January 2012

Old Town moves forward in commitment to unengaged, unreached

January 18 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

During an International Mission Board (IMB) regional training conference Mark Harrison, missions pastor at Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, met Mike,* a missionary whose work in a Southeast Asian country got Harrison’s attention. So much so, that not long after the conference Harrison visited that same country to learn more about ministry needs in that part of the world.
Now, three years later, Old Town is working with Mike and his wife, Beth,* to engage a group of people in Southeast Asia that the church identifies as the “T people.” This particular group has had no known church-planting strategy among them, and they have an evangelical presence less than 2 percent. About one year ago Old Town began their journey to engage the T people, and the church has affirmed God’s leading in that direction.
The couple, who are stateside for several months, recently participated in a Sunday morning worship service at Old Town that focused on international missions and celebrated God calling them to Southeast Asia to share the gospel with the T people.
We’re just people
“There’s a lot you can do. More than you can imagine,” Mike said. He expressed his appreciation for Old Town’s commitment to “embrace” – as the IMB describes it – an unengaged, unreached people group.

Contributed photo

An Old Town Baptist Church flag ceremony is one technique the Winston-Salem church is bringing unengaged, unreached people groups before its congregation. About a year ago, the church began exploring opportunities to reach the T people in Southeast Asia.

“We (the IMB) can’t get to all the people groups,” he said. “We don’t have the time or the resources,” he said.
Volunteer teams are crucial because many missionaries serve in places where they can’t risk too much public exposure for fear that the government will force them out of the country.
“You can do things we can’t do,” Mike said. “You can help give our national workers an audience. Everyone wants to hear what the foreigner has come to say.”
“Volunteers are an essential part,” he added. “We need you to come alongside us.”
Beth shared how God has allowed her to reach out and serve the women on their missionary team. Some of them spend many hours home alone, caring for children, and the days can get lonely. She has helped them connect with one another and find ways to minister to those around them.
Forward movement
As Old Town engages the T people they will be participating in what Mike called the “forward movement of the church,” that goes back to the book of Acts when the church began spreading out from Jerusalem. Despite persecution and being scattered throughout various areas, Jesus’ followers took the message of salvation with them. They were convicted that the gospel must be shared with all people.  
“The church was growing, but they were not satisfied,” Mike said. “Hearts began to burn for nations around them. Are you satisfied with a world around you that is lost and going to hell?”
Mike told the story of a Buddhist man (98 percent of the T people are Buddhist) who heard the gospel for the first time at the age of 90. After hearing the message, the man asked a haunting question: why have I never heard this story before?
Ready to engage
With their people group identified, Old Town is ready to move forward. This month Mike is training the congregation to better understand the culture, worldview and religion of the T people, as well as appropriate evangelism and discipleship methods. 
Until recently, the T people were thought to already be part of a larger Southeast Asian people group. Now, as more research is being done about the T people, Mike explained that the T people are their own group of about a half a million.
Very little is known about the T people. Mike said one of the biggest obstacles to T people coming to faith will be Buddhism.
“Buddhism is the whole culture,” he said. “You’re asking them to forsake everything they’ve ever known.”
With such a high percentage of the population being Buddhist, the T people’s government does not yet view Christianity as a threat. However, Mike said, as T people come to faith in Christ, this may change.
Many people in Southeast Asia who convert to Christianity face persecution from both the government and family.
In February, Harrison and Old Town senior pastor Rick Speas will spend about two weeks cultivating relationships among the T people in Southeast Asia.
In March, a group will participate in the IMB Embrace Southeast Asian People’s USA Training event in Dallas, Texas.
Old Town also plans to hold a church-wide celebration/commitment dinner in March to officially launch their work among the T people. 
“It’s exciting to see all this unfold,” Harrison said. “Everything is moving along well, and only by God’s design. The things that have come together are not things I – nor anyone I know – could produce by any human means. It’s awesome to be part of everything that God is choosing to do.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This is the fourth article in a series following Old Town Baptist Church’s journey to embrace an unreached, unengaged people group.)

