board approved the development of construction documents for an additional lodging facility at Caraway Conference Center. The new three-story facility will have eight rooms and a kitchen area/conference room on each floor.
The expenses of the construction documents – which will be about $100,000 – will come from the “New Beginnings” capital campaign.
The $7.5-million campaign will provide for facility expansion and future growth. 
1/30/2012 3:28:56 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 2 comments

N.C. Baptists increase mission offering gifts

January 30 2012 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

North Carolina Baptists seem to have a tender heart when it comes to missions. In 2011, giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) exceeded amounts contributed in 2010.
“Even in a down economy, I see God calling people out to minister,” said John Butler, executive group leader in business services at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). “As people get their hands involved in ministry when their financial means come back they tend to want to invest their funds as well as their time and energy.”
In a financial report released by the BSC, 2011 giving between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 shows an 8.07 percent increase for international missions (from $11,652,395 in 2010 to $12,592,515 in 2011)*, a 7.18 percent increase for North American missions (from $5,245,512 in 2010 to $5,622,012 in 2011), and a 2.49 percent increase for the NCMO (from $1,871,204 in 2010 to $1,917,740 in 2011).
Overall the BSC’s 2011 Cooperative Program (CP) budget was $29,814,749, a decrease of 8.78 percent (from 32,685,480 in 2010). CP dollars with no restrictions or designations were down 1.16 percent from $28,232,359 (2010) to $27,905,656 (2011).
The amount specifically excluding the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) dropped 17.45 percent (from $562,406 in 2010 to $464,282 in 2011).
Butler said he sees some “systemic changes taking place in how people support missions.”
Directed giving and designated gifts are the “en vogue” thing to do, he said.
“It doesn’t bode well for the Cooperative Program and the idea for the shared missions giving,” Butler said.
Giving to the missions offerings allows Baptists to reach the underserved parts of America and unreached people groups around the globe, Butler said, stressing that “the Cooperative Program is the single best way to … for lack of a better phrase … cover all your bases. You are supporting international missions; you are supporting national missions; you are supporting local missions. [It] allows missionaries to focus time on ministry rather than focus their time trying to raise money through the churches.”
Because of the down economy churches are struggling as well.
“Churches aren’t able to send the same amounts as in past years because their budgets have suffered,” Butler said.
Churches struggle to pay certain fixed costs such as building payments and salaries.
“Missions is usually the nonfixed cost that suffers,” said Butler, indicating that generally churches give a fixed amount to CP. That amount is usually set by the church’s finance committee. Unlike the missions offering, churches don’t usually take up a special offering for CP.
Butler advised churches to make CP a percentage amount in the budget, rather than a fixed amount. As the budgets increase, so will the church’s CP giving.
BSC leaders have moved each year during its annual meeting to raise its CP giving a half percentage point. Even while tightening its belt in other areas, the Convention has worked to continue to raise the CP amount sent to the Southern Baptist Convention.
Butler highlighted the push for church planting expressing the statistic that new churches reach more people within a community than older, more established churches. Giving to the Cooperative Program allows finances to help with church planting efforts.
“It’s causing churches to rethink their values and their priorities in terms of how they can be more effective in reaching their communities with essential resources.”
Because money is tight, many are evaluating whether they are using their resources wisely.
“I see [God] engaging people in hands-on missions because maybe they don’t have the money to give but they want to give to ministries across the state,” Butler said.
Churches can restrict funds given through the Convention by designating that certain amounts go to specific organizations or excluding any of the funds that go to the SBC or another entity.
Any restricted funds are sent straight to the organization and are not considered CP giving.
What is the Cooperative Program?
The Cooperative Program is a program of giving that allows churches to pool their resources to aid various missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention with a single contribution.
State and regional conventions collect CP funds. They keep a portion and forward a percentage to the SBC. The SBC distributes the funds to all the missions efforts, seminaries, organizations, etc.
SBC numbers
A news release issued in early January reported that year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee are down.
As of Dec. 31, 2011 giving is down 7.01 percent below the same time frame in 2010. The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2011-12 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.

Gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget totaled $44,269,204, which is $3,334,711 behind the $47,603,915 received at the end of December 2010. For the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget, the year-to-date total of $44,269,204 is 95.20 percent of the $46,500,000 budgeted to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America.
As of Dec. 31, designated giving of $11,700,343 for the same year-to-date period is 3.04 percent, or $367,238, below gifts of $12,067,581 received at this point in the previous year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities.
“It is a great blessing to witness the faithfulness of God’s people to give to God’s work even in difficult times,” said Frank Page, SBC Executive Committee president and chief executive officer. He cited the lingering impact of the economic crisis that has affected so many churches.
Noting that consumer confidence continues to lag, he said, “Our confidence in God’s gracious provision has not wavered. The promise of Philippians 4:19 remains true – our God ‘will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.’”
December’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $15,841,477. This is the first month in the new fiscal year – which began in October – that contributions have exceeded monthly budget projections.
During the last fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2010 - Sept. 30, 2011), Cooperative Program receipts for the year were up 0.06 percent – the first increase since 2007. Combined CP and designated giving for the year, meanwhile, were up 0.17 percent.
* Numbers have been rounded to the nearest dollar.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – A report from Baptist Press was edited into this story to reflect the SBC CP giving as a whole.)

Related story
Marriage, budget, elections top BSC Board meeting
1/30/2012 3:15:57 PM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptist Men recognized for disaster relief efforts

January 30 2012 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) staff and volunteers were honored during the 32nd annual Martin Luther King Triangle Interfaith Prayer Breakfast Jan. 16 for their service during the aftermath of the devastating tornado that struck several Raleigh communities last year on April 16.
Bruce E. Lightner, chairman of the Raleigh Martin Luther King Celebration Committee, lives in a Raleigh neighborhood that was in the storm’s path.
He still remembers how frightened and worried he was for the safety of those in his community when he first saw the unimaginable destruction caused by the tornado. 
“It looked like a bomb had exploded in my community,” Lightner said. “There was devastation everywhere.”
The tornado that hit Raleigh was one of at least 28 tornadoes that touched down in North Carolina that day and killed 24 people throughout the state. Nine months later, the destruction still seems unimaginable to Lightner. Multiple homes in his community were destroyed and many others severely damaged. Residential streets were littered with downed trees, power lines, and cars crushed under the weight of fallen trees and debris.
In the blink of an eye, Lightner’s quiet neighborhood was transformed into something that resembled a war zone. The damage left many of his friends and neighbors without food, water and shelter.
But it was not long before NCBM volunteers arrived on the scene to help with recovery efforts. Lightner said the speedy response and a willingness to get right to work separated NCBM from other relief agencies.
“The morning after the storm had passed these people were in our neighborhoods bringing comfort, service and hope,” he said. “They did not need meetings or press conferences; they did not need anyone’s permission except the Lord’s.”
In his remarks, Lightner thanked NCBM for the swift work in clearing trees from homes and driveways, for bringing hot food and water to people, and for helping victims find hotels and shelters. 
“I rise this morning to simply say thank you to a group of people who did not live in Raleigh and certainly did not live in my community, but who came to our rescue when everybody else was still in a state of shock,” Lightner said.
Within hours of the tornado outbreak, NCBM volunteers fanned out across the state to help those in need. Hundreds of volunteers helped repair homes, removed fallen trees and debris, located shelters for victims, served on feeding teams, and assisted with mobile shower/laundry units. NCBM served more than 79,000 meals to tornado victims and completed more than 1,400 work requests. Volunteers also led devotions, passed out Bibles, worked with children and, most importantly, shared the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director-treasurer, said he is honored and humbled by the recognition. Brunson said Martin Luther King’s life of service toward others was driven by his faith in God and is a good example to follow. “Dr. King taught that service requires a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love,” he said.
Brunson added that the volunteers who serve with NCBM do so out of the same passion and love for God that motivated King. “There were thousands of men, women and students who served after the April tornadoes and they were serving out of a heart full of grace and a soul generated by Jesus’ love,” he said. 
Baptist Men efforts are supported through the North Carolina Missions Offering (ncmissionsoffering.org).
1/30/2012 3:11:57 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Designate one Sunday Baptist College Day

