July 2009

Coverage helps church, family

July 13 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Melvin Hall came to Riley’s Creek Baptist Church in November 2005 to help an ill friend.

Hall preached for Blake Hayes, who had been diagnosed with ALS and was having trouble with his voice. Hall later became interim pastor when Hayes’ condition deteriorated further and, after Hayes’ death, became pastor.

While Hayes was ill, some church members had agreed to give extra money so the church could continue to pay his salary.

Hall went through the church files to find out what type of medical coverage his friend had. He discovered that the church had set up an account with GuideStone Financial Resources and also had taken out short-term and long-term disability insurance and life insurance for Hayes about three years before he became ill.

Between insurance, disability and Social Security payments, Hayes had enough income without the church’s emergency contribution.

Hall said when he contacted insurance agents about the coverage, they asked him when the church was going to stop paying Hayes so their company could start paying him.

“He and his family were well taken care of,” Hall said. “The burden on the church was lifted.”

Hall said Hayes couldn’t speak or move his arms but smiled at him when he told Hayes that his wife and family would be taken care of.

“To be able to do that was one of the greatest blessings of my life,” Hall said.

Hall credits Johnny Ross, the North Carolina representative for GuideStone, for helping make the church aware of programs that helped their pastor.

“That was a blessing from above,” Hall said. And now the church’s associate pastor and church secretary are clients of GuideStone.

“I think we learned a great lesson, this church did,” he said.

Hall encourages churches to contact Ross for information about how they can help their ministers.

“I really believe if pastors would wake up and churches would wake up, they wouldn’t find a better friend than Johnny Ross or a better agency than GuideStone,” he said.

Related to this story
Ross helps churches protect, provide
Church seeks to be ‘model employer’
Meeting helps calm stricken pastor’s fears

Special series — Body parts

Did you know you have a large church staff? Your gifts through the Cooperative Program support a staff resource at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that exists to serve your church.

The Biblical Recorder continues a series — Body Parts — featuring one of your Convention staff members, and churches which has grown through that staff member’s ministry. Body Parts is inspired by 1 Cor. 12:12 — “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (NIV). The parts of the Baptist State Convention exist to serve you.

This week: Johnny Ross, consultant with GuideStone Financial Resources.

Coming soon: Eddie Thompson, family ministry.

Visit Body Parts, a Biblical Recorder special series.

7/13/2009 7:04:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Church seeks to be ‘model employer’

July 13 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

COATS — A seminar in early 2007 convinced Drew Woerner that a church should be a “model employer” in its community.

That belief prompted a policy review and changes that have moved Coats Baptist Church closer to being such a model.

Woerner, chairman of the finance committee at Coats for six of the past seven years, attended a seminar that Johnny Ross, state representative for GuideStone Financial Resources, led for churches in the Little River Baptist Association.

BR photo by Steve DeVane

Drew Woerner, right, chairman of the finance committee at Coats Baptist Church, helped his church move toward becoming a better employer. Jesse Mooney, left, pastor of the church, said the staff is extremely appreciative.

He came away from the meeting so convinced the church should be a “model employer” that he asked to speak to his church deacons.

He told them the church should be a model and it should address staff salaries and benefits in light of that.

The personnel committee, made up of the chairmen of various committees, studied the issue. Woerner said the group relied heavily on the principles Ross taught.

The personnel committee discovered that some staff members needed raises of 15 to 20 percent, Woerner said and agreed to ask the deacons to raise the salaries to the desired level over the next three years.

When presented with the information, the deacons suggested they raise the salaries all the way the next year and the church agreed.

The church also adopted salary and compensation benefit policies. The document includes the scriptural basis for salary and fringe benefit policies, citing 1 Cor. 9:14, Gal. 6:6, Luke 10:7 and 1 Timothy 5:7-18. The policy says the church intends “to have competitive salary pay grades for every staff position.”

“The Bible says you should take care of those who preach, teach and lead,” Woerner said.

The policies also include sections on health insurance, disability, dental insurance, life insurance and retirement.

Ministers on staff also get housing allowance and extra pay to offset payments they make to Social Security.

Reimbursable expenses are also covered in the policies.

Jesse Mooney, pastor at Coats, said the staff is extremely appreciative of the support.

“They already loved the church, but they have a greater love and appreciation because of that commitment,” he said.

Woerner said he called Ross often while the committee was working on the policies. Ross also came and did the seminar at the church that he’d done earlier for the association.

“He was just a tremendous help,” Woerner said. “He was able to keep me from going in some pitfalls because of his experience.”