*Names changed for security reasons

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1/18/2012 3:35:14 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

Court allows ‘Jesus prayers’ to be banned

January 18 2012 by Todd Starnes, Baptist Press

NEW YORK – The Supreme Court will not intervene in a controversy over Christian prayers delivered before commission meetings in Forsyth County, N.C.

The North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State praised the decision as a victory for the First Amendment.

The high court’s decision Tuesday (Jan. 17) leaves in place a federal appeals court ruling that held that the predominantly Christian prayers at the start of commission meetings violated the First Amendment.

The court found that more than three-quarters of the 33 invocations given before meetings between May 2007 and December 2008 referred to “Jesus,” “Jesus Christ,” “Christ” or “Savior.”

That, according to the court, was a problem.

“Faith is as deeply important as it is deeply personal, and the government should not appear to suggest that some faiths have it wrong and others got it right,” Fourth Circuit Judge J. Harvey Wilkinson wrote in the July 29 court ruling. The three-judge panel split, 2-1.

Americans United Executive Director Barry Lynn hailed the Supreme Court’s decision not to consider the case. His organization was one of the groups sponsoring the lawsuit.

“When government meetings are opened regularly with Christian prayer, it sends the unmistakable message that non-Christians are second-class citizens in their own community,” Lynn said in a statement. “That’s unconstitutional, and it’s just plain wrong.”

But David Cortman, an attorney representing Forsyth County, said the ruling makes Christians second-class citizens.

“That’s what this case shows,” said Cortman, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund. “We believe the Supreme Court has missed an opportunity to clear up the differing opinions among the various circuit courts. It really is disappointing.”

The decision means prayers are still allowed, but the county must police the words to make sure one faith group is not represented over another faith group.

“America’s founders never shied away from referencing the God to whom they were praying when offering public invocations; the citizens of Forsyth County should have this same opportunity,” Cortman wrote in a statement. “No federal court has ruled that prayers cannot be offered before public meetings.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard daily on Fox News Radio stations around the nation. He is the author of “They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick” and “Dispatches From Bitter America.” This article first appeared at www.toddstarnes.com. Used by permission. With reporting from the Associated Press)
1/18/2012 3:20:29 PM by Todd Starnes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Ministers encouraged to take compensation survey

January 18 2012 by Baptist Press

DALLAS – Southern Baptist Convention church ministers and employees are encouraged to take the 2012 Compensation Survey at guidestone.org/compensationsurvey. The deadline is May 31.
Each completed survey benefits participating churches by providing an accurate baseline of compensation among similar-sized churches in their state convention. Because of the surveys, administrators, personnel/finance committees and minister search teams are able to receive customized reports that allow them to better determine adequate compensation for ministers and staff.
This year’s survey has been simplified for the convenience of participants and can be completed in only five to eight minutes on average. As usual, survey participants need to have access to information regarding their salary, benefits, their church’s estimated weekly worship or Bible study attendance, resident membership and annual budget. All information is kept confidential and no individual answers will be reported.
The compensation survey is provided through the joint efforts of Baptist state conventions, LifeWay Christian Resources and GuideStone Financial Resources. GuideStone and LifeWay compile the submitted data and provide all users with access to the results. Survey results will be released this summer.
A printed version of the survey may be obtained by contacting GuideStone at 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433) between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. CST Monday-Friday or by calling your state convention office.

1/18/2012 3:17:26 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Romney defends switch, says he’s pro-life

January 18 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney defended his position on abortion during the GOP debate Monday, saying he’s pro-life while touting a letter from the National Right to Life’s Massachusetts affiliate.

Romney’s switch from pro-choice to pro-life has drawn perhaps the most concern from social conservatives, who wonder if the switch was genuine or was done with an eye toward national politics. Speaking at the FoxNews/Wall Street Journal debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Romney acknowledged that the change of heart has drawn “a lot of attention.” When he ran for U.S. Senate in 1994 and for Massachusetts governor in 2002, he advertised himself as pro-choice, although he said he personally opposed abortion.

Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney defended his position on abortion during the GOP debate Monday, January 16.

“When I was running for governor, I said I would leave the law in place as it related to abortion,” Romney said. “And I thought I could go down that narrow path between my personal belief and letting government stay out of the issue. Then a piece of legislation came to my desk and it said we would begin to create embryos for the purpose of destroying those embryos, and I said I simply couldn’t sign something like that. And I penned an op-ed in the Boston Globe and said I’m pro-life.”

Romney vetoed that embryonic stem cell research bill, but the Democrat-controlled legislature overrode him.

At the debate Romney also touted a recent statement from Massachusetts Citizens for Life calling him pro-life. The organization, the state affiliate of National Right to Life, wrote on its website Jan. 4 that the “governor’s positions are pro-life and we feel confident that they will stay that way.”

Romney said during the debate that he’s “always opposed gay marriage.” He was governor when the Massachusetts high court issued its landmark 2003 decision legalizing gay “marriage,” and Romney subsequently fought for a state and federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

The Boston Globe op-ed Romney mentioned was penned in July 2005.

“I understand that my views on laws governing abortion set me in the minority in our Commonwealth,” the op-ed read. “I am prolife. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view.”

The “starting point” in the debate over abortion, he wrote then, “should be the innocence and vulnerability of the child waiting to be born.”

“In some respects, these convictions have evolved and deepened during my time as governor,” Romney wrote. “In considering the issue of embryo cloning and embryo farming, I saw where the harsh logic of abortion can lead – to the view of innocent new life as nothing more than research material or a commodity to be exploited.”

The issue, he said in that column, should be returned to the states, which would require the overturning of Roe. The op-ed can be read online at http://bo.st/fXNRBN.

On the issue of homosexuality, Romney said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” during 2007 that he opposes not only gay “marriage” but also civil unions, although he said he favors domestic partnerships that would grant gay couples benefits “such as hospital visitation rights.” During that appearance, Romney said redefining marriage to include gay couples would mean that “our schools and other institutions” would have to teach there’s no difference between a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.

Romney made similar comments during a GOP debate Jan. 7.

“We have to recognize that this decision about what we call marriage has consequence which goes far beyond a loving couple wanting to form a long-term relationship,” Romney said. “... Calling [a gay relationship] a marriage creates a whole host of problems for families, for the law, for the practice of religion, for education. Let me say this, 3,000 years of human history shouldn’t be discarded so quickly.”

Romney further said that the government defines marriage in the traditional sense and provides benefits to such relationships because it believes a household with a father and mother is the “ideal setting” for children to be raised.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)
1/18/2012 3:10:27 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Rebirth of a dying church: Congregation finds new life through merger