January 30 2012 by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications

North Carolina Baptist churches are encouraged to name one Sunday during February as “Baptist College Day” and to use this day to celebrate how God is at work on the campuses of the five educational institutions affiliated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC).
One way churches can celebrate Baptist College Day is by scheduling a speaker from one of the affiliated institutions: Campbell University, Chowan University, Gardner-Webb University, Mars Hill College and Wingate University.
Churches may also consider inviting college students to speak, distributing bulletin inserts related to Baptist College Day, or hosting a special prayer time for faculty, staff and administration serving these institutions.
Baptist College Day is also an opportunity to make students aware of the North Carolina Baptist Scholarship Program. Each year, the BSC awards scholarships to students from cooperating churches who are enrolled as full-time undergraduate students on the main campus of a BSC affiliated school. Nearly 700 Baptist scholarships were awarded for the 2011-2012 academic year, totaling more than $800,000.

Contributed photo

Samantha Redman, seen here with her father David at Gardner-Webb University’s homecoming game, is thankful for her N.C. Baptist scholarship. A nursing major, Redman said GWU has challenged her academically and spiritually.

The scholarship is renewable for a maximum of four years. Students must apply each year and maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA to be eligible for the scholarship. As part of the application process, students also answer essay questions about their personal testimony, the Cooperative Program, and their involvement in campus ministry.
Justin Giersbrook, a junior social studies education major at Wingate University, is a scholarship recipient from Chapel Hill. Giersbrook said the North Carolina Baptist Scholarship Program is an answered prayer that has allowed him to continue his college education at a school that is teaching him the importance of growing closer to God.
“This scholarship has been huge in the way that it has provided me a way to remain at Wingate to learn more about what His demand on my life is and to be used for His purposes,” he said.
Giersbrook’s experience at a Baptist university has been invaluable to his growth as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Being away from the daily influence of his parents and his home church has allowed him time at Wingate to learn what it means to take ownership of his faith.
Giersbrook’s fellowship with other believers on campus and the instruction gleaned from time in the classroom has taught him how to seek God’s glory each day. “My walk with God is different. I no longer see God as a Sunday or Wednesday activity, but my entire life was made to worship Him every day and in every situation,” he said.
Samantha Redman also values the education and fellowship she receives at a Christian university. Redman is a junior nursing major at Gardner-Webb University. She chose Gardner-Webb over other schools because she thought it would allow her to grow academically, socially and spiritually. “It was one of the few colleges where I could do all of those things,” she said.
At Gardner-Webb Redman has developed friendships with people from a variety of backgrounds. She has enjoyed being challenged academically and spiritually by professors and campus staff who do not just teach academics, but who also model what it means to honor Christ in every situation. These combined experiences have been made possible with the help of the scholarship she received through the BSC. “This scholarship has helped me and my family tremendously,” Redman said. “By taking some financial stress away, I am able to focus on school a lot more.”  
Applications for the 2012-2013 school year are available at ncbaptist.org/scholarships and are due by April 1.
1/30/2012 3:04:28 PM by Buddy Overman, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

N. England disaster relief: ‘enormous’ impact

January 27 2012 by Joe Conway, Baptist Press

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. – In a record-setting year of disasters, the overwhelming urge to meet practical needs while sharing the gospel spurred New England Baptist disaster relief leaders and volunteers to new levels of outreach and service.

As noted by Tim Buehner of the Baptist Convention of New England, “All the disaster relief efforts, all the work of the volunteers, gave the people of New England a picture of what Southern Baptists are about and what we are capable of providing in response to needs. In New England that is enormous.”

Buehner said New England’s weather began in an average fashion in 2011, but that was obliterated by back-to-back hurricanes during the summer.

“We were involved in responding to local flooding around Lake Champlain in the spring. We are used to spring flooding and usually handle those with our volunteers. Last year the flooding was heavy and the response had used most of our leadership and volunteers.