Scripture references (NIV)
  • 1 Corinthians 9:14 — In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
  • Galatians 6:6 — Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
  • Luke 10:7 — Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
  • 1 Timothy 5:7-18 — v. 18: For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
Related to this story
Ross helps churches protect, provide
Coverage helps church, family
Meeting helps calm stricken pastor’s fears

Special series — Body parts

Did you know you have a large church staff? Your gifts through the Cooperative Program support a staff resource at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that exists to serve your church.

The Biblical Recorder continues a series — Body Parts — featuring one of your Convention staff members, and churches which has grown through that staff member’s ministry. Body Parts is inspired by 1 Cor. 12:12 — “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (NIV). The parts of the Baptist State Convention exist to serve you.

This week: Johnny Ross, consultant with GuideStone Financial Resources.

Coming soon: Eddie Thompson, family ministry.

Visit Body Parts, a Biblical Recorder special series.

7/13/2009 7:01:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

Meeting helps calm stricken pastor’s fears

July 13 2009 by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor

Mickey Heyward endured surgeries and radiation, but the brain cancer diagnosed in September 2007 kept killing him.

Concerned for his wife Pealey, Heyward decided late last year that he and Pealey needed to examine their financial situation.

Keith Dixon, director of missions for Greater Cleveland County Baptist Association in Shelby, asked Johnny Ross, state representative for GuideStone Financial Resources, to help.

Pealey Heyward said the meeting helped ease her husband’s fears.

“He was worried about what would happen with me at the end,” she said.

Heyward, who was pastor of Christopher Road Baptist Church in Shelby, died March 25.

Pealey Heyward said Ross was helpful.

“He went over every little thing,” she said. “He told us what to expect and what to do.”

Heyward said it meant a lot to her and her husband to know that Ross thought enough about them to go out of his way to come to their house.

“We had never met him before or talked to him,” she said.

Dixon said many pastors know about GuideStone’s retirement plan, but are not familiar with the other benefits.

“That’s where Johnny is so helpful,” he said.

Ross is great at explaining the GuideStone resources, Dixon said.

When he comes to the associational offices, he asks employees to call up the GuideStone web site so they can check their accounts.

“I think the educational part of what he does is huge,” Dixon said.

Related to this story
Ross helps churches protect, provide
Coverage helps church, family
Church seeks to be ‘model employer’
Meeting helps calm stricken pastor’s fears

Special series — Body parts

Did you know you have a large church staff? Your gifts through the Cooperative Program support a staff resource at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina that exists to serve your church.

The Biblical Recorder continues a series — Body Parts — featuring one of your Convention staff members, and churches which has grown through that staff member’s ministry. Body Parts is inspired by 1 Cor. 12:12 — “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (NIV). The parts of the Baptist State Convention exist to serve you.

This week: Johnny Ross, consultant with GuideStone Financial Resources.

Coming soon: Eddie Thompson, family ministry.

Visit Body Parts, a Biblical Recorder special series.

7/13/2009 7:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments

N.C. presence felt at CBF meeting

July 13 2009 by From wire reports

HOUSTON – More than 1,600 attended the 2009 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly July 2-3 in Houston, Texas, including 194 from North Carolina.

More than 130 CBF endorsed chaplains and pastoral counselors and their spouses attended a luncheon featuring speaker Doug Dickens, professor of pastoral studies at Gardner-Webb University. Dickens talked about his journey alongside his wife, Patsy, as she battled and died from ovarian cancer.

“I want to tell you a little of what I’ve learned because maybe it will be helpful to you,” he said.

“As chaplains and pastoral counselors, their stories touch us,” Dickens said. “And as we walk from room to room, it is so easy to allow their sadness and hurt and our sadness and hurt to become toxic. It affects not just our ministry but our whole selves. And, we know that burnout is not limited to pastors.”

During one session Nancy Campbell of Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care in Lenoir was among three chaplains who led in worship, after which the audience responded with a standing ovation in recognition of the vital ministries of chaplains and pastoral counselors.

Ralph and Tammy Stocks, who serve among the Romany people in Hungary, and Greg and Sue Smith, who serve among the Latino community in Fredericksburg, Va., shared a story of partnership and friendship.

Last summer, Latino youth from Virginia traveled to Hungary to lead activities and Bible study for Romany children.

“Part of the attraction of these two cultures to one another was the common experience of living as minorities,” said Tammy Stocks.

“Through the language of music and a love for God that was extended and received, they shared for a week a neighborhood that welcomed and accepted them unconditionally.”