January 17 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

Lexington Avenue Baptist Church in High Point was about to close its doors – for good.
Over a year ago, during an average Sunday service, there were about 30 to 40 in attendance. Nearly everyone in the building was around the age of 70 – with the exception of a young grandchild or two. The church didn’t have a pastor to lead them, and there was barely enough money coming in to pay the bills.
“We looked at getting a new pastor but we couldn’t afford one,” said Benny Taylor, 73, a long-time member of the church with his wife, Joyce.
“We didn’t have any young couples ... children and youth running around,” he said. “Our future was gone.”
Through the years, the church budget and membership had steadily declined from a congregation of more than 200 members, full of families and children. One factor for the decline, Taylor said, involved economic challenges that caused some key businesses in the community to shut down. Many in the community moved away to find jobs.
By the fall of 2010, the last of the remaining younger families with children had left the church.
“There was a quiet,” Taylor said. “It was really kind of depressing.”
Another factor of the decline, Taylor added, was the churches inability to connect with new people, – of all generations, ethnicities and incomes – who were moving into the community. All of that, however, was about to change.
In the spring of 2011, the church invited Paul Reginaldi, to serve as an interim pastor. Reginaldi was a member of Life Community Church in Jamestown. He had served as a pastor and in other ministerial roles in various churches through the years. He agreed to help Lexington Avenue during their time of transition – or until the church shut down.
In contrast to Lexington Avenue, Life Community was, and is, a growing congregation that now has 1,200 people regularly in attendance each Sunday. It also averages about 80 baptisms annually.
While preaching at Lexington Avenue, Reginaldi developed a friendship with the members.
“God gave me a love for these seniors,” he said. “We really bonded.”  
Reginaldi led the church through a survey that confirmed the church’s failing health and lack of impact on its community. 
He told the members that they’d be the generation to close the church if they didn’t make a change soon.
“There were no real ministries in evangelism, community outreach,” Reginaldi said.
“They were, in most cases, physically not able to do much because of their ages and health limitations. They really had a heart to reach their community … they just didn’t know how to do it. They needed leadership.”
Lexington Avenue had become, Reginaldi contended, one of the 80 to 85 percent of Southern Baptist churches that are plateaued or dying. Some studies show that more than 60 percent of them are in rapid decline.
Reginaldi asked the remaining members of Lexington Avenue if they would be willing to pray about merging with Life Community.
Taylor, who had been a deacon at Lexington Avenue for years, admits there was some hesitancy at first among the members to turn the church over to Life Community. They ultimately decided it was the best decision. “The proposal was exciting,” he said. “We didn’t want to be the generation to close the doors.”
The churches officially merged in the summer of 2011, and Lexington Avenue Baptist Church changed its name to Life on Lexington. Life Community now has two campuses that are seven miles apart.  
Life on Lexington campus soon began holding events for the community and developing a strategy to reach those outside its doors. Several families from the main campus joined Life on Lexington to help them reach more people in the community. Since the merger, the church has grown to a total of 175. The church also has seen some professions of faith. The difference is nothing short of a miracle, Taylor said.
“We are so excited we can hardly contain ourselves,” he said. “It’s like a puzzle, and God is just putting all these pieces together. It’s something we can be excited about. There is nothing better than hearing a child sing [in a worship service].”
Reginaldi became the teaching and preaching pastor for the 11 a.m. service at Life on Lexington’s campus. In the 9:30 a.m. service, Jake Thornhill, the senior pastor of Life Community Church, preaches through a video feed.
Reginaldi is working on a book entitled, How to Leave a Legacy Church, detailing the transition and transformation of Lexington Avenue. The purpose of the book, Reginaldi said, is to help other declining and dying churches. Reginaldi is working with co-author, Amanda Dodson, the daughter of Life Community’s senior pastor. He plans to complete the book by the end of the year or early part of 2013.
“It is our prayer that through … the book we are writing that other people will see what our Lord had done in preserving one of His churches,” Reginaldi said. “It has often been said that we are one generation away from losing our faith and churches, and I am excited to report that this is one church that will live on to the next generation.”
1/17/2012 4:41:28 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Church merger brings hope to community

January 17 2012 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

Ray Johnson wasn’t sure if East Albemarle Baptist Church would really go through with it, and he wasn’t exactly sure about how his congregation at High Rock Community Church would react.
High Rock is a 2,000-plus member multisite church based in Salisbury that has launched five campuses since it began in 2004 with four families. Campuses have been started in renovated grocery stores, and car and boat dealerships.
East Albemarle is a congregation of about 26 that wants to grow, but is struggling to reach its community. Crippled financially with debt from a building program, the congregation thought they would have to sell.
“East Albemarle came and visited High Rock services, and it was a shock to them. But they recognized that although the contemporary style wasn’t what they were used to, they were willing to give it a try to reach people for Christ,” said Johnson, High Rock’s lead pastor.
One contemporary church, one traditional church, both used to doing things a certain way. But when decision time came, it came down to one thing: getting the gospel to lost people. Instead of launching campus number six as they had done the others, High Rock joined forces with East Albemarle to help the church reach its community.

Contributed photo

Eddie Connell and Ron Loflin, who both work with High Rock Community Church, talk to Ray and Phyllis Safrit, the first members of High Rock Community Church. The Safrits have helped start several churches because they see a need to reach a younger generation.