“Then Irene hit,” said Buehner, the convention’s assistant disaster relief director.

Following record flooding from the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, a destructive tornado struck Massachusetts. Next came Hurricane Lee and more flooding. It overwhelmed the volunteers and resources of the six-state convention.

Baptist disaster relief volunteer Julie McClure of Corbin, Ky., digs out flooring ruined by Hurricane Irene flooding in Northfield, Vt., last summer. Baptist workers in New England said the efforts of volunteers “changed the perception of people about Southern Baptists.”

“An EF-3 tornado (winds up to 165 mile per hour) in Massachusetts that travels for 38 miles is pretty dramatic for us. The year was record-breaking on every level for what we encountered,” Buehner said.

“But through it all, I had to sit back and marvel at what God accomplished through trained incident commanders and volunteers. It was incredible.

“The responses went as well as they possibly could,” he noted. “They were extremely challenging but our leaders and volunteers did an excellent job.”

That praise extended to incident commanders and other volunteers who came from other states when New England issued a call for help, encompassing manpower from Canada, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, North and South Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

“We can’t thank them enough,” Buehner said.

Buehner saw firsthand the importance of lending a listening ear as well as a wet-dry vac.

“I encountered one man who was scraping the floor of his badly flooded home. Everything his family had was in the home,” Buehner recounted. “They were planning to move in shortly before the floods hit. He was attempting to save his kitchen flooring and cabinets. Over the course of almost two hours I was able to help him understand that the only way the house could be restored was to strip it. Over that time he moved from despair to hope because I was able to spend time with him and share why we were there helping.”

Another victim was stranded when her driveway was washed out and she could not get off her property. “When we arrived she was panic-stricken,” Buehner said. “We were able to share the peace of God with her and calm her down. Eventually we were able to help restore her driveway and reconnected her with a church. She was so moved that we cared enough to show up and then knew how to help her.”

The responses, concentrated in the Montpelier and Bennington, Vt., areas, also uncovered improvements needed in the convention’s disaster relief readiness, Buehner said. The convention is addressing those through training and enhanced response capabilities. Buehner said new training models are being developed to help rapidly deploy trained volunteers and improve safety concerns in all areas of DR response. Beyond the logistics, it changed some minds.

“It changed the perception of people about Southern Baptists,” Buehner said. “Our reputation with the emergency management community, with town managers, it raised their perception of who we are and what we can do in response to disasters. It helped many of our church plants by allowing them to show their communities what their churches are about – loving people and serving people in the name of Christ. That has changed things here.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joe Conway is a writer for the North American Mission Board. For regular updates about Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, visit www.namb.net/subscribe-dr-enewsletter to subscribe. Donations for disaster relief ministries can be made to state Baptist conventions or to SBDR. Donations, which are fully tax-deductible in meeting the needs of hurting people in the wake of disasters, can be made online at www.namb.net/givenow, by phone 1-866-407-6262, or by mail. Checks should be made payable to “North American Mission Board” and sent to Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.)
1/27/2012 4:11:26 PM by Joe Conway, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Super Bowl may air Baptist grad’s Doritos ad

January 27 2012 by Tim Ellsworth, Union University

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP) – A Baptist university graduate has a chance to see a commercial he produced aired during this year’s Super Bowl.
Jimmy Duke, a 1998 graduate of Union University in Tennessee, produced the commercial titled “Birds of Prey” with some friends from his church for the Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” contest. In the commercial, a man starts acting like a bird of prey when he craves Doritos.

Duke, who lives in Los Angeles, is pastor of family ministries at Mosaic, a Southern Baptist congregation.

“We had a goofy idea to do it, and the next thing you know, we’re one of the finalists,” Duke said.

The Birds of Prey commercial, written by Duke’s friend Joby Harris, was one of five finalists out of 6,100 entries in the competition – earning a $25,000 prize and a trip to the Super Bowl for Duke and Harris. Duke said the prize money was divided equally among the 18 friends who were part of the cast and crew.

Of the five finalists, two commercials will be aired during the Super Bowl – the two with the most fan votes. All the Super Bowl commercials are automatically entered in the USA Today Ad Meter contest, with a first-place prize of $1 million.