Participants at a July 1 commissioning service in Houston, held in conjunction with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, not only prayed for six field personnel who are assuming new assignments, but also recognized representatives of a ministry network serving in China.

About 800 people at the commissioning service prayed for six newly commissioned field personnel, including four from North Carolina:
  • LaCount Anderson will work with churches in Scotland Neck in ministering to homeless people.
  • Cecelia Beck will serve in Shelby as an outreach worker with the Northeast Shelby Weed and Seed, a community strategy geared toward crime prevention, literacy programs and community transformation. She served previously with a multicultural apartment ministry in Toronto.
  • John and Michele Norman of North Carolina will work to develop a network of individuals and churches in the United States to pray, financially support and actively participate in CBF work in China.
In his executive coordinator’s report Daniel Vestal reflected on what holds the Fellowship together – common values, love of freedom, community and participation in God’s mission.

As the Fellowship approaches its 20th assembly, Vestal encouraged Fellowship Baptists to embrace the grace and providence “working in and through us.”

“This Fellowship is a work of God’s grace,” Vestal said. “And as we approach a milestone, our very existence is a testimony to providence. Our birth was a miracle.

“Our survival amidst brutal and sustained attacks is amazing. Our growth and influence within the Baptist family and the broader Christian community is humbling. The resources that God’s people have entrusted to us is at times overwhelming.”

7/13/2009 6:59:00 AM by From wire reports | with 0 comments

Hunt adds four to GCR task force

July 9 2009 by Baptist Press

      NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Four members have been added to the Great Commission task force appointed June 24 by Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt during the SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky.
      "After announcing the names of the GCR task force, I received feedback about the need for greater representation," Hunt said July 8 in a statement to Baptist Press. "I have added an African American who is a church planter, a Hispanic, an additional woman who also is familiar with the western region of the U.S. and a representative of the Northeast region.

      "I want Southern Baptists to know I heard their concerns and have responded," Hunt said.

      Added to the task force were:

      -- Larry Grays, senior pastor of Midtown Bridge Church in Atlanta. "This young, inner-city, African American church planter is being used by the Lord greatly," Hunt said. "I know him really well and have heard wonderful things about his life and leadership from other people as well."

      -- Ruben Hernandez, associate Spanish pastor at the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano. "This Hispanic evangelical leader served in full-time evangelism until he joined the staff of Prestonwood and is now preaching their Spanish service, serving the people of Prestonwood," Hunt said.

      -- Kathy Ferguson, a women's ministry speaker whose late husband Rick was a pastor in Denver before his accidental death seven years ago. In August, she will marry Ed Litton, pastor of First Baptist in North Mobile, Ala., who lost his wife in an accident two years ago.

      -- John Cope, senior pastor of Keystone Community Fellowship in North Wales, Pa., near Philadelphia. "Pastor Cope planted his church eight years ago this fall, is now touching 1,100 people weekly and also has started five additional churches in these almost eight years," Hunt said. "With 25 percent of the American population living in the Northeast, we wanted a pastor-leader from that region."

      The task force will be chaired by Ronnie W. Floyd, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., and The Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark. The vote authorizing the task force charges them with studying how Southern Baptists can work "more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission."

      Besides Floyd and Hunt, the committee members appointed in Louisville were Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C.; David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.; Simon Tsoi, trustee of the International Mission Board and retired pastor; Donna Gaines, pastor's wife at Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn.; Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.; J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.; Tom Biles, executive director of the Tampa Bay Baptist Association.; Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; John Drummond, a layman at St. Andrew Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla.; Harry Lewis, senior strategist for partnership missions and mobilization at the North American Mission Board; Michael Orr, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chipley, Fla.; Roger Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif.; J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention; Ken Whitten, pastor of the Tampa-area Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz; and Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.

Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.
7/9/2009 2:03:00 PM by Baptist Press | with 8 comments

GCR approval a ‘great day’

July 9 2009 by Keith Collier, SWBTS

FORT WORTH, Texas — More than 40 students and pastors in a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) seminar at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary participated in a panel discussion, July 6, discussing the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force, which was appointed by SBC president Johnny Hunt at the annual meeting in June; its role as a continuation of the Conservative Resurgence; and how Southern Baptists can be involved.

Panel members included Ronnie Floyd, GCR Task Force chairman, an alumnus of Southwestern, and pastor of First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark.; Al Mohler, GCR Task Force member and Southern Seminary president; Nathan Lino, an IMB trustee and pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church; and David Allen, dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern. Steven Smith, associate dean for the D.Min. program at Southwestern, moderated the panel with Floyd and Mohler participating via telephone.