Since Hal Bilbo became director of missions for Stanly Association six years ago he has seen three churches close their doors, and he didn’t want that to happen again. “East Albemarle had tried to do ministry, but they weren’t gaining any ground,” Bilbo said. “A leader told me he thought they’d have to sell. I knew then that they realized they were on a dead end road.”
Two of the three churches in the association that closed simply aged out. For one church, the youngest deacon was 79 years old. Churches will always be in the process of losing members, Bilbo said, whether because of death or members moving out of the area. “It’s a natural flow. But if churches aren’t gaining new members, then they are dying,” he said.
Bilbo had been talking with East Albemarle about what to do, and when he heard that High Rock wanted to start a campus in the Albemarle area, he called pastor Johnson. “It wasn’t the easy way to launch a campus here,” Bilbo said. “This reflects the heart High Rock has not to be in competition, but they are concerned about the Kingdom of God.”
In March, High Rock leadership will help with an associational training. They will share how to effectively welcome visitors in church. “They’re not in it for themselves,” Bilbo said.
Bilbo prays the merger will inspire other churches in the association to be more proactive in reaching the lost.
At High Rock the focus is the gospel. “It’s all about being able to take the church to the people. We take the Great Commission very seriously. We are taking the church outside the four walls and going into the surrounding communities with the multisite model,” Johnson said.
High Rock Community Church has a campus in Denton, Kannapolis, Lexington and two campuses in Salisbury. Although the Albemarle campus will not officially launch until Easter Sunday – Johnson said the church is already drawing a crowd, with 111 in worship on Jan. 15.
When Johnson helped start High Rock six years ago his goal was to target unbelievers and people far away from God. Now, he wants to help the East Albemarle congregation to do that too.
“One of our core values is evangelism. We want to do whatever it takes to reach people for Christ,” Johnson said.
High Rock leadership preached a five-week series at East Albemarle on the purpose of the church. They also devoted several months to talking with the congregation about what needed to change for it to effectively reach lost people.
“Often people say they want to change,” Johnson said. “The reality is, the change they want is that they want others to change to be like them.”
Eddie Connell is one who is truly ready to see change. Connell was called into the ministry at age 47, attended Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, and went to East Albemarle as a bivocational pastor.
Although the merger has been a learning process, the congregation knows it’s not about tradition, but about fulfilling the purpose of the church to evangelize and disciple people.
“The merger came together so easily it couldn’t have been anything other than God doing these things,” Connell said. He is serving bivocationally on the High Rock staff and is excited to see how God will work. “When God’s people come together for one purpose, God can do mighty things. I see great things happening at High Rock,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to be a part of that.”
1/17/2012 4:31:02 PM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 1 comments

Ga. Baptists reaffirm commitment to forwarding CP gifts to SBC

January 17 2012 by J. Gerald Harris, The Christian Index

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article, forwarded by J. Gerald Harris, editor of The Christian Index in Georgia, reports on budget shortfalls experienced by the Georgia Baptist Convention and its reaffirmation to remain current in forwarding Cooperative Program contributions for missions and ministry causes of the Southern Baptist Convention in accordance with the SBC Business and Financial Plan.)

DULUTH, Ga. – Even while Georgia’s unemployment rate remains one of the highest in the nation, the Georgia Baptist Convention remains committed to forwarding its Cooperative Program gifts to the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville as quickly as it has traditionally done.

A steady decline in giving since the recession began in 2008 has required the state convention to trim staff and reduce budget to levels not seen since 1999. But the financial downturn, coupled with a report that 50 of the state’s leading churches decreased their CP giving in 2011, has hobbled the convention from forwarding the funds in a timely fashion.

The SBC Business and Financial Plan states that, “By agreement, all sums collected in the states for the causes fostered by this Convention will be forwarded at least monthly by each state office to the Executive Committee of this Convention, which shall act as the disbursing agent of this Convention.”