Fan voting runs through Jan. 29, and voters can cast up to six votes a day. To vote for Duke’s commercial, visit vote4bop.com or crashthesuperbowl.com.


1/27/2012 4:02:32 PM by Tim Ellsworth, Union University | with 0 comments

In India, praying for Delhi’s masses

January 27 2012 by Cinda Ingram, Baptist Press

(EDITOR’S NOTE: With more than half of the world’s population now living in cities, Baptist Press is taking a multi-part look at a number of the world’s major metropolises, such as Delhi, India. The series by International Mission Board writers, which is appearing each Wednesday in BP, will highlight the multiple people groups living side by side in the cities. Many come from hard-to-reach places but now, as city dwellers, they are more accessible than ever before to share the gospel.)

DELHI, India – Delhi is a sprawling, energetic intersection of old and new, wealth and poverty, religion and science. People from across southern Asia come for jobs, education and asylum. Delhi is massive, teeming and heaving with people.

Even though I’ve lived and worked in India and elsewhere in the region for years, I am easily overwhelmed by this city of nearly 17 million people and want to know it better. Join me on three prayer journeys in Delhi.

Prayerwalk #1

The best place to start this journey is in my own neighborhood. Calm is rare in Delhi, but on Sunday afternoons in my upper-middle-class area, things are generally tranquil. As I prayerwalk, I hear the hum of air conditioners, a sign of prosperity, and catch the sounds of snacks and tea being prepared. I pray for these families – it’s a general plea to the Lord for their salvation, for their awareness of His presence.

One house fascinates me. It has big windows and a rooftop garden above the third floor. The small courtyard is filled with Hindu symbols and small idols. I never see anyone here except a guard. I ask the Lord for the opportunity to meet this family. I ask Him to create dissatisfaction in their hearts with vain rituals. I ask Him to open their door to me or another believer so that we can share the Good News.

Photo by Kelvin Joseph.

A child pauses from studying on the steps outside the Jama Mosjid (mosque) in Delhi, India.

I encounter people dressed for parties carrying a small box of sweet treats for their hosts. Sunday evenings are a good time to visit. I thank God that relationships are so important to Indians. I ask Him to make my heart oriented more to people than tasks.

Several apartment buildings are under construction. The workers and their families live in these building shells. I pass a group of women sitting on sand piles watching their children play. I stop and ask what they are doing. One woman replies that they are resting before beginning evening meal preparations. As I walk away, I ask God to bless them in a special way, to give them dreams and visions, to unmistakably show them that He is the one true God.

I sorrow over their kids with the sweet smiles and ragged clothes. They play among welding sparks and precariously-piled bricks. It’s hard for them to go to school since their parents’ work is migratory and their families need money. I ask God why these kids have to live this way. I ask Him to show me how to wisely help them. I pray that they will go to sleep with full bellies and know love from their parents.

Passing a park, I stop to watch neighborhood boys play cricket. They are dressed in Western athletic gear, including shorts, which indicates a high social status. The boys ringing the edges of the game have darker skin and pressed jeans and shirts. They watch on the sidelines and are allowed to throw stray balls back, but the neighborhood boys do not invite them to play. I ask God to break the power of the caste system in India. I pray that all of those boys would have a hunger for righteousness and justice.

Nearing my apartment, I ask God to awaken my neighborhood, to show His power and might to these walking in darkness. I pray for open doors and that I can be someone who proclaims truth to them.

Prayerwalk #2

A couple of days later, a colleague and I journey to the Kalka Mandir. This temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali. My friend and I pass through the first set of gates, asking God to protect us spiritually.

There are beggars along the walkway. We pray for them, asking God to provide and to ease their suffering. We enter the main veranda that encircles the shrine and are assaulted by filth and chaos. We are pushed along with the devotees as they press forward to worship.

I find that my prayers are coming quicker and quicker, matching the tempo of the activity.