Reflecting on the approval of the task force, Floyd said, “I believe that day was one of the great days in my life as a Southern Baptist pastor … because I saw a denomination really rally around the cry of the Great Commission. Let’s put everything on the table, and let’s see what we can do to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And that’s how Dr. Hunt and I are looking at it.”

When asked what church leaders could do to help, Floyd called on pastors to inform their congregations that the SBC is doing an in-depth study to get more resources toward fulfilling the Great Commission. He also encouraged pastors to point their people to the GCR document.

Floyd admitted that the assignment the task force has been given cannot be accomplished without God’s help. The task force’s first two meetings are scheduled for August, and Floyd requested prayer for them as they embark on this undertaking.

“My goal is to try to get 5,000 Southern Baptist Christians to walk alongside us in this with prayer,” he said.

Mohler said involvement in the SBC by younger pastors is an issue of stewardship and cooperating to accomplish something greater than themselves. He expressed gratitude for the leaders of the Conservative Resurgence and excitement about the “new generation rising to responsibility in the SBC.”

“This is the generation produced by the Conservative Resurgence,” Mohler said. “Without the Conservative Resurgence, we would have no hope of seeing a generation of those who are now on our seminary campuses, young men who are now planting churches, younger pastors who really are rising to the moment of denominational leadership. I think it comes as we understand that we have inherited patterns for which we are grateful, in terms of the stewardship of the mission entrusted to the SBC, but even more pressing questions about what kinds of structures, processes and all will really fit a missional approach to the 21st century. What we’re looking at here is a generation that, to its credit, is disinterested in the older kind of patterns of Baptist cooperation. …

“The denomination will either be the answer to what they seek to be the responsibility of the church to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, to see the nations exalt in the name of Christ, to see God-honoring, biblical congregations formed in the United States or this generation will find another answer to that question. I want the Southern Baptist Convention to be the answer to the question ‘How best do Southern Baptists do that together?’ A tribal identity just is not going to work. …

“When I talk about the tribal identity, I’m talking about the Southern Baptist Convention produced particularly in the 1950s and the 1960s — a generation that had a very corporate mindset. … They sublimated theological conviction to an institutional, tribal ethic. The leaders of the Conservative Resurgence were not only willing to break that tribal ethic, they basically became outlaws in the old denominational infrastructure.”

When asked if the IMB needs a Great Commission Resurgence, Lino replied, “Absolutely. I think a lot of this GCR groundswell has come out of a need at the IMB.”

He explained the $30 million shortfall in the 2008 Lottie Moon offering, resulting in suspension of critical missionary endeavors and cutbacks on missionary appointments. Because of the shortfall, the IMB only has the funds to appoint 200 missionaries to the mission field in 2009, and as of May, 191 have been appointed.

“So, from May until December of 2009, are you as a Southern Baptist satisfied with the fact that we can afford nine missionaries?” Lino asked.

“We have missionaries right now who are fully trained, appointed, ready to go, that we cannot send to the field, and we have people who are dying and going to hell over this.

“Here’s the sad factor: In 2008, if you count the money given to buildings, missions and budget giving, Southern Baptists gave $12 billion to our churches. Of that, 2.5% got to the IMB, and only 5% of the world’s population lives in the United States. I think we need a Great Commission Resurgence. I think we’ve lost our focus, and we’ve got to get back to valuing the people overseas who are dying more than we do the programs that satisfy our happiness here in the states.”

Later in the panel discussion, Lino said the IMB is “very efficient in its spending.”

“There’s this perception out there among some that the IMB is not as focused as they should be about spending. I can tell you as a trustee that is simply not the case. Upwards of 70 percent of our income goes to personnel salaries. We invest Southern Baptist dollars in the people that God has called to go there and do the work. There is not all this fat slush fund sitting around that is being misspent.”

Allen was asked questions about his views on the GCR document and its relationship to the Conservative Resurgence. He expressed both excitement and concern over the GCR document, mentioning questions about the scope of article nine in the document and the extent of the phrase “methodological diversity.” Regardless, he signed the online document.

“Like all documents, no document is perfect,” Allen said. “I’m in basic agreement with what the GCR document is all about. We’ve got to focus on the Great Commission, no doubt about it.”

As for the first generation of those in the Conservative Resurgence — including Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines, who Allen is closely associated with — Allen noted that everything in the GCR document is “exactly what they were pushing.”