Georgia’s current unemployment rate of 9.9 percent is nearly 1.5 percentage points above the national average of 8.5. Atlanta’s unemployment rate of 10.5, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, further undermines the state convention’s cash flow since the metropolitan area is the financial engine where many churches are located.

Compared with other old-line conventions, the Peach State unemployment is much higher than states like Oklahoma’s 6.1 percent and Virginia’s 6.5 percent.

Michael Williams, assistant executive director/vice president for operations for the GBC, said the state convention “has been working to manage the most dramatic decline in Cooperative Program giving we have experienced within the last 20 years.”

Reflecting on the report that showed a decline in giving of 50 of the leading churches, Williams said that only a couple of the churches demonstrate the level of decline that would indicate a shift in loyalty to the CP. However, the total decrease by all 50 churches accounts for almost two-thirds of the state’s entire CP deficit.

During the period of financial free-fall – since the recession began in 2008 – the state missionary staff has been cut by 39 positions. To further reign in costs, remaining state missionaries have had only one cost-of-living increase of 2 percent in the last five years.

Georgia’s Cooperative Program performance for January through September 2011 was $1.5 million below the first nine months of 2010, representing a 4.87 percent decline. The deficit then grew by an additional $1,092,379 in the next three months, which increased the decline to 5.71 percent or $2,180,300.

Cooperative Program giving has declined 14 percent from $49,509,056 in 2007 before the recession began to $42,064,717 in 2011. Since 2008 the GBC budget has decreased by $10 million, pulling 2012 funding down to levels not seen since 1999.

By the end of 2011 the GBC Cooperative Program receipts had declined by $2,618,604, or 5.86 percent less than 2010.

In anticipation of declining income during September and October, the GBC staff was asked to cut $500,000 from expenses in the last quarter of the year. In September the GBC Executive Committee approved a 2012 budget that was $1 million smaller than the previous year. But in a rare move only days before the annual convention meeting, the budget was trimmed by an additional $1.7 million.

That $42.3 million budget, approved by messengers in November, reflected a 6 percent decrease or $2.7 million less than 2011.

The current budget is down sharply – more than 19 percent since the convention began cutting costs at the outset of the recession in 2008. That year’s budget, the last one before the slump, came in at $52.3 million.

Due to the budget shortfall and the additional expense of temporary employees for summer missions ventures, the forwarding of gifts to the Southern Baptist Convention was delayed. To make up the shortfall, in October $4,263,182 – with $1.7 million taken from reserve funds – was wired to Nashville to fulfill Georgia Baptists’ obligations through July.

By December 15 the GBC had fulfilled its obligations through September and as of January 10, 2012, all 2011 obligations – which is 40.32 percent of what had been received – were forwarded to SBC offices in Nashville.

“It has been a difficult year,” Williams observed, but added, “The state convention will end its fiscal year totally caught up with its obligations. It is our prayer that our 2012 budget reductions, coupled with the most recent spending cuts, will provide the necessary margins to allow us to set aside sufficient CP funds to cover our obligations before they are due.

“This is our goal, which we are striving to accomplish.”

J. Robert White, Georgia Baptist executive director, refers to the downturn as “deeply troubling.”

White reported to The Christian Index that December Cooperative Program receipts were the lowest since 1996. He further stated, “While this serious decline concerns me, I am praying for a better economic year in 2012. I believe in the faithfulness of God’s people and of our churches.

“We will get through these challenging days by the grace of God.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – J. Gerald Harris is editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)
1/17/2012 4:16:47 PM by J. Gerald Harris, The Christian Index | with 0 comments

David Hardage named BGCT executive director

January 17 2012 by Baptist Press

DALLAS – David Hardage, director of development at Truett Theological Seminary, has been elected as executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Hardage was approved by the convention’s Executive Board Jan. 12 in a special meeting and will begin as BGCT executive director Feb. 1.

“I want you to know how excited I am about the future of this state convention. There is much work to be done. I know that,” Hardage said in a video message after his election. “But we – you and me – we’re up to the task. I look forward to walking alongside you and meeting the needs of this state and beyond.”
Hardage earned a doctor of ministry from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1993, a master of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1983 and a bachelor of arts in religion from Baylor University in 1979.