“Oh Lord, have mercy on these people. Make the scales fall from their eyes. Shake this place. Show Your power. Show mercy. Clean out this temple. Send a flood of righteousness to wash away this evil. Show mercy. Stop this madness. Roar with justice for these oppressed people. Break Satan’s power. Have mercy.”

People offer sweets and flowers to the idols. Bells ring to awaken the gods. Children’s eyes are smeared with kohl, an ancient eye cosmetic. We pray for the noise and clamor to cease and for peace to reign in their hearts.

As we exit, a woman prostrates on the ground. She reaches out her fingertips and utters something. She gets to her knees and then throws herself prostrate again. She inches her way to the main temple, humbling herself before these powerless idols. We pray that Satan’s hold would be broken and that she would know the sweet presence of Jesus.

We find a quiet, shady spot to rest. At a temple, the degradation and humiliation of false religion hits hard. I ask God how to show these people that they can be free. How can they understand Jesus’ atoning sacrifice? How can someone cut through this madness to reach them?

As we walk down the street from the temple, I’m reminded of how Delhi’s diverse population contributes to this jumbled bustle encountered each day. Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Muslims and others vie for opportunities.

The Muslim neighborhood that we are now in has a distinct culture and feel. As the evening call to prayer blares, I ask God to break the hold Islam has on so many. I pray that Delhi would be a city united in Christ. I pray for the Muslims who are a 400-million-strong minority in a land of 800 million Hindus. I pray they would know freedom and liberty in the Messiah.

Prayer journey #3

Today, I am out early to find an auto-rickshaw to drive me around Ring Road. This road makes a loop inside Delhi and I want to make the loop interceding for the city.

We start off by passing through familiar suburbs. Traffic is minimal. I thank God for the neighborhood He placed me in and ask that He shows me how to dig in and get to know more people in the area.

We arc north, passing pedaled carts filled with vegetables and other deliveries. I pray for these men who do hard manual labor each day for low wages. I pray that a spark of joy would lead them to Jesus.

We pass near the embassy district. People from throughout the world live here serving as official bridges between their countries and India. This triggers thoughts about the believers’ role as an ambassador for Christ and I pray that I would be a worthy emissary for Him to the people of India.

As we move around the city, we pass neighborhoods I have only seen on the map. I pray for the people inside apartments.

People emerge from their slums to wash at the pump on the sidewalk. I pray for access to clean water and pray that they will taste Living Water soon.

More and more people are out now, running to catch buses, hailing autos and walking to the subway stations. I think the only time I am not looking at another person in India is when I am in my own apartment. People are everywhere here – they are people who do not know the purpose for which they were created. I ask God to show me how to tell them.

We drive past Delhi University. Students are out, clutching books, buying snacks and chatting with friends. I ask the Lord to reveal to them that their hope and future is with Him.

Traffic is thicker now, buses belching smoke, workers hurrying to their jobs. We are near the Yamuna River, and men, mostly older ones, are strolling along the road with only a sheet wrapped around their torsos. They are on their way to bathe, taking ritual dips in one of the sacred rivers of India. I pray for their enlightenment, for understanding that only through Christ can they be washed clean.

We arrive back at the spot where we started. The driver excitedly asks how far we traveled in 90-minutes. The meter shows 54 km (33.5 miles). I think he is just as interested in this as me. I am thankful for an honest, kind auto driver, and I pray for his family.

Will you pray for Dehli?

Delhi can be frustrating and fascinating. Most of the millions here live without hope, yet there is so much potential in the city, so much interest in spiritual matters, so much desire for progress and growth.

These prayer journeys remind me of the tremendous needs for spiritual ministries and physical ones. God has placed me in this city for His purposes, and even as I intercede for its inhabitants, I am changed.

God prods my soul for those without hope. He reminds me that only He can change their hearts. I am His ambassador to people who are curious, indifferent, angry, welcoming and, ultimately, seeking meaning and purpose. The Lord will be glorified among the peoples He created and I want to be a vessel He uses.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Cinda Ingram (a pen name used in this article) is a longtime International Mission Board worker in southern Asia.)
1/27/2012 3:56:53 PM by Cinda Ingram, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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