“A Great Commission Resurgence, if it is done biblically, is exactly what we need,” Allen said. “So, from that standpoint, I am optimistic about where it could go and what could happen. Cautious but optimistic would be my way of viewing the document and why I’m supporting it. “

Allen said he is excited about those who have been appointed to the task force, and Southwestern is proud to have Southwestern graduates serving on it. Of the 18 members appointed, nine attended Southwestern.

Both Floyd and Mohler encouraged pastors to contact them and other task force members with questions, concerns and suggestions.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

7/9/2009 10:15:00 AM by Keith Collier, SWBTS | with 1 comments

Waiting by the window: Love marks Deep Impact

July 9 2009 by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications

GRIFTON — Andrew’s eyes never, not even once, lost contact with the face in front of him. He told the story of how two days earlier God saved him, and he spoke with such intensity and confidence that all one could do was put down the pen and paper and just listen, savoring a moment to be reminded of the gospel’s life-changing power.

The Lord changed Andrew Somers’ heart the first evening of Deep Impact 2009. During Deep Impact Grifton, Somers and other middle school and high school students served at sites throughout the community helping with construction, Vacation Bible School, prayer walking and service projects.

BSC photo

A child at Fountain Baptist Church in Fountain holds a Bible for the pledge during a Vacation Bible School held at the church with Deep Impact volunteers.

Every evening youth participate in a worship service and on this particular night as Mike Sowers preached about confessing sin and following Jesus Christ, Somers could not deny that something was different.

“I’m confused. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know if I’m ready. I need to clean up my life first,” Somers said to his youth leader Brian Gunningham.

“You and the Lord are having an encounter,” Gunningham told Somers.

“He’s telling me to follow Him. But I don’t know how,” Somers said. Gunningham shared the gospel, read passages in Romans, the Lord awakened Somers’ heart to the truth of the gospel and he responded.  

Gunningham’s youth from First Baptist Church in Rochelle, Ga., were among 170 other youth participating in Deep Impact Grifton. Deep Impact began 12 years ago at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell in Brunswick County, and in Tegucigalpa, Honduras (see related story below). This is the second year Deep Impact expanded to include camp weeks at other locations.

Deep Impact will also be held in Red Springs, Greensboro and Eastern Pennsylvania with about 1,650 youth expected to serve this year.

“They’re kids who are coming to do something,” said Mike Sowers, North Carolina Baptist Men youth missions consultant. “They come here with a purpose; they come to serve.” Sowers begins each Deep Impact week with a training session to help equip the youth for their specific area of service that week. Some youth learn how to roof a house, others practice leading children through football drills, others receive training in evangelism.

One reason Gunningham chose to bring his youth to Deep Impact is because of these various mission tracks. Youth in Grifton spread out over the community at 15 different mission sites. Gunningham looks forward to taking the skills they learned in Grifton and making an impact in Rochelle.

Ashley Matthews, a rising high school senior and member of Highlands Baptist Church in Garner, served with youth at an assisted living facility for adults with developmental disabilities.

“You can tell that it means a lot,” Matthews said of the youth’s outreach at the facility. Residents waited by the window and waved as soon as they saw students arrive for the second day.
One week is just long enough to build relationships and love people so much it hurts to leave. “Our whole group was in tears — they did not want to leave,” said Terry Strickland, youth leader at Porter Swamp Baptist Church.

Porter Swamp served last year in Grifton with Deep Impact, and caring for people around them is one thing they learned that stuck with them. Pastor Tim Moore still remembers the children he served last year during a sports clinic.

One day this week, sitting on top a hot roof at a construction site, he thought about those children from last year, wondering where they are and how they are doing. As if reading his mind, a youth sitting with him on that roof said aloud the same thing — and at that moment Moore knew Deep Impact made a deep impact on him, and his youth. “This week impacts the people you’re ministering to, and it ministers to you,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Lilley is in the communications office of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)

For a longer version of this story, and more photos click here.
7/9/2009 7:41:00 AM by Melissa Lilley, BSC Communications | with 0 comments

‘I Can Only Imagine’ marks 10 years

July 9 2009 by Erin Roach, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — This year marks one decade since Bart Millard of the Christian music group MercyMe penned the words to the song “I Can Only Imagine,” which would become a chart-topper and cause a vast array of people to think about heaven.

To celebrate the milestone, MercyMe has released “10,” a CD/DVD set featuring 12 No. 1 singles as well as videos. The DVD includes Millard telling the story behind the song that changed his life.