He has served four churches as pastor: First Baptist Church in Sulphur Springs, Texas, 1990-2004; First Baptist Church in Weatherford, Okla., 1988-90; First Baptist Church in Holliday, Texas, 1984-88; and First Baptist Church in Blum, Texas, 1981-84.

Hardage has been interim pastor of five churches, including most recently at First Baptist Church in Waxahachie, Texas.

In addition to his time at Truett Seminary in Waco, Hardage has directed the Waco Regional Baptist Network and has served as chairman of the BGCT State Missions Commission and chairman of the BGCT Missions Funding Committee. He also has been a trustee at East Texas Baptist University.

“I am a Texas Baptist. I was raised in a Texas Baptist home by a Texas Baptist pastor,” Hardage said. “My wife [Kathleen] is a Texas Baptist,” he added, noting that she is a retired schoolteacher.

The Hardages have two children: John, an attorney in Dallas, and Rebecca, a marketing manager in Austin.

Ron Lyles, chairman of the executive director search committee, said Hardage is a “man who has a strong love for Jesus and for the body of Christ, the church,” according to a BGCT news release.

“David’s desire is to build upon the strengths of what we as Texas Baptists are doing well and to guide us in making the necessary changes to make our cooperative work even more effective and efficient,” Lyles said. “He wants to move us ‘from viability to vitality.’”
To view a video of Hardage’s comments after his election, visit here.
1/17/2012 4:00:33 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N.C. Baptist Men complete 4 homes for tornado victims

January 16 2012 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

The tornado scattered nearly everything they owned across the road outside their once standing mobile home and into a nearby field.
Terry and Sharon Bond and their three teenagers lost their home in Harrellsville on April 16, 2011.
That day tornados hit North Carolina, claiming 24 lives. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and thousands were damaged.
Fortunately the Bonds remained safe in the home of Sharon’s mother just down the road.
“Nothing was left standing,” Sharon Bond said. “I felt like the story of the three little pigs when the wolf blew the house down. I lost my home, but I thank God, … [we] just lost material things.”
Her brother’s home also was damaged in the storm, and both families moved into their mother’s three-bedroom house.
“There were 10 of us living in the same house,” she said.

BSC photos by Mike Creswell

Sharon Bond hugs Billy Layton, project coordinator with N.C. Baptist Men, at the dedication ceremony of Bond’s new home in December.