“My father passed away with cancer in 1991 when I was 18,” Millard said. “Growing up in church, people always said, ‘You know, if he could choose, he’d rather be in heaven than be here on earth.’

“As a Christian I believed that, but as an 18-year-old it was hard to swallow,” he said. “A lot of the questions out of the chorus kind of came from me saying, ‘God, what’s so great about You that my dad would rather be there than here?’”

For years Millard found himself writing the phrase “I can only imagine” on anything he could get his hands on, such as notebooks or scrap papers. In 1999, the group was working on an independent record and needed one more song to complete the recording. Millard told them he’d try to come up with something.

“I started opening the journal I was writing in and every page had this phrase on it, literally every page,” he said. “I was like, ‘Maybe I need to finish this,’ so I started writing it down and put it to music.”

The remaining song on the album needed to be a fast one, he said, but the lyrics he had written begged for a slower tune. The group decided not to include it and was walking out of the studio when one of the guys played a few chords of it on the piano.

“I was like, ‘Play it again.’ All the sudden we rolled everything back in the studio and did it real quick,” Millard said. “... It didn’t really go with the rest of the record. We didn’t play it for months. For months we never played it. We played the rest of the record.

“Somebody finally said, ‘Hey, why don’t you play this song during the show tonight?’ So we tried it once, and people kind of flipped out over it,” he said.

BP photo

Bart Millard, third from left, lead singer of MercyMe, penned “I Can Only Imagine” 10 years ago, the culmination of thinking about his father’s death from cancer in 1991.

The song soon became a hit on Christian radio, topping the charts by 2001 and winning three Dove awards in 2002.

“All the sudden, a Top 40 station in Dallas, a shock-jock kind of format, said, ‘We’ll do anything on the air,’ and somebody called in and said, ‘Play Imagine.’ They said, ‘We’ll do it. We’ll give it a shot.’ They played it once and got a ton of phone calls, played it again, and after like the second or third time it became number one at the station in like three months,” Millard said.

Other stations followed suit, and eventually the song showed up on the Top 40, AC and country charts.

“It’s like the song that won’t go away,” Millard said on the DVD.

The song has significant meaning for Millard because he had a special relationship with his father, he said. His parents divorced when he was 3 years old, and he and his brother lived with his father for most of their childhood and adolescent years. His father didn’t have much money, but he was faithful in raising his sons.

Before he died, Millard’s father told Bart that he had set up a system where the two boys would receive a certain amount of money each month to take care of them. The money would last for 10 years, long enough for the two to establish careers.

The father added, “But don’t worry. When 10 years is up, I’ll still be there to take care of you somehow,” Millard recounted.

In January 2001, Millard was doing a radio interview when something profound hit him.

“My son was born on the 4th of January, and it was about the same time that Imagine was kind of peaking in the Christian market,” Millard said. “I was big into the charts, but when Sam (his son) was born, I totally forgot all about it. I was all about Sam. I was doing an interview with this guy, and he told me, ‘Imagine went No. 1 today.’ I was like, ‘I had no idea. I’ve just kind of been out of it.’“

Then Millard started crying because he realized the day that the last check from his father’s inheritance came was the day that Imagine officially became a hit. From there, the song’s success would pay the bills.

“If my dad is aware of what’s going on, then he’s getting a huge laugh out of this because it’s amazing how everybody knows the song and somehow they know the story behind the song,” Millard said. “That’s extremely rewarding because of everything my dad did for me and everything he went through to kind of give me the green light to do what I’m doing. It’s just really cool to know that he’s not forgotten and none of this was done in vain.”

Not only has the song served as a means by which Millard’s father took care of him after death, it has provided comfort to thousands of people who have lost loved ones and to those who wonder what heaven might be like.

“One of the decidedly distinctive characteristics of this song is that it allows people to stop, dream and imagine an eternity that is so often crowded out by common elements that distract us all,” Stephen Johnson, dean of the school of church music at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press.

“It points us to the beauty of heaven, the endless energy of continual praise and the ability that we will all have to sing, dance and shout,” Johnson said. “It points us to the holiness of Jesus and in that moment when we are seeing Him face to face we will need to stop, be still, fall to our knees and, in silence, worship.”

Johnson noted that a quick search of the song’s title on iTunes pulls up 150 results, including various genres.

“It is in a country version, a rock version, a disco-esque version, it has an unplugged version, a plugged-in version, a piano solo version and even a bluegrass version,” Johnson said. “The impact of this song on the Kingdom of Christ is strong, and I am sure that when we are in heaven Bart Millard will encounter the now countless testimonies of hearts turned to Jesus over this song.”

Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the song has struck a chord with all types of people because it addresses an issue that is common to the human experience.

“Everybody has lost someone in our lives. If you live long enough, you’re going to have someone leave this earth, and the song resonates with every individual because it speaks to something that all of us experience,” Harland told BP.

“As Christians, we certainly believe in heaven, we believe what God’s Word says about heaven, and this song has given us a way to think about it and to express all the joy and the sorrow associated with losing a loved one and the anticipation of the day when we’ll be with them and worshiping together,” Harland said.

I Can Only Imagine, he said, is a prime example of a song that resonated with a small group and made its way into the larger church body.

“When Bart Millard and MercyMe first started singing it, they were singing it basically in youth gatherings around the Dallas area, and because of the strength of the song it began to find its way into churches and then across the world,” Harland said.

“The impact, I would say, is more and more songs like that — instead of a publisher like LifeWay giving the church a song and saying, ‘Sing this’ — songs started bubbling up from individuals that made their way to the church and then found their way to the publisher,” he said. “That song is a perfect example of how the heart of the individual brought the song to the world, not the other way around.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.)

7/9/2009 7:38:00 AM by Erin Roach, Baptist Press | with 3 comments

Update: SBC leader Ernest Mosley dies at 81

July 9 2009 by Art Toalston, Baptist Press

Ernest Mosley, whose ministry spanned 65 years, stretching from local churches to leadership roles in the Southern Baptist Convention, died Wednesday, July 8. He was 81.

He was diagnosed with cancer last fall and had been under home hospice care. He died at Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gastonia, N.C., where he was admitted July 3.

Mosley was executive vice president of the SBC Executive Committee from 1987 until his retirement in 1998; executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association from 1980-87; and pastoral section supervisor at the former Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) during 13 years on staff at the SBC entity.

He was president of the Hawaii Baptist Convention in 1966-67 and was a pastor, assistant pastor or minister of education of churches in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Hawaii.

“One of Dad’s final lessons to us,” his daughter Melody Morris told Baptist Press, “was that while he had served the Lord for many years, he was able to allow himself to be served by those taking care of him in his last days. He really taught us a lot about how to die with dignity.”

His daughter Jan Hill wrote on a web site Wednesday morning, at 5:10 a.m., “Dad is no longer held back by a body riddled with disease. He has met his Final Goal — Praising The Lord and Giving God all the Glory!”

Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said Southern Baptists have lost “an outstanding servant of Christ and denominational statesman. Jodi and I have lost a dear friend but thankfully we will see him in heaven.

“Ernest Mosley gave of himself through a lifetime of service as a pastor, author, editor and denominational leader. He also gave of himself as a faithful husband, father and grandfather,” Chapman said.

“Ernest received Jesus as his Lord while a lad. He began preaching at age 16 and never stopped until the Lord called him home to glory early Wednesday morning,” Chapman said. “When I began my service as president of the Executive Committee in 1992, Ernest was already a seasoned veteran of denominational work and was an invaluable colleague in ministry. He delayed his retirement in order to assist the Southern Baptist Convention in its largest restructure in history, the Covenant for a New Century.”

Chapman added that Mosley, as editor of the former Baptist Program periodical published by the Executive Committee, “endeared himself to the broader Southern Baptist family…. Through his gentle spirit and lighthearted manner, he fostered openness, trust, respect and cooperation during a tumultuous period in Baptist life. He was truly a giant of a man, a genuine man of God.

“We extend our deepest sympathy,” Chapman said, “to his dear wife Vivian, their three daughters, Jan, Melody and Lenora, and their 10 grandchildren.”

Nate Adams, executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, described Mosley as “a warm and caring person and a great encourager to me personally. He was a wonderful example in so many ways, but especially as an effective administrator and denominational statesman. In the final weeks and months of his life, he demonstrated a deeply mature faith and commitment to the Lord’s will that was inspiring to all who knew him. Illinois Baptists will miss him, even as we celebrate his life of service to our churches, to Southern Baptists and to the kingdom.”

Mosley authored, coauthored or compiled eight books, two of which were translated into other languages. Among his titles: Basics for Baptists, Priorities in Ministry and Leadership Profiles from Bible Personalities. He also wrote numerous articles for denominational periodicals, and his biblically based solo dramas have been presented by his daughter Melody throughout the United States and in Israel, Greece and Sweden.

After his retirement, Mosley continued to minister to churches without pastors through the training of transitional pastors around the United States.