“We stayed there for a while and then [the Bonds] moved into a FEMA trailer.”
With limited income, the Bonds weren’t sure when their family would find a permanent place to live.
A few months later they were notified that N.C. Baptist Men were building them a house.
In December, the Bonds were one of four families in Bertie and Hertford Counties to receive newly built homes.
“I thought, ‘Is this for real?’” Bond said. “I was just overjoyed, teary eyed – all I could do was cry. When they gave us the key it was unbelievable.”
Two of the houses were dedicated Dec. 16.
The Bond’s house and one other were completed a few days later – just in time for Christmas. Each house was 1,400-square feet, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Each house also included a fully decorated Christmas tree to welcome the new homeowners.
The families hung signs on their front porches thanking North Carolina Baptist Men for building them a new house.
A crowd of volunteers, family and friends gathered outside the houses to celebrate the project’s completion.
“I would just like to thank everyone [who] had a part in building our home,” said Dorothy Earley, who moved into a new house with her daughter, Crystal.
“The number one person to thank is God,” she added. 
“I would like to thank Him and [North Carolina Baptists].
“It’s been a blessing to me and a blessing to my daughter.”
“We never asked for this but this is what we got,” added Harriet Williams, 87.
“It’s so pretty, A rich person doesn’t have a prettier house than this. I’m so proud of it.”
The project wouldn’t have been completed on time without God providing the needed volunteers, said Billy Layton, project coordinator with N.C. Baptist Men.
In August, Hurricane Irene delayed the project for several weeks after it damaged houses along much of the East Coast.
Layton, however, remained faithful that God would provide – even when he wasn’t sure how it would happen.
“People came in every day,” he said. “People were helping from all over. We had 25 to 30 people a day, and we were expecting six.”
A total of 300 to 400 volunteers assisted with the project.
On the Layton’s blog – missiontripadventures.blogspot.com – he and his wife, Ann, shared photos and their thoughts on how the project impacted their lives. 
Ann, – who worked alongside her husband – wrote the following message: “Some days I feel like I’m missing Christmas … the baking goodies, decorating the house and Christmas shopping.
“But then we get the privilege of dedicating a brand new house to a grateful family and handing them the keys to their home.
“Then I know that we are where God has placed us and just where we belong.”
In addition to the volunteers, all of North Carolina Baptists who give through the Cooperative Program and to the North Carolina Missions Offering have helped contribute to the project.
“I want to thank [N.C. Baptists] for giving … for praying,” said Gaylon Moss, who helps coordinate disaster relief and volunteers for N.C. Baptist Men, “and for participating in helping us to build these homes … and what [they] do [for] North Carolina missions.”
For Sharon Bond, it was a Christmas gift she and her family will never forget.
“I thank God for [North Carolina Baptists],” Bond said.
“There is love out there.”
For more photos and the latest updates on N.C. Baptist Men, check out their page on Facebook at NC Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief Ministry.
Call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5599 or visit baptistsonmission.org.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Creswell, Baptist State Convention Communications, contributed to this story.)
1/16/2012 2:16:50 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

43 arrested while protesting NYC church ban

January 16 2012 by Tiffany Owens, Baptist Press

NEW YORK – Police arrested 43 New York City pastors and lay people on Jan. 12 who were protesting the city’s ban on church use of public schools for worship services. The ban is scheduled to go into effect Feb. 12.

The arrests came after more than 200 people gathered in the rain outside a Bronx public school where New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was giving his state of the city address. After singing songs and cheering speeches, protesters walked out in orderly groups of five to eight to kneel in front of barricades and pray. Police warned them to leave and then made arrests on charges of disorderly conduct.

The New York Board of Education has banned religious use of schools on Sunday mornings or at other times the schools are otherwise unused – even though the churches rent the space, dropping an estimated several million dollars per year into the city cashbox. If the ban prevails, more than 150 congregations will have to move to other meeting space starting next month – and that’s hard to find in New York City.

The week before, police arrested New York City Councilman and pastor Fernando Cabrera, pastor Bill Devlin, and five others on charges of “criminal trespassing.” Their alleged trespass was kneeling and singing two hymns outside the doors of the New York City Law Department. Police held them in custody for three hours.

The following day, the New York Housing Authorities reversed its position to evict churches that meet inside community centers. Board of Education officials stuck with their ban on churches, though, saying it will protect the minds of “impressionable youth.”

On Jan. 9 more than 100 persons from different ethnic, income and denominational backgrounds held a prayer meeting at Calvary Baptist Church in midtown Manhattan. The prayer event concluded a citywide week of fasting and prayer on behalf of pastors and council members who are working to overturn the ban.

Bronx pastor Dimas Salberrios said the ban would be particularly harmful in poorer communities: Churches in boroughs like Queens and the Bronx successfully battle crime and poverty, and uprooting them is “destructive.” He pointed to lower crime rates, help for the poor and homeless, and educational assistance for children as examples of what churches contribute.

The Bronx pastor, who has battled homicides in his own neighborhood and been held at gunpoint six times, has been on a hunger strike since Jan. 1 and says he won’t eat until the ban is overturned.

Attempts at a legislative fix are underway. New York Assemblyman Nelson Castro has introduced Bill A08800, which would allow “the use of school buildings and school sites for religious meetings and worship when not in use for school purposes or when such service or worship is deemed not disruptive of normal school operations.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tiffany Owens writes for World News Service, where this story first appeared.)
1/16/2012 2:12:40 PM by Tiffany Owens, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

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