A native of Miller County, Ark., in the Texarkana area, Mosley was a graduate on Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. The seminary named Mosley as a distinguished alumnus in 1998.

Born Dec. 28, 1927, Mosley became a Christian at age 8 at Shiloh Baptist Church in Miller County, where he was ordained to the ministry in 1945. During his college and seminary years, he served as student pastor of five churches in Arkansas and Texas, beginning with Jessieville (Ark.) Baptist Church from 1945-48.

When he entered the ministry full time, he served as pastor of Kenwood Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas, from 1950-52; minister of education, First Baptist Church, Arkadelphia, Ark., 1952-55; minister of education, First Baptist Church, Pine Bluff, Ark., 1955-57; and minister of education, Broadmoor Baptist Church, Shreveport, La., 1957-61.

Moving to Hawaii in 1961, he became pastor of Pali View Baptist Church in Kaneohe and was pastor of University Avenue Baptist Church in Honolulu from 1963-67.

While on staff at the Sunday School Board, where he led in developing church resources to support pastors and deacons, Mosley also served as chairman of the Nashville public schools’ Central Citizens Advisory Committee from 1978-80.

“Ministers need to see themselves, and be seen by others, as total persons whose ultimate success in any area of life is vitally related to success in other areas of life,” Mosley wrote in Priorities in Ministry. “An adequate life and work view of themselves is foundational to effectiveness in the ministry.”

Mosley and his wife Vivian moved to Gastonia in 2003 and were active members of Parkwood Baptist Church.

In addition to his wife of 57 years and daughters Melody Morris of Thompson Station, Tenn., and Jan Hill of Greensboro, N.C., he is survived by another daughter, Lenora Crabtree of Gastonia; 10 grandchildren; and a brother Paul of Rogers, Ark.

Melody, a former International Mission Board missionary with her husband Ken to Kosovo, noted, “Dad’s grandchildren have served on mission teams from New Orleans to Pennsylvania to Hawaii, to Malawi, Kenya, Nigeria, Brazil, Honduras, Chile, Kosovo and other places. This is part of the Mosley legacy of service to the Lord through His church around the world.”

A celebration of life service will be held 2 p.m. Saturday, July 11, at Parkwood Baptist Church, with testimonies to be shared by pastors and denominational leaders who have worked with Mosley over the years. Visitation will follow the service. Interment will be private.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Ernest and Vivian Mosley Youth Mission Fund, c/o Community Foundation of Gaston County, P.O. Box 123, Gastonia, NC 28053.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.)
7/9/2009 7:25:00 AM by Art Toalston, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Economy shrinks two aid organizations

July 8 2009 by Jacob Carpenter and Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

A Michigan-based Christian relief group, International Aid, has closed its doors amid financial struggles while World Vision, one of the largest evangelical relief agencies, has eliminated about 75 positions.

International Aid needed to collect about $1.5 million in the past two months to balance its $70 million budget, but only gathered between $150,000 and $200,000, according to CEO Gordon Loux.

“Since we have insufficient funds, the board felt it was prudent to cease operations,” Loux said.

The Spring Lake, Mich.-based Christian nonprofit has offered health and humanitarian support worldwide since 1980. Loux said he is in discussions with six or seven nonprofits about rolling some programs into other organizations.

About 40 people were employed by International Aid, roughly half of the organization’s staff a year ago. The company also has 32 employees working in Honduras and the Philippines who will be out of jobs.

Meanwhile, about 50 members of World Vision’s 1,200-member staff were laid off and about 25 open positions will not be filled, said spokesman Dean Owen.

“We can no longer avoid the painful cost reduction steps that many organizations have already implemented,” said Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, U.S. “The efforts of our faithful employees and donors have allowed us to swim against the tide longer than almost any other nonprofit.”

Private cash donations, which increased 4 percent during the last quarter of 2008, have begun to decline. In the first quarter of 2009, donations dropped about 3 percent. Between April and June, they were about 18 percent below the previous year.

Despite the drop in donations, most child sponsors “remain loyal,” Stearns said, giving about $30 a month that is designated to aid a particular needy child.

Among other cost-cutting measures, World Vision is canceling merit raises for the second year in a row and increasing employees’ premiums for health benefits. Owen said the layoffs were the organization’s first since 1995.

Owen said the layoffs are only occurring among U.S. staff and should not affect the global work of the organization. “Part of the point of this was to make sure we were able to fulfill our funding obligations to our programs around the world,” he said.

7/8/2009 6:12:00 AM by Jacob Carpenter and Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